Afghanistan’s last free citadel: Panjshir, the land of 5 lions, stands up to Taliban

August 19, 2021 04:53 PM

A little over 100 kms away, in the north-east of Kabul, is the Panjshir province of Afghanistan. It is still free from the Taliban, even as the extremist group took over the country after the exit of US forces.

Panjshir, which translates to Five Lions from Persia, has never been conquered, either by foreigners or the Afghans. It remains a liberated zone.

The takeover of Kabul was much earlier than anticipated after the US forces left the country after two decades, allowing a free run for the Taliban.

Panjshir, a picturesque valley, is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan and is divided into seven districts with 512 villages. As of 2021, the population of Panjshir province was about 1,73,000. Bazarak is the provincial capital.

It is from here Afghanistan’s former vice-president Amrulla Saleh, claiming to be the caretaker president and hoping to form a resistance front against the Taliban.

Clarity: As per d constitution of Afg, in absence, escape, resignation or death of the President the FVP becomes the caretaker President. I am currently inside my country & am the legitimate care taker President. Am reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus.

Panjshir stood as a citadel even during the Soviet invasions in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s and now it’s once again the epicentre of an anti-Taliban front.

It’s from here that the northern Alliance -- an anti-Taliban front -- is looking at a resurgence. The northern alliance flag flew high in Panjshir, giving a semblance of the resistance and will to fight.

The northern alliance was a military front that came up in 1996 to take on the Taliban and had support from countries like Iran, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The Norther Alliance had been a critical factor stopping the Taliban from taking over the entire country between 1996 and 2001.

But in the wake of the Taliban gaining ground, holding on to the last fortress might not be easy for Saleh, Massoud and their followers, as the Afghan forces have had to surrender in the hands of Taliban.

In reality, Panjshir remains surrounded by Taliban strongholds.


Now, the Taliban can be considered a more potent fighting force than before, since they have access to sophisticated weapons.

There has been an overhaul of the Taliban fighters. They are no longer a militia or a band of militants with guns in their hands. Instead, they resemble a professional fighting force.
Sophisticated weapons, armoured vehicles, rocket launchers and military vehicles make the Taliban a potent force that made rapid advances across the country, taking over Kabul much earlier than anticipated.

Much of the military hardware in the hands of the Taliban is what was left behind by the US forces and was being used by the Afghan military. As the Taliban took control of territory, it seized a huge cache of arms, ammunition and military hardware from the Afghan forces.

Videos and pictures of Taliban capturing equipment from Afghan forces have been doing the rounds on social media. Humvees and armoured personnel carriers in the hands of the Taliban have ensured quick mobility for them.

Military resistance without foreign support wouldn’t be easy for a better-equipped Taliban as the Afghan forces are hampered by low morale after continuous defeats.

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