As the Taliban began amassing fighters around the defiant Panjshir Valley, Ahmad Massoud, the son of the legendary anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, said he was hoping for negotiations but was ready for war.
Amid reports of fighting in the neighbouring Baghlan with conflicting claims and counter-claims, Panjshir was calm and preparing for the worst.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said his forces had retaken Deh Salah and Pul-e-Hesar districts from Resistance 2 in the Baghlan province, next to Panjshir. Social media showed helicopters reported to have been brought into Panjshir from nearby Tajikistan. This would be a major boost to Resistance2 fighters, but Collective Security Treaty Organisation secretary-general Stanislav Zas said he had no information when asked if there was an air corridor between Panjshir and Tajikistan for delivering arms to the only Afghan province that has remained outside Taliban control.
Afghanistan’s first Vice-President Amrullah Saleh, who is in the Valley with Massoud, claimed his forces had blocked the vital Salang highway, but the Taliban said it was under their control. Saleh too acknowledged that the Taliban had massed forces near the entrance to Panjshir.
Addressing questions on the unity of politicians of the Panjshir Valley, Massoud replied: “The people of are very much united. They want to defend, to fight, to resist against any totalitarian regime.” However, many Afghans on social media said they were weary of war and the warring parties should negotiate.
The Massoud-Saleh duo was joined by Yar Mohammad Dostum, the son of Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has fled to Turkey after initial bravado against the Taliban at Mazar-e-Sharif. More important, the Dostums are understood to have flown some Mi-35 helicopters and A-29 aircraft to the neighbouring Uzbekistan for safekeeping.