Son of the slain ‘Lion of Panjshir’, Ahmad Shah Massoud, is taking forward his father’s legacy of anti-Taliban resistance in the picturesque valley of Afghanistan’s Panjshir province, which still remains free from the Taliban.
The slain ‘Lion of Panjshir’, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was the face of resistance against the Taliban and earlier the Soviets in Afghanistan, left behind the legacy to his 32-year-old son. Like his father, Ahmad Massoud is now standing up for the Afghan people.
Ahmad is the eldest among Massoud senior’s six children and he is the only son. He has launched an anti-Taliban front from the picturesque valley of Afghanistan’s Panjshir province along with Amrullah Saleh, who was the Vice-President of Afghanistan in the Ashraf Ghani government and now claims to be the caretaker President.
Massoud senior, a loyal son of Panjshir – the epicentre of the anti-Taliban movement – was killed in a conspiracy hatched by the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001 just before the 9/11 attacks. Ahmad was only 12 when his father was assassinated.
Panjshir falls at a little over 100 kilometres north-east of Kabul. This province still remains free from the Taliban even when they have gained effective control of Afghanistan amid the exit of US forces.
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Born in July 1989, Ahmad is no stranger to the struggle of Afghanistan, having seen his father fight a long battle. He has a strong academic background in conflict and geopolitics.
After completing his school education in Iran, he had studied a military course in Sandhurst, the British Army’s military academy for officers. He later went on to graduate from King’s College in London with a bachelor’s degree in War Studies in 2015. This was followed by a Master’s in International Politics from City, the University of London in 2016.
Fight against Taliban not new
Ahmad’s fight against the Taliban is not new. Following his father’s footsteps, he formed a coalition in 2019, called the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan. It was modelled on the lines of the Northern Alliance that his father was part of in the mid-1990s, first fighting the Soviets and then the Taliban.
The Northern Alliance was a military front that had support from countries like Iran, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The alliance had been a critical factor in stopping the Taliban from taking over the entire country between 1996 and 2001.
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While carrying forward his father’s dream, Ahmad has now pleaded for help in an opinion piece for Washington Post.
“I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban. We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come,” Ahmad wrote.
He claims his anti-Taliban front has the support of members of the Afghan military and has weapons and arms for the fight.
Days before the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban, Ahmad had said that he was willing to forgive his father’s killing for the sake of peace in Afghanistan in an interview with Kamal Alam, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Centre.
In his earlier interviews, Ahmad had recalled how his father was open to negotiating with the Taliban and met them unarmed, even praying and spending time with them. But there could never be a breakthrough as they believed it was either their way or war.
He was quoted saying that his father was open to a power-sharing agreement but without any interference from outside.
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Leading from his father’s stronghold
Ahmad, along with Amrullah Saleh and his supporters, continues the fight from Panjshir, which remains the last anti-Taliban fortress. However, holding on to it might not be easy. In reality, Panjshir remains surrounded by Taliban strongholds even as videos of anti-Taliban protests and rallies go viral on social media.
Panjshir, which means ‘Five Lions’ in Persian, has never been conquered, either by foreigners or the Afghans. It remains a liberated zone.
Taliban took control of Kabul much earlier than anticipated as the US forces are in the last steps of their withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war.
Panjshir 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 173,000. Bazarak is the provincial capital.
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