Clashes erupt in Panjshir valley as Kamala Harris says ‘robust analysis’ needed of US evacuation.
The Taliban has attacked opposition fighters in the Panjshir valley, the last pocket of resistance against the group’s takeover of Afghanistan, threatening hopes of building a unity government in the country. The clashes came as Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, admitted on Monday that the American-led evacuation from Afghanistan would require “a robust analysis” after intense criticism that the Biden administration had botched the operation and blindsided international allies.
Resistance forces pushed back the Taliban in Panjshir, a mountainous area north of Kabul, in battles that began on Sunday night, said Ali Nazary, head of foreign relations for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, a coalition of anti-Taliban fighters. “They were trying to attack Panjshir, but they were unable to do that,” said Nazary. “They faced defeat today and retreated back.” The Taliban said it sent hundreds of fighters to the mountainous region, posting videos on social media of its special forces travelling by road to the area.
Ahmad Massoud, the son of a renowned mujahideen who fought the Soviet Union invasion in 1979, and leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, has called for international support to fight off the Taliban if a peaceful settlement cannot be reached. The Taliban is working to consolidate control of the country after routing the government of Ashraf Ghani, the former president who has taken refuge in the United Arab Emirates.
The militant group has sought to project a moderate tone in its public statements, saying women’s rights will be protected according to Islamic law. But the UN has warned that Afghanistan is facing a “gender emergency”, after reports of Taliban militants preventing women from leaving home and participating in public life. When the group ruled in the 1990s, women were banned from the workplace and schools.
“We have some evidence or reports from different provinces saying women are not allowed to leave their domicile without . . . a male chaperone,” said Mohammad Naciri, UN Women’s Asia-Pacific director. “We do understand that in some provinces women have been asked to continue to stay at home.” The US vice-president was speaking on a trip to Singapore where she sought to reassure allies in the Asia-Pacific region that Washington would stand by its partners.
The US has been criticised for its handling of the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul © US MARINE CORPS/AFP via Getty
“There’s no question: there will be and should be a robust analysis of what has happened,” Harris said, adding that President Joe Biden had “shown great emotion in expressing sadness over the images we’ve seen”. “But right now we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children, and that is our singular focus at this time,” she said.
I’m The Taliban has offered amnesty to its opponents, but there have been reports of fighters tracking down collaborators and allegations that the group killed the relative of a journalist for Deutsche Welle, the German public broadcaster. Other political leaders, including Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan president, are holding talks with senior Taliban officials to form a power-sharing government. Afghanistan’s neighbours, including Pakistan and China, have suggested that an inclusive government is a precondition for recognizing the new Taliban regime.
But the assault on Panjshir undermined the Taliban’s pledge to form such a government with representation from all of Afghanistan’s ethnic groups, said Nazary. Recommended The Big Read Biden’s Afghanistan fiasco: ‘We look like a deer caught in headlights’ “What we see is that the Taliban are intoxicated with victory, they aren’t even listening to these regional countries,” said Nazary. “The Taliban believe they have defeated the superpower, even their allies can’t stop them.
They are willing to test their limits, that’s what they are doing in Panjshir.” Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after two decades has led to a mass evacuation of foreigners and thousands of desperate Afghans who helped the US and its international allies. But the effort has been marred by violence, with a Nato official saying at least 20 people had died over the past week. Germany’s armed forces said a firefight on Monday morning broke out at Kabul’s international airport between Afghan security personnel and unknown attackers. “An Afghan soldier was killed and three others were wounded,” it said on Twitter.
The US said on Sunday it was considering extending the August 31 pullout of American personnel and ordered civilian airlines to help move Afghan refugees from bases in the Middle East.