1 hour “undefeated” valley from Kabul


Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, 2011

Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, 2011

Thousands of anti-Taliban fighters are reported to be fighting the Taliban in a secluded valley with a narrow entrance about 30 miles from the capital Kabul.

This is not the first time that the dramatic and striking Panjshir Valley has sparked the recent turbulent history of Afghanistan. It was a base for Soviet troops in the 1980s and for the Taliban in the 90s.

The group currently there-Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front (NRF) -recently reminded the world of the strength of the valley.

“The Red Army couldn’t beat us with all its might … and the Taliban 25 years ago … they tried to take over the valley but failed and faced a catastrophic defeat.” Said Ali Nazary of the NRF. The foreign minister told the BBC.

Gray line for a short presentation

Gray line for a short presentation

The long, deep and dusty valley extends about 75 miles (120 km) northwest to northeast of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. It is protected by a high mountain peak 9,800 feet (3,000 m) above the bottom of the valley. They are an impressive natural barrier and protect the people who live there.

There is only one winding narrow road between the large rock outcrops and the winding Panjshir River.

“There is a mythical aspect to the whole region. It’s not just one valley. Once in there, at least 21 sub-valleys are connected,” said Afghanistan, who lived there as a child but after the Taliban. Shakib Sharifhi, who left, said he took control.

The trail at the far end of the main valley continues to the 4,430 m (14,534 ft) Anjoman Pass, further east towards the Hindu Kush Mountains. Both Alexander the Great and Tamerlane’s army-the last conquerors of the great nomadic empires of Central Asia-have taken this path.

“Historically, the Panjshir Valley was also known for its semi-precious stone mining industry,” said Elizabeth Leake, an associate professor of international history at the University of Leeds.

map

map

Today, there are hydroelectric dams and wind farms in the valley. The United States helped build roads and towers to receive signals from Kabul. The former US Air Force base in Bagram, originally built by the Soviet Union in the 1950s, is also a short distance from the mouth of the valley.

“Brave” people

It is reported that 150,000 to 200,000 people live in the valley. Most speak Dari (one of Afghanistan’s main languages) and are Tajik.

The Tajiks make up about a quarter of Afghanistan’s 38 million population, but the Panjiks do not look to Tajikistan, one of Afghanistan’s northern neighbors. Instead, they have their own local identity.

Sharifhi, who until recently was the director of planning for the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, bravely described Panzisilis as “probably the bravest in Afghanistan.” He states that the locals are unable to reconcile with the Taliban and “have a militant element, but in a positive way.” The historic victory over Britain, the Soviet Union and the Taliban was simply “enveloping people further.”

Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, 2011

The green at the bottom of the valley gives way to rugged and rugged terrain

After the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, the valley was promoted from district to state. It is one of the smallest in Afghanistan.

“The decision to make itself a state was controversial,” said Dr. Antonio Justozzi, a senior researcher at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He explains that Panjshir fighters had great power in the early 2000s. They helped recapture Kabul and became the “number one stakeholder.”

Panjshir leaders have been given outstanding positions in government and the military. The valley was self-governing and was the only state in Afghanistan where a local governor was appointed rather than an outsider.

“Usually, the governor had to be considered more loyal to the government than the locals,” says Dr. Giustozzi. “Panjshir was a special case.”

Strategically important

According to Dr. Giustozzi, Afghanistan has “probably hundreds” of similar valleys. But “strategicly very important” is the proximity of the valley to the main road north of Kabul.

The entrance to the valley is not far from where the main road from Kabul leaves the flat plains and rises towards the mountains towards Saran Pass. This is a tunnel that carries traffic to the northern cities of Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif.

Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising personnel. Panjshir, Afghanistan, August 2021

Anti-Taliban fighter in Panjshir, August 2021

Sharifi says the importance of Panjshir lies in the powerful combination of factors.

“It’s not just because of the dozens of remote combat positions in the valley, but also because of the great pride that the Panjshir people have. Individually, these factors are This may be the case. Many places throughout Afghanistan. “

In this latest standoff, the valley is also believed to have a large stockpile of weapons. Valley-based fighters have been disbanded and handed over weapons over the last two decades. “But there is still a stockpile,” says Dr. Giustozzi.

“Afghan officials associated with Panjshir also moved more guns there because they were worried about President Karzai and Ganny, but in the end it was the Taliban that they had to worry about.”

The man who leads the anti-Taliban army in the valley is Ahmad Masoud, 32. He is the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a revered resistance leader from the 1980s to the 90s.

Portrait of Ahmad Massoud, Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, September 5, 2019

Ahmad Masoud in the Panjshir Valley, 2019

Masoud said his fighter had military support from members of the Afghan army and special forces.

“There is a store of ammunition and weapons that I have patiently collected since my father’s day, because I knew this day might come,” the Washington Post said in a recent opinion piece.

His father, called the “Lion of Panzisil,” was the commander of the Mujahideen, who blocked both Soviet and Taliban troops. Panjshir itself means “five lions”.

Ahmad Shah Massoud, the son of an Afghan army general, was born in a valley. His portraits can still be found throughout Panjshir and in many parts of Kabul, from monuments to billboards and shop windows.

Thanks to him, the Panjshir Valley became the center of anti-communist resistance after the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) came to power in 1978-and the Soviet Union came to power a year later.

“He became the public face of resistance in the Soviet-Afghanistan war,” says Professor Elizabeth Leake of the University of Leeds. “He was charismatic and actively involved with the Western media. He was also one of the leading resistance leaders the Soviets were willing to negotiate, which made him very important. I made it. “

Portrait of Ahmad Shah Massoud, Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, 2009

Portrait of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Panjshir Valley, 2009

During that time, Masoud was different from the leaders of other rebels, says Dr. Justozzi. “He was educated, able to speak French, spoke calmly, and was fascinating. Other commanders were rough, literate, and came across as GungHo.”

He was assassinated by an al-Qaeda terrorist group in 2001 and declared a national hero by President Hamid Karzai two days before attacking the United States on 9/11.

However, some say that the Mujahideen leader was a war criminal. According to a 2005 Human Rights Watch survey, “Ahmad Shah Massoud was involved in many abuses” under the command of the military during the war in Afghanistan.

Can’t you conquer?

Between late 1980 and 1985, the Soviets launched at least half a dozen attacks on the valley-from the ground and in the air. Russian fighters had little terrain experience and often remained ambushed.

The Soviet Union was “injured a thousand” from the left, right and center, Sharifi said. A man (known as Mr. DHsK after the Soviet machine gun he advertised) hid under a rock and shot them, but they couldn’t find him.

He says some of the current commanders were at the end of the era. “They were trained to become independent at the outpost without proper contact from headquarters. They knew how to wait and hurt it.”

Rusted helicopter from Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan in 2015

Rusted helicopter taken in 2015 from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979

Dr. Justozzi says the Soviet Union succeeded in securing a fortress in the valley for some time, but that didn’t last long.

“Russians couldn’t understand the point of keeping the army,” he says. “They wanted to protect the north-south highways, but battles broke out in other areas nearby.”

Weapons, tanks and aircraft remained rusty in the Panjshir Valley-a legacy of Soviet failed military operations.

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Ahmad Masoud was 12 years old when his father died. He studied in London and trained at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst for a year.

“He has a father’s charm, but he hasn’t been tested as a military leader,” says Dr. Giustozzi. “He also needs the skills to negotiate potential power sharing agreements at the national level. Unlike some older government figures, he is a new person and has little to lose. The discussion can be tougher. “

Professor Leak says it’s difficult to measure what’s next in the valley.

“He is clearly very familiar with his own heritage and the historical importance of his father-we can see him continuing this heritage of international involvement.

“But this time the story is different. The Taliban occupy major cities and towns nearby and the supply chain has collapsed. It changes the balance.”

Ahmad Massoud arrived on July 5, 2021 to attend and address a rally at the tomb of his late father in Panjshir, Afghanistan.

Ahmad Masoud at the tomb of his deceased father in July 2021

Masoud himself wants a backup.

“If the Taliban warlords launch an assault, they will of course face strong resistance from us … yet we know that our troops and logistics are not enough,” he said in Washington. I wrote in the post article.

“Unless Western friends find a way to supply us without delay, they will be depleted rapidly.”

Details of the Afghanistan crisis

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