The leader of Afghanistan’s resistance front against the Taliban said on September 5 that he welcomed proposals by religious scholars for a negotiated settlement to end the fighting in the Panjshir Valley, the last holdout against Taliban control in Afghanistan, as resistance fighters and the militants both claimed gains.
Ahmad Masud, head of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), made the announcement on the group's Facebook page amid reports of heavy clashes in the Panjshir Valley.
"To reach a lasting peace, the [NRFA] is ready to stop fighting on condition that the Taliban also stop their attacks and military movements on Panjshir and Andarab," Masud said, referring to a district in the neighboring province of Baghlan.
Earlier, Afghan media outlets reported that religious scholars had called on the Taliban to accept a negotiated settlement to end the fighting in Panjshir, located about 100 kilometers northeast of Kabul.
There was no immediate reaction from the Taliban.
On September 5, the NRFA also confirmed that its main spokesman, Fahim Dashti, had been killed during the day. Dashti had survived the suicide attack that killed Masud's father, revered anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Masud, on September 9, 2001, just days before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Dashti, a prominent journalist, had been one of the main sources of updates from the area
The fighting came as U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned about a “broader civil war” in Afghanistan as he questioned whether the Taliban could consolidate power as its shifts from an insurgency to governing.
Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said earlier on September 5 that its forces had fought their way into Bazarak, the capital of Panjshir, and had captured large quantities of weapons and ammunition.
The opposition, called the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, claimed it had trapped Taliban fighters in the valley and repelled militant offensives in several districts.
It was not immediately possible to get independent confirmation of events in Panjshir, where the Taliban has cut off phone, Internet, and electricity lines.
Emergency, an Italian aid group that operates a hospital in the valley, said on Twitter late on September 4 that the Taliban had reached the village of Anabah, located around 25 kilometers north inside the 115-kilometer-long valley.
Former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a leader of the National Resistance Front, acknowledged earlier in a video message that the front’s forces were in a difficult situation, but he vowed to continue resisting.
"We are under attack from Al-Qaeda, terrorists, the Taliban, and Pakistan's supporters. But we are defending our country," Saleh said.
“The resistance continues. The enemy has suffered casualties. We also have suffered casualties. I attended the funeral of one of my companions. But the situation is under our control,” he said in the recording, according to TOLOnews.
Since the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15, the militants have faced resistance from the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, which groups opposition forces loyal to local leader Ahmad Masud, who said on Facebook that Panjshir "continues to stand strongly."
The continued fighting has prompted warnings about the possibility of civil war.
Although both sides have held some meetings to resolve the issue peacefully, the talks failed to bear any fruit.
"I think there's at least a very good probability of a broader civil war," said Milley, in a bleak assessment.
“I don't know if the Taliban is going to be able to consolidate power and establish governance," Milley said, speaking at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Milley said if it cannot do that, it will "in turn lead to a reconstitution of Al-Qaeda or a growth of [Islamic State] or other myriad of terrorist groups" over the next three years, referring to Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) militants in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Atta Mohammad Noor, the head of the Jamiat-e Islami party that has ties to the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, warned that the continuation of the Taliban’s attack on Panjshir will lead to another war in the country.
“If the leaders’ request for a political agreement does not bear any results, the expansion of the resistance front is one of the other options that we will concentrate on,” Noor said on September 4, according to TOLOnews.