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Despite Taliban Claim Of Panjshir 'Victory,' Afghan Resistance Leader Urges 'National Uprising'

Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces take part in training in Panjshir Province on September 2.

The leader of the resistance movement in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley is calling for a "national uprising" against the Taliban, who claimed to have taken complete control of the province where opposition forces had been holding out.

It was not immediately possible to get independent confirmation on September 6 of events in Panjshir, where the Islamist militant group has cut off phone, Internet, and electricity lines.

But images showed Taliban militants passing under portraits of the late Panjshir commander Ahmad Shah Masud, who was revered for his historic defense of the region and whose son is currently leading the National Resistance Front (NRFA) that vowed to repel the Taliban.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Qatar on September 6 for crisis talks reportedly aimed at getting trapped Americans out of Afghanistan, and an unnamed official said four Americans had been evacuated with Taliban knowledge.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed his government would do "everything we can" to ensure "safe passage" for specific Afghan nationals at risk from the Taliban rule over their cooperation with the United Kingdom.

The Taliban seized control of most of Afghanistan three weeks ago, taking power in Kabul on August 15 following the collapse of the Western-backed government.

“Our compatriots, wherever you are, whether outside or inside, we call on you to start a general uprising for the sake of the honor, freedom, and pride of our homeland,” NRFA leader Ahmad Masud said in an audio message released by the group on September 6.

“Everyone can stand up in any way they can and shout loud - we will never accept humiliation,” Masud said, adding that Afghans can fight in any possible form -- either via armed struggle or by conducting protests.

He did not comment on claims by the Taliban to have captured Panjshir, the last area in Afghanistan being held by resistance forces, but NRFA spokesman Maisam Nazari denied the allegation, telling RFE/RL that fighting was continuing in Panjshir.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that there had been heavy fighting in Panjshir Valley, a rugged mountain valley located about 100 kilometers northeast of the capital that is home to up to 200,000 people.

However, he said there had been no civilian casualties and the militants were moving ahead with plans to announce a government "soon."

"With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war," Mujahid said.

A video posted by the Taliban on social media appeared to show its members raising the group’s flag outside the provincial governor’s office.

However, a tweet from the NRFA's Twitter account said that its forces were “present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight.”

The NRFA includes opposition groups, local militias, and remnants of the Afghan security forces.

Son Of Afghanistan's 'Lion Of Panjshir' Prepares To Resist Taliban Rule
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Panjshir had held out against Soviet occupation as well as the Taliban's period of rule between 1996 and 2001.

Neighboring Iran on September 6 said it "strongly" condemned the Taliban's military offensive against the holdout fighters in the Panjshir Valley.

"The news coming from Panjshir is truly worrying. The assault is strongly condemned," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.

Many of the world's leading nations are waiting to see who will be in the government and whether the next administration's actions will be in line with the group’s promises of being more moderate than during its brutal rule 20 years ago, when it enforced a radical form of Islamic law.

Mujahid said the new government could be just an interim administration with possible changes in the future.

The militant group declared an amnesty for all Afghans who worked with foreign forces during the war that ousted it from power and said it was in talks with “all factions” to reach an agreement on a future government.

But many reports have said summary executions and house-to-house searches for those who worked with international groups or the previous government are occurring across the country.

Amid concerns that women, whose freedoms were sharply curtailed under the Taliban's 1996-2001 rule, are unlikely to be appointed at top government positions, a group of women gathered in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif to call for their rights be preserved.

Protest organizer Shakourieh Rahimi told RFE/RL that Taliban militants stopped journalists trying to cover the demonstration and beat some of them.

A week after the United States fully withdrew its troops from Kabul airport, the facility has already changed in the hands of the Taliban.

The heart at the center of the airport's "I Love Kabul" sign has been removed, while a reference to former President Hamid Karzai, after whom the airport was named, has been replaced with a poster bearing the Taliban flag and the slogan “Freedom is the right of every society. To preserve the freedom we should make a sacrifice.”

The airport is still not operational, but the Taliban spokesman said work is under way to resume international flights.

The legitimacy of the new administration in the eyes of international donors and investors will be crucial for the economy, which is in tatters as the country battles drought and the ravages of a conflict that took the lives of an estimated 240,000 Afghans.

During his meetings with Taliban leaders in Kabul, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths “reiterated the humanitarian community’s commitment to deliver impartial and independent humanitarian assistance and protection to millions of people in need,” according to a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Griffiths, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, also “emphasized the critical role of women in the delivery of aid and called on all parties to ensure their rights, safety and well-being. He called for all civilians -- especially women and girls and minorities -- to be protected at all times.”

The Taliban “pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers -- both men and women -- will be guaranteed freedom of movement," the statement added.

The Taliban said it had assured the UN delegation of "cooperation and provision of needed facilities."

Almost half of the population in Afghanistan -- about 18 million people -- needs support, according to the UN.

This story also includes reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and the BBC
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