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Afghan Resistance Fighters In Panjshir Battle Taliban As Thousands Head To Borders


Afghan resistance forces patrol a road in Rah-e Tang, Panjshir Province, on August 29.

The Taliban and resistance fighters in an area northeast of Kabul where the militants have yet to seize power have issued statements on ongoing talks and local defense efforts in the Panjshir Valley.

A senior Taliban representative, Amir Khan Motaqi, issued an audio message to Afghans via social media urging Panjshir's residents that they should join the "Islamic Emirate," describing it as a place for all Afghans.

He said the Taliban "still wants to prevent war and find a political solution."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the resistance movement in Panjshir, a rugged area north of Kabul, said in a video that its fighters continue to defend the region.

The resistance spokesman, Fahim Dashti, said its fighters have so far rebuffed the Taliban offensive there.

More clashes were reported early on September 1 between the Taliban and resistance forces in the Panjshir region, as thousands of people looking to flee the country continue to head to Afghanistan's borders after the withdrawal of U.S. forces put an end to a massive airlift.

At the Torkham crossing with Pakistan, a Pakistani official said that “a large number" of people are waiting on the Afghanistan side of the frontier for it to open.

Witnesses were quoted as saying that thousands of Afghans had also flocked to the Islam Qala border post with Iran.

Since the Western-backed government and Afghan Army collapsed under a lightning Taliban offensive, thousands of Afghans have fled their homes fearing a repeat of the Taliban's brutal rule between 1996 and 2001.

The National Resistance Front (NRF), comprising anti-Taliban militia fighters and former Afghan security forces, has vowed to defend Panjshir Valley, 100 kilometers northeast of the capital, as the Islamist group sends more fighters to encircle it.

The United States and its allies evacuated more than 123,000 people out of Kabul since August 14, the day before the Taliban regained control of the country two decades after being removed from power by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

But tens of thousands of Afghans Afghans who had helped Western nations oust the militants during a 20-year war and others at risk remained behind.

Britain said on September 1 it was in talks with the Taliban to secure “safe passage” out of Afghanistan for a number of British nationals and Afghans who remain inside the country.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told an emergency session of a foreign affairs select committee on September 1 that intelligence assessments did not predict such a swift Afghan capitulation to the Taliban as foreign troops pulled out.

"The central assessment that we were operating that the most likely, the central proposition was that, given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you would see a steady deterioration from that point, and that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year," Raab told parliamentarians.

"That doesn't mean we didn't do contingency planning or game-out or test the other propositions. And just to be clear, that's something that was widely shared -- that view -- amongst NATO allies," Raab said.

Raab also told the lawmakers that he was leaving later on September 1 to travel "to the region" around Afghanistan to discuss efforts to rescue people left behind after the troop pullout.

He did not say which countries he would visit, citing security reasons.

In a resolution, the UN Security Council has urged the Taliban to allow safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan.

The militants have promised to allow Afghans to leave and return to the country, but many remain in doubt about the hard-line Islamist group's intentions.

The White House said on September 1 that it was working to build capacity to accommodate, but not resettle, as many as 50,000 Afghan refugees on military bases.

"There is capacity and we're working towards capacity at our military bases for up to 50,000," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing.

The housing would not be permanent but rather provide medical care and assistance and connect refugees with resettlement groups, she said.

U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said the United States was exploring all possible options and routes to help Americans still in Afghanistan and legal permanent residents leave that country.

She said Washington would continue to conduct conversations with the Taliban that serve U.S. and its allies' interests.

Nuland said the Taliban has much to gain from running Afghanistan differently from the last time it was in power, a reference to hard-line excesses when they controlled Kabul in 1996-2001.

She added that the United States was looking at ways to continue to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan without benefiting any potential government.

Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on September 1 that it’s “possible” the United States might have to coordinate with the Taliban on any eventual counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan against Islamic State or other militants.

U.S. President Joe Biden vowed in an August 31 speech to seek out the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) militants who claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that killed at least 180 people, including 13 U.S. soldiers, outside Kabul airport on August 26.

The administrative vacuum accompanying the Taliban's takeover has left foreign donors unsure of how to respond to warnings of a looming humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

British, Belgian Armies Evacuate Afghan Co-Workers
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The Taliban has yet to name a new government or reveal how it intends to govern, unlike in 1996, when a leadership council was formed within hours of taking the capital.

The foreign minister of neighboring Pakistan, which has close ties to the Taliban, said on August 31 that he expected Afghanistan to have a new "consensus government" within days.

The Islamist militia focused on keeping banks, hospitals and government machinery running after the final withdrawal of U.S. forces on Monday brought an end to a massive airlift of Afghans who had helped Western nations during the 20-year war.

As the world watches to see if the Taliban lives up to its promises of a more tolerant and open brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, and with foreign donors unsure how to respond to a looming humanitarian crisis, the group said its leader Mullah Hibatullah had wrapped up a three-day consultative meeting with tribal and religious elders in the southern city of Kandahar.

Meanwhile, the Taliban prepared to stage a parade in Kandahar showcasing Humvees and other military hardware they captured during their takeover of Afghanistan, AFP reported.

The Taliban has declared an amnesty for all Afghans who worked with foreign forces during the war that ousted it from power, said it was in talks with “all factions” to reach an agreement on a future government, and repeatedly promised a more tolerant and open brand of rule compared with their first stint in power.

However, 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.

The Taliban declared victory in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. troops, with fighters streaming into Kabul airport on August 31.

Gunfire Outside Kabul Airport Amid Evacuation Chaos
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A Taliban spokesman was quoted as saying on September 1 that a joint team of technicians from Turkey and Qatar had arrived in the capital to provide technical and logistical services to help repairs of the airport.

The goal was reportedly to resume flights for both humanitarian aid and to provide freedom of movement, including the resumption of evacuation efforts.

Afghanistan’s civil aviation authority said it had a technical team working at Kabul airport to repair the radar system so flights could resume.

Meanwhile, a senior board member of the Afghan central bank urged the U.S. Treasury and the International Monetary Fund to take steps to provide the Taliban-led government some access to Afghanistan’s reserves, telling Reuters that the country risks an "inevitable economic and humanitarian crisis.”

In Slovenia, European Council President Charles Michel said on September 1 that the 27-member bloc should take action to be better prepared for evacuations of its citizens in situations such as occurred in Afghanistan.

The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, at the same forum criticized EU members' failure to take in significant numbers of Afghans fleeing that country.

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

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, the BBC, and dpa
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