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Taliban Claims Victory In Panjshir; Resistance Says Fight Continues

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks during a press conference in Kabul on September 6.

The Taliban has claimed victory in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, but the leader of the resistance movement there has called for a "general uprising" against the Taliban and said the fight will continue.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference on September 6 that Panjshir had been captured to complete the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Mujahid said the group would unveil a new government soon and assured the people of the valley -- who are ethnically distinct from the mainly Pashtun Taliban -- that there would be no "discriminatory acts against them."

"They are our brothers and would work together for a joint purpose and welfare of the country," Mujahid said.

The National Resistance Front (NRF) -- made up of opposition groups, local militias, and remnants of the Afghan security forces -- remained defiant.

"We are in Panjshir and our Resistance will continue," NRF leader Ahmad Masud said on Twitter. He also said he was safe but gave no details of his whereabouts.

He said in a later tweet that 70 percent of the areas captured by the Taliban in the past week in Panjshir were recaptured by resistance forces "in one hour."

The NRF's head of foreign relations, Ali Maisam Nazary, said on Facebook: "The NRF forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight."

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

Masud, in an audio message released earlier by the NRF, called for “a general uprising for the sake of the honor, freedom, and pride of our homeland.” He said Afghans can fight in any possible form -- armed struggle or by conducting protests.

The rugged mountainous Panjshir Valley is located about 100 kilometers northeast of the capital. Home to up to 200,000 people, Panjshir held out against Soviet occupation as well as the Taliban’s earlier period of rule from 1996 to 2001.

Since seizing power on August 15, Taliban leaders have repeatedly sought to reassure Afghans and foreign countries that they will not reimpose the brutal rule that characterized their last period in power.

But formal recognition of a Taliban government will depend on actions, not just words, Western leaders have said.

Asked whether the United States would recognize the Taliban, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House on September 6: “That’s a long way off."

Biden sent U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Qatar for talks with the Gulf country’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as Washington seeks to build a consensus among allies on how to respond to Taliban rule.

The meeting on September 6 focused on efforts to enhance security in Afghanistan, the emir's court said. Blinken and Austin thanked Thani for Qatar’s "extraordinary support" in the effort to evacuate Americans and at-risk Afghans from Kabul by the end of August, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Blinken also spoke with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah and thanked him for Kuwait's assistance with evacuations, the State Department said.

Western powers say they are prepared to engage with the Taliban to see that humanitarian aid is delivered to people affected by drought and war. Almost half of the population in Afghanistan -- about 18 million people -- need support, according to the UN.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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