Taliban's conquest of Panjsher

Taliban’s conquest of Panjsher

Col (r) IkramUllah Khan

Amid the apparently jubilant news making the rounds, the Taliban have reportedly conquered Panjsher New great Game in South and Central Asianprovince of Afghanistan which remained impregnable to outside forces in the war history of Afghanistan. The British, the former USSR and most recently the USA attempted to conquer the Panjsher region but failed. During the late 90s, Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 themselves were unable to take control of the valley. But this time, according to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban have finally conquered the valley. He is quoted as saying: “Our latest efforts to bring peace to the entire country succeeded as Panjsher province is completely conquered and has come under control of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

Taliban can be seen hoisting the white flag of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan atop the Governor House in Bazarak, the capital of Panjher province with “LaaIlahaIllalah Muhammad urRasulullah” duly written on it and chanting slogan of “Allah o Akbar”, thus presenting a soul-stirring and emotive scene. It took the Taliban seven days to take control of Panjsher valley defeating the so-called National Resistance Front (NRF) led by Ahmad Masood, the son of late warlord Ahmad Shah Masood who fought against the Soviet occupation forces during 1980s.

It’s interesting to observe the conquest of Panjsher by the Taliban on a landmark date, i.e. 6 September that coincides with the Defence Day of Pakistan. Whether it’s a deliberate move or a mere coincidence remains to be determined. Even more interesting is the conquest of Kabul by the Taliban on 15 August coinciding with the Independence Day of India. Though, the Taliban have announced the formation of a new governmenttoday (7 September)that would be headed by Maulvi Muhammad HasanAkhund with yet another intriguing developmentthat the oath taking ceremony of the new government would reportedly be held on11 September that again coincides with the fateful  September 11 more commonly known as 9/11 when the terrorist attack on New York World Trade Centre took place.

Are all these happenings a mere coincidence or part of a well-orchestrated strategy? This is a question that will keep tantalizing the minds of keen observers with a persistent curiosity.

The speedy conquest of Panjsher by the Talban has shattered the long-cherished dream and sinister motives of those who want a perennial civil war in Afghanistan. The National Resistance Force (NRF) led by Ahmad Masood and former Vice President of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh is backed and supplied with arms by India to fight the Taliban to create conditions inside Afghanistan where it would be difficult for Taliban to earn world recognition to rule Afghanistan.

According to latest reports, Ahmad Masood who had refused to hold negotiations with the Taliban to reach a peaceful settlement and who had said that he would prefer to die than surrender has reportedly fled Afghanistan. Same is the news about Amrullah Saleh.  In the existing dismal scenario,the desperation of India is quite understandable as with the Taliban’s takeover the massive strategic investment made in Afghanistan running into billions of dollars has come to naught. India must understand that fallen is the wall on which it relied as an impregnable bulwark.

Though, theTaliban have come out victorious after twenty years long struggle and unprecedented sacrifices, they need to understand that their struggle doesn’t end here as they would be facing even bigger challenges in the days to come. They shouldn’t be under any illusion that they would be allowed to rule Afghanistan smoothly as the evil forces are hell-bent on creating chaos and anarchy in Afghanistan. They need to understand that the anti-Taliban forces will never give up their mischief and would continue with their efforts to destabilize Afghanistan till they succeed in achieving their objective.

Lastly, there is a need to bring it home to the Taliban leadership that they need to whitewash the negative perception that the world has been carrying about them as an extremist force devoid of human dimension during the past twenty years, and present a soft image to the world in order to earn international recognition. In this regard, it’s the responsibility of the friendly countries like Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, China and Russia to make the Taliban realize that they need to descend from their ivory tower and take a stroll down among the mere mortals belonging to different beliefs and develop friendly relations with international community to make themselves acceptable to the world without compromising on their fundamental belief and ideology which has remained the bedrock and prime mover of their long struggle.

As a step forward in this direction, the Taliban need to form a broad-based government representing all ethnic and religious groups whichthe present cabinet announced by Taliban spokesperson ZabihullahMujahid in a press conferencetoday (7 September) seems to be lacking. It’s however, expected that the Talibanwouldreview the formation of the government recently announced in order to makeit more inclusive and broad-based. In this context, the recent visit of DG ISI is being viewed by the international community as an attempt on the part of Pakistan to make the Taliban leadership realize the significance of forming an inclusive government. Herein lies the survival of Taliban regime.

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