An old man in the Panjshir Valley sadly describes the last resistance fighters made against the Taliban’s relentless blow to Afghanistan: “There were too many of them.”
Leaning before the door of a closed shop in Khenj village, Abdul Wajid said the group’s forces gathered at the mouth of the valley north of the capital, Kabul, in September.
The sight of dozens of Taliban armored vehicles passing through the narrow valley burns in his memory.
“We couldn’t do anything else,” he said.
For three days his village and the National Resistance Force (NRF) – a mix of Panjshiri fighters and remnants of the defeated National Army – had fired “heavy-armed” from the rough cliffs above the valley.
The burnt and crumpled wreckage of more than a dozen Taliban vehicles is testimony to their intense struggle.
But radical Islamists continued their relentless progress, bolstering them by conquering the rest of the country and armed with a vast arsenal of weapons confiscated from the Afghan army.
– Waves of attacks –
An NRF fighter hiding in Panjshir said, “We were shocked, we didn’t know what to do.” “We didn’t have enough weapons.”
In Malaspa, a farming village surrounded by lush fields, 67-year-old Khol Mohamed said the convoy of Islamists was so large it looked like “a thousand vehicles full of Taliban” had been swept away.
Panjshir fighters earned a noted reputation for resistance, defending their mountainous homes before Soviet forces for a decade, during the following civil war, and against Taliban rule before 1996–2001.
The 115-kilometre (70 mi) valley surrounded by jagged snow-capped peaks provides a natural advantage to the defenders.
But two decades after the late veteran fighter Ahmed Shah Masood led the Panjshiris to victory, the province is no longer isolated.
On 30 August the Taliban launched a multi-pronged offensive – with some residents claiming that the number of Panjshiri fighters was three-to-one.
– vintage rifles –
Taliban commander Mullah Sanaullah Sangeen Fatih told AFP that many of Panjshiri’s guns were decades old, as they showed a large cache of weapons and rockets that were discarded when resistance fighters fled.
“It is mainly from the time of the Soviet occupation,” Fatih said.
This is in stark contrast to the modern arsenal of the Taliban.
A Panjshiri fighter said the Islamists used a drone “which helped them easily locate and bomb our targets”.
Several witnesses reported aerial bombings, but it was not clear who carried them out.
Some in Panjshir accused neighboring Pakistan of airstrikes against them, claims Islamabad has vehemently rejected.
Others criticized the lack of leadership, saying that 32-year-old Ahmed Masood – the great fighter’s son – lacked both experience and international support.
The second leader, former vice-president Amrulla Saleh, did nothing to garner support.
“When he came to invite people to fight with him in August, elders criticized him for never doing anything for Panjshir,” said a local journalist.
It is unclear what remains of the resistance, and whether its leaders are still in the country.
– Calm, for now –
On 6 September, the Taliban captured Bazarak, the capital of Panjshir, and raised their white flag.
Today, the valley appears calm, with the Taliban regime doing “well”, according to several residents interviewed by AFP.
As a sign of respect, the group has repaired the tomb of Ahmad Shah Masood, which was damaged when some of his fighters captured Bjark.
They say they want to bring “peace and security” to Panjshir, while continuing to hunt down the remaining resistance fighters.
But Khair Mohamed, an elder from Peshjur village, said it reminded him of the Soviet occupation.
“It was exactly that. They came, they told us at the beginning that we could be friends, and we said yes,” he said with a smile.
“And you know what happened next.”
(This story has not been edited by NB staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)