Resistance fighters in the Panjshir say they have killed dozens of Taliban who tried to advance into a narrow gorge at the entrance to the valley today.
The rugged snow-capped valley, which begins around 50 miles north of Kabul, is the last bastion of freedom in Afghanistan.
The National Resistance Front (NRF), comprising an ethnic Tajik militia and former Afghan security forces, have vowed to defend the enclave as the Islamist group say they have it surrounded.
The resistance today said they had killed dozens of Taliban fighters in fighting around Shotul and Golbahar, villages at the southern end of the river valley where steep slopes provide protection from invaders.
Resistance fighters in the Panjshir Valley today boasting of repelling the Taliban from the Shalang Pass, another major strategic artery through the region. Behind them an old Soviet tank. The region is a graveyard of old Soviet weaponry from the militia’s successful defence in the 1980s
Resistance patrols with American-made Humvees in the Panjshir Valley on Wednesday. Generals and former staffs of the Afghan National Army fled to the valley to join the resistance after the fall of Kabul
An explosion on Wednesday in the mountains which surround the Panjshir Valley as skirmishes broke out between the Taliban and the National Resistance Front
THE PANJSHIR VALLEY: The entrance to the valley lies around 50 miles north of Kabul, overlooked by the Hindu Kush mountains and with narrow approaches ideally suited for ambushes
Video showed explosions atop the mountains amid skirmishes between the opposing forces, while others showed militia members boasting of the number of Taliban scalps claimed in the fighting.
One man said his men had killed eight of the terrorists around Shotul, while another claimed that they had driven the Taliban from the Shalang Pass, another major strategic artery through the region.
The Northern Alliance tweeted today: ‘Don’t believe the propaganda of enemies! All the attacks from 6 sides in Panjshir were successfully defended by NRF, Taliban casualties so catastrophic that they cannot take all the bodies that lying around the border areas of the province. They have modern weapons but dumb minds.’
The Taliban earlier appealed to people in the Panjshir to lay down their arms following a night of fierce fighting around the valley.
‘My brothers, we tried our best to solve the Panjshir problem with talks and negotiations… but unfortunately all in vain,’ senior Taliban official Amir Khan Muttaqi said, in an audio message to the people of the Panjshir posted on Twitter.
‘Now that the talks have failed and Mujahiddin (Taliban) have surrounded Panjshir, there are still people inside that don’t want the problems to be solved peacefully,’ he added.
‘Now it is up to you to talk to them,’ the Taliban message to the Panjshir people said. ‘Those who want to fight, tell them it is enough.’
Bismillah Mohammadi, Afghanistan’s defence minister before the government fell last month, said the Taliban had launched a renewed assault on Panjshir on Tuesday night.
‘Last night the Taliban terrorists attacked Panjshir, but were defeated,’ Mohammadi tweeted Wednesday, claiming 34 Taliban were killed and 65 wounded.
‘Our people should not worry. They retreated with heavy casualties.’
Residents and fighters in Panjshir, many of whom fought the Taliban when they were last in power from 1996 to 2001, offered a defiant message.
‘We are ready to defend it till the last drop of our blood,’ said one resident.
‘Everyone has a weapon on their shoulder and ready to fire,’ another said. ‘From the youngest to the oldest, they all talk about resistance.’
An American-made Black Hawk flying the white banner of the Taliban heads towards the Panjshir Valley in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday
Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces gather in Khenj District in Panjshir province on Tuesday
Resistance fighters in Khenj District in Panjshir province on Tuesday
As the last US soldiers boarded their flight out of Afghanistan in the Kabul dark late Monday, residents of Panjshir said the Taliban had attacked the valley on two fronts – the Khawak pass in the west, and from Shotul to the south.
‘Perhaps they wanted to try their luck,’ NRF official Fahim Dashti said in a video posted Tuesday by the US broadcaster Voice of America’s Dari language service.
‘By the grace of God, luck wasn’t on their side.’
Dashti reported seven or eight Taliban fighters were killed in Monday’s clashes along with one or two resistance fighters.
The Panjshir has immense symbolic value in Afghanistan as the area that has resisted occupation by invaders.
‘We defended it during the era of the Russians, the era of the British, the previous era of the Taliban… we will continue to defend it,’ one fighter said.
Ahmad Massoud, one of the NRF’s leaders, is the son of the late guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was dubbed the ‘Lion of Panjshir’ for holding out, first against Soviet and then Taliban forces.
The valley has limited entry points and its geography offers a natural military advantage – defending units can use high positions to effectively target attacking forces.
Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces gather in Khenj District in Panjshir province on August 31
Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces gather in Panjshir
Ahmad Massoud (left), leader of the Northern Alliance and son of ‘the Lion of the Panjshir’, says that no Taliban fighter has yet dared to enter the narrow gorge into the valley. Massoud was only 12 when his father, Ahmad Shah Massoud (right), was murdered by Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network.
This week, Panjshir fighters held military training in a show of force, with men carrying heavy logs on their shoulders crossing chest-deep icy rivers.
Above their armoured vehicles and over their bases fluttered their flag, a challenge to the Taliban’s white banner now hauled up across the rest of the country.
Many Afghans are terrified of a repeat of the Taliban’s initial rule from 1996 to 2001, which was infamous for their treatment of girls and women, as well as a brutal justice system.
The NRF has set up machine gun nests, mortars and surveillance posts fortified with sandbags in anticipation of a Taliban assault.
Communications are difficult with the valley, with Taliban forces on three sides. Internet into Panjshir has been on and off repeatedly in recent days.