Kabul: Three Taliban sources said the Islamist militia had on Friday (September 3) seized the Panjshir valley north of Kabul, the last part of Afghanistan holding out against it. “By the grace of Allah Almighty, we are in control of the entire Afghanistan. The troublemakers have been defeated and Panjshir is now under our command,” said one Taliban commander.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the reports. Former vice president Amrullah Saleh, one of the leaders of the opposition forces, told the television station Tolo News that reports that he had fled the country were lies.
And in a video clip posted on Twitter by a BBC World journalist who said it had been sent by Saleh, he said: “There is no doubt we are in a difficult situation. We are under invasion by the Taliban … We have held the ground, we have resisted.” He also tweeted: “The RESISTANCE is continuing and will continue. I am here with my soil, for my soil & defending its dignity.”
His son, Ebadullah Saleh, denied that Panjshir had fallen, texting the message “No, it`s false”. There had been reports of heavy fighting and casualties in Panjshir, a rugged valley where several thousand fighters from regional militias and remnants of the old government’s armed forces had massed under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud , the son of late Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
The Taliban seized Kabul on August 15 after rapid advances across Afghanistan.
Earlier, Taliban sources said the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar would lead a new Afghan government set to be announced soon.
The new government’s most immediate priority may be to avert the collapse of an economy grappling with drought and the ravages of a 20-year conflict that killed around 240,000 Afghans before US forces completed a tumultuous pullout on Aug. 30.
Afghanistan is facing not only humanitarian disaster, but also threats to its security and stability from rival jihadist groups, including a local offshoot of Islamic State.
Baradar, who heads the Taliban’s political office, will be joined by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, in senior positions, three sources said. “All the top leaders have arrived in Kabul, where preparations are in final stages to announce the new government,” a Taliban official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme religious leader, will focus on religious matters and governance within the framework of Islam, another Taliban source said.
While the Taliban have spoken of wanting to form a consensus government, a source close to the Islamist militant movement said the interim government now being formed would consist solely of Taliban members. It will comprise 25 ministries, with a consultative council, or shura, of 12 Muslim scholars, the source added. Also being planned within six to eight months is a loya jirga, or grand assembly, bringing together elders and representatives from across Afghan society to discuss a constitution and the structure of the future government, the source said.
All the sources expected the interim cabinet to be finalised soon but differed over exactly when.