Taliban announce Panjshir capture, to form new govt
The Taliban claimed victory on Monday over opposition forces in the Panjshir valley northeast of Kabul, declaring that it completed the Islamist group's takeover of Afghanistan and promising to announce a new government soon.
Pictures on social media showed Taliban members standing in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor's compound after fighting over the weekend with the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, led by Panjshiri leader Ahmad Massoud.
"Panjshir, which was the last hideout of the escapee enemy, is captured," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. Earlier, he had said: "With this victory and latest efforts our country has come out of the whirlpool of the war and our people will have a happy life in peace, liberty and freedom."
The Taliban assured the people of Panjshir, who are ethnically distinct from the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and fought against the Islamists during their rule from 1996 to 2001, that there would be no "discriminatory act against them."
"They are our brothers and would work together for a joint purpose and welfare of the country," Mujahid said.
Massoud, who leads a force drawn from remnants of regular Afghan army and special forces units as well as local militia fighters, said in a Twitter message he was safe, but gave no details.
Mujahid said he had been told that Massoud and former vice president Amrullah Saleh had escaped to neighboring Tajikistan. Ali Maisam Nazary, head of foreign relations at NRFA, said the Taliban's claim of victory was false and opposition forces continued to fight.
"The NRF forces are present in all strategic positions across the valley to continue the fight," he said on his Facebook page.
Panjshir has a history of being difficult for enemies to take. It remained in the hands of resistance fighters during Soviet rule, a subsequent civil war and the Taliban's first regime of the late 1990s.
Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, also told reporters that the Taliban would announce a new government "within days" – one that would be inclusive, he said, without elaborating. Once the government is formed, members of the former Afghan army and security forces would be asked to return to work, he added.
"We need their expertise," he said. Members of the previous Afghan security forces would then join with Taliban fighters to form a single army, Mujahid added.
He also said women were back at work in the health and education sectors and "other fields will be provided, one by one, once the system has been established for them."
The militants, who swept to power last month as the United States withdrew its troops after a 20-year war, banned girls and women from schools and most work when they last ruled the country, from 1996 to 2001. The group has now said women would be allowed to work across important sectors of society, in line with Islamic law.