Taliban claim total control over Afghanistan
The Taliban said on Monday they had captured the last pocket of resistance in Afghanistan, the Panjshir Valley.
Following their lightning-fast victory in mid-August over the former Afghan government's security forces and the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years of war, the Taliban had turned to fight the forces defending the mountainous Panjshir Valley.
The province was the last holdout of anti-Taliban forces in the country and the only province the Taliban had not seized during their sweep last month.
Earlier, Taliban and opposition forces battled on Saturday to control the Panjshir Valley as both sides claimed to have the upper hand in Panjshir but neither could produce conclusive evidence to prove it.
The Taliban, which swept through the country ahead of the final withdrawal of US-led forces this week, were unable to control the valley when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement on Monday, saying Panjshir was now under the control of the Taliban fighters.
Thousands of Taliban fighters overrun eight districts of Panjshir overnight, according to witnesses from the area. They spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their safety.
The anti-Taliban fighters had been led by the former vice president and the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud who was killed just days before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
The anti-Taliban forces had been led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and also the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud who was killed just days before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Massoud's son Ahmad had issued a statement Sunday, calling for an end to the fighting that had been blistering in recent days. The young British-schooled Massoud said his forces were ready to lay down their weapons but only if the Taliban agreed to end their assault. Late on Sunday dozens of vehicles loaded with Taliban were seen swarming into Panjshir Valley.
There has been no statement from Saleh, Afghanistan's former vice president who had declared himself the acting president after Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Aug. 15 as the Taliban reached the gates of the capital. The Taliban subsequently entered the presidency building that day.
In his statement, Mujahid sought to assure residents of Panjshir that they would be safe — even as scores of families reportedly fled into the mountains ahead of the Taliban's arrival.
"We give full confidence to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be subjected to any discrimination, that all are our brothers, and that we will serve a country and a common goal,” Mujahid said in his statement.