A view of Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, 2009. The Taliban claimed to have taken the valley from the anti-Taliban group the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan. Photo by Homayon Khoram, courtesy of the United Nations.
The Taliban claimed this week to have taken the Panjshir Valley, the last holdout of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, an anti-Taliban group that Western nations had hoped would represent a legitimate military challenge to the Taliban. Reports from the fighting remain difficult to parse, with unconfirmed stories of human rights violations and Pakistani military interventions. Reports that the Taliban have disabled internet services in the area add another layer of confusion to understanding the reality on the ground in the Panjshir Valley.
The Associated Press reported Monday, Sept. 6, that the Taliban claimed to have overrun Panjshir province, the mountainous region of northern Afghanistan where advances from invading forces have traditionally been halted. The same day, the AP reported that thousands of fighters had flooded the province, while Al Jazeera reported Tuesday that NRF leader Ahmad Massoud had yet to concede and that the fight was ongoing.
#Panjshir has not completely collapsed.
In 12 hours resistance force killed thousands terrorists in panjshir.
The Taliban have retreated they leave them Dead bodies of the terrorists.
The resistance forces are following them.#FreeAfghanistan#StandWithPanjshir#PanjshirValley pic.twitter.com/QivTW2Eglp
— Ahmad Massoud (@AhmadMass0ud) September 8, 2021
There is no shortage of plainly wrong information, whether deliberately misleading or accidentally so. One Indian news station attempted to pass off video game footage as a Pakistani airstrike in Panjshir. Another Indian station broadcast a picture said to be the body of a resistance leader, only for numerous social media accounts to immediately source the picture to at least 2016. Nearly a dozen Twitter accounts claimed that Massoud had announced the NRF had driven the Taliban back after killing thousands of fighters in a 12-hour period, though anything close to a battle of that size would likely have surfaced in reports from reputable news organizations.
That said, here are some things we believe we know about what is happening in Panjshir.
Mohammad Fahim Dashty, NRF spokesman and close friend of Massoud, was said to be killed earlier this week, with no contradictory evidence reported by NRF outlets. Al Jazeera reported the death, and Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai gave his condolences via Twitter.
There are growing concerns about a humanitarian crisis. The Taliban control the areas surrounding Panjshir, including its supply lines. And with armed conflict consuming much of the area, claims that food and medical supplies are low are plausible.
Dustin Jones is a former senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine covering military and intelligence news. Jones served four years in the Marine Corps with tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. He studied journalism at the University of Colorado and Columbia University. He has worked as a reporter in Southwest Montana and at NPR. A New Hampshire native, Dustin currently resides in Southern California.
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