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Threat of civil war looms over Afghanistan; Panjshir Resistance demands federal system

Even as Taliban fighters say they are now heading for northeastern Panjshir, one of the few provinces holding out, a well-fortified Panjshir Valley has raised an army of trained fighters apart from the Government troops, and the NRF is ready to fight the Taliban and even push on Kabul. They will not give up, and have appealed to the US for weapons and aid. At the same time, they don't want bloodshed if Taliban agrees to their demands for a decentralised, federal system of government, social justice and freedom for all in a multi-ethnic Afghanistan at war with itself.

NEW DELHI, Aug 22: Afghan First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh's forces are reportedly getting ready to advance towards Kabul. There is near-civil war like conditions in some northern areas where resistance against Taliban is growing. Saleh's home province of northeastern Panjshir has become the epicentre of the National Resistance Front (NRF).

On Friday the NRF recovered three northern districts of Baghlan province from the Taliban. Fifteen Taliban fighters were killed.

When President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday last Saleh had declared himself the "legitimate caretaker President".

"As per the Constitution of Afghanistan, in absence, escape, resignation or death of the President the FVP becomes the caretaker President. I am currently inside my country and am the legitimate care-taker President. Am reaching out to all leaders to secure their support and consensus," Saleh had tweeted.

NRF leader Ahmed Massoud, son of slain Mujahideen military commander and defence minister Ahmed Shah Massoud who had defended the province successfully in the past, has said the Front does not want bloodshed and is ready for negotiations with Taliban for an inclusive Government that protects the interests of Panjghir and other provinces. However, if Taliban does not agree on their demands, the NRF is ready to go to war to achieve its aim. The Font's demands are a constitutional system of federal decentralisation, social justice and freedom for all, according to a spokesman for Massoud. Unlike most of the 34 Afghan provinces, Panjghir is a Shiite majority province that has always kept its identity and independence.

Taliban fighters say they are now heading for Panjshir Valley, one of the few provinces that have not surrendered and still holding on. Panjshir will fight till the last. Frightened people running away from Taliban-controlled areas in the country to escape torture and death are also making a beeline to Panjshir seeking refuge. They too need humanitarian aid, the NRF has told the Americans, and appealed for weapons for the fighters. Panjshir has managed a trained force of nearly a lakh fighters. The NRF is led by Saleh and Ahmed Massoud. A fortified Panjshir valley has been an anti-Taliban bastion. They are getting ready for a "long-term conflict," NRF spokesman Ali Maisam Nazary told AFP.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid had declared after seizing Kabul that the group will ensure women's rights to work and education, within Shariah but that is not taken at its face value by majority of Afghans.

Currently Haibatullah Akhundzada is Taliban’s supreme leader, a position he took following the death of his predecessor, Akhtar Mansour in a 2016 US drone strike. Previously, during the years of Taliban founder Mullah Omar's hiding, Mullah Obaidullah was holding the charge of the Taliban chief. After the death of Omar in 2013, the official position was given to Akhtar Mansour. When recently Akhundzada contracted covid, his number two deputy and Mullah Omar's eldest son was given the full charge of Taliban which in fact he did not seek when his father died.

Afghanistan has all through been a breeding ground for warlords and terror gangs. In the last few decades there has been a mushroom growth of Islamist terrorist groups with their seminaries located in Pakistan. There being dozens of them active, war of supremacy has been a permanent feature of the socio-political landscape of Afghanistan. In this background, the emerging power struggle is likely to lead to a civil war. especially with the big powers eyeing the natural resources of Afghanistan.

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