Smarting from Losses, Taliban Takes 200 Civilians Hostage in Afghan Province, Resistance Claims

Additional communication provided to the Sun indicated that nine Afghan farmers may also have been killed in reprisal attacks by the Taliban. 

AP/Rahmat Gul, file
Taliban fighters display their flag at Kabul days after retaking the capital in 2021. AP/Rahmat Gul, file

Clashes between Taliban forces and fighters of Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front in the fiercely contested Afghan province of Panjshir today underscore the volatility of the situation in Afghanistan nearly nine months after the Taliban’s ignominious takeover of the troubled country.  

In a tweet, the head of foreign relations for the NRF, Ali Nazary, said that “after the Taliban terrorists suffered casualties from NRF forces in Qasan, Andarab last night, they attacked a village and killed civilians. Their war crimes and brutalities against civilians [are] increasing everyday in Afghanistan.”  

Accompanying the tweet were graphic photos of what appeared to be four slain bodies in a grassy or wooded area.

“Taliban casualties have been very high in the past few days,” Mr. Nazary told the Sun, “so in order to try to demoralize our forces they are going after and massacring civilians. They are going into villages and have taken 200 civilians hostage in Panjshir.”

The same photos were tweeted by a journalist affiliated with the Asia Times Afghanistan newspaper, Nilofar Ayoubi, who wrote, “Taliban are committing war crimes and genocide! They are killing civilians, in particular People from Panjshir.”

As details of the situation were unfolding, additional communication provided to the Sun indicated that nine Afghan farmers may also have been killed in reprisal attacks by the Taliban. 

There have been frequent skirmishes between the Taliban and the NRF in Panjshir and other Afghan provinces. The news follows a claim made by the resistance fighters over the weekend that after launching a wide military offensive, the group had succeeded in seizing three northern districts from the Taliban. Agence France-Presse reported that the NRF, led by Ahmad Massoud, said the action in the Panjshir Valley was its first armed offensive against Taliban forces since they stormed back to power.

Mr. Nazary said over the weekend that the Taliban suffered heavy casualties and that the NRF offensive would continue across 12 provinces where its forces have had a presence, mostly in Afghanistan’s north. A fresh Taliban offensive that appears to be afoot could upset early reported NRF gains.  

There are unconfirmed reports on social media of a deployment of Taliban fighters carrying out mop-up operations in Panjshir to clear the province of resistance fighters belonging to the NRF and possibly other groups. By at least one account, which has not been confirmed, weapons caches were uncovered and a number of resistance fighters were captured alive or killed in firefights. The numbers were not immediately possible to verify, but Mr. Nazary said “about a dozen” resistance fighters have fallen in combat.

But there can be no question the theater of fighting is heating up. According to the Persian Independent, a convoy of fighters from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have been dispatched from Khost, also in Afghanistan, to join the fray in Panjshir. Pakistan has historically been a supporter of the Taliban. If the Taliban are indeed pushing their fighters from surrounding provinces to Panjshir, it could mean more days of violence ahead and the traditional spring “fighting season” in Afghanistan will likely intensify accordingly.

The Taliban’s alleged targeting of civilians as an act of vengeance, which Mr. Nazary says takes a page out of a 1990s playbook, is likely to backfire and erode the faction’s already shaky legitimacy in the war-torn nation. 

As a measure of the gravity of this developing situation, the EU ambassador to Afghanistan, Andreas von Brandt, reportedly said on May 6 that watchdog groups have reported on the killing of civilians, especially in Panjshir province. According to Baaghi TV, a Pashto-language website, reports of “abuse and killing of civilians” led Mr. Brandt “to call for a solution to the current situation in Afghanistan.” 

The ambassador is said to have had an active role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table and also in helping EU staff to evacuate Afghanistan following the Islamic fundamentalist group’s takeover in August 2021. There was no immediate word from the White House about the latest events in Afghanistan. 

Over the weekend, Mr. Nazary told the Sun that the NRF “has a limited number of resources, but we have been able to capture Taliban weapons and resources. At the moment, we are doing okay with the limited number of resources we have. It is difficult to guess about the future. But at this time, we are able to continue.”

Matthew Garcia contributed to this report.

The New York Sun

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