Final battle for Panjshir begins after negotiations between tribal Tajiks and the Taliban breaks down

This fight is as much about ethnicity as anything else

Ahmed Masoud rallies his Tajik followers in Panjshir. Notice that all the flags are United Islamic Front flags and none of them are the former flag of Afghanistan.

The Taliban currently control 33 out of 34 Provinces in Afghanistan. The final battle for the last province commenced today.

Panjshir is a small rural mountainous province where most of the residents are tribal Tajiks.

Tribal elders largely rule the area. The dominant political party in Panjshir is Jamiat-e Islami, an ethnic Tajik Islamist party. This party backed the losing side of the civil war in Tajikistan in the 90s. They also opposed the Taliban in Afghanistan, which had as much to do with ethnicity as anything else. At the time, the Taliban was almost exclusively Pashtun.

Ahmed Masoud leads the Tajik militia. His father fought against the Taliban in the 90s as part of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan [AKA Northern Alliance]. Masoud’s father was killed by al-Qaeda members, posing as journalists, just days before 9/11.

Masoud’s fighters appears to have a combination of both very old and very new weapons. Many come from the former Afghan military and from India. In the weeks leading up to the fall of Kabul, India was delivering cargo planes of weapons to Kabul and Marza-i-Sherif. These weapons were largely distributed to Uzbek and Tajik militias. However, most of those militias ultimately put up little or no fight.

Former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is a Tajik from Panjshir, is with Saleh. He calls himself “Caretaker President” and refers to militiamen as the “National Resistance Front.”

However, this National Resistance Front does not even fly the former flag of Afghanistan. Instead, they flay the former flags of the United Islamic Front from the 90s.

For several days, negotiations were going on with the Taliban. Today, those negotiations officially broke down.

Currently, both sides say they are inflicting heavy casualties on the side. The Indian media reports huge victories by the Tajik militia, though these media outlets have a history of wild exaggerations concerning Afghanistan.

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