The Taliban say they have surrounded Afghan resistance fighters, calling for peace

By James Mackenzie and Alasdair Pal

(Reuters) – The Taliban has surrounded the only remaining province opposing its rule, a senior leader said on Wednesday urging rebels to negotiate a solution with the group.

Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, the mountainous Panjshir has been the only province to withstand the Islamist group, although there have also been fighting in the adjacent Baghlan province between the Taliban and local militia forces.

Under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, son of a former Mujahideen commander, thousands of members of local militias and remnants of army and special forces units have withstood the Taliban.

In a recorded speech to Afghans in Panjshir, senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on the rebels to lay down their arms.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is home to all Afghans,” he said.

The Taliban have declared amnesty for all Afghans who have worked with foreign forces over the past two decades, but crowds fearing reprisals have continued to flock to the borders in an attempt to flee the inland country.

Motaqi said the Taliban had made many efforts to negotiate with leaders of the opposition forces in Panjshir, “but unfortunately, unfortunately without any result”.

NO REASON TO FIGHT

Taliban forces are preparing around the four sides of the Panjshir Valley and there is no reason to fight, Motaqi said, adding that anti-Taliban forces should keep in mind that it had not been possible to defeat the Taliban itself with support from NATO and US forces.

“But we are still trying to ensure that there is no war and that the issue in Panjshir is resolved calmly and peacefully,” Motaqi said.

The statements came after at least seven Taliban fighters were killed in an attempt to move into the valley, according to two resistance leaders.

The Italian relief group said four dead and five wounded had been taken to its trauma hospital in Kabul from fighting around the Gulbahar area at the entrance to Panjshir.

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front, which groups forces in the Panjshir Valley, said on Wednesday that Taliban forces had launched an offensive two days ago and had attacked in three or four different areas but had so far been pushed back.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Alasdair PalEditing by Gareth Jones and Jonathan Oatis)

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