Who is Ahmad Massoud, the guerrilla who leads the resistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan with remarkable speed. But as they plan their new government in Kabul, there is a small region in the northeast of the country that is giving them a headache: the Panjshir Valley.

It is a small area of ​​anti-Taliban resistance that refuses to surrender despite being completely surrounded by Taliban forces.

Despite calls from the Taliban to lay down their weapons, there have been few signs so far that they will.

At the forefront of this resistance is Ahmad Massoud, the son of one of Afghanistan’s most revered anti-Taliban warlords in the 1990s, Aham Shah Massoud, known as the “Lion of Panjshir.”

Massoud Jr. now leads the National Resistance Front (FRN), a multi-ethnic group made up of militias and former members of the Afghan security forces which, according to some reports, has thousands of members.

In recently published photos the group appears to be well organized, well armed and trained.

But it is difficult to know its true strength, as Zia Shahreyar, a journalist for the BBC’s Persian Service, explains.

“The population of this mountainous valley is about 100,000 people, but it is difficult to know the exact number of Massoud’s fighters, although we can say that there are thousands because many former members of the Afghan army have taken refuge there,” explains the journalist .

Panjshir Valley Region Map


Indeed, former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh also joined the FRN and called on his supporters to support Panjshir. But it is Massoud who is leading the resistance against the Taliban in the valley.

New resistance

Thus, history in this region seems to repeat itself.

When the Taliban seized power in 1996, Panjshir was also the last stronghold of resistance.

At that time, Mujahedin commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, became known for successfully leading not only the fight to keep the Taliban out of the region.

Too had led the region’s resistance against the invasion of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Massoud led the opposition of the Taliban government from 1996 to 2001, until his assassination in September 2001.

Now his son has vowed to continue his father’s fight by defying the Taliban.

“I am writing from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps with the Mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again face the Taliban,” wrote Ahmad Massoud in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on August 18, shortly after the Taliban took Kabul.

“We have supplies of ammunition and weapons that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day would come,” he adds.

Massoud, 32, graduated from the Real Sandhurst Military Academy in England, one of the most prestigious in the country.

He also studied at King’s College London and obtained a master’s degree in international politics at the City University of London, according to The Spectator.

And both his bachelor’s thesis and his doctoral thesis dealt with the Taliban.

Resistance fighters in Panjshir


“For the last six or seven years he has been in Afghanistan, in Kabul, but now that the Taliban entered the country he moved to Panjshir, his father’s enclave, and the only province, among the 32 provinces of Afghanistan, that has resisted the Taliban, ”explains journalist Zia Shahreyar.

Shared power

In an interview with the BBC at the end of August, the FRN indicated that what they are looking for is a peace agreement with the Taliban that allows them to have a voice in the new government.

But if that is not achieved, he said they will do whatever it takes to hold on to the ground that has always been a center of resistance.

“We prefer peace, we give priority to peace and negotiations,” Ali Nazary, FNR’s head of Foreign Relations, told the BBC.

“If this fails, if we see that the other side is not sincere, if we see that the other side is trying to impose itself on the rest of the country, then we will not accept any type of aggression.”

Ultimately, explains BBC journalist Zia Shahreyar, Massoud and the FNR have said they want to move towards a decentralized form of government in Afghanistan, with a system of government that represents all the different ethnic groups in the country.

“They have said that they want some kind of power-sharing government because the Taliban cannot represent all parts of Afghanistan ”, Shahreyar tells BBC Mundo.

“They have said that their objective is to defend the democratic rights of the people, the rights of women, elections. But they also want shared power for non-Pashtun groups because the Taliban is predominantly seen as a Pashtun group. ”

“Afghanistan is also made up of other ethnic minorities, such as the Tajiks, Hazzara and Baloch, and Massoud and the FNR claim that they represent these voices as well,” adds the journalist.

So far, however, it is difficult to know whether Massoud and the FRN will be able to succeed in their resistance fight.

They have said they have enough food and weapons, but the Taliban are keeping the area surrounded and in control of all supply routes to Panjshir. And it is not known how long they will be able to resist.

The question now is whether the United States, Europe, or some ally in the Arab world will support the resistance.

Earlier this year Massoud met with French President Emmanuel Macron, apparently seeking international allies as the withdrawal of US troops approached.

But as journalist Zia Shahreyar explains, it is unlikely that any foreign power would want to re-engage in armed combat in Afghanistan.

“From the point of view of moral support, France has been very supportive of him recently. But I’m not sure if that is going to translate into some kind of logistical or military support. ”

“And as for the United States, I don’t think they will help it because they have an agreement with the Taliban. Furthermore, it is very difficult to imagine that once again they will get involved in another armed conflict against the Taliban “.

“But everything will depend on the situation and how the Taliban behave,” says the BBC journalist.

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