Taliban battle for final holdout province of Panjshir

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Kabul

Anti-Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley said on Friday they were battling to repulse “heavy” assaults, as the Islamists seek to capture the last holdout province defying their rule.

Efforts to strike a peace deal between the two sides have failed, and the Taliban are keen to cap their lightning military offensive which saw them seize control of the rest of Afghanistan last month.

“The Taliban have a significant advantage,” said Nishank Motwani, an Afghan analyst based in Australia, saying the group were emboldened by their recent victories.

“They are very well armed, and they have the psychological factor in their favour in that they precipitated the fall of the government so quickly.”

The Taliban seized an enormous arsenal of weapons and military kit that the now-departed US provided to the defeated Afghan army, as well as the support of prisoners they freed from jails. “The Taliban also have shock troops, including the use of suicide tactics,” Motwani added.

Fighters from the National Resistance Front (NRF), made up of anti-Taliban militia fighters and former Afghan security forces, are understood to have significant weapon stockpiles too in the valley, which lies around 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Kabul.

On Wednesday, senior Taliban official Amir Khan Muttaqi issued an audio message to say their forces had surrounded the valley, calling on the people of Panjshir to tell fighters to lay down their arms..–AFP “Those who want to fight, tell them it is enough,” Muttaqi said.AFP

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