The Taliban claimed on Monday that they had taken control of Panjshir province, the last area of Afghanistan not under their control, despite assurances by the representatives of the opposition forces that the resistance still had control over strategic positions and would continue to fight.
“Panjshir Province completely fell to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman, wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Photos surfaced on social media showing members of the Taliban standing at the gate of the provincial governor’s compound, according to Reuters.
If that holds true and the Taliban has captured the region and keeps it under its rule, it would mark the final strategic victory in its rapid-fire conquest of Afghanistan.
The Taliban was not able to take over the territory when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001; the area became the starting point for the U.S.-led invasion following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
However, the National Resistance Front, the opposition group, rejected the Taliban’s takeover claims, saying that it still had forces positioned across the region.
“We assure the people of Afghanistan that the struggle against the Taliban and their partners will continue until justice and freedom prevails,” it said on Twitter.
The resistance group’s leader, Ahmad Massoud, the former vice president and the son of anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud who was assassinated in 2001, called on the nation to rise up against the Taliban in an audio message on Monday.
“Our compatriots, wherever you are, whether outside or inside, I call for a national uprising for the dignity, freedom, and pride of our homeland,” he said in the recording. “Anyone in any way possible way can stand and raise their voice in any way they can.”
He also rejected the Taliban’s claims of wanting a peaceful negotiated settlement with the opposition forces, saying, “They started killing many of our compatriots, including my family.”
The leader’s message came amid reports that the resistance fighters had suffered significant losses, including the deaths of several commanders and its spokesman.
Still, the Taliban issued a statement offering “full assurance to the honorable people of Panjshir that they will not be discriminated against.”
“They are all our brothers, and we will serve a country and a common goal,” the Taliban spokesperson said.
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