A few hours north of Kabul, the Panjshir Valley has been an anti-Taliban bulwark for decades. It is the first substantial opposition to the group since the fall of Kabul in August last year. According to locals, attacks on Taliban locations are frequent, and scores of civilians have been murdered. The Taliban deny there is any fighting in the region, despite the presence of thousands of their fighters. Taliban authorities offered The Washington Post access to the Panjshir valley because they wanted media coverage of the region’s security and stability.
On a recent visit to the area, a shopkeeper told The Post, “Of course, nobody understands what is occurring here.” The Taliban and the National Resistance Front publish near-daily updates on their military conflict in Panjshir on social media. A local farmer claims he often sees the remains of deceased Taliban soldiers being transported away in the back of vehicles after fighting. Following a recent conflict, he reported attending the funerals of ten victims slain in the crossfire. Both sides claim that no civilians have been killed in the battle.
Thousands of Taliban militants, including some of the group’s most elite groups, have been dispatched to the province of Laghman. Their soldiers are visible across the whole valley, and sophisticated military hardware is stationed near the orchards and waterways. “We do not lie to international media,” said DadMuhammad Battar, a former leader of the Taliban Red Unit in the region.