After days of scattered reports about the battle in Panjshir, the Taliban finally announced a complete victory on Sunday night. Fake accounts posing as Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) announced on twitter that fighting was still continuing and that the resistance remained in Panjshir. However, even if pockets of opposition remain, it remains to be seen whether the resistance can hold back the tide when the evidence coming in from the remote valley suggests that the Taliban are close to a total victory.
The Taliban had announced that the people of Panjshir Sharif had nothing to fear from Taliban control, but it remains to be seen how the leaders of the resistance such as Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud will be treated once the fighting ends. There are reports that Saleh might have left Afghanistan for Tajikistan, but this has yet to be confirmed. For the Taliban to work on an equitable setup within the country, past animosity and opposition must be abandoned; Panjshir should not witness any retribution or hasty judgments meant to dislodge the opposition. There must be absolutely no executions and it is important for regional actors such as Pakistan to remind the Taliban of the value in preserving Afghan lives.
What the past two months have taught us is that ‘experts’ on a geopolitical issue cannot be trusted to predict what happens on the ground unless they are parties. We saw this in the fall of Kabul, and just as media speculators were predicting a holdout for Panjshir till the end of winter, the Taliban forces have seemingly pushed through. Expectations in the west of the interim government hunkering down against the Taliban were misplaced. Similarly, after providing an entire arsenal to the Taliban, it was unfair to expect the resistance in Panjshir to be able to hold out for an extended period.
Finally, it is important to set things into context and refute the ridiculous allegations of Pakistani support to the Taliban in this offensive. From Indian generals taking on the role of online trolls and announcing that SSG commandos and other military operatives were helping the Taliban in Panjshir, to completely unfounded assertions of Pakistani drones taking on NRFA—video game footage was splashed across TV screens in India with the claims that it was real—it is clear that the disinformation campaign against Pakistan is going strong. Pakistan has been and continues to be neutral; there is no question of providing any support to help one side over the other. Indian hawks must concoct a more believable story, because each farce only makes Pakistan’s role in the region as a neutral regional player only clearer.