Updated: Sep 1
With heavy clashes erupting between Taliban and the anti-Taliban National Resistance Forces in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley and the northeast, it is almost inescapable …
By Colonel Jim Waurishuk, USAF (Ret.)
September 3, 2021
Afghan National Resistance Force and anti-Taliban forces in the Dara district in Panjshir province on September 2, 2021.
There were a number of us who understood that as the U.S. and other coalition nations pulled out of Afghanistan, regardless of whether it was under a President Trump administration, or under the current entity in the White House, a new conflict would eventually and subsequently erupt. We understood that it didn’t really matter, whether it was in May (under Trump’s plan), August, or September, later in 2021, or sometime further out into the future -- the likelihood of a ‘civil war was inevitable.’ As a result, a number of resistance forces anticipating the eventual withdrawal would transition to some former counter conflict between various opposing forces. Those of us following the current internal dynamics within Afghanistan anticipated how and the lines would be drawn. We also pinpointed the likely area of the region the first shots would be fired.
Since the Biden Regime was installed into office and Mr. Biden’s national security team began to be established, we anticipated serious problems would come into play as the regime crafted its various policies and dictates from above [the regime] on a number of national security fronts, particularly how Afghanistan would play-out and fallout. Much was anticipated, including the fact that under the current regime in the White House, that the U.S. withdrawal would be a colossal disaster and debacle. That was more than obvious. We also knew in-turn that there would be a resistance to the expectations of a Taliban government in Kabul and the reintroduction of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic entities in Afghanistan. As a result, we began to chart a path and consider who might take lead of the Afghan resistance efforts by the horns. Who would organize the movement. Naturally, we expected the re-formation of the old ‘northern alliance’ which fought the Taliban from the mid-1990’s until U.S. invasion in late 2001. We also planned an off-the-record recruitment effort to entice and embolden an effort to take form and executed quickly. We’ll say no more on that consideration and endeavor for now. Obviously.
As anticipated, we pinpointed that the initial effort would take form and initiate its operations in the northeast area of the country. Since outlying areas of the county began to fall to the Taliban in late July and early August. In the northeast, fighting in Afghanistan's last major holdout against Taliban rule continued through this weekend after heavy clashes erupted between Taliban fighters and an anti-Taliban group, according in the Panjshir Valley.
The Panjshir Valley, a mountainous, inaccessible region north of Kabul, has a long history of resisting the Taliban and other invaders of Afghanistan. In the late 1990s, it was a center of resistance against the Taliban during their rule from the early 1990’s until their defeat by the U.S.
Since early 2021, we focused on the type of resistance force, the make-up of the organization, local and regional players, and sources of weapons and resources. Of course, we also researched and addressed, and even looked to potential specific leaders both within the now former Afghan military, as well as regional warlords to provide the necessary leadership and command presence. Now the National Resistance Front (NRF), a multi-ethnic group that includes former Afghan security force members and reportedly numbers in the thousands, has both continued and now taken the fight against the Taliban following the militants' almost-complete takeover of Afghanistan.
Sporadic fighting between the NRF and the Taliban has been underway and continued for two-weeks now. The Taliban have been massing forces in and around Panjshir province in recent weeks. And while the Taliban claimed last week that they had captured three districts in the valley, over the weekend, the NRF inflicted a major defeat of the Taliban. Since Saturday, the strategic area of Salang in Parwan province in now completely captured by the resistance forces. More than 200 Taliban forces from Badakhshan surrendered and were captured in Panjshir.
As the weekend fighting continued, an NRF commander in Panjshir Valley said fighting was taking place around the Shatal district of Panjshir. The commander said NRF forces had continued to inflict hundreds of casualties on the Taliban. Nevertheless, the Taliban denied these claims.
However, a Taliban source said the resistance attacked the Taliban as they entered the Panjshir from multiple directions, including from nearby Parwan province and the northern Badakhshan region. The NRF was said to be overwhelming.
Likewise, other reporting that has been received indicates other fighting, also flared in other provinces neighboring the Panjshir Valley. In a review of Taliban video appeared to show its fighters in a gorge in the Shatal region, on the southwestern end of the valley. The NRF commander claims the Taliban threatened civilians and took hostages, warning residents they can be killed for supporting the resistance.
Anti-Taliban National Resistance Forces conduct training in the Panjshir Valley, a major holdout against the Taliban.
Additionally, in an interview with Amrullah Saleh, a former Afghan vice president who joined the anti-Taliban NRF fight, said on Twitter post, that the Taliban had "blocked humanitarian access to Panjshir" and forced military-aged men to walk minefields to clear them.
In an effort to counter NRF efforts in the Panjshir, the Taliban reportedly "have shut phone, electricity and [are] not allow[ing] medicine either," according to Saleh.
In what obviously points out the direness of the situation in the Panjshir for the Taliban, an official statement, the Taliban said they are seeking a negotiated end to the fighting and want Panjshiris to live in peace, highlighting their offers of amnesty to forces once aligned with the country's former U.S.-backed government. It is obvious the Taliban does not want to contend with the NRF.
Similarly, was a statement by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who remains in Afghanistan, and called on both sides to end the fighting. In a statement, Karzai said, "Unfortunately, in recent days, despite the efforts of the reformers, military operations and fighting have started in Panjshir, which is a matter of deep concern and I do not consider the consequences to be in the interest of the country and the people.” "That is why I call on both sides that war is not the solution for an Afghanistan that is wounded and suffering." Obviously, Karzai is aware of the capability of the NRF and realizes the intensity of conflict between both entities and the likely escalation. Karzai also must keep his neutrality for his own safety and security from the Taliban.
The Panjshir -- the epicenter of guerilla warfare in Afghanistan
The weeklong clashes between the Taliban and the NRF were very intense, according to an NRF source. "They (Taliban) are using their last power to get in, but clashes are still ongoing.”
NRF anti-Taliban forces in Panjshir Valley includes local resistance forces, as well as remnants of the former Afghan army.
Also, earlier on Thursday, Fahim Dashti, an NRF spokesperson, said in an audio message that the Taliban lost 40 of their forces in their ongoing attempts to enter Panjshir. Ali Nazary, another spokesperson from the group, said Thursday that the Taliban had also lost a number of heavy equipment and weaponry that had been destroyed. Separately, the Taliban provided videos purportedly of fighting and the aftermath.
NRF fighters patrol the Anaba District of Afghanistan, Panjshir province on September 1, 2021.
When assessing the likelihood of civil war in Afghanistan, which the country has experienced and endured for centuries, between tribal factions, warlords, invading forces and regional and border disputes, the Panjshir Valley is the epicenter of Afghan guerrilla warfare. Afghanistan and has long withstood foreign occupation, from the British Empire's army to Soviet forces and the Taliban. The rugged, inaccessible landscape plays a part in its defensive success, giving local forces an advantage over would-be invaders.
Further, it is necessary to understand that after the Soviet Union (the USSR), which controlled Kabul and large swaths of the country in the 1980s, withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, various factions of mujahedeen -- or Islamic holy warriors -- split into groups and factions, fighting for control of the country, and countering the Taliban.
The Northern Alliance -- now a main component of the NRF -- was soon formed. Led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the group managed to keep the Panjshir Valley free of Taliban influence. Massoud along with his Northern Alliance fighters, led an anti-Taliban offensive until he was assassinated by al-Qaeda operatives two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Massoud - Leader of the anti-Taliban resistance speaks out.
One of the leaders that we were watching closely was a charismatic and well know outspoken critic of the Taliban. The coalition, and the broader NRF, is now being led by Massoud's son, Ahmad Massoud, who has vowed to continue the fight against the Taliban in the wake of their near takeover of Afghanistan. Massoud and the NRF are now gathering anti-Taliban resistance forces in the Panjshir Valley and other part of northern Afghanistan, which include local resistance forces, as well as remnants of the former Afghan army. The resistance is building as people fleeing the Taliban, including, as noted the former Afghan Vice President, Amrullah Saleh, have sought refuge in the Valley.
In an interview, Massoud on Wednesday said that "The Taliban have not changed, and they still are after dominance throughout the country.” "We are resisting dominance, intolerance, and oppression brought by one political force over the majority of the population that do not support them."
Massoud further stated that he and the NRF were requested and attempted a go at negotiations with the Taliban -- but so far, that dialogue "has not resulted in anything tangible." The talks have been taking place in the city of Charika, the capital of the neighboring Parwan province. Again, for the Taliban to call for talks, they realize the seriousness and the degree of resistance they will in all likelihood have to contend with from the NRF and other potential factions.
Massoud noted, "Negotiations have their limits," he said, quoting a prominent Prussian military general, Carl Von Clausewitz -- "War is the continuation of politics, and if we face aggression we will be forced to fight and launch resistance to defend our land, people, and values." As it stands now – it overwhelmingly a given, that the latest Afghan Civil War is underway.
Jim Waurishuk, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)
Retired USAF Colonel, serving a 30-year career as a Senior Strategic Intelligence, Special Reconnaissance, and Special Mission Intelligence Officer to multiple Tier 1 units as part of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Expertise; asymmetric, unconventional, irregular, guerrilla warfare, Special Reconnaissance, and psychological operations.
Served combat / combat-support tours; Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and strategic and special operations special missions, activities, and operational contingencies in Central America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Mid-East, Central Asia, and Africa.
Served as the JCS-Joint Staff, as the Chairman’s Chief of Psychological Operations.
Serving in a related capacity; strategic influence, as part of the initial planning team of American SOF and intelligence team to deploy to the CENTCOM region following 9/11.
Assigned to the CIA’s Asymmetric Warfare Task Force, conducting classified deployments conducting special mission operations, and various foreign international advisory positions.
Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) and Director for Intelligence CENTCOM-Forward HQs during the peak years of the wars – conducted numerous combat deployments in support of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other countries in the CENTCOM region. Provided ‘strategic intelligence’ for U.S. Direct Action and Special Reconnaissance missions, and operations against al-Qaeda, Taliban, and other radical insurgent and terrorist High-Value-Targets (HVTs)/High-Value-Individual (HVIs).
Former member of the White House National Security Council (NSC) and Situation Room staffs, and Senior Intelligence Aide to the National Security Advisor.
Graduate of the U.S. Air Force and the Armed Forces Staff Colleges, War College, and was a DoD Distinguished Senior Fellow (Think Tank), Washington, D.C.
Upon retirement, he served as a senior strategic advisor to the JCS Joint Staff and Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) Tier-1.
He has spoken on behalf of both the Trump Campaign and President Trump as a keynote speaker -- introducing Donald Trump to America and the world “as a National Security President,” on February 12, 2016, in Tampa, FL.
Served as Emcee for President Trump’s Rally in Tampa, July 31, 2018.
Currently, Chairman, Hillsborough County Republican Party, Republican Party of Florida’s Executive Board, Chairman of Congressional District-14 Caucus Hillsborough County, FL.
Surrogate and coordinator for the 2020 Trump Campaign in Florida.