The U.S.-established Islamic Republic of Afghanistan effectively ceased to exist following Kabul’s fall to the Taliban on August 15 and President Ashraf Ghani’s escape to Tajikistan. The Taliban has occupied Kabul, entering government offices and declaring a renewal of its historic “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in the country.
However, while the Taliban has effectively established control over most of Afghanistan, one region—the Panjshir Valley in the country’s northeast—has remained in open defiance of the group. The faction there has declared itself the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, colloquially described as the “Northern Alliance.” That is the same name as the anti-Taliban faction that resisted the group’s control from 1996 until 2001, under the leadership of Massoud’s father, famed guerilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. As a sign of resistance, the group has raised a green, white and black flag, the colors of the Afghan government that the Taliban overthrew in the 1990s.
Massoud’s forces pledged their resistance to Taliban rule before the fall of the capital and received a boost when Amrullah Saleh, the country’s former vice president, arrived in the valley and declared himself the nation’s president following Ghani’s exile. Former Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi is also said to be in the province, and its leadership has called for surviving Afghan National Army units to travel to Panjshir and defend it against Taliban attacks. Russian news outlet RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday stated that Saleh’s forces had managed to recapture Charikar, a district capital at the entrance to the valley, from the Taliban.
It is unclear how much longer the rump state in Panjshir will continue to exist. The country’s northern provinces, which provided the base of support against the Northern Alliance led by Massoud’s father, has entirely fallen to the Taliban; the valley is only a three-hour drive away from Kabul and is effectively the only region in all of Afghanistan that continues to openly resist the group’s control. Given the Taliban’s vast advantage over the Panjshir resistance in manpower, as well as the massive quantities of weapons it captured from the now-defunct Afghan National Army during its blitz across the country, the valley’s rebels at a decisive disadvantage.
The renegade province has not yet come under attack from the Taliban, but an offensive is likely in the coming weeks. If it falls, then the Taliban will have undivided political control over the country.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.