Panjshir resistance leader says ready for talks with Taliban

Heavy fighting continues between the Taliban and resistance forces in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley as the armed group tries to seize the last holdout province.

Resistance fighters said on Sunday that they captured hundreds of Taliban troops as well as their equipment and vehicles.

The Taliban has said its forces had fought their way into the provincial capital of Panjshir after securing the surrounding districts.

Meanwhile, Mark Milley, the top US general, said Afghanistan will “likely” erupt in civil war if the Taliban is not able to establish control, warning that a broad civil war could lead to a resurgence of “terrorist” groups.

Alongside a large haul of American-made infantry weapons, Afghanistan’s new rulers now possess Humvees, armoured personnel carriers and at least one functioning Black Hawk helicopter.

Blinken to intensify diplomacy in Qatar, Germany

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will aim to form a united front with allies this week on how to tackle the Taliban and ensure continued support for US bid to help evacuate Americans and at-risk Afghans who remained behind.

In a trip to Qatar and Germany, Blinken will be overlapping with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who is also departing on Sunday for a wider Gulf visit covering Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Dubbed as a “thank you” tour to the Gulf countries and Germany, who were instrumental in helping Washington evacuate thousands of people out of Kabul, Blinken will meet with senior Qatari officials in Doha and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at Ramstein air base, where he will also co-host a ministerial meeting on Afghanistan.

Qatar: A major transit point for new Afghan refugees

Qatar has become a major transit point for refugees fleeing Afghanistan and it is using accommodation meant for the FIFA World Cup next year to host them. Al Jazeera’s Assad Baig reports:

Ahmad Massoud, head of the National Resistance Front (NRF) of Afghanistan made the announcement on the group’s Facebook page. Earlier, Taliban forces said they had fought their way into the provincial capital of Panjshir after securing the surrounding districts.

“The NRF in principle agree to solve the current problems and put an immediate end to the fighting and continue negotiations,” Massoud said in the Facebook post.

“To reach a lasting peace, the NRF is ready to stop fighting on condition that Taliban also stop their attacks and military movements on Panjshir and Andarab,” he said, referring to a district in the neighbouring province of Baghlan.

Top Republican says Taliban holding Americans hostage

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee says some Americans who have been trying to get out of Afghanistan since the US military left are sitting in aeroplanes at an airport ready to leave but the Taliban are not letting them take off.

Republican Michael McCaul of Texas says there are six planes at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport with American citizens on board, along with their Afghan interpreters, and the Taliban is “holding them hostage” right now.

A worker at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport confirmed several aircraft he believes were chartered by the US are parked at the airport. The Taliban has prevented them from leaving, saying they wanted to check the documents of those on board, many of whom do not have passports or visas, the worker said. The airport official did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.

McCaul, speaking on Fox News Sunday, says the Taliban has made demands. He gave no specifics but said he was worried “they’re going to demand more and more, whether it be cash or legitimacy as the government of Afghanistan”.

Opposition leader welcomes proposal to end fighting

Afghan opposition leader Ahmad Massoud has said on Facebook he welcomes a proposal from the Ulema religious council for talks to end fighting in the Panjshir Valley.

‘It’s painful to leave home while it’s burning’: Fleeing Kabul

One Afghan activist reflects on how he fled to safety, and the hopelessness he feels for his country and its people. Read the story here.

UN calls for end to violence

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to violence in Afghanistan amid fears of a new civil war.

“I call for an immediate end to violence, for the safety, security and rights of all Afghans to be respected, and for adherence to Afghanistan’s international obligations, including all international agreements to which it is a party,” Guterres said in a report to the Security Council this weekend.

The document, obtained by AFP news agency, has not yet been released publicly.

“I urge the Taliban and all other parties to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met,” Guterres said.

Germany wants to talk with Taliban about evacuations: Merkel

Germany wants to talk with the Taliban about how to evacuate its remaining local contract workers out of Afghanistan, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, adding it was a good sign that the airport in Kabul could be used for evacuation flights again.

“We need to talk to the Taliban about how we can continue to get people who worked for Germany out of the country and to safety,” Merkel said.

Panjshir forces claim hundreds of Taliban captured

Taliban and opposition forces continue to battle to control the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul with resistance fighters saying they captured hundreds of Taliban troops.

The National Resistance Front (NRF) of Afghanistan, grouping forces loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, said on Sunday it surrounded “thousands of terrorists” in Khawak Pass and the Taliban abandoned vehicles and equipment in the Dashte Rewak area.

NRF spokesman Fahim Dashti added “heavy clashes” were going on.

Read more here.

Taliban says it has entered capital of holdout Afghan region

The Taliban has said its forces had fought their way into the provincial capital of Panjshir.

The police headquarters and district centre of Rukhah, adjacent to the provincial capital Bazarak, had fallen, and opposition forces had suffered numerous casualties, with large numbers of prisoners and captured vehicles, weapons and ammunition, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Twitter.

Fighting was underway in Bazarak, he said. It was not possible to confirm the report, which was echoed on other Taliban Twitter accounts.

Afghan civil war ‘likely’: US general

The top US general has told US media that Afghanistan will “likely” erupt in civil war, warning such conditions could see a resurgence of “terrorist” groups if the Taliban is not able to consolidate power and establish effective governance.

“My military estimate … is that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News.

Italy to transfer its Afghanistan embassy to Qatar

Italy plans to move its Afghan embassy to Doha, Qatar, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio said, the latest Western country to set up its diplomatic mission outside Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.

Many diplomats have flown to the Gulf state, which has hosted the Taliban’s political office since 2013, after evacuating Kabul late last month.

China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey have kept their embassies in the Afghan capital open.

Source: Aljazeera

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