Rebel fighters and protesters have bravely defied the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan – flying flags of resistance across the country in a show of defiance against the Islamists.
Troops loyal to vice president Amrullah Saleh today paraded the flag of the ‘northern alliance’ – an anti-Taliban league of warlords and politicians – through the Panjshir Valley, an area just 80 miles north of Kabul that the jihadists have never conquered.
Meanwhile protesters marched through the cities of Jalalabad and Khost, which sit a similar distance from the Afghan capital, waving the national flag in defiance of the Taliban which replaced it with their own white emblem.
Images that appeared to have been taken in Khost showed students – abandoned by the Afghan army but unwilling to submit to the Taliban – removing the group’s flag from the main square and replacing it with the national colours.
More video then appeared to show Taliban gunmen opening fire on crowds in both locations, though there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The Taliban has tried hard to present itself as the legitimate government of Afghanistan after security forces largely melted away as American and NATO troops withdrew, handing them back control of the country.
At a press conference on Tuesday, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid laid out their vision for the country – promising to guarantee women’s rights and stop all reprisal attacks in remarks that raised eyebrows.
Pictured: Protesters marched through the cities of Jalalabad and Khost on Wednesday, which sit around 80 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul. Pictured: Scenes from Jalalabad
Pictured: Protesters marched through the cities of Jalalabad and Khost on Wednesday, which sit around 80 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul. Pictured: Scenes from Khost
Meanwhile, the Taliban blew up the statue of a Shiite militia leader who fought against them during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, according to photos circulating on Wednesday, sowing further doubt about their claims to have become more moderate.
The insurgents’ every action in their sudden sweep to power is being watched closely. They insist they have changed and won’t impose the same draconian restrictions they did when they last ruled Afghanistan, all but eliminating women’s rights, carrying out public executions and banning television and music.
But despite the Taliban’s ssurances, many in Afghanistan have made desperate attempts to escape, while some who can’t appear to be taking a stand.
Pictured: People on an overpass wave Afghan national flags in defiance of the Taliban on Wedesday. It is understood the Taliban fired shots during the protests, but no casualties were immediately reported
Troops loyal to vice president Amrullah Saleh today paraded the flag of the ‘northern alliance’ – an anti-Taliban league of warlords and politicians – through the Panjshir Valley, an area just 80 miles north of Kabul
Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of his former mentor and famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud, are putting together a guerilla movement in the Panjshir Valley – the only region not controlled by the Taliban.
Saleh said on Tuesday he was in Afghanistan and the ‘legitimate caretaker president’ after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as it emerged he was massing troops and planning a counter offensive against the Taliban.
Amrullah Saleh made the comment on Twitter on Tuesday. He cited the Afghan constitution was empowering him to declare this. He wrote that he was “reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus.”
As of now, Afghan leaders, including former President Hamid Karzai and peace council chief Abdullah Abdullah, have been negotiating with the Taliban since the fall of Kabul.
Footage that emerged on Tuesday showed Massoud, accompanied by a heavily armed entourage, boarding an Afghan air force Mi-17, a Soviet designed military helicopter.
At least 15 people boarded the flight and were seen helping each other climb on to the military helicopter, thought to be taking off from within the Panjshir region.
Several of the group sported military uniforms, while others were seen in pakols – traditional round-topped woolen hats favoured by Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Saleh, who is from the northern Panjshir valley, fled to his hometown on Sunday. The region is known as a mountainous redoubt tucked into the Hindu Kush that never fell to the Taliban during the civil war of the 1990s or was conquered by the Soviets a decade earlier.
He has vowed not to surrender to the extremist group, writing on Twitter on Sunday: ‘I won’t dis-appoint millions who listened to me. I will never be under one ceiling with Taliban. NEVER’.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Saleh said that it was ‘futile’ to argue with US President Joe Biden, who has decided to pull out US forces.
He called on Afghans to show that Afghanistan ‘isn’t Vietnam & the Talibs aren’t even remotely like Vietcong’.
More to follow…