August 24, 2021 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 309

The Anti-Taliban Resistance Movement In Afghanistan

August 24, 2021 | By Tufail Ahmad and Yigal Carmon*
MEMRI Daily Brief No. 309

After the Fall of Kabul on August 15, 2021, an anti-Taliban resistance movement began forming in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, the son of Afghanistan's national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated a day before the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and other American cities in 2001. Panjshir is the only region that remained independent when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001.

Latest photos of resistance fighters shared on social media

Some of the retreating Afghan army soldiers and traditional loyalists of Ahmad Shah Massoud constitute the new resistance force. In this anti-Taliban struggle, Ahmad Massoud is joined by Afghanistan's First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, the knowledgeable former chief of Afghan intelligence who is known for his liberal views against the jihadism espoused by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban organization. The new movement is known as the National Resistance Front (NRF) of Afghanistan.

Afghan journalist Muslim Shirzad noted that some renowned anti-Taliban commanders of the past are among the resistance forces in the Panjshir Valley, including Pir Mohammad Khaksar, Gul Haider Khan, and Saleh Mohammad Registani.[1] Muslim Shirzad, a journalist-turned academic, also tweeted a picture of his student Kaihan Asady who has joined the anti-Taliban resistance. Kaihan Asady told him: "Ustad [teacher] you told me that [a] journalist and fighter always must be ready, I couldn't achieve my dream to become a journalist, but now I am a fighter."[2]

The National Resistance Front (NRF) Of Afghanistan

In a tweet, Ali Maisam Nazary, head of the NRF's foreign relations department, outlined the NRF's vision: "We are in favor of peace – but peace does not mean surrendering to the enemies' demands and one force to dominate the politics of the country."[3]

In an interview, Ali Nazary also said: "The NRF believes that for lasting peace we have to address the underlying problems in Afghanistan... Afghanistan is made up of ethnic minorities, no one is a majority. It's a multicultural state, so it needs a power-sharing deal where everyone sees themselves in power."[4]

In a tweet dated August 23, Ali Nazary revealed that Hamid Saifi, a former officer of the Afghan military who currently resides in Panjshir, joined the NRF and assured that the Panjshir Valley is ready to face any attack from the enemy.[5] Hamid Saifi also said in a tweet: "Praise be to God, so far the situation in Panjshir, the center of the resistance, is quite good; there is no cause for concern. We are ready for sacrifice & martyrdom."[6]

Former Afghan military officer Hamid Saifi joined the resistance movement

On August 13, two days before the Fall of Kabul, Ali Nazary tweeted a video of fighters joining the NRF. The video shows scores of people arriving in cars and by motorbikes carrying the NRF flag.[7] On the same day, August 18, Ali Nazary released a flag of NRF, also saying in a tweet: "At the moment this is the only official flag of Afghanistan. I ask all to refrain from using any other flag for the democratic and free regions of Afghanistan."[8]

On August 22, Ali Nazary noted that people displaced from other provinces were arriving in Panjshir. "Panjshir now hosts more than 1,000 displaced people from across Afg[hanistan] who have poured into the valley looking for sanctuary," he said, adding: "We are seeing Panjshir become a safe zone for all those groups who feel threatened in other provinces."[9]

Ahmad Massoud – The Leader Of National Resistance Front

According to a report published by Afghan website, Ahmad Massoud said that, while he hoped to resolve issues through negotiations with the Taliban, he will never hand over Panjshir province to anyone, adding: "I am in my stronghold Panjshir valley; the people of Panjshir valley are very much united and they want to defend; they want to fight; they want to resist against any totalitarian regime."[10]

Ahmad Massoud, whose legendary late father is known as the Lion of Panjshir, said: "The people here are just a small portion of the people of Afghanistan and the geography of Panjshir is the smallest province in the whole Afghanistan, but what we are standing for right now is for the whole country, it's for sovereignty, it's for peace, it's for people, it's for inclusivity and tolerance."[11] Ahmad Massoud's assertions about peace, inclusivity, and tolerance put him and his supporters against the extremist ideas advocated by the Taliban.

In an article authored in the days after the Fall of Kabul, Ahmad Massoud outlined the values he stands for: "Know that millions of Afghans share your values. We have fought for so long to have an open society, one where girls could become doctors, our press could report freely, our young people could dance and listen to music or attend soccer matches in the stadiums that were once used by the Taliban for public executions – and may soon be again."[12]

Ahmad Massoud, the son of Afghan national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud

Urging the West to support him, Ahmad Massoud noted: "We also have the weapons carried by the Afghans who, over the past 72 hours, have responded to my appeal to join the resistance in Panjshir. We have soldiers from the Afghan regular army who were disgusted by the surrender of their commanders and are now making their way to the hills of Panjshir with their equipment. Former members of the Afghan Special Forces have also joined our struggle."[13]

On August 21, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy tweeted, along with what appears to be a photo of himself with Ahmad Massoud and his armed fighters, the following: "I just spoke to Ahmad #Massoud on the phone. He told me: 'I am the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud; surrender is not part of my vocabulary.' This is the start. The #Resistance has just begun. #Afghanistan #Panjshir #Kabul #LionOfPanjshir @ahmadmassoud01."[14]

Ahmad Massoud also rejected media reports that he was willing to surrender. "That's propaganda," Ahmad Massoud said, adding: "Apparently, there are defeatists among you who mistake their wishes for realities. So, no. Make this known: There is no question of giving up the fight. Here in Panjshir, our resistance is just beginning."[15]

Kaihan Asady, a student who joined the resistance forces in Panjshir valley

Drawing parallels with the situation that unfolded on the eve of the Second World War, Ahmad Massoud said: "We Afghans find ourselves in the situation of Europe in 1940," and added: "Except in Panjshir, the debacle is near total, and the spirit of collaboration with the Taliban is spreading among the vanquished, who lost this war by their own failings. Only we remain standing. And we will never yield."[16]

Amrullah Saleh – The De Jure President Of Afghanistan

On August 23, twitter users also posted an image of Afghanistan's First Vice President (FVP) Amrullah Saleh – who has moved to Panjshir Valley since Kabul's fall – playing volleyball with with some resistance fighters.

Amrullah Saleh declared in a tweet that, after President Ashraf Ghani left the country, he is the acting president: "Clarity: As per the constitution of Afg[hanistan], in absence, escape, resignation or death of the President the FVP becomes the caretaker President. I am currently inside my country & am the legitimate caretaker President. Am reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus."[17]

Acting Afghan President Amrullah Saleh (right) plays volleyball in Panjshir valley

About the anti-Taliban resistance, the acting president wrote on August 15: "I will never, ever & under no circumstances bow to the Talib[an] terrorists. I will never betray the soul & legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, the commander, the legend & the guide. I won't disappoint millions who listened to me. I will never be under one ceiling with Taliban. Never."[18]

On August 17, he tweeted about his disappointment at U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to pull out of Afghanistan: "It is futile to argue with @POTUS on Afg[hanistan] now. Let him digest it. We the Afgs [Afghans] must prove that Afgh[hanistan] isn't Vietnam & the Talibs aren't even remotely like Vietcong. Unlike U.S./NATO we haven't lost spirit & see enormous opportunities ahead. Useless caveats are finished. Join the Resistance."[19]

Amrullah Saleh, the former chief of Afghan intelligence who has always spoken against the Pakistani military's support to the Islamic Emirate (the Afghan Taliban organization), tweeted: "Nations must respect the rule of law, not violence. Afghanistan is too big for Pakistan to swallow and too big for Talibs to govern. Don't let your histories have a chapter on humiliation and bowing to terror groups."[20]

NRF's flag for the democratic and free regions of Afghanistan

In the first week after the Fall of Kabul, some fighting was reported from the neighboring Baghlan province, where a group of resistance forces and former soldiers took the three districts of Pul-e-Hesar, Banu, and Deh Salah after a bloody battle with heavy casualties on both sides.[21] Some reports on Twitter mentioned that about 200 Taliban fighters were killed and Maulana Nisar Ahmad Haqyar, the Taliban's governor for Baghlan province, and his deputy had surrendered to the resistance forces.[22]

"With the support of God and the [anti-Taliban] mujahideen, three districts were liberated, we are now moving toward Khinjan district and will clear Baghlan province soon," said Assadullah, the former police chief of Banu.[23] Ghani Andarabi, the former police commander of highways in Baghlan province, said: "With the help of Allah, we inflicted massive casualties to the Taliban; currently Banu district is under the control of public uprising forces."[24]

This was the first instance of a fierce resistance against the Taliban. However, in the following days, the Islamic Emirate sent its jihadi forces to surround the Panjshir valley. On August 23, Amrullah Saleh tweeted: "Talibs have massed forces near the entrance of Panjshir a day after they got trapped in ambush zones of neighboring Andarab valley & hardly went out in one piece. Meanwhile, Salang highway is closed by the forces of the Resistance. 'There are terrains to be avoided.' See you."[25]

Images Of The Anti-Taliban Resistance Forces In Panjshir Valley

Following are some images of the anti-Taliban resistance forces united under the NRF banner in Panjshir, as shared on social media in the days after the Fall of Kabul:[26]

* Tufail Ahmad is Senior Fellow for the MEMRI Islamism and Counter-Radicalization Initiative; Yigal Carmon is President and Founder of MEMRI.


[1], August 24, 2021.

[2], August 24, 2021.

[3], August 24, 2021.

[4], August 24, 2021.

[5], August 23, 2021.

[6], August 23, 2021.

[7], August 18, 2021.

[8], August 18, 2021.

[9], August 22, 2021.

[10] (Afghanistan), August 23, 2021.

[11] (Afghanistan), August 23, 2021.

[12] (U.S.), August 18, 2021.

[13] (U.S.), August 18, 2021.

[14], August 21, 2021.

[15] (U.S.), August 23, 2021.

[16] (U.S.), August 23, 2021.

[17], August 17, 2021.

[18], August 15, 2021.

[19], August 17, 2021.

[20], August 19, 2021.

[21] (Afghanistan), August 21, 2021.

[22], August 22, 2021.

[23] (Afghanistan), August 21, 2021.

[24] (Afghanistan), August 21, 2021.

[25], August 17, 2021.

[26], August 24, 2021;, August 22, 2021.

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