Panjshir, a strategic slice of mountainous terrain rich with precious mineral resources around 90 miles north of Kabul, is the only region among Afghanistan’s 34 provinces to remain out of the Taliban’s control.
It was once a stronghold for the mujahideen fighting the Soviets and is now the seat of the resistance movement. Fighters in the province also held out against the Taliban in the late 1990s during their rule.
Taliban spokesman Belal Kareemi told CNN Sunday that the group’s militant fighters have taken all districts of Panjshir province except for the capital of Bazarak and Rokha districts, which remain under NRF control.
The spokesman claimed the enemy has suffered “heavy casualties,” including among their commanders, and that the Taliban hope to be able to “clear Panjsher as soon as possible.” Taliban fighters are currently advancing toward Rokha and Bazarak, Kareemi added.
But resistance fighters appeared to rebut the Taliban’s claims, with NRF spokesman Fahim Dashti tweeting Sunday that the Paryan district of Panjshir was “completely cleared” of the Taliban.
“At least 1,000 terrorists were trapped due to the cutting of their way out. All the attackers were either killed, surrendered or captured by locals with help from resistance fighters as they fled and retreated. Many of these prisoners are foreigners and most of them are Pakistanis,” Dashti said.
Earlier Sunday, an NRF spokesman said: “We have allowed them (Taliban) to enter the valley intentionally and now they are trapped. Fighting is going on in the northern most district of Panjshir (Paryan) and the southern most district (Anaba).”
“This is a tactic we have used from our playbook from the 1980s when the Soviets entered the Valley. The NRF is all over Panjshir and the Taliban have suffered heavy casualties tonight,” the spokesman added.
CNN has not been able to independently verify the overall casualty figures in the latest rounds of fighting.