The Taliban said Monday their fighters had surrounded resistance forces holed up in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley but were looking to negotiate rather than take the fight to them.
The announcement follows scattered reports of clashes overnight, with pro-Taliban social media accounts claiming gunmen were massing, and Afghanistan’s former vice president saying resistance forces were holding strong.
Taliban fighters “are stationed near Panjshir”, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted, saying they had the area surrounded on three sides.
“The Islamic Emirate is trying to resolve this issue peacefully,” he added.
Pro-resistance accounts on social media had dismissed earlier claims of being pushed back, saying Taliban fighters had been ambushed and routed.
Claims from either side were impossible to independently verify from a remote mountainous region that is largely inaccessible.
Panjshir — famous for its natural defences never penetrated by Soviet forces or the Taliban in earlier conflicts — remains the last major holdout of anti-Taliban forces led by Ahmad Massoud, son of the famed Mujahideen leader Ahmed Shah Massoud.
Former Afghan vice president Amrullah Saleh is also there, and photos posted on social media in recent days have shown him in talks with Massoud.
The valley is guarded by a narrow gorge, making entry — or escape — extraordinarily difficult for outsiders, who can be picked off by entrenched forces positioned on higher ground.
A spokesman for Massoud’s anti-Taliban National Resistance Front told AFP at the weekend that the group was prepared for “long-term conflict”, but would prefer to negotiate for an inclusive government.
“The conditions for a peace deal with the Taliban are decentralisation, a system that ensures social justice, equality, rights, and freedom for all,” spokesman Ali Maisam Nazary told AFP.
Following the collapse of the US-backed government last week, the Taliban are consolidating their control over the country and holding a series of meetings with old foes — including opposition politicians and warlords.