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Leader of Afghan resistance in Panjshir says he is ready to hold talks with Taliban

The leader of the Afghan opposition group resisting Taliban forces in the Panjshir valley north of Kabul said on Sunday he welcomed proposals from religious scholars for a negotiated settlement to end the fighting.

Ahmad Massoud, head of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), 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.

READ MORE: Taliban, Afghan resistance fight for control of holdout province of Panjshir

The Islamist Taliban took control of the rest of Afghanistan three weeks ago, taking power in Kabul on Aug. 15 after the Western-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

“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.

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“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 neighboring province of Baghlan.

A large gathering of all sides with the Ulema council of religious scholars could then be held, he said.

Earlier, Afghan media outlets reported that religious scholars had called on the Taliban to accept a negotiated settlement to end the fighting in Panjshir.

There was no immediate response from the Taliban.

On Sunday, the NRFA also confirmed that its main spokesman, Fahim Dashti, had been killed during the day. Dashti had survived the suicide attack that killed Massoud’s father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, on Sept. 9, 2001, just days before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

He had been one of the main sources of updates from the area as the Taliban pressed in on opposition forces, issuing a defiant series of statements on Twitter, vowing that resistance would continue.

Massoud, who leads a force made up of remnants of regular Afghan army and special forces units as well as local militia fighters, called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban before the fighting broke out around a week ago.

Several attempts at talks were held but eventually broke down, with each side blaming the other for their failure.
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