A top US general has warned of a “civil war” in Afghanistan amid clashes between the Taliban and opposition forces in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul.
The two groups battled on Saturday to control Panjshir which has been the only region to hold out against the Taliban following their takeover of Afghanistan.
The Taliban, which swept through the war-torn country ahead of the final withdrawal of US troops on August 31, could not control the valley when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Ahmad Masoud, the son of the late anti-Soviet Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Masoud, has established himself in Panjshir Valley, leading a several-thousand-strong force comprised of militias and remnants of the Afghan army and special forces units who are opposed to the Taliban.
Masoud has called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban but has said his forces will resist if the narrow and mountainous valley is attacked.
Speaking to Fox News on Saturday, US Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "My military estimate is, is that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war. I don't know if the Taliban is going to be able to consolidate power and establish governance."
His remarks come as both sides claimed to have the upper hand in Panjshir but neither could produce conclusive evidence to prove it.
Nearly 600 Taliban fighters were killed in Panjshir, the resistance forces' spokesperson Fahim Dashti tweeted, according to Sputnik News.
He also said the Taliban had problems with getting supplies from other Afghan provinces.
"About 600 Taliban terrorists have been liquidated in various districts of Panjshir since morning. More than 1,000 Taliban militants have been captured or surrendered themselves," Dashti said.
Also, in a Facebook post, Massoud insisted Panjshir "continues to stand strongly."
However, Emergency, an Italian medical aid organization, said Taliban forces had pushed further into the Panjshir Valley on Friday night, reaching the village of Anabah where the group has medical facilities.
"We have received a small number of wounded people at the Anabah Surgical Centre," Emergency said in a statement, noting that many people fled in recent days.
Milley underscored the tenuous situation there, saying "I think there's at least a very good probability of a broader civil war and that will then in turn lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of al-Qaeda or a growth of ISIS (Daesh) or other myriad of terrorist groups."
The Taliban are poised to run Afghanistan again 20 years after they were removed from power by American invading forces.
The group took control of Afghanistan on August 15, forcing the US-allied Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, to flee the country.