The Taliban say they now have full control over Panjshir, the last pocket of territory north of Kabul still outside their rule, but resistance forces have vowed the fight for their stronghold is far from over.
Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, tweeted on Monday that Panjshir province was now completely under the group’s control, warning, "Anyone who tries to start an insurgency will be hit hard. We will not allow another."
“We assure the people of Panjshir that there would be no discriminatory acts against them,” he added
Mujahid claimed that by capturing Panjshir, the conflict in Afghanistan had come to an end. “With this victory and latest efforts, our country has come out of the whirlpool of the war and our people will have a happy life in peace, liberty and freedom in the entire country," he said.
Media cited social media postings purportedly showing Taliban militants standing at the gates of the provincial governor's compound in Panjshir.
The Taliban’s deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has said that the group is in the process of forming an inclusive government in Afghanistan.
Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesman, called on former Afghan forces to join and integrate into the Taliban, adding that a new government comprising of all Afghan groups will be formed "soon."
There are “some technical things left” and the new Afghan government to be announced could be interim with a view toward changes in the future, he said at a press conference in Kabul.
"Final decisions have been taken, we are now working on the technical issues. We will announce the new government as soon as the technical issues are resolved,” Mujahid insisted.
Resistance vows to continue fighting
Anti--Taliban resistance forces, led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and also the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, vowed to continue fighting in “strategic positions” across Panjshir Valley.
“The struggle against the Taliban and their partners will continue,” the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NFR) said.
The NFR proposed “that the Taliban stop its military operations in Panjshir … and withdraw its forces.”
Earlier on Monday, the NRF acknowledged heavy losses on the battlefield and called for a ceasefire.
Fighters in Panjshir, which offers a natural defensive advantage, held out for a decade against the Soviet military invasion. The Taliban's first regime was also unable to control the valley when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the National Resistance Front (NRF), is safe and will soon make a statement, the group's spokesperson Ali Nazary said on Monday.
"My leader and brother Ahmad Massoud is safe and will be giving a message to our people very soon!" Nazary tweeted.
However, the Taliban claimed on Monday that resistance leaders had fled to neighboring Tajikistan.
On Sunday, Massoud said he was open to entering peace talks, as he called on the Taliban to end their offensive.
Neighboring Iran strongly condemned the Taliban offensive in Panjshir Valley.
"The news coming from Panjshir is truly worrying. The assault is strongly condemned," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.