Iran has condemned in the strongest terms the Sunday night attacks against the Panjshir Valley, saying the Taliban must live up to their commitments, while expressing concern about the news emerging from the province.
“The news coming from Panjshir is worrying. Last night’s attacks are condemned in the strongest terms,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said during his weekly press conference on Monday.
Stressing the need to resolve the issue of Panjshir through dialog, Khatibzadeh said laying a siege to the valley is by no means acceptable in view of international law and humanitarian law.
“No one should let this path end in fratricide,” the Iranian spokesman asserted. “The Taliban must live up to their commitments. Starving the people of Panjshir and cutting off their water, electricity, etc is a source of regret.”
Khatibzadeh also expressed deep regret over the "martyrdom" of Afghan leaders during the Sunday night attacks. "The martyrdom of Afghan leaders is a source of deep regret and sorrow."
Afghanistan's TOLOnews reported that Fahim Dashti, a spokesman of the Resistance National Front (NRF) and a prominent Afghan journalist, was killed in fighting in Panjshir province on Sunday.
The NRF confirmed the news, saying General Abdul Wudod Zara had also been killed in the latest fighting.
Dashti was a senior member of the Jamiat-e-Islami party and advised resistance leader Ahmad Massoud on the defense of the valley and negotiations with the Taliban.
“I strongly warn that all red lines and obligations under international law must be observed,” Khatibzadeh said, adding that Iran is closely monitoring the developments in the neighboring country.
On Sunday, the Taliban claimed they have advanced deep into Panjshir Province – Afghanistan’s last remaining holdout for resistance forces who oppose the rule of the hardline group.
The militant group also claimed on Monday that it had taken complete control of Panjshir, three weeks after taking over the country’s capital, Kabul.
“With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war,” the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declared.
However, the National Resistance Front disputed the Taliban’s claim, saying it was present in “strategic positions” across the valley to continue “the struggle against the Taliban and their partners.”
Khatibzadeh also said Iran is opposed to any foreign interference in Afghanistan, and is monitoring possible acts of interventionism.
He advised those “friends making a strategic mistake” to realize that the Afghan people are the same people who fought to drive out US-led foreign forces from their country.
“Afghanistan’s history has shown that any direct and indirect foreign intervention has resulted in nothing but defeat for the invading forces” by the independent and zealous Afghan people, he said.
He also called on relevant international institutions and regional countries to help Afghanistan reach peace and stability.
The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country in the face of lightning advances of the Taliban.
The collapse of Kabul followed peace talks between the US and the Taliban and withdrawal of American forces including from the main Bagram airbase in the dead of night without informing Afghan authorities, 20 years after they invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban, in a war that killed, according to one estimate, between 897,000 and 929,000 people.
‘Iran striving to end suffering of Afghan people’
Elsewhere during his Monday presser, Khatibzadeh reaffirmed Iran’s principled position to help Afghan groups establish sustainable peace in their country, but emphasized that it is the incoming Afghan government’s behavior that will define Iran’s behavior toward the country.
“Iran is making every effort to help end the suffering of the Afghan people. It is the will of the people that must be realized, rather than foreign interference or any other plan or conspiracy,” he said.
He noted that Iran has been a friend of the Afghan people for centuries, as he pledged the Islamic Republic’s continuous support and humanitarian aid for the people of Afghanistan.
“In addition to [hosting] three million Afghan nationals, we have done as much as Iran is capable of, and we will continue to stand by the people of Afghanistan,” the spokesman added.
Since tensions began to soar in Afghanistan last month, Iran has urged Afghans to exercise restraint and avoid violence and fratricide, and vowed to help establish a broad-based government representing all ethnic and political groups in the war-torn country.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to help establish peace, tranquility and security while preventing fratricide in Afghanistan,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi said in a Sunday phone call with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.