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Taliban, opposition battle for Panjshir

Context:

  • Fresh fighting was reported between the Taliban and resistance forces in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, as the hardline Islamists are in the process of finalising a government that will set the tone for their rule.
  • Taliban sources said that its fighters had taken the Valley, although the resistance denied it had fallen.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: Geography (Maps), GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Panjshir Valley
  2. Importance of Panjshir valley

About Panjshir Valley

  • The Panjshir Valley is a valley in north-central Afghanistan, 150 kilometres north of Kabul, near the Hindu Kush mountain range.
  • It’s divided by the Panjshir river and ringed by the Panjshir mountains in the north and the Kuhestan mountains in the south.
  • The valley is home to more than 100,000 people, including Afghanistan’s largest concentration of ethnic Tajiks.
  • The mountain tops are covered by snow throughout the year and this difficult terrain makes the Valley a nightmare for invaders.

Importance of Panjshir valley

  • The Valley has repeatedly played a decisive role in Afghanistan’s military history, as its geographical position almost completely closes it off from the rest of the country.
  • The only access point to the region is through a narrow passage created by the Panjshir River, which can be easily defended militarily.
  • Famed for its natural defenses, the region tucked into the Hindu Kush mountains never fell to the Taliban during the civil war of the 1990s, nor was it conquered by the Soviets a decade earlier.
  • Panjshir Valley was among the safest regions in the country during the time of the NATO-backed government from 2001 to 2021.
  • The Panjshir Valley has the potential to become a major centre of emerald mining. Even during the medieval period, it was famous for silver mining.

Why hasn’t it fallen to the Taliban yet?

  • The Taliban have not been able to capture Panjshir because of the location of the valley, which makes it a natural fortress.
  • Its crucial location, being north of Kabul in the Hindu Kush, gives it a geographical advantage.
  • This was a resistance stronghold against the Soviets in the 1980s and then against the Taliban in the 1990s.
  • Since it has always remained the resistance zone, it was never conquered by any forces – neither by foreign forces nor by the Taliban.

What are the challenges for Pansjhir?

  • The main challenge that lies ahead for Panjshir is the Taliban putting up guards around it in order to stop its food and essentials supply.
  • However, as per an official report, the valley has enough food and medical supplies to last till the next winter season.

-Source: The Hindu

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