It’s rusty abandoned Soviet tanks that pop out as you take the road from Kabul into the valley. Upon arrival, you have to pass through a narrow corridor, on which several checkpoints have been set up. Via a narrow road, along a river, you come to an oasis of green.
“It’s a whole different world from the hustle and bustle of Kabul, where smog constantly hangs over the city. In the Panjshir Valley you see green meadows and blue skies,” says Rick Brinks. “Everything is peace and quiet.”
The best part of Afghanistan
Brinks was last in the area two years ago. with his travel agency Culture Road, organizes trips to difficult places. When traveling to Afghanistan, the Panjshir Valley is a standard in the programme.
“The people are very relaxed. They lead a simple life. There are small fields and sometimes you have to stop on the way because a group of sheep has taken over the road. I think the people here are happier than they are in other parts of the country.”
There is no longer any peace. There is heavy fighting around the area. The valley is seen as an impregnable fortress. There is only one lane, so you will see the enemy coming from afar, or you will have to cross the mountains.
Images of Taliban fighters already in the valley are circulating. The Taliban are said to have declared victory, but the resistance in the valley denies this.
The main figure of that resistance is Ahmed Masoud. “We will never give up the struggle for God, freedom and justice,” he wrote on social media on Saturday.
He is the son of “Lion of Panjshir” Ahmed Shah Massoud. A picture of Father Massoud can be seen everywhere in the valley, says Brinks. “He is honored by everyone and you can visit his mausoleum.” Father and son are very similar.
Led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Soviets stormed the Panjshir Valley in the 1980s, and the Taliban failed to capture it in the 1990s. “It’s the story of Asterix and Obelix. Lasting resistance,” Brinks says.
Now the Taliban are trying again, and this time they must succeed at any cost. “It’s about power and the Taliban want to be able to say they are the leader in all of Afghanistan,” says Peter Wijinga. He is a defense expert at the HCSS Research Center in The Hague. “It remains a defect as long as it is not.”
There is more than just resonance. As long as there is resistance, Wijinga says, Afghanistan will remain unstable and the Taliban will not be able to work on building the country. Then the unrest continues to fester.
If other countries support the rebels in the valley, resistance can grow as well, but Wijninga believes there is little chance that other nations will donate money and weapons. And then Afghanistan will end up in a civil war, and this is not in anyone’s interest.”
stability and calm
Masoud earlier called on states to support his struggle in a letter, but according to Legenga, he is lonely. “The country benefits most from stability and calm.” The challenges are enough.
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