The fight for Afghanistan may not be entirely over.
A high-ranking former Afghan government official said Friday that resistance fighters — mainly made of about 300 battle-ready mujahideen members and commanders linked to the Northern Alliance — wrestled three districts in the northeastern Baghlan province out of Taliban control on Friday, killing upwards of 36 Taliban fighters and wounding dozens more.
The local fighters, often referred to as the public uprising forces, are said to have used their own weapons to retake control of Banu, Pol-e-Hesar and De Salah districts in the beleaguered province.
“The advance continues towards Khenjan in North Salang now,” the former official said, noting that locals were quick to remove the Taliban flag in the re-captured regions.
As the Taliban swept to control of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals and big cities last week, culminating by their capture of Kabul on Sunday, local warlords appealed en masse to the central government for air support and heavy weaponry to repel the offensive — to no avail.
Rather, Kabul’s security officials expressed concern to me about arming unofficial militias — despite their dedication and will to fight — and insisted that they were establishing a process to bring the public uprising forces under the umbrella of the National Directorate of Security. Constrained by red tape and questionable bloated bureaucracy, any such moves came too late as provinces continued to crumble to Taliban hands at lightning speed.
The consequences of the Western-backed government’s lethargy have been broadcast to the world. Day after day and hour after hour, there have been calamitous scenes in and around Hamid Karzai International Airport outside Kabul as Americans, Europeans and ordinary Afghans crowd the gates in desperate attempts to get on evacuation flights. In the cities and in the provinces alike, there have been testimonies of intimidation, revenge beatings and executions.
Yet, the mayhem has also spurred a renewed will among small groups to arm themselves to the teeth and fight hard to protect their small pockets of turf from becoming part of the Taliban’s dominion.
Prior to the small gains in Baghlan province, neighboring Panshjir province this week became the new hub of resistance with senior command and Special Forces, re-grouping and at the ready to fight should the Taliban strike.
But for now, the picturesque province remains quiet, with concerns growing that Taliban forces will seek to surround and instead squeeze the area in an effort to gain a political solution.