Meanwhile from Panjshir Valley: ‘I fight on’

by WorldTribune Staff, September 5, 2021

As the Taliban closed in on Kabul, then-President Ashraf Ghani fled for the UAE with millions in U.S. cash. Then-Vice President Amrullah Saleh escaped and joined the National Resistance Front in the Panjshir Valley.

In a dispatch from his mountain stronghold published by the Daily Mail on Sept. 3, Saleh slammed Joe Biden and the West for what he described as a “colossal betrayal” and said the group of freedom fighters he joined up with are “my nation’s last hope.”

Former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh

The following are excerpts from Saleh’s dispatch:

The fighting here is heavy now, with casualties on both sides. The Taliban are using American munitions against us and Black Hawk helicopters are being flown in to reinforce their attacks.

Right now our entire focus is on ensuring the survival of this valley as the base against the Taliban who in recent months have over run this nation.

Many fighters are flocking here to join the National Resistance Front (NRF) – anti-Taliban fighters, former Afghan security forces and ordinary Afghans who want to stop us returning to the rule of the Taliban.

For the Taliban have not won any hearts and minds. They have simply exploited the flawed policy of a fatigued American president — not necessarily the United States itself — and they are being micromanaged by Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agency, the ISI.

The betrayal of Afghanistan by the West is colossal.

The Americans may boast about evacuating some 123,000 people from the country (of whom 6,000 were Americans), but there are 40 million of us.

Now, with the closure of the airport in Kabul, the Afghan exodus is continuing at the other border crossings and it is worse than it was during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s.

This is not only shameful for Biden, it is shameful for the whole of Western civilization.

Your politicians know that Pakistan is running the show.

They know al Qaeda is back in the streets of Kabul. And they know the Taliban have not reformed. They have been displaying their suicide vests in Kabul.

But there’s still time for the West to save its reputation and credibility.

Biden was determined to end America’s ‘longest war’ and would no longer countenance keeping even a few thousand soldiers in my country to support our own Afghan forces – despite our enormous sacrifices and the advice of his own generals.

It was a very artificial frustration and, I believe, for the purposes of electioneering. But the world over, the currency with which the Americans are paying is their credibility and standing.

And yet they have the capability to reverse this.

For 20 years, Western leaders promised not to stand on the Afghan constitution – and it is the spirit of that constitution I have carried in my heart here to the Panjshir Valley.

Now those of us gathered here are fighting to preserve the promise contained in it.

I call upon the West not only to give us moral and – where possible – material support, but also to use this opportunity to press for a political settlement with the Taliban, a settlement that has the backing of the Afghan people and the international community.

Morally, the West owes this to every Afghan. I’m not begging them to save me. I am asking them to save their face, to save their dignity, to save their reputation and credibility.

Why have I chosen to be here? Because I believe those politicians who leave their country in moments of crisis betray its very soil.

Then came a moment when the same people were pleading with their leaders to stand up for them. This was a moment of test.

They may say now that they would have become martyrs had they remained in Afghanistan. Why not? We need leaders to become martyrs.

They will say they would have been taken prisoner. Why not? We need leaders to serve as prisoners.

We need these leaders to experience the same suffering that the Afghan people are now being made to endure.

How could I see my people suffering, dying from hunger and thirst, walking barefoot, from a palace of safety and then sit behind a laptop screen and write about it?

Shall I expect the poorest of the poor people in the margins to be more strategic than I am, to be braver than I can demonstrate myself to be, to expect them to rescue the country while I just drop them a note on Facebook or Twitter?

Should I give a radio interview and then hope that these people will decode my messages and revolt? This is what some other leaders are hoping. They have gone.

They stay in these hotels and villas abroad. And then they call on the poorest Afghans to revolt. That’s craven. If we want a revolt, the revolt has to be led.

I was deluged with emotional messages inviting me to flee, to be a coward for a while and then jump back into the fray if things stabilised.

That would have been shameful. Not a vein in my body was prepared to accept such a future.

Instead I sent a message to Ahmad Massoud, son of my mentor, the late Massoud. ‘My brother, where are you?’ He said: ‘I’m in Kabul and planning my next move’. I told him I was also in Kabul and offered to join forces.

I then went through my home and destroyed pictures of my wife and my daughters. I collected my computer and some belongings. I asked my chief guard, Rahim, to place his hand on my Koran.

‘Rahim, you have served me loyally and I’m very grateful to you,’ I told him. ‘Here is my last order to you. Put your hand on the Koran and promise not to disobey the order I am giving you.’

He promised three times with all purity.

‘We are going to Panjshir and the road is already taken,’ I told him. ‘We will fight our way through. We will fight it together.

‘But should I get injured, I have one request of you. Shoot me twice in my head. I don’t want to surrender to the Taliban. Ever.’

And then we got into our convoy of a few armored vehicles and two pickup trucks with guns mounted on them. The roads were jammed.

We crossed the northern pass with great difficulty because it has become a lawless territory. Thugs. Thieves. Taliban. We were attacked twice, but we survived. We fought our way with determination.

When we reached Panjshir, we got a message that the elders of the community had gathered in the mosque. I spoke to them for an hour and afterwards each of them rose in support.

Panjshir has been a tourist destination for 20 years. We had no military equipment, no ammunition here.

But that night I drew up a strategy to toughen the province’s defenses.

Then I received a call informing me that Ahmed Massoud was heading to Panjshir by helicopter. I felt a surge of hope course through me. We had our first meeting to strategize that night.

Has it been easy to take up resistance? Absolutely not. I’m in a difficult situation, no doubt. I’m not made of steel I’m a human being. I have emotions. I’m aware that the Taliban want my head. But this is history. And we are in the center of the history.

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