KABUL (Dispatches) – The Taliban have surrounded the only remaining province resisting their rule, a senior leader said on Wednesday, calling on fighters to negotiate a settlement with the group.
Since the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15, mountainous Panjshir has been the only province to hold out against the Taliban, although there has also been fighting in neighboring Baghlan province between Taliban and local militia forces.
Under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, son of a former Mujahideen commander, several thousand members of local militias and remnants of army and special forces units have been holding out against the Taliban.
In a recorded speech addressed to Afghans in Panjshir, senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on the fighters to put down their weapons.
The Taliban have declared an amnesty for all Afghans who worked with foreign forces during the past two decades but crowds fearing reprisals have continued to flock to the borders in an attempt to flee the land-locked country.
Motaqi said the Taliban had made many efforts to negotiate with leaders of the opposition forces in Panjshir, “but unfortunately, unfortunately, without any result”.
The developments come as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that Afghanistan is facing an impending “humanitarian catastrophe”.
Guterres voiced grave concern as about half of all Afghans, or 18 million people, require humanitarian aid to survive, and pledged “the humanitarian system’s commitment to stay and deliver will not waver.”
“A humanitarian catastrophe looms,” he said in a statement. “Amid a severe drought and with harsh winter conditions on the horizon, extra food, shelter and health supplies must be urgently fast-tracked into the country.”
Roughly one-third of all Afghans are facing food insecurity, or not knowing from where their next meal will come and more than half of all children are expected to become acutely malnourished during the next year, according to UN data.
Guterres has emphasized the importance of ensuring Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport remains open following the U.S. exit to facilitate large-scale aid deliveries.