TEHRAN — Iran on Monday “strongly” condemned the Taliban’s military offensive against holdout fighters in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, as the hardline group claimed that it had taken control of the area.
“The news coming from Panjshir is truly worrying,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters. “The assault is strongly condemned.”
The Taliban on Monday claimed victory in the mountainous Panjshir area, with a spokesman declaring “our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war,” three weeks after the militants captured the capital.
But the National Resistance Front (NRF) — made up of anti-Taliban militia and former Afghan security forces — said that its fighters were still present in “strategic positions” across the valley, and that they were continuing the struggle.
The leader of the resistance movement called on Monday for a “national uprising” against the Taliban.
In an audio message sent to media, National Resistance Front commander Ahmad Massoud said: “Wherever you are, inside or outside, I call on you to begin a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country.”
Iran’s Khatibzadeh said that the issue should be resolved through dialogue.
“On the question of Panjshir, I have insisted on the fact that it be resolved by dialogue in the presence of all the Afghan elders,” Khatibzadeh said.
“The Taliban must equally respect their obligations in terms of international law, and their commitments,” he added, affirming that “Iran will work to put an end to all the suffering of the Afghan people in favor of establishing a representative government for all Afghans.”
Alluding to Pakistan, Khatibzadeh said that Iran condemned “all foreign interference” in Afghan affairs.
“We would like to inform our friends, and those who might make the strategic error of entering Afghanistan with different intentions, that Afghanistan is not a country which accepts the enemy or the aggressor” on its soil, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman added.
Unconfirmed reports on Monday said Pakistani Air Force drones had attacked the positions of the resistance forces, using smart bombs.
Khatibzadeh also expressed deep regret over the “martyrdom” of Afghan leaders during the Sunday night attacks. “The martyrdom of Afghan leaders is a source of deep regret and sorrow.”
The NRF confirmed that Fahim Dashti, a spokesman of the Resistance National Front (NRF) and a prominent Afghan journalist, was along with General Abdul Wudod Zara.
“I strongly warn that all red lines and obligations under international law must be observed,” Khatibzadeh said, adding that Iran is closely
monitoring the developments in the neighboring country.
Iran, which shares a 900 kilometer (559 mile) border with Afghanistan, did not recognize the Taliban during their 1996 to 2001 stint in power.
Already host to nearly 3.5 million Afghans, and fearing a new influx, Tehran has sought to sketch a rapprochement with the Taliban to resolve the problems of of the Afghan people since their lightning seizure of Kabul amid the United States withdrawal last month.
The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 with U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country in the face of lightning advances of the Taliban.
The collapse of Kabul followed peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban and withdrawal of American forces including from the main Bagram airbase in the dead of night without informing Afghan authorities, 20 years after they invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban, in a war that killed, according to one estimate, between 897,000 and 929,000 people.