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Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Massoud: There is ‘no other option’ but to fight on against Taliban

Newsletter from the Atlantic Council – 13.08.22

This week's edition brought to you by Daniel Malloy, Deputy Managing Editor

AUGUST 13, 2022 | The images are seared into our minds: fighters lounging in the presidential palace, a baby handed over the wall of the airport, chaos on the tarmac. Monday marks one year since the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban—a reminder not only of that heartbreaking moment but also of how quickly the world moves on to fresh crises. As our experts assess the state of the Afghan resistance and the big lessons the US and its allies must learn from their experience in the country, we’re also keeping a close eye in this week’s top reads on the Taiwan Strait and NATO enlargement inspired by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Read on:

One year after his country fell to the Taliban, Ahmad Massoud isn’t giving up his fight.

At this time last year, as the militant group swallowed up vast swaths of Afghanistan, the son of famous anti-Soviet resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud pledged during an exclusive Atlantic Council interview that he’d seek talks with the Taliban.

Now, however, Massoud says the group remains uninterested in either dialogue or reforming its backward ways. That’s why his fledgling military alliance, the National Resistance Front (NRF), is pressing on with armed resistance.

“There’s no other option but to resist until [Taliban members] understand and realize they need to also submit—as [do] all of us—to a legitimate process which brings a legitimate government which is accountable to the people of Afghanistan, and also to the world,” he told Kamal Alam, a nonresident senior fellow at the Council’s South Asia Center and a special adviser and representative of the Massoud Foundation (of which Massoud is the president).

Here are some key takeaways from their conversation:

No partner to negotiate with

  • Immediately after the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, 2021, Massoud recalled, he and his allies—while stationed in the Panjshir Valley—tried to engage the Taliban and make the group understand that “legitimacy in Afghanistan… cannot come through the barrel of a gun” but through the voice of the people.

  • That didn’t work. Massoud claims the group’s message was clear: “We expect nothing less than surrender” and a pledge of loyalty to the regime. That’s when Massoud and others formed the NRF, which has attacked Taliban forces and weathered counterattacks in recent months. The fight will continue, Massoud said, until “the Taliban realize that the military regime, or a militant group’s rule over a country, is not an option.”

  • While Massoud said the NRF tried working with regional actors to hammer out some sort of peace with the Taliban, those efforts also failed. “Unfortunately,” he noted, Taliban leaders “have not changed. They are even more radical than before.”

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One year after his country fell to the Taliban, Ahmad Massoud isn’t giving up his fight.

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