Doha, Qatar — The Taliban claimed on Monday to have taken full control of. The group said its forces had seized the Panjshir Valley, and with it the last province in the country where resistance forces held ground and put up a fight against the Islamic extremists’ takeover.
There were competing claims about the situation in Panjshir, north of the capital Kabul, with some members of the resistance refusing to give up, but images from the rugged mountain region suggested the fight was over, and the Taliban had won.
Despite the competing claims, it was clear that the Taliban was cementing its control over the country, and its latest apparent victory came amid growing concern over the fate of Americans and Afghans who have been unable to leave.
The relatively small force of the National Resistance Front, led by commander Ahmad Massoud, had held out against the Taliban for weeks in the rugged mountains of the Panjshir Valley.
It wasn’t clear whether Massoud was still in the province, or even in Afghanistan, but in an audio message recorded on Monday, he called on all Afghans inside and outside their country “to begin a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country.”
After surrounding the region where Massoud and his ally, former Afghan 1st Vice President Amrullah Saleh, were entrenched, the Taliban intensified its battle over the weekend. By Monday, the group had risen its flag in an apparent sign of victory.
When CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata interviewed Massoud in May, before the Taliban takeover, he vowed that he and his forces would fight the Taliban to the death.
“They are ready,” he said of his militia. “If the situation goes towards a war, we will announce it, and we will be ready… I’ll fight for it, and I’m ready to give my life for it.”
Neither Massoud nor Saleh had posted anything on their social media channels as of Monday afternoon about the intense fighting over the weekend. Massoud’s audio message, distributed via media outlets, was the only indication that they were hoping to keep the fight against the Taliban going.
Planes stuck in Mazar-i-Sharif
As the Taliban solidified its control, senior Republican Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Michael McCaul.
“Six airplanes with American citizens on them, as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now,” McCaul told Fox News Sunday, adding that the U.S. State Department “has cleared these flights, and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport.”
Satellite photos of the airport in Mazar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, show six passenger planes on the runway. U.S. government officials and a non-profit group told CBS News on Sunday that there were at least 19 American citizens and two green card holders among the roughly 1,000 people trying to leave on those planes.
Asked about the delay in getting the planes off the ground, the Taliban would only tell CBS News that, “they’re looking into it.”
With no U.S. presence in Afghanistan after the military withdrawal, the fate of all those desperate to leave, along with the country itself, was entirely in Taliban hands.
As D’Agata reports, the Taliban has yet to announce its new government for the country. The group’s leaders have been saying for days that an announcement is imminent.
While it’s not clear exactly what the new Taliban regime will look like, the group has made it clear that elections are “not in sight for now.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to arrive in Doha, Qatar later Monday. The country has been instrumental in the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan, and it maintains a good working relationship with the Taliban.