As militants close in on Kabul, son of 'Lion of Panjshir' says he is open to talks with Taliban

“I am willing and ready to forgive the blood of my father for Afghanistan's sake"

ahmad-massoud Ahmad Massoud | Wikimedia Commons

The 'Lion of Panjshir' is a figure not many in Afghanistan will forget for a long period of time. A veteran Tajik commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud was a grand, unifying figure in the country, instrumental in the formation of Northern Alliance that was armed by countries including India and Russia, and that drove out the Taliban. Under his command, the picturesque Panjshir valley kept the Taliban at an arm's length. Later, in the 1990s, he became the all-powerful defence minister in Burhanuddin Rabbani's cabinet. On September 9, 2001, two days before the terrorist attacks in America, Massoud was fatally injured in a suicide bombing by Al Qaeda at his residence by two men posing as journalists, with an explosive reportedly concealed in a video camera. 

With Taliban inching closer to Kabul, his son Ahmad Massoud, who took over from his father in Panjshir, said in an interview to Atlantic Council that he was open to negotiations with the Taliban militants. “I am willing and ready to forgive the blood of my father for the sake of peace in Afghanistan and security and stability in Afghanistan,” said Massoud, adding that he and other Afghans are not willing to “give in to the will of terrorism”, but ready to create "an inclusive government with the Taliban” through political negotiations.

In 2019, speaking to news agency AFP, he had criticised the US-Taliban peace deal as one precipitating a vicious winner-take-all approach. "Unless we go to a process which distributes power to everyone, which decentralises power in Afghanistan, we cannot solve any problems. It is going to give a sense of triumph and victory to the Taliban... That's the real fear, that we are legitimising, we are giving hope for the terrorist groups across the world," he said. 

A negotiated settlement could be the way to go in Afghanistan. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a speech on Saturday, had hinted that he was ready for more consultations. On Sunday, reports emerged that influential warlords Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum from the northern Balkh province had fled the country. Ghani had vowed not to give up the achievements of the 20 years since the US toppled the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks. "We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community as well as our international allies," he said. "Soon the results will be shared with you," he added.

Nobody in Afghanistan was safe from the militants. The Taliban had earlier seized a province just south of Afghanistan's capital and launched a multi-pronged assault and captured the crucial Mazar-i-Sharif in the north. The insurgents have captured much of northern, western and southern Afghanistan in a breakneck offensive less than three weeks before the United States is set to withdraw its last troops, raising fears of a full militant takeover or another Afghan civil war.

The Taliban captured all of Logar and detained its provincial officials. The Taliban have reached the Char Asyab district, just 11 kilometers (7 miles) south of the capital, Kabul. The insurgents also captured the capital of Paktika province bordering Pakistan.