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Taliban tells Panjshir Resistance leaders in Iran they are free to return

The Taliban reportedly met with the son of the ‘Lion of Panjshir’

ahmad-massoud File photo of Ahmed Massoud

In a video released on Monday, the Taliban said they met with leaders of the National Resistance Front in Iran. The talks are the first to be held since the Panjshir Valley was overrun by Taliban forces.

During the meeting, the alliance leaders were told they could return to Afghanistan and were promised their safety would be guaranteed, Taliban-appointed foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said in a short video released Monday.

“This is the home of all of us. We don’t cause anyone any security or other problems,” a Taliban leader said in the video.

The alliance, known as the National Resistance Front, is led by Ahmed Massoud, the son of the anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud (AKA the “lion of Panjshir”), who was assassinated in 2001.

The group coalesced after the Taliban swept into Kabul in mid-August as the Afghan government fled and Afghan forces offered little or no resistance to the Taliban takeover. Ahmed Massoud was joined by former governor of western Herat province, Ismail Khan. Former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh also joined the resistance in the valley.

However, after a Taliban assault in September appeared to end the resistance’s plans of taking back Afghanistan. Massoud and Saleh were believed to have fled to Turkmenistan.

Since then, there have been reports of Taliban reprisals against ethnic Panjshiris, who dominate the region and are the backbone of the resistance alliance.

Sunday's meeting in Tehran is one of the first signs of rapprochement between the Taliban and their opponents. Several prominent leaders of previous US-backed Afghan governments, including former President Hamid Karzai and the ex-head of the National Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah, remained in Kabul following the Taliban takeover.

"They can return to Afghanistan without any worries, Muttaqi said in the video footage distributed to the media. Initially, the anti-Taliban alliance denied the meeting ever took place.

The Islamic Emirate is trying to ensure that the future of the country is secure for all and that there would be no reason for opposition, said Bilal Karimi, deputy Taliban spokesman.

With inputs from PTI

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