TERRORISMTaliban Faces Growing Armed Resistance Across Afghanistan

By Amin Saikal

Published 22 June 2022

Ten months into their extremist theocratic rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban are facing growing resistance in different parts of the country. Contrary to the Taliban’s claim that an atmosphere of calm and security prevails in Afghanistan, there has been growing resistance to their rule, led by the National Resistance Front (NRF), headed by Ahmad Massoud—the son of the legendary Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Ten months into their extremist theocratic rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban are facing growing resistance in different parts of the country. Leading the way is the National Resistance Front (NRF), headed by Ahmad Massoud—the son of the legendary Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who, from his native strategic Pajnshir Valley (north of Kabul), valiantly fought the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and later the Pakistan-backed Taliban–al-Qaeda alliance. He was assassinated in 2001 by the alliance’s agents two days before 11 September terror attacks on the US.

Contrary to the Taliban’s claim that an atmosphere of calm and security prevails in Afghanistan, there has been growing resistance to their rule. The NRF has mounted increasingly organized and coordinated operations in Panjshir and the adjacent provinces of Takhar, Baghlan, Badakhshan, Sar-e Pol, Faryab and Kunar in the north and northeast. Sporadic armed operations, led by various individuals and groups, have gained momentum in several other provinces, including Ghor, located at the center of Afghanistan, and Samangan.

Some non-Pashtun figures who had initially been enticed by the ethnic Pashtun Taliban to join them have now turned against the group. One of them is Mawlawi Mehadi Mujahid, an influential leader from ethnic Hazara, whose Shia Islamic sect forms some 15–20% of the predominantly Sunni Afghanistan. Mehadi broke away from the Taliban after he was sacked as head of intelligence in Bamyan, the stronghold of Hazaras in central Afghanistan.

Concurrently, the Taliban leaders do not represent a cohesive group. They hail from rival eastern and southern provinces. Whereas the radical Haqqani network, which is intimately linked to Pakistan’s powerful military Inter-Services Intelligence, claims ascendancy from the east, its more nuanced counterpart, led by Mullah Abdul Manan Omari’s group, hails from the Taliban’s original heartland of the southern province of Kandahar.

Initially, when the Taliban seized power in August 2021 in the wake of the chaotic US and allied withdrawal and the collapse of the dysfunctional government of Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban and their Pakistani backers could only rejoice over what they viewed as an easy victory. They appeared confident that the trophy was theirs for good.

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