September 8, 2021
The Taliban on Tuesday rejected claims of foreign interference in their Panjshir Valley takeover, as Iran condemned the group’s capture of the last holdout Afghan province and Indian media alleging the attacks were carried out by a Pakistan Air Force jet to support the group.
On Monday they took complete control of Panjshir, the only province out of 34 that their fighters had not seized during their blitzkrieg last month.
It followed a week of intense clashes between the Taliban and the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, with Iran’s Foreign Ministry denouncing “all foreign interference” in Afghan affairs, alluding to Pakistan.
“We condemn any foreign interference in Afghanistan,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday, adding they were investigating reports about the presence of foreign forces in the valley.
Both Pakistan and the Taliban have denied the allegations.
“The Taliban had the capability to conquer Panjshir, and there was no need for any airpower; we deny such allegations,” Enamullah Samangani, the group’s cultural commission member, told Arab News.
Pakistan military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar described reports of the country’s involvement in the Panjshir strikes as “completely false and irrational propaganda.”
“Whatever is happening inside Afghanistan, Pakistan has nothing to do with it. Be it Panjshir or anywhere else,” the BBC reported him as saying.
The BBC report also quoted unnamed military officials saying that Pakistan did not have the drone technology to hit targets at a long distance.
Iran, which shares a 900-km border with Afghanistan, had refused to recognize the Taliban during their previous rule from 1996 to 2001 before the group was ousted from power in a US-led invasion.
Tehran’s rebuke followed Indian media reports claiming a “full-fledged Pakistani invasion” of Afghanistan.
News channels Times Now, Republic TV and Zee Hindustan aired footage from a video game as “visuals of a PAF jet” targeting anti-Taliban groups in Panjshir.
While Pakistan has yet to comment on the matter, several Twitter users debunked the claims, calling for a fact-check.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director at the US-based Wilson Center, said: “Some Indian TV media have used video game images instead of real footage (of which there is very little available) to depict the assault in Panjshir.
This may sound zany for the uninitiated, and yet it’s not the first time — happened during the Balakot crisis too, back in 2019.”
Political analysts, however, believed that accusations of foreign invasion in Panjshir must be investigated and called on the international community to take a clear stand on the current events in Afghanistan.
“If such a thing has happened, then the neighboring countries must stop their interference as Afghanistan has got a new opportunity,” Ahmad Saeedi, a Kabul-based political analyst, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, the Taliban on Tuesday fired shots into the air to disperse crowds that had gathered for an anti-Pakistan rally in Kabul to protest against Islamabad’s alleged role in supporting the Taliban.
“We do not want any foreigner to come to Kabul as there is no government in the country,” Rabia Malik, a 35-year-old protester, told Arab News.
Other demonstrators called on the Taliban to end the “current chaos” in the country where, despite three weeks after the Taliban’s return to power, banks and public offices remain closed.
“The current situation is not in favor of the Taliban nor others. We call on the Islamic Emirate to unveil their government and end the current chaos in the country,” Ahmadullah Ibrahimi, a 24-year-old Kabul resident, told Arab News.