Taliban claim they have taken Panjshir, the last remaining Afghan province

Monday's announcement by the Taliban was that they had taken control of Panjshir, north of Kabul. This province was the last remaining stronghold of anti-Taliban forces and the only one the Taliban hadn't seized in their raid across Afghanistan last month.

Taliban claim they have taken Panjshir, the last remaining Afghan province

Witnesses from Panjshir said that thousands of Taliban fighters took control of eight districts in Panjshir within an hour. They spoke anonymously because they were concerned for their safety. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, stated that Panjshir is now under Taliban control.

Mujahid said that they tried their best to resolve the problem through negotiations but that they refused to negotiate and that then they had to send their forces to fight.

The anti-Taliban forces had been led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and also the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud who was killed just days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Officials in northern Balkh say that at least four aircraft chartered to evacuate hundreds of people fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan are still stuck there. There have been conflicting reports about why they couldn't take off, as the U.S. pushes harder to assist those who remain.

A local official in Afghanistan said that many potential passengers were Afghans who did not have visas or passports and could not leave the country. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized for reporters to speak. He said that they had left the airport while the situation was being resolved.

However, the top Republican on U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee said that the group was made up of Americans. He also stated that Afghan interpreters and American citizens were being held on six planes. He didn't say from where the information was obtained and it wasn't immediately possible to reconcile both accounts.

The final days of America's 20-year war in Afghanistan were marked by a harrowing airlift at Kabul's airport to evacuate tens of thousands of people -- Americans and their allies -- who feared what the future would hold, given the Taliban's history of repression, particularly of women. When the last American troops pulled out on Aug. 30, though, many were left behind.

The U.S. pledged to work with the Taliban rulers in order to obtain those who wish to leave, while the militants promised to let anyone with legal documentation leave.

Experts doubted that Panjshir's resistance to the Taliban, the last remaining province, would be able to survive long-term, despite its geographical advantage.

The Panjshir valley is nestled among the tall Hindu Kush mountains. It has one narrow entrance. In the 1980s, local fighters held off Soviet troops and, for a short time, the Taliban. They returned a decade later, under Massoud's leadership. He was one of many former mujahedeen leaders, who ruled Kabul from 1992 to 1996. However, they turned their guns against each other, resulting in the arrival of the Taliban in 1996.

In a Sunday statement, Massoud's younger brother Ahmad called for an end of the fighting. Massoud, a young British-trained Massoud, said that his forces are ready to surrender their weapons if the Taliban cease their offensive. On Sunday night, dozens of trucks carrying Taliban fighters were seen invading the Panjshir valley.

Saleh, Afghanistan’s former vice president and acting president, has not made a statement. He had declared himself to be the acting president when President Ashraf Gani fled the country in August 15 after the Taliban entered the capital. Later that day, the Taliban entered the presidential building.

It took the Taliban's lightning strike across Afghanistan less than a week for them to take out 300,000 Afghan government troops. Most of them surrendered or fled.

Monday was not yet known about the whereabouts of Saleh or the young Massoud.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, wanted to assure Panjshir residents that they would be safe, even though scores of families fled into the mountains before the Taliban arrived.

Mujahid stated at the press conference, "There is no need to continue fighting." "All Panjshir residents and all Panjshir citizens are our brothers, and they are part and parcel of our country."

On Sunday, the Taliban escalated their attack on Panjshir, tweeting that they had overthrown Rokha district (one of the largest in the province). Many Taliban delegations tried to negotiate with the rebels but failed.

According to the group's twitter account, Fahim Dashti was the spokesperson for the anti-Taliban organization and a well-known media personality during previous governments. He was killed in battle on Sunday. Abdullah Abdullah was his nephew and was a Kabul official who participated in negotiations with Taliban about the future of Afghanistan.

Mujahid claimed that Dashti was not killed in combat with the Taliban and that he was killed in an internal dispute between two Panjshir commanders, without providing any evidence.

Mujahid also stated to reporters that the Taliban would announce a new government within days -- one that would include, he stated, but without going into detail. He said that members of the Afghan security forces and the army would be asked to return back to work once the government has been formed.

He said, "We need their expertise." Mujahid said that members of the Afghan security forces will then join with Taliban fighters in order to create a single army. Taliban men in uniform would replace Taliban fighters in civilian clothes, riding in pickup trucks through Kabul.

When Mujahid was asked what rights women would enjoy under the Taliban regime, Mujahid replied that all women would be "asked to resume their jobs."

Taliban claim that unspecified security reasons are behind the slow pace at which Afghan women return to work and why they have restricted women's access to their homes if they are not accompanied by a male guardian. Many who are still able to recall their rule are skeptical.

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