aug 23, 2021

The Afghan Who Won’t Surrender to the Taliban

Ahmad Massoud is in a remote base in Afghanistan’s Panjshir province. He is the son and successor to the legendary commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, a resistance leader against both the Soviets and the Taliban until the latter assassinated him on Sept. 9, 2001.

As Kabul fell to the Taliban again, the young Mr. Massoud issued a resounding call for resistance. “We Afghans find ourselves in the situation of Europe in 1940,” he said on Aug. 16. “Except in Panjshir, the debacle is near total, and the spirit of collaboration with the Taliban is spreading among the vanquished, who lost this war by their own failings. Only we remain standing. And we will never yield.”

I visited Mr. Massoud in Panjshir last year and spoke with him by phone on Saturday. His voice was clear and resonant but choppy. I asked about rumors circulating in Europe and the U.S. that he was preparing to give up. “That’s propaganda,” he says. “Apparently, there are defeatists among you who mistake their wishes for realities. So, no. Make this known: There is no question of giving up the fight. Here in Panjshir, our resistance is just beginning.”

What about Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani’s claims that Mr. Massoud was “withdrawing?” “I repeat that this is disinformation. We will never accept an imposed peace, and we will resist until we achieve justice and freedom. . . . No surrender, of course. I would prefer to die than to give up. I am the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud. Surrender is not in my dictionary.”


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