Panjshir, Afghanistan's valley of resistance, remains a challenge for Taliban
The stage is set for a decisive battle in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley, which has never been under the Taliban's control. The Taliban has sent hundreds of its fighters to the region, which is at the centre of the resistance against the insurgent group.
The region is located 150 kilometres northeast of the capital Kabul, and hosts some senior members of the ousted government, like the deposed Vice President Amrullah Saleh, ex-Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi and National Resistance Front's Ahmad Massoud.
Saleh has vowed to not bow before the Taliban, and has declared himself as the caretaker president since Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan. "Talibs have massed forces near the entrance of Panjshir a day after they got trapped in ambush zones of neighboring Andarab valley & hardly went out in one piece. Meanwhile Salang highway is closed by the forces of the Resistance. "There are terrains to be avoided". See you," he tweeted on Monday.
The history of Panjshir Valley
"Panjshir" means five lions. The name acknowledges a legend that says back in the 10th century, five brothers managed to contain the floodwaters. They built a dam for Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, it is said.
Most of the valley's up to 150,000 inhabitants belong to the Tajik ethnic group, while the majority of the Taliban are Pashtuns.
Saleh was born in Panjshir province and was trained there.
Panjshir Valley has never been captured
The resistance decided to make Panjshir Valley its base of operations because of the illustrious history - it was never captured by the Taliban during their earlier rule in the 1990s, nor by the Soviets a decade earlier.
The reason for that is the geographical advantage that Panjshir Valley has. Being tucked into the Hindu Kush mountain range, the valley can be accessed only through the narrow passage created by the Panjshir River, which makes it easier for the forces to defend it.
The valley is also known for its emeralds, which were used in the past to finance the resistance movements against those in power.
What happened after the withdrawal of the Soviets in 1989
A civil war broke out in Afghanistan when the Soviets left, which the Taliban won. But Ahmad Shah Massoud, the country's most famed anti-Taliban fighter, launched a resistance against the Sunni Pashtun group and eventually succeeded in defending the Panjshir Valley.
In fact, almost all of northeastern Afghanistan, up to the border with China and Tajikistan, was successfully defended by Massoud.
He was assassinated by suspected al Qaeda terrorists in 2001.
Son takes the baton
Ahmad Massoud, the son of Ahmad Shah, is now leading the resistance against the Taliban. He is joined by Saleh and other fighters from the region. Saleh has said that he will never betray the soul and legacy Ahmad Shah Massoud, who he called his "hero, the commander, the legend and the guide".