The Rise of the National Resistance Front

War for Afghanistan coming as resistance to the Taliban organizes in Panjshir

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Ahmad Massoud, son of the late anti-Soviet military leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, has stepped up as the presumptive commander of the National Resistance Front in Afghanistan. In an impassioned Op-Ed in the Washington Post, Massoud implored the United States and other western nations to support him and his fellow resistance fighters as they prepare for an all-out war against the Taliban. 

Massoud implored the United States and western allies to provide arms, munitions, and monetary aid in the coming Afghan war against the Taliban. Massoud reminded the west of his father, a legendary Northern Alliance fighter, Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Massoud stood firmly behind a declaration that his father was fighting for the west. 

“Up until the moment he was assassinated on Sept. 9, 2001, at the behest of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, he was fighting for the fate of Afghanistan but also for the West.” 

Ahmad Massoud on his father (AHMAD SHAH MASSOUD)

Massoud, the younger, wrote his Op-Ed from the Panjshir Valley, one of the last areas in Afghanistan that are not under Taliban control. The Panjshir Valley is naturally fortified and an ideal stronghold from which to launch an insurgency. The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan has, according to Massoud, been stockpiling arms and munitions for the past 20 years, expecting that one day a time would come to once again take up arms against the Taliban. 

It’s important to note, that Afghanistan has not always been ground-zero for Islamic fundamentalists, and invading nations endlessly vying for power. On the contrary, following World War 2 and extending into the 1970s, Afghanistan was a Middle East model for democratic potential and a march to modernization. Afghanistan was the recipient of significant aid from both the United States and the Soviet Union, which boosted the standard of living while providing invaluable opportunities nationwide. 


Frida Kahlo et al. posing for a photo
This image of women in Kabul was reportedly used to help convince Trump to continue U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Within that context, the Soviet invasion and eventual rise of the Taliban created a truly hostile environment where extraordinarily divergent social structures were allowed to take root. Resistance leaders like Ahmad Shah Massoud and whole swaths of the Afghan population experienced some degree of democracy during this period, bi-products of which included pro-west sympathies and autonomous authority.

And now, after 20 years of American occupation, another generation of Afghans has grown up with democratic inroads and further access to the benefits of social modernization. 


Ahmad Massoud et al. sitting around a table
29 Dec 2020. Ahmad Massoud (right) in an Afghan cafe. Photo courtesy of @ahmadmassoud01 on Twitter.

However, an equally large segment of the Afghan population has grown to harbor disdain for the West, the United States, and modernization in general as an affront to the very survival of Afghanistan as a nation. These Afghans, Taliban fighters and others, watched their families destroyed, and their brothers, fathers, and husbands cut to pieces by first the Soviet invasion and then the U.S invasion. The Taliban’s newfound power and 20 years of resistance will harden their resolve to remake Afghanistan into the Islamic Emirates nation they aspire to, wholly governed by Sharia law. 

To the outside world, the jaw-dropping speed with which the Taliban overwhelmed the democratic state of Afghanistan may imply that no real resistance is taking shape. On the contrary, Massoud claims that a coordinated resistance effort, in collaboration with First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, has been in the works for months. While the exact size of the fighting force Massoud has gathered remains unknown, recent statements by CBS News imply that the size of the resistance force is substantial. 

“Massoud and his followers have been preparing for a possible all-out civil war for months, even as they hoped the situation wouldn’t get that bad.”

– CBS NEWS

Massoud and the National Resistance Front are imploring the West, through Massoud’s Op-Ed and other diplomatic channels, to provide munitions, light and heavy arms, financing, and aid to their war effort. While Massoud’s fighting force has yet to launch an offensive, preparations are certainly underway. 


Ahmad Shah Massoud standing in front of a building
Poster of Ahmad Shah Massoud hanging over a door in Afghanistan.

From a U.S policy standpoint, the speed with which the Afghan army folded is an absolute nightmare. Not only in terms of optics but also in regard to lost strategic advantage. Russia is poised to excerpt greater control in the region, already making inroads with Taliban leaders. While the U.S. has shut down and abandoned the U.S. embassy, Russia is taking a different tact. According to Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan,

“The evacuation of the embassy is not being readied. I am in contact with our ambassador, they are working calmly and closely watching events as they unfold.”

Zamir Kabulov

Will the U.S. hear Massoud’s call for arms and funding? If history repeats itself, the answer will be yes. Whether through official channels or otherwise, the U.S. will perceive a Northern Alliance-backed resistance far more agreeable than a peaceful transfer of power back to the Taliban, where modern social media tools will undoubtedly allow for the mass dissemination of the Taliban’s Sharia law in action.

Much speculation remains, as a fog of mystery continues to swirl around the unfolding situation in Afghanistan. But with every hour that passes, more becomes clear. For example, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh’s decision to remain in the country and join forces with Massoud implies that the resistance is far more organized than may be expected. Especially when considering that the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country immediately after the Taliban offensive was launched. 

What remains to be seen: Will western nations extend an olive branch to the Taliban? Will the U.S. secretly provide arms and aid to Massoud’s resistance fighters? How will Russia respond to an Afghan civil war? In Syria, Moscow backed President Assad’s regime, will they similarly back the Taliban, as the de facto heads of state? Could an Afghan civil war destabilize the region? 

Much will become clear in the coming days and weeks as the dust settles and the smoke clears. But one thing is certainly true, proved repeatedly after decades of Mideast war. Only the Afghan people have the power to ultimately decide the fate of the Afghan nation. Foreign countries have tried to bend the Graveyard of Empires to their will–all failing spectacularly. Will that iron Afghan spirit, capable of bringing superpowers to their knees, rise up once more and plunge the region into another drawn-out civil war?

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