Why is it difficult for the Taliban to break the siege in the Panjshir valley?

Several thousand anti-Taliban fighters are reported to be holding out against the Taliban in a remote valley with a narrow entrance. The Taliban fighters seem to have shown more inferiority, as they were repeatedly destroyed by in large numbers and forced to retreat several times.

Acting Afghan President Saleh publicly announced that the Taliban were besieged in the Andalab valley and the highway at the strategic Salang pass was also captured by resistance groups. Even the first attack of the Taliban against the “Resistance 2.0” was a failure.

From the perspective of the Taliban’s equipment, it can still be considered a “mechanized militia” with light weapons as the main firepower and pickup trucks as the main mobile force; means that the Taliban really don’t have a lot of heavy weapons, so it’s quite normal to have difficulty fighting.

In fact, the problem caused by the Taliban’s lack of heavy weapons was reflected in previous battles: On August 12, an ANDSF unit withdrew from Kunduz, drove a Hummve and pickup truck and drove successfully passed through the Talukan area controlled by the Taliban , but was not intercepted and pursued.

An ANDSF post in Kunduz province had been besieged by the Taliban for two months. The firepower of the soldiers here is only light infantry weapons, Hummers and M117 4-wheel armored vehicles. This outpost was not captured, but due to lack of supplies, the soldiers broke the siege on their own.

It can be seen that the Taliban lacks heavy weapons and the air attcak, this weakness was previously overlooked, due to the weak resistance of the Afghan government army; and maybe in the decisive battle of Panjshir is the biggest weakness for the Taliban.

 Panjshir valley
Panjshir valley

The Taliban’s weapons and military equipment mainly consists of three sources: old weapons from the pro-Soviet regime, aid weapons from Pakistan, and the collection of current Afghan government forces. The weapons left behind by the pro-Soviet regime include those held by the Taliban when they took control of Afghanistan in 1996. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, the Taliban had more than 400 T-54/55 and T- tanks. 62, along with more than 200 armored personnel carriers.

However, these weapons were destroyed by the US after sending troops into Afghanistan in 2001, the armored forces held by the Taliban were “erased”. All heavy weapons were destroyed by air raids, or abandoned by the roadside.

Therefore, the original arsenal of the Taliban does not have tanks, armor, nor large-caliber artillery like the D-30. There are probably only certain types of mortars that are easy to assemble and move, which have been retained by the Taliban.

Due to the inability to finance and transport from Pakistan to the Taliban; and lack of hiding places, the Taliban’s heavy weapons are easily detected and destroyed by the US air force. Therefore, aid weapons are mainly light weapons; most rockets.

Because the Afghan government troops lack tanks and armored vehicles, the Taliban also do not have anti-tank missiles. The main anti-tank firepower of the Taliban is still RPG and DKZ. Therefore, the only source of heavy weapons the Taliban currently has is from the arsenal of the Afghan Army.

When the US helped build the Afghan Army, because Afghanistan’s terrain was 95% mountainous. Besides, Afghanistan does not face the threat of neighboring countries; so the US helped build the military model in the direction of light infantry. The light infantry program really saves money. All ANDSF armed forces are mobile in light motor vehicles, and they can get to the site of conflict instantly wherever they need to; There is also an airlift helicopter.

Heavy firepower for ANDSF combat was guaranteed by NATO and the US. Therefore, the Afghan army is mainly light infantry, without tanks and artillery. According to public information, the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade / 111th Capital Division of ANDSF, is the only armored unit in Afghanistan; equipped with infantry fighting vehicles BMP-1, BMP-2 and M113.

However, the armored vehicles were too old to fight. This is also the reason why the Afghan government did not allow ANDSF to deploy armored forces in the conflict. Therefore, after the US withdrawal, the lack of fire support from ANDSF was clearly exposed, which objectively promoted the Taliban occupation of Kabul.

When the Taliban obtained ANDSF weapons and began preparing to attack resistance forces like Panjshir, it was easy for Taliban to capture nonprotected area. After all, there was basically no difference between the soldiers on the Humvee and the soldiers on the pickup truck on the opposite side of the Taliban. In battles in mountainous terrain, when both sides are light infantry, the defenders have the absolute advantage; This is a difficult problem faced by the Taliban.

In addition to the lack of heavily armored units, the Taliban in Afghanistan also lacks of artillery. This is because ANDSF itself is not equipped with many artillery pieces, in addition to 13 short-range mortars, the Taliban also seized 17 122 mm D-30 trailer cannons; but the Taliban can hardly use.

As for the air force, now a quarter of the aircraft have flown to Uzbekistan, and most of the remaining aircraft are difficult to take off due to lack of maintenance. Even many Afghan technical staff deliberately dismantled aircraft parts before fleeing.

In fact, even if not destroyed, it is difficult for the Taliban to use these planes, because they do not have pilots, spare parts, as well as the technical ability to maintain, as well as weapons that they cannot use. One reason the Taliban were able to take over land so quickly is that the Afghan air force is almost out of weapons. So the Taliban, even if they capture some planes, are just souvenirs like trophies, but not useful.

On August 23, the resistance forces announced that they had successfully ambushed the Taliban in the valley. Although this issue only tripped the Taliban on tactics; If there is a lack of firepower to open the door, maybe they will reenact the scene of the “car bomb” suicide to win.

However, the force of “Resistance 2.0” is by no means an easy army to defeat. Due to the special terrain of Panjshir, with excellent light weapons, night vision goggles, communication machines and armor… can greatly enhance the fighting ability of individuals.

Now, the Taliban have announced the completion of the siege of Panjshir, and a decisive battle to determine the future and destiny of Afghanistan is about to begin. It is possible that the Taliban will use suicide attacks with car bombs to overcome the weakness of the lack of combat firepower.

For the Panjshir resistance organization, can this organization accurately identify the characteristics of the Taliban’s equipment and whether the Taliban has the ability to attack? will be the issue that determines whether they can gain the initiative at the negotiating table or on the battlefield in the future.

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