Recently, several anti-Taliban leaders and fighters have gathered in the Panjshir Valley after the country fell to the Taliban as speculations arise of a new resistance movement.
This new resistance group — brewing northeast of Kabul against the Taliban regime — believed to be under the leadership of Afghanistan vice-president Amrullah Saleh, and Ahmad Massoud, son of late military leader Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Ahmad was just 12 when Massoud was killed by Al-Qaeda. His first public appearance was at that tender age a tiny figure walking with his head down in grief beside his legendary father's coffin.
Fifteen years later, Ahmad, the lone son of the charismatic, French-speaking Mujahideen commander who held the Soviets at bay and was Afghanistan's last bulwark against the Taliban — is ready to step into the spotlight again.
Son of veteran Tajik commander
Massoud was known as 'The Lion of Panjshir'. A veteran Tajik commander, Massoud was a grand, unifying figure in the country, instrumental in the formation of the Northern Alliance that was armed by countries including India, Iran and Russia, and which drove out the Taliban.
Under his command, the Panjshir Valley kept the Taliban at an arm's length. Later, in the 1990s, Massoud became the all-powerful defence minister in Burhanuddin Rabbani's Cabinet.
He is a national hero, though memories of him in Kabul are tainted by destruction in the capital during the civil war of the 1990s.
On 9 September, 2001, two days before the terrorist attacks in America, Massoud was fatally injured in a suicide bombing by Al-Qaeda at his residence by two men posing as journalists, with an explosive reportedly concealed in a video camera.
So who is Ahmad?
Nearly 20 years after his father's assassination, Ahmad hoped to continue the mission against the insurgents by jumping into Afghanistan's political fray.
Coming face to face with his father's body was a profound shock for a child who, despite war's devastation, had never seen a corpse before. "Everything changed," Ahmad told AFP. "From that moment I realised I had to change everything I learned so far, and at the age of 12 I had to be another person."
Objecting to the direction of the Afghan peace process in 2019 — which Ahmad believed did not represent the interests of all Afghans — in September 2019, he announced the creation of a new coalition of Mujahideen leaders modeled on the Northern Alliance that resisted the Taliban in the 1990s.
The coalition, known as the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan or the Second Resistance/Panjshir resistance, became one of several independent military forces built up ahead of the United States military withdrawal.
The group is based on the National Front, known commonly as the Northern Alliance, an Opposition group formed in 1992 to fight the Communist government and which tried to negotiate and ultimately fought the Taliban from 1994 to 2001.
The son of the most famous Mujahideen leader has only two goals: to drive out the Taliban insurgency and to restore power to the people.
He spent most of this youth abroad, studying. He went to high school in Iran and then graduated from the Sandhurst Military Academy in England. In 2012, he commenced an undergraduate degree in War Studies at King's College, London where he obtained his Bachelor's Degree in 2015. He then obtained his Master's Degree in International Politics from the University of London in 2016.
He has served as Afghan Ambassador to the UK, Special Representative of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Europe, and the representative of the Jamiat-e Islami Party in London. He is the founder of a political party called Nahzat-e-Melli-ye Afghanistan (National Movement Party of Afghanistan) and the founder of the Mandegar Daily newspaper and the history magazine Yad–e-Yar (The Memory of Friends). Massoud published the National Agenda, his first book, in 2012.
He was appointed as the Massoud Foundation's CEO in November 2016.
Following his father's footsteps
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Wednesday, Ahmad stated that he was following in his father's footsteps to take on the insurgent outfit with other fighters.
Along with Saleh, Ahmad is holed up in the Panjshir province which is yet to fall into the hands of the Taliban.
He mentioned that the National Resistance Front not only has a lot of ammunition but also a considerable number of soldiers who disapproved of the surrender by their commanders.
Ahmad said the Taliban poses a threat beyond Afghanistan's borders. "Under Taliban control, Afghanistan will without a doubt become ground zero of radical Islamist terrorism; plots against democracies will be hatched here once again."
Ahmad said his fighters are ready for the coming conflict, but need American assistance.
Ahead of the Taliban takeover, Ahmad Massoud had told Atlantic Council that he was willing to negotiate. "I am willing and ready to forgive the blood of my father for the sake of peace in Afghanistan and security and stability in Afghanistan,” Massoud said, insisting that Afghans were not willing to give in to the "will of terrorism”.
Ahmad had earlier told CBC News that his new alliance wants to foster a country with a moderate Islamic system that supports social justice and to be able to solve the country's problems with unity.
Recently, after most of the country surrendered to the Taliban , Ahmad and Saleh met in Panjshir and declared their rejection of Taliban rule.
However, with Panjshir being the only province that has stayed out of the Taliban’s control so far, it remains to be seen, whether Ahmad's earlier readiness to "create an inclusive government with the Taliban" via political negotiation is a possibility or not.
Previously, Ahmad had predicted that a precipitous American troop pullout could lead to a collapse of Afghanistan's security forces, where corruption and poor leadership remain prevalent. "Unfortunately the government is not capable to continue fighting against the Taliban," Massoud had told The Straits Times.
With inputs from AFP