The Taliban said they had captured the last pocket of resistance in Afghanistan, the Panjshir Valley, as the top US diplomat flies to Qatar to try to handle the aftermath of the chaotic US withdrawal.

Following their takeover last month - and celebrations when the last US troops flew out after 20 years of presence - the Taliban turned to crush the forces defending the mountainous Panjshir Valley.

"With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war," chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

The anti-Taliban resistance force have vowed to carry on fighting.

The National Resistance Front said it was present in "strategic positions" across the valley, adding "the struggle against the Taliban and their partners will continue".

In a press conference today, Mr Mujahid said any insurgency against their rule would be "hit hard".

"The Islamic Emirate is very sensitive about insurgencies. Anyone who tries to start an insurgency will be hit hard. We will not allow another," he said.

The Taliban has called on former members of the Afghan forces to integrate with the new hardline rulers.

"The Afghan forces who were trained in the past 20 years will be asked to rejoin the security departments alongside Taliban members," Mr Mujahid said.

Three weeks after seizing power but with no government so far announced, the spokesman said an "interim" system would first be announced to allow for changes.

"Final decisions have been taken, we are now working on the technical issues," he said.

"We will announce the new government as soon as the technical issues are resolved."


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Panjshir Valley: The last holdout against the Taliban


Yesterday, the National Resistance Front (NRF), which is made up of anti-Taliban militia and former Afghan security forces, acknowledged suffering major battlefield losses in Panjshir and called for a ceasefire.

The NRF includes local fighters loyal to Ahmad Massoud, the son of the famous anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, as well as remnants of the Afghan military that retreated to the Panjshir Valley.

The group said in a tweet yesterday that spokesman Fahim Dashty, a well-known Afghan journalist, and General Abdul Wudod Zara had been killed in the latest fighting.

The NRF had vowed to fight the Taliban but also said it was willing to negotiate with the Islamists. However, initial contact did not lead to a breakthrough.

The Panjshir Valley is famed for being the site of resistance to Soviet forces in the 1980s and the Taliban in the late 1990s.

Afghanistan's new rulers have pledged to be more "inclusive" than during their first stint in power, which also came after years of conflict - first the Soviet invasion of 1979, and then a bloody civil war.

They have promised a government that represents Afghanistan's complex ethnic makeup, although women are unlikely to be included at the top levels.

Women's freedoms in Afghanistan were sharply curtailed under the Taliban's 1996-2001 rule.

This time, women will be allowed to attend university as long as classes are segregated by sex or at least divided by a curtain, the Taliban's education authority said in a lengthy document issued yesterday.

But female students must also wear an abaya (robe) and niqab (face-veil), as opposed to the even more conservative burqa mandatory under the previous Taliban regime.

Women have been protesting in Afghanistan

As the Taliban come to grips with their transition from insurgency to government they are facing a host of challenges, including humanitarian needs for which international assistance is critical.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has arrived in Kabul for several days of meetings with the Taliban leadership, which has promised to help.

"The authorities pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers - both men and women - will be guaranteed freedom of movement," a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

A Taliban spokesman tweeted that the group's delegation assured the UN of cooperation.

The international community is coming to terms with the new Taliban regime with a flurry of diplomacy.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Doha, ahead of crisis talks with the Qataris.

"We are thankful for Qatar's close collaboration on Afghanistan and its indispensable support in facilitating the transit of US citizens, Embassy Kabul personnel, at-risk Afghans, and other evacuees from Afghanistan through Qatar," the State Department said ahead of Mr Blinken's arrival.

Shortly before landing, an official disclosed that four Americans had left Afghanistan with Taliban knowledge, in the first departures arranged by Washington since its military pullout.

The four US citizens left by land and were greeted by US diplomats, said the senior official, without specifying to which country they crossed, adding that "the Taliban did not impede them".

Qatar, which hosts a major US military base, has been the gateway for 55,000 people airlifted out of Afghanistan, nearly half the total evacuated by US-led forces after the Taliban takeover on 15 August.

Before his arrival in Qatar, Mr Blinken said he would "express our deep gratitude for all that they're doing to support the evacuation effort" and meet rescued Afghans.

He will also meet US diplomats, who have relocated functions from the shuttered embassy in Kabul to Doha.

The State Department said Mr Blinken would discuss with Qatar its efforts, alongside Turkey, to reopen Kabul's ramshackle airport - essential to fly in badly needed humanitarian aid and to evacuate remaining Afghans.