The Taliban has said “hundreds” of its fighters were heading to the Panjshir Valley, one of the few parts of Afghanistan not yet controlled by the group.
“Hundreds of Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are heading towards the state of Panjshir to control it, after local state officials refused to hand it over peacefully,” the group wrote on its Arabic Twitter account on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Massoud, whose forces control the last significant anti-Taliban holdout, said on Sunday, he hoped to hold talks peacefully with the group that seized power in Kabul a week ago but that his forces were ready to fight.
“We want to make the Taliban realise that the only way forward is through negotiation,” he told the Reuters news agency by telephone from Panjshir Valley, where he has gathered forces made up of remnants of regular army units and special forces as well as local militia fighters.
“We do not want a war to break out.”
Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, one of the main leaders of Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s, said his supporters were ready to fight if Taliban forces tried to invade the valley.
“They want to defend; they want to fight; they want to resist against any totalitarian regime.”
However, there was some uncertainty about whether the operation by Taliban forces had begun. A Taliban official told Reuters that an offensive had been launched on Panjshir. But an aide to Massoud said there were no signs that the column had entered the narrow pass into the valley, and there had been no reports of fighting.
A short video showed a column of captured trucks with the white Taliban flag but still bearing their government markings moving along a highway.
In the only confirmed fighting since the fall of Kabul on August 15, anti-Taliban forces took back three districts in the northern province of Baghlan, bordering Panjshir, last week.
However, Massoud said he had not organised the operation, which had been carried out by local militia groups reacting to “brutality” in the area.
Massoud called for an inclusive, broad-based government in Kabul representing all of Afghanistan’s different ethnic groups and said a “totalitarian regime” should not be recognised by the international community.
Meanwhile, Khalil Ur-Rahman Haqqani, a leading Taliban figure currently in charge of security for Kabul, has echoed the group’s claims that “all Afghans” should feel safe under their Islamic Emirate a “general amnesty” has been granted across the nation’s 34 provinces.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Haqqani, whose associates are also taking a leading role in establishing security in the capital, said the Taliban is working to restore order and safety to a nation that has seen more than four decades of war.
“If we can defeat superpowers, surely we can provide safety to the Afghan people,” Haqqani, who is also a veteran of the Afghan-Soviet war, said.
But many Afghans are sceptical that Haqqani – a leader of the Haqqani Network, known to be the most brutal and violent group associated with the Taliban and a man labelled a “terrorist” by the United States and the United Nations – will bring peace and security to Afghanistan.
Victoria Fontan, professor of peace studies at the American University of Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera she had heard from staff and students in Kabul who are worried about searches by the Taliban in their neighbourhoods.
“There have not been any direct threats, but there have been house searches being carried out to figure out who is working for whom and who had links with coalition forces,” she said, speaking from Paris.
“And then people are placed on a list, and they are afraid that when the eyes of the international community are elsewhere, there is going to be the beginning of a massive wave of repercussions against those people.”