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Afghan vice-president and the son of the ‘Lion of Panjshir’: leaders of the resistance against the Taliban


The fall of Kabul to the Taliban meant that the world recognised the victory of the insurgents in Afghanistan. Many world leaders were quick to recognise the Taliban as the organisation in control of the Asian country. However, two well-known figures are trying to emulate that achievement by trying to turn that resistance into the beginning of the reconquest of the rest of the country from a small redoubt 100 kilometres from the Afghan capital, where a group of people refuse to recognise the victory and claim to be resisting the fundamentalists.

The Lion of Panjshir

The Panjshir region is currently the only remaining stronghold against the Taliban, as it was during the previous Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001. During those years, Northern Alliance guerrilla leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, known as the ‘Lion of Panjshir’, prevented the Taliban from conquering the territory thanks to an intense military strategy and the natural stronghold of the Panjshir Valley.

With the same name as his father, Ahmad Massoud is the son of a historic leader of the Northern Alliance. Born in 1989 in the Tahar region, he has been gathering a resistance front in the Panjshir valley for days and “calls on all free Afghans who reject serfdom” to join him.

Very active diplomatically, he has met with leaders such as Emmanuel Macron, and calls in his interviews for an end to “extremism and fundamentalism”, where he tries to spread his father’s legacy.

In an article published in the French magazine La Règle du jeu, Massoud said he wanted to take up “his father’s fight” against “the tyranny imposed in Afghanistan”. “My comrades-in-arms and I will give our blood, along with all free Afghans who reject servitude, whom I call upon to join me in our stronghold of Panjshir, the last free region in our dying country,” he said.

The son of the iconic leader added that to carry out this resistance they need international help: “I am addressing all of you, in France, in Europe, in America, in the Arab world and elsewhere (…) Will you come, dear friends of freedom, to help us once again as in the past? We trust you, even though the betrayal of some has been very great”.

Who is the Afghan vice-president?

Born in 1972 in Panjshir, Amrullah Saleh is a former member of the Northern Alliance and was head of the National Directorate of Security (the Afghan intelligence services) between 2004 and 2010. While in this position, he created a network of spies and infiltrators among the Taliban.

He ended his career in Afghan intelligence when in 2010 he was dismissed after an attack during a peace conference in Kabul, which kept him out of politics for almost eight years. In 2018 he was appointed interior minister but was quickly promoted to the vice-presidency by former president Ashraf Ghani.

After many political leaders left the country in the wake of the Taliban offensive, including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Vice President Saleh said in a message that he would confront the insurgents to the end.

“I will never, ever and under any circumstances bow down to the Taliban terrorists. I will never betray the soul and legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander, the legend and the guide. I will never be under the same roof with the Taliban. Never,” he remarked.

Saleh explained in English on his Twitter account that “according to the Afghan constitution, in case of absence, absconding, resignation or death of the president, the first vice president becomes the interim president. I am currently in my country and am the legitimate interim president. I ask all leaders for their support and consensus”.


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