Panjshir Lions Seek Collaboration with Israel: Significance for India

By Levina

The Lions of Panjshir in Afghanistan may explore potential collaboration with Israel. This development has garnered attention in both Afghan and Israeli media in recent days. Ahmed Massoud, the son of the renowned Ahmad Shah Massoud, has expressed interest in partnering with Israel.

National Resistance Front and Israel

“We need help from any party that wants to support us, including Israel,” Ahmed Massoud, head of Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front, said.

In an exclusive interview with Maariv (Israeli media house) on Tuesday, the head of Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front, the leading force opposing the Taliban within the nation, expressed readiness to cooperate with Israel in a regional peace initiative.

“We need help from any party that wants to support us, including Israel. I think we should all act together for the advancement of humanity in the face of darkness, terrorism and ignorance,”– Ahmed Massoud said.

Latest pics of Ahmad Massoud in France

He added “Conflicts like those in Palestine and Israel and in other places like Africa, Yemen and Afghanistan itself – will harm us all. There is a need for solutions and dialogue. Peace is the goal and it needs to begin from us”. Massoud has made it clear that he has no aspirations to become the president. Instead, he envisions the establishment of a democratic government, which will subsequently determine its official international relationships and involvement in regional development initiatives alongside Israel.

Ahmed Massoud’s statement comes following his visit to France, where he promoted his book titled ‘Our Freedom’ and sought support for the Panjshir resistance against the Taliban. During this visit, he emphasized the need for assistance from any party willing to support their cause, including Israel. This interview with the leader of the Resistance Front was published on October 3 in the Hebrew language on Marif newspaper’s website. The prospect of such collaboration holds significance for India.

On September 5, 2019, Ahmed Massoud was officially declared as his father’s heir at the mausoleum in the Panjshir Valley. He also earned himself the title–“The Young Lion of Panjshir.” Following the Taliban’s takeover of the Panjshir Valley on September 6, 2021, Massoud, along with former Vice President of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh, sought refuge in Tajikistan, where he presently resides.

It’s speculated that Israeli commandos have operated in Afghanistan in the past when Hamid Karzai asked America and Israel for additional protection in early 2000’s.

India’s 2nd Front

The revelation of India’s second front was initially made public in 2011 by Chuck Hagel, who served as the 24th US Secretary of Defense. During a speech at Cameron University in Oklahoma in 2011, Hagel stated, India employs Afghanistan as an additional strategic front, and over the years, India has countered Pakistan along that border where the latter is more vulnerable.

India had been discreetly providing military support to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the father of Ahmed Massoud, during the previous Taliban regime in Kabul from 1996 to 2001. It is believed that Senior Massoud and Indian authorities first met in Turkey. Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tajik origin Afghan, was called the Lion of Panjshir by his people. Northern Afghanistan due to it’s geography and the resistance put up by Ahmad Shah Massoud’s fighters was successful in thwarting Taliban’s attacks for a long time. This earned Senior Massoud his epithet.

Shown here in 1997, the “Lion of the Panjshir,” Ahmad Shah Massoud (left), fought against the Soviets in the 1980s, was a central figure in the Afghan civil war of the ’90s and led the istance against the Taliban until his death on Sept. 9, 2001, the victim of al-Qaida suicide bombers. Pic credit: Dawn

Strategically situated on the border between Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan, the Farkhor base had a pivotal role in delivering military supplies to support the Afghan Northern Alliance during the late 1990s as they battled the Taliban. New Delhi provided significant aid to the Northern Alliance, with the logistics involving the transportation of supplies through Dushanbe before they reached Farkhor. Furthermore, India generously presented two Mi-8 helicopters to the Northern Alliance during the previous Taliban administration’s rule. Support for Ahmad Shah continued till he was assassinated by Al-Qaeda suicide bombers in 2001.

In May 2021, India attempted to fill the security gap left by the America’s departure from Afghanistan. Prior to the fall of Kabul on 15 August, India secretly took all necessary measures to support President Ghani’s administration in Afghanistan in order to thwart the Taliban’s assault. India’s primary facilitator in the endgame had been the Afghan government,and India was upset when Ghani left Kabul and did not put up any resistance, handing it up to the Taliban.

In post-US Afghanistan, Panjshir Valley remained the last stronghold of the Taliban resistance for months. The remaining members of the deposed Afghan government, including former vice president Amrullah Saleh and Afghan soldiers, gathered in Panjshir under the direction of Ahmed Massoud, in order to resist the Taliban.

Taliban took over Bazarak in Panjshir in September 2021 and the National Resistance Front power was whittled down. India soon opened back door discussions with Taliban to keep its “assets” and investments in Afghanistan secure.

India-Afghanistan-Israel, the Long term Benefits

India and Israel have assisted each other through thick and thin. Afghanistan plays a significant role in both India and Israel’s strategic policies. In India’s case Northern Afghanistan plays a part in choking Pakistan, while in Israel’s case Afghanistan’s south-western border that it shares with Iran may turn useful. Taliban already shares very bitter relations with Iran over a Dam. Israel and India will have to negotiate peace between Taliban and Ahmad Massoud, which is not an easy feat.

A tweet from May 2023 when taliban teased Iran with water barrels during a parade. A water dispute between Iran and Afghanistan has escalated as Taliban officials relaunch construction of the Bakhsh Abad dam.

Ahmad Massoud’s latest call for new partnerships brings a ray of hope for the people in Panjshir, if not Afghanistan. Ahmed Massoud says”Peace is the goal and it needs to begin from us”. Will India and Israel be able to help? The problem is– India & Israel are not the only players in Afghanistan, America & Pakistan and their bonhomie complicates the equations.

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