December 11th, 2009
03:30 PM ET

The place no Soviet or Taliban could control

Neither the invading Soviets nor the Taliban were able to control the cold, remote Panjshir Valley area in northeast Afghanistan. All up and down the valley, rusty Soviet armor and tanks line the landscape, a testament to the will of the people here to resist outsiders. Which makes it all the more extraordinary that the people here are willing to accept U.S. troops. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, the first CIA teams arrived here and within days, the war against the Taliban would begin. Today, the U.S. military is working with the local Afghans to build schools and install basic electrical projects. Here, the U.S. troops have their own security force - local Mujahedeen fighters who fought the Taliban and Soviets have sworn to protect the Americans.

Watch the report from CNN's Barbara Starr in the Panjshir Valley

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Richard Rankin

    In Russia now as it has been since the Soviet Union under Brezhnev, the nation is jointly run by the government and organized crime. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the Russians to do anything.

    December 27, 2009 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. Alex R.

    I am still waiting for the Russians to come back to try and stem the flow of drug trafficking to their country. The DMZ idea is a good plan though.

    December 27, 2009 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. Richard Rankin

    There's a story that after Allah created the world he had a bunch of rocks left over so he made Afghanistan. This ain't no tourism center. Schools and hospitals are desperately needed in Iraq and Afghanistan and I support the work of relief agencies. Democracy will never succeed in a climate of ignorance.

    The military however has one mission:
    1. Go find bad guys
    2. Kill bad guys
    3. Come home

    That's it. They are not policemen. They stick around long enough to make sure every pocket of resistance has been wiped out and they are done. That is what a military force does. Hit fast and hit hard. Hang around and you're dead. Afghanistan is a bad place to linger.

    "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Better roll on your rifle and blow out your brains
    and go to your God like a soldier"
    – Rudyard Kipling

    December 21, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JC

    Thanks to Joe & Peter. "yes" we all need the positive thinking with attitude toward all events,
    No matter how negetive of others said or criticizing. We all need to have an open mind to re-exam our policies. Is it practced to sustain and fair to our enemies to reduce the confrontations?

    For this "SCENE" - one word " GORGEOUS".

    I hope to have tour trip to this place someday from now. So..
    – If you have the chance you should visit
    The place no Soviet or Taliban could control ; Soviet or Taliban both not the indigenousness of here. So should be evacuated.

    December 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Seth

    I think the thing to remember about this is the local Afghan population has a functional governor in place (Massoud) and security forces that are supportive of construction efforts there. One of the biggest issues in other regions of the country is that there's no security for construction to work. There are too many locals bent on destroying everything the foreign forces are building for them. The number of examples of civic projects being destroyed or twisted in their use after construction is disheartening, and will not stop until the Afghans take control of their own lives.

    The biggest benefit to this region being in focus is to show that cooperation yields far greater dividends than corrupt practices and violence. The last thing the foreign forces in the region want is to have is an Afghanistan that needs them. A stable, respectable and uncorrupt government is what they're working for, ultimately, and a population willing to engage with the global community reasonably.

    Don't look at this as propoganda (though it certainly is to some degree), but as an example of how things need to be across all of Afghanistan. The Afghan people need to see themselves as empowered to defeat the lawless enemies of Afghan stability before they can root out corruption and governmental failure. I think it's been institutionalized into the national psyche that the average Afghan cannot take control of their own lives, and must succumb to anyone with the will to use force. They need a burst of non-religious nationalistic pride and energy, and that's not an easy thing to bring out.

    December 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Peter

    I think that a major point in the story needs to be reiterated over and over again in all stories about Afganistan ... that is: "working with the Afgan people to build schools and electrical projects" (they should add clean water projects ). This is how to help create peaceful friendly neigbors in out world.

    December 21, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    I worked with the Panjshir people not so long ago...the men are very liberal...some openly bi-sexual while everyone has a very open mind. Many of them are direct descendants of "Alexander the Great". He conquored the area thousands of years ago. You will find a few of the Panjshir people having blue eyes too...very unique for the area. The women tend to keep to themselves alot though.

    They are well known for their wine and tobacco...remember many a night sitting along the river with coworkers getting drunk and smoking fine Panjshir tobacco. Also, the Panjshir are one of the few in the area to have accepted the Roman Catholic faith (of course a minority). If you have the chance you should visit.

    December 20, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Common Sense

    To all of you armchair scholars:

    How amusing it is that all of you seem to consider yourselves experts in this area... yet cannot spell or use even basic grammar. While I can certainly give a pass to the posters whose native language is not English, I am horrified and amused at the Americans posting here.

    It is pretty ironic that so many of you speak of the illiteracy of the Afghan people – in posts riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes! You don't "loose" a war, you idiots, you "lose" a war.

    Master basic third-grade grammar and spelling, and then perhaps your comments will be taken with some level of respect and consideration.

    The Afghans don't have access to decent public education. What is your excuse?

    December 19, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JC - Vietnam era

    To Khan, (1) The usa has lost this war, were it? (2) most of afghanistan is under mujahideen control. Can you proof it. If you claim under "Koran" - should not speak lies.

    You haven't really feel what's the American Force yet! The current military in AF is just an excursion only.

    I believe the current technical in AF is wrong the reason is: When you want to hit a bug then use the "Fly Swatter" but USA use an over powerful - "Automatice High-powered JAKHAMMER in extra large size". It's not fit the current event.

    As the tex payer, I would support American military to change the strategy – – use right equipment for the right job. And get the job done then go home.

    Happy Holidays to our service men/women and our dear enemy too. Everything will be settled soon or later. Otherwise, Romans, Gengis Khan, Ottoman, Nazis, Russians all still stand in-front of us. Have you seen any of them lately?

    December 17, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. American Militant

    Khan, as much as I would like to argue with you, I must say you are partially correct. As far as winning the war, it depends where you are watching from. When it comes to the US and the mujh; body count-USA (its barbaric but we got you, Iraqi insurgents did much better in this arena in a year than the Talibs have done in 8). Eliminating the foreign AQ presence in AFG, destroying the bases and their ability to plan and attack this great nation from there-USA. Building a modern, democracy where Shia and Sunni find common ground, where Hazaras, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Panjsheris, Pastuns, etc. all live in peace and harmony and dance in the candy filled streets, settling their differences with intelligent discussion and handshakes rather than khalashnikovs-Mujihadeen.
    I agree with you, we should leave. 1,000 Afghans are not worth one drop of American blood. Not even a muslim, Afghani-American's blood. It is backward 3rd world country that the US can not change. We should go with Joe Biden's idea and slaughter as necessary with drones and special forces. Only if a threat emerges to our WONDERFUL nation. By the way, if you are there, I hope to see you in a few months.

    December 17, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. khan kamacha

    another moronic article, this part of Afghanistan is a very small part of the
    country. These people do not represent all of the afghan populace. The usa has
    lost this war, most of afghanistan is under mujahideen control, please go home.

    stop wasting your money, and telling the world how wonderful you are.

    you created this headache, you need advil.

    December 17, 2009 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. JC - Vietnam era

    In the last three thousand years has had "military success there?" WHY ? Because this place no military value. For the last 3,000 years China has so many dynasty come and go. They all recognized the places of Kush / Persia but paid no interest over these barbarian area. Only the stupid of Alexander the Great, great in what? trapped at the Kush? Spain come to America loking for "GOLD" to Mexico for "SILVER". What's KUSH had/has ? No any emperior or king will send military to here to fight with dirt - high altudes dirt. For what? how can he/she be an emperior, king or queen?

    Don't over state this place AF. A junk place to burn U.S. tax dollars – a loaned dollars from the world.

    December 16, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JC - Vietnam era

    Dear Richard, Thanks for your dispute to my viewpoint. I'm assuming you're right then what are the purpose to design a kind of tank to operate so high ground - how many "OUR DEAR ENEMIES" over there. Same as helicopers .. communications equipment.. high altitudes syndrome issues.

    So by fundamental say, this is not a ground for battle. So leave it along. Just use money to buy them. How a wasting place for American service men/women and my tax dollars.

    This is a cancer place on the global. Find out the reasons and who are the players of the backstage - Parkistan, Saudi Arabia & Iran. Call they know how to stop. Before the majority of U.S. Tax payers got mad. To fight with whole region – not just "the tiny underdeveloped AF" we can. If it's necessary.

    December 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Richard Rankin

    JC – "tiny undeveloped Afghanistan"? I you think grossly underestimate the military situation in Afghanistan. Whin, in the last three thousand years has had military success there? Only Alexander the Great and it took him 40 times as long as it did to conquer Persia. Nobody -British, Russians, U.S. – nobody, has had any success there. Practice using weapons? Exercise our soldiers? Have you read the analyst's reports of Operation Anaconda? It was a debacle. Or the Russian experience?

    We are fighting the enemy AND the geography. It's very difficult terrain and they hold the high ground. Most of our equipment wasn't designed to operate at high altitudes. Tanks can't raise their guns high enough, helicopters don't perform well, communications equipment failures, pulmonary and cerebral edema...

    Practice? Exercise? You have no idea what you're talking about

    December 16, 2009 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  15. JC - Vietnam era

    How then can the US expect to go in and change things in a decade or so?

    Yes, we can.

    Sample about Japan and Germany. We did it. So a tiny undeveloped Afghanistan - "Be positive. "

    Do we really have a fight over there - like Normandy or Iwashima types ? No .. absolute not .. mostly the Washington politician & media playing the lips... this is not a war.. it's for our military to practice the tests of new weapons.. exercise the soldiers. And also for Muslim extremist to practice their exercise too.

    December 15, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Dan

    Is it feasible to have Pakistan and Afghanistan declare this area a DMZ (like the area between the Koreas) and then just let us blast anything that moves with drones?

    December 15, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  17. William T. Taylor

    Extremists, terrorist and others have had life experiences that make them passionate on their views. Their passion is so strong that they are willing to sacrifice their lives and their families lives......they are not going to quit. This passionate view will have to die off.....maybe in the next generation. At the same time we must help expose them to experiences that will redirect their passion.....a gigantic task. In the mean time we must defend freedom and high regard for innocent life. Past history has proven that freedom has a price. The price is worth it and we must always remember those that paid that price.

    December 15, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Ethan

    People like Tony does not understand the situation in Afghanistan. He states that he has worked with Panjshirie's and that more of them should be brought in to the government because they are trusted. I wonder how much do you know about Afghanistan. Panjshiries make up less then 1 percent of the population and you want them to be even more in control.

    December 14, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Richard Rankin

    Occupation? We were attacked. Somebody hit us hard. Somebody messed with us. That's not a smart thing to do. We are going to see to it that that doesn't happen again. We go in, we kick ass, we leave. End of story. We're not building some kind of idiotic empire. How they run their country is their problem, not ours. If they play nice, maybe we can help them out someday. We did that rebuilding thing in Europe and Asia because communism scared the bejeezus out of us.

    December 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Old Veteran

    Winning hearts and minds. This is a military tactic that never really works, unless there is a standing armed force to protect the infrastructure that is created. Sure it is great to help the Afghan people out. This tactic was employed in Southeast Asia. Now who really know if that would have worked. The American people lost the will to fight,
    No military has ever stayed the course since the Romans. They managed only through military occupation. First we have to get control of all of Afghanistan and then we will have to maintain an occupation force, of our own troops. We turn it over to the Afghan's it will go back to what it was if not worse.
    Here in the US we have to many factions, we do not have the ability to stay the course.We have week willed politicians. Answer this? Are you willing to support actions in Afghanistan for several generations? Point is, Afghanistan has been the way it is for hundreds of generations. How then can the US expect to go in and change things in a decade or so. Our armed forces will not loose the will to fight. What about our politicians and the American people?

    December 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Richard Rankin

    It took Alexander the Great 1 month to conquer Iran (Persia). It took him 3 years to subdue Afghanistan. Those mountains in the very north – that's the Kush. Old Persian for "killer". That's where the enemy is. In 1848 the British expeditionary force retreating to India lost everyone – except 1 severely wounded man. And then there's the Russians and Operation Anaconda. Read the analysts reports on these last two.

    The Taliban forbid Opium growing. Our friends there now have a 50,000 ton surplus and Afghani heroin kills more people in 1 year than have died in the last 10 years of war.

    Don't give me this happy garbage.

    December 13, 2009 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  22. B. Cooper

    Interesting reading. Leaves me wondering what would be happening in Afghanistan, had no other country been involved from the beginning.

    I agree with Bala. Very surprised there was no mention of Ahmad Shah Massoud in the CNN coverage.

    December 12, 2009 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  23. Tony

    I have worked with the Panjshirie's. They are the ones that the US can and must trust not the Pashuns and not Karzai. The US must bring in more of the Pannshiries in the Afghan government and military positions to get rid of the Talibans and AQ. Karzai is sympathetic to the Taliban and he has family members corrupting the government posts. Simply put Karzai is not the best choice for the Afghans and/or Americans. A great manority of the Nothern Afghans like presence of the Americans and they can be trusted to get rid of the Taliban and AQ. I hope that the American policy makers consider employing more of the Northern Alliance espcicially the Panjshiries in winning the War in Afghanistan.
    Tony

    December 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Charles

    Talk about selective data. The Panjshir is close to 100 percent Tajik. There are few, if any, Tajiks who consider themselves Taliban. The Taliban are almost all Pashtun. The Pashtun and the Tajiks not only really dislike each other, they speak diffeent languages. Pashtun speak Pashto. Tajiks speak Dari. If CNN is going to present the story of the Panjshir as a counterinsurgency model, get the basic cultural geography right.

    December 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Niranjan

    Did someone forget the role played by India PRIOR to the arrival of US troops? NA?

    It is not a surprise to see US troops welcome in that region. What would be a welcome news report is the welcoming of US troops in the South/South-East. THAT is the key.

    December 11, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Ali Khan

    We don't want's any external presence whether it is USA/Russia or Indians opportunists and will also not accept any extremists.
    USA use those extremists against russia.Now we are giving our children blood to wipe them out.Please respect the sovereignty of us Afghans.If you want's to fight then just fight with hunger, poverty, illiteracy, drugs mafia and common problems but get out of our country.

    December 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Craig

    I give enormous respect to the Tajiks of the Panjshir, but the problem in Afghanistan lies with the Pashtuns who are by far the majority ethnic group. They need a leader they can respect and trust in order to prevent even the smallest amount of support for the Taliban, and perhaps Hamid Karzai is not that man or perhaps he is. Regardless of that the government must be cleared of the influence of narcotics dealers, warlords, and ethnic rivalries. It's an enormous undertaking for the people of Afghanistan, but in order to build a solid Afghan national identity and secure relative peace, it is the people of Afghanistan who must step up and demand reform: Every country does indeed have the government it deserves, so it is up to the Afghan people to deserve a better one.

    December 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Jony Tumbles

    Proof is in the result. Good job.

    December 11, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Jason

    I do like to hear about stories like this. It's always nice to hear of the good side of this war when so many just focus on the bad. It truly is refreshing to hear about the fight against oppression succeeding here.

    As a US citizen, I hope this land will always remain with the local Afghans and I'm happy to hear they support us. I also hope we can help them in anyway to achieve or maintain their goals.

    December 11, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Ethan

    What this article does not mentino is that the Panjshir valley was never a hot bed to start with. It was the base of the Northern Alliance who were fighting the Talibans in their Civil war. NA became allies of the US when we invaded to take out Talibans. So there never was a need to fight the US.

    The Article also does not mention that those fighting the US forces are ethnic Pashtoons of which the majority were Talibans. Pajshir Valley is mostly Tajik, and most of the South and south East and portions of the west are majority Pashtoons. Knowing these facts, knowing that the Afghan War is actually a war against one ethnic group, that it is a civil war that we have taken part in now, is very miss leading.

    We should not be apart of a civil that is none of our business. The war in Afghanistan will never end as long as you have one ethnic group (pashtoons) who are the majority by the way, are left out of the process. This article fails point any relative facts.

    December 11, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Danny Tan

    At the end of the day the USA and allies should concentrate in building up allies like the Panjishir, strengthem them and develop them into a new stabilising force against the Taliban and al Qaeda and hopefully spread to the entire Afghan nation and prove to the world that good Muslims can triumph over bad Muslims.

    December 11, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Anthony

    Its good to hear refreshing news like this coming from over there. Im glad they can hold their own in such a horrid time.

    December 11, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Mostafa

    Massoud hat cease-fire agreements with the Soviets, the Russian generals say, he was busy preparing for a post-Soviet occupation scenario than fighting the Russians.
    Even the CIA and MI5 were aware of the fact, that Massoud had links with the KGB.

    So what are you people hope for?
    That Panjsher can heal Afghanistans wounds?

    In the mind of ordinary Afghans, the Panjsheri-Mafia, that brought Afghanistan into chaos after 1992, killed, raped and looted until the Talibans arrival in 1996, is a gang of criminals and murderers. Because people from the Nortern Alliance and specially the Panjsheri-Mafia hold big posts in the current regime, they lack support and confidence.

    People are not stupid. The dont accept the Taliban and they dont accept the NA thugs anymore. The only reason why the resistance is rallying behind the Taliban, who 95% of all Afghans dont consider a "national resistance movement" but foreign stooges, the only reason for that is that the Taliban are a well-organised movement.

    Afghanistan canĀ“t be ruled without the absolute majority of this country who make up more than 65% of the population: the Pashtuns.

    Invaders come and go, the come strong and leave half-dead.
    The Afghans/Pashtuns stay, the indigenous people of this land, stay, fight and die.

    December 11, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  34. M. Valenzuela

    I'ts good to hear something positive about this war and it's always nice to have freinds on the inside.It even looks like a beautiful place to live despite whats going on there, snowcapped mountains surrounding a valley not unlike some places in here in our beautiful US of A.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Crow

    This was never a war of choice for the US. We need to stick it out and discover creative solutions to give peace a chance in Afghanistan. More finesse, more reliance on proxy forces to promote more 'Panjshir's. At the same time we cannot allow our enemies safe havens by allowing them to simply duck over the border into Pakistan (we need to refer to all our lessons in Vietnam which saw the Viet Cong and NVA jumping over to Cambodia and Laos for safety). We need to go after the Taliban and AQ vigorously where ever they are. ... And thank you Gabriel for all your good work!.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Bala

    The documentary implies that the peace in this valley was achieved by americans. Not a word was mentioned about the lion of the valley – Ahmed Shah Massod. That is like talking about civil rights in america with out mentioning Martin Luther King.

    So lets get the facts staright. Ahmed shah masood was a charismatic and brave leader who fought russians initially and then fought the Taliban with the help of Russians, Indians and Iranians....ooooo the 3 countries Americans dont like much.

    At the time, Taliban was funded by American, Saudi and Pakistani money. It is an irony that US is now bragging about Panjshir valley.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Jacob

    Let's not forget, no one has ever won a war in Afghanistan since Chengez Khan (Gengis Khan, spelling differentiation). Afghans are a tribal/war nation. The country knows nothing besides war and social cancers of poverty, corruption, illiteracy and crime are all time high. US has another Vietnam in their hand. Pashtuns are the majority, and current corrupt president is also a Pashtun, namely Karzai.

    Interestingly, the US/EU contractors have benefitted more economically from the war than the poverty stircken Afghans. When there is no food on the table, Afghans will do what they know the best, violence. It is also noteworthy that such social cancers also give birth to extremism as Talibans are able to provide food and shelter when their own elected government fails at it. This is because this country's politicians are loving the American intervention and robbing the national assets.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  38. russian

    Can a piece of propaganda be more blatant than this one? It reminds of shows about U.S. war in Vietnam – watching those, and one might think that the U.S. won the Vietnam war. The trick, of course, is to take a one discreet victory and show it in all the glory. The reality is that by now the U.S. has been in Afghanistan almost as long as it has been in Vietnam.

    And, no, the Soviets were not "invading" – a common misconception; they were invited to support then existing (and legitimate) government. And if the U.S. would not have meddled, there would be no Taliban now, and there would not be a war in Afghanistan, which we have to support with our tax dollars.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Ken sanders

    This is very refreshing to hear and learn. The young people of AFG must be convinced that constant fighting never accomplishes anything. Taliban fighters must be encouraged to defect. This can be aided by a constant propaganda program throughout the whole country like the Nazis did to convince their youth to follow them. It can be done. And cheaply too. It's not fully about them joining the wrong end of a fight .. it's more like an exercise in common sense.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Ricardo

    I'm glad that they able to help the U.S in this fight. They make us all proud that we have allys.

    December 11, 2009 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  41. Gabriel

    I have worked with guys from Panjshir. They are very proud of the fact that they held off the Russians and the Taliban, and they will tell anybody withing earshot. Masoud is another favorite topic. In my opinion, if there is any Afghan who can unite the country against the extremists, he or she will come from Panjshir.

    December 11, 2009 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |