Taliban and opposition forces battled on Saturday to control the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, the last Afghan province holding out against the militant group, as the top U.S. general warned of a "civil war" if the Islamists failed to consolidate power.
Both sides claimed to have the upper hand in Panjshir but neither could produce conclusive evidence to prove it. The Taliban, which swept through the country ahead of the final withdrawal of U.S.-led forces this week, were unable to control the valley when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said the districts of Khinj and Unabah had been taken, giving Taliban forces control of four of the province's seven districts.
"The Mujahideen (Taliban fighters) are advancing toward the center (of the province)," he said on Twitter.
But the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, grouping forces loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, said it surrounded "thousands of terrorists" in Khawak pass and the Taliban had abandoned vehicles and equipment in the Dashte Rewak area.
U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, underscored the tenuous situation.
Speaking to Fox News from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Milley said if they cannot that will "in turn lead to a reconstitution of Al Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other myriads of terrorist groups" over the next three years.