Panjshir Valley, Panjsheer or Panjsher (درهٔ پنجشير)

Panjshir Valley


Location: 150 km North of Kabul Map

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Area: 3526 km2


Description of Panjshir Valley

Panjshir Valley is located 150 km North of Kabul in North- Central Afghanistan near the Hindu Kush mountain range. It is surrounded by Panjshir Mountains on both sides. Name of Panjshir Valley literally means "Valley of the Five Lions". According to the local legend five brothers constructed a dam for Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni (971- 1030) of Ghaznavid dynasty in the early 11th century AD. Legend claims that these brothers were so pious that they managed to build it in one day with the help of the angels sent by God (Allah). Its foundation still serve today as a base for a modern reservoir. Panjshir river is one of the tributaries of Kabul river. Its total length is 115 km from East to West and its total area measures at 3526 km2. Panjshir Valley is divided into five geographical regions starting from Taawakh, Rokha, Baazarak, Baadqol and finally Omarz.


Panjshir Valley is most notable for being both the birthplace and a resting place of Ahmad Shah Massoud. He became famous in Afghanistan as one of the most successful leaders of mujahedeen's during Soviet invasion of 1979-89. His nickname "Massoud" means "lucky" in Arabic. He managed to round up large number of local tribes including many Afghan Tajiks who live here. His Northern Alliance as it was known in the West numbered up to 60,000 soldiers by the mid- 90s.


Panjshir Valley once was one of the most important routes for transport of trucks, APCs, tanks and other vehicles from the Soviet Union to Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah Massoud and his units constantly harassed these columns. Soviet army undertook at least 12 major operations against insurgency in Panjshir Valley. Most of them were only moderately successful. In fact among Soviet soldiers Panjshir Valley became particularly famous for difficult terrain and numerous guerrilla attacks. Center of Panjshir Valley, village of Rukh, was a site of dislocation of 177th ooSpN Soviet division along with the units of the 108th motorized division in 1982- 83. Total number of garrison reached over 1000 people. In 1984- 88 it was site of 682nd SMEs division.


Final goal of Ahmad Shah Massoud of conquering Tajikistan and Samarkand with Bukhara proved too illusive. In 1999 his attack was crushed by Russian and Tajiks forces and he himself was killed on September 9th, 2001.


Panjshir Valley is home to predominantly ethnic Tajiks and have no affiliation with the Taliban despite their constant attempts of incursions to the territory. An entrance to the valley is guarded by a military checkpoint. So prepare to show your documentations. A small present or baksheesh could speed up your security checks.


Despite continuing unrest and military operations today Panjshir Valley undergoes certain degree of modernizations. New roads and infrastructure are being constructed. The valley has the potential of becoming a major source of emerald mining. The knowledge of these gemstones was known since the time of Pliny the Elder of the first century AD.



Mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud (احمد شاه مسعود-) in Panjshir Valley

Ahmad Shah Massoud is buried in the mausoleum near Bazarak in the Panjshir Valley. Lion of Panjshir fought against the Taliban and Tajikistan as well as Russian forces in futile attempts to conquer this former Soviet Republic. Hailed both as a freedom fighter and cursed for his ties with the drug trade, he is a legendary figure in the north part of the country and many parts of the country. He was finally assassinated in 2001 by two Tunisians who apparently carried out orders of Al- Qaeda terrorist cell.