4. The Story of Genocide in Afghanistan
13. Genocide Throughout the Country
The claim of the Soviet Union that it dispatched its “limited contingent” to repulse foreign aggression proved groundless after the uprising of February 1980, when its war machine began to kill not only the mujahideen but also defenseless civilians throughout the country. Frustrated by the tough resistance and their inability to suppress it expeditiously, the Soviets embarked on a program of genocide.
Genocide is a term that social scientists have defined in different ways, just as they have defined other social terms differently. This is not surprising, because definitions restrict, encase, and distort concepts. Definitions also change with the passage of time as historical developments add new dimensions to social concepts. Also, social scientists with different backgrounds and outlooks delimit terms by defining them in their own ways. Yet definitions are the necessary conceptual constructions by which people communicate and scientists proceed with the formulation and organization of knowledge. The more precise definitions and generalizations are, the better is the state of knowledge.
People have perpetrated genocide from time immemorial. It was, however, during World War II, when it was committed on a massive scale, that the term genocide was coined and became the subject of scholarly study, as F. Chalk and K. Jonassohn have described and evaluated in detail in The History and Sociology of Genocide (1990). In a pioneering work, Raphael Lemkin described genocide as the coordinated and planned annihilation of a national, religious, or racial group by actions aimed at undermining the foundation essential to the survival of the group as a group. Lemkin’s work, composed with a view to illustrating the Nazi theory and practice of the extermination of the Jews and the Gypsies, underlined his statement about genocide. But the Holocaust is unique in history. Lemkin’s work partly influenced the United Nations to consider first in 1946 and then in 1948 the issue of preventing and punishing genocide. Calling genocide a “crime under international law,” the United Nations in its Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, considered the following acts punishable: genocide; conspiracy to commit genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide; attempt to commit genocide; and complicity in genocide. But the United Nations, as a “club of sovereign states” and under pressure from the Communist bloc countries, adopted as its final resolution a compromise definition that excluded state victimization of groups of people on political grounds. In the United Nations’ definition, genocide “means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Political groups are excluded from this definition.
Excluding political groups from the definition of genocide is like excluding political history from history. Such a definition excludes activities without which history is incomprehensible, especially in an age of totalitarian states and nation-states. War can also be understood in terms of the state, because “war is not a licence to kill, but an obligation to kill for reasons of state.” It is this all-embracing nature of the state that has made political genocide and, consequently, human rights important aspects of history in modern times, when the perpetrator of genocide is predominantly the state. That is why, although the United Nations’ definition marked a milestone in international law, and although it is the only internationally accepted one, it is of little use to scholars. Because not one of the genocidal killings committed since the adoption of this resolution has been covered by it, “it has never had any practical effect.” It has thus been left to scholars to provide a precise definition of genocide, a full survey of which is to be found in the Chalk and Jonassohn’s work.
Rather than enumerate definitions of genocide, I will describe the empirically based categories about which students of genocide are close to consensus. These are retributive genocide, which is based on the desire for revenge; institutional genocide, which is frequently incidental to military conquest; utilitarian genocide, which is motivated by the desire for material gain; monopolistic genocide, which originates in the desire to monopolize power; and ideological genocide, which is motivated by the desire to impose a particular notion of salvation or purification on an entire society. Chalk and Jonassohn have combined these categories into a master definition: “Genocide is a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator.”
For genocide to happen, there must be certain preconditions. Foremost among them is a national culture that does not place a high value on human life. A totalitarian society, with its assumed superior ideology, is also a precondition for genocidal acts. In addition, members of the dominant society must perceive their potential victims as less than fully human: as “pagans,” “savages,” “uncouth barbarians,” “unbelievers,” “effete degenerates,” “ritual outlaws,” “racial inferiors,” “class antagonists,” “counterrevolutionaries,” and so on. In themselves, these conditions are not enough for the perpetrators to commit genocide. To do that—that is, to commit genocide—the perpetrators need a strong, centralized authority and bureaucratic organization as well as pathological individuals and criminals. Also required is a campaign of vilification and dehumanization of the victims by the perpetrators, who are usually new states or new regimes attempting to impose conformity to a new ideology and its model of society.
Features of Genocide in Afghanistan
The Afghans are among the latest victims of genocide by a superpower. Large numbers of Afghans were killed to suppress resistance to the army of the Soviet Union, which wished to vindicate its client regime and realize its goal in Afghanistan. Thus, the mass killing was political.
Incidents of the mass killing of noncombatant civilians were observed in the summer of 1980, when the mujahideen frustrated the invaders in their program of speedy conquest. Three considerations prompted the invading army to resort to indiscriminate mass killing outside battle zones. Unable to locate the elusive mujahideen, the wrath of the invading army fell on civilians as well, punishing them for their support of the mujahideen. The mujahideen had to be detached from the people. As guerrilla fighters, they could not be a viable force without the support of local populations. Hence, the Soviets felt it necessary to suppress defenseless civilians by killing them indiscriminately, by compelling them to flee abroad, and by destroying their crops and means of irrigation, the basis of their livelihood. The dropping of booby traps from the air, the planting of mines, and the use of chemical substances, though not on a wide scale, were also meant to serve the same purpose. Also, since the Soviets did not increase the number of their troops above around 120,000 at any one time, they undertook military operations in an effort to ensure speedy submission: hence the wide use of aerial weapons, in particular helicopter gunships or the kind of inaccurate weapons that cannot discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. However, although the total number of the victims of genocide was high, it was not high in each separate incident.
A common feature of the Soviet program of total war was retributive mass killing, which was their means of repaying tough resistance. For example, in revenge for the killing by the mujahideen of three Russian soldiers, the commander brother of the fallen captain led his commando unit into the city of Tashqurghan in April 1982 and razed the city, killing at least two hundred of its defenseless civilians. A third consideration in the mass killing was the necessity of silencing the mujahideen before the Afghan issue attracted too much international support. On the one hand, the authorities prevented the entry into Afghanistan of foreign mass media personnel; on the other, it branded the freedom fighters as “bandits” and “robbers,” claiming that they “had sold their body and soul to the American dollars, the Pakistani rupees, and the British pounds.” Soldiers of the invading army branded the mujahideen as dushman (enemy) as well as basmachis (anti-Russian Muslim freedom fighters of Bukhara). This branding was intended to justify the extermination of the mujahideen because as “robbers” they were the disturbers of peace and social order. Another aspect of the genocide was the killing of civilians while praying in mosques, performing wedding or funeral ceremonies, forming sizable groups for any civil purpose, or engaging in the customs and conventions that constitute the Afghan social fabric. It would appear strange to think that the Soviets were unable to comprehend that these were peaceful and civic gatherings. The frequency of such killing made the Afghans believe that the Russians were barbarians (wahshi). The acts of genocide were the work of the Soviets, and as guides or collaborators the Parchamis as well as some Khalqis played the role of accomplices.
Because Afghanistan has long been a crossroad, famous conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Timur Lane, Babur, Nadir Shah Afshar, and the British have invaded it, but the Soviet invaders have surpassed all in the systematic killing of its people and the destruction of their land. They did so at a time when nations had never been so loud in support of peace, and never so loud in opposition to war. Among the governments of the world, the Soviet government was the loudest in all this, as well as in its trumpeting of the rights of the toiling people, an instance of truly Orwellian doublespeak. It is thus fitting to cite a few historical facts about the Russians to convey a view of their national culture.
Russia at a Glance
The Russians are latecomers to the fold of civilization. Until the late tenth century they worshiped Mother Earth, but their principal deity was Perun, god of thunder and lightning. The Slavs lived in southern Russia in what is now the Ukraine with its capital city, Kiev, whose Grand Prince Vladmir decided in 988, for reasons both pragmatic and spiritual, to impose the Orthodox form of Christianity on his subjects. According to one chronicle, “He directed that the idols should be overthrown and that some should be cut to pieces and others burned with fire. He thus ordered that Perun should be bound to a horse’s tail and dragged…to the river. He appointed twelve men to beat the idols with sticks.” Vladmir accepted Christianity from the Greek Orthodox empire of Byzantium, not Rome. No split had yet occurred between the two branches of the church, the Latin West and the Greek East. Only much later would it become apparent what a fateful choice Vladmir had made, one partly responsible for cutting Russia off from the dynamics of Western Christendom, in particular from the great Renaissance movement of artistic and intellectual activity. Besides, the Christianity introduced in Russia was a religion of forgiveness, not of tolerance, at least not of other religions. Orthodox Christianity taught Russia that it held the “one truth,” for truth, like God, could only be one. The Renaissance of Western Europe eroded a similar doctrine held by the Roman Catholic church, but nothing of the sort took place in Russia.
Russia’s political organization, in addition to being of recent origin, was not organized by the Russians themselves but by Scandinavians, who, in the middle of the ninth century, were invited to rule the major Russian city of the north, Novgorod. The very notion of a “Russian state” appeared only in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The Scandinavian-Slav rule revolved around the combination of war and commerce that was the hallmark of the first few centuries of Russia’s history. In the centuries that followed, Russia failed to create a society where order resulted from the self-governing behavior of its own citizens. Russia’s rulers were absolute monarchs, particularly after 1547 when Ivan the Terrible was crowned tsar. Ivan’s new position corresponded with a belief that Moscow, after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1543, was the Third Rome and the last. This belief enabled the tsar to make himself still more absolute by concentrating religious and secular power. In Russia only a few hundred aristocratic families (the boyars), reputedly of foreign origin, dominated the rest of the people, with no middle class in between. Before the advent of the Scandinavians, the Russians were divided into freemen and slaves; After the Scandinavians arrived, the slaves remained as the dregs of society. Slaves were originally prisoners of war; later anyone could become so by birth or voluntary agreement. Warfare was the most important form of commerce, and the principal product was slaves.
The tsar ruled in absolute fashion with the help of his secret police, organized as early as 1565. This period followed the Mongol Yoke, an interim of about two and a half centuries (1240-1480) in which the Golden Horde Mongols mastered Russia after they had ended its flourishing period that had begun after its baptism. Russia’s pyramidal society was reformed for the first time in 1861, when about forty million serfs were legally freed from bondage by an edict of the tsar following Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War in 1854. The serfs were neither efficient tillers of land nor efficient soldiers in battle. Why should they work hard and die for others? More significant was the reform when the tsar, after Russia’s defeat by Japan in 1904-5, introduced a parliamentary democracy that lasted until 1917. In February 1917 the tsar abdicated because of the insurmountable pressures generated by Russia’s inability to cope with the problems resulting from her participation in World War I; the liberal government that then assumed power was ousted in October 1917 by the Bolsheviks.
In the period before the end of tsardom, Russia had excelled in cultural, not political, achievements; under the Bolsheviks, it was set on the path toward communism, a new experiment in history. But the idea behind the society’s reorganization was old. The communist idea was monolithic (as opposed to pluralist): it emphasized the validity of only one truth, that is, communism. The idea was the same as that of Orthodox Christianity, which Vladmir had chosen for Russia over nine hundred years earlier. However, whereas Russian Orthodox Christianity was a religion of forgiveness, not of tolerance, communism was a creed neither of forgiveness nor of tolerance. Besides, not only the groups ordering the society but every individual in it had to believe in the truth and act on it. The Soviet state, which was the most totalitarian state ever devised, was assigned the task of translating the truth into reality. To achieve this end, this totalitarian state applied all the persuasive and coercive means that it could muster. Among the means was the secret police (first Cheka and later the KGB), which soon became virtually omnipotent and ubiquitous. On the road to the unapproachable goal, it committed many crimes, among which was the genocide of the 1930s; no other state in history has ever perpetrated violence against its own people on such a scale. It also tried to implant abroad by deceit and violence the “truth” of communism, of which Afghanistan is the most recent example.
Problems Relating to Genocide in Afghanistan
For reasons already stated, it is impossible to give a complete account of the Soviet army’s mass killing in Afghanistan. Here I will describe only the tip of the iceberg. Also, I cannot pretend that my descriptions are precise or thorough, because the witnesses whom I interviewed in the course of my inquiry often either had no direct access to the event in question or did not know the whole story in question. In the present case, I have, where possible, compared the observations of various witnesses and other sources to try to arrive at a reasonably accurate account of the events in question. Nonetheless, figures must be understood to be approximate, unless stated otherwise. Despite these qualifications, the information here does indicate the dimensions of the genocide undertaken by the Soviets.
The period under study has not been covered in a substantial way by non-Afghan writers, with the exception of Edward Girardet, a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor who visited certain areas from 1979 to 1982. The most thorough records are the result of joint research by Jerry Laber and Barnet Rubin, but they start with events mainly in 1984. Their works, particularly A Report from Helsinki Watch and A Nation Is Dying, are monuments of Soviet brutality in Afghanistan. The Russians in particular should read them to know what kind of people their leaders and the military actually are. I have used relevant sections of the final report of the International Afghanistan Hearing. The hearing, held in Oslo in March 1983, is based on the accounts of Afghan witnesses and non-Afghan experts.
Indiscriminate mass killing of the civilians by the Soviet soldiers dates from the invasion, although, as already noted, until the February uprising the Soviets did not initiate military operations. Thereafter they undertook major operations, and in none did they confine themselves to battles with the combatants. Indeed, the Soviet soldiers failed throughout to conduct themselves with proper discipline, showing themselves to be ill trained and unconcerned with observing the laws of war. Since hostilities invoke the instinct to kill, whether for an ulterior motive or in self-defense, combatants often do not confine themselves only to military targets, as recommended by the international conventions agreed to by member countries of the United Nations. But to kill civilians indiscriminately, deliberately, and as a matter of policy; to destroy their sources of livelihood; to force them to flee abroad; to do so without provocation on the part of the civilians, all in an effort to punish them for their support of combatant compatriots in conditions under which the state of war does not officially exist—this constitutes a crime, a crime defined at Nürnberg as “devastation not justified by military necessity.” Wars have laws, and as one commentator has put it, the laws of war have as their objective that “the ravages of war should be mitigated as far as possible by prohibiting needless cruelties, and other acts that spread death and destruction and are not reasonably related to the conduct of hostilities.” The Soviet soldiers did not observe such laws. On the contrary, they carried on the undeclared war of their rulers in Afghanistan, indiscriminately killing civilians, individually and in groups, and devastating their land for military and nonmilitary reasons alike, visiting on them a terrible variety of unmitigated cruelties.
Early Instances of Genocide
Major operations were underway in the countryside in early June 1980, although they had started much earlier. In late May 1980, during an operation in Ghazni Province, at least thirty villagers were massacred. Because of a battle between the mujahideen and the invading army, these villagers had taken refuge in a subterranean canal (karez) in Waghiz near Shilgir. The Soviet army poisoned them with chemical agents of an unknown sort. New operations targeted the districts around Kabul. During the first week of June 1980 heavy guns and mortars were fired from the Begram military base toward villages in Kohdaman, Gul Dara, and Farza valleys. Later, targets as far away as the valleys of Nijrao and Ghorband were shelled from the same base. At the same time, the first-mentioned valleys also became the targets of bombings, followed by operations in which ground forces destroyed houses and orchards and killed “many people.” The operations had been undertaken without warning or provocation. During the first two weeks of July 1980, from fifty to sixty villages in districts around Kabul were either wholly or partially destroyed. On 10 July 1980, as a result of a clash between the mujahideen and the invading force in Qarabagh near Kabul, the Soviets killed civilians in such numbers that their bodies lay strewn about the area for days. The remaining inhabitants started to leave for Kabul, but the authorities prevented them from doing so.
During the last week of July 1980 helicopter gunships fired rockets into the town of Islamabad and the villages of Sabrabad, Shamaram, and the small valley of Salao in the upper part of the Alishang Valley in Laghman Province, destroying them either wholly or partly. They were bombed for being considered the hideouts of mujahideen. The massacre in Turani (Nurani?) village and the city of Baghlan in late July 1980 was a case of revenge. A group of Soviet soldiers in tanks was ambushed by the mujahideen after they had searched houses in Turani village close to Baghlan on 28 July 1980. The next day the invading army bombarded the village and, entering the city, killed anyone who happened to be there. About fifty people were killed, and their bodies could be seen scattered about.
In October 1980 Soviet soldiers brought a bigger calamity on the people of Baghlan. Having lost men in fighting with the mujahideen in parts of the provinces of Baghlan and Qunduz, the Soviets turned on the people of the city of Baghlan in revenge. First they searched houses and denuded them of valuables. Then they brought to one place those people whom they had rounded up in the course of the house searches. Having separated out the party members, they shot the rest, dumping their bodies in pits dug with their machines. Some claimed that five hundred people were killed, but this seems an exaggeration. This deliberate massacre was reminiscent of the Keralay tragedy in Kunar Province in 1979 and of the killings in Merv in Turkmenistan 120 years earlier. Following the counsel of a Soviet adviser, the Khalqi governor of Kunar Province massacred more than 620 people of the town of Keralay to intimidate the rest to submit. In Merv the Russians had massacred more than six hundred Turkomen with a view to intimidating the recalcitrants to desist from opposition.
In late July 1980 the Soviets bombarded the Dai Mierdad district in the province of Ghazni so much that the destruction of human and animal lives and property was said to be beyond calculation. Many houses and villages were destroyed, and the survivors found it difficult to dispose of the dead bodies, which lay unburied for days. At about the same time, as many as five hundred people were killed in bombardments in a few villages (names unknown) close to Maidan; the number may be inflated. But at this time helicopter gunships were seen flying almost every minute over the city of Kabul, most of them heading toward the west, where casualties during the two weeks of July and August were said to be beyond calculation. My diary for 3 July 1980 reads in part: “In this way the defenseless, tyrannized people, women, the old, and children alike, fell like leaves in the autumn in their own homes, mosques, hamlets, and villages. The operations were so ruthless that an Afghan regiment in Maidan clashed with the Russians until the regiment was recalled to Kabul.”
As a result of these operations, the regime considered Kabul to be safe. It was an illusion. Within the first week of August the city was besieged. The mujahideen wrested Qal’a-e-Qazi, a huge village in the western suburbs of Kabul, from the regime’s control and destroyed the military post in the midst of the town of Dasht-e-Barchi. Likewise,the mujahideen destroyed the ancestral house of Karmal along with the houses and property of other party members in Shewaki and Kamari in the eastern suburbs. They also wrested the surrounding villages from the regime’s control. On 7 August the villages were bombed and many people killed. The survivors took refuge in Kabul.
In mid-August guns were fired from Mehtarlam, the provincial capital of Laghman, toward villages believed to be hideouts of mujahideen. By now this had become a standard way of dealing with the situation. On 19 August 1980, after tanks were landed by helicopters on some hills in the valley of Ali Shang, villages nearby were shelled. Not much later the trees of Karinj, a hilly area close to the Alishang town from where the mujahideen had fired on the Soviets, were burned with some chemical substances. On 6 September 1980 the mujahideen destroyed two tanks and a number of other vehicles after they had been separated from the convoy and headed toward the village of Shakarman in the Ali Shang valley of Laghman. In revenge, the following night scores of villages, including Deva, Ganjawan, and the town of Maskura, were shelled and a number of people killed or injured. A greater calamity befell the city of Herat when, on 16 August 1980, a part of the city was shelled. Until then, except for the governor’s headquarters the rest of the city was out of the regime’s control. It was said that three thousand people were killed in the attack. This was the most grievous attack on Herat since the one in March 1979, when approximately 25,000 persons were killed. During the present attack Soviet soldiers looted shops, particularly those selling the gold and silver products for which Herat is famous. The Soviet army then withdrew to its bases in Shindand.
The massacre that the invading army committed in Kandahar at almost the same time as that in Herat was no less atrocious. Guided by Parchamis, Soviet armored units searched houses in villages far from and close to the city of Kandahar. In places clashes occurred with losses to both sides, including the destruction of many tanks. This was more than the Russians could digest, and in revenge they visited a pogrom on the people of the city of Kandahar. This incident began when the invading army, stationing their tanks and other vehicles on high mounds, shelled for hours many villages in the distant Nagahan district. Confident that the opposition had been suppressed, they descended on the villages and orchards to loot goods and pick up fruit. The mujahideen, who had been in their hideouts, fell on them, killing many on the spot and also those fleeing. The remainder of the Soviet soldiers fled to the city, where they, in company with the Soviet force stationed near it, killed many people, including women and children, in revenge for those they had lost in Nagahan. The massacre disturbed party leaders, including Majid Sarbiland (chief of the Kandahar zone), Aslam Watanjar, and Saleh Mohammad Zeray, who were there at the time. They asked the Soviet commander to dissuade the soldiers from committing excesses. The commander replied, in effect, “You do your business, and we will do our business.” Zeray and Sarbiland were from Kandahar, and their failure to save the people of their province from their own comrades lowered their standing still further, even among their own relatives; their predicament resembled that of the governor Sher Ali Khan a century earlier, when he, in opposition to his family and his people, served the interests of the British in opposition to the interests of the people of Kandahar.
In mid-October 1980 an armored unit was dispatched to Laghman, where the mujahideen increased their activity in the pleasant weather of the winter. Except for an encounter in the lower part of the valley in Chardihi, no opposition was offered. But near Shamangal in the upper part of Alishang Valley three mujahideen resisted before they were caught. One was doused with gasoline and set afire. The Soviet soldiers, concluding that all people of the area were dushman (enemy), began to kill the villagers along both banks of the river. In the course of house searches for weapons and draft dodgers, they also seized valuables. The draft dodgers had already fled to the mountains. The number of casualties was said to be between 350 and 1,200. For days dead bodies lay about the region, and the survivors were unable to cope with the terrible burial problems. The Kaftarmala massacre close to the village of Deva was swift as well as surprising. A number of nomads, arriving at the area in a truck for the purpose of spending the winter, were welcomed by their relatives and locals. All together they formed a big gathering. Soon helicopter gunships were hovering over them; assuming that the nomads were enemies, the Soviets fired into the group, killing eight and wounding scores of others.
Mass Killings in Civic Gatherings and the Kidnapping of Women
The Soviets considered any gathering of Afghans, no matter for what purpose, potentially hostile. Gatherings of the people, whether for wedding or funeral services or for prayer in mosques, were common features of the Afghan society. Strong social bonds, characteristic of the society, required such functions, which were attended by hundreds of people, whether or not invited. But such gatherings were now fraught with danger. The Russians, brought up in a different social environment, were ignorant of the social conventions or simply intended to terrorize the Afghans. At any rate, helicopter gunships would fire rockets on men, women, and children in groups. They did this so frequently all over the country that it is impossible to describe all of the events. Perhaps the biggest gathering they hit was in the Ganjabad village of the Bala Buluk district of Farah Province. In mid-September 1980 hundreds of villagers were convivially celebrating wedding ceremonies in the village. Suddenly they were hit with rockets fired from a group of helicopter gunships. About 150 were killed and scores of others wounded, some of whom were brought to Kabul for treatment. In August 1981, as a result of a two-hour attack by four helicopter gunships on a wedding party in the village of Jalrez in the upper part of the Maidan Valley, 30 people were killed and 75 wounded.
While military operations in the country were going on, women were abducted. While flying in the country in search of mujahideen, helicopters would land in fields where women were spotted. While Afghan women do mainly domestic chores, they also work in fields assisting their husbands or performing tasks by themselves. The women were now exposed to the Russians, who kidnapped them with helicopters. By November 1980 a number of such incidents had taken place in various parts of the country, including Laghman and Kama.
In the city of Kabul, too, the Russians kidnapped women, taking them away in tanks and other vehicles, especially after dark. Such incidents happened mainly in the areas of Darul Aman and Khair Khana, near the Soviet garrisons. At times such acts were committed even during the day. KhAD agents also did the same. Small groups of them would pick up young women in the streets, apparently to question them but in reality to satisfy their lust: in the name of security, they had the power to commit excesses. Likewise, in the name of security the security men were involved in creating insecurity, looting shops and stores and breaking into houses while patrolling during the curfew hours at night.
The kidnapping of women disturbed families with young daughters. The incidents were sporadic and infrequent, since the Soviet officers censored the suspected soldiers; nevertheless, the Afghans were still alarmed. In fact, all families with young sons and daughters were alarmed. The former were, as already noted, hunted for military service, and the latter could be stained for life. Of the former, many fled abroad, while the latter became a painful problem for their families. Kabul’s inhabitants became conspicuous for a high proportion of children, the elderly, and women. At stake now was their honor, about which the Afghans are sensitive.
Killing along the Roads
One result of the military operations was an increase in the number of military posts, mainly in provincial capitals, their surrounding districts, and along the main roads, which the Soviets manned. For example,by December 1980 about forty posts had been set up along the main Kabul-Jalalabad road. The Kabul-Kandahar road was left unguarded, while the road passing through Salang was guarded very tightly. Obviously, this differential protection demonstrated the Soviet intention to pacify the land by establishing control over the main arteries and also by undertaking military operations. Hoping to reduce the number of attacks on the posts, the Soviets abandoned, although not completely, their practice of unprovoked shelling of the inhabited areas. But if the mujahideen fired at either the military posts or Soviet troops elsewhere, the invading forces adopted scorched-earth tactics. Tanks and helicopter gunships would furiously shell targets in regions from which shots had been fired. Often other areas were also shelled at random. For example, on or about 18 December 1980 a group of mujahideen somewhere near Alishang town in Laghman destroyed a Soviet tank with an officer in it. In retaliation the town of Alishang, the nearby village of Barzay, and the town of Islamabad were bombed. In Barzay alone sixteen persons perished.
The assailants did not bother about who and how many would be killed by their rocket attacks. To deal with the elusive mujahideen, the Soviets intended to frighten the civilians, who would then pressure the mujahideen not to attack the invaders. If the mujahideen disregarded the people’s requests, they would be estranged from them. If they accepted their request, the regime would increase the posts, which, along with other measures, would lead to the pacification of the country. On requests from the locals the mujahideen often desisted from attacking the invaders, but the Soviets still massacred civilians. Apparently, their mission was to loot and kill in order to establish the regime.
The Soviet strategy made the mujahideen cautious, but it was impossible for them to remain spectators. This would have been the end of their mission. Encounters were still common, and retaliations, whether by the Russians or the regime’s forces, became widespread. The mobile mujahideen could anticipate retaliation and escape. It is impossible to give even an estimate of the number of civilians killed in the clashes, which were sporadic and irregular. The frequency of notes on the subject in my diary is depressing to read.
As a by-product of the policy of guarding the main roads, a disaster of a different kind befell the people. Of the main roads, the roads of Kabul-Jalalabad, Kabul-Gardez (via Logar), and Kabul-Hairatan (via Salang) were especially important, since the first two lead to Pakistan and the latter to the Soviet Union. Among other things, control over the first two meant some control over the movements of the mujahideen as well as the materiel and weapons they brought from Pakistan; control over the last meant the maintenance of undisturbed transportation between Kabul and the Soviet border. As already noted, along the Kabul-Jalalabad road about forty military posts had been manned by the Soviets. To control the roads, the Soviets had to ensure that the districts through which they passed were clear of mujahideen. The two roads leading to Salang and Gardez passed through densely populated districts. It was hazardous to set up military posts along these roads like those along the Kabul-Jalalabad road. Instead, the Soviets chose either to bomb villages close to the roads or shell them by guns and submachine guns from tanks stationed on mounds. The bombing of these villages was comparable to the bombing of the districts around cities, particularly Kabul. The attacks on Logar, which suffered more than any other district, will be described in the next chapter. An unknown number of men, women, and children either perished or moved out of their homes because they lived near roads, the outward symbol of civilization.
This was, however, not the end of the plight of the inhabitants of the areas. Even before the major operations had begun, the plan for making the main roads safe was on the agenda. For some time in July 1980 a major military force destroyed houses, orchards, and other constructions as well as trees along both sides of the Logar road. Helicopter gunships hovered over the ground force. Whatever lay within about 150 meters on both flanks of the road was scheduled to be destroyed. The idea was to make the military convoys on the roads safe from rocket attacks by the mujahideen, who often concealed themselves in nearby villages. How precisely the order was carried out is difficult to determine. The setting up of permanent posts along the Logar road was risky; instead, expeditions were undertaken frequently. The destruction must have been tremendous, since in some places the road passed close to main villages. In mid-December groups of tanks were stationed here and there along the road, and the nearby villages were searched. The plight of the people affected by this act can be guessed from the reaction of an old man who lost an apple tree near his home in Mohammad Agha. After his pleas with the regime men failed to be effective, the old man leaned on a wall, looked to the heavens, and cried, “Oh God, where are you? Do you not see?” For a devout old Muslim to utter such words, he must have been at the height of despair. But he was lucky to have lost only his tree, not his life. Many others in his district lost their lives. On one day alone, 9 October 1980, the Russians killed forty pedestrians along the Logar road in an effort to make the road safe for their convoys.
Similar measures were taken to secure the road going through Shamali. The bazaars of Qarabagh and Saray Khoja through which the road passed were burned, and houses and villages near the road were destroyed. Huge trees on both sides of the road, which had pleasantly distinguished it from those in the rest of the country, were felled. But the manning of roads by groups of Russian soldiers created new sorts of problems that were staggering to the Afghans.
The incidents happened along the Salang and Jalalabad roads, which were, unlike all other roads, manned by Soviet soldiers. Instead of maintaining the security of the road for which they had been commissioned, the Russians began looting passengers and even killing them. For a brief time they looted consignments from trucks passing along these two roads, the busiest in the country; they would then sell the stolen goods, as well as a wide variety of state goods in their possession, to other drivers at low prices at gunpoint. They would also force the drivers to sell them marijuana (chars). Most drivers provided the soldiers with the drug with a view to making them addicts. Judging from the frequency of exchange, the number of the addicts must have been considerable. But at times this trade led to violence. A group of Soviet soldiers had been taking marijuana somewhere near the Wood Factory in Samarkhel to the east of Jalalabad. In August 1980 a soldier intended to enter a house near the factory to steal either marijuana or money. When stopped at the door, he suspected a trap and began firing at random at the inhabitants. All but one member of the family died in the initial assault, and the sole survivor died later in the hospital. It was said that to hush up the story the authorities arranged to do away with him. Party activists gave out that the tragedy was the work of the “rebels.”
More serious were the incidents when Soviet soldiers fired at passenger buses without provocation. Apparently they were killing human beings for the fun of it or for revenge on innocent passengers for the men they might have lost elsewhere. Such tragedies were many. In December 1980 eleven persons died and many others wounded in an attack along the Jalalabad road; drivers refused to drive on the road for two days thereafter. Earlier (8 November 1980) two bus drivers close to the Salang Tunnel were killed for no apparent reason. Drivers protested to the Ministry of the Interior and refused to drive for days. In Ounduz, Soviet soldiers walked across the flat rooftops of the houses at night and fired through the openings at the people inside for no apparent reason. The common Afghans called the Russians barbarians (wahshi).
Despite all the killings, the Soviets failed to establish control over the roads. Frequently the roads leading to Kabul were closed. On such occasions the city was deprived of the essentials of life, food and fuel. Along these as well as along other roads, armed mujahideen also checked transport vehicles. In certain places they operated within sight of the Soviets without being molested. Close to Kabul beyond Khair Khana the mujahideen checked transport vehicles. The Soviets and the mujahideen had accepted a modus vivendi.
It is now time to survey the Soviet operations in areas visited by foreigners during the period covered by this work. Pal Hougen, chair of the Norwegian Committee for Afghanistan, states that three of his fellow countrymen who had visited Afghanistan in the summer of 1980 “brought home pictorial documentation of bombarded farms, destroyed villages and the destruction of Kamdesh, the central town in Nuristan. Much of what I had heard and read was not to be believed, even [though they] were reliable persons and journalists.” He then made two trips himself in the summer of 1981 and 1982, the first to the upper part of the Kunar Valley, and the second to the town of Bashgul in the same valley.
Hougen states that the people of Bashgul “were still living in the mountains, unable to go back to their farm and cultivate their soil.…It was dangerous for men and cattle to stroll around the passes, and passes as well as the forests had every day and every week to be systematically examined for small booby-traps-butterflies [small antipersonnel bombs shaped somewhat like butterflies].” If these people returned to their homes, they were bombed without provocation. Hougen writes, “Two days after, when part of the population had returned, the town was attacked from the air and set on fire. The result was that the entire population of the town and of the neighboring districts emigrated to Pakistan, a total of 3,000 people.”
During my two visits, I had to admit that the reports were true. I did not only see ruined dwellings, observe terror bombing myself, but I found a society where all ordinary functions were disturbed, even the basic ones: the production of food, the supplies from outside of salt, sugar and tea—other items of trade as I mentioned. The infrastructure in this society was broken down, not [torn] into pieces, for no single piece of the former modest modernization was [left] intact, there was no trade, no school, no medical care, the water supplies were disturbed, the irrigation system severely harmed.
Hougen describes a fellow Norwegian’s experience in Kandahar Province in 1981: “In the autumn [of] that year, he stayed in the outskirts of Kandahar where he daily experienced air attacks, bombing and mining of civilian dwellings.” The situation in the province of Paktia was no better. Hougen comments on the experience of a nurse who stayed in a village in Paktia for three weeks in September 1982: “She reported about air attacks a year earlier which had ruined 50 percent of the houses, how the villages on the plains had been attacked by tanks—in units with 200 and 400 tanks—and the houses had been destroyed. According to her accounts, the attacks were entirely directed against the civilian population.” The people of the Jaghori district of the Ghazni province had dug bunkers to save themselves from the hazards of bombardment. According to Tone A. Odegaard and Jame Reitan, two Norwegian women who stayed with them for a week in September 1982:
They [the Hazara inhabitants of the Jaghori district] are accustomed to air attacks and every family had their own shelters—one for each person—dug as small holes outside the house, as they [Vietnamese] did it in Vietnam. All children were instructed how to behave when the next attack would come and how they should escape for the mountains after [the] attack. There can be no doubt that the air attacks were aimed at the civilian population and took place regularly.
One of the most striking descriptions comes from Nicolas Danziger, a British lecturer in art history and one of the authors of A Report from Helsinki Watch. In describing “this image of Hiroshima in Herat,” Danziger writes:
We went along the asphalt road from Iran to Herat. The desert on the Iranian side was absolutely covered in track marks, the hooves of horses, of camels, footmarks, bicycle marks,—you name it. By the time it was about nine o’clock in the morning, there were people in droves, a man with a camel; he had lost all his family, and all his possessions were on top of the camel. There were some young boys who had been orphaned. Then there were some numerous donkeys with women riding on them with their husbands next to them. All of these people were on their way to Iran. I stayed in a village where they claimed there had been 5,000 inhabitants. There remained one building intact in the whole village. I did not see more than ten inhabitants there. To destroy this place the bombers came from Russia. And there were craters everywhere, even where there were no buildings, so there was no pretense about, “we are trying to hit the mujahideen.” It was a complete blitz. All the way from there on into Herat there was no one living there, absolutely no one. The town that I stayed in, Hauz Karbas, looks like Hiroshima. And there had been tremendous amounts of vineyards there, and they were just reduced to gray dust. It really sums up everything that exists in Afghanistan to-day.
1. Quoted in Chalk and Jonassohn, Genocide, 8. [BACK]
2. Ibid., 10. For the text of the Convention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 29 December 1948, see ibid., 44-49. [BACK]
3. T. Taylor, quoted in Wasserstrom, “Laws of War,” 495. [BACK]
4. Chalk and Jonassohn, Genocide, 10. [BACK]
5. Ibid., 11. [BACK]
6. Ibid. [BACK]
7. R. Smith, quoted in Chalk and Jonassohn, Genocide, 22. [BACK]
8. Ibid., 23. [BACK]
9. Horowitz, quoted in Chalk and Jonassohn, Genocide, 14. [BACK]
10. For details, see Carlton, War and Ideology. [BACK]
11. Horowitz, quoted in Chalk and Jonassohn, Genocide, 13. [BACK]
12. The intensity of the Soviet military operations is suggested by the number of Afghans who fled abroad. By the middle of 1981 about 2 million Afghans had fled to Pakistan alone. By the end of 1984 the figure had exceeded 3 million. In 1991 the total number of Afghan refugees abroad was estimated to be 5,670,000. (See Azari, “Afghan Refugees”: Humanitarian Assistance Program, 4.) A more recent study indicates that by the end of 1981, 2.3 million Afghans had fled to Pakistan alone. The total number of refugees is calculated to be “more than 3 million in Pakistan and as many as 3 million others in Iran” (Ruiz, Left Out in the Cold, 2, 3). More Afghans fled to Pakistan than to Iran. Afghans fled to Iran from the three western provinces of Herat, Farah, and Nimroz; Afghans from the rest of the country, especially the eastern frontier provinces, took refuge in Pakistan. This explains why the Pashtuns constitute the highest percentage (85 percent) of the refugee population in Pakistan (Sliwinski, “Afghanistan 1978-87,” 18). The total figure for Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran are official and therefore cannot be considered accurate; still, Afghan refugees are clearly the world’s largest group in absolute terms as well as in proportion to the total number of Afghans, who numbered 15.5 million before the invasion.
Period To Pakistan To Iran To other destinations Source: Amstutz, Afghanistan, 224 Through 1978 18,000 ? ? Through 1979 389,000 ? ? Through 1980 1,232,000 250,000 ? Through 1981 2,500,000 ? ? Through 1982 2,700,000 500,000 ? Through 1983 2,900,000 650,000 ? Through 1984 3,200,000 850,000 70,000
13. A Soviet Tajik deserter quoted in Laber and Rubin, A Nation Is Dying, 18. According to the soldier, “When the drunk commander found out that his brother and three soldiers were killed by mujahideen, he took the whole commando unit at night. He went to the village and butchered, slaughtered all the village[rs]. They cut off the heads and killed perhaps 2,000 people.” To terrorize the people, the officers of the invading army also ordered the brutal killing of individuals. In 1983 they assembled the people of the village of Babyan in Logar; they then singled out Qazi Fatih, a retired judge who looked like a mulla. They tied him to a tank, then dragged him behind it at high speed. The Qazi was smashed to pieces in front of the villagers. See Alam, “Violation of Human Rights,” 7. [BACK]
14. Carmichael, History of Russia; Lourie, Predicting Russia’s Future. [BACK]
15. Girardet, Afghanistan. [BACK]
16. Wasserstrom, “Laws of War,” 484. [BACK]
17. T. Taylor, quoted in Wasserstrom, “Laws of War,” 484. [BACK]
18. Laber and Rubin, Helsinki Watch, 53. [BACK]
19. For details, see International Afghanistan Hearing, 173. [BACK]
20. Ibid., 174. [BACK]
21. Ibid., 175. [BACK]
22. Ibid., 176. [BACK]
23. Laber and Rubin, Helsinki Watch, 23. [BACK]
14. Genocide in Districts Around Kabul
As already noted, the immediate purpose of the invading army was to enable the regime to establish control over cities and the main roads. The countryside was to be pacified afterward. The mujahideen had to be made incapable of disturbing the cities, especially Kabul. The regime then had to extend control over the immediate surrounding districts as well: hence the intensification of operations there and the killing of civilians inside their homes and villages. This chapter highlights the massacres that resulted from the operations in districts around Kabul.
For Kabul, Logar and Shamali (districts south and north of Kabul, respectively) are important strategic regions. From Logar the mujahideen can infiltrate the city more easily. Through Logar, Kabul is connected to Paktia, the frontier region bordering Pakistan. The shortest route from Kabul to the border passes through Logar (in Dobandi), Zazay, and Tiramangal (in Kurram) beyond the Durand Line. Of all the major conduits, Logar was the most important one for weapons and logistics as well as combatants for almost the whole country, as Pakistan was the most important conduit for weapons for the whole of Afghanistan. Also, Afghans from many other areas, including those from the central and northern regions, could flee to Pakistan through Logar. Thus, it was primarily through Logar that the Peshawar-based organizations kept in touch with mujahideen throughout most of Afghanistan. It was also through Logar that Kabul received its main supplies of fuel from Paktia. But while Shamali enjoys an abundance of water for agricultural purposes, Logar is not as fortunate, although it has both open water canals and underground canals (karez). Both regions are among the most fertile in the country, and their inhabitants live mainly in relatively large villages with attached mud houses.
Massacre in Logar
Following the invasion, the mujahideen expelled party members and government officials from Logar and extended control over the road passing through it. Only Pul-e-Alam, the headquarters of the province, remained in the government’s hands. When the Soviets undertook their first military operation there is unknown. Units of their army had clashed with the mujahideen a number of times, and civilians had been among the victims. After the mujahideen defeated a unit of the invading army along the Logar road on 2 October 1980, the Soviets responded strongly. My diary entry for 10 October 1980 reads, “The recent operations of the Russians in the region were barbarous. On 5 October a Russian armored unit on the way to Logar killed or wounded anyone who happened to be on the road or within range of it from Beni Hissar up to Pul-e-Alam”—that is, from the southern outskirt of the city to the provincial capital, a distance of eighty-six kilometers. After the incident a delegation of elders from Logar raised the matter in Kabul with two members of the politburo, Saleh Mohammad Zeray and Nur Ahmad Nur. An elder of the delegation from the Surkhab Valley of Logar said to them, “Since you are no longer able to govern, you should either quit or join us so that together we can expel the Russians from our fatherland.” It might seem incredible that anyone would dare make such a bold statement in a police regime whose KhAD agents could not tolerate outspoken critics; nevertheless, on such occasions Afghan elders become bolder than usual. In another instance, an elderly man from Logar, Haji Sharif, had been imprisoned in Pul-e-Charkhi because one of his sons was a successful commander. The government offered to release him if he dissuaded his son from opposing the government, but Haji Sharif replied, “While you have a superpower behind you, and the mujahideen have no such supporter, let my son be with them.” In any case, the delegation failed in its purpose. Its mission was tactical, a reflection of the view among the Islamic Revolutionary Movement commanders that while carrying on the jehad they intended to maintain at least the façade of a relationship with the government.
After the meeting, greater calamities befell not only the people of Logar but the people in most parts of the country. In November Karmal returned to Kabul from his first state visit to Moscow; thereafter, the government adopted a tougher stand. In late November, Karmal announced that the government had planned to hold military exercises in the provinces of Kabul, Parwan, and Ningrahar. These “military exercises” were in fact major military operations intended to suppress the resistance before Ronald Reagan took office as president of the United States on 20 January 1981 so that his rumored assistance in weapons to the mujahideen could not materialize. The winter season favored the well-protected mechanized army units over the poorly supplied mujahideen. As already noted, the KGB had predicted that “the spring and summer of 1981 will be decisive for the final and complete defeat of the forces of the counterrevolutionaries.” The operations that the Soviets undertook in Logar afterward were the biggest and widest in the area.
A typical pattern of military operations developed. A slow-flying reconnaissance plane would precede the operations. Afterwards, helicopter gunships would fire rockets into certain places and villages where the mujahideen were suspected to be. Sometimes as many as thirty helicopter gunships would bombard targets. Targets would also be hit by rocket launchers mounted on tanks. Then units of tanks would surround a village or a group of villages. During major operations armored units would appear in Logar from four directions: from Kabul, from Gardez (provincial capital of Paktia), from the Maidan area in the west, and from Pul-i-Alam, the only place in the province under the government’s control. After an area was thus encircled and believed cleared of the defenders, armed groups of the invading army, accompanied by KhAD guides, would descend on it and search houses for weapons, draft dodgers, and persons suspected as mujahideen or antiregime activists. Soon, though, the intruders exerted themselves more in looting valuables and Western and Japanese gadgets than they did in performing their assigned job. With nightfall they would assemble in a distant desert or return to their headquarters.
In military operations the civilians were the main victims, although the Russians also lost many men. The casualties of the mujahideen were the least in number. In spite of the severity of the operations the invading army and their Afghan henchmen failed to suppress the resistance. However, they did succeed in keeping the road from Kabul to Gardez open at least temporarily, but they had to guard it with units of tanks stationed along the way for the 125 kilometers to Kabul. They also vandalized Logar and denuded a considerable area of it. My diary entry for 21 November reads: “The actual number of the casualties is unknown. It is said that they were beyond calculation. In many places dead bodies lay here and there. No one dared to bury them. Dogs have consumed many. They have decomposed and have an offensive odor. Some houses have been destroyed while others are closed because of the destruction of their inhabitants.” The people were unable to cope with the enormous problems relating to casualties, and many left their homes to take refuge in Pakistan.
For a long time no major operation was reported to have taken place in Logar, although sporadic bombing was routine. On 7 May 1981 a caravan of the invaders, as a result of encounters with the mujahideen in Mohammad Agha and Mosayee, lost about thirty tanks and a large number of Parchamis as well as KhAD agents. Usually the mujahideen, particularly in the Mohammad Agha district, would destroy around twenty tanks of a convoy on the Logar road. It is estimated that on this road alone the invaders lost about one thousand tanks during the occupation. This front, particularly its Bini Sharafgan locality, was the toughest in the province. The invaders also lost men in large numbers after they ascended a mound where they were shelled simultaneously by the mujahideen and the outraged Afghan soldiers. The aftermath was terrible. My diary entry for 14 May 1981 reads: “Following the incident, when the Soviets assaulted many villages with their armored units they showed no mercy to any human being.”
The massacre that the invaders committed in an underground irrigation canal came to be known in the West through an American anthropologist, Mike Barry, who visited the area in September 1982. Such canals are wide and deep enough to accommodate many people. In my diary I noted that an unknown number of people perished somewhere in a cave where they had taken refuge; informed by a proregime villager, Soviet soldiers burned petroleum products in its entrance. The “cave” was the underground irrigation canal Karez-e-Baba, which passes through the Padkhab-e-Shana village in Logar. Mike Barry writes:
According to eyewitness reports,…villagers who fled spoke of soldiers wearing gas masks, pouring mysterious things into an underground irrigation canal where villagers including children were hiding. Our investigation showed that the soldiers had actually used gasoline, diesel fuel and an incendiary white powder, an evil-smelling [substance] designed to ensure that the gasoline would properly burn in a tunnel with little oxygen. After the 105 people including the little children were burned to death, the population in a panic decided to run away to Pakistan.
In the second week of August 1981 the Soviets massacred people in the village of Dadokhel in Logar. This event happened when a unit of the Soviet army was forced to retreat after trying to enter the small village of Babus. In revenge for the loss of four drunken Soviet and Cuban officers who had separated from the main convoy in the region of Kulangar, the village of Dadokhel was razed by attacks from the air and ground; about forty-five villagers perished. In the third week of October 1981 a Soviet army unit of about three hundred tanks and other vehicles again visited Logar, accompanied as usual by helicopter gunships. At this time the main road was under the control of the mujahideen, and the invading army had to go instead through the deserts of Babus and Kulangar, after they spread rumors that a huge force was about to visit Logar. The mujahid commanders, who at the time were more disunited than before, desisted from opposing the enemy. The army surrounded many villages where children, women, and old people had remained. The draft dodgers had escaped. The mujahid commanders complained to their leaders in Peshawar of the inadequacy of their weapons when pitted against the superior weapons of their adversaries. They demanded antiaircraft weapons, but their leaders were unable to supply them at the time.
Before winter set in, when the well-protected units of the invading army had the upper hand, a delegation of about ninety elders of Logar visited Sulaiman Laweq, minister of tribal affairs, in Kabul to plead for the suspension of military operations. They told the minister, “Instead of being supplied with clothes, houses, and food, as promised, now the things in our possession are destroyed and our people are killed indiscriminately.” The Khalqi government, when Laweq was a member, had promised to provide the people with clothes, food, and homes. But Laweq now told the elders, “You are to blame for your own misfortune: you support the rebels, you do not want to pay taxes, and you are unwilling to cooperate with the government.” He told them further, “In defending our land against the United States of America, China, and Pakistan, we had to ask for Soviet military assistance. But,” added the minister, “if you really want to live in peace, cooperate with us, expel the rebels from your region, and pay your taxes, for which you will be granted local autonomy.” The elders returned disappointed.
Earlier, a progovernment mulla had preached the same things to a gathering of the people of Logar whom the government had summoned. When the mulla promised that the Soviet forces would withdraw if the people cooperated with the government, an elderly man answered, “Unless the Soviet forces are withdrawn, we would not be willing to do any thing of the sort.” The Soviets were, of course, unwilling to withdraw, and in June 1982, in the course of an unprovoked and unopposed operation that lasted for two days, their forces massacred 240 people of the district of Baraki Barak. In addition, of the 900 people whom they took with them, some they killed in a camp in the Kulangar region; others they imprisoned, and still others they pressed into the army. The perpetrators were all Russians. Zahir Ghazi Alam, who along with others had in the course of the operation taken refuge in an underground canal, writes:
This is written at a time when the dust of the bloody Soviet operation in the district of Baraki Barak is still unsettled. In every house there is wailing and weeping. In common graveyards new graves are dug, the dead are buried, and new flags are hoisted over the martyred. Barefoot and pale, mothers and sisters, men and women, are looking for their disappeared ones, hurrying through vineyards, streams, and fields. The Russians have perpetrated their most barbarous operation in the region. The eyes of the people of the world are closed, their ears deaf, and their tongues mute to this unprecedented crime of the Russians. Worse still is the fact that even in this third year of the war the Peshawar-based Islamic organizations are still astray from the path of jehad and distant from the Afghan spirit and values. They have let themselves be seized by the disease of disunity, personal interest, and ambition.
The effect of these operations on Logar has been described by Borge Almqvist and Mike Barry, who visited the province in late summer and early fall 1982. The Swedish journalist Almqvist notes:
Barry’s comments are even more sobering:
I entered into a country where every village has been bombed at least once since the war started or fired at by Soviet land forces. Many villages are deserted, there are whole areas where the entire population have run away to the camps in Pakistan out of fear of being killed in further air bombardments. These areas are so-called helicopter territories. When you move in them and you hear a helicopter you have 60 seconds to go. These areas have turned into the age before stone age. Civilization has gone back. This is before man entered Afghanistan in the very old times.
As a result of these battles, the fertile Logar had become a place of ruins and graves, just as Herat had become after the conquest of Genghis Khan in the early thirteenth century. Almqvist continues:
In our trip to Logar province,…we crossed 12 villages including Dobandi, 8 of these villages, including Dobandi, were completely uninhabited. One further village we saw destroyed virtually before our eyes. We were told that we should visit a village called Altamor, and in the fog, we saw a great flash in the distance.…And that evening and early the next morning the first wounded came into where we were from Altamor, telling us there is no more Altamor.
Again, in his words, “The Logar province in many areas looks like an archaeological site.”
Everywhere in the Logar province the most common sight except for ruins are graves. [At] the first sight you see when you enter the village, huge graveyards or a small one, and you can see which graves are new and which are [old, that is] before the war, because nowadays they [the people of Logar] have started like in the old days to put up flags like they did for holy men before, because the ones killed by the Russians are considered as holy people and according to Afghan Islamic belief they go to paradise if they were killed by the Karmal troops or the Russian troops.
Almqvist provides frightening evidence about the frequency of the bombing. In one passage he describes seeking a shelter in the company of villagers, all of them in great panic from the danger of an imminent bombing:
In such a helpless situation people still lived, perhaps unable or unwilling to move out, hoping that the carnage would end. No one, however, was sure, and the fear of being killed in one’s own home haunted the inhabitants. Almqvist writes,“In the villages in the Logar province where people [still] live, they live under a constant fear, if next morning will be the last, if they will wake up to the sound of helicopter[s] zooming in over the rooftops, heavy machine gun fire, rockets and bombs exploding in the village.”
We got to the village shelter which was a small grove of trees, the only shelter available for hundreds of people. After these bombardments within a week I saw two other bombardments.…Every morning the helicopters come from Kabul to the airbase and headquarters for the Soviet and Karmal troops in the Logar province, where they get the orders which village in the valley to bomb. That morning [when] they were bombing a village for thirty minutes, only 5 people died.
Farms, too, were unsafe. Almqvist observed that “farmers working on in the fields were shot down by their helicopter gunships. They had no time to run away for shelter and guns, they were just gunned down unarmed.” Here Almqvist refers to a particular incident that happened in the village of Baraki Rajan in Logar on 19 June 1982, before Almqvist arrived in the area. In that locality, after a brief encounter with a group of retreating mujahideen, the army of “internationalist solidarity” embarked on a spate of “burning and looting and killing.” Looting was not an individual but a group act, common among the Russians in Logar. Almqvist writes, “I went to quite a few villages where people told me how the Russians had taken everything out of the houses, like radios, carpets, food, all sorts of household tools. These houses were completely empty.” Even individuals had been robbed. During the winter of 1982 I met a number of inmates in the prison each of whom had been looted simultaneously by a number of Russian soldiers in Logar. According to the victims, the soldiers acted as if they were competing with one another in robbing the same person.
Mike Barry describes how the Russian soldiers denuded the “enormous” village of Aochakan of its wealth. The invaders had apparently undertaken the whole operation for that purpose:
The village was also emptied of its inhabitants since there was nothing left for them to live on. Barry continues, “I saw an enormous village by moonlight which had not been bombed, and yet there [was] not a single human being left alive in it. It was already snowing, and you could tell that there were no footsteps in the snow. It was a freezing night, and with my companions I explored the village, and all we found living in the village was a single dog.”
On August 30th 1982, the whole village was surrounded in the classical way by tanks, helicopters flying above. Young men of military age had been able to run away into the mountains on time, so all the people who were collected by the Soviet troops were elderly villagers, farmers’ women and children. The soldiers did not kill anybody this time, they simply stripped every single person in the village that they could lay their hands on of anything valuable he had on, whether jewelry or wrist watches. Houses were searched, and all transistor radios were confiscated. The granaries were emptied, all sacks of grain reloaded on to the lorry vehicles, and finally all the sheep, all the goats, and all the cattle were loaded on to the military lorries and taken away.
The villagers had fled to Pakistan, but flight abroad in the cold winter could be deadly, especially for families with children. It was so for the people of Dehsabz, a cluster of villages northeast of Kabul. Again in Mike Barry’s words:
Almqvist has also noted the accounts of local witnesses about genocide committed by the Soviets. In one incident the Russians first looted then set fire to shops; when the shops were ablaze, they threw a number of old people into them. They burned the shops after they had looted them. Quoting a witness, Almqvist writes, “At Ghulam Raza’s house in Baraki Rajan they [the Soviet soldiers] forced nine people out and killed them.” This was probably the end of the whole family. The account of another witness is more revealing: “I was on the roof of my house on watch. The Russian forces were attacking the village of Baraki Rajan. The attack was both from the air and the ground.…The Russian forces and their allies started to search the houses. Men, women and children were forced out of their homes and shot. [I] myself did see 8 people being murdered. I did see myself from the roof how the Russian soldiers threw mines out into the wheatfields.” According to the same witness, the Soviet soldiers forced some locals to go in front of their tanks so that the mujahideen would not fire on them. During the three days of operations in the village of Baraki Rajan, 298 people were killed, 25 of whom were children, and 203 resistance men. The latter were caught unaware while working in the fields. This was a big loss to the mujahideen, since usually their casualties were not so high.
The villagers…were told by Parcham communist officials, “Get up, go away”—“Where are we supposed to go?”—“We do not care, go away, we are going to kill you, go away.” And the people then were subjected to bombardment. All during the succeeding days bombs fell on the village, and the population began to run away at night. 450 families reached Pakistan after 7 or 8 days;…50 children froze to death on the march over the mountains, and 150 people had to be amputated for frost-bitten limbs in Peshawar hospitals. The population has collapsed on a mud field under the rain, no tents, no shelter. They are told they must now go towards the Indian border, they do not want to go, they are obstinate, they want to stay, but are getting desperate, and it seems that now we are reaching the breaking point.
The Soviets also poisoned drinking water to make the civilians sick or do away with them. According to one witness, “They put medicine in the well and we cannot drink the water, because it is poisoned. We turn sick.” Many villagers told Almqvist that the Soviets had poisoned their food in the course of searching houses. That the Soviets would destroy heaps of ready crops in fields was common. When the crops were ready, the mujahideen would refrain from opposing the invaders, saying, “We cannot defend this village now, because if we do, we will have our food burnt. They shoot with machine guns, with Kalashnikovs or Kalakovs at the heaps of wheat or whatever on the fields so that they catch fire.” Small butterfly mines were also thrown here and there in Logar, but not in as large numbers as in other isolated areas.
These operations made the people of Logar believe that “it is a normal way of fighting when a European occupation force comes into the country to shoot and kill people in many, many different ways.” Since the Soviet soldiers felt free to kill as they pleased, common Afghans called them with the awe-inspiring names of “Rus” and “barbarians.” Even children held this opinion. They would scream at the sight of the blond Swedish Almqvist, who looked like the Russians. Parents apologized to him, saying, “Very sorry, but you have blond hair you know, you look like a Russian. And they have never seen a camera before. They have seen so many new guns in this area, they are small kids, they do not understand that it is a camera, they think it is a new gun and that you want to kill them.” Almqvist wrote in conclusion: “When I left Afghanistan I felt like a traitor leaving all these people behind.”
Massacre in Shamali
The region toward the north of Kabul up to the Hindu Kush is called by the traditional name of Shamali. This region comprises the two provinces of Parwan and Kapisa. The latter, lying as it does to the south of the Hindu Kush, includes a number of long, narrow, and tortuous river valleys, among them the famous district (wuluswali) of Panjsher. Like Logar, this region is significant to Kabul, particularly in times of disturbance. In the present war it became even more important. The shortest road from Kabul to the Soviet border passes through this region. For the Soviets, it was important to keep this road open to supply its forces and the regime. To the north of the Salang Tunnel in Kelagai the Soviets had stationed the bulk of their troops, while to the south of it was the Bagram military air base. Significant also was the location of Panjsher, which links Shamali with northeastern Afghanistan. The Soviets thus treated Shamali as a special region.
As mentioned above, Soviets killed many villagers in Shamali and fired on the villages from their bases in Khair Khana in the city and from Bagram in Parwan Province. In addition, they undertook several expeditions in the course of which they killed many civilians. The intensity of the operations, here as elsewhere, was such that cows ceased to give milk and some children died of shock. Both sides of the main road for a considerable distance were flattened to ensure its safety. The invaders still failed to pacify the region, although the mujahideen here were far from united. Besides the two unfriendly Islamist groups of Hizb (led by Hekmatyar) and Jam’iyyat, the leftist SAMA was also active in the region. Despite the disunity, because of grass-roots support the resistance here, as in many rural areas, was strong.
As in Logar so in Parwan the Soviets, descending in groups of tanks, searched houses for weapons and draft dodgers. When not allowed to do so, they would attack the village or residential forts. For example, the fort of Dade Khuda Hussain Khel close to the village of Musa near Qarabagh was hit so much by rockets in early February 1981 that of its ten inmates and a number of cattle, only one child survived for a few days. While searching houses, the Soviet soldiers would denude them of valuables, as they did in other places. In an attempt to make the Bagram air base safe from attacks from the surrounding districts, they looted Parwan even more scandalously. For the same reason they hit villages at random with rockets and guns from the south of the city of Charikar and Bagram. They were still unsafe from the ambushes of the mujahideen, who attacked them from trenches in the walled orchards, where they could hide and escape retaliatory fire. The Soviets were more frustrated in Parwan than elsewhere, although KhAD had recruited many persons from the area. Many senior officials of KhAD were from the various districts of Parwan, but the locals had ostracized them. When the mujahideen fired at them, and particularly when they inflicted casualties on them, the Soviets would do what they could to take revenge. Then they would fire at anything and anyone whom they wished to destroy. On one such occasion in early May 1981 they killed a number of children in the village of Kalakan, the stronghold of SAMA. The Russian soldiers were stated to have said, “When the children grow up they take up arms against us”; much later, Russians in Baghlan said, “We do not need the people; we need the land.”
In May 1981 the Soviet soldiers flattened the village of Mahigiran close to Raig-i-Rawan. They also killed nearly all of its residents to take revenge for a defeat the mujahideen had inflicted on them elsewhere. Their massacre of the Kushkeen (or Kuchkeen) villagers close to Mazeena was without provocation. When Soviet tanks appeared, the mujahideen, acting on the request of the villagers, withdrew without firing at the invaders. The Soviets were nevertheless unsatisfied: they killed thirty-one villagers, slaying them inside mosques, in lanes, or inside their homes. This they did on the second day of Eid, a religious festival. The invaders inflicted incredible cruelty on some people in a village nearthe town of Jabalus Siraj in August 1981. After they had been fired on, the Soviets entered the village. By then the young people had escaped, and only women, children, and elderly men remained. The Soviets wrapped thirteen of the elderly people in bedsheets and blankets and set fire to them.
Massacre in Panjsher
The regime still had only precarious control from Kabul to Charikar, the capital of Parwan Province, which they controlled through terror. In August 1981 KhAD arrested about six hundred men of the city, accusing them of having cooperated with the mujahideen. To pacify the region, the Soviets undertook a regionwide operation (’amalyat-e-sartasari). But before that operation is described, it is necessary to note their operations in the valley of Panjsher. A long, tortuous river valley, Panjsher is inhabited by Tajiks and a number of Sunni Hazaras. The valley is flanked by high mountains, pierced here and there with habitable caves; indeed, the caves are so spacious that people sometimes use them as summer quarters. A combination of circumstances made Panjsher famous as a resistance front. Mujahideen, taking cover in the caves or other protected places in the mountains, could be safe from rockets and bombs. In an emergency whole populations could take refuge in the rugged hills. From the start of the jehad only one resistance organization, Jam’iyyat, operated in Panjsher; Jam’iyyat was, moreover, under the leadership of a local commander, Ahmad Shah Mas’ud. Emeralds, rubies, and other precious gems, taken from twenty-five mines in the crags of the Siah Qullah in Khinj above the valley, gave the resistance an income from eight to nine million dollars a year with which to buy weapons and meet other expenses. Unlike the mujahideen in other areas, who pressured the locals for taxes and other necessities of life, the Panjsher mujahideen did not. Hence, the solidarity between them and the locals was unstrained. This solidarity proved significant, since the Panjsheris who worked in Kabul as technicians, drivers, shopkeepers, and government employees provided the resistance with necessary intelligence. Since Panjsher, like many areas, was not self-sufficient, the enterprising Panjsheris worked and lived in Kabul, particularly after the development programs begun in the late 1950s. Some owned transport companies.
The district of Panjsher and Ahmad Shah Mas’ud did not at first attract the attention of the Soviets. When, however, Parwan and Kapisa became disturbed and when the mujahideen of Panjsher also took part in the disturbances, the Soviets directed their war machine at it. They did this to dry up one source of mujahideen and to guard the Salang road, which runs close and parallel to the Panjsher Valley. The road from the south of the tunnel to the town of Jabalus Siraj is vulnerable to attacks from the Panjsher side. In early January 1981, after the mujahideen had repulsed some Soviet military operations and inflicted losses on them, the Soviets blockaded the valley of Panjsher. At the foot of the valley, near Unaba, they erected a wall, a miniature version of the Berlin Wall, and intensified the bombardment. The French medical doctor Lawrence Laumonier, who visited Panjsher for the second time in the summer of 1981, states:
But the bombing destroyed their houses and killed their cattle. Dorr Mohammad, a native of Panjsher, states: “In villages they [the Soviets] managed to destroy our fruit trees like walnuts, almonds, things that we live on. When they come to a village they even destroy or kill our cattle…like cows, sheep and even our donkeys. In our villages there are not many houses left for the people…to live in. Consequently, they have to move from their villages which are totally deserted now .” The blockade failed, and grain was imported to Panjsher, although with difficulty, from other regions, notably Andarab. In September 1981 the Soviets undertook their fifth operation against Panjsher; it, too, was repulsed by the mujahideen. By this time the Panjsher front had become famous, and in order to raise the morale of its forces the regime lied that it had pacified it. Addressing the Polytechnic students, Saleh Mohammad Zeray, a member of the politburo, said, “After the USA and the USSR, the Panjsher front is the strongest in the world, and our forces are now stationed there.” On 22 September 1981 the regime announced that Panjsher had fallen to it, but it was untrue.
For three months I did not see any bombings in Panjsher when I was there [in 1980], but this time I saw [bombardment] every day.…It was practically every day [that] the civilian population, especially women and children, at five o’clock in the morning, left the villages, went up into the mountains to find refuge in grottoes and caves, and they only came back at five or six o’clock in the evening. And it is only during the nights that the women can do the house work and the men can irrigate the fields and do the normal agricultural work.
Against this background, in February 1982 the Soviets undertook a regionwide operation in Parwan and Kohistan that resulted in the massacre of civilians. The Soviets had started the operations in December 1981, but until the following February they were small and sporadic; moreover, the Soviet forces had fared badly, and their casualties in men and weapons had alarmed them. For example, on 11 February 1982 a group of seventy-one members of SAMA destroyed thirty-three enemy tanks. Ten days earlier SAMA had defeated another Soviet unit. Having acquired weapons from the Soviets and the regime forces, and being composed of daring men, SAMA fought the Islamic Party as well as the Soviets at the same time. Frustrated at their failure, on 14 February the Soviets undertook the largest operation to date in the region; it continued for five days.
Military units of the Soviet and of the regime, supported by approximately five thousand tanks, took positions in certain areas surrounding Parwan and Kapisa while helicopter gunships hovered over them to block exits of the mujahideen. At the request of the locals, the mujahideen refrained from opposing the invaders, and many withdrew under cover of night. Some Soviet army units from the opposite points in Bagram and Jabalus Siraj spread throughout the region unopposed. In the course of house searches, the invaders did what men with consideration for life would not do. My diary entry for 26 February 1982 reads:
Although not fired at, the Soviet army showed barbarity, especially in the villages where female folk threw certain things over them from rooftops. The invaders killed women, children, and the elderly. They killed anyone who was sighted. They were also said to have used gas. Every family lost some members. The dead bodies lay in fields, mosques, lanes, homes, everywhere. The total number of casualties was estimated to be between one thousand and two thousand. The Parchamis gave out that the backbone of the resistance was broken. Throughout the region military posts were set up, but when the troops withdrew the mujahideen destroyed them. The mujahideen, as before, spread throughout the region, and assisted the bereaved in burying their dead.
But before withdrawing, the Soviet forces brought another calamity on the locals. To mark the triumph, the regime assembled thousands of the locals at a rally led by Dastagir Panjsheri, an eccentric member of the central committee. When the televised fanfare and the cries of “Hurrah!” were over, the people found themselves prisoners. Led into waiting buses, they were taken to Kabul, where some were said to have been executed for being suspected as mujahideen. Others were enlisted in the army, some were later released, and the greater number imprisoned in the Zone Ward of Pul-e-Charkhi, where I, along with about three hundred other inmates, was transferred from block two in 1984.
Massacre in Paghman
As already noted, Paghman, a region of several villages lying only a few miles west of Kabul, was also hazardous to the regime. In peaceful times Paghman was a most pleasant summer resort for almost all Kabulis, just Jalalabad was a winter resort for many. Paghman is famous for its private villas, public parks, and orchards; here streams, flowers, fruits, trees and cool shadows abound in the summer, when Kabul becomes dry and hot. In the last century Amir Abdur Rahman Khan chose Paghman as a summer resort, and later King Amanullah conducted public affairs and built the Arc of Triumph there; since then, down to the Soviet invasion, Paghman has increasingly attracted the public. But if it was so in peaceful times, after the invasion Paghman, and especially its densely populated valley of Pashaee, became a tough resistance front, despite being so close to Kabul.
Since Paghman has rocky caves and paths leading to the mountains beyond it, the Soviets found it difficult to overcome the mujahideen of the area, despite the many expeditions they took against them. The Soviets bombarded it almost daily, as I could see from Khushal Maina. A result of the bombing was a continuous exodus of its inhabitants toward Kabul with their belongings on their backs. While the mujahideen had established control over the district in July 1981, later they occupied its headquarters. Protected by MIGs and helicopter gunships, a large Soviet force was dispatched to the area. When it spread in groups into glens, the mujahideen descended on them from their hideouts, inflicting casualties before retreating. Led by their officers, groups of the invading army searched houses for weapons, draft dodgers, and valuables. They also embarked on a novel program of homicide. When the officers suspected the locals as mujahideen or collaborators, they would hand them over to the regime officers and the KhAD personnel to kill them. The KhAD men had no choice but to carry out the order, which was said to be a military order. The following example is an eyewitness account.
During the course of a house search, eight boys were taken out. The Soviet officer singled out four and handed them over to the regime officer to kill them somewhere. The latter demurred, arguing that their guilt had not been established. The Soviet officer warned him that if he did not carry out the order, then he would be killed instead. Accompanied by, among others, two Russian soldiers and the condemned boys, the officer set out for a place to carry out the order. Along the way the officer, speaking in the Pashto language, told the boys to drop down as if dead on hearing the shots, which would not be fired directly at them. The scheme worked as arranged, but as the boys ran homeward, they were killed by another group of Soviets, who took them for mujahideen. The place and time of the event is unknown, but it did happen. It confirms a statement by a former Soviet army sergeant: “We did not take any prisoners of war. None. Generally we killed them on the spot. As soon as we caught them, the officers ordered us to slaughter them.”
Paghman was still not pacified. After the withdrawal of the forces. the mujahideen spread out in the district and pressured the military posts that the invaders had set up in Peer-e-Biland (the district headquarters) and other places. The Soviets sent occasional expeditions into the region and continued their frequent bombardments. The destruction of houses, the killing of civilians, and the almost continuous flight of refugees to Kabul and elsewhere was the outcome. The Soviets must have been frustrated at their inability to pacify a district so close to Kabul. The mujahid commanders Abdul Haq, Bilal Nairam, and Jagran Sayyed Hassan became well-known for their resistance.
The term chemical warfare comprises a variety of chemical substances, such as irritating agents, lethal gases, chemical warfare agents, blister gases, nerve gases, and toxins, the latter designating both biological and chemical agents. Used massively, any of these substances can incapacitate and even kill thousands of people. Since World War I the subject of chemical warfare has caused fear and horror. The international community outlawed it. The 1925 Geneva Protocol, one of the oldest arms control agreements still in force, forbade the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. The 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention prohibited the possession of toxic weapons. The question at issue here is what kinds of these substances the Soviets used in Afghanistan.
The Soviets used chemical agents in inaccessible areas so that others might not know about it. For this reason, the Soviets and the regime wreaked havoc by helicopter gunships on areas where the presence of foreigners was suspected. Apart from other considerations, the Soviets feared the foreigners would inform the world about their use of chemical agents in Afghanistan. They bombed a few health centers set up in certain areas by French and other physicians. The symbol of the International Committee of the Red Cross was anathema to the Soviets. Although in the spring of 1982 they allowed a team of the Red Cross to visit Kabul in connection with the exchange of prisoners of war, they soon obliged the team to leave the city. The Soviets were unwilling to allow other international bodies to visit the suspected areas about which certain countries, particularly the United States, voiced concern. The Afghans were inexperienced in rushing their victims of chemical warfare or items contaminated by chemical agents to international bodies in Pakistan. Hence, it is difficult to verify the use of chemical substances in Afghanistan during the period covered by this study. Nevertheless, an unspecified number of people in a number of places did fall victim to substances other than conventional weapons. A manifestation of these substances was the peculiar decomposition of bodies.
I have noted two cases of peculiar decomposition. On 7 February 1982 the Soviets disposed of thirty-one elders in a pit somewhere between the villages of Ayamak and Rabat in the province of Ghazni. The Soviets had taken the elders to present them to the governor of the province in Ghazni to cooperate on matters relating to the Fatherland Front. A few days afterwards, the people of the area found their bodies, already decomposed despite the short time. The elders were killed because the Soviets were met sourly by the people of a village where the Soviets had shot dead a small boy after he had protested to them for their burning the fuel of the village mosque. In autumn 1980 some people were killed by chemical substances after they had entered an underground canal in the district of Shilgir in Ghazni. Their bodies had also been decomposed, apparently by injection of some chemical substance. A Panjsheri from the Malekat village of Kapisa Province describes such rapid decomposition thus: “The injured Afghans were injected with chemicals and within 20 minutes [their bodies were] practically decomposed.” He adds, “When they [the Soviets] use gas bombs the victims’ bodies decompose quickly.”
A Norwegian narrator of a film shot in Afghanistan comments on the subject of chemical warfare near the village of Charpur in Paktia in June 1980:
In the morning we were woken up by helicopters [which] were flying around. Hurriedly we left the village, but left one man behind us; he was wounded and we could not carry him out. The helicopters dropped a couple of what we thought at that moment were bombs. The only thing which we saw was a kind of explosion and a yellow cloud. Then, the second wave of helicopters came in and bombed with chemical rockets. So, everything in the village was bombed. Then a [villager?] told me that the first wave was a gas tank. Well, at that moment I did not believe it, because it [was] rather unbelievable that they [the Soviets] were doing [this] and a lot of Afghans [had] been claiming it before and I never saw any evidence of it. We came [back to] the village a couple of hours later. We found the man we [had] left behind dead. His face was swollen. We took him out and brought him to another place and came back the next morning and then the face was completely swollen, physically like what would have been dead for three or four weeks. It was really strange, and everybody in the group who was in the village was having blisters on his head, his face, [while] the face was swollen. Seemingly, a wide variety of emical] agen[ts] have been used from the old classic, if you will, nerve agents to a number of agents we do not fully understand yet. Mycotoxins which have been found in south-east Asia, apparently are also being used in Afghanistan. That is a new kind of agent, rather hideous and extremely lethal. Riot control agents are apparently also being used, and there aresome agents that have been reported and which have symptoms that arenot fully understood which cause sudden onset of death without any prior symptoms.
Mycotoxins such as yellow rain, sleeping death, and Blue X seem to have been used in Afghanistan. Yellow rain causes burning sensations, vomiting, headaches, spasms, and convulsions. Internal bleeding follows, followed by the destruction of the bone marrow. The skin then turns black as necrosis sets in. The time from exposure to physical decomposition may be a matter of hours. Sleeping death kills the victim instantly. Victims have been found in fighting position, holding their rifles, eyes open, fingers on their triggers, with no apparent cause of death. Blue X, a nonlethal agent dispensed in aerosol form and dropped from aircraft, renders the victim unconscious for eight to twelve hours.
George Shultz, the former American secretary of state, has dealt with the subject of chemical warfare in Afghanistan in detail. According to Shultz, “Reports of chemical attacks from February through October 1982 indicate that the Soviet forces continue their selective use of chemicals and toxins against the resistance in Afghanistan.” In twelve provinces yellow, black, red, and white substances, along with nerve gas, were released from aircraft and assault helicopters as well as pumped from armored vehicles. The chemicals were stored at Kandahar Airport, which was an important staging area for Soviet military operations. Until late 1982 many observers suspected the Soviets of using chemical substances, which were said to have been deployed as early as 1979. Shultz comments, “Our suspicions that mycotoxins have been used in Afghanistan have now been confirmed.” He also states that “reports during 1980 and 1981 described a yellow-brown mist being delivered in attacks which caused blistering, vomiting and other symptoms similar to those described by ‘yellow rain’ victims in Southeast Asia.” He then goes on to state that “new evidence collected in 1982 on Soviet and Afghan Government forces’ use of chemical weapons from 1979 through 1981 reinforces the previous judgement that lethal chemical agents were used on the Afghan resistance.”
Ricardo Fraile, a French legal expert on chemical warfare, visited Logar for a week in December 1982. Unlike the narrator of the film mentioned above, he did not see the use of chemical agents. He collected information about chemical warfare from sources in Afghanistan and also from diplomatic sources abroad. Being cautious by profession and by nature, and being well aware of the implications of his professional views on such a matter, he took the stance of a scholar-philosopher in his statement to the Oslo hearings on Afghanistan. In this statement he says:
In fact, Fraile was too cautious, at least at this phase, to express a view on the subject, despite the “evidence,” which he described as “fairly well supported.” For he said, “On one hand we have an ever-growing number of facts and evidence which are fairly well supported, and we are far closer to being convinced that chemical warfare is in fact taking place [in Afghanistan]. And then we have the attitude of the incriminated countries, which do nothing to prove their good faith or to actually remove suspicion.”
I personally can not say, “Yes, I can with great certainty say that there is chemical warfare [going on in Afghanistan],” but for some years now, since south-east Asia and since Afghanistan, I can say that there is an ever-growing bulk of evidence which is growing every time, and which is becoming clear. We have been shown masks, we have been shown protective clothing, we hear witnesses—people who have come from different parts of the country. Thus we create a composite of a mosaic. How can Afghan witnesses who describe something—they could never have been in contact with people in south-east Asia or in Eritrea and describe the same fact?
Although the scholar-philosopher summed up the “well-supported evidence” as “indications,” “clues,” and “elements,” and although in his views “the Russians [were] using the Asians as…guineapigs for…[testing] military hardware and…chemical weapons,” he was still unwilling to take a position until he was asked to do so. Then in categorical terms he said, “In the past I was not necessarily convinced that chemical warfare was being carried out in Afghanistan. Today I am convinced that such chemical weapons are being used.”
A United Nations Commission of Enquiry set up in December 1980 had concluded, in Fraile’s words, that “at least for one case in Afghanistan it would seem that it is almost certain that chemical agents, very specially of the irritant type, had been used.” This was in the early stage of the war. Besides, the commission had not visited Afghanistan, where these agents had allegedly been used as early as 1979. Dr. Fraile writes, “The first alleged use of chemical warfare [is] from the summer of1979, when it was suspected that the Afghan army with the help ofSoviet advisers was using chemical warfare in Badakhshan and in Parwan…and in Bamiyan, the center of the country.” By the time the hearing was held, the number of cases of the use of chemical agents had increased, according to Dr. Fraile, to approximately one hundred instances, resulting in the deaths of about three thousand people. But in Afghanistan the Soviets caused more destruction through conventional warfare than through chemical warfare. Edward Girardet, who visited a number of areas in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1982, holds that “there is a form of chemical warfare carried out at least on a sporadic basis.” But in his view conventional bombing had been more destructive, a subject that has not been made the focus of attention. He says, “I think the conventional bombing has taken such a toll on civilian lives in Afghanistan, that I think it is really an academic question to pursue the so-called issue of chemical warfare.” The “sporadic basis” and the relatively small number of victims—three thousand—as a result of about a hundred cases of the use of chemical agents in the period under discussion tend to support Fraile’s suggestion that the Soviet Union had used Afghanistan as a guinea pig for its experiments with chemical warfare.
The mining of certain areas and the spread of booby traps also led, and will continue to lead, to the indiscriminate killing of people. I have already commented on the fact that areas surrounding military garrisons and military posts had been mined. Also mined were certain routes in the frontier areas leading to Pakistan. Both sides of the war mined their opponents’ routes. This mining was limited to war zones, but areas in the countryside with no military significance were also mined with plastic mines. In mid-March 1982 large numbers of plastic bombs were dropped from helicopters along the Shonkaray road and the surrounding areas in Kunar Province. In spring 1981, while dropping “heavy bombs” from air on villages, the Soviets also dropped plastic bombs and antipersonnel bombs on fields and pathways in Dehshaykh in the district of Baraki Barak. The Soviets also used poisonous bullets in many places. One foreign observer described plastic bombs “camouflaged to look like stones or leaves”:
Soviet helicopters scatter them by the thousands in the fields and on mountain pass[es]. They are desired to maim not kill and these tiny booby traps have been responsible for the maiming of hundreds of men, women and children. The use of camouflaged mines in civilian areas was outlawed by an international convention signed by the Soviet Union in April 1981. At the time of the signing Russian helicopters were dropping the mines. They are still  dropping them. For those [who] opposed the Soviets there is little medical care. The International Red Cross is not allowed to work in Afghanistan. Since the invasion a handful of French [medical] doctors make secret trips to Afghanistan and provide medical care to the people. This hospital was marked with a cross, but the Soviets still strafed it. It is estimated that half a million civilians have died, and no one knows how many have been wounded. But still, the Afghans resist.
1. Alam, “Memoirs of Jehad,” 139. [BACK]
2. For details, see International Afghanistan Hearing (hereafter IAH), 186-212. The date and the number of casualties in the canal are not the same in all sources. According to Z. G. Alam, between seventy-one and eighty persons perished in the canal (personal communication, San Diego, 1991). The incident occurred in spring 1982, but the precise date is uncertain. [BACK]
3. Alam, “Memoirs of Jehad,” 178. [BACK]
4. Quoted in ibid., 186-89. [BACK]
5. Quoted in ibid., 161. [BACK]
6. Ibid., 209-19. [BACK]
7. IAH, 186. [BACK]
8. Ibid., 198. [BACK]
9. Ibid., 190. [BACK]
10. Ibid., 191. [BACK]
11. Ibid., 187. [BACK]
12. Ibid., 186. [BACK]
13. Ibid., 190. [BACK]
14. Ibid., 195. [BACK]
15. Ibid. [BACK]
16. Ibid., 196. [BACK]
17. Ibid., 188. [BACK]
18. Ibid., 189. [BACK]
19. Ibid., 191. [BACK]
20. Ibid., 192. [BACK]
21. Ten miners work in each of the twenty-five mines, using primitive techniques. Around twenty-five miners are killed each year from the collapse of tunnels and gas from the explosives. Annual yield varies from $80 to $90 million. Led by Ahmad Shah Mas’ud, the supervisory council oversees the extraction. The gems have brought prosperity to the region. The houses in Khinj are solidly built, and the latest Japanese vehicles crowd the narrow streets. (Asian Journal [Southern California], 11 September 1992.) [BACK]
22. IAH, 26. [BACK]
23. Ibid., 1. [BACK]
24. From my journal. [BACK]
25. Laber and Rubin, Helsinki Watch, 173. [BACK]
26. IAH, 77, 78. [BACK]
27. Ibid., 106. [BACK]
28. Cordsman and Wagner, Lessons of Modern War 3:216. [BACK]
29. For details, see Shultz, Chemical Warfare. [BACK]
30. IAH, 84. [BACK]
31. Ibid., 85. [BACK]
32. Ibid., 100. [BACK]
33. Ibid., 88. [BACK]
34. IAH, 65. [BACK]
35. How many mines the Soviets and (to a much lesser degree) the mujahideen planted throughout the war in Afghanistan will never be known. According to a Soviet engineer, the invading army planted two thousand minefields (Kakar, Geneva Compromise on Afghanistan, 232). Other sources have put the number up to fifteen million mines. The United Nations survey of November 1991 has this to say: “About 10 million mines are thought to have been laid in Afghanistan. They have been dropped randomly from the air, laid in concentrated clusters and minefields, laid singly and as booby-traps. Often they are washed down by floods on to previously cleared land. In some areas, they are everywhere: in villages, gardens, tracks, fields. In others, they may be only on access roads. There are large quantities of unexploded ordinance in almost all the areas where intensive fighting has taken place. Information on locations, concentrations, and types of mines is acquired slowly and often tragically. The problem tends to be worst in provinces bordering Pakistan, and in areas where fighting was heaviest” (Ruiz, Left Out in the Cold, 12). “The consequences of all this mining are only too visible. Two million people, or one in seven or eight, are disabled in Afghanistan. Of these, 20 percent or 400,000 people, have been maimed by mines or unexploded ordinance. A recent U.N. survey found that 10 percent of villagers in Afghanistan, and 60,000 refugees in camps in Pakistan are disabled. In four camps surveyed, 2 percent of all men were amputees. At least 50,000 have been provided with artificial limbs” (Girard, “Afghanistan,” 23). [BACK]
36. Alam, “Memoirs of Jehad,” 264. [BACK]
37. Ibid., 180. [BACK]
38. IAH, 107. [BACK]
This work, as noted in the Introduction, deals with actual, living, dynamic men who fought against each other in a brutal struggle for domination and survival. As such, this is a historical work describing the group actions of men in the actual theater of life. Since they struggled in a matter of life and death, they were compelled by the force of circumstances to reveal their true selves, something that they would not have done in ordinary circumstances. It is therefore a study of people who have provided us the opportunity to understand them from their actual deeds. Also, since the combatants belonged to different nations, they may be considered as samples of their cultures. This is, then, a work of international as well as a national and local political history.
On the one side were men predominantly from the Slav republics of the Soviet Union and their communist Afghan allies; on the other were patriotic Muslim Afghans and their distant, external supporters. They warred against each other for opposite reasons. The former believed—or, rather, their prophetic ideologues and absolute state had made them believe—that the tide of time had commissioned them to clear the Afghan land of weeds, to create a paradise in this world where its people could live in happiness forever. They also believed that since the reactionaries had misled the warring Afghans, preventing them from realizing the truth, they had no alternative but to make them accept what was good for them. This belief justified their paternalism and the violence they directed against those Afghans whom they thought had gone astray. In short, the Soviets and their Afghan allies believed that they knew what was good for the Afghans, and the Afghans themselves were incapable of comprehending it.
The patriotic Afghans held the opposite view. They believed that what the Soviets and their Afghan allies preached was a smoke screen covering their designs on the Afghans’ possessions and souls. Further, they held that what the Soviets and their Afghan comrades preached was false, that they themselves were misled, and that in any case it was not the Soviets’ business to organize the Afghans’ lives for them. Hence, the patriotic Afghans opposed the invasion, willingly sacrificing what they possessed to emancipate themselves and to safeguard their value system and mode of life. And they persisted in their resistance despite the odds, despite the pundits’ gloomy predictions that against the Red Army the Afghans, like the people of the East European countries, had no alternative but to submit.
There was then no common ground that could constitute a basis for accommodation. The issue was left to be settled by the sword. As a result, many thousands of Afghans perished, and their centuries of accomplishment were destroyed. Common sense should have persuaded the Kremlin decision makers to stop the destruction and let the Afghans live the way they pleased, but they did so only in 1989, after almost ten years of war. By that time every ninth Afghan had died, every seventh (or eighth) had been disabled, and every third had fled abroad. Afghanistan lay in ruins, and the Soviets had still not accomplished their war objective. This, then, was the longest, costliest, most destructive, and most indecisive war a superpower (with 280 million people) has ever fought against a small country (with 15.5 million people). If there were a grain of truth in what the Soviet decision makers preached, they would not have let this happen. Why they let this happen; why they were long unwilling to stop the destruction; and, above all, why they intervened in the first place—this is a subject beyond the scope of this discussion. But, as this study shows, they were unable to motivate their men to break the Afghan resolve to resist, and thus they were unable, superpower though they were, to accomplish their war objective.
An explanation for this failure may be found in the unworkability of the Soviets’ convictions and, conversely, in the potency of the Afghan’s convictions.
The Soviets’ convictions failed to motivate their fighting men to action except when they were under direct discipline or under the impulse of revenge. In the latter case, they were indifferent to the lives of men, women, and children. “The average Soviet had no motivation to fight in Afghanistan, other than to survive and go home. He was not defending his homeland, he was the invader detested by most Afghans, allies or enemy, and badly trained, fed and accommodated.” The Soviet fighting men expected to fight foreign enemies on Afghan soil, but instead they encountered as adversaries the very men and women for whose protection their leaders claimed to have sent them. The contradiction in what the Soviet fighting men were to believe and what they were to do was bewildering enough to shake their resolve to fight. To finance the war the Soviet authorities sold billions of dollars worth of gold and diamonds, but they were unable to convince their fighting men that those who encountered them were not Afghans, despite their Pavlovian indoctrination.
The Afghan adventure was not the Soviets’ only adventure, but it was their last. And, although they did not succeed at their stated purpose, they did succeed in destroying an independent government without being able to replace it by a viable one. Their failure caused a surge of ethnocentric and destructive tendencies in war-torn Afghanistan and helped speed the break-up of the Soviet Union itself. In late December 1991 the Soviet Union ceased to exist, fracturing into a number of smaller nation-states. A state that war had produced, war reduced. A state that by its rise had divided the world, by its demise reunited it. In this gratifying end, the Afghans played a part. The world owes themnot only recognition but also appreciation, since in the course of their struggle for emancipation the Afghans also served the world in emancipating itself from the scourge of one of the leading totalitarian states of our time. Happily, after more than seventy years of its mischievous existence, this state is now a part of history, as is the German fascist totalitarian state. Both were rooted in wars; both brought on wars; both committed genocide; and both perished as a result of wars.
In contrast to the Soviet fighting men were the mujahideen, whose will to fight inside their own country in the defense of their faith, their homeland, their independence, and their honor was unshakable. As already noted, they believed that in the fight against the intruding infidels, “The weapons of faith are the strongest and most effective weapons in the world.” Because of this faith and their other values, the Afghans have fought many wars in the past against foreign intruders, so much so that, as I have commented elsewhere, probably every settled square meter of the Afghan soil has cost the lives of Afghans, and is therefore priceless to them.
Any other explanation would be less than satisfactory.
1. Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 54. [BACK]
2. M. Poltoranin, Russia’s minister of information, quoted in Dobbs, “Secret Memos,” A1. The Soviet foreign minister, Edward Shevardnadze, put the cost of war to the Soviets at sixty billion rubles (Shevardnadze, Future, 58). [BACK]
3. Kakar, Second Anglo-Afghan War, 146 [BACK]
The period from 1982 to the present was marked by the replacement in 1986 of Karmal by Najibullah, the withdrawal in 1989 of Soviet troops after the conclusion in 1988 of the Geneva Accords, and the replacement in 1992 of the Parchami regime by the Islamic state.
From 1982 to 1986, when Najibullah (Najib Allah) replaced Karmal, the situation in the country remained basically unchanged. During this period the Soviets followed first an “enclave strategy” and later a “scorched earth policy.” Under the former policy the Soviets undertook less ambitious campaigns, restricting themselves to the defense of military bases, military installations, key cities, major roads, and communications, avoiding as far as possible countrywide pacification campaigns. But throughout 1983 and 1984 repeated military operations across the country were undertaken, sometimes as large as the one in Panjsher involving between fifteen thousand and twenty thousand troops. To cut off weapon supplies to the mujahideen, the Soviets littered the frontier provinces bordering Pakistan with mines. Described as “migratory genocide,” the Soviet campaigns were “massive reprisals against towns and villages harboring mujahideen.” The campaigns were undertaken “with a view to uprooting the local population, hurting the mujahideen and curtailing their mobility.”
Still, the Soviets scored no success in pacifying the country; only during the winter months were they able to extend their defenses, push their perimeter outwards, and capture mujahideen bases and arms in the hills surrounding Kabul. Beginning in 1985, though, the mujahideen were supplied with thick jackets, snow boots, and ski tents, which enabled them to remain in the field in large numbers during the winter months. More important, they began to receive heavy equipment, such as bazookas and heavy machine guns; they were also supplied some relatively primitive SAM-7 missiles. Their old Lee Enfield rifles had already been replaced with Kalashnikovs. During this time, too, the Reagan administration raised the level of funding for weapons to the mujahideen from $280 million in 1985 to $470 million in 1986 and to $630 million in 1987. From 1984 on, Chinese assistance and the flow of Saudi funds to the resistance also stabilized at a substantial scale. “With the network of logistical supplies and coordination development through the seven-party alliance, the Afghan Resistance became a highly efficient force by 1986.”
But the regime scored some successes among the city population by repairing mosques, promoting the Islamic Affairs Department to the status of ministry, increasing subsidies to religious persons, holding jirgas, promoting trade facilities with the Soviet Union, adopting local languages as the medium of instruction in primary schools, and undertaking publications in those languages. Nevertheless, even with these measures the Karmal regime remained a city regime.
With the rise in March 1985 of Mikhail Gorbachev as the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, the scene was set for changes: in the Soviet Union by the inauguration of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (economic restructuring); in Afghanistan by the gradual disengagement of the Soviet Union; and in the world by the relaxation of tensions.
In Afghanistan the change was marked by the replacement in May 1986 of Karmal by Najibullah, first as general secretary of the PDPA and then as president of the Revolutionary Council. This replacement occurred after Gorbachev described the Soviet war in Afghanistan as a “bleeding wound.” The change reflected the Soviet policy of pulling out its troops after a settlement had been worked out.
As early as 1983 Yuri Andropov, general secretary of the Communist Party, had told Karmal that “he should not count on [an] indefinite and protracted stay of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan; that it was his obligation to expand the social base of his government by political means.” But Andropov died shortly afterward, and during the brief reign of his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, the issue was not pursued, and “Karmal did not draw the required conclusion.” In 1985 Gorbachev told Karmal that “we must think together” about the issue; Karmal, after his face “darkened,” replied, “If you leave now, you will have to send in a million soldiers next time.” Karmal, who had brought the calamity of Soviet troops on the Afghans, found it impossible to “expand the social base of his government by political means.” Still, early in November 1985 he unveiled his so-called ten-point thesis to achieve, among other things, “conciliation” and “compromise.” He also showed willingness to include non-PDPA members in the State Council and to promote a mixed economy. But his “conciliation” proposal was addressed only to those who had not raised arms against the regime. At the time neither the Soviet Union nor Kabul was willing to expand the social base of the regime by including the Islamic groups. Instead, calling these groups “counterrevolutionaries,” they aimed at their destruction. Karmal wanted his Soviet comrades, out of their internationalist duty, to seal the border with Pakistan with an additional 500,000 soldiers; he would then approach the Islamic groups for negotiations.. The Soviet Union was, of course, unwilling to embark on such a policy. Karmal therefore had to go, and Najibullah, who did not share his view, was promoted to his position.
But the Soviet leaders did not agree on how Najibullah should proceed to form a coalition government. Marshal S. F. Akhromenyev, chief of general staff, and G. M. Kornienko, a member of the committee on Afghanistan, argued that the PDPA should “forgo the major share of power in order to establish a coalition government.” “This government” they said, “had to represent the interest of various sections of Afghan society.” By contrast, Foreign Minister Edward A. Shevardnadze and V. A. Krutchkov, the chairman of the KGB, held “a conviction that even after the Soviet troops’ withdrawal the PDPA could retain…a determining and a ‘leading’ role in the new regime.” Tilting toward the latter view, Gorbachev in December 1986 informed Najibullah of the Soviet leaders’ decision “to withdraw the troops within one and a half to two years.” He also “urged an intense pursuit of the national reconciliation policy,” emphasizing at the same time “the necessity to extend the reconciliation policy not only to include the conservative forces, but also those who had been fighting with arms against the authorities.” But Shevardnadze, during a conversation with Najibullah, “emasculated” this proposal, telling him that half of the ministerial portfolios, and not the main ones, in the coalition government could be assigned to the opposition. Najibullah, however, was given to understand that the president in the new order should be someone like the former King Mohammad Zahir, who could be acceptable to all sides, and that “the whole range of political forces of the country [was] to be represented in [a] loya jirga, which was scheduled to elect a President by the end of November .”
After these discussions two series of events dominated the scene: the intensification of military operations and the pursuit of a policy that the regime called “national reconciliation.” As R. M. Khan correctly notes, “Soviet military activity appeared to have intensified following the rise of Gorbachev and the appointment of General Mikhail Zaitsev as the new commander of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.” According to a rumor circulated at the time, Gorbachev had given a span of one year to the military to suppress the resistance. If it failed, so the rumor went, he would then try to resolve the issue through diplomacy. Whatever the truth, for about a year after Gorbachev’s rise the Soviets carried out the severest operations they had ever undertaken in Afghanistan. In this series was the battle for the base of Zhawara near Khost in Paktia in April 1986, in which they and their Afghan allies lost thirteen helicopters and aircraft. Also, more than 100 soldiers of the regime were captured, and more than 1,500 either killed or wounded. The loss in the mujahideen camp exceeded 300. The Soviets occupied the base, but they retreated within hours of its destruction. Incidental to these operations was the detonation of explosive devices inside Pakistan, killing or wounding hundreds of people. This was probably the work of KhAD agents.
But if the Soviets escalated the war, so did the United States and Pakistan. They heightened the defense capability of the mujahideen by providing them with the Stinger, a sophisticated shoulder-fired, antiaircraft missile which America had recently made operable. This was the most effective defensive weapon which the mujahideen received. At 3:00 p.m. on 25 September 1986, Engineer Abdul Ghaffar of the Islamic Party (Hekmatyar) successfully fired the first Stinger against a helicopter landing at the Jalalabad airfield. It became “a turning point of the campaign.” From then on Stingers partly neutralized Soviet aerial offensives. According to the estimates of Pakistan’s Intelligence Service (ISI), “During the summer of 1987 the mujahideen hit an average of 1.5 aircraft of varied description every day.” By the end of 1987 the military situation had deteriorated to the extent that even Najibullah admitted that “80 percent of the countryside and 40 percent of towns were outside the control of his government.”
On 15 January 1987, while inaugurating the policy of “national reconciliation,” Najibullah invited political groups for a dialogue about the formation of a coalition government. He also invited leaders of the Islamic groups, but in reply they reiterated their view: “the continuation of armed jehad until the unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops, the overthrow of the atheistic regime, and the establishment of an independent, free and Islamic Afghanistan.” The former king Mohammad Zahir also rejected the call.
Even within the PDPA opposition was felt. The followers of Karmal, who numbered more than the followers of Najibullah, set up a separate faction, SNMA (Organization for the National Liberation of Afghanistan). They held a rally and voiced their discontent, but they were dispersed. Their leaders were dismissed or demoted from government and party positions, and Karmal was sent to Moscow against his will. The pro-Taraki Khalqis, although seemingly on good terms with Najibullah, were, like the pro-Karmal Parchamis, unwilling to follow him for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, confident of the support of his Moscow mentors, Najibullah went on with the program of “national reconciliation,” trying to persuade the noncommitted individuals and groups to serve under him even before the Soviet troops had left.
The splinter group of the PDPA led by Zahir Ofuq reunited with it after years of separation. The Sitami factions of SAZA and SZA (formerly SAFRA) declared their support for the policy of “national reconciliation,” and their leaders joined the government. Led by Sufi Shina, a new faction, KAJA (Young Workers of Afghanistan), made up mainly of the disillusioned Parchamis and Khalqis, also broadly supported the policy of “national reconciliation.” Later, three separate factions emerged, representing the interests of peasants, religious groups, and the business community, all of which supported the new policy. Only leaders of the Afghan Millat who had recently been released from prison declined the offer of joining the government. Except for the latter, the factions were made up mainly of pro-Moscow leftists and opportunists whom KhAD had encouraged to organize with a view to creating a multiparty system. In addition, many prominent former bureaucrats outside political groupings, including community and tribal elders, joined Najibullah in his efforts to effect national reconciliation.
Najibullah’s accomplishments were more pronounced in his efforts to reform himself and the state he had inherited. He now claimed he was a Muslim, whereas following the April coup of 1978 the PDPA leaders had said they were the sons of Muslim fathers. An eloquent speaker in Pashto and Persian, he backed up his stand with passages from the Quran. On Fridays he prayed in the mosque of Pul-e-Khishti. An Islamic center was set up for research in Islamic studies, and the government spent still more lavishly on the ’ulama and religious centers.
The night curfew that had been imposed following the uprising in Kabul in 1980 was lifted. The regime began to release groups of prisoners in intervals; some time passed before most prisoners were released. Our group of professors was released in early 1987 before we had completed our terms of imprisonment. Peace commissions were set up and were granted authority in administrative and welfare affairs. I was invited to attend the National Peace Commission; had I done so, the rights that I had lost during my stay in prison would have been restored, but I declined. The National Front, led by Abdur Rahim Hatif, was authorized to play a major role in the implementation of the program of “national reconciliation.”
To change the state structure, on 30 November 1987 Najibullah convened a loya jirga composed of men and women selected by the authorities from among members of social organizations, the National Front, government officials, and members of the PDPA. The two-day session of the loya jirga was marred by violent incidents. While Najibullah was delivering his opening statement, four rockets launched from the hills of Paghman hit the area of the Polytechnic building where the jirga was held. Members of the jirga were alarmed, but Najibullah kept on reading his statement. The next day, General Asmat Muslim, commander of the Achakzay tribal militia, was barred from entering the hall with his armed guards; they clashed with the security men outside, in the course of which several men, including two senior officials, were killed or wounded. Muslim was responsible for keeping the road from Kandahar to Speen Boldak open.
Despite these difficulties, the loya jirga succeeded in its mission. It passed a new constitution and elected Najibullah president for seven years—not surprisingly, since he was the only candidate for the position. The constitution devised a presidential system with an elective bicameral parliament to which the executive was made accountable. The constitution declared “the sacred religion of Islam” the official religion, and it stated that the state power belongs to the people, who exercise it through their representatives. It guaranteed the democratic rights of the individual and made it legal to form “political parties,” a provision allowed for the first time in an Afghan constitution. It declared the society “multi-nationalities” and charged the state with pursuing the development of all “tribes and nationalities” to ensure equality. To appease the nationalists, photos of Afghan heroes of the past were posted in the city. The word “democratic” was dropped from the name of the republic because of its communistic connotation;it was now called the Republic of Afghanistan. Later in 1990 the PDPA was renamed the Fatherland Party (Hizb-e-Watan), a party whose published aims claimed that it “fights for democracy based on a multi-party system” and loya jirga, as well as “national reconciliation whose contents it would develop on the basis of Islamic beliefs, patriotism, the chosen customs of the people, and the experience of practical politics.”
Despite these changes, Afghans not connected with the party or the regime held that President Najibullah was so committed to the ideals of PDPA and so loyal to the Soviet Union that he would not transform. In particular, they distrusted the PDPA and KhAD. The latter, though now called WAD (Ministry of State Security), was dominated by the same Parchamis, who still called themselves “khadists, the true sons of comrade Dzerzhinsky,” the bloodthirsty prophet of the leftist revolutionaries. The Afghans viewed the regime to be unviable and the “national reconciliation” policy a ploy, especially since the Soviet troops were still present; however, rumors were afloat that the troops would leave as soon as a coalition government was in place. But President Najibullah had started a move that even the Islamic groups could not ignore. They could not do so because the regime, among other measures, doubled its efforts at neutralizing the resistance commanders and building up militias.
As explained in chapter 10, through Premier Kishtmand the regime promoted in effect a policy of fragmentation by promising autonomy to localities, in particular in the north and to the Hazaras. Now President Najibullah, who also headed the Supreme Council for the Defense of the Fatherland, approached the commanders about running their territories in an autonomous manner with the assistance of the regime, provided that they refrained from fighting and negotiated. Among the approximately four thousand commanders throughout the country, a considerable number went along with the proposal; however, Mohammad Hassan Sharq, who headed the government as prime minister from 1988 to 1989 and who abrogated the special political arrangement of an autonomous nature that had been devised for northern Afghanistan, notes, “Until the end of my office no known commander submitted, nor any known refugee was willing to negotiate. If a known commander received a government emissary it was to tell him that they were unwilling to negotiate but willing to fight to the end.”
On 10 February 1988 Yuli Vorontsov, the ace Soviet diplomat, told President Zia al-Haq in Islamabad that “the Soviet troops would be withdrawn, with or without national reconciliation and with or without the Geneva settlement.” The Geneva talks that had been going on at intervals since 1982 under the supervision of the UN secretary general’s personal envoy, Diego Cordovez, were expedited. On 14 April 1988 the accords, known as the Geneva Accords, were signed by representatives of the governments of Pakistan and Kabul. The U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and the Soviet Union’s Foreign Minister Edward Shevardnadze were present as the coguarantors of the accords. The Soviets undertook to withdraw their troops in nine months, completing it on 15 February 1989.
Since the basic parameters and structure of the agreements had been completed at a time when Moscow enjoyed a position of strength militarily, “The Geneva Accords accomplished little more than providing a respectable exit for the Soviet troops.” The “respectable exit” and the nonexistence of a national government helped the Soviets avoid paying war indemnities. More to the point, the accords—from which the resistance leaders had been excluded—had no provision to stop the war. “Specifically, they failed to address the question of self-determination, an issue critical for any restoration of peace in the country.” On the contrary, by accepting the principle of “positive symmetry,” whereby the coguarantors would provide weapons as they pleased to their respective Afghan sides, the accords in effect increased the chances of war and the destruction of an already battered Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union took full advantage of this situation by supplying abundant arms to Kabul and raising its fighting capability several times. The Soviet Union, until its dissolution in December 1991, is believed to have continued its delivery of weapons to Kabul at the same pace. It did so with “a conviction that even after the Soviet troops’ withdrawal the PDPA could retain, if not the complete control of power, then a determining and a ‘leading’ role in the new regime.” But this “conviction” was ill founded, and Mikhail Gorbachev knew it. In separate meetings in the Kremlin, Afghan Premier Mohammad Hassan Sharq, Minister of the Interior Sayyed Mohammad Gulabzoy, and Minister of Defense Shahnawaz Tanay had told Gorbachev and others that “the mujahideen and the people of Afghanistan would neither negotiate nor reconcile themselves with Dr. Najibullah.”
Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States, having achieved its goal of forcing the withdrawal of Soviet troops, gradually disengaged itself. To meet its goal, the United States even “allow[ed] the Soviet Union to leave Afghanistan without losing face.” Although as of 1990 the United States “appeared to be pushing for an understanding with the Soviets on an effective transitional arrangement that could lead to UN-supervised elections,” in effect it left regional powers, in particular Pakistan, free to devise a government for Afghanistan.
But Pakistan, like the Soviet Union, had a view of its own on the subject that was well known until the death of President Zia al-Haq and General Akhtar Abdur Rahman in a mysterious plane crash in August 1988. Specifically, Pakistan wanted “an outright military victory and the establishment of an Islamic government in Kabul,” and this view was promoted in the ISI. The man who fought hardest for this end was General Akhtar, who, as chief of ISI from 1979 to 1987, was second in command only to President Zia while the office he was heading “was considered all-powerful” in Pakistan and “the most effective intelligence agency in the third word.” Akhtar opposed the alternative view put forward by Foreign Minister Sahibzada Ya’qub Khan. “Yakub Khan wanted to push the [Islamic] Alliance to take political initiatives and felt that it did not receive support from the ISI for this purpose.” The same was true of Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, who “lacked control over the ISI setup and had little rapport with the Alliance leaders.” President Zia al-Haq, who did not pursue “a single clear line of policy,” allowed “the hard-line leadership to stall on the Foreign Office efforts.” That was why the ISI had allotted 67 to 73 percent of weapons it received from the donor countries to the four fundamentalist groups. These groups effectively opposed the “broad-based” formula that Diego Cordovez proposed shortly after the Geneva Accords had been concluded. Thus, settlement of the issue was left to the sword. Most believed that after the withdrawal of the Soviet army the mujahideen would soon oust the Kabul regime from power. But like the Soviet conviction that its army would suppress the resistance within weeks or months, this conviction, too, proved simplistic.
As the withdrawal date (15 February 1989) approached, the Kabul regime rearranged its forces and evacuated the headquarters of the outlying province of Kunar. The mujahideen occupied it on 11 October 1988. They behaved not as liberators but as pillagers and set up a dual system of administration for the province, one run by men of the seven group, and the other by the followers of Jamil ur Rahman, leader of the Salaffiya group known as Wahhabi. The inhabitants of the plain fled. In late 1988, seventy-four officers and soldiers of the regime submitted to the border authorities of Pakistan in Torkham, but they were said to have delivered them to a commander of the Hizb-e-Islami of Khalis. Later they were found dead on the Afghan side of the border. Visiting the area in January 1989, I saw the remains of some of them. Also, in early January, when the mujahideen overran the military post of Shewa, some Arabs of the Salafiyya group slaughtered two officers of the post who had submitted and possessed as war booty sixteen women, while members of two Islamic groups possessed five women. The incidents began to shake the conviction about the mujahideen as saviors, especially when the regime publicized the Torkham incident in its mass media after it had reoccupied the region for a short while in late November. The jehad had begun to degenerate into a war for spoil and revenge.
In this atmosphere efforts were made to convene a shura to form an interim government to replace the Kabul regime after the Soviets left. However, the shura was restricted to the seven Peshawar-based Islamic Sunni groups, the Islamic Unity of Afghanistan’s Mujahideen (IUAM). It was a loose structure, and the leader of each of the seven groups became its spokesperson for three months. The IUAM also had a leadership council, composed of leading members of the groups. In June 1988 Engineer Ahmad Shah was chosen head of the interim government, but a more effective interim government was required. In January 1989 the ISI chief, General Hameed Gul, persuaded leaders of the IUAM in a joint meeting to set up such a government.
But the IUAM leaders were disunited about the basis on which to set up the shura. Hekmatyar proposed that the shura be elected, but Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi called elections un-Islamic. Mohammad Yunus Khalis held that only the pious, the intelligent, and the learned were entitled to elect an amir. The suggestion that the council should be elected by the refugees was brushed aside, because in 1987 a survey of them had given a higher rating to the former king Mohammad Zahir than to the IUAM. The IUAM then devised a formula according to which each Islamic group, including the Tehran-based Shi’ite group of the Islamic Alliance Council (IAC), was to nominate sixty members to the shura. The IAC, however, held out for a hundred members. The IUAM increased the number to sixty-five, but no more. Mojaddidi, who was the spokesman of IUAM at the time, came out in favor of the IAC’s demand but backed away after he found that he was being isolated on the subject. The efforts of Iran’s diplomats, including Foreign Minister Akbar Velayati, who argued the IAC’s case with the government of Pakistan, bore no fruit, and the Tehran-based Shi’as were excluded from the shura.
The IUAM leaders also had to battle with tribal and community elders. More than eighty elders and mullas from various parts of Afghanistan, among them Azizullah Wasifi, Abdul Ahad Karzay, and Abdul Quddus, arrived in Peshawar and on 2 February 1989 held a rally there along with other Afghans; similar demonstrations were held in Quetta. In a communiqué the spokespersons for the Peshawar demonstrators stated, “The time has come to constitute a united leadership and a united government. Not a few leaders, but the whole of mujahid, muhajir [émigré], and Muslim people of Afghanistan have the right and the discretion to institute them.” The demonstrators suggested that a coalition government be formed with equal numbers of representatives from the mujahideen, the refugees, and the Kabul regime; this proposal was similar to the one-third formula which President Zia al-Haq had held until the previous January. Expressing support for the former king and denouncing the IUAM, the leaders of the rally reiterated the view that in the present circumstances only a loya jirga could achieve this goal. Some circulated the view, now widespread, that the Islamic groups were the creation of Pakistan. But as in 1980, so now too the latter reacted swiftly. While the police watched, followers of the Islamists disrupted the meeting and condemned the loya jirga. Hekmatyar said, “It was not our traditional system, but a deception of our nation by the tyrannical and absolutist governments,” and later stated, “Henceforth, without the mujahideen no one else can rule over Afghanistan.” By this time the schism between the Islamic fundamentalists and secularists had widened, and a number of prominent figures from the latter group, including Aziz al-Rahman Ulfat, Jannat Khan Gharwal, and the activist philosopher Sayd Bahauddin Majruh, had been killed by terrorists. Among those killed later were two physicians, Sa’adat Shigaywal and Naseem Ludin. Fearful for their lives, others, including the author of this book, took refuge in the West. In Peshawar the controversy raged, and division surfaced everywhere. Community and tribal elders worked for the view that King Mohammad Zahir was the only person under whom the nation could unite and the war be ended. The fundamentalists, though, reiterated the conviction that during his rule the former king had allowed the communists to penetrate the state and society and that he had taken no part in the resistance. In fact, the controversy was part of the wider division between those who stood for a theocratic order in which they would steer the state and society and those who stood for a secular order governed by elected representatives.
On 10 February 1989 the shura, made up of 439 members from among the seven groups and a few smaller ones including the Unity Council of Hazarajat, met with Mohammadi as chairman and Sayyaf as spokesperson. With 420 members, the seven Sunni groups dominated the shura, but a rift occurred between the traditionalists and the fundamentalists. While the latter wished to ratify the existing interim government, the traditionalists wanted a new one. They opposed the interim government of Engineer Ahmad Shah because he was known to be a Wahhabi. At the time the dispute over the quota for the IAC had not been settled. The traditionalists made it known that they would boycott the shura if the fundamentalists persisted in their demand. For three days the shura was adjourned to give time for consultation. When it was reconvened on February 13, it opted for a new interim government with a president and a prime minister. To establish this new government, first a seventy-member commission and then a fourteen-member subcommission were set up to lay down electoral procedures. Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran in mediation and settlement, presided over both.
Inasmuch as many agents of the ISI were also present in the shura, the subcommission met secretly in an unknown place where it formulated electoral procedure. Each member of the shura was entitled to two votes, one for his own group and the other for the group of his choice. The position of the head of state was to go to the group that obtained the highest number of votes, and the position of the prime minister to the next in order. Each group was assigned two ministerial posts. On 23 February votes were cast and the result declared: 174 votes were cast for the National Liberation Front, led by Mojaddidi; 173 for the Islamic Union, led by Sayyaf; 139 for the Islamic Revolutionary Movement, led by Mohammadi; 126 for the Islamic Party led by Hekmatyar; 102 for the Islamic Party led by Khalis; 99 for the Jam’iyyat, led by Rabbani; and 86 for the National Islamic Front, led by Pir Gailani. Thus, Sibgatullah Mojaddidi became president and Abdur Rab Rasul Sayyaf prime minister of the Afghan Interim Government (AIG). The purpose of the state was declared to be the establishment of an Islamic order in accord with the Quran. One month after its inception the government was to be transferred into Afghanistan, and a year afterward it would obtain a vote of confidence from a shura to be devised.
The outcome surprised many observers, who had expected victory to go to the major groups, not the smaller ones such as the fundamentalist Islamic Union and the traditionalist National Liberation Front. The votes were, however, cast more for persons than groups. Although a strict and orthodox scholar, Sayyaf had the exceptional ability of simplifying complex issues and winning adherents. It was mainly this attribute that in 1980 won for him the leadership of the Islamic Union. Besides, Arabs were said to have won him votes by offering gratuities to members of the shura. Sayyaf was popular with Arabs, in particularly with the Wahhabis. By contrast, Mojaddidi, though mercurial, was a moderate traditionalist, not an Islamist; he also had a longer anticommunist and antiabsolutist stand. No one feared either him or his group. These attributes, and Pir Gailani’s decision not to seek a high position for himself, helped Mojaddidi stand with head high on that day among his peers in the shura. More than anything else, Mojaddidi’s victory was a response to the rigidity of the fundamentalists and a reflection of opposition to the ISI’s manipulation of the affairs of the resistance groups.
Despite Mojaddidi’s selection, the AIG was inherently weak: because nationalists, tribal elders, and the PDPA had been excluded, the new government rested on a narrow basis. The Sunni Afghans who stood for a theocratic order dominated it. The field commanders, who were more pragmatic than the personnel of the groups, were not part of it. They had even been underrepresented in the shura by the failure of each group to send, in accord with the quota formula, 50 percent of its members from among its commanders. More serious was the unwillingness of the constituent groups to subordinate their military structures to the AIG. In addition, like the groups the new government was dependent on the ISI for money and other support.
The AIG needed to establish itself inside Afghanistan as a prelude to overcoming the Kabul regime. For that purpose, on 6 March 1989, after the Soviet troops had left on time (15 February 1989), between five thousand and seven thousand mujahideen under the leadership of eight senior commanders advanced on the frontier city of Jalalabad, but without a coordinated plan of action. After a speedy advance from the east, their advance was halted close to the city by the defenders, who were better armed and who were, moreover, in commanding positions. They had either to defend with determination or face slaughter, as the Torkham tragedy had warned them. Besides, from Kabul “over 400 Scud missiles thumped down among the hills around Jalalabad during the siege,” which lasted for four months. After having sustained more than three thousand casualties, the mujahideen lifted the siege; thus, the mujahideen failed in their first frontal attack in a conventional war, and the AIG failed in its bid to find a seat inside Afghanistan. The “catastrophe” of Jalalabad raised the morale of the regime’s army, which had warded off the assault without the support of the Soviet army. While the regime rewarded Manokay Mangal, the commander of Jalalabad, for his successful defense, Pakistan replaced the ISI director, General Hameed Gul, with Shamsur Rahman Kallu, a general whom President Zia had earlier pensioned off.
More serious for AIG was the unwillingness of Pakistan and the United States to officially recognize it. Not long afterward the Islamic Party boycotted the AIG when Hekmatyar resigned as foreign minister. His resignation showed that the existing rivalry between the two major constituent groups of AIG—the Jam’iyyat and the Islamic Party—had turned into a vendetta. The feuding intensified after Sayyed Jamal, a commander of the latter group, ambushed and killed in the gorge of Farkhar in Takhar Province thirty-six men of the Jam’iyyat, including seven of its commanders who were close to Ahmad Shah Mas’ud, the commander of Jam’iyyat and the head of its special unit, the Supervisory Council. Subsequently, Sayyed Jamal and three other commanders were caught and in December 1989 hanged before the public by court order. All this happened after Takhar had been nearly completely liberated and divided between the two groups, and “a truce had been arranged and sealed by the reading aloud to each other of the Commanders [Ahmad Shah Mas’ud, and Sayyed Jamal] of passages from the Holy Koran.” The event further weakened the AIG, widened the schism between the Jam’iyyat and the Islamic Party, and turned Hekmatyar and Mas’ud into undeclared enemies. It was rumored that Sayyed Jamal had acted on Hekmatyar’s instructions. The episode showed that taking revenge is a practice of ambitious Afghan politicians. Thereafter the AIG became ineffective, and Hekmatyar concentrated on subverting the Kabul regime from within.
As noted in chapter 2, in late 1979 Hekmatyar had reached an agreement with the Khalqi leader, Hafizullah Amin, to share power with him in a coalition government. Now that the Soviet forces were out, Hekmatyar began to persuade the Khalqis to work for the downfall of President Najibullah. At that time the Khalqis had decided to win the trust of the people and for that purpose were prepared to make sacrifices—hence their cooperation with Hekmatyar. However, the Khalqis were unable to escape the watchful eyes of the KhAD agents, who arrested many of their military officers for attempting a coup in December 1989.
While Gulabzoy, the self-styled leader of the Khalqis, served as ambassador in Moscow, the Khalqi minister of defense, General Shahnawaz Tanay, showed signs of rebellion; but before he could strike, the Soviet deputy minister of foreign affairs, Yuli Vorontsov, persuaded him to accept his mediation. Vorontsov, who also served as the Soviet ambassador in Kabul, assured him that Najibullah would meet his demands: that is, he would release all Khalqi prisoners and subordinate all militias to the Ministry of Defense. President Najibullah had made the militias part of his own office, which he had lately expanded. Vorontsov and the Soviet advisers were trying apparently to reconcile the Parcham and Khalq factions, but they were in reality working for clashes between them: hence the delaying tactics of President Najibullah in meeting the demands. The outcome was Tanay’s coup effort on 6 March 1990, the fifth since the withdrawal of the Soviet army. Tanay was still unprepared for it, but President Najibullah forced him to embark on it prematurely. After a one-day clash in which parts of Kabul were destroyed and scores of people killed and wounded, Tanay and a number of senior officers flew to Pakistan. There, in separate statements Tanay and Hekmatyar declared that the Islamic Party and the Khalqis had made a coalition to oust President Najibullah, whom they called a Soviet man.
A coalition between the pro-Tanay Khalqis and the Islamic Party, who were polar opposites, bewildered observers. Many senior members of the Islamic Party resigned in protest, and leaders of other Islamic groups ridiculed the idea of uniting with the Khalqis to oust the Parchamis. They saw no difference between Najibullah and Tanay. Hekmatyar had never been so isolated by his peers. Some believed that the coalition had been made under ethnic impulse, but this view overlooks the fact that President Najibullah was also a Pashtun and, like Tanay, came from the same province of Paktia. The core consideration of the alignment was for its designers to snatch state power from President Najibullah. In the context of Parcham-Khalq rivalry after the Soviet army had departed, Tanay represented the ambition of the Khalqis to regain the leading position they had lost.
In Kabul the regime rounded up three thousand Khalqis in the military and civilian departments. “The incident changed the balance of power [in the army] in favor of the followers of Karmal and the people of the north.” Instructed by the Soviets, the Kabul regime concentrated on building up tribal militias, especially in provinces bordering the Soviet Union. “After the clearance from the army of the Khalqis for being pro-Tanay, the tribal commanders of the provinces of Herat and the north were armed to the teeth and drowned in money.” Among the militia commanders was Abdur Rashid Dostum, whom the regime groomed to build up his Jawzjan Uzbek militias, known for their looting as gilam jam (total pillagers). Numbering about forty thousand, they were used as storm troopers against the enemies of the regime.
President Najibullah was, however, unable to enjoy the fruits of victory for long. His troubles resurfaced the next year. On 31 March 1991 the city and garrison of Khost in Paktia, and on 21 June the garrison of Khoja Ghar in Takhar, fell to the mujahideen. These losses were in addition to many others the regime had already sustained. But in Khost and Khoja Ghar it lost about eight thousand soldiers and huge quantities of military hardware. It was, however, still receiving weapons, foodstuffs, and fuel from the Soviet Union worth between $250 and $300 million a month, an assistance that helped it remain in place. But this lifeline was to be cut: on 13 September 1991, following the failed coup attempt by hard-liners in Moscow in August 1991, Soviet Foreign Minister Boris Pankin and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker agreed that effective the beginning of the new year, their countries would cease to deliver “lethal materials and supplies” to the warring parties in Afghanistan. More serious, the regime lost its patron when, in December 1991, the Soviet Union broke up into fifteen constituent republics. The new Russian Republic, headed by Boris Yeltsin, was unwilling to help the Kabul regime. Although by then President Najibullah had extensively reformed the government in line with the new liberal constitution and given high state positions to many prominent Afghans outside the PDPA, he had still failed to persuade any leader of the armed Islamic groups, as well as the former king, to negotiate with him. Even though his patron was now gone, Najibullah’s record as KhAD’s boss and a Soviet surrogate was the stumbling block.
Among the nearly one hundred thousand Afghans living in the West, those who were active in the issue put forward agendas for the convening of a loya jirga and the institution of an interim government to be made up of nonaffiliated technocrats, statesmen, and others without the participation of leaders of the Islamic groups or the PDPA in the transitional period. For this purpose, some had in 1990 set up an association, the Movement for a Representative Government in Afghanistan. But they all failed to develop a common front to work for this scheme. They stood behind the “broad-based” plan which the United Nations had devised for Afghanistan. In November 1989 the United Nations General Assembly had instructed Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to work for the realization of “a comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan.” On 21 May 1991 Perez de Cuellar put forward a plan that called for “an intra-Afghan dialogue” to work for “a broad-based government” in a “transition period” before a national government could be set up through “free and fair elections.” The plan required consultation with and the concurrence of the principal sides in Afghan politics. The secretary general commissioned Benon Sevan as his special envoy for this purpose.
Unlike the “broad-based” formula that Diego Cordovez had put forward in the summer of 1988, this plan came out in a more favorable climate. The breakup of the Soviet Union and the opening of Central Asia had made Afghanistan once again significant in linking the latter region with South Asia. Hence, Pakistan was interested in a stable Afghanistan primarily for economic reasons, hoping to reach through it to Central Asia. On 27 January 1992, after the ISI’s reservations had been overcome, the foreign minister of Pakistan announced that his government had decided “to support the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to convene an assembly of Afghan leaders to decide on an interim government.” Before its dissolution, even the Soviet Union had, in a joint communiqué with a delegation from the major parties of the Afghan resistance, agreed on the need to “pass all power in Afghanistan to an Islamic interim government.” Similarly, the United States softened its stand on the PDPA: as early as February 1990 Secretary of State James Baker had announced that “it would not be a precondition that Mr. Najibullah step down in advance of beginning discussions on a political settlement or transitional government.”
Nearly all the Afghan power groups came out gradually in favor of the plan. Hekmatyar, who initially called it “complicated, ambiguous and impractical,” modified his position in early April 1992, “swinging behind the United Nations plan and warning that any delay in accepting it would have serious consequences.” A gathering of more than five hundred commanders in Paktia in early February 1992 supported the proposal in principle, stating that if the plan, after clarification, was “not against the expectations of our jehad, and national interest and results in the establishment of Islamic government, it will not be opposed.” While Sayyaf rejected the plan, the three traditionalist Islamic groups and the former king endorsed it in categorical terms. Echoing the voice of the Jam’iyyat, Commander Ahmad Shah Mas’ud accepted the plan but stated that “as long as Najib is in power or has a share of power, in one form or another, UN efforts will not succeed.” Thus, the prospects for the plan seemed good. At the urging of Benon Sevan, on 18 March 1992 President Najibullah, who was the first to support the plan, declared that he was ready to step down from office and cooperate in the transfer of power to a commission of nonaffiliated Afghans. By then Sevan, who had met with all the parties concerned, had arranged for the transfer of power on 28 April 1992. First a fifteen-member commission composed of nonaffiliated persons would transfer power to itself; after forty-five days from that date it would, under the supervision of the United Nations, convene either in Geneva or Ankara a 150-member jirga of the mujahideen, commanders, and influential Afghans to set up an interim government. But before the plan was set in motion, an alignment known as the Coalition of the North (Ittilaf-e-Shamal) emerged, and it undid what Sevan had accomplished.
When the Coalition of the North (CN) was established is unknown, but it became active in March 1992 in Mazar after Abdur Rashid Dostum, commander of the Uzbek militias, rebelled. He did so because Kabul could no longer grant him money and weapons. President Najibullah dispatched a force by air under General Mohammad Nabi Azimi, deputy minister of defense, to silence the rebellion, but Azimi secretly joined Dostum instead. More serious, on 22 March Ahmad Shah Mas’ud, Dostum, Azad Beg Khan, Abdul Ali Mazari, and Azimi decided in a meeting to overthrow President Najibullah and set up a new government with Mas’ud as the head of state, Mazari as prime minister, and Dostum as minister of defense. Mazari was head of the Islamic Unity Party of the Tehran-based Afghan Shi’as; Azad Beg Khan was an Uzbek émigré from Uzbekistan whose agenda was to work for the unity of all Uzbeks. Sayyed Ja’far Nadiri, commander of the Sayyed-e-Kayan militias and spiritual leader of the Isma’ili Shi’as of Kayan, also joined the CN. Dostum claimed that he had headed the National and Islamic Movement ever since he entered the service of the regime, and now he joined the Karmal faction against his patron. Babrak Karmal, who had returned home before the unsuccessful Moscow coup of August 1991, schemed behind the scene, while his followers in the army and the PDPA put his plans into motion. But the CN was made under ethnic impulse, as none among those who devised it spoke Pashto. It originated from the regime’s “nationalities” policy and reflected the “national oppression” which Tahir Badakhshi had advanced (see chapters 3 and 10).
At 2:00 p.m. on 14 April 1992, the militias of Dostum, which had been brought to Kabul by air, took positions in the city. Surprised, President Najibullah, in a hastily convened session of the Supreme Council of Defense, asked for an explanation. Azimi and other Parchami leaders told him that the militias had been brought to protect Kabul against the threats posed by Hekmatyar, who had concentrated his men at the city’s southern limits. They also asked Najibullah to announce this on the mass media and apologize to the nation for having invited the Soviet army in 1979. Giving the impression that he would do so, Najibullah instead went straight to the headquarters of the United Nations; from there he asked Benon Sevan, who was in Islamabad at the time, to come immediately to Kabul. After Sevan arrived, Najibullah arranged to fly with him abroad, but Dostum’s militia controlled the airport and refused to let him go. He escaped death in the coup, but his chief of WAD (the former KhAD) was killed. Najibullah took asylum in the headquarters of the United Nations, where he still remains (June 1994). Azimi declared him “a national traitor,” and Abdur Rahim Hatif, the first vice-president, took his place. The event opened a Pandora’s box, which, among other things, killed the United Nations plan, which Sevan had brought to the threshold of success.
Kabul was no longer immune to hostile armed groups. On 16 April Foreign Minister Abdul Wakeel, an architect of the coup, met Mas’ud in Parwan; afterward Mas’ud’s men, who had already occupied the Bagram military base and the nearby town of Charikar, took positions in the northern part of the city and in some military installations. The Parchami officers turned over the arsenals to them, to the men of Dostum, and, to a lesser degree, to those of Mazari. Because the lion’s share went to Mas’ud, he surpassed his rivals in modern weapons. The Parchamis did so with the understanding that with Mas’ud they would be safe. Hekmatyar’s men had entered Kabul from the south, and on 20 April the Khalqis and the pro-Najibullah Parchamis helped them occupy the building of the Ministry of the Interior. On 22 April Vice-President Mohammad Rafi’ met Hekmatyar in Logar, afterward stating, “I obtained his agreement with regard to the transfer of power to the mujahideen.” By 24 April nearly twenty thousand armed mujahideen had entered Kabul under the cover of darkness. The situation in Kabul became explosive, and as Benon Sevan said, “Kabul belonged to every one, but no one controlled it.”
On 23 April, after cautioning heads of the Afghan factions against armed clashes, Benon Sevan informed Premier Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan of the dangerous situation in Afghanistan. On the next evening (24 April) Premier Sharif summoned heads of the Islamic groups to the official Governor’s House in Peshawar. Only Hekmatyar refused to attend, saying that “his presence was needed inside Afghanistan.” Qutbuddin Helal represented him in the meeting but soon left because of disagreements principally over the assignment of the Ministry of Defense in the interim government to the Jam’iyyat, that is, Commander Ahmad Shah Mas’ud. Soon a formula was devised for an “interim government of the Islamic state of Afghanistan.” A fifty-one-member commission, headed by Sibgatullah Mojaddidi, was to transfer power to itself from the Kabul regime. Mojaddidi was to represent the state as its president for two months, after which time he was to hand it over to Burhanuddin Rabbani. The latter was to hold the office for four months; a shura was then to devise a new interim government, which would remain in power for two years. The post of prime minister was assigned to the Islamic Party of Hekmatyar and ministerial portfolios to other Islamic groups, but not to their leaders. The latter constituted the leadership council (shura-e-qiyadi), which Rabbani was to preside over for four months. The arrangements came to be known as the Peshawar Accords.
The Peshawar Accords were agreed on in a meeting whose non-Afghan participants outnumbered their Afghan counterparts, although Afghan self-rule was the subject for decision. Some of these foreign dignitaries had, during the course of resistance, granted the Afghan leaders weapons, logistics, and millions of dollars in cash, thus making them susceptible to their influence. As compelling evidence of this influence, all except for Hekmatyar accepted the summons to an official headquarters of a foreign government and agreed to accords initiated by its premier. Setting aside the foreign pedigree of the Accords, they were unrealistic. Even some Afghan participants called them “impracticable,” “hastily drawn and monopolistic,” and not devised “in line with the will of the [Afghan] nation.” However, these critics lacked the courage to stand by their views. The accords were drawn to meet the requirements of Pakistan with respect to the new Central Asian republics. That was why Pakistan took their wishes into account in the accords. For “Pakistan has been told in unequivocal terms that its support of the establishment of an extreme right-wing government in Afghanistan would impede friendly relations with Central Asia”—hence the virtual dismissal of Hekmatyar’s Islamic Party, the preponderance of the Jam’iyyat, and the assignment of the key post of defense minister to Ahmad Shah Mas’ud before someone had been assigned the post of prime minister. Besisdes, either in collusion with the CN or by themselves, the framers of the accords devised a government of minorities to make it amenable to the interests of its eastern neighbor.
Abdullah Shiniwari even goes so far as to hold that, through a “grand conspiracy agrainst Afghanistan,” foreigners “forced a[n] alliance of the minorities and the Communists to trigger an internecine war between the majority Pashtuns and the minority represented by Ahmad Shah Mas’ud.” Shiniwari also maintains that these foreigners schemed to embroil the Afghans among themselves with a view to exhuasting the huge stockpiles of the Scud, Oregon, Luna-I, and Luna-II missiles, as well as the huge stockpiles of conventional weapons Afghanistan had acquired during Najibullah’s rule—weapons that not many countries in the region possessed. Indeed, the external influence was considered so important that the AIG, which a shura had elected, was discarded, and the setting up of another AIG by another shura or by heads of the Islamic groups themselves was not attempted; and, of course, other political forces outside the Islamic Sunni groups should have been consulted but were not. The Peshawar Accords showed that the Afghans had now more than one “Soviet Union” to deal with, and that, like Big Brothers in Islamic garb, the new Soviet Unions were bent on patronizing them as well.
On 28 April 1992 / 8 Saur 1371 Sibgatullah Mojaddidi arrived by road in Kabul and formally received power from a vice-president of the defunct regime in the presence of Afghan dignitaries and foreign diplomats. As president of the Islamic state and the Jehad Council (the Commission of the Peshawar Accords), Mojaddidi appointed ministers and other senior officials to the departments which the previous regime had set up. Among Mojaddidi’s first acts was to declare a general amnesty. Mojaddidi had no prime minister; Ahmad Shah Mas’ud, the minister of defense and chairman of the security commission, acted as the second in command. After 14 April, when Mas’ud had approached Kabul more closely, some felt that he might advance on it, but he halted and called on the leaders of the Islamic groups to set up an Islamic government in unison. He also said that “he [did] not wish a position for himself, and that, as a soldier of Islam, he was ready to serve Islam and the people of Afghanistan.” He had apparently changed his mind and cooperated in the implementation of the accords. Soon more than twenty governments officially recognized the new government, and Benon Sevan promised UN assistance provided that security was maintained. Premier Sharif of Pakistan paid a brief visit to Mojaddidi, granting him $10 million and promising to provide foodstuffs; the Islamic Republic of Iran followed suit. These measures, and the fact that the people of Kabul accorded Mojaddidi and his entourage a joyous welcome, made the government look legitimate. Indeed, the Kabulis, who were overwhelmingly anti-Parchami, accepted the government, assuming that it would provide essential goods, restore basic services, and maintain law and order. But it failed to fulfill these expectations. From the beginning, problems emanating from group politics, personal ambitions, the desire to loot, and ethnic and religious prejudices paralyzed this Peshawar-made importation.
It soon became apparent that the Leadership Council (LC), of which Mojaddidi was also a member, was the chief decision-making body. In line with the Peshawar Accords, Burhanuddin Rabbani, as head of the council, was to activate it after Mojaddidi’s term had ended, but he did so only a week after the advent of the new government. A semiofficial journal wrote, “The opportunists, instead of observing the Peshawar Accords,…started opposing the president of the state whom they themselves had elected.” The journal also stated that “the Leadership Council…by issuing contradictory decrees surpassed all, even the president.” This complaint was made after the LC abolished the Ministry for State Security; Mojaddidi had earlier appointed General Yahya Naoroz, a veteran mujahid military officer, to head it. Similarly, General Mohammad Rahim Wardak, also a professional mujahid officer whom Mojaddidi had appointed chief of staff, was demoted and the office given to its former Parchami holder, General Asif Delawar. This switch was made because Defense Minister Mas’ud believed that “all those generals and militias who helped in the overthrow of the Najib regime should be praised rather than abused.” Thus hamstrung, Mojaddidi was unable to perform his real task, that is, to transfer power from officials of the defunct regime.
The first few decrees issued by the LC indicate the features of the new Islamic state. It declared Islamic law (shari’a), to be the law of the land. Among the existing laws, those considered to be contrary to Islamic law were declared null and void. The LC confirmed the general amnesty which Mojaddidi had already declared, but only as far as it concerned the right of society, not of private individuals. Meanwhile, it decreed that the state should set up a special court “against traitors and transgressors and for their trial and for maintenance of general security.” This court was, however, directed against violators of laws, not the former communists. Nevertheless, the former PDPA was declared illegal and its property confiscated. Later, when Rabbani had succeeded Mojaddidi, the court ordered three men to be hanged, and the order was publicly carried out. Mohammad Siddiq Chakari, the minister of information and culture, proclaimed, “Our people have no need for music”; in line with this attitude, cinemas were closed. Alcoholic drinks were banned, and the liquor stock of the government-run Ariana Hotel was burned. The LC declared that “all officials and workers of Government and private organizations shall pray collectively at fixed times.” It also directed the Ministry of Information and Culture “to collect all anti-religion books from libraries and other places and keep them in a sealed place.” A commission was set up “for Islamic preaching and publicity,” and women were instructed “to cover their heads, legs, and arms”—that is, to observe the law regarding the Islamic veil. Presumably this order was not fully enforced: in September 1993 the Supreme Court issued a fatwa complaining that “women as before work in schools as well as radio and television, and wander about in the streets unveiled.” Holding that the “admixture of women with men in offices, cities and [their] learning and teaching in modern schools are unlawful, and are an imitation of the West, and of atheistic orders,” the fatwa forbade such mingling. The fatwa also demanded that the government “immediately enforce all the commands of Allah, especially that concerning the veil, and drive women out of offices, and close schools for girls.”
The decrees were not fully implemented, since shortly afterward Kabul was divided among the former mujahid groups and the militias, whose overriding concern became short-term personal and group gains instead of those of society. The government represented the country, but it was unable to extend direct rule over it. After Kabul fell, all of the garrisons and provincial capitals submitted one after the other with the cooperation of the military and the civilians of the defunct regime. More provincial capitals submitted to Mohammadi’s Islamic Revolutionary Movement than any other single Islamic group. In Herat the well-known commander Mohammad Isma’il predominated; he soon disarmed other groups, expelled the militias from Herat, and maintained law and order throughout the province. Also, as the guardian of an important frontier province, he showed vigilance about the intrigues of Iran. (Isma’il Khan is now more popular and effective in Herat than any other governor is in his own province.)
Dostum dominated the northwest provinces around Mazar. But as parts of many of these provinces also were in the hands of various Islamic groups, and because Dostum, as the commander of the Uzbek militias during the resistance period, had fought the mujahideen, the potential for clashes there was great. In the major provinces of Kandahar, Ningrahar, and Ghazni, local notables and Islamic groups set up joint councils. Gul Agha Sherzoy, Abdul Qadeer, and Qari Baba headed these councils, respectively. Essentially, each maintained peace in its region, and the country remained quiet. Kabul maintained educational, financial, and other links with these local governments, each of which began to assert its authority over its own domain in its own fashion with empty coffers and small income but abundant weapons. Kabul also sent them money when it received it from Moscow, where it was still printed. But to establish real authority over the provinces, Kabul needed an effective government, a steady source of income, and international help. Before it could procure these, the government had to assert its authority over the city itself, which had been the bone of contention among the armed groups almost from the start.
In the confusion that followed the fall of the regime, eleven armed groups entered Kabul and its immediate environs. These included the seven Peshawar-based groups; the Islamic Movement, led by Shaykh Asif Muhsini; the Islamic Unity, led by Abdul Ali Mazari; and two militia groups, the Jawzjan militia led by Abdur Rashid Dostum, and the Kayan militia led by Sayyed Ja’far Madiri. Khair Khana and the central part up to Dehmazang were controlled by the Jam’iyyat and the Supervisory Council; from the International Airport up to Bala Hissar was the domain of the Jawzjan militia; the eastern and southern parts were dominated by the Islamic Party of Hekmatyar; the western part (Karta-e-Char, Meer Wais Maidan, and beyond) was controlled by the Islamic Unity; and Khushal Maina and beyond were the fiefdom of the Islamic Union, led by Sayyaf. Each group hoisted its own flag in the area under its control; Arabs, Punjabis, and Iranians wandered about with their Afghan groups inside their own domains. As an observer writes, “Neither the state nor any group is able to guarantee security. This is because none has the power to order anyone beyond its own domain.”
The major groups were responsible for guaranteeing peace and promoting the effectiveness of the government, but instead of cooperating with the government, they fought among themselves with an intensity that Kabul had never seen before. Within days of their arrival the three groups of the CN—that is, the Supervisory Council, the Jawzjan militia, and the Islamic Unity—had ejected the Islamic Party of Hekmatyar from the city and forced it to retreat to Tangi-e-Waghjan in Logar. Shortly afterward the Islamic Unity and the Islamic Union fought each other in and around Mier Wais Maidan in the western part of the city. During this fighting the Hazara Islamists of the Islamic Unity captured, tortured, and slaughtered innocent Pashtuns, while the Pashtun followers of the Islamic Union did the same to the ordinary Hazaras. The victims were tortured singly and in groups in newer, more brutal ways. Nearly two weeks later the Supervisory Council and the Islamic Union fought the Islamic Unity in Chindawal and Khushal Maina, from which the latter was forced to retreat. In this round of fighting ordinary Panjsheris and Hazaras were the main victims. They were treated as brutally as the others already had been. A few weeks later the Islamic Party of Hekmatyar, the Supervisory Council, and the Jam’iyyat fought each other. While the Islamic Party launched rockets on the positions of its opponents in the city, the Supervisory Council and the Jam’iyyat bombed the Islamic Party’s positions in Char Asia and Bagrami. Afterward the Jam’iyyat and the Jawzjan militia fought in the old Macroriyan district, from which the former was ejected and the area looted.
In the majority of cases fighting began when the armed men of one group incited the men of another and then their respective leaders stood by their own men. The rich city was too tempting for warriors to be restrained. They went about looting property, raping women, and kidnapping persons for money. State property, including government offices, was thoroughly looted. “From the beginning of their entry into Kabul these forces [armed groups] took to their headquarters in Panjsher, Char Asia, Paghman and Jawzjan whatever they could lay hands on including light and heavy weapons, war materials and public properties.” The Islamic Unity did the same. The groups treated Kabul as if it was the capital city of the land of war (dar al-harb). This thievery set the warriors at loggerheads against each other. The CN fought the Islamic Party because Hekmatyar demanded that the Jawzjan militia should leave Kabul and that the Parchamis should be cleared from the government. After the ejection of the Islamic Party from the city, the CN members fought each other. The temptation noted earlier inclined them to do so. The men of the former KhAD, in the guise of mujahideen, also played a role in creating anarchy. But the underlying cause of all of this turmoil was the disintegration of the standing army of the former regime. The government lacked the power, the means, especially monetary, and the vision to integrate the warriors of the groups into a national army. The CN became irrelevant, and a new group alignment began to emerge. The association of the Jam’iyyat with the Islamic Union estranged it from its allies, especially the Islamic Unity. More serious, the latter’s unacceptable demand for a share of 25 percent of the seats in the government caused clashes.
Outmaneuvered by Rabbani and handicapped by Mas’ud, Mojaddidi looked to Dostum and the Islamic Unity as his allies. He promoted the former to the position of senior general and great mujahid when he visited him in his stronghold in Mazar in late May. With one stroke Mojaddidi transformed the mercenary of yesterday into a hero. Mojaddidi also accorded a few seats in the Jehad Council to the representatives of Dostum and of the Islamic Unity. He also offered a few ministerial posts to the latter. As a spiritual leader more at home with followers than with bureaucrats and the intricacies of governmental affairs, Mojaddidi often met with notables and promoted the idea of convening a loya jirga, hoping thereby to extend his term. However, even on 26 June—that is, before his term formally ended—he was refused entry to his office. On 28 June 1992 Burhanuddin Rabbani succeeded him.
When Rabbani took over, the foundation of the Islamic state had been laid down. He tried to broaden and solidify it. He persuaded Hekmatyar to let a member of his party become prime minister, as the Peshawar Accords stipulated; thus, Abdul Sabur Farid became the first prime minister of the Islamic state. He remained in office, however, for only a few months. Efforts were also made to broaden the basis on which the army was to be built. Four persons of various mujahid and ethnic groups, including General Dostum, were named deputies to the minister of defense; however, Dostum declined the offer. General Mohammad Rahim Wardak, member of the National Islamic Front, was again given the post of chief of staff after General Asif Delawar, the Parchami chief of staff, had narrowly escaped death in a terroristic attack. General Wardak tried to make the army professional, but the meager financial resources and the outstanding political issues were virtually insurmountable obstacles. The issues were the presence in Kabul of the Jawzjan militia and in the army of the Parchami officers, with whose cooperation Defense Minister Mas’ud had advanced on Kabul and expelled from it the forces of the Islamic Party. President Rabbani officially recognized the Islamic and National Movement headed by Dostum. The latter had stated that the movement, “in solidarity with the Supervisory Council and the Islamic Unity, had played a decisive role in the conquest of Kabul and the institution of the Islamic state.” In a meeting with Hekmatyar on 25 May 1992, Mas’ud had agreed to dismiss the militia in return for Hekmatyar’s willingness to dismiss the Khalqis and cooperate with the government; however, he not only did not do so but even let Dostum increase the size of his militia, explaining that the militia had been integrated into the army. Hekmatyar, though, was adamant, arguing that the presence of Jawzjan militia in Kabul and of Parchami officers and officials in the army and the Ministry of National Security constituted a danger to the Islamic Party and was unpopular with the people. In an undated statement the Islamic Party demanded that the communist army contingents be disbanded, the militias withdrawn, and the security of the city made the responsibility of the LC; otherwise, the Islamic Party would have no alternative but to fight. The scene was thus set for conflicts between the two sides. The Islamic Unity and the Islamic Union also sporadically clashed with each other in the western parts of Kabul. Other Islamic groups stayed away from the conflict.
The main features of the conflict were rocket attacks by the Islamic Party and aerial bombardment by the Islamic state and its allies. Rockets were aimed at the military installations and centers, but since they were guided imprecisely, they also hit civilian centers and men, women, and children. Likewise, since men of the Islamic Party had penetrated into the eastern and southern parts of the city, the men of the Islamic state also bombed and shelled these areas. The positions of the Islamic Party in Char Asia, Logar, Bagrami, and Shewaki were likewise bombed. Whatever the exact tale of who did what and to whom, the result was the further destruction of Kabul, the death and wounding of its residents by the thousands, and their displacement by the hundreds of thousands; Kabul had not experienced such a calamity before in a struggle for political ascendancy among rival Afghans. The conflict continued off and on, and in the intervals that followed the Kabulis came out from inside their shelters, haggling in crowded bazaars and open-air markets for foodstuffs and other necessities which, though available, were expensive.
At the end of his four-month term Rabbani was unable to arrange for an elected shura to set up a new government, as the Peshawar Accords had stipulated; thus, he persuaded the LC to extend his term for one and a half months (until 12 December 1992), despite the fact that the accords prohibited extension. On 29 December, when he was not legally the head of state, Rabbani summoned a thirteen-hundred-member council of resolution and settlement (shura-e-ahl-e-hal wa ’aqd). Under the conditions of war the convening of such an assembly seemed impressive, but most of its members had been won by money. Most leaders of the Islamic groups, including Dostum, boycotted it. Rabbani was the only candidate for president, and the shura elected him for the position for two years by 737 votes in favor, with 380 abstentions; 60 members walked out in protest. The boycotts, the rigging, and the novelty made the shura controversial, incredible, and ineffective. The sporadic war of rockets and bombs continued; in February 1993 the worst round of it took place in Afshar and other neighborhoods in Kabul between the Supervisory Council and the Islamic Union on the one hand and the Islamic Unity on the other. Hundreds of civilians were wounded, taken prisoner, or killed. Among them, eighty abducted women were said to have been offered for sale. As a consequence, the animosity of the Shi’ite followers of Islamic Unity toward the followers of the Islamic Union, known as Wahhabis, and toward the Panjsheris, became still more intense.
Until now Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, head of the council of commanders, and Shaykh Asif Muhsini, head of the Islamic Movement, had tried to reconcile the two sides, but except for occasional short-term truces, nothing had come of their efforts. Now Qazi Hussain Ahmad, leader of the Jama’at-e-Islami of Pakistan, and General Hameed Gul, the former chief of the ISI, who dreamed of “turning Afghanistan into the base for Islamic revivalism,” separately tried to do the same. The outcome was the Islamabad Accords, concluded on 7 March 1993 by the leaders of eight Islamic groups, including the Islamic Unity and the Islamic Movement; the new accords were signed in the residence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, with representatives of the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia also present. Mohammad Yunus Khalis and General Dostum were conspicuous by their absence. The Islamabad Accords spelled out in detail the jurisdictions of the offices of president and prime minister and laid down procedures for the formation of the future government through an elected shura. In consultation with the president and leaders of the mujahid parties, the prime minister was to form a ministerial cabinet. The accords shortened President Rabbani’s present term of office from two to one and a half years and assigned the post of prime minister to Hekmatyar or anyone else from his party.
The Islamabad Accords were an improvement on the Peshawar Accords. My evaluation of the latter accords, therefore, applies broadly to the former. Here it is sufficient to note that by shortening the term of the president the Islamabad forum showed that it was above the council of settlement and resolution. Even the leaders of the groups tacitly admitted this by attending the forum. Otherwise, they would have boycotted a forum that was scheduled to deliberate on an issue which was the exclusive prerogative of the people of Afghanistan. In particular, if the council of settlement and resolution was legitimate, President Rabbani should have refrained from taking part in the forum, let alone accepting its decisions.
To honor the new accords, the leaders paid visits to the president of Iran and the king of Saudi Arabia; in the Ka’ba (the House of Allah) they renewed their pledges to abide by the accords. Nevertheless, they took their pledges lightly. Back home President Rabbani and Hekmatyar disagreed on the ministerial cabinet. While Rabbani wanted Mas’ud as the minister of defense, Hekmatyar, as prime minister-designate, did not. The war dragged on.
To iron out the differences, leaders and representatives of the eight Islamic groups assembled on 30 April 1993 in the city of Jalalabad under the supervision of the Ningrahar shura and Governor Abdul Qadeer. After long negotiations, on 20 May they concluded an agreement known as the Jalalabad Accords. Among other things, these accords agreed on the implementation of the Islamabad Accords; the formation of a supreme council to be composed of leaders of the Islamic groups, commanders, the ’ulama, and others; the implementation of a cease-fire; the deliverance by the groups of their heavy weapons to the Ministry of Defense; the setting up of a national and Islamic army; and the formation of a commission composed of two commanders from each province to select in the course of two months the ministers of defense and home affairs. Until then Rabbani was to head a commission for the Ministry of Defense and Hekmatyar a commission for the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The immediate outcome of the Jalalabad Accords was the official resignation of Defense Minister Mas’ud. This was a significant change: Rabbani wanted the ministry under him, but Hekmatyar wanted it to go to an unaffiliated person who had not taken part in the fighting. Mas’ud took his headquarters and the heavy weapons to Jabalus Siraj in Parwan just north of Kabul. Although Mas’ud had no official position, he “still control[led] the government forces of some 20,000 men who patrol[led] the capital’s streets.” This situation made Hekmatyar wary of entering Kabul, just as Mas’ud had felt insecure about going to Jalalabad to take part in the meeting. Both distrusted each other to a degree that made accommodation between them impossible. Thus, the other clauses of the accords could not be implemented, although some steps were taken. The Jalalabad Accords were orchestrated partly to silence the general outcry that accused the leaders of being overly malleable under foreign influence, as the Peshawar and Islamabad accords had demonstrated. “Every day thousands of people held rallies in front of the Ningrahar Palace where the meetings were held, and vehemently denounced the leaders. They also shouted that these pseudo-leaders including Mas’ud and Dostum (who were not there), should be killed…so that the nation is freed from them.” To calm the mobs, the hosts did not let diplomats and foreign journalists visit the participants and created hope among Afghans by giving out that the leaders had been warned of being “imprisoned” unless they came out with a settlement.
In mid-June 1993 Hekmatyar and his cabinet were sworn in by President Rabbani in Paghman, which was under the control of Sayyaf. As noted, since Hekmatyar felt insecure in Kabul, he kept his office in Darul Aman and chaired cabinet meetings in his stronghold in Char Asia just south of Kabul. But his ministers were unable to commute freely, and once they were abducted near Pul-e-Charkhi when they were on their way to hold a cabinet meeting. This was hardly an effective way of governing. Hekmatyar and Mas’ud then took long-term views of their positions and looked for alternatives. The immediate result was a lull in the fighting. For months Kabul and the areas under the influence of the Islamic Party remained relatively free of rockets, siege, and bombing. Some embassies were reopened in Kabul, and about a million refugees from Pakistan returned. In November, though, the alternative policy of Mas’ud became known; as before, it was military.
On 1 November 1993 Mas’ud attacked the positions of the Islamic Party in the valley of Tagab about forty miles northeast of Kabul. From Tagab, Mas’ud intended to grab Sarobi, a region linking the strongholds of the Islamic Party east of Kabul. Situated on the road between Kabul and Jalalabad and supplying hydroelectric power to Kabul, Sarobi was an important region. Had he taken it, Mas’ud would have split the domains of the Islamic Party and weakened it. But he failed in his design. Tagab changed hands about ten times between the contenders before one of them dominated one part of it and the other dominated the rest. The local Safay Pashtuns refrained from taking sides. About forty-five hundred men, among them a few hundred Arabs and Punjabis, fought on the side of the Islamic Party, led by Commander Zardad Khan under the supervision of Hekmatyar. By contrast, Mas’ud’s men, who were fewer, fought with less determination, but the Parchami pilots on his side wreaked havoc by bombing the positions of the Islamic Party in Tagab, Sarobi, Lataband, and Laghman. General Dostum took a neutral position. In this round of fighting about eight hundred were killed and fifteen hundred injured. Subsequently, Mas’ud’s men were driven out from Tagab altogether.
On Saturday, 1 January 1994, Mas’ud’s opponents struck in what came to be the fiercest round of fighting after the establishment of the Islamic state. After the Supervisory Council clashed with the forces of the Islamic and National Movement led by General Dostum in Mazar on 31 December 1993, Dostum’s tanks and artillery units in Kabul advanced on the airport, the radio and television stations, and the presidential palace at 5:00 a.m. on 1 January 1994 under the command of General Raofi. Rabbani’s forces retreated but soon recovered part of the airport after Sayyaf, leader of the Islamic Union, supported them with his warriors. While Rabbani’s warplanes, stationed at the Bagram airport, bombed the strongholds of Dostum in Tapa-e-Maranjan, Bala Hissar, and the airport, Dostum’s planes from Mazar started bombing the presidential palace, the Ministry of Defense, the radio and television stations, and other places considered to be militarily significant. At the same time, rockets hit the city from many directions. On 3 January 1994 rockets and shells rained on the city “at the rate of about six or seven a minute for much of the day.” During the first few days the fighting was so severe that people could not come out of their homes, and many injured persons died because they could not be transferred to hospitals. The dead were buried inside homes or in places nearby. According to an observer “alone during the first day of the fighting perhaps about 2,000 civilians had died.” “A survey of the city’s hospitals put the number of casualties admitted in the 36 hours since the start of the battle at more than 670.” Throughout the month of January fighting was intense. By 21 January, 9,593 casualties had been admitted to the ten functioning hospitals, with an estimated 700 to 800 killed. After the outset, the warriors of the Islamic Party penetrated as far as Jada-e-Maiwand in the central part of the city, but the assailants failed to overthrow Rabbani. After January the war gradually slackened. Probably about 12,000 recruits of the so-called state are now in positions to the left side of the Kabul River dividing the city. “But the warriors of no group wish to endanger their lives. On the other hand, no side is willing to accept the advance of the other. That is why each side pressures the other by rockets and bombs. The armed recruittees and their commanders prefer their own interests to those of the warlords. In addition to the huge allowances they receive, the warriors and their commanders sell war supplies and private and public properties. They make themselves increasingly prosperous.”
As of this writing (20 June 1994) the bombing, rocketing, and shelling have continued on an intermittent basis. The part of the city that Rabbani’s forces control is under siege, although not for essential foodstuffs. The Rabbani government has ceased functioning, as it has no offices and no employees. Four groups—the Islamic Party, Islamic Unity, the National and Islamic Movement, and the Islamic Liberation Front—have come out against Rabbani. They have made a coalition and set up a coordination council that has asked him as well as Hekmatyar to resign and transfer power immediately to an interim government to be set up by all of the forces (that is, the Islamic groups). The council also states that leaders of the groups should not take part in the interim government, and that the latter, in consultation with a shura, should prepare the ground for general elections. Rabbani, by contrast, states that he is ready to transfer power but only to a representative shura (shura-e-mumassil) to be convened by a nongovernment commission under the supervision either of the United Nations or the Conference of Islamic States. Under this proposal, Rabbani would remain in his position until the representative shura has been convened, an arrangement which would take considerable time; thus, his opponents are unwilling to accept his offer. In their view this is a ploy by which he intends to extend his rule, as he had done before, when he extended his term of office until 12 December 1992. His opponents suspect that now, too, he wants to prolong his term until 29 December 1994, whereas the Islamabad Accords had stipulated that he should step down on 28 June 1994. They therefore distrust him as well as Mas’ud, and the latter two distrust Hekmatyar. The distrust is indeed the crux of the crisis. Hekmatyar and others are adamant in their demands, the more so because now Khalis, Mohammadi, Pir Gailani, and Muhsini have also for the first time abandoned Rabbani and Mas’ud because of their delaying tactics. Only Sayyaf has remained in alliance with them.
The distrust is also evident from the nature of the coalition itself. The core of the coalition consists of the groups of Hekmatyar and Dostum, whose warriors fight against Rabbani’s forces; other groups support Hekmatyar and Dostum morally and diplomatically. The coalition is fundamentally negative, having arisen from opposition to Rabbani and Mas’ud rather than from an affirmative program of action. It originated in the Islamic state, and specifically in the policies established by Rabbani, first as head of the LC and later as head of state, and by Mas’ud as the all-powerful figure in the state. As I have already described, although Mojaddidi was the head of state, Rabbani and Mas’ud administered it. Since he headed a small group and lacked the support of leaders of other groups, Mojaddidi could not do much vis-à-vis Mas’ud and Rabbani. As a counterpoise to them, Mojaddidi raised the moral and military stature of Dostum. Mojaddidi left the office a frustrated man, alienated by the machinations of Rabbani and Mas’ud.
President Rabbani’s efforts at extending his terms of office, his reliance on the shura of resolution and settlement, and his equivocations have raised questions about his integrity. Mas’ud’s refusal to enlist the cooperation of Commanders Haqqani and Abdul Haq and Generals Yahya Naoroz, Rahim Wardak, Abdur Rauf Safay, and Rahmatullah Safay in maintaining peace made clear his intentions, which were to monopolize power in the pursuit of a private agenda. He proved himself “unwilling to ease his grip on power,” preferring instead to perpetuate the “Tajik-dominated government in Kabul.” Part of this agenda involved blocking the entry of Prime Minister Hekmatyar into Kabul (here, though, other considerations also played a role). The successful blockage discredited Hekmatyar. Mas’ud also alienated his erstwhile ally, General Dostum, by refusing to give him his share of the billions of afghanis he received from Moscow and with which he tried to win influential commanders. Dostum, who had played the key role in ousting the communist regime and who later protected Mojaddidi and Rabbani against Hekmatyar, felt betrayed. More serious was Mas’ud’s “ambitious bid to wrest control of certain areas [in Kunduz, Hairatan, and Mazar] in the northern part of the country and his refusal to reach a settlement with Dostum.”
The repercussions of Mas’ud’s activities in the north were felt in Central Asia as well. Because of his successful role in the resistance and the overthrow of the Kabul regime, Mas’ud was looked on there as a leader capable of unifying all Tajiks in a “greater Tajikistan.” Although only a dream, the idea troubled President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan because a “greater Tajikistan” would mean destabilization in the region and the disruption of the existing borders. Since a million Tajiks live in Uzbekistan and a similar number of Uzbeks live in Tajikistan, and since the two countries have had ethnic problems between themselves, President Karimov became still firmer in his conviction in the sanctity of the existing borders and took measures aimed at curbing disrupting activities. Among the measures was Uzbekistan’s backing of Dostum, who was supported in his stand against the Islamic radicals in creating troubles in Central Asia. It is unknown whether Uzbekistan has advised Dostum to join with Hekmatyar, but Rabbani and his spokesman have alleged that “we found Uzbekistan participating in the confrontations” to overthrow the state.
Let us turn now to the internal aspect of the coalition. Many of Dostum’s officers, especially the Khalqis, pressured him to draw closer to Hekmatyar. Similarly, Hekmatyar’s commanders in the north urged him to join forces with Dostum. Sibgatullah Mojaddidi had been a major influence in effecting the coalition. The pressure explains why, in forging the alliance with Dostum, Hekmatyar did not face a revolt from his colleagues as he did in 1990 when he made a similar deal with the Khalqis. The alliance, however, was a political expedient born out of opposition to a common enemy rather than of unity in a cause. For its builders the overriding concern was power politics, not ethnic, sectarian, or ideological politics. Since they had until then played out conflicting policies among themselves, they could not do otherwise. By making the alliance, Hekmatyar came out of isolation and instead isolated his archrival, a significant achievement considering the fact that Mojaddidi was against him and that Mazari and Dostum were Mas’ud’s allies. Dostum’s apparent change of views made the alliance easier. Whereas before Dostum stood for federalism, which many thought might endanger the integrity of the country, he now said, “I am for a prosperous and non-federal Afghanistan complete with its boundaries, and willing to serve it as a soldier of the minority.” As before, he still stood for equal rights for minorities. Dostum and some of his nearest relatives are related to Pashtuns by marriage (indeed, his wife is a Popalzay Pashtun), and this fact might have influenced him to change his views. His participation in the alliance showed that, like his counterparts, he was also concerned with national rather than provincial politics. At one time widely considered to be an unscrupulous militia commander, Dostum probably has transformed; but his warriors in recent fighting in Qunduz have treated the innocent civilians as brutually as before, for which they were called gilam jam. An alliance with such people is nothing but politics without morality. But ever since the fall of the monarchy, politics without morality has been the profession of all the ideologically committed groups in Afghanistan. That is why Commander Rahmatulla Safay holds that the “activities of Dostum as well as Mas’ud in the region are pregnant with danger.” Indeed, by resorting to violence as a means of resolving the crisis, leaders of the coalition as well as their opponents did not help Afghanistan “to prosper.” On the contrary, the war policy of the leaders of the coalition destroyed Kabul, as did the impracticable agenda and the belligerency of their opponents. Originally the destruction was the dream of General Akhtar Abdur Rahman of the ISI, who had proclaimed that “Kabul must burn.” But he had uttered those words when Kabul was in the grip of the Russians; now leaders of the Islamic groups and their warriors made his dream come true when they themselves controlled it.
Kabul has indeed suffered widespread destruction. The modern parts of the city—Macroriyan, Wazir Akbar Khan Maina, the city center, Sher Shah Maina, Mier Wais Maidan, Khushal Maina—have been largely destroyed, and the rest partly. While the northern part of the city, that is, Khair Khana, has suffered the least, the eastern parts lie in total ruin. Factories, workshops, stores, and shops have been looted and destroyed. Now vendors offer the necessities of life for sale in mobile stalls. The city has no running water, no public transport, no electricity, no postal service. Educational institutes, including Kabul University and Polytechnic, are closed, and professors and teachers have either fled to the provinces or abroad, mainly to Pakistan. Those who have remained sell produce to make a living. Thus, after the former professors were sent back to Kabul to govern, the incumbent professors and the students were not allowed to teach and learn. Instead, armed men were let loose on the university campus, where they destroyed, killed, and burned. Most public and private libraries, including mine, have been looted, and their contents burned or sold in Pakistan. Hit by a rocket (or rockets), Kabul Museum caught fire, and its countless artifacts, some of which were the unique relics of remote ages, have been destroyed, looted, or smuggled out of the country. The whereabouts of the golden artifacts of Tilla Tapa, the fascinating crown of the Kabul Museum’s rich contents, are unknown. Of about three million inhabitants who lived in Kabul before 1992, how many still breathe there no one knows for sure. Thousands of homeless families now live in public buildings, mosques, and schools. A larger number have found accommmodation with relatives and friends. Probably about 50 percent of the population has fled to the countryside whence they or their fathers had come. Even Khalqis and Parchamis who had been expelled from the countryside and who had no known criminal record have gone to the places of their birth, and there relatives and villagers have accepted them back. About two hundred thousand of the inhabitants of Kabul have escaped to Jalalabad and Peshawar. In Jalalabad they live in tents provided by the United Nations in the nearby desert of Sarshahi amidst snakes, scorpions, and insects. In Peshawar the destitute women among them beg and prostitute themselves for subsistence. Those killed since April 1992 are said to number ten thousand, but the actual number is many times higher, as this figure is based only on hospital reports. Uncounted numbers of people have been injured. Many families have been split, and their members’ separate destinies have taken them to different places, where they do not know each other’s whereabouts. The people who live in Kabul now are those who either do not want to leave, come what may, or those who are without the means to do so. All this was allowed to happen to a people who were the first to rise en masse against the Soviet occupiers and their puppets, as has been described.
Afghanistan will long feel the effects of the destruction of Kabul as the nation’s main political, industrial, commercial, administrative, and cultural center—the place where people from all over the country had mingled and begun the move earlier in the century toward detribalization, secularization, national solidarity, and modern ways of life. For the moment, as one observer states, “Nowhere in Kabul is life safe; everyone is afraid of everyone else.” There are reasons for this state of mind. A woman was forced to give birth on a street. Female inmates of a mental asylum (mrastun) were repeatedly raped. To protect her honor, Miss Naheeda gave her life, when, chased by the sex maniacs of an armed band, she threw herself from the sixth floor of her apartment in the sixteenth block in the Macroriyan district. In early November 1993, by the order of a commander, no fewer than fourteen men were thrown from the second floor of a mosque in the Qarabagh district for not praying. Two of them died on the spot. Political terrorism, the kidnapping of wealthy persons for money and of women for sexual abuse, and burglary are now features of life in Kabul. The warriors of the Islamic groups, especially the warriors of Dostum, have commited all these acts. An analyst notes, “Since there is no effective legal authority in the country, those who possess guns, money, and fighters call the shots.”
As described, in the resistance period rural Afghanistan was severely damaged, the agricultural system disrupted, and millions of mines placed throughout the land, while more than five million Afghans fled abroad. Conversely, in this period the city of Kabul swelled;when the Islamic state was set up there, it was the dwelling place for about three million people. The destruction that it has suffered since then is bound to adversely affect the future of Afghanistan as an independent nation-state. But the subject is here considered from the human perspective. So here are some speculations as to why this happened and whither Afghanistan is now bound.
The immediate cause of the destruction was the entry into Kabul of more than twenty thousand armed men belonging to eleven groups, some of which totally opposed each other. These men entered the city even before the new government had taken its seat there, while the former regime lay prostrate. The groups clashed almost immediately. After the expulsion of the Islamic Party from the city, intergroup clashes ceased for a while, but the militias as well as the Islamic warriors engaged in looting, burglary, kidnapping, and rape. The jehad had changed them, making them unsuited to ordinary life. They had led lives of deprivation. The Islamic warriors “lived on stale bread and tea. They slept on stones in the mountains. And they drove the Soviets out.” Besides, they as well as the militias were used to destroying and killing. Thus, they could not be restrained, especially when the rich city lay helpless before their eyes. The Islamic Party alone exhibited restraint; others—that is, the militias of Dostum, the Supervisory Council, the Islamic Unity, and the Islamic Union—played havoc with the helpless people of Kabul. But each of these five groups had its share in the destructionof the city and the killing and displacement of hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants. I know of no other groups of people in history who have, in the course of their struggle for power, destroyed the capital city of their own country the way these groups have. Evidently, their leaders cared more for securing state power than for their city and its inhabitants. Had it not been so, once the Soviet invaders had been expelled and the regime of their puppets overthrown, they should have opted for a modus vivendi at least among themselves. After the destruction they had wrought by their policies they should have given up politics, as men and women who respect moral values would. They would then have immortalized the heroism which they had shown in frustrating the designs of a superpower on their country. But it was not to be.
Much depended on Ahmad Shah Mas’ud as the key military figure in the new state, but in the complicated environment of Kabul this internationally known commander of the resistance period found himself embroiled with conflicting groups and interests; thus taxed, he failed to establish law and order. Consequently, the Islamic government failed to bring peace to the city. The government failed because it failed to restrain the unruly armed bands in the first place. It failed because, strictly speaking, it was not a government: it was actually a commission established principally by foreigners, to transfer power in the course of two months, a short period for such a difficult task. It failed because the groups constituting it did not cooperate with it. They could not even restrain their own warriors. The Islamic state thus failed in its early critical stage.
The failure was the result primarily of the absence of an alternative government, which should have been set up during the resistance period. Of course, leaders of the Afghan jehad groups were divided on this issue for various reasons; as a leader of one faction said, “[The leadership] of every group tries to grab power by force, and then use it as it pleases.” However, the host government of Pakistan did not seriously work toward establishing an alternative government, particularly at a time when the Soviet Union had disappeared and the situation seemed ripe for the setting up of such a government. At no time did Pakistan exert influence on Afghan leaders to work for an alternative national government. On the contrary, it discouraged Afghan nationalists, royalists, and community and tribal elders when they worked for such a government. Pakistan instead concentrated on the Sunni Islamic groups, and even then it pursued a policy of favoritism by distributing among them weapons, logistics, and cash that it received from donor countries. The absence of an alternative national government to replace the crumbling regime, one strong enough to ensure order and security in the initial critical stage, was the underlying cause of the destruction of the city and of the momentous failure of the Islamic state.
The destruction and the failure can properly be understood when the scene where it was played out is considered. By 1992 Kabul had assumed the features of a cosmopolitan city whose three million inhabitants had adopted different lifestyles and held various ideologies and beliefs. Although the secular rule of the communists, especially the relatively lax rule of Najibullah, had in theory followed a policy of conformity, it had in fact encouraged this trend toward diversity. Kabul was largely a modern city with liberated women working side by side with men. Females outnumbered males in Kabul. It differed in many respects from the tradition-bound countryside. The latter was medieval in features, and the difference between the two, the result of uneven development, became still sharper during the resistance period. Kabul had been run by urban and urbanized persons, most of whom were communists, while the countryside was in the grip of the Islamic groups whose leaders opposed secularism and imposed the puritanical ways of Islam in their domains. The two had become worlds apart. The warriors entered Kabul as the Germanic warriors had entered Rome. They treated the Kabulis as if they were beings from a different planet, an attitude that led to the destruction of Kabul.
Whither Afghanistan is a subject of speculation for futurologists. However, I wish to venture a few words about it, even though the subject is yet to become history, my particular field. To expect Afghanistan to be a country with a government constituted by the participation of its own citizens, capable of extending its rule throughout the land and conducting its domestic and foreign policy independently remains a dream for the present. The changed correlation of forces of society, the absence of a national government, the disjointedness of the country, the bickering among the contenders for power, foreign interference in Afghan affairs—all these militate against the reemergence of an independent nation-state. The educated and bureaucratic middle class, many of whose members have fled abroad, has become insignificant. The secular-minded community and tribal elders likewise have been weakened. “In present-day Afghanistan the groups of clergy, community elders, intelligentsia, and the military cannot be seen.” The laity, the commanders, and the Islamic fundamentalist groups—or, to put it differently, bearded men, veiled women, and armed warriors—now constitute the principal characters of Afghan society.
In particular, the young generation has changed. The fifteen years of war “have almost totally changed the culture of the Afghans under the age of thirty, who [now] know nothing but war, its ravages, and the power of the gun.” With no education and no career to pursue, the Kabul youth are, like mercenaries, sitting idly in military posts “addicted to hashish (chars), heroine, homosexuality, sadism, and other kinds of moral degredation.” Also, as a result of the prevailing anarchy in Kabul, the value the Afghans cherish most has been hurt beyond imagination: Because the gilam jam have injured people’s dignity and honor, adults wish not to have new babies, and when they want them they pray God to give them ugly ones. Women hate themselves for being attractive. Most provincial officials are illiterate. After the advent of the Islamic state, unprofessional and illiterate persons in the Samangan province headed all departments except the judiciary department, which was headed by a professional one. Even the head of the education department was illiterate. As commanders of the resistance period,they distributed the posts among themselves on the strength of the sword.
The economic deterioration is still more phenomenal. The extremely low rate of productivity and the super rate of inflation (in 1977 one U.S. dollar equalled 35 afghanis; in 1992 the ratio was 1 to 1,200; now it is 1 to 3,000) are hurting all. Those who can grab feel free to do so. “Because of the absence of the central government, commanders, heads of political parties, and tribal elders [of the frontiers areas], backed up by external powers, derive abundant incomes from opium, custom dues, smuggling, and the theft of natural resources.”
The commanders and the heads of the groups are now the main actors in Afghan politics. But since they follow conflicting and unattainable goals, and since they are prone to following foreign advice, their politics is anything but compromise. They agree to disagree; when persuaded by others, they may agree on a formula, but then they soon undo it. Besides, as opposition leaders they have all along pursued policies the essence of which was to contradict, defeat, and destroy in order to dominate. With these policies they succeeded over the communists and the Soviet invaders, but it is unlikely they will triumph over each other. None is strong enough by itself to come out on top. Likewise, personal ambitions, the Islamism of some, and the ethnic nationalism and religious sectarianism of others have put them at loggerheads not only with each other but also with the bulk of Afghans. In this they resemble the communists, whose revolutionary ideology turned them into intolerant creatures. As ideological politics failed the latter, it may also frustrate the former. The politics of coalitionism is a sign of this trend. It may be the beginning of a new culture of pluralistic politics. The trend can be understood when it is borne in mind that Afghanistan had no theocratic order in the past, to say nothing of radical Islamism, which is only a new current. Also, Afghanistan’s political structure, although far from perfect, was not exclusive to a particular ethnic group. On the contrary, in modern Afghanistan an ethnic dynasty ruled principally with the help of persons drawn from various ethnic groups. In fact, as mentioned in the introduction, because of the extensive practice of intergroup marriages, the spread of bilingualism, the recent emphasis on Islamic values, and the introduction of communistic values, ethnicity has lost much of its traditional sharpness, although it is still a dominant force.
The present armed groups are still strong, deriving strength from their organizations, the vast arsenal of modern weapons at their disposal, and the backing of their foreign patrons. But their manpower has thinned, as noted. Many of those who now fight for them are mercenaries, some even foreign mercenaries. The continuation of war politics is bound to weaken the groups further, discredit them further with their compatriots, and make them still more receptive to their foreign patrons. Already they have become unpopular. For “during their time Afghanistan has been looted more than when the British and the Soviets had occupied it. Besides, these armed groups have injured the dignity and honor of a nation.” It is a proof of their unpopularity that even “though it is shameful people everywhere long for the days of Najibullah and Russia.” The people have become so tired of the war that they now hate even iron. Still, the armed groups remain adamant in their stands, and this rigidity is likely to perpetuate the crisis. The reverend Mawlawi of Tarakhel even holds that “as long as they [the leaders of the groups] are on the scene, the Afghan crisis will not be resolved.” The danger to Afghanistan’s national sovereignty lies here, and it is real in view of its encirclement by self-serving neighbors.
Still, all this is not cause for despair. Afghanistan has experienced many critical periods in the past. The nineteenth century witnessed the transition of rule from the Sadozay to the Mohammadzay dynasty, as well as the two Anglo-Afghan wars. Although each crisis lasted a long time, in every case Afghanistan finally emerged as a nation-state. In the present crisis, if wars abound, so do peace efforts. Because of widespread opposition to the war and to foreign interference, this peace movement is gaining momentum. Even the ill-disposed neighbors approach the Afghan problem in the name of peace, whatever their real intentions. Although they still promote their intentions through their Afghan surrogates, their intelligence services know well the maxim: “You can hire an Afghan but you cannot buy him.” So far the efforts of these neighbors have been aimed at setting up an Afghan government amenable to them. The multiplicity of neighbors hinders efforts to monopolize the Afghan issue and tends to promote the state of equilibrium among them that is likely to ensure Afghan statehood. This in part explains why, despite the prolongation of the crisis and the schemes of the Russians with respect to northern Afghanistan, no group has emerged to advocate separatism. The rise of such a movement, particularly if incited by outsiders, is likely to become more menacing to the integrity of Afghanistan’s major Muslim neighbors. A stable, independent, nonaligned, and friendly Afghanistan is to their advantage. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Afghanistan has become once again the most important link between South and Central Asia. It and Pakistan have become as interdependent as they were in pre-Soviet times. Now, as much as Afghanistan needs Pakistan to reach the sea and the world beyond it, the latter needs the former to have access to Central Asia and Russia. These considerations and the fact that despite the recent odds the Afghans have remained loyal to their fatherland are signs that anation-state is going to be instituted in Afghanistan. Most important, unlike the nineteenth century, the current era is marked by the presence of the United Nations. This organization has been especially concerned with the territorial integrity, national sovereignty, and nonaligned status of Afghanistan from the time the Soviet Union invaded it.
The United Nations for the third time has addressed the Afghan problem, or what Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has called this “human tragedy.” On the recommendation of the General Assembly, on 11 February 1994 he commissioned Mehmoud Mestiri as his special envoy “to canvas a broad spectrum of Afghanistan’s leaders to solicit their views on how the UN can best assist Afghanistan in facilitating national rapprochement and reconstruction.” Mestiri has concluded the first phase of his mission, and the United Nations is now expected to adopt measures to help Afghans end the tragedy. Mestiri met Afghan leaders in Quetta, Peshawar, Kandahar, Khost, Mazar, Herat, and Bamian, where they expressed support for the UN efforts. In Peshawar, Kandahar, and Quetta, they held rallies for this purpose and also spoke out against the war and its perpetrators, for a loya jirga, and for the former king Mohammad Zahir. Undoubtedly, these rallies reflected the sentiments of the greatest number of Afghans. Mestiri was so impressed by this sentiment that in a rally in Peshawar he said, “We hear there is war in Kabul. Let them make war; we will make peace.” Ambassador Mestiri has made an optimistic statement the like of which his predecessors, Diego Cordovez and Benon Sevan had not made. It seems that this time the United Nations or, more correctly, Boutros-Ghali and Mestiri, are serious about helping the Afghans to cut their Gordian knot.
Supporters have also urged the former king to come out of Rome. Mohammad Aziz Na’eem, his son-in-law and nephew of the former president Mohammad Daoud, has summed up the sentiment well: “The time has come for the former king to put forward his platform and personally supervise its implementation to its logical conclusion.” Na’eem adds that this end cannot be achieved by the mere issuance of messages. The former king has issued statements suggesting that an interim government be set up by an emergency loya jirga under the supervision of the United Nations. This delaying policy has led to speculation, as these words from Rahimullah Yusufzai indicate. “The former king is keen on winning the support of Western powers, led by the United States as well as Russia, before making up his mind whether or not to play a role in forming a broad-based government in Afghanistan. He is seeking guarantees of their support to be channeled through the United Nations not only to ensure his personal safety but also to sustain his government in power in the face of threats by some of the radical Islamist elements.” If so, the former king is waiting for a political miracle.
It is doubtful whether the United States and other major powers will effectively back the UN plan. Robert Oakley, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan who was also concerned with Afghan affairs, holds that “the political future of Afghanistan is no longer of interest to the U.S.” This may or may not be the official line, but since the dissolution of the Soviet Union the U.S. administrations have shown no evidence to the contrary. The United States and other powers have even forgotten about the part that Afghanistan played in the dissolution of the “evil empire” and the end of the cold war, events that made it possible for world governments to improve their economies for the first time in four decades. Their Afghanologists as well as men and women of the mass media have turned their backs on Afghanistan. They all have left a former friendly people in their vulnerable moment to the mercy of their scheming neighbors. Feeling betrayed, the disillusioned Afghans have become bitter about them, particularly about the U.S. administrations, whereas during the resistance they lauded them for their support.
The neglect is bound to endanger the lives of the innocent people of the world, especially those of the United States. Since the Soviet withdrawal, Afghanistan has become connected to drug trafficking and the training of terrorists. Because of the absence of a central government and the openness of its borders, “thousands of Islamic radicals, outcasts, visionaries and gunmen from some 40 countries have come to Afghanistan to learn the lessons of jehad,…to train for armed insurrection, to bring the struggle back home.” Also, Afghanistan is now the source of “roughly a third of the heroin reaching the United States.” Afghan farmers have long grown opium poppies, which require only small landholdings and offer high monetary returns; the absence of suitable substitute crops and the lack of other sources of livelihood have also led farmers to the cultivation of poppies. Now, though, these traditional compulsions have been exacerbated by the presence of millions of mines in the country, which has greatly reduced the amount of arable land and thereby forced Afghan farmers to grow more opium poppies than at any time before; the opium is then sold to dealers who process it into hard drugs for sale abroad.
Thus, the legacy of the Soviet war and the Western response to it is not only a ravaged Afghanistan without a functioning national government but also a culture of guns, drugs, and terrorism that is as poisonous to others as it is to Afghans. The world governments have a moral responsibility to the Afghans, and it is now time for them to assist in transforming the poisonous culture into a healthy one by permitting the Afghans to institute a national government. They can do so if regional powers are persuaded to keep their hands off Afghan affairs. Specifically, if world governments discourage Russia from printing unsupported banknotes for Kabul and encourage Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan to cease supporting their Afghan surrogates illegally, before long the war in Afghanistan likely will end. The Afghans then will be able to set up a government for themselves in accordance with their conventions, preferably under UN supervision. By helping to establish such a government, the world governments, among other things, would secure millions of men and women throughout the world from the dangers of the poisonous culture. “A lawful, massive and coordinated law enforcement response” to the culture, as FBI Director Louis Freeh, has suggested in another context, will be possible only when Afghanistan has a stable, broad-based government. Conversely, the continued absence of an actual government will allow the poisonous culture to flourish more rankly. In the end, the problem may grow too great to ignore. Then, as Commander Abdul Haq predicts, “Maybe one day they will have to send hundreds of thousands of troops to deal with that. And if they step in they will be stuck. We have a British grave[yard] in Afghanistan. We have a Soviet grave[yard]. And then we will have an American grave[yard].”
1. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 86-87. [BACK]
2. Ibid., 84-86. [BACK]
3. Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 154. [BACK]
4. Ibid. [BACK]
5. Ibid. [BACK]
6. Saikal and Miley, Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan, 16. [BACK]
7. McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft, 32. [BACK]
8. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 88. [BACK]
9. Ibid., 89. [BACK]
10. Kornienko, “Afghan Endeavor,” 10. [BACK]
11. Ibid. [BACK]
12. Najibullah, quoted in Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 178. [BACK]
13. “A.” Personal communication, Kabul, 1987. [BACK]
14. Kornienko, “Afghan Endeavor,” 11. [BACK]
15. Ibid., 12. [BACK]
16. Ibid. [BACK]
17. Ibid., 13. [BACK]
18. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 89. [BACK]
19. Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 166-73. [BACK]
20. Ibid., 174-79. [BACK]
21. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 89, 90. [BACK]
22. Kakar, Geneva Compromise on Afghanistan, 138; Kakar, Afghans in the Spring of 1987, 13. [BACK]
23. Kakar, “Afghanistan on the Eve of Soviet Withdrawal.” [BACK]
24. To effect equality among Afghan ethnic groups, Kishtmand, a politburo member of PDPA, wrote that the state was to carve out “autonomous administrative units” on the basis of “national characteristics” within a “federal structure.” “The Constitution and the National Problem in the Republic of Afghanistan,” The Truth about the Saur Revolution (PDPA newspaper), 9 Qaus 1367 (30 November 1987), page unknown. Kishtmand’s view was a replica of the Soviet model, which is impracticable in Afghanistan because of its highly mixed population. [BACK]
25. Resolution of the Second Congress of the Party, Aims of the Fatherland Party (Maramnama-e-hizb-e-watan), Kabul, 1990. [BACK]
26. Sharq, Memoirs, 282. [BACK]
27. Ibid., 256. [BACK]
28. Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 42. [BACK]
29. Sharq, Memoirs, 272. [BACK]
30. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 255. [BACK]
31. Ibid., 285, 294. [BACK]
32. Rais, “Afghanistan and Regional Security,” 82. [BACK]
33. The departing Soviet army handed over all of its heavy weapons and food supplies to the Kabul regime; in addition, it is believed that during the six months of 1989 the Soviets delivered $1.5 billion worth of weapons, including five hundred Scud surface-to-surface missiles. Every day from fifteen to eighty huge planes would bring weapons of all kinds to Kabul. Sharq, Memoirs, 292; Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 227; Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 297. “Moreover in significant areas of military advice and intelligence support Moscow’s direct invlovement in Afghanistan’s internal affairs did not end with the formal withdrawal of Soviet troops”; Rais, “Afghanistan and Regional Security,” 82. [BACK]
34. Kornienko, “Afghan Endeavor,” 11. [BACK]
35. Sharq, Memoirs, 260, 257. [BACK]
36. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 296. [BACK]
37. Kornienko, “Afghan Endeavor,” 14; Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 234. [BACK]
38. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 297. [BACK]
39. According to the CIA, General Akhtar of the ISI promoted the idea of outright military victory for Afghan Islamists. Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 234. [BACK]
40. Ibid., 1, 22, 234. [BACK]
41. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot, 200. [BACK]
42. Ibid., 201. [BACK]
43. Ibid. [BACK]
44. In 1987 the following broad percentages were allowed to the Islamic groups: to Hekmatyar, 18-20 percent; to Rabbani, 18-19 percent; to Sayyaf 17-18 percent; to Khalis, 13-15 percent; to Mohammadi, 13-15 percent; to Gailani, 10-11 percent; and to Mojaddidi, 3-5 percent. Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 105. [BACK]
45. Kakar, “Afghanistan on the Eve of Soviet Withdrawal.” The information on the shura held in February 1989 are drawn from this source. I lived in Peshawar at the time. I am grateful to Mohammad Qasim Laghmani for giving me valuable information and some documents on the shura. Laghmani was a member of the commissions of the shura that laid down electoral procedures for it. See also Khalilzad, Prospects for Afghan Interim Government; Maley and Saikal, Political Order in Post-Communist Afghanistan. [BACK]
46. Quoted in Shahadat, Newspaper of the Islamic Party (Peshawar), 2 Sunbula 1367/1988, 1. [BACK]
47. Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 226-32. [BACK]
48. Ibid., 230. [BACK]
49. Ibid., 129, 231. [BACK]
50. Ibid., 129. [BACK]
51. Sharq, Memoirs, 301. [BACK]
52. Ibid. Kakar, “Failed Coup,”112. [BACK]
53. Sharq, Memoirs, 301. [BACK]
54. Kakar, “Failed Coup,” 113. [BACK]
55. Bisharat, “Stormy Developments,” 12. [BACK]
56. Sharq, Memoirs, 302. [BACK]
57. Maley and Saikal, Political Order in Post-Communist Afghanistan, 27. [BACK]
58. Ibid., 28. [BACK]
59. Ibid., 24. [BACK]
60. Kakar, “Central Asia.” [BACK]
61. Maley and Saikal, Political Order in Post-Communist Afghanistan, 27. [BACK]
62. Ibid., 26. [BACK]
63. Ibid. [BACK]
64. Ibid. [BACK]
65. Ibid. [BACK]
66. Ibid. [BACK]
67. Kakar, “The Policy of Intrigues,” 12. [BACK]
68. Kakar, “The Policy of Intrigues,” 12; Yusufzai, “Dostum.” [BACK]
69. Kakar, “The Policy of Intrigues,” 17. [BACK]
70. Along with Nawaz Sharif, other foreign dignitaries who participated in the Peshawar meeting were the governor of the Northwest Frontier Province; Siddiq Kanju, minister of state without portfolio; General Asif Nawaz, Pakistan’s chief of staff; General Javid Nassir, chief of the ISI; Mehr Mosawi, Iran’s roving ambassador; the ambassdors of Iran and Saudi Arabia in Islamabad; Turkey al Faisal, chief of the intelligence service of Saudi Arabia; and Benon Sevan. After Helal, Hekmatyar’s representative, walked out of the meeting, the Afghan leaders present were Khalis, Sayyaf, Mohammadi, Rabbani, Gailani, and Mojaddidi. [BACK]
71. Kakar, “The Success of the Failed Babrak Karmal,” Mujahid Wolas (newspaper), June 1992, 4. [BACK]
72. Rais, “Afghanistan and Regional Security,” 82. [BACK]
73. A. Shinwari, “Afghanistan—two years of mujahideen’s rule,” Afghanistan Forum, July 1994, 7. The article first appeared in The Frontier Posts, 10 May 1994. Marwat even holds that not only the Peshawar Accords but “all accords proved to be the license given by vested interests to the mujahideen leaders for killing and [destroying] their own people and country.” F. R. Marwat, “Waiting for the U.N.,” Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, July-August 1994, 48. [BACK]
74. Kakar, “Success of Babrak Karmal,” 2. [BACK]
75. Anonymous, “From Peshawar to Kabul,” Rastgoyan, Journal of the National Salvation Front 4, no. 4 (1992): 3. [BACK]
76. Ibid. [BACK]
77. S. M. Maiwand, The Maiwand Trust (New Delhi), 10 May 1992, 4. I have drawn throughout on this informative and trustworthy weekly newsletter for the Mojaddidi period. [BACK]
78. Ibid. [BACK]
79. Maiwand Trust, 17 May 1992, 6. [BACK]
80. Supreme Court of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, “Fatwa on Veil,” Kabul, 1993, 36. [BACK]
81. BEBT, “Note on Events in Kabul” (in Pashto), December 1993. A manuscript by an insider, 7, 8. [BACK]
82. Maiwand Trust, 17 May 1992, 5. [BACK]
83. BEBT, “Note on Events in Kabul,” 8. [BACK]
84. H. Azizi, “Guardianship or Looting of a City?” Afghanistan [Journal] (Peshawar), April 1994, 66. [BACK]
85. For details, see S. Kh. Hashemyan, “The End of Two Months of Blood, and the Start of Four Months of Troubles,” Afghanistan Mirror, special bulletin, 29 June 1992. [BACK]
86. A. R. Dostum, statement in the Constituent Assembly of the National and Islamic Movement, Mazar, 31 May 1992, 2. [BACK]
87. Bisharat, “Stormy Developments,” 10. For a list of senior Parchami officers in the army of the Islamic State, see Peace (monthly newspaper), December 1993, 4. [BACK]
88. Interview with Mawlawi M. Zarif, Mujahid Wolas (newspaper), November-December 1993, 1. [BACK]
89. Ermacora, “Human Rights in Afghanistan,” 32. [BACK]
90. Rashid, “Green Revolutionary,” 19. [BACK]
91. For comments on the Islamabad Accords, see Kakar, “Time for Choice,” 2-9. [BACK]
92. For details, see Gh. Parwani, “The Jalalabad Accords,” Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, May 1993, 7; “New Peace Accords Concluded in Jalalabad,” Afghanistan Forum, July 1993, 6. [BACK]
93. “Strange Calm in Kabul,” Afghanistan Forum, November 1993, 10. [BACK]
94. M. K. Momand, “My Observations,” Sabawoon [Journal] (California), July 1994, 21. In a letter sent in January 1994 from Kabul the writer states: “To the people of Kabul there no longer exists either a lion [Mas’ud] or an amiror a hero. They are all thieves and violators of people’s honor and property. Mas’ud’s men are illiterate Panjsheri youth who do not even know how to pray and observe the commands of Islam. They know nothing else but to engage in homosexuality and make the boys and girls dance for them. They steal people’s property and kidnap their children. Hekmatyar’s men, who are older than Mas’ud’s men, respect people’s honor, but their rockets have destroyed much of Kabul. In fact, their rockets and the aircraft and bombs of Mas’ud have ravaged Kabul. Dostum’s men are all addicted to hashish (chars); they are all homosexuals, burglars, and criminals. Even their officers cannot control them. Just like Mas’ud’s men, they also do as they please.” Qari Abdullah in Peace (monthly newspaper), 15 March 1994, 4. [BACK]
95. A. Safi, former member of parliament from Tagab, personal comunication, December 1993. In the Tagab round of fighting Mas’ud paid 100,000 afghanis, and Hekmatyar paid from 1,200 to 2,000 Pakistani rupees a month to each of their recruits. One rupee equalled 95 afghanis. Mas’ud had advantages over his rivals in money matters. According to a commander of Mas’ud, “I would spend 20 million afghanis on each of the military posts per week.” Also, according to him, “once, shortly after 20 billion afghanis had arrived from Moscow, these were all taken out of the bank for military purposes.” Anonymous, [tb“Why and How the War in Kabul Started,” Afghanistan Journal, April 1994, 10. [BACK]
96. D. Sahari, “Afghanistan and the Islamic World,” Mujahid Wolas (newspaper), January-February 1994, 2. [BACK]
97. Afghanistan Forum, January 1994, 7. [BACK]
98. “Why and How the War Started,” 72. [BACK]
99. Ibid. [BACK]
100. Afghanistan Forum, March 1994, 13. [BACK]
101. “Why and How the War Started,” 72. [BACK]
102. Interview with Hekmatyar, Shafaq (newspaper), May 1994, 3. For details see A. H. Ahady, “An Evaluation of the Four Main Peace Plans for Afghanistan,” Afghan Millat (newspaper), Peshawar (21 July 1994). [BACK]
103. Statement by Rabbani, Jam’iyyat (newspaper), May 1994, 3. [BACK]
104. S. Coll, “The Agony of Victory,” Afghanistan Forum, March 1994, 16. [BACK]
105. Z. Abbas, “The Battle for Kabul”, Afghanistan Forum, May 1994, 9. According to S. Mojaddidi, “Mas’ud has gathered around him a number of companions who hold that the Pashtuns have ruled over us for years, and now it was time we ruled over them”; Shafaq (newspaper), May 1994, 3. [BACK]
106. Abbas, “Battle for Kabul,” Afghanistan Forum, 9. [BACK]
107. Ibid. In particular, the loss in November 1993 to Dostum of the Sher Khan Post on the Oxus at the instigation of Mas’ud by a commander of the Islamic Union became the last straw in the coalition between Dostum and Mas’ud. See “Why and How the War Started,” 9. [BACK]
108. B. Rumer and E. Rumer, “Who Will Stop the Next Yugoslavia?” World Monitor, November 1992, 38; Malik, “Contemporary South and Central Asian Politics,” Asian Survey, October 1992, 901. Masu’d, who “dreams of a pan-Tajik constituency for himself,” is backing Tajik rebels against the Moscow-installed government in Doshanbay, the capital of Tajikistan. A. Rashid, “Battle for the North,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 31 March 1994, 23. [BACK]
109. Anonymous, “Central Asia: The Silk Road Catches Fire,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 26 December 1992, 45, 46. [BACK]
110. D. Sahari, “Afghanistan and the Islamic World,” Mujahid Wolas (newspaper), no. 11-12 (January-February 1994), 2. [BACK]
111. Interview with Rabbani, Afghanistan Forum, March 1994, 26. [BACK]
112. In Kabul an official spokesman claimed, “We have clear-cut evidence about direct interference by Uzbekistan in the Kabul fighting”; ibid., 20. [BACK]
113. A. R. Safi, former member of parliament from Shiberghan, personal communication, February 1994. [BACK]
114. Ibid. [BACK]
115. “Message to the Kunduz Commanders,” Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, 4 May 1994, 1. [BACK]
116. Yousaf and Adkin, Bear Trap, 142. [BACK]
117. N. Majruh, personal communication, June 1994. [BACK]
118. Interview with Q. M. A. Wiqad, Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, 30 March 1994, 8. [BACK]
119. BEBT, “Note on Events in Kabul,” 9. [BACK]
120. R. Yusufzai, International News (Peshawar), 3 November 1993, 21. [BACK]
121. T. Weiner, “Blowback from the Afghan Battlefield,” New York Times Magazine, 13 March 1994, 53. [BACK]
122. Interview with Q. M. A. Wiqad, Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, 30 March 94, 8. [BACK]
123. Sahari, “Afghanistan and the Islamic World,” 2. [BACK]
124. S. Yarzay, “Problems and Fighting in Kabul,” Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, 20 July 1994, 6; Z. Durani, “What is Going on in Kabul?” Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, 2 August 1994, 7. [BACK]
125. Momand, “My Observations,” 21. [BACK]
126. M. Shindanday, “The Tyrannized and Powerless Afghans,” Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, 20 July 1994, 6. [BACK]
127. Sahari, “Afghanistan and the Islamic World,” 2. “From the city of Mazar to the frontier post in Torkham the Islamic groups have set up customs posts (pataks). In each of these posts each group levies tolls on a loaded truck, ranging from twenty thousand to over a million afghanis. Because of insecurity trucks now go in caravans as the caravans of men, camels, and horses went in the Middle Ages. It now takes about twenty days for a caravan to reach Torkham from Mazar, whereas before the communist coup in 1978 it took only a day for a truck to make the journey. From Mahipar, east of Kabul, to Torkham twenty-eight such posts are in place. This part, which is the worst, is called the Looting Highway (Shahrah-e-Choor). A man who had made the journey from Mazar to Torkham with a caravan has been quoted as saying ‘The situation of the highway from the hydroelectric dam of Mahipar to Sarobi is totally disappointing. In each bend of the road one and even two customs posts operate. In these posts rusty, ruthless, and tyrannical men, seen often with wild and long hair and beards, have come together. To them it is useless to plead and implore. Instead of God, the Prophet, the Quran, and the love of parents they recognize money. For them it is ordinary to curse, insult, and beat a passenger and bring down his belongings and food. An ordinary man of them can stop a truck and even a caravan with impunity for days and beat a passenger whom he dislikes to the limit of death. Most of these posts belong to major groups.’ Some among them are, of course, pious, but the majority are such as described. It is because of the heavy tolls that in Kabul a sack of wheat flour [70 kilograms] is sold for one hundred thousand afghanis, a staggering amount. The pious muslims now say that Doomsday is near.” Shahbaz, “Mazar-e-Sharif—Torkham,” Writers Union of Free Afghanistan, 7 September 1994, 6. [BACK]
128. “Interview with the Mawlawi of Tarakhel,” Afghanistan (Journal), April 1994, 41. The bickering among the Islamic groups is harming Afghanistan. Internally, it acts as a divisive force, subverting the process of reunification and reconstruction. Abroad, it is looked on as a symbol of Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, intolerance, and radicalism. This is why Afghanistan has plummeted from a global flash point to a local affair. From a major catalyst that initiated the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it has developed into a “self-destructive inter-Afghan affair, threatening to split Afghanistan.” Marwat, “Waiting for the U.N.,” 48. [BACK]
129. Momand, “My Observations,” 24. [BACK]
130. Quoted in Sahari, “Afghanistan and the Islamic World,” 2. [BACK]
131. Statement by M. A. Nae’em, Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, 24 April 1994, 2. [BACK]
132. R. Yusufzai, “Zahir Shah Option Resurfaces in Search for Afghan Peace,” The Breeze of Freedom (journal), no. 4 (Mar.-Apr. 1994): 38. [BACK]
133. H. Naweed, interview with R. Oakley, Writers’ Union of Free Afghanistan, nos. 22-23 (8 June 1994), 7. [BACK]
134. N. M. Kamrany, personal communication, June 1994. Kamrany is a professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles. [BACK]
135. Weiner, “Blowback,” 53. [BACK]
136. Ibid. According to a U.S. satellite survey, 19,470 hectares were cultivated in poppies during the 1991-92 season in Afghanistan. The Breeze of Freedom (journal), no. 4 (Mar.-Apr. 1994): 63. [BACK]
137. Quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 July 1994, A12. [BACK]
138. Quoted in Weiner, “Blowback,” 53. [BACK]