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.