Attempts at Unity
To make the jehad a success, a coalition of the resistance forces was necessary. This was what the public demanded, as the urban uprisings showed. The demand was raised by Afghan refugees who held meetings in Peshawar in 1980, at which they demanded a united front to coordinate military activities. (These meetings will be detailed in the next chapter.) The pressure these meetings produced persuaded leaders of the Islamic groups to form a coalition. A coalition of the three Islamist and three moderate organizations, the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan, was formed. Abd al-Rasool Sayyaf, a founder of the Islamic movement who had arrived in Peshawar after he had been released from prison in Kabul, was chosen to lead the coalition. But it was not destined to last. First Hekmatyar and later the three moderate groups seceded from it. These three set up the Union of the Three. In 1981 the Islamist groups formed a broader alliance, the Union of the Seven, made up of the three Islamist groups, the newly formed organization led by Sayyaf, and three splinter groups. In 1985, under pressure from the king of Saudi Arabia, a broad coalition, the Islamic Unity of Afghan Mujahideen, was set up, comprising the four main Islamist and three moderate groups. This group was in existence until 1989, when, under the patronage of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Afghan Interim Government (Dawlat-e-Islami-e-Afghanistan) was set up in Rawalpindi to coincide with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
Not all resistance groups were included in the coalitions. The Tehran-based Shi’ite groups, nationalists, tribal unions, and the anti-Soviet leftists (including the pro-Chinese leftists) were excluded. The coalition was composed only of the Sunni Muslim groups approved by Pakistan. Pakistan’s support was crucial since, through its military Inter-Service Intelligence and Afghan Commissionerate, it distributed weapons, cash, and materiel received from donor countries. Pakistan supported the Afghan jehad, but it manipulated it to serve its own interests. An ardent supporter of the jehad, President General Zia al-Haq of Pakistan overruled the view of the majority of his inner council to come to a modus vivendi with the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. But he manipulated the jehad with a view to raising a client government to power in Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew. For this purpose Pakistan opposed the emergence of a strong united leadership. “On the political level, the Pakistanis were obsessed with the fear that the resistance might develop in the same way as the Palestinians had done, enjoying the support of millions of refugees. It seemed to them that the best protection against this risk was a divided resistance. The Pakistanis granted the same facilities to each of the six groups and closed their eyes to the activities of minor groups, which they did not recognize. It was thus the Pakistanis who ensured the continuance of the major split in the movement, at least until 1984.”
The patronized coalition did not prove effective in coordinating military activities. There were no coordinated military activities, nor did they make use of the expertise of the military officers of the Kabul regime who defected. Community and tribal elders and members of the intelligentsia were hindered from working for the jehad. The Islamist groups did this in the hope of monopolizing power and Islamizing the society. The host government left them free to deal with Afghan refugees even on its own soil. Having tighter organization and discipline, the Islamist parties treated the refugees as if they were their rulers. Some groups even had courts and prisons and opposed national identity, stating that “if in both countries [Pakistan and Afghanistan] there prevailed an Islamic order we prefer that the common boundaries between us be discarded and both countries united.” Others wished to substitute the name Islamistan (land of Islam) for Afghanistan. In past resistance movements, the combination of such groups constituted a national force that met the emergency although they were not as widespread as they were in the present movement. Had the resistance not been strong at the grass-roots level, one wonders whether it would have made any headway. A specialist on guerrilla warfare wrote, “A visit with the rebels in Afghanistan suggests two broad conclusions about the resistance there. The first is that it is an extremely popular movement that has arisen spontaneously among many different kinds of people with varying motives. The second is that in its leadership, organization, coordination, and strategy, the Afghan movement is one of the weakest liberation struggles in the world today.”