Ahmad Shah Massoud

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Ahmad Shah Massoud : biography

September 2, 1953 – September 9, 2001

Believing that an uprising against the Soviet-backed communists would be supported by the people, Massoud, on July 6, 1979, started an insurrection in the Panjshir, which initially failed. Massoud decided to avoid conventional confrontation with the larger government forces and to wage a guerrilla war. He subsequently took full control of Panjshir, pushing out Afghan communist troops. Oliver Roy writes that in the following period, Massoud’s "personal prestige and the efficiency of his military organisation persuaded many local commanders to come and learn from him."

Resistance against the Soviet Union (1979–1989)

Following the 1979 Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, Massoud devised a strategic plan for expelling the invaders and overthrowing the communist regime. The first task was to establish a popularly based resistance force that had the loyalty of the people. The second phase was "active defense" of the Panjshir stronghold, while carrying out asymmetric warfare. In the third phase, the "strategic offensive", Massoud’s forces would gain control of large parts of Northern Afghanistan. The fourth phase was the "general application" of Massoud’s principles to the whole country, and the defeat of the Afghan communist government.

From the start of the war, Massoud’s mujahideen attacked the occupying Soviet forces, ambushing Soviet and Afghan communist convoys travelling through the Salang Pass, and causing fuel shortages in Kabul. The Soviets mounted a series of offensives against the Panjshir. Between 1980 and 1985, these offensives were conducted twice a year. Despite engaging more men and hardware on each occasion, the Soviets were unable to defeat Massoud’s forces. In 1982, the Soviets began deploying major combat units in the Panjshir, numbering up to 30,000 men. Massoud pulled his troops back into subsidiary valleys, where they occupied fortified positions. When the Soviet columns advanced onto these positions, they fell into ambushes. When the Soviets withdrew, Afghan army garrisons took over their positions. Massoud and his mujahideen forces attacked and recaptured them one by one.Roy, p.199.

In 1983, the Soviets offered Massoud a temporary truce, which he accepted in order to rebuild his own forces and give the civilian population a break from Soviet attacks. He put the respite to good use. In this time he created the Shura-e Nazar (Supervisory Council), which subsequently united 130 commanders from 12 Afghan provinces in their fight against the Soviet army. This council existed outside the Peshawar parties, which were prone to internecine rivalry and bickering, and served to smooth out differences between resistance groups, due to political and ethnic divisions. It was the predecessor of what could have become a unified Islamic Afghan army.Barry, Michael (2002). Massoud, de l’islamisme à la liberté, p. 216. Paris: Audibert. ISBN 2-84749-002-7

Relations with the party headquarters in Peshawar were often strained, as Rabbani insisted on giving Massoud no more weapons and supplies than to other Jamiat commanders, even those who did little fighting. To compensate for this deficiency, Massoud relied on revenues drawn from exports of emeralds and lapis lazuli, that are traditionally exploited in Northern Afghanistan.

To organize support for the mujahideen, Massoud established an administrative system that enforced law and order (nazm) in areas under his control. The Panjshir was divided into 22 bases (qarargah) governed by a military commander and a civilian administrator, and each had a judge, a prosecutor and a public defender.Davies, L. Will; Shariat, Abdullah (2004). Fighting Masoud’s War, Melbourne: Lothian, p. 200. ISBN 0-7344-0590-1 Massoud’s policies were implemented by different committees: an economic committee was charged with funding the war effort. The health committee provided health services, assisted by volunteers from foreign humanitarian non-governmental organizations, such as Aide médicale internationale. An education committee was charged with the training of the military and administrative cadre. A culture committee and a judiciary committee were also created.Barry, p.194.