Ahmad Shah Massoud

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Ahmad Shah Massoud : biography

September 2, 1953 – September 9, 2001

This expansion prompted Babrak Karmal to demand that the Red Army resume their offensives, in order to crush the Panjshir groups. However, Massoud had received warning of the attack through his intelligence agents in the government and he evacuated all 130,000 inhabitants from the valley into the Hindukush mountains, leaving the Soviet bombings to fall on empty ground and the Soviet battalions to face the mountains.Roy, p. 201.

With the defeat of the Soviet-Afghan attacks, Massoud carried out the next phase of his strategic plan, expanding the resistance movement and liberating the northern provinces of Afghanistan. In August 1986, he captured Farkhar in Takhar Province. In November 1986, his forces overran the headquarters of the government’s 20th division at Nahrin in Baghlan Province, scoring an important victory for the resistance.Roy, p.213. This expansion was also carried out through diplomatic means, as more mujahideen commanders were persuaded to adopt the Panjshir military system.

Despite almost constant attacks by the Red Army and the Afghan army, Massoud increased his military strength. Starting in 1980 with a force of less than 1,000 ill-equipped guerrillas, the Panjshir valley mujahideen grew to a 5,000-strong force by 1984. After expanding his influence outside the valley, Massoud increased his resistance forces to 13,000 fighters by 1989.Isby, p.98. These forces were divided into different types of units: the locals (mahalli) were tasked with static defense of villages and fortified positions. The best of the mahalli were formed into units called grup-i zarbati (shock troops), semi-mobile groups that acted as reserve forces for the defense of several strongholds. A different type of unit was the mobile group (grup-i-mutaharek), a lightly equipped commando-like formation numbering 33 men, whose mission was to carry out hit-and-run attacks outside the Panjshir, sometimes as far as 100 km from their base. These men were professional soldiers, well-paid and trained, and, from 1983 on, they provided an effective strike force against government outposts. Uniquely among the mujahideen, these groups wore uniforms, and their use of the pakul made this headwear emblematic of the Afghan resistance.

Massoud’s military organization was an effective compromise between the traditional Afghan method of warfare and the modern principles of guerrilla warfare which he had learned from the works of Mao Zedong and Che Guevara. His forces were considered the most effective of all the various Afghan resistance movements.Roy, p.202.

The United States provided Massoud with close to no support. Part of the reason was that it permitted its funding and arms distribution to be administered by Pakistan, which favored the rival mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In an interview, Massoud said, "We thought the CIA knew everything. But they didn’t. They supported some bad people [meaning Hekmatyar]." Primary advocates for supporting Massoud were the US State Department’s Edmund McWilliams and Peter Tomsen, who were on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Others included two Heritage Foundation foreign policy analysts, Michael Johns and James A. Phillips, both of whom championed Massoud as the Afghan resistance leader most worthy of U.S. support under the Reagan Doctrine.Phillips, James A. (May 18, 1992). , Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #181.Johns, Michael (January 19, 2008). . Thousands of foreign Islamic volunteers entered Afghanistan to fight with the mujahideen against the Soviet troops.

The Soviet army and the Afghan communist army were mainly defeated by Massoud and his mujahideen in numerous small engagements between 1984 and 1988. In 1989, after describing the Soviet Union’s military engagement in Afghanistan "a bleeding wound", Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev began a withdrawal of Soviet troops from the nation. On February 15, 1989, in what was depicted as an improbable victory for the mujahideen, the last Soviet soldier left the nation.