Ahmad Shah Massoud

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Ahmad Shah Massoud : biography

September 2, 1953 – September 9, 2001

Fall of the Afghan communist regime (1992)

After the departure of Soviet troops in 1989, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan regime, then headed by Mohammad Najibullah, held its own against the mujahideen. Backed by a massive influx of weapons from the Soviet Union, the Afghan armed forces reached a level of performance they had never reached under direct Soviet tutelage. They maintained control over all of Afghanistan’s major cities. By 1992, however, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the regime began to crumble. Food and fuel shortages undermined the capacities of the government’s army, and a resurgence of factionalism split the regime between Khalq and Parcham supporters., Library of Congress country studies. Retrieved April 2, 2007.

A few days after Najibullah had lost control of the nation, his army commanders and governors arranged to turn over authority to resistance commanders and local warlords throughout the country. Joint councils (shuras) were immediately established for local government, in which civil and military officials of the former government were usually included. In many cases, prior arrangements for transferring regional and local authority had been made between foes.

Collusions between military leaders quickly brought down the Kabul government. In mid-January 1992, within three weeks of the demise of the Soviet Union, Massoud was aware of conflict within the government’s northern command. General Abdul Momim, in charge of the Hairatan border crossing at the northern end of Kabul’s supply highway, and other non-Pashtun generals based in Mazari Sharif, feared removal by Najibullah and replacement by Pashtun officers. When the generals rebelled, Abdul Rashid Dostum, who held general rank as head of the Jowzjani militia, also based in Mazari Sharif, took over.

He and Massoud reached a political agreement, together with another major militia leader, Sayyed Mansour, of the Ismaili community based in Baghlan Province. These northern allies consolidated their position in Mazar-i-Sharif on March 21. Their coalition covered nine provinces in the north and northeast. As turmoil developed within the government in Kabul, no government force stood between the northern allies and the major air force base at Bagram, some seventy kilometers north of Kabul. By mid-April 1992, the Afghan air force command at Bagram had capitulated to Massoud. On March 18, 1992, Najibullah announced he would resign. On April 17, as his government fell, he tried to escape but was stopped at Kabul Airport by Dostum’s forces. He took refuge at the United Nations mission, where he remained unharmed until 1996, while Massoud controlled the area surrounding the mission.

Senior communist generals and officials of the Najibullah administration acted as a transitional authority to transfer power to Ahmad Shah Massoud’s alliance. The Kabul interim authority invited Massoud to enter Kabul as the new Head of State, but he held back. Massoud ordered his forces, positioned to the north of Kabul, not to enter the capital until a political solution was in place. He called on all the senior Afghan party leaders, many then based in exile in Peshawar, to work out a political settlement acceptable to all sides and parties.

Legacy

National Hero of Afghanistan

Massoud was the only chief Afghan leader who never left Afghanistan in the fight against the Soviet Union and later in the fight against the Taliban Emirate. In the areas under his direct control, such as Panjshir, some parts of Parwan and Takhar, Massoud established democratic institutions. One refugee who cramped his family of 27 into an old jeep to flee from the Taliban to the area of Massoud described Massoud’s territory in 1997 as "the last tolerant corner of Afghanistan".

  • In 2001, the Afghan Interim Government under president Hamid Karzai officially awarded Massoud the title of "Hero of the Afghan Nation". One analyst in 2004 said:

"One man holds a greater political punch than all 18 living [Afghan] presidential candidates combined. Though already dead for three years…. Since his death on September 9, 2001 at the hands of two al Qaeda-linked Islamic radicals, Massoud has been transformed from mujahedin to national hero—if not saint. Pictures of Massoud, the Afghan mujahedin who battled the Soviets, other warlords, and the Taliban for more than 20 years, vastly outnumber those of any other Afghan including those of Karzai."