Ahmad Shah Massoud

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Ahmad Shah Massoud : biography

September 2, 1953 – September 9, 2001

Neighboring Pakistan exerted strong influence over the Taliban. A publication with the George Washington University describes: "Initially, the Pakistanis supported … Gulbuddin Hekmatyar … When Hekmatyar failed to deliver for Pakistan, the administration began to support a new movement of religious students known as the Taliban." Many analysts like Amin Saikal describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan’s regional interests which the Taliban decline. The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud. () Amnesty International, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report:

The Taliban’s early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses. The Taliban’s first major offensive against the important western city of Herat, under the rule of Islamic state ally Ismail Khan, in February 1995 was defeated when Massoud airlifted 2,000 of his own core forces from Kabul to help defend Herat. Ahmed Rashid writes: "The Taliban had now been decisively pushed back on two fronts by the government and their political and military leadership was in disarray. Their image as potential peacemakers was badly dented, for in the eyes of many Afghans they had become nothing more than just another warlord party." International observers already speculated that the Taliban as a country-wide organization might have "run its course".

Mullah Omar, however, consolidated his control inside the Taliban and with foreign help rebuild and equipped his forces. Pakistan increased its support to the Taliban. Its military advisers oversaw the restructuring of Taliban forces. The country provided armored pick-up trucks and other military equipment. Saudi Arabia provided the funding. Furthermore, there was a massive influx of 25,000 new Taliban fighters, many of them recruited in Pakistan. This enabled the Taliban to capture Herat to the west of Kabul in a surprise attack against the forces of Ismail Khan in September 1995. A nearly one-year siege and bombardment campaign against Kabul, however, was again defeated by Massoud’s forces.

Massoud and Rabbani meanwhile kept working on an internal Afghan peace process – successfully. By February 1996, all of Afghanistan’s armed factions – except for the Taliban – had agreed to take part in the peace process and to set up a peace council to elect a new interim president. Many Pashtun areas under Taliban control had representatives also advocating for a peace agreement with the Islamic State government. But Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the Kandaharis surrounding him wanted to expand the war. At that point the Taliban leadership and their foreign supporters decided they needed to act quickly before the government could consolidate the new understanding between the parties. The Taliban moved against Jalalabad, under the control of the Pashtun Jalalabad Shura, to the east of Kabul. Part of the Jalalabad Shura was bribed with millions of dollars by the Taliban’s foreign sponsors, especially Saudi Arabia, to vacate their positions. The Taliban’s battle for Jalalabad was directed by Pakistani military advisers. Hundreds of Taliban crossed the Afghan-Pakistani border moving on Jalalabad from Pakistan and thereby suddenly placed to the east of Kabul. This left the capital city Kabul "wide open" to many sides as Ismail Khan had been defeated to the west, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had vacated his positions to the south and the fall and surrender of Jalalabad had suddenly opened a new front to the east. At that point Massoud decided to conduct a strategic retreat through a northern corridor, according to Ahmed Rashid, "knowing he could not defend [Kabul] from attacks coming from all four points of the compass. Nor did he want to lose the support of Kabul’s population by fighting for the city and causing more bloodshed." On September 26, 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul.Coll, Ghost Wars (New York: Penguin, 2005), 14. The Taliban marched into Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Massoud and his troops retreated to the northeast of Afghanistan which became the base for the still internationally recognized Islamic State of Afghanistan.