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Afghanistan: the politics of disintegration.


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Executive Summary



The Soviet Intervention

Growth of Afghan Opposition

The External Players

Fall of the Najibullah Regime

The Interim Government

The Islamabad Agreement


Australia and Afghanistan

International and Regional Repercussions


Executive Summary

On 1 January 1992, Moscow and Washington stopped the supply of arms to their respective proteges in the conflict in Afghanistan. This ended the last surrogate war between the two superpowers in the post Second World War era. Soon after, in April 1992, the government of President Najibullah was deposed by the mujahideen who in turn established a provisional government in Kabul.

More than eighteen months after the event, it is evident that mujahideen rule has not brought peace in Afghanistan. Kabul is nominally administered by an uneasy and often violent coalition of mujahideen parties, the main ones being the fundamentalist Hezbi Islami led by Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the comparatively moderate Jamaiti Islami headed by President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

The proxy war began in December 1979 when the Soviet Union, under the terms of the Soviet-Afghan Friendship and Co-operation Treaty of 1978, sent a 'limited contingent' of troops to prop up the government of Babrak Kamal and help defeat the mujahideen. As far as the US was concerned, this was perceived as a threat to its interests in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean region. Consequently the US along with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran, among others, provided financial and military help to the mujahideen. Apart from the indirect ideological confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union, there was also Islamic denominational politics and power play as Iran and Saudi Arabia sought to influence Shia and Sunni mujahideen groups respectively. Besides the immediate threat from across its borders, Pakistan was also interested in ensuring a friendly government in Kabul as well as in trying to resolve the Pushtunistan issue, a secessional movement by Pathans/Pushtuns in its Northwest Frontier Baluchistan provinces to form an independent entity.

After nearly a decade of bloody conflict, the Soviet troops finally withdrew in February 1989, as agreed to under the Geneva Accords of April 1988. Despite this, supporters of both sides continued to supply their respective clients with military and other aid. This finally came to an end in January 1992.

This paper describes the events in Afghanistan since the overthrow of President Najibullah in April 1992. After nearly a year of intense fighting among the mujahideen groups, in March 1993 a peace agreement of sorts was finally brokered by Pakistan with the backing of Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are also signatories to the agreement. This accord is of regional significance in that this was the first time that Iran and Saudi Arabia worked together to find a solution to the civil war; a radical departure from the past when they were rivals in a proxy war as each side backed different mujahideen groups.

Although violence in and around Kabul has subsided to a limited extent, the battle is far from over. What can be said with a relative degree of certainty is that the era of Pushtun dominance in the government in Afghanistan is over.

With regard to the international and regional impact of the Afghan conflict, there is, in the words of Jack Blum, a former special counsel to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a 'disposal problem ... What used to be containable because it was local and tribal now gets on a plane and heads for New York.' Gamaat Islamiya, an Egyptian extremist organisation having links with the Afghan mujahideen, has been associated with attacks on foreign tourists in Egypt as well as with the New York World Trade Centre bombing. Afghan mujahideen are reported to have trained Burmese Rohingya guerrillas as well as volunteers from other muslim and Arab states. These guerrillas have been reported to be fighting in places as far apart as Bosnia and Indian Kashmir.

The civil war in Tajikistan has spilled over the border into Afghanistan and there are allegations of mujahideen help to the Tajik rebels. More recently, the US Congress has authorised the CIA to buy back US supplied Stinger missiles, not all of which were used in the war against the Soviets. The consequences of these missiles being sold or otherwise transferred to extremist organisations elsewhere in the world cannot be overstated.

Finally, while the attention of the United Nations and the international community is diverted to events in former Yugoslavia and Somalia, and the Afghan intra- mujahideen conflict is confined within its borders, it should be emphasised that the region remains inherently unstable. More importantly, nations in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan would need to cooperate and forego their narrow short term interests in favour of peace and stability in the region; the evidence suggests that they may still be unwilling to do so. In the decade of the 1990s long term economic cooperation and prosperity is a far more preferable outcome than strategic superiority and regional instability.


On 15 February 1989, the last of the Soviet forces finally withdrew from Afghanistan. The government of President Najibullah was deposed in April 1992 by the mujahideen who in turn established a provisional government in Kabul. While the Soviet forces were in the country, the mujahideen conducted their war under independent commands, a tactic that proved effective against government and Soviet troops. But the Soviet withdrawal and the overthrow of the Najibullah regime required a transition from guerrilla warfare to the formation of a unified command, which the mujahideen, riven by their differences, have been unable to achieve. This, as will be discussed later, is quite a change from their commitment in December 1979, when all the main guerrilla leaders had agreed to pool their weapons and other resources to fight the common enemy.

More than a year after Najibullah's downfall, it is evident that mujahideen rule has brought anything but peace to Afghanistan. During the 14 years of fighting in the country, Kabul was hardly damaged. While Kabul was heavily defended by the Soviets, it was the countryside which bore the brunt of Soviet attacks on the mujahideen. The situation has now been reversed. While the provinces are relatively peaceful, it is Kabul that is now the focus of conflict. Over the last twelve months it has experienced destruction of unprecedented proportions. For example, during the period July-September 1992, over 2500 men, women and children were killed, 9000 wounded and some 300 000 refugees fled Kabul 1 to escape the internecine conflict between the Hezbi Islami mujahideen group led by fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the relatively moderate Jamiati Islami which is the dominant party in the fifty member interim council installed in Kabul on 28 April 1992. Another significant change that has taken place in the nature of Afghan politics is that the traditional Pushtun hegemony has been challenged by other ethnic groups such as the Tajiks and the Uzbeks. As a consequence, the Kabul region continues in a state of civil war because of ethnic, religious-sectarian and political animosities.

The Soviet intervention on 27 December 1979, under the terms of the Soviet-Afghan Friendship and Co-operation Treaty of 6 December 1978, changed Western perceptions of the Soviet Union. In the eyes of the US, the Soviets had given up detente in favour of expansionism and endangered US interests in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. What followed was more than a decade of war and destruction on a scale unprecedented in the history of Afghanistan as the country was caught up in Cold War and religious politics in which the main external parties included the US, the Soviets, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Soviet intervention resulted in substantial military and financial aid by the US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran, among others, to the mujahideen in order to help fight the Soviets. Apart from the indirect confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union there was also Islamic denominational politics and power play as Iran and Saudi Arabia sought to influence Shia and Sunni mujahideen groups. After a decade of fighting, the Soviets finally withdrew in February 1989, but this did not provide a political solution to the issue of governing the country.

This paper examines the situation in Afghanistan since the fall of the Najibullah regime, the subsequent scramble for power and the near destruction of Kabul, and prospects for the future of the country. Finally, the paper will briefly outline the regional repercussions of the war in Afghanistan. These are significant because the civil war has had an impact beyond its borders. Arab and other Muslim militants who participated in the war against the Soviet Union are now keen to pursue their goal of a holy war in other parts of the world. Further, the civil war in Tajikistan has also assumed significance because of trans-border violence and because Tajiks comprise the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.


Despite popular perceptions that Afghan society is tribal in nature, it would be more accurate to describe Afghanistan as a 'segmented society, since the divisions are not always along tribal lines'. 2 Tribalism also implies a common law, ideology and institutions (the jirgah or tribal councils), a definition that would be applicable to the Pushtuns in southern and eastern Afghanistan who comprise about 6.5 million out of a total population of around 14.2 million. The second most important group are the Tajiks who number about 4.1 million. They are followed by the Uzbeks, Hazaras and others. Like most countries with common borders, people belonging to the same ethnic group are found on both sides. Hence, the Pushtun people (about 12 million) also live in Pakistan. Turkmen people straddle the border with Turkmenistan and Tajiks have their ethnic counterparts in Tajikistan (Map 1 illustrates this ethnic distribution). The common religion in Afghanistan has been Islam, be it the Sunni or the Shia version. The Shia's form an estimated 15 per cent of the Afghan population. However, as Amin Saikal and William Maley have observed, 'as a unifier Islam has had to compete with a number of centripetal influences' including ethnic divisions, tribal and urban-rural cleavages.' 3

Political development in Afghanistan, as distinct from a feudal monarchy, began in 1964. Prior to this, Mohammad Daoud, King Zahir Shah's cousin, had been Premier since 1963. Premier Daoud had pursued a policy of opposing social change and devoted a lot of effort towards promoting Pushtun nationalism, which also manifested itself in a push for the creation of a Pushtun state in Pakistan. Internally, according to one analyst, during the period of the monarchy as well as in the time of Daoud's republic (he was later President during 1973-1978): 4

The Pashtunisation of the country was part of the programme of the state. Therefore any numerical relationship and the balance of power between the different ethnic groups in Afghanistan has always altered (sic), without any doubt, to promote the Pashtun interest.

However, this is not to say that the Pushtun 'community' has traditionally been unified and homogeneous. As J. Sierakowska-Dyndo has observed 5

...the hegemony of the Pashtuns within the military and in political life was very strong, despite internal hostilities within this community.

Nonetheless, over the next 10 years there were five successive governments, each with differing political perspectives. Further, this period of political liberalisation under a constitutional monarchy also enabled different political groups to become 'informally active in the Afghan political scene.' 6 Two pro-Moscow communist groups, the Parcham (Banner) led by Babrak Karmal and Khalq (Masses) led by Noor Mohammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin, became active in the 1960s. Opposition to these groups came from the Islamic movement which also had its origins in the 1960s and, among others, had the support of students of Kabul University. It soon developed into a political organisation known as Jamiati Islami-e-Afghanistan (the Islamic Society of Afghanistan). After the death of its founding president, Ghulam Mohammad Niazi, Burhanuddin Rabbani was elected leader. However, after a power struggle within the organisation, a new group emerged in 1969 under the leadership of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, then a student at the College of Engineering at Kabul University. When Mohammad Daoud overthrew King Zahir Shah in July 1973, Afghanistan was proclaimed a republic and political parties were banned. Leaders of Islamic organisations such as Hekmatyar and Rabbani fled to Pakistan. While in Pakistan during the five years of President Daoud's rule (1973-1978), the two Islamic leaders failed to reconcile their ideological differences and form a unified party. Following the overthrow of President Daoud and the establishment of a 'democratic' state led by Noor Mohammad Taraki in 1978, Hekmatyar formed his own party known as Hezbi Islami-e-Afghanistan.

Attempts by the Taraki government to introduce socioeconomic reforms antagonised not only the feudal land owners but also other elements of society, who, not having a political party of their own, decided to support the Pakistan-based Islamic parties. This provided an opportunity for these parties to use religion as a unifying force in the opposition to the regime in Kabul. However, the banner of Islam did not imply unity. A number of Islamic parties were formed as more religious clerics left the country to settle in Pakistan.

The Soviet Intervention


In December 1979, the Soviet Union, fearing that the United States would instal a pro-American government in Kabul with Pakistani assistance, sent a 'limited contingent' of troops to prop up the government of Babrak Karmal and help defeat the mujahideen. By 1981, the strength of the Soviet forces had increased to about 105 000 troops and for the next six years Soviet and Afghan government troops carried out extensive counter insurgency operations in the Afghan countryside. However, instead of stabilising the situation, the Soviets soon realised that 'their troops provoked national resistance and world-wide condemnation.' 8

By the mid 1980s, the war appeared to have reached a stalemate. There was internal presssure in the Soviet Union against continuation of the war. By 1986, the Soviets were looking for a way to withdraw. Babrak Karmal, a symbol of the Soviet invasion, was replaced by Najibullah, but increasing international aid to the mujahideen confronted the Soviets with a choice of withdrawing or being involved in an unending war. The UN-sponsored Geneva Talks between Washington, Moscow and Islambad that had been continuing for the previous six years now assumed added significance and led to the Geneva Accords of 14 April 1988 which provided a legal framework under which the Soviets were able to withdraw their troops, the last of which had departed by 15 February 1989.

Reflecting the political realities of the early 1980s, when the negotiating agenda had been set, these accords dealt only with 'external' aspects of the conflict such as Soviet troop withdrawal, the end of international military aid to the mujahideen, refugee repatriation and international guarantees. They did not link the end of international involvement to a domestic political settlement based on the formation of an interim government or internationally monitored elections, as did later agreements in Cambodia, Nicaragua and Namibia. 9

However, with the Soviets gone the US was concerned by the possibility of a takeover by anti-American Islamic fundamentalists in the mujahideen and decided to stop funding to various groups, notably Hekmatyar's Hezbi Islami. On 11 December 1990, the US and the Soviet Union reached a tentative agreement that both sides would simultaneously terminate military aid to all parties in Afghanistan, at a date to be determined. By November 1991, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran had indicated their support for the US-Soviet Agreement and all aid was terminated by the end of the year.

Growth of Afghan Opposition

A number of political parties opposing the Afghan regime were formed in Pakistan after the events of 1978. By the end of 1980, there were over 40 of them in existence. In early 1981, the Pakistan government, after having 'investigated the mandates and ideologies of all these parties, decided that with the exception of six 'major Islamic' parties (later to become seven), the remainder had to close their offices and abandon their activities.' 10 These parties were also the ones that were recognised by the West. They were: 11

1. Hezbi Islami (Islamic Party) headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Ethnically Pushtun, it is one of the best armed and organised groups. Received the bulk of US military aid largely because his fundamentalist policies found favour with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, the official distributor of US aid. Has also been financed by Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, and Kuwait.

2. Hezbi Islami (Islamic Party) headed by Mohammad Yunus Khalis. A splintered faction of Hekmatyar's Islamic Party (and with the same name) and a relatively small group. Khalis opposes elections, saying they violate the tenets of Islam and advocates a theocratic state. Was financed by the US and sympathetic Muslim countries which also financed Hekmatyar.

3. Jamiati Islami (Islamic Society) headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former professor of Islamic Theology at Kabul University. Most of the leadership is Tajik with strongholds in northern and western Afghanistan. Has produced some of the most effective field commanders including Ahmed Shah Masud. Jamiat has also attracted a strong following among other minority ethnic groups such as Uzbeks and Turkmens. Was funded largely by the US and Saudi Arabia.

4. Mahaz-e-Milli-e-Islami (National Islamic Front) headed by Sayed Ahmad Gaillani, a spiritual leader of the Sufi Islamic sect. Related to Afghanistan's royal family Gaillani has, in the past, advocated the return of King Zahir Shah. His bases are mostly in the Pushtun-dominated south and west of Afghanistan. Mostly financed by the US and some European countries.

5. Jabha-e-Milli-e-Nijat (National Liberation Front) headed by Sebghatullah Mujadedi, a former professor of philosophy at Kabul University. Believed to be the smallest resistance group, with fighters, mostly Pushtun, scattered across south and eastern Afghanistan. Money was provided by US and Europe.

6. Harakat-i-Enqilab-i-Islami (Islamic Revolutionary Movement) headed by Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi. He is a Sunni and has Pushtun support. Received very little foreign support, relying mostly on donations collected in mosques in Afghanistan.

7. Ittihadi Islami Baraye Azadi Afghanistan (Islamic Union for Liberation of Afghanistan) headed by Abdul Rab Rasul Sayef. Closely aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and financed by radical underground groups in the Middle East. Influence is mainly due to wealthy Arab backers such as Saudi businessman Osama Binladen. 12

Ideologically, they could be broadly classified into two main groups: the fundamentalists and the moderates.

The fundamentalists included the Hezbi Islami led by Hekmatyar and Hezbi Islami led by Khalis. Although the Jamaiti Islami has sometimes been labelled fundamentalist, there would appear to be a significant degree of difference in emphasis between the vision of an Islamic society as envisaged by Hekmatyar and Rabbani. Hekmatyar has been reported as maintaining that:

democracy and Islam do not go together; that is a very un-Islamic state. Afghanistan will be a strict Islamic state. A group of wise men will adapt the laws to Islam....All alcohol will be banned, women will stay at home once again, and the mullahs will have more power 13

Jamiati Islami, led by Rabbani explained its position thus:

Establishment of (an) Islamic system forms our main obligation and our sacred aim... Jamiat wants to improve relations between the owner of the land and farmer, employer and employee in such a way that instead of fighting against each other they live in a cooperative atmosphere 14

The parties led by Gaillani, Mujadedi and Mohammadi could be categorised as moderates and they have, in the past, supported the return of deposed King Zahir as a symbol of unity. The seventh party, the Ittihadi Islami of Sayyef essentially came into existence in 1982 as a front for the Saudi Arabian Wahhabi and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood groups. Lacking a social or ethnic base, it recruited mainly by distributing weapons to local commanders, regardless of party affiliations. These parties all belong to the Sunni sect. 15

Similar divisions between fundamentalists and moderates also existed among the Shias who comprise about 15 per cent of the Afghan population. In 1984, fundamentalist Shias, supported by Iran, were able to drive the moderates out of Hazarajat. The fundamentalists were organised in an Eight Party Alliance, based in Qom, Iran, and in July 1990 formed the Hezbi wahadat (Unity Party), headed by Sheikh Mazari. 16

The Pakistan and the Iran based parties have not only been divided on philosophical/ideological lines but also by tribal loyalties.

The various mujahideen groups, with the exception of the Hezbi Islami, are more like loose confederations rather than structured political organisations. Over the years, feuds between the various groups have been a result of local ethnic, tribal, political and personal rivalries or from the aggressions of the Hezbi Islami even while all mujahideen were supposed to be fighting for the same cause, the overthrow of the Soviet-backed government. According to a secret document of the Hezbi Islami, published in the Independent Afghanistan (San Francisco Nov. Dec. 1982):

Members of the Hizbi Islami while fighting against the 'Red Satan' must corner, isolate, and even eliminate the other rebel groups in order to project the image of Hizbi Islami-e-Afghanistan. If you consider yourselves weaker militarily to act against them (other groups of the alliance) then the Commander can inform the occupant Russians or their dependents about domiciles of alien guerrillas. 17

Apart from internal differences, the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran also found it opportune to exploit the mujahideen groups in order to advance their own, sometimes conflicting, interests.

The External Players

The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was perceived by the United States as a threat to its interests. It also contributed to the declaration of the Carter Doctrine in January 1980: a threat against the Persian Gulf would be considered a threat against the vital interests of the US. The creation of a Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) was announced and sanctions enacted against the Soviet Union. A decision was taken to give covert military aid to the mujahideen. US relations with Pakistan improved substantially, and its President, General Zia became an ally. The CIA-sponsored program was executed by the Pakistan army's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate. However, the distribution of weapons and money was determined by Pakistani political preferences, thereby benefiting the fundamentalist party of Hekmatyar.

Carter's successor, President Reagan, adopted a tougher stance; this was referred to as the 'roll-back policy.' The theory was that 'communist regimes in third world countries could be toppled if local insurgents, or "freedom fighters" were supported... For both presidents, the principle concern was the East-West dimension; little attention was given to local or regional issues.' 18 As a consequence Afghanistan became the cornerstone of US policies in South Asia, to the exclusion of other issues, including nuclear proliferation.

Apart from the perceived immediate threat from across the borders, Pakistan's involvement also had historical reasons. Within Pakistan's borders were many Pushtuns seperated from those on the Afghan side by the 'Durand Line', the border between Afghanistan and British India delineated in 1893. This had resulted in border skirmishes in the 1950s and Kabul's backing of seccessionist movements in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan provinces by Pushtuns who desired an independent entity called 'Pushtunistan'. 19 Consequently, for the Pakistan military, as also for General Zia, this provided a good opportunity to:

ensure Soviet withdrawal by helping the mujahideen,

to ensure effective control of the Afghan opposition by dividing the mujahideen groups via selective aid to different factions.

attempt to control any future Afghanistan government through a friendly party and at the same time, resolve the Pushtunistan issue.

The key to this policy was Hekmatyar who was known for his fundamentalist views and friendship towards the ISI which had been his sponsor over the years. This is not to say that ISI completely ignored other groups, just that it aimed to ensure Hekmatyar's dominance over other groups.

While Saudi Arabia has been helping the mujahideen since 1979, its policy priorities have changed. Initially the aim was to oppose the Soviet intervention; by 1988 it was to counteract Iranian influence. Further complicating policy was the influence of Sunni fundamentalist groups, the Wahhabi and the Muslim Brotherhood, seemingly concerned by an imaginary Iranian threat.

Iranian help to the mujahideen was more or less confined to the Shia groups who received a modest amount of aid. However, Iranian perceptions changed after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 when the main danger, in Iran's view, was not the Soviet Union but the Sunni fundamentalist parties financed by Saudi Arabia.

Fall of the Najibullah Regime

On 1 January 1992, Moscow and Washington stopped the flow of arms to their respective proteges in the Afghan conflict, ending the last surrogate war between the two superpowers in the post Second World War period. The United States provided US$50 million to Pakistan to cut back its intelligence service, ISI, which had been in charge of the CIA covert aid program to the mujahideen. Some of the money was to be used as final payments to mujahideen commanders who were on the ISI payroll. 20

At about the same time, from November 1991 onwards, efforts were being made to end the fighting on the basis of a five-point UN peace plan which envisaged a transitional group which would carry out an 'intra-Afghan dialogue' and name a new, broad based interim government in Kabul which would administer the country until elections were held, probably after two years. A series of meetings involving the mujahideen, Russia and Pakistan failed to make any substantial progress.

Meanwhile, an unforeseen chain of events brought about the collapse of President Najibullah's regime. In late January, Najibullah tried to dismiss General Momin, commander of the army's 70th Brigade, located at Hairatan, on Afghanistan's northern border. Momin rejected the order and, in doing so was supported by the militia commanders, General Rashid Dostam and General Syed Jafar Naderi. As a consequence Najibullah was denied his only supply route from the former Soviet Union. Attempts to regain the support of the generals were unsuccessful and by mid-March, a combination of a series of offensives by Ahmed Shah Masud and other mujahideen commanders, and the refusal of the Generals in the north to fight, meant that most of northeastern Afghanistan was controlled by forces opposed to the government. Significantly, given the traditional dominance of Afghan politics by the Pushtuns, almost all the key players in this chain of events were non Pushtun. Dostam is an Uzbek, Naderi an Ismaeli, Masud a Tajik. Also Shia mujahideen fought alongside Masud's supporters. 21

By mid-March, six weeks after the mutiny began, the generals had seized the city of Mazar-i-Sharif and set up a political organisation, the National Islamic Movement (NIM), that had more to do with nationality than with Islam. Politically, its aim was to secure equal rights for the traditionally 'oppressed' minorities of the north - Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmen, Ismaelis and Hazara Shias, within some sort of a 'federal' system.

Also included in the NIM's ruling council, albeit in a nominal role, were senior northern mujahideen commanders from various groups including Hekmakyar's Hezbi Islami and Rabbani's Jamiati Islami. At a meeting at Jabal Saraj on 18 April 1992. General Dostam, General Momin and Ismaeli Shia potentate Syed Mansur Naderi (also the father of General Jafer Naderi) entered into a formal alliance with Ahmed Shah Masud, clearing the way for a seizure of power by a northern command. 22 By this time the government controlled only a handful of cities and the resistance proposed an interim council of mujahideen to take over the government.

On 10 April, Najibullah announced that he was willing to hand over power to a 15 man pre-transitional council, on the lines suggested by the UN Special Envoy, Benon Sevan. This offer was rejected and on 16 April it was announced that Najibullah had finally resigned. In an attempt to influence the course of events, Hekmatyar allied himself with defectors from the Khalq faction of Najibullah's former supporters with the intention of taking over from Najibullah before other mujahideen leaders had a chance to act. To counter this, control of Kabul was handed over to a military council consisting of four generals. The erstwhile foreign minister, Abdul Wakil, travelled north to Charikar, to persuade Masud to move into Kabul while army units bombed positions occupied by Hekmatyar's mujahideen south of Kabul. Masud proposed the formation of an Islamic Jihad Council which would include the forces from the north and members of the government and armed forces who were willing to change loyalties. Although Hekmatyar was offered a place in the council, questioning its legitimacy, he turned down the offer. 23

The following week, the few cities not controlled by the mujahideen surrendered. Ghazni, Gardez, Herat and Khandahar fell, without any fighting, to local alliances which, at times included elements of the Jamiati Islami, Hezbi Islami and the Afghan army working in cooperation. The task of passing any firm judgement on the questions of loyalty and ideological conviction was thus made increasingly difficult. By 21 April, the mujahideen belonging to various factions were in Kabul. In the ensuing struggle for control of the city, Hekmatyar's forces were eventually driven out by Masud's units supported by the Uzbek and Turkmen militia groups led by Dostam and Momin. Also, in his attempt to take over Kabul, Hekmatyar had under-estimated the army's new found loyalty to the Tajik commander, Masud.

On 27 April, 1992 Sibghatullah Mujadedi arrived from Pakistan as the head of a fifty-member Transitional Council which had been constituted in Pakistan only a few days earlier. The Peshawar agreement provided for a group of thirty mujahideen commanders, ten clerics and ten nominees of the mujahideen parties to take over Kabul. Mujadedi was to take rule for two months before handing over to the Jamiat leader Burhanuddin Rabbani who would head a Leadership Council with presidential powers and in turn remain in power for the next four months. 24

It should be emphasised that the overthrow of the Najibullah government was not a result of a united resistance effort. Despite the extensive efforts of various Afghan field commanders at unification, the resistance remained an inherently weak organisation resulting from the lack of a shared political vision, the divisive effect of the policies of the external supporters and the ethnic divisions among the Afghans. 25 Success was achieved by a series of regional arrangements based on ethnic and tribal loyalties. This was amply demonstrated by the violence that broke out between the Tajik led leadership of Masud and the predominantly Pushtun/Pathan opposition headed by Hekmatyar soon after the mujahideen victory. Mujadedi was chosen as the interim leader primarily because he lacked autonomous power and posed no threat to anyone. In the Afghan Interim Government (AIG), Masud was nominated as the Defence Minister and was partly successful in winning over some prominent Pushtun commanders in order to give the government greater legitimacy. Hekmatyar, on the other hand, appointed a Tajik to the post of prime minister reserved for the Hezbi-Islami under the accord. He also dropped his Islamic radicalism and appealed to Pushtun nationalism while accusing Masud of being an Iranian agent. 26

The AIG was recognised by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia pledged support. However, these developments did not prevent Hekmatyar from reneging on his support for the new regime on the ground that it had failed to expel the Uzbek militia of General Dostam, a former Najibullah loyalist and to purge former communists. This was despite the fact that in 1991 Hekmatyar had himself approached Dostam for support and had accepted other communist hardliners including Najibullah's Defence Minister, Aslam Watanjar. 27

The Interim Government

By early June intense fighting broke out in Kabul between Hezbi Wahadat (a loose alliance of eight Shia groups made up of Hazara tribesmen backed by Iran) and Ittihadi Islami, (a hardline Sunni party dominated by Pushtuns and backed by Saudi Arabia), partly because of Hezbi Wahadat's frustration over its inability to get adequate representation in the new administration. While a degree of accommodation was reached, the Council itself was deadlocked and lacked any direction. With its membership comprising various factions with the accompanying ethnic, political and personal differences and lacking any guiding principles regarding specific functions and priorities it was basically held together by a shared suspicion of Hekmatyar. In effect, the standoff was a direct consequence of the fact that neither side could claim unanimous support of the various factions - religious, ethnic and political. 28

Mujadedi who was supposed to relinquish power to Rabbani in June, tried to extend his stay, creating further tensions. However, his attempt was unsuccessful because of lack of support from any of the factions and on 28 June, was replaced as president by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a Tajik and head of the Jamiati Islami. This only served to further alienate Hekmatyar and other Pushtuns, but, under pressure from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia the former agreed to allow Ustad Fareed, the prime minister nominated in the Peshawar Accords to take up his post. Nonetheless Hekmatyar was only biding his time. 29

On 8 August, Hekmatyar, whose forces had been gathering at bases near the capital, launched a major offensive to capture Kabul. Unlike the guerrilla tactics of the past, this time the two sides fought a conventional battle using tanks, artillery, aircraft and missiles. Hekmatyar's forces fired some 10 000 rockets and artillery shells over the next three weeks, killing at least 2000 and wounding another 9000 people. By the end of the month nearly 50 000 people had fled Kabul. 30 Some 70 000 arrived in Mazar-e-Sharif in the north with another 50 000 stranded on the way, and about 70 000 refugees fled on roads east and south of the capital towards the border with Pakistan. Most of the resident foreign diplomats and UN officials fled Kabul after several were killed and more than half of the thirty-five man cabinet sought refuge in Pakistan. Abdul Fareed, the Hezbi prime minister who was on a foreign visit, was dismissed in absentia.

A ceasefire came into effect on 29 August, brokered by moderate mujahideen commanders. A 12-point agreement provided for the withdrawal of the Uzbek and Tajik militia forces from Kabul and the deployment of a 5000 strong mujahideen buffer force drawn from the five surrounding provinces. But disagreements arose almost immediately with the government insisting that the militia no longer existed as it had been absorbed into the new Islamic army. However, the ceasefire appeared to hold while there were rumours of sympathy for Hekmatyar among the Pushtuns in the Leadership Council -Rasul Sayef, Yunus Khalis, Sayed Gaillani and Mujadedi. This is because the fight against Hekmatyar had essentially been conducted by Tajik and Uzbek forces. Across the border in Pakistan, there were accusations that the Pakistani Jamaate Islami party, a former member of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government, was actively supporting Hekmatyar. 31

As a result of the actions of the mujahideen factions and their external supporters, Afghanistan was in a state of informal partition, ruled by mutually antagonistic armed groups: the Pushtuns in the eastern and southern areas adjacent to Pakistan; Persian speaking Hazaras of the Sunni sect in the central region extending westwards up to Iran; an alliance of convenience between Tajiks and Uzbeks in the northern region between Kabul and the borders of the Central Asian republics. 32 As can be seen in Map 1, the dividing line between the northerners and Pushtuns has been the Hindu Kush mountains which lie just north of Kabul. In an attempt to formalise the division Dostam, the Uzbek warlord based at Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, secretly visited Turkey in August and made several trips to Uzbekistan to gauge support for the Uzbeki people. He was also said to have met Major General Javed Nasir head of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), who happened to be touring Central Asia as a 'private citizen'. Dostam's basic position was that the Uzbeks would not live under Pushtun domination and a separate Uzbek northern state would not only be a secular state but also act as a buffer against the spread of Islamic fundamentalism by Iran in the west and Pushtuns in the south. He also made it clear that he would not withdraw his forces out of Kabul, as demanded by Hekmatyar. 33

Hekmatyar, on the other hand, was lobbying his backers, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, for an interim Pushtun state which would eventually take over the rest of the country. Despite its anti-Shia and anti-Iran rhetoric, his idea had no appeal for Pakistan which has a twelve million strong Pushtun minority of its own. Any support by Pakistan on these lines would have serious implications for its own territorial integrity. At the same time, the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia also escalated. There were reports of battles in the south between the Shia Hezbi Wahadat and Ittihade Islami guerrillas. The latter, led by Abdul Rasul Sayef, were Wahhabi muslims, like the Saudis. 34

To complicate the politics further, Iran, having successfully developed ties with Rabbani - the Hezbi Wahdat was admitted to the government in late September - sought to establish links with Dostam. It established a consulate at Mazar-e-Sharif and Iranian airforce C-130s were used to ferry humanitarian aid. Saudi Arabia too, was reported to be developing links with Dostam. 35

In the meantime, in keeping with an agreement reached between Rabbani and Hekmatyar, a commission comprising two representatives from ten mujahideen parties was to organise a shura (council) that would elect Rabbani's successor, whose four-month term was scheduled to expire on 28 October. The new president was to hold office for 18 months. Inevitably, due to political squabbles, this did not eventuate and the Leadership Council agreed to extend Rabbani's tenure for another forty-eight days from 1 November. It was decreed that during this period the shura would convene, if not, the Council itself would decide. 'The extension was essentially designed to allow other presidential pretenders to consolidate their own positions in advance of what many feared would be a battle for succession that would be decided militarily.' 36

The extension of his tenure notwithstanding, it now appeared that Rabbani was isolated on the Leadership Council as factional loyalties had shifted once more. Despite the bombardment of Kabul by the Hezbi Islami forces, Hekmatyar was again invited to resume his seat on the Council. He proceeded to attack the city again and by early December 1992, had moved into the southern and eastern suburbs of Kabul. Dostam in a show of force, airlifted some of his troops to Kabul and, indeed, his troops clashed with Jamiati Islami forces (led by Masud) in some parts of the city.

On 30 December, the long delayed electoral shura returned Rabbani to office. The shura comprised 1335 delegates drawn from the country's twenty-nine provinces and all had either actively participated in the jihad or had been unopposed to it. The shura also elected 20 per cent of its own members to a parliamentary council to replace the Leadership Council which was dissolved. The parliament's task was to approve a new constitution and endorse a new prime minister and cabinet to be nominated by the president. Until then the government appointed the previous May would remain in office. However, most of these ministers belonged to parties whose leaders had fallen out with Rabbani. Ahmad Shah Masud's defence ministry was the only government department that continued to function in any meaningful sense. Rabbani never named a new government.

Following his inauguration on 2 January 1993, Rabbani announced his resignation from the Jamiat, declaring: 'from now on I belong to no party', and called for national reconciliation. Within hours rockets were being fired into the city. Hezbi Wahadat, the multiparty Shia grouping of ethnic Hazaras backed by Iran and brought into the government by Rabbani in September 1992, had turned against him and the defence ministry forces led by Masud. Two reasons have been given for this sudden change in allegiance: 37

Wahadat forces had been progressively taking control of areas of south western Kabul not traditionally inhabited by Hazaras. This encroachment was considered by Masud as compromising his efforts to restore order and the resulting tensions finally boiled over.

Saudi Arabia had reportedly given a donation of more than US$150 million to the government, a third of which was earmarked for the defence ministry. On learning of this Iran prodded its proxies into battle.

Further Gaillani and Mujadedi, both moderates, while opposed to Rabbani were militarily irrelevant and consequently unwilling to fight, as was Yunus Khalis, leader of the breakaway Hezbi Islami faction. The only force supporting the regime was Sayef's Ittehadi Islami which had been repeatedly involved in clashes with Wahadat. However this had more to do with racism and religious bigotry than ideology. Rasul Sayef was also the beneficiary of considerable Saudi assistance, both official and private, which probably helped to aggravate his dislike of the Shia Hazaras backed by Iran. 38

Another complicating factor was the ambivalent attitude of the Uzbek militia leader Rashid Dostam who was said to be angered by Rabbani's refusal to give him a position in the government. This had manifested itself in low level clashes with Masud's forces in December and one likely scenario was that of Dostam aligning himself with either the Wahdat or Hezbi forces or both.

Hekmatyar did not abandon hope of ultimately winning the support of Dostam. Hekmatyar, accusing Rabbani of rigging the December election, subjected Kabul to intense bombardment in January and February 1993. More than 1000 people were killed and 6000 injured 39 but his forces refrained from targeting Dostam's militia positions.

In early February it was announced that Dostam had been appointed deputy defence minister by Rabbani and that he would deploy his militia as a buffer force between the Masud's and the Wahadat units. This change in Dostam's stance towards passive support of the Shia group was also a reflection of the influence of Iran which has been supporting him. However, due to pressure from Ittehad's chief, Rasul Sayef, Rabbani appeared to relent, maintaining that Dostam's appointment was still under consideration. Meanwhile, despite a series of temporary ceasefires, fighting around Kabul continued.

The Islamabad Agreement

By early March, Rabbani was under intense pressure from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to negotiate with rival leaders in order to break the deadlock. He travelled to Islamabad for talks with the other mujahideen leaders. On 7 March 1993, in a meeting chaired by Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, an agreement was reached among the warring factions. At least four of the eight signatories privately expressed reservations soon after and maintained that it was an external imposition; Iran and Saudi Arabia had also participated in the negotiations. 40 This was a radical change in their attitude from the past when they were rivals in what could be termed a 'proxy war'. The agreement provides for, inter alia:

Rabbani to remain president for 18 months from the date he was installed. Hezbi Islami was given the right to nominate the prime minister during this period and was quick to nominate Hekmatyar. While the prime minister is the chief executive, his control over 'guns and money' is diluted through two supervisory committees which will deal with defence and economic matters.

Elections will follow the establishment of an independent election commission approved by all parties and a constituent assembly will be elected within eight months to draft a constitution under which general elections will be held before 28 June 1994, when Rabbani's term expires.

A sixteen member Defence Council comprising two nominees from each of the eight mujahideen groups is to raise a national army and supervise the evacuation of all heavy weapons within range of Kabul. The Council will also have the task of organising the release of prisoners held by the rival factions and of keeping the roads open throughout the country.

A commission formed jointly by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and signatories of the agreement is to monitor the ceasefire, the details to be worked out later.

At the invitation of King Fahad of Saudi Arabia the Afghan leaders left for Mecca on 9 March to pray for peace in Afghanistan and visited Tehran on the way back, at the invitation of President Rafsanjani. However,

...the auspices were hardly favourable. At the beginning of the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in December 1979 all the country's main guerilla leaders took an oath in Mecca's Grand Mosque to pool their weapons and other resources against the invader. The solemn oath was forgotten as soon as they returned home. 41

Significantly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, King Fahd and President Rafsanjani are also signatories to the agreement. The latest accord has regional significance in that it is for the first time that Iran and Saudi Arabia were working together in an effort to find a solution. Whether this was a result of US pressure on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Iran's desire for a stable border, can be a matter for speculation. However, the impact of this change should not be over emphasised in that, based on past experience, agreements reached by the mujahideen have traditionally had a very short life. Besides, there was no evidence to suggest that the three countries had, firstly, enough influence to ensure the implementation of the agreement and secondly, stopped supporting their respective factions.

Under the terms of the Islamabad Agreement, a ceasefire was to take effect after the formation of a cabinet by 21 March at the latest with all the eight factions to meet in Jalalabad on 16 March. Shelling of Kabul continued as discussions regarding the composition of the cabinet were taking place in Kabul right through April and May. Between 12 May and 23 May 1993 alone, 1300 people died as a result of the shelling of Kabul by Hekmatyar's forces.

The agreement itself achieved nothing. No prisoners were released, no cabinet was formed and the Shia Hezbi Wahadat continued to fight their old rivals, the Ittihadi Islami and troops loyal to Masud. Dostam, who controls most of northern Afghanistan, was not involved in the agreement. Rabbani insisted that he would retain control of the defence ministry while Hekmatyar maintained that Masud had to be sacked and argued that he, Hekmatyar, had a pivotal role to play in the process of selection of the cabinet. Further, Hekmatyar had virtually set up an alternative centre of power at Jalalabad, refusing to go to Kabul till all outstanding issues were resolved.

On 26 May Associated Press reported that Masud had stepped down as defence minister as part of a peace accord, the Jalalabad Agreement, signed on 20 May. 'As of today I am formally the prime minister. In a few days I will come to Kabul to take up my office', Hekmatyar was reported to have stated. 42 Masud was included in a nine-member commission, the Shura-e-Nazar (Supervisory Council), that would run the defence ministry and membership of the defence and interior commission was reported to have been finalised. Thus, Masud's control over his militia has in no way diminished.

After a delay of another three weeks Hekmatyar was finally sworn in as the Prime Minister of the Islamic State of Afghanistan on 17 June 43 and held his first cabinet meeting on 21 June 1993. 44 However, despite the ostensible political settlement, Kabul has continued to suffer from sporadic bombing and rocket attacks. 45 The latest ceasefire agreement was signed on 1 September 1993 between Hezbi Wahadat and Sayyaf's Ittihadi Islami as well as their respective allies, Hekmatyar's Hezbi Islami and Masud's Shura-i-Nazar (Supervisory Council). 46 Hekmatyar has yet to be able to enter Kabul. He still operates out of his headquarters at Charasyab, an hour's drive out of Kabul. He is strongest in the three eastern Pushtun provinces of Laghman, Nangarhar and Kunar, while Rabbani and Masud's followers, which include some Pushtun commanders, dominate much of the north and five western provinces centered around Herat. 47

Najibullah, meanwhile, still lives in Kabul under protection at the UN compound.


Afghanistan has been in a state of turmoil since the fall of the Najibullah regime in April 1992. Large parts of Kabul, which had escaped damage during the decade of Soviet intervention, have been destroyed. In the 1980s, the population escaped to Kabul to escape bombing in the countryside. The situation has now been reversed.

All factors considered, the future of Afghanistan in the medium term, appears bleak. The nature of the competing mujahideen forces has meant that the politics of alliances has defied ethnic, tribal, sectarian and political loyalties. The situation has been further exacerbated by the various sponsors of the mujahideen forces: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Gulf States, and private businessmen. However, it can be maintained that the era of a Sunni/Pushtun dominated government in Kabul is over. Dostam, an Uzbek who commands a substantial force of well armed militia, has formed a working alliance with the Shia Hezbi Wahadat and would certainly have a greater role in a future government.

Ironically, besides Dostam's forces, many of the other units operating under the defence ministry are those who had also served under Najibullah. The same is true of the bureaucracy. Yesterday's communist supporters are today's nationalists, not religious fundamentalists of the type symbolised by Hekmatyar. The prospect of two, ideologically disparate, groups working together seems to be a task of daunting proportions. The battle for political and military control of Kabul has not concluded. The UN and the West, preoccupied by events in the states of former Yugoslavia, Somalia and other parts of the world, appear to have little time or inclination to try and sort out the Afghan imbroglio. The future, it appears will be decided, with the help of their backers, by three main players in the 20th century version of the 'great game' - the Tajiks led by Rabbani and Masud's militia, Dostam's Uzbek forces, and last, but not the least, Hekmatyar's mujahideen.

Australia and Afghanistan

Australia broke off diplomatic ties with Afghanistan after the Soviet intervention in 1979 and suspended its aid program. However, it has made substantial contributions to relief programs for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Since 1980, over $70 million has been provided, mostly in food aid. In 1992-93, Australia provided $3.8 million to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan.

Apart from humanitarian assistance, perhaps the most important contribution Australia has made has been the provision of mine clearing experts to the UN Mine Clearance Training Team (UNMCTT). It has participated in the program since its inception in July 1989 along with several other countries including the US, New Zealand, France, Pakistan, Norway, UK, and Turkey. In 1993, 12 Australian army officers were left to train, supervise and monitor the progress of Afghans in mine clearing techniques, the other countries having withdrawn. On 8 June the Australian Government announced the provision of another $200,000 to assist the UNMCTT. The Australian team returned in mid-July 1993.

Politically the Government has 'stated its support for a political solution and the right of the Afghan people to self-determination as well as its readiness to support efforts to establish a government acceptable to Afghans. 48

International and Regional Repercussions

'We have a disposal problem 'said Jack Blum, a former special counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee... Distance, he said, is no longer a shield against the cast-off warriors and grudges of far-off wars. 'What used to be containable because it was local and tribal now gets on a plane and heads for New York.' 49

Over a year after the overthrow of the Najibullah government, the Afghan war continues to have its impact throughout the region as veterans of the conflict try to topple governments of their home country. Although current events in Afghanistan have little influence on these events, they are an inevitable outcome of the Afghan civil war. An 'Arab' community was established in Peshawar in the 1980s as Arabs and other muslim militants came to Pakistan to help the Afghan mujahideen in their fight against the Communists. According to one report they numbered about 25 000 50 and their experience in the Afghan war radically transformed these anti-government activists from Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Turkey and other predominantly muslim states, by making them more Islamic and skilled at guerrilla tactics. 51

Gamaat Islamiya, an Egyptian extremist organisation responsible for the assassination of President Sadat, the shooting of hundreds of police officers and, more recently, violent attacks against foreign tourists in Egypt maintains a branch in Peshawar and Jalalabad in Afghanistan. 52 Individuals associated with this group are also said to be under investigation for the New York World Trade Centre bombing. 53

Egypt has ended direct-dial telephone service to several countries, among them Pakistan and Iran. It has also made receiving foreign military training a crime punishable by death; a law said to have been inspired by the fact that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has become a school for terrorists. 54

Pakistan, under increasing international pressure, has announced that it intends to deport all 'Egyptian' and 'Arab' residents without diplomatic, student or work documents. 55

Several Gulf states have announced new controls on the activities of 'charitable' foundations which are seen to be front organisations for anti-government movements.

More than 200 mujahideen are reported to be fighting in Bosnia for the past year. Said to include Algerians, Sudanese, Gulf Arabs and Turks they are led by Abdul Aziz, an Arab. In an interview with journalists he was quoted as saying 'In Bosnia we have two duties: the first is jihad and the second dawa, which means to teach correct Islam.' 56

According to a report in the Frontier Post (Peshawar), 57 more than 5000 Burmese Muslim fighters, associated with the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) have so far been trained in Afghanistan and returned to Burma to fight against the Burmese 'occupation' of their land. According to Abu Khalid Arkani, the RSO representative in Peshawar, these men had been trained in Afghanistan mainly by the Hezbi Islami (Hekmatyar), Jamiati Islami (Rabbani) and Ittihadi Islami (Sayef).

On 3 March 1993, the Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs, confirmed in Parliament that some 'Afghan nationals' had been killed by security forces in Kashmir. 58 Later reports citing intelligence sources state that the number entering India to help the Kashmiri 'cause' is bound to increase and that there are at least eight mujahideen training camps on the Afghanistan side of its border with Pakistan. 59

The civil war in Tajikistan has spilled over the border to Afghanistan. Some 60 000 Tajiks have been forced to take refuge in northern Afghanistan. In mid-July, Tajik rebels located in Afghanistan launched a cross border attack in which 25 Russians and 100 Tajiks died. In the retaliatory artillery attack by Russian forces, some 300 people on the Afghanistan side of the border were reported to have been killed. 60 The Tajik conflict has all the elements of the earlier war in Afghanistan. Russian troops have been deployed to seal the Afghan-Tajikistan border. This has meant (former) communists fighting Muslims, Russians against Asians and the involvement of pan-Islamists and even the UN. The Tajik regime of President Rakhmanov is now threatened by Islamic militants said to be 'armed and financed by sympathisers in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.' 61 The UN Special Representative Ismat Kittani and Tajik rebel leader Himmatzada met in Pakistan in July. Himmatzada's visit was terminated abruptly after he disclosed that his group had bought Stinger missiles from the Afghans, an obviously sensitive issue in Pakistan-US relations as the former had been responsible for their distribution. Russian diplomats have been visiting Kabul, Tehran and Islamabad. 'Russia and the Central Asian states have drafted a proposal calling for Saudi Arabia and Turkey to join Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan in efforts to stabilise Central Asia'. 62

The US Congress has authorised a buyback program from the mujahideen of the US supplied Stinger missiles. The initial allocation of $55 million was raised to about $70 million after the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York when suspects were allegedly linked to arms dealers in Pakistan. Over 1100 missiles were said to have been supplied and, according to one report, about 450 'are still out there' mostly with guerrillas in Afghanistan. 63 The CIA is now willing to pay more than five times the original cost (between $25 000-$35 000). While some of them will probably be retrieved, it is highly unlikely that all of them can be bought back. Prime Minister Hekmatyar during a recent visit to Iran told reporters 'The Afghan Government does not intend to allow a single round of ammunition to be taken out of Afghanistan.' 64 It can be argued that the mujahideen will be willing to sell if the price is right, the question is, who would they sell to? According to Jang, a newspaper published in Pakistan, big-time drug smugglers have started buying the Stingers. One tribal chieftain is reported to have 'purchased 105 Stinger missiles from a prominent Afghan commander near the Pakistan Afghanistan border.' 65 If these reports are true, there are not only implications for the anti narcotics operations in Pakistan, but possible repercussions regarding extremist activity in the region and elsewhere.

The above summary is only indicative. It is by no means easy to ascertain the bona fides of the various organisations working on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. For example, there are about thirteen Muslim aid agencies trying to help Afghan refugees. Some are suspected of being fronts for terrorist organisations. Also, in the political chaos that is now Afghanistan, the question of control and responsibility of different groups is difficult to answer. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that it is Pakistan that is now bearing the brunt of international criticism. Although it can hardly lay claim to be the innocent party, the fact remains that the militants were encouraged, financed, armed and trained by the US, Arab and other Muslim countries. Now it is Pakistan that has been left to deal with the situation which was the last significant battle ground of Cold War politics.

The instability that exists on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border can also prove difficult to contain. While Rabbani and Hekmatyar have agreed not to support the Tajik rebels, three questions remain to be answered. Firstly, given Hekmatyar's commitment to the Islamic cause, can he be taken at his word? Secondly, even if the powers in Kabul agree not to provide aid to the Tajiks, do they have effective control in the north? The answer to this question is no. Finally, what is there to prevent Iran, Saudi Arabia and private backers providing support on factional lines the same way as they did to the Afghans in their fight against the Soviets? The situation is further complicated by the fact that while Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran have underwritten the peace accords, there is very little evidence to suggest that they are doing much more. Moreover, while not overstating the influence that they can bring to bear, the present stalemate in Kabul suggests that they may well be doing much less to support the peace process in the form of continuing support for some, if not all, the factions in Afghanistan.

Lastly, Afghanistan serves as a reminder of the fact that while specific wars can be won, lost or forgotten; their manifestations, weapons and men willing to use them last for a lot longer.


1 Time: 31 Sept. 1992.

2 Olivier Roy, The Lessons of the Soviet/Afghan War. Adelphi Paper 259. International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1991: 6.

3 For a detailed analysis of Afghan society, see Amin Saikal and William Maley, Regime Change in Afghanistan: Foreign Intervention and the Politics of Legitimacy. Crawford House Press, Bathurst, 1991: 13-26.

4 P. Centlivres, Some New Dimensions in Ethnicity and National Identity among Afghans, paper presented at the International Conference on Culture of Afghanistan: Problem of Continuation and Future Perspectives. Crackow, Poland, April 1991. cited in Nassim Jawad, Afghanistan: A Nation of Minorities. The Minority Rights Group, London, 1992: 9.

5 'The State in Afghanistan's Political and Economic System on the Eve of the April 1978 Coup', Central Asian Survey, Incidental Papers Series, Vol. 9 No. 4 cited in ibid.

6 For details of these developments see Amin Saikal and William Maley, Regime Change in Afghanistan: Foreign Intervention and the Politics of Legitimacy. Crawford House Press, Bathurst, 1991: 21-24.

7 This section is based on an article by Barnett R. Rubin. Post-Cold War State Disintegration: The Failure of International Conflict Resolution in Afghanistan. Journal of International Affairs, vol. 46 No. 2, 1992: 469-492.

8 Ibid: 477.

9 Ibid: 479.

10 Nassim Jawad, Afghanistan: A Nation of Minorities. The Minorities Rights Group, London, 1992: 20.

11 Associated Press, 20 April 1992. For details of European support, mainly UK and France, see Olivier Roy The Lessons of the Soviet/Afghan War'. Adelphi Papers 259:37-38.

12 Binladen currently lives in Khartoum and and is said to be financing other Islamic movements, Knight-Ridder Tribune 16 Sept. 1993. The Muslim Brotherhood is a fundamentalist organisation based in Egypt.

13 Hafizullah Emadi, State, Revolution and Superpowers in Afghanistan. Praeger, New York, 1990: 100.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Olivier Roy, The Lessons of the Soviet/Afghan War. Adelphi Papers. 259: 57.

17 Cited in Hafizullah Emadi, State, Revolution and Superpowers in Afghanistan. Praeger, New York, 1990: 103.

18 Olivier Roy, 'The Lessons of the Soviet/Afghan War.', Adelphi Paper 259, International Institute of Strategic Studies, 34. For details of US policies and the responses of other countries see ibid 34-44.

19 See, Amin Saikal and William Maley, Regime Change in Afghanistan, Crawford House Press, Bathurst 1991: 19-20.

20 Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report, Pakistan, Afghanistan, no. 1, 1992: 33.

21 T.A. Davis ' Kabul, the Beirut of the 1990s. Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter. Aug/Sept. 1992: 30.

22 Anthony Davis 'The Afghan Army', Jane's Intelligence Review. March 1993: 136.

23 Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report. Pakistan, Afghanistan, no. 2, 1992, 41.

24 ibid. 43.

25 David C Isby, 'Afghanistan - Civil War Next?' Jane's Intelligence Review, Oct. 1992: 464.

26 Far Eastern Economic Review, 14 May 1992: 12.

27 Amin Saikal in Canberra Times 10 Sept. 1992.

28 Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report. Pakistan, Afghanistan, no. 3, 1992: 34.

29 Ibid: 38.

30 Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report, Pakistan, Afghanistan, no. 4, 1992: 39.

31 Far Eastern Economic Review. 17 Sept. 1992: 30.

32 The situation still remains the same. Economist. 18 Sept. 1993: 32.

33 Far Eastern Economic Review. 24 Sept. 1992: 18.

34 Ibid: 18.

35 Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report Pakistan, Afghanistan. no. 4 1992: 45-46.

36 Ibid. 47.

37 Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report. Pakistan, Afghanistan,no. 1: 1993: 40.

38 ibid.

39 Reuter, 8 March 1993.

40 Far Eastern Economic Review. 18 March 1993: 22.

41 Far Eastern Economic Review. 18 March 1993: 22.

42 Associated Press, 26 May 1993.

43 BBC. Summary of World Broadcasts, 19 June 1993. FE 1719: B/1.

44 Ibid. 23 June 1993. FE 1722: B/1.

45 Ibid. 22 June 1993. FE 1721: B/1.

46 AFP. 2 Sept. 1993.

47 Economist. 18 Sept. 1993: 32.

48 Outline Series. Afghanistan, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Nov. 1991: 3.

49 Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 1993.

50 Associated Press. 31 Aug. 1993.

51 Times of India. 2 Apr. 1993.

52 Christopher Kremmer on The World Today, ABC Radio, 6 May 1993.

53 David Cutler in Middle East Economic Digest. 26 Mar. 1993, 3.

54 Bulletin with Newsweek. 6 Apr. 1993, 64.

55 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. 29 Apr., 7 May and 17 May, 1993.

56 Australian. 28 June 1993.

57 15 Mar. 1993.

58 Rajya Sabha. Question no. 1072.

59 Hindu. 31 May 1993.

60 Reuter. 18 July 1993.

61 Far Eastern Economic Review. 12 Aug. 1993: 12.

62 ibid.

63 Asiaweek. 22 Sept. 1993: 29.

64 Asian Defence Journal 10/93: 36.

65 BBC. Summary of World Broadcasts. 30 Sept. 1993.

ISSN 1037-2938

Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 1993

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1993