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Civil war in Afghanistan
Sharbat Gula on National Geographic cover.jpg
Sharbat Gula, photographed by Steve McCurry, on the famous cover of the June 1985 Edition of National Geographic Magazine. As her fate was unknown, her picture symbolised the plight of the Afghan people and became iconic for the Afghan Civil War.
Date 1978 - present
Location Afghanistan
Result Ongoing. Military stalemate, followed by Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Collapse of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1992. Taliban makes gains against Northern Alliance from 1996-2001. US intervention. Fall of the Taliban government. Destruction of al-Qaeda camps. Taliban insurgency. War in North-West Pakistan.
Casualties and losses
600,000 - 2,000,000[1]
5,000,000 displaced


The civil war in Afghanistan (1978–present), also known as the Afghan Civil War and several other names, is a civil war in Afghanistan. The civil war started when an insurgency broke out against the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which had taken power in the Saur Revolution on 27 April 1978. This event led indirectly to the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.

The new government was met with hostility, which led to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's anti-government rebels, known as the mujahideen (those engaged in Jihad), found support from a variety of countries including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Muslim nations.

The final Soviet troop withdrawal began on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989. Three years after the withdraw, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan collapsed to the mujahideen resistance. Several years later, the Taliban rose to power after the fall of Kabul in 1996.

In 2001, following the 9/11 attacks blamed on Taliban-backed al-Qaeda militants, NATO led by American and British forces invaded Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom, part of the newly-declared War on Terror.

The stated purpose of the invasion was to capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime which had provided support and safe harbor to al-Qaeda. The United States' Bush Doctrine stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between al-Qaeda and nations that give them safe harbor.

Contents

Timeline

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Rise and fall of communism

The emperor of Afghanistan, Shah Mohammed Zahir Shah, was overthrown in 1973 by his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan who established the Daoud Republic of Afghanistan. He proclaimed himself leader of the new republic but in 1978 a military coup d'état with help from the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) rose to power after the Saur Revolution in April the same the year. The country's and party's first communist leader in Afghanistan, Nur Mohammad Taraki was assassinated by fellow communist Hafizullah Amin.[2]

A Soviet Spetsnaz group prepares for a mission, 1988.

Amin was known for his independent and nationalist inclinations, and was also seen by many as a ruthless leader. He has been accused of killing thousands of Afghan civilians. The Soviet Union looked at him as a threat for communism in Afghanistan and Soviet Central Asia. In December, 1979 Amin was assassinated by the Soviet soldiers killing Amin and his 200 guards.

After the assassination the Soviet army swept into Afghanistan, while the Soviet government forced Babrak Karmal to leave Czechoslovakia, where he was Afghan ambassador, to return to Afghanistan as its new leader. Karmal's leadership was seen as a failure by the Soviet Union because of the rise of violence and crime under his leadership. He was replaced with Mohammad Najibullah, who was able to cling to power until 1992, three years after the withdrawal of the Soviet army.[3]

The Soviet government realized early on that a military solution to the conflict could not work. Because of this they had discussions about troop withdrawal and the search for a political peaceful solution as early as 1980, but they never took any serious steps in that direction until 1988. Early Soviet military reports confirms the difficulties the Soviet army had while fighting on the mountainous terrain, for which the Soviet Army had no training whatsoever. Parallels between the Vietnam War was frequently referred to by Soviet army officers.[4] The whole time during the Soviet withdrawal over the border troop convoys were coming under attack by Afghan fighters. In all 523 Soviet soldiers were killed during the withdrawal. The total withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan was completed in February, 1989.[5] The last Soviet soldier to leave was Lieutenant General Boris Gromov leader of the Soviet military operations in Afghanistan at the time of the Soviet invasion.[6]

After the Soviet withdrawal, the Republic of Afghanistan continued to deal with attacks from the Mujahideen. They received funding and arms from the Soviet Union until 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.[7] For several years the government army had actually increased their effectiveness past levels ever achieved during the Soviet military presence. But the government was dealt a major blow when Abdul Rashid Dostum, a leading general, switched allegiances to the Mujahideen in 1992 and together they captured the city of Kabul.

Mujahideen divides

Kabul in 1993

This phase began with the capture of Kabul by the Mujahideen groups. After the Soviet agreed to cut off support for Afghanistan, and it became clear that Najibullah would resign, the government forces largely sided with Jamiat-e Islami, who in mid-April began to advance on Kabul. At the same time however the forces of Gulbuddin Hekmytar and Hezb-e Islami began to approach the city from the South. Fighting soon broke out between the two factions, with Hezb-e Wahdat, Junbushi and other parties playing supporting roles. In early 1993 the fighting changed course as Wahdat aligned with Hezb-e Islami, resulting in large casualties on both sides as the two groups attempted to take control of West Kabul. By 1994 the situation had further changed, with General Abdul Rashid Dostum aligning with Hezb-e Islami and being forced from the city. Later that same year, the Taliban movement sprung out of Kandahar and by early 1995 had taken control of most of the country south of Kabul, forcing Hezb-e Islami to abandoned its positions and artillery. Although the Taliban was initially unable to take Kabul, its victory in Herat allowed it to make inroads in the North, until September 1996 when it was able to occupy Kabul and force Jamiat out, marking a new era in the war.

Taliban control

Flag of Taliban

After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on September 27, 1996,[8] Uzbek General Dostum joined forces with the Tajik Ahmed Shah Massoud to form the Northern Alliance, a grouping of non-Pashtun militias that aimed to defeat the Pashtun Taliban.[9] Both parties espoused Islamic fundamentalism, and wished to impose Sharia law in the country.

The Northern Alliance began to get funding and arms from Russia and Iran, who both feared the Taliban's growing influence, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia backed the Taliban as ideological allies. Pakistan also backed the Taliban, as they were viewed as the only capable group of bringing peace to Afghanistan - a goal which would allow Pakistan to open trade ties with the Central Asian republics, while at the same time allowing for the return of the some 3 million Afghans who had taken refuge in Pakistan.

Taliban in Herat.

In October 1996, the Taliban began to strike points north of Kabul with jets and artillery while Dostum and Massoud massed forces in preparation for an offensive.[10] On October 19, the alliance pushed forward with tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy weapons into the Bagram airbase, which was the first major victory against the Taliban since they lost Kabul.[11] They continued their advance and vowed to retake Kabul, with Massoud's front line commander stating "God willing, we will be in Kabul today or tomorrow."[12] But fighting raged for several days, and the lack of a major breakthrough forced the Alliance to withdraw to northern positions.[13]

In 1997 the Taliban began an offensive against the territories held by General Dostum that caused some of his forces, led by General Abdul Malik, to rebel and join the Taliban on May 20.[14] This led him to flee Afghanistan, leaving much of his army behind, and seek refuge in Uzbekistan. The newly Taliban-friendly forces handed over the city of Mazari Sharif to the Taliban. Soon, however, their strict stance against Shiite Muslims led to a confrontation between Hazara militias and the Taliban.

In intense fighting in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the Taliban were defeated, and 3,000 of their soldiers were captured and executed. The forces of Massoud attempted another push towards the capital. After making gains north of the capital, they once again met heavy resistance in Kabul.[15] The Taliban continued to push into the Alliance's territory, however, and reached Mazar-i-Sharif, taking it again by August 8, 1998. Upon taking it, they began a mass killing of the locals; 4,000 to 5,000 civilians were executed, and many more reported tortured.[16] This offensive by the Taliban left them in control of 90% of the nation.

Also among those killed in Mazari Sharif were several Iranian diplomats. Others were kidnapped by the Taliban, touching off a hostage crisis that nearly escalated to a full scale war, with 250,000 Iranian soldiers massed on the Afghan border at one time.[17] It was later admitted that the diplomats were killed by the Taliban, and their bodies were returned to Iran.[18]

In September the Taliban claimed that Iran violated its airspace, and later Iran claimed minor clashes occurred between the Taliban and Iran after it led a raid into eastern Iran, though the Taliban denied it led the raid.[19][20] Eventually with UN mediation, the tensions cooled. The Taliban continued to push north, making gains against the Northern Alliance in 1999. At one time they held roughly 95% of the nation and had pushed the Northern Alliance out of range of Kabul entirely.[21]

On September 9, 2001, a suicide bomber, posing as a journalist, blew himself up after gaining access to Ahmed Shah Massoud office. The suicide bomber was killed along with one of Massoud's followers, and the Afghan commander's guards killed the second person posing as a journalist. Massoud was struck in the chest with shrapnel from the bomb, which was either hidden in the camera or concealed around the waist of one of the terrorists. Massoud died shortly after being taken to Tajikistan for emergency care.

The attack left the Northern Alliance leaderless, and removed "the last obstacle to the Taliban’s total control of the country ..."[22] But did not lead to chaos as some had feared. The Northern Alliance held together and would go on to work with the USA and its coalition in Operation Enduring Freedom. At the time of Massoud's assassination, Northern Alliance strength was estimated at 11,000 troops and the Taliban at 45,000.[23]

War on terror

US soldiers near FOB (Forward Operating Base) in the Nari District of Kunar Province.

The War on Terrorism, which began on October 7, 2001 as the United States military operation Operation Enduring Freedom, was launched by the United States and United Kingdom in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The purpose for the invasion was stated to capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime which had provided support and safe harbor to al-Qaeda. The United States' Bush Doctrine stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between al-Qaeda and nations that harbor them.

Two military operations in Afghanistan seek to establish control over the country. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is a United States combat operation involving some coalition partners and currently operating primarily in the eastern and southern parts of the country along the Pakistan border. Approximately 28,300 US troops are in OEF.[24][25] The second operation is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) established by the UN Security Council at the end of December 2001 to secure Kabul and its surrounding territories, NATO would later assume control of ISAF in 2003. Since 2002, billions of US dollars worth of military equipment, facilities, and other forms of aid has been provided to the military of Afghanistan as a whole.[26] By January 12, 2009, ISAF had around 55,100 troops from 41 different countries, with the NATO members providing the bulk of the force. The United States has approximately 23,300 troops in ISAF.[27] The initial attack removed the Taliban from power, but Taliban forces have since regained some strength and popularity with the Afghan people[28], partly because of allegations of abuse and atrocities by coalition forces [29]. The war has been less successful in achieving the goal of restricting al-Qaeda's movement as expected at first.[30]. Since 2006, Afghanistan has seen threats to its stability from increased Taliban-led insurgent and terrorist activity, record-high levels of illegal drug production,[31][32] and a fragile government with limited control outside of Kabul and big cities.[33]

Rebuilding Afghanistan

Former US President George W. Bush and Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul.

Sponsored by the United Nations, Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban met in Bonn, Germany in early December and agreed on a political process to restore stability and governance to Afghanistan. In the first step, the Afghan Interim Authority, was formed and was installed in Kabul on December 22, 2001.[34] Chaired by Hamid Karzai, it numbered 30 leaders and included a Supreme Court, an Interim Administration, and a Special Independent Commission.

In March 2002, a series of earthquakes struck Afghanistan, with a loss of thousands of homes and over 2000 lives.[35] Over 4000 more people were injured. The earthquakes occurred at Samangan Province (March 3) and Baghlan Province (March 25). The latter was the worse of the two, and incurred most of the casualties. International authorities assisted the Afghan government in dealing with the situation.[36][37]

A "Loya Jirga" (Grand Council of tribal leaders) was convened in June 2002 by former King Zahir Shah, who returned from exile after 29 years. The Loya Jirga elected Hamid Karzai as president for the two year transitional period, and replaced the Afghan Interim Authority with the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). Hamid Karzai was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt in September 5, 2002.[38] A constitutional Loya Jirga was held in December 2003, adopting a new constitution (January 2004) with a presidential form of government and a bicameral legislature.[39]

Hamid Karzai was elected in the first nationwide presidential election in October 2004. Over eight million people, including women, were able to vote. Seats in the 250 member parliament and provincial council seats were filed by elections in September 2005.[40]

Current problems that exist for the administration include controlling bands of bandits roaming Afghanistan's rural sector, removing the debris (and in particular, unmapped buried landmines) from decades of civil war from the countryside, and rebuilding the Afghan economy. Political violence also remains a problem. Numerous bombs have exploded in Kabul, targeting the international peacekeepers of the International Security Assistance Force. The Taliban have not disappeared, and the civil war still continues in the countryside, especially in the southern provinces (2006).

The southern provinces have also been afflicted by the eradication policies carried out by the international community and Afghan government and suffer from the increased poverty this has brought to rural zones. Some have linked failed eradication policies to the increase in violence in the south and suggest the international community focus efforts more on reconstruction as an effective counter-insurgency policy, gaining hearts and minds. One alternative development group, the Senlis Council proposes that the poppy crop be licensed in controlled projects and poppy-based medicines be made from it, to encourage economic diversity.[41]

Reconstruction in Afghanistan

New bridge

After more than three decades of conflict, the reconstruction process of Afghanistan has begun, though it continues to be hampered by continuing conflict. There are more than 14,000 reconstruction projects under way in Afghanistan, such as the Kajaki Dam.[42] Many of these projects are being supervised by the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The World Bank contribution is the multilateral Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which was set up in May 2002. It is financed by 24 international donor countries and has spent more than $1.37 billion US dollars as of 2007.[43]

Approximately 30 billion US dollars have been provided by the international community for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, most of it from the United States. In 2002, the world community allocated $4 billion US dollars at the Tokyo conference followed by another $4 billion in 2004. In February 2006, $10.5 billion US dollars were committed for Afghanistan at the London Conference[44] and $11 billion from the United States in early 2007. One major development goal is the completion of the ring road - a series of highways linking the major cities of Afghanistan.[45][46]

India is spending $1.2 billion in health-care, food and infrastructure aid to Afghanistan, its largest foreign assistance program. In January 2009, India completed the Zaranj-Delaram highway near the Iranian border. In May 2009, an Indian-made power transmission line brought 24-hour electricity to Kabul, the capital. Besides repairing disintegrated roads and constructing highways, India is building the country's new parliament building. It is running medical missions and training Afghan police officers, diplomats and civil servants.[47]

References

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  9. ^ "Afghan warlord vows to join fight against Taliban". CNN News. 1996-10-15. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9610/15/afghan/index.html. 
  10. ^ "Taliban bombards targets in northern Afghanistan". CNN News. 1996-10-18. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9610/15/afghan/index.html. 
  11. ^ "Afghan government forces recapture key military positions". CNN News. 1996-10-19. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9610/19/afghanistan/index.html. 
  12. ^ "Afghan government troops close in on capital". CNN News. 1996-10-20. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9610/20/afghanistan/index.html. 
  13. ^ "Heavy fighting with no results in Afghanistan". CNN News. 1996-11-10. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9611/10/afghan/index.html. 
  14. ^ "Afghan Taliban claim advances against warlord". CNN News. 1997-05-07. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9705/20/afghan/. 
  15. ^ "Afghanistan's Taliban, opposition both claim gains". CNN News. 1997-07-31. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9707/31/afghanistan/. 
  16. ^ "U.N. report details Taliban mass killings". CNN News. 1998-11-06. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/asiapcf/9811/06/un.taliban.01/index.html. 
  17. ^ "Iranian military exercises draw warning from Afghanistan". CNN News. 1997-08-31. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/meast/9808/31/iran.games/. 
  18. ^ "Taliban threatens retaliation if Iran strikes". CNN News. 1997-09-15. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/meast/9809/15/iran.afghan.tensions.02/index.html. 
  19. ^ "Afghanistan claims Iranian aircraft invaded its airspace". CNN News. 1997-10-02. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/meast/9810/02/iran.afghanistan/index.html. 
  20. ^ "Iran reports clash with Afghan militia". CNN News. 1997-10-08. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/meast/9810/08/iran.afghan.01/. 
  21. ^ "Massoud ready to fight on". EurAsiaNet. 2009-03-15. http://www.eurasianet.org/eurasianet/departments/insight/articles/eav1006a00.shtml. 
  22. ^ Wright, Looming Towers (2006), p.355
  23. ^ "Taliban and the Northern Alliance". About.com. 2001-11-09. http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa092801a.htm. 
  24. ^ "U.S. Forces in Afghanistan". fas.org. http://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22633.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  25. ^ "US Forces in Afghanistan". Congressional Research Reports for the People. July 15, 2008. http://opencrs.com/document/RS22633. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  26. ^ Tini Tran (2006-07-04). "Afghanistan to get $2 billion in U.S. gear". AfghanNews.net. http://www.afghannews.net/index.php?action=show&type=news&id=844.com. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  27. ^ "I. International Security Assistance Force (ISAF): Facts and Figures". NATO International. http://www.nato.int/isaf/docu/epub/pdf/isaf_placemat.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  28. ^ "The Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan". Council on Foreign Relations. http://www.cfr.org/publication/10551/. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  29. ^ "Blood Strained Hands". Human Right Watch. http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2005/07/06/blood-stained-hands. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  30. ^ Afghanistan: and the troubled future of unconventional warfare By Hy S. Rothstein. http://books.google.com/books?id=w7fmg1cCjskC&vid=ISBN8170493064&dq=Afghanistan+and+the+troubled+future+of+unconventional+warfare&q=Al+Qaeda&pgis=1#search. 
  31. ^ "Opium Harvest at Record Level in Afghanistan". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/03/world/asia/03afghan.html. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
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  33. ^ "Afghanistan could return to being a ‘failed State,’ warns Security Council mission chief". United Nations. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=20702&Cr=afghan&Cr1=. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  34. ^ "UN factsheet on Bonn Agreement". United Nations. http://www.unama-afg.org/news/_parelection/_factsheets/_english/JEMBS%20PO%20BG%20General%20BG%20final%202005-4-1%20eng.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  35. ^ "Afghan quake 'kills 2,000'". BBC News. 2002-03-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1893867.stm. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  36. ^ "Have there been serious ones recently?". BBC News. 2004-12-29. http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/find_out/guides/tech/earthquakes/newsid_1894000/1894980.stm. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  37. ^ "Afghanistan quake: How to help". BBC News. 2002-03-28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1898850.stm. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  38. ^ Margaret Warner. "Day of Afghan Violence". PBS News. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/asia/july-dec02/afghan_9-5.html. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  39. ^ "Afghan MPs hold landmark session". BBC News. 2005-12-19. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4540756.stm. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  40. ^ "Zalmay Khalilzad: US power broker". BBC News. 2007-01-08. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4736394.stm. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  41. ^ ""Poppies for Medicine" The Senlis Council". International Council on Security and Development. http://icosgroup.net/modules/events/London_event_on_afghanistan/documents/poppy_medicine_technical_dossier. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  42. ^ Radio Free Europe - Afghanistan: NATO Pleased With Offensive, But Goals Still Unmet
  43. ^ "Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund". World Bank. http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/SOUTHASIAEXT/AFGHANISTANEXTN/0,,contentMDK:20152008~pagePK:141137~piPK:217854~theSitePK:305985,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  44. ^ "Government to have greater control over aid pledged in London". IRIN Asia. http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=51510&SelectRegion=Asia&SelectCountry=AFGHANISTAN. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
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  46. ^ "Afghanistan: Ring Road's Completion Would Benefit Entire Region". Radio Free Europe. http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/10/7f9d2791-dc84-4928-90ce-4a1e6e8a02c6.html. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  47. ^ Kabul Attack May Intensify India-Pakistan Proxy Battle, Emily Wax, Washington Post, 11 October 2009

External links


War in Afghanistan
Date 1978 - present
Location Afghanistan
Result Ongoing. Military stalemate, followed by Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Collapse of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1992. Foreign Intrusion against the Islamic State of Afghanistan, Taliban establish Emirate, war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance from 1996-2001. NATO intervention. Fall of the Taliban government. Destruction of al-Qaeda camps. Taliban insurgency.
Casualties and losses
600,000 - 2,000,000[1]
5,000,000 displaced

Civil war in Afghanistan (1978–present), also known as the "War in Afghanistan", started when the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power in a bloody military coup, the so-called Saur Revolution, on 27 April 1978. Resistance broke out soon against the PDPA rule. When unrests had reached 24 of 28 Afghan provinces the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to keep the Afghan communists in power.

Afghanistan's resistance forces, known as the mujahideen (those engaged in Jihad), subsequently fought against the Soviet invasion. Some factions received support by the United States through its middleman Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, while other did not. The final Soviet troop withdrawal began on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989. Three years after the withdraw, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan collapsed to the mujahideen resistance. The Islamic State of Afghanistan was established through the Peshawar Accords but was under constant attack by neighbouring countries (Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan) through proxy Afghan militias. Several years later, the Taliban (backed by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Arab forces of Bin Laden) rose to power after the fall of Kabul in 1996. The United Front (Northern Alliance) of Ahmad Shah Massoud were able to defend some areas of Afghanistan against the Taliban.

In 2001, following the 9/11 attacks by Taliban-backed al-Qaeda militants, NATO led by American and British forces invaded Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom, part of the US declared "War on Terror". The stated purpose of the invasion was to capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime which had provided support and safe harbor to al-Qaeda. The United States' Bush Doctrine stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between al-Qaeda and nations that give them safe harbor.

Contents

Timeline

Rise and Fall of Communism

The emperor of Afghanistan, Shah Mohammed Zahir Shah, was overthrown in 1973 by his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan who established the Daoud Republic of Afghanistan. He proclaimed himself leader of the new republic but in 1978 a military coup d'état with help from the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) rose to power after the Saur Revolution in April the same year. The country's and party's first communist leader in Afghanistan, Nur Mohammad Taraki was assassinated by fellow communist Hafizullah Amin.[2]

group prepares for a mission, 1988.]] Amin was known for his independent and nationalist inclinations, and was also seen by many as a ruthless leader. He has been accused of killing thousands of Afghan civilians. The Soviet Union looked at him as a threat for communism in Afghanistan and Soviet Central Asia. In December, 1979 Amin was assassinated by the Soviet soldiers killing Amin and his 200 guards.

After the assassination the Soviet army swept into Afghanistan, while the Soviet government forced Babrak Karmal to leave Czechoslovakia, where he was Afghan ambassador, to return to Afghanistan as its new leader. Karmal's leadership was seen as a failure by the Soviet Union because of the rise of violence and crime under his leadership. He was replaced with Mohammad Najibullah, who was able to cling to power until 1992, three years after the withdrawal of the Soviet army.[3]

The Soviet government realized early on that a military solution to the conflict would require far more troops. Because of this they had discussions about troop withdrawal and the search for a political peaceful solution as early as 1980, but they never took any serious steps in that direction until 1988. Early Soviet military reports confirms the difficulties the Soviet army had while fighting on the mountainous terrain, for which the Soviet Army had no training whatsoever. Parallels between the Vietnam War was frequently referred to by Soviet army officers.[4] The whole time during the Soviet withdrawal over the border troop convoys were coming under attack by Afghan fighters. In all 523 Soviet soldiers were killed during the withdrawal. The total withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan was completed in February, 1989.[5] The last Soviet soldier to leave was Lieutenant General Boris Gromov leader of the Soviet military operations in Afghanistan at the time of the Soviet invasion.[6]

After the Soviet withdrawal, the Republic of Afghanistan continued to deal with attacks from the Mujahideen. They received funding and arms from the Soviet Union until 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.[7] For several years the government army had actually increased their effectiveness past levels ever achieved during the Soviet military presence. But the government was dealt a major blow when Abdul Rashid Dostum, a leading general, created an alliance with the Shura-e Nazar of Ahmad Shah Massoud. Massoud had been named "The Afghan who won the cold war" by the Wall Street Journal. [8] He had defeated the Soviet Red Army nine times in his home region of Panjshir, in north-eastern Afghanistan.[9]

War in Kabul and other parts of the Country (1992-1996)


After the fall of the communist Najibullah-regime in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The Peshawar Accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was appointed as the first president, followed by Burhanuddin Rabbani. Ahmad Shah Massoud was appointed to the position of defense minister of the Islamic State of Afghanistan. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was offered the position of prime minister, but he declined for he did not want to share any power.

Human Rights Watch writes: "The sovereignty of Afghanistan was vested formally in "The Islamic State of Afghanistan," an entity created in April 1992, after the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government. ... With the exception of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, all of the parties ... were ostensibly unified under this government in April 1992. ... Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, for its part, refused to recognize the government for most of the period discussed in this report and launched attacks against government forces and Kabul generally. ... Hekmatyar continued to refuse to join the government. Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami forces increased their rocket and shell attacks on the city. Shells and rockets fell everywhere."[10]

Behind Gulbuddin Hekmatyar stood another force: the Pakistani army. A well-known Afghanistan expert, Amin Saikal, concludes in his book which was chosen by The Wall Street Journal as 'One of the "Five Best" Books on Afghanistan': "Pakistan was keen to gear up for a breakthrough in Central Asia. ... Islamabad could not possibly expect the new Islamic government leaders, especially (Ahmad Shah) Massoud (who had always maintained his independence from Pakistan), to subordinate their own nationalist objectives in order to help Pakistan realize its regional ambitions. ... Had it not been for the ISI’s logistic support and supply of a large number of rockets, Hekmatyar’s forces would not have been able to target and destroy half of Kabul. Yet Hekmatyar’s failure to achieve what was expected of him prompted the ISI leaders to come up with a new surrogate force[: the Taliban]."[11] A documentary reports: "Massoud, whose northern council was the dominant military power tried to keep order while the parties talked, but meantime, Pakistan urged on its Afghan client Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. ... Massoud, with UN help tried to avoid civil war in the early 1990s but ... Hekmatyar rained rockets on Kabul seeking power for himself." [12] Rashid Dostum and his Junbish-i Milli militia allied with Hekmatyar in 1994 and were backed by Uzbekistan.[11]

Saudi Arabia and Iran also armed and directed their respective proxy Afghan militias. A publication with the George Washington University also describes: "[O]utside forces saw instability in Afghanistan as an opportunity to press their own security and political agendas."[13] According to Human Rights Watch, numerous Iranian agents were assisting Hezb-i Wahdat forces, as Iran was attempting to maximize Wahdat's military power and influence in the new government.[10] Saudi agents of some sort, private or governmental, were trying to strengthen Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction to the same end.[10] Consequently, tensions between the two militias, Iran-controlled Wahdat and Saudi-backed Ittihad, escalated into another full blown war in the capital. Rare ceasefires, usually negotiated by representatives of Massoud, Mujaddidi or Rabbani, or officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), commonly collapsed within days.[10]

During the war most of Kabul was destroyed and the civilian population was severely harmed. The Afghanistan Justice Project provides some information on the crimes committed by different forces during that time. The Afghanistan Justice Project (AJP) was established in late 2001 as an independent research and advocacy organization whose objective is to document serious war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all of the parties during the wars in Afghanistan, covering the period from 1978-2001.

In late 1994 Massoud's forces were finally able to defeat Hekmatyar, Dostum and Mazari militarily in Kabul. In the same year a conference in three parts was arranged by Massoud to discuss the future of Afghanistan and a process leading towards peace. Massoud had united political and cultural personalities, governors, commanders, clergymen and representatives, also in order to deliberate about a future president and his tasks and to reach a lasting agreement. Massoud, like most people in Afghanistan, saw this conference as a small hope for democracy and for free elections. His favourite for candidacy to the presidency was Dr. Mohammad Yusuf, the first democratic prime minister under Zahir Shah, the former king. In the first meeting representatives from 15 different Afghan provinces met, in the second meeting there were already 25 provinces participating. When Hekmatyar failed to achieve what Pakistan wanted, in 1995 they turned towards a new force coming up in the southern city of Kandahar: the Taliban. Hekmatyar consequently was not able to sustain his military campaign against the Islamic State of Afghanistan and subsequently took the long-offered position of prime minister in exchange for finally giving up before fleeing into exile. With the strong support of Pakistan and later Saudi financed Osama Bin Laden meanwhile the Taliban proceeded to Kabul see video, where at first Massoud handed them their first major defeat. Massoud unarmed went to talk to some Taliban leaders in Maidan Shar, but the Taliban declined to join a political process. When Massoud returned unharmed the Taliban leader who had received him as his guest payed with his life (he was killed by other senior Taliban) for failing to execute Massoud while the possibility was there. Some months later, after Taliban forces had again encircled the capital, Massoud ordered a retreat from Kabul on September 26, 1996.[14] Massoud and his troops retreated to the northeast of Afghanistan.[15][16][17]

War between the Taliban and the United Front (Northern Alliance)

[[File:|thumb|right|Map of the situation in Afghanistan in 1996; Massoud, Dostum and Taliban territories]]

File:Flag of
Flag of the Taliban

After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on September 27, 1996,[18] Ahmad Shah Massoud, who still represented the legitimate government of Afghanistan as recognized by most foreign countries and the United Nations, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, one of his former archnemesis, for the survival of their remaining territories were forced to create an alliance against the Taliban, Pakistan and Al Qaeda coalition which was about to attack the areas of Massoud and those of Dostum.[19] see video The alliance was called United Front but in the Western and Pakistani media became known as the Northern Alliance.

As the Taliban committed massacres, especially among the Shia and Hazara population which they regarded as "sub-humans" worse than "non-believers" an thus according to them were without any rights [20] many Hazaras fled to the area of Massoud. The Hazaras consequently also joined the United Front. The National Geographic concluded: "The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud."[20] In the following years many more were to join the United Front. These included Afghans and Afghan commanders from all regions and Afghan ethnicities including many Pashtuns such as Commanders Abdul Haq, Haji Abdul Qadir and Qari Baba, politician Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai and future Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

In 1997 the Taliban began an offensive against the territories held by Dostum that caused some of his forces, led by General Abdul Malik, to rebel and join the Taliban on May 20.[21] This led him to flee Afghanistan, leaving much of his army behind, and seek refuge in Uzbekistan. The newly Taliban-friendly forces handed over the city of Mazari Sharif to the Taliban. Soon, however, their massacres against Shiite Muslims led to a confrontation between Hazara militias and the Taliban. In intense fighting in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the Taliban were defeated. The Taliban retook Mazar-i-Sharif in August 8, 1998. Upon taking it, they began a mass killing of the locals; 4,000 to 5,000 civilians were executed, and many more reported tortured.[22] Among those killed in Mazari Sharif were several Iranian diplomats. Others were kidnapped by the Taliban, touching off a hostage crisis that nearly escalated to a full scale war, with 150,000 Iranian soldiers massed on the Afghan border at one time.[23] It was later admitted that the diplomats were killed by the Taliban, and their bodies were returned to Iran.[24] Meanwhile, Dostum went into exile and his militia became largely inactive.

Ahmad Shah Massoud was the only leader who was able to defend vast parts of his territories against the Taliban. He was also the only main Afghan leader who never left Afghanistan for exile. All the other leaders at one point or another in the fight against the Taliban had left Afghanistan. He personally commanded around 10,000 of the UIF's estimated formerly 40,000 troops. Massoud's were the most disciplined and the best trained troops within the UIF. Ahmad Shah Massoud had been named "The Afghan who won the cold war" by the Wall Street Journal. [8] He had defeated the Soviet Red Army nine times in his home region of Panjshir, in north-eastern Afghanistan.[9]

The Taliban repeatedly offered Massoud a position of power to make him stop his resistance. Massoud declined for he did not fight for the sake of power. He explained in one interview: "The Taliban say: “Come and accept the post of prime minister and be with us”, and they would keep the highest office in the country, the presidentship. But for what price?! The difference between us concerns mainly our way of thinking about the very principles of the society and the state. We can not accept their conditions of compromise, or else we would have to give up the principles of modern democracy. We are fundamentally against the system called “the Emirate of Afghanistan”."[25] Massoud, instead, wanted to convince the Taliban to join a political process which would have ensured the holding of democratic elections in a foreseeable future.[25] His proposals for peace can be seen here: Proposal for Peace, promoted by Commander Massoud.

File:US Army ethnolinguistic map of Afghanistan -- circa
United Front areas shown with lines in this 2001 map
Pervez Musharraf - then as Chief of Army Staff - was responsible for sending scores of regular Pakistani army troops to fight alongside the Taliban and Bin Laden against Ahmad Shah Massoud.[20][26] Some sources estimate that about 3.000 Pakistani army soldiers had been deployed alongside the Taliban in just one of the major battles.[27] In total there were believed to be 28 000 Pakistani nationals fighting alongside the Taliban. American journalist Sebastian Junger who frequently travels to war zones stated in March 2001: "They [the Taliban] receive a tremendous amount of support by Pakistan. ... without that involvement by Pakistan the Taliban would really be forced to negotiate ..."[8] Massoud stated in early 2001 that without the support by Pakistan the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year.[28] "The Taliban are not a force to be considered invincible. They are distanced from the people now. They are weaker than in the past. There is only the assistance given by Pakistan, Osama bin Laden and other extremist groups that keep the Taliban on their feet. With a halt to that assistance, it is extremely difficult to survive."[29] He also said: "There should be an Afghanistan where every Afghan finds himself or herself happy. And I think that can only be assured by democracy based on consensus."[29]

In early 2001 Massoud employed a new strategy of local military pressure and global political appeals.[30] His plans was for his allies to seed small revolts around Afghanistan in the areas where the Afghans wanted to rise against the Taliban. Resentment was increasingly gathering against Taliban rule from the bottom of Afghan society including the Pashtun areas.[30] Massoud would publicize their cause "popular consensus, general elections and democracy" worldwide. Massoud was very wary not to revive the failed Kabul government of the early 1990s.[30] Instead, already in 1999, he started the training of police forces which he trained specifically in order to keep order and protect the civilian population in case the United Front would be successful.[31]

In spring 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels stating that behind the situation in Afghanistan there was the regime in Pakistan.[28] He also stated his conviction that without the support of Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden and Saudi Arabia the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year, also because the Afghan population was ready to rise against them.[28] Addressing the United States specifically he issued the warning that should the U.S. not work for peace in Afghanistan and put pressure on Pakistan to cease their support to the Taliban, the problems of Afghanistan would soon become the problems of the U.S. and the world.

On September 9, 2001, two Arab suicide bombers allegedly belonging to Al Qaeda detonated a bomb hidden in a video camera while posing as journalists and interviewing Ahmed Shah Massoud. Commander Massoud died in a helicopter that was taking him to a hospital. The funeral, although happening in a rather rural area, was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Sad day (video clip). Afghan journalist Fahim Dashty summarized: "He was the only one, ever, to serve Afghanistan, to serve Afghans. To do a lot of things for Afghanistan, for Afghans. And we lost him ..." see video Well-known journalist Sebastian Junger reports: "A lot of people who knew him felt that he was the best hope for that part of the world."[9]

The assassination of Massoud is considered to have a strong connection to the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. soil which killed nearly 3000 people and which appeared to be the terrorist attack that Massoud had warned against in his speech to the European Parliament several months earlier. John P. O'Neill was a counter-terrorism expert and the Assistant Director of the FBI until late 2001. He retired from the FBI and was offered the position of director of security at the World Trade Center (WTC). He took the job at the WTC two weeks before 9/11. On September 10, 2001, John O’Neill told two of his friends, "We're due. And we're due for something big. ... Some things have happened in Afghanistan [referring to the assassination of Massoud]. I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan. ... I sense a shift, and I think things are going to happen. ... soon."[32] John O'Neill died on September 11, 2001, when the south tower collapsed.[32] The assassination on September 9, 2001, however, was not the first time Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Pakistani ISI and before them the Soviet KGB, the Afghan communist KHAD and Hekmatyar had tried to assassinate Massoud. He survived countless assassination attempts over a period of 26 years. The first attempt on Massoud's life was carried out by Hekmatyar and two Pakistani ISI agents in 1975 when Massoud was only 22 years old.[33] In early 2001 Al Qaeda would-be assassins were captured by Massoud's forces while trying to enter his territory.[30]

For many days the United Front denied the death of Massoud for fear of a collapse in morale among their people. The United Front managed to hold together, however. The slogan "Now we are all Massoud" became a unifying battle cry. It were Massoud's troops who ousted the Taliban from power in Kabul in 2001 with American air support after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 on U.S. soil had killed 3000 people. In November and December 2001 the United Front gained control of much of the country. The United Front also played a crucial role in establishing the post-Taliban interim government in late 2001.

NATO in Afghanistan

of Kunar Province.]]

The War on Terrorism, which began on October 7, 2001 as the United States military operation Operation Enduring Freedom, was launched by the United States and United Kingdom in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The purpose for the invasion was stated to capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime which had provided support and safe harbor to al-Qaeda. The United States' Bush Doctrine stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between al-Qaeda and nations that harbor them.

Two military operations in Afghanistan seek to establish control over the country. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is a United States combat operation involving some coalition partners and currently operating primarily in the eastern and southern parts of the country along the Pakistan border. Approximately 28,300 US troops are in OEF.[34][35] The second operation is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) established by the UN Security Council at the end of December 2001 to secure Kabul and its surrounding territories, NATO would later assume control of ISAF in 2003. Since 2002, billions of US dollars worth of military equipment, facilities, and other forms of aid has been provided to the military of Afghanistan as a whole.[36] By January 12, 2009, ISAF had around 55,100 troops from 41 different countries, with the NATO members providing the bulk of the force. The United States has approximately 23,300 troops in ISAF.[37] The initial attack removed the Taliban from power, but Taliban forces have since regained some strength and popularity with the Afghan people[38], partly because of allegations of abuse and atrocities by coalition forces [39]. The war has been less successful in achieving the goal of restricting al-Qaeda's movement as expected at first.[40]. Since 2006, Afghanistan has seen threats to its stability from increased Taliban-led insurgent and terrorist activity, record-high levels of illegal drug production,[41][42] and a fragile government with limited control outside of Kabul and big cities.[43]


Rebuilding Afghanistan

and Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul.]]

Sponsored by the United Nations, Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban met in Bonn, Germany in early December and agreed on a political process to restore stability and governance to Afghanistan. In the first step, the Afghan Interim Authority, was formed and was installed in Kabul on December 22, 2001.[44] Chaired by Hamid Karzai, it numbered 30 leaders and included a Supreme Court, an Interim Administration, and a Special Independent Commission.

In March 2002, a series of earthquakes struck Afghanistan, with a loss of thousands of homes and over 2000 lives.[45] Over 4000 more people were injured. The earthquakes occurred at Samangan Province (March 3) and Baghlan Province (March 25). The latter was the worse of the two, and incurred most of the casualties. International authorities assisted the Afghan government in dealing with the situation.[46][47]

A "Loya Jirga" (Grand Council of tribal leaders) was convened in June 2002 by former King Zahir Shah, who returned from exile after 29 years. The Loya Jirga elected Hamid Karzai as president for the two year transitional period, and replaced the Afghan Interim Authority with the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). Hamid Karzai was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt in September 5, 2002.[48] A constitutional Loya Jirga was held in December 2003, adopting a new constitution (January 2004) with a presidential form of government and a bicameral legislature.[49]

Hamid Karzai was elected in the first nationwide presidential election in October 2004. Over eight million people, including women, were able to vote. Seats in the 250 member parliament and provincial council seats were filed by elections in September 2005.[50]

Current problems that exist for the administration include controlling bands of bandits roaming Afghanistan's rural sector, removing the debris (and in particular, unmapped buried landmines) from decades of civil war from the countryside, and rebuilding the Afghan economy. Political violence also remains a problem. Numerous bombs have exploded in Kabul, targeting the international peacekeepers of the International Security Assistance Force. The Taliban have not disappeared, and the civil war still continues in the countryside, especially in the southern provinces (2006).

The southern provinces have also been afflicted by the eradication policies carried out by the international community and Afghan government and suffer from the increased poverty this has brought to rural zones. Some have linked failed eradication policies to the increase in violence in the south and suggest the international community focus efforts more on reconstruction as an effective counter-insurgency policy, gaining hearts and minds. One alternative development group, the Senlis Council proposes that the poppy crop be licensed in controlled projects and poppy-based medicines be made from it, to encourage economic diversity.[51]


Reconstruction in Afghanistan

After more than three decades of conflict, the reconstruction process of Afghanistan has begun, though it continues to be hampered by continuing conflict. There are more than 14,000 reconstruction projects under way in Afghanistan, such as the Kajaki Dam.[52] Many of these projects are being supervised by the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The World Bank contribution is the multilateral Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which was set up in May 2002. It is financed by 24 international donor countries and has spent more than $1.37 billion as of 2007.[53]

Approximately 30 billion US dollars have been provided by the international community for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, most of it from the United States. In 2002, the world community allocated $4 billion at the Tokyo conference followed by another $4 billion in 2004. In February 2006, $10.5 billion were committed for Afghanistan at the London Conference[54] and $11 billion from the United States in early 2007. One major development goal is the completion of the ring road - a series of highways linking the major cities of Afghanistan.[55][56]

India is spending $1.2 billion in health-care, food and infrastructure aid to Afghanistan, its largest foreign assistance program. In January 2009, India completed the Zaranj-Delaram highway near the Iranian border. In May 2009, an Indian-made power transmission line brought 24-hour electricity to Kabul, the capital. Besides repairing disintegrated roads and constructing highways, India is building the country's new parliament building. It is running medical missions and training Afghan police officers, diplomats and civil servants.[57]

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