About 6 million fled as Afghan refugees to Pakistan and Iran, and from there over 38,000 made it to the United States. and many more to the European Union. Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties on both sides, the Soviets withdrew in 1989. Their withdrawal from Afghanistan was seen as an ideological victory in America, which had backed some Mujahideen factions through three U.S. presidential administrations to counter Soviet influence in the vicinity of the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The USSR continued to support President Mohammad Najibullah (former head of the Afghan secret service, KHAD) until 1992.
In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Reagan administration in the U.S. increased arming and funding of the Mujahideen who began a guerilla war thanks in large part to the efforts of Charlie Wilson and CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Early reports estimated that $6–20 billion had been spent by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, but more recent reports state that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia provided as much as up to $40 billion in cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, for building up Islamic groups against the Soviet Union. The U.S. handled most of its support through Pakistan’s ISI. Saudi Arabia was also providing financial support.
Afghan leaders such as Ahmad Shah Massoud received only minor aid compared to Hekmatyar and some of the other parties, although Massoud was named the “Afghan who won the cold war” by the Wall Street Journal.
Massoud’s part in the driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan earned him the nameLion of Panjshir. His followers call him Āmir Sāhib-e Shahīd (Our Beloved Martyred Commander). He strongly rejected the interpretations of Islam followed by the Taliban,Al Qaeda or the Saudi establishment. His followers not only saw him as a military commander but also as a spiritual leader.
In April 1992, the Islamic State of Afghanistan was created, following the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government.
Afghanistan was in a state of unsettled transition, with an interim government. Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos, according to Human Rights Watch.
In 1994, the Taliban developed in Afghanistan as a politico-religious force, a movement originating from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-run religous schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. In 1994 the Taliban took power in several provinces in southern and central Afghanistan.
The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but at that time were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government.
“This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city.”
Amnesty International 1995 report
On September 26, 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive and the next day the Taliban seized Kabul and established the established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts forbidding women to work outside the home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative.
“To PHR’s knowledge, no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment.”
Physicians for Human Rights, 1998
According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians.
Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, about 4,000 civilians were executed by the Taliban and many more reported tortured. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden’s so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Shah Massoud served as military commander and political leader of the United Islamic Front (Northern Alliance) from 1996 until his assassination in 2001. When the Taliban seized Kabul, Massoud and his troops retreated to the northeast of Afghanistan.
From the Taliban conquest in 1996 until November 2001 the United Front controlled roughly 30% of Afghanistan’s population in provinces such as Badakhshan, Kapisa, Takhar and parts of Parwan, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Samangan, Kunduz, Ghōr and Bamyan
Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001. As a consequence many civilians fled to these regions.
In the areas under his control, Massoud set up democratic institutions and signed the Women’s Rights Charter. in these regions, women and girls did not have to wear the Afghan burqa by law. They were allowed to work and to go to school. Massoud personally intervened against cases of forced marriage in favour of the women to make their own choice.
The Taliban repeatedly offered Massoud a position of power to make him stop his resistance.Massoud wanted to convince the Taliban to join a political process leading towards democratic elections in a foreseeable future.
In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent. Massoud also stated that the Taliban and Al Qaeda had introduced “a very wrong perception of Islam” and that without the support of Pakistan the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year.
On September 9, 2001, two Arab suicide attackers, allegedly belonging to Al Qaeda, posing as journalists, detonated a bomb hidden in a video camera while interviewing Ahmed Shah Massoud in the Takhar province of Afghanistan. Commander Massoud died in a helicopter that was taking him to a hospital. The year following his assassination, in 2002, Massoud was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The date of his death, September 9, is observed as a national holiday known as “Massoud Day” in Afghanistan.
“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 …”
Afghan journalist Fahim Dashty
Two days after Massoud’s assassination, 19 terrorists from al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets and notoiously crashed two planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
When the Taliban refused to hand over bin laden to U.S. authorities and refused to disband Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, the U.S. and British air forces began bombing al-Qaeda and Taliban targets inside Afghanistan.
From 2002 onward, the Taliban began regrouping while more coalition troops entered the escalating US-led war with insurgents. Meanwhile, NATO assumed control of ISAF in 2003 and the rebuilding of Afghanistan began. he European Union, Canada and India also play a major role in reconstruction.
By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form complete with their own version of mediation court. According to a report by the United Nations the Taliban were responsible for 76 % of civilian casualties in 2009.
In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama deployed an additional 30,000 soldiers over a period of six months and proposed that he will begin troop withdrawals by 2012.
At the 2010 International Conference on Afghanistan in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he intends to reach out to the Taliban leadership. Supported by senior U.S. officials Karzai called on the group’s leadership to take part in a loya jirga meeting to initiate peace talks.
Many Afghan groups believe that Karzai’s plan aims to appease the insurgents’ senior leadership at the cost of the democratic constitution, the democratic process and progess in the field of human rights especially women’s rights.
Afghanistan still remains one of the poorest countries due to the results of 30 years of war, corruption among high level politicians and the ongoing Taliban insurgency from Pakistan.
Gender equality is an issue which is never far from the minds of many young Afghans, both women and men.
There are concerns that, in efforts to ‘reach out’ to the Taliban leadership, President Hamid Karzai may be forced to severely compromise on issues affecting women in particular.
It is hoped that such fears will be addressed at the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, will take place on 5 December 2011.
Wikipedia: History of Afghanistan
Wikipedia: Ahmad Shah Massoud
Amnesty International Document: Afghanistan: Further information on fear for safety and new concern: deliberate and arbitrary killings: Civilians in Kabul
UNHCR – Refworld – Afghanistan: Situation in, or around, Aqcha (Jawzjan province) including predominant tribal/ethnic group and who is currently in control
Human Rights Watch Backgrounder – Military Assistance to the Afghan Opposition
Chicago Tribune – Taliban massacres outlined for UN
The Telegraph – Afghanistan resistance leader feared dead in blast
The Last Interview with Ahmad Shah Masood – Hoja Bahauddin- conducted by Piotr Balcerowicz
North Atlantic Treaty Organization – NATO’s role in Afghanistan
ABC News – Pakistan Accused of Helping Taliban
The Telegraph – Wikileaks: Pakistan accused of helping Taliban in Afghanistan attacks
The Weekly Standard – UN: Taliban Responsible for 76% of Deaths in Afghanistan
The Washington Post – Taliban establishes elaborate shadow government in Afghanistan
Scotsman.com – Karzai’s Taleban talks raise spectre of civil war warns former spy chief
NPR – Abdullah Abdullah: Talks With Taliban Futile
Afghan News Centre – Afghan FM Welcomes More NATO Peacekeepers
University of Missouri – CIA – The World Fact Book – Afghanistan
Law.com – Despite Obama Ban, Official’s Lobbyist Past No Obstacle
Canada in Afghanistan – The War So Far – by Peter Pigott