Afghanistan in the 1980’s and 1990’s

By | December 16, 2021

The withdrawal of Soviet troops from the Afghanistan, completed in February 1989, and the gradual reduction of US support for the Islamic guerrillas did not in any way facilitate the return to a normal situation in a country ravaged by civil war. The pro-Soviet regime of M. Najibullah failed in its attempt to implement a policy of national reconciliation and collapsed in 1992 under the pressure of the Mujāhidīn. The Islamic front, however, split into religious and ethnically composite currents, froze the Afghanistan in an endemic state of war, from which the most intransigent fundamentalist groups were trying to escape by imposing with arms a model of Islamic society far removed from any compromise with modernity.

The Afghan crisis seemed to reach a turning point between September 1991 and February 1992 when Washington and Moscow announced the interruption of military supplies to the warring parties and Pakistan, which in the 1980s had supported the cause of the Mujāhidīn and absorbed into its own borders. a constant flow of dissident emigrants, especially Pashtuns, tried to persuade the Islamic formations to renounce the immediate establishment of a fundamentalist government in Kābul and to accept the UN declaration of May 1991, based on the principle of self-determination of the Afghan people. A few months later however, in April 1992, the conquest of some northern cities by the guerrillas of Jamiat-i Islāmī (Islamic Association) under the command of the Tajik AS Mas‚ud caused the fall of the government of Najibullah and, within a few days, the occupation of the capital Kābul who surrendered to the Pashtun Hezb-i Islāmī (Party of Islam) faction led by G. Hekmatyar. For Afghanistan 2012, please check

The definitive sinking of the pro-Soviet regime and the proclamation, on April 28, of an Islamic state of the. they caused the conflicts already existing between the different groupings of the Mujāhidīn to explode. The appointment as president of Tajik B. Rabbani, leader of the Jamiat-i Islāmī movement, and the entry into Kābul of the Uzbek forces of General R. Dostam provoked the reaction of Hekmatyar, who subjected the capital to heavy bombings. While the opposing factions of Mujāhidīn shared control of the country, demonstrating the absence of a unitary state in Afghanistan, Kābul continued to find itself at the center of the fighting between Rabbani’s supporters and Hekmatyar’s group.

Not even the Islamabad agreement of March 1993, with which Hekmatyar became prime minister, managed to stabilize the situation: the compromise, in fact, officially approved and signed by the governments of Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, far from representing a decisive turning point, caused a situation of impasse in the government with tragic repercussions throughout the country, especially after the overthrow of the alliances that led the Uzbek Dostam to fight alongside Hekmatyar against the joint forces of Rabbani and Mas‚ud. The repeated attempts by the UN and the OCI (Organization of the Islamic Conference) to obtain an agreement between the warring parties also proved useless, attempts that were definitively wrecked in June 1994due to Hekmatyar’s failure to confirm as prime minister and Rabbani’s refusal to resign at the end of his term.

In a political context characterized by the absence of a central power and the division of the Afghan territory into potentates only nominally dependent on the government, a new armed group emerged towards the end of 1994, soon known by the generic name of Ṭālibān (from ṭālib, ” student of the Koranic colleges “) as it is made up mostly of young Afghans of Pashtun ethnicity from the Koranic schools of Pakistan. Initially considered in the same way as other fighting groups, and therefore substantially unable to alter the unstable political-military equilibrium, the Ṭālibān on the other hand, they demonstrated a considerable expansive force, coming to control the southern provinces of Afghānistān in a short time. The advance was facilitated by the non-hostile attitude of the local populations (and of the Pashtuns in particular), which allowed them to proceed without excessive bloodshed until the first months of 1995, when, heading towards the North, they clashed with the troops of the president Rabbani. The conflict resumed with unchanged bitterness: after initial setbacks the Ṭālibān managed to conquer the city of Herāt and then, in October 1995, launched a massive attack against Kābul. The capital was defended by Rabbani’s government forces which were joined, in May 1996, byalso the militias of Hekmatyar, but it finally fell on 25 September after months of bombing that had decimated the civilian population. Among the first measures, the new government approved the summary execution of the former pro-Soviet president Najibullah. Attempts to retake Kabul were made by the joint forces of Dostam, Mas‚ud and General AK Khalili of the Shiite party in October and November, but the Ṭālibān successfully repelled the attacks and in May 1997 launched a victorious offensive in the north of the country, extending their control over almost 90 % of the national territory. After just a few days, the reaction of UIFSA (United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan), the new coalition that united the oppositions, rejected the Ṭālibān two hundred kilometers south of Mazar-i Sherīf, an important strategic node in the northern part of the country.

The emergence and affirmation of this new politico-military force was initially welcomed for various reasons. The Ṭālibān, disarming the local militias, placed themselves in front of the Afghan population as a restorative movement of peace and order, and capable of restoring to the Afghanistan, through the return to the foundations of Islam, a form of strong identity. However, the escalation of the fighting and the siege of Kābul eloquently demonstrated that the Ṭālibān, endowed with vast economic resources and sophisticated armaments, not only would not end the state of war, but would not even significantly contribute to the state of war. rebuilding a national identity, due to their low propensity to unite with Tajiks and Uzbeks.

In areas under their control (about 2 / 3 of the national territory) the Taliban adopted radical measures based on a dogmatic application of the principles of šarī,a: women were denied access to public employment and education; political oppositions were severely restricted; secular television and music were banned; men were forced to frequent mosques; the practice of public executions by stoning was increased. These measures caused serious concern both in urban populations (especially non-Pashtuns) and in the international community and in bodies such as UNICEF, which decided to stop sending aid to the provinces controlled by the new regime.

Among the neighboring countries, B. Bhutto’s Pakistan was the first to recognize the new regime imposed by the Ṭālibān, to whom, according to accusations made by Iran and denied by the Pakistani government, he would have offered his economic and military support which he had previously enjoyed the movement of Hekmatyar. In west-central Asia, Pakistan remained the country most interested in stabilizing the Afghan territory under the Pashtun element and restoring trade routes to the markets of the former Soviet republics.

Between late 1997 and early 1998, former Afghan President Rabbani, still recognized internationally as a legitimate head of state, encouraged Iranian and Pakistani diplomacies to promote peace agreements between the warring factions in Afghanistan, but the the fighting continued and in August 1998 the Ṭālibān recaptured Mazar-i Sherīf, a stronghold of the opposition, killing the civilian population and causing thousands of deaths. In early September, the discovery of the bodies of some Iranian diplomats who disappeared after the conquest of the city caused the tension between Iran and Afghanistan to rise enormously, causing the release of openly hostile statements by the āyatollāh H̠āmene’ī and the positioning of Iranian troops on the border with Afghānistān. At the same time, the United States, in response to the massacres carried out on 7 August at the American embassies in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dār al-Salām (Tanzania), on 20 August bombed a military camp located near the city of Khost, about one hundred and fifty kilometers from Kābul, on the border with Pakistan, with the intent of hitting the Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden, who has lived for years in Afghanistan ‘guest’ of the Islamic militia, alleged financier and organizer of many attacks by Islamic fundamentalists in the world. In the months following the attack, the Ṭālibān denied the United States his extradition.

Afghanistan in the 1980's