Last Updated: Friday, 27 November 2015, 12:04 GMT

Afghanistan: The Forgotten Crisis

Publisher WRITENET
Author Barnett R. Rubin
Publication Date 1 December 1996
Cite as WRITENET, Afghanistan: The Forgotten Crisis, 1 December 1996, available at: [accessed 30 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


After the December 1979 Soviet invasion, Afghanistan became the world's leading producer of refugees and displaced persons. At the height of the war during the 1980s, about 3.5 million Afghan refugees lived in Pakistan and another 2 million in Iran; thousands more fled to India, Europe (mainly Germany and France), the U.S., and elsewhere. In addition, an estimated 2-3 million people were internally displaced by the war, taxing the meagre resources of Kabul (whose population grew from about 600,000 to over 2 million) and other towns.

After the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989 and the fall of the Soviet-supported government of Mohammad Najibullah in April 1992, refugees, mainly from rural areas, began to return. While some returns were spontaneous, others were assisted by UNHCR, which began programmes to repurchase ration cards from Afghan refugees in Pakistan and to provide cash and wheat to returnees from Iran. Still, there was no formally organized and monitored repatriation process as in Tajikistan, for instance. At present, authorities estimate that about 1 million Afghans remain in Pakistan and about 1.5 million in Iran.[1]

Since 1992, however, new flows have occurred. Officials and sympathizers of the Najibullah regime have fled to India, Europe, and former Soviet republics, mainly Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. A far larger number of people have been displaced by new rounds of fighting among former mujahedin (Islamic resistance) groups and portions of the old regime's army, mainly in Kabul. By January 1995, about 500,000 people had fled Kabul to the Jalalabad area. Although some managed to cross into Pakistan, which closed its main border crossings on 12 January 1994, most remained internally displaced. An estimated 115,000 people returned to Kabul from Jalalabad and another 60,000 from Pakistan when security improved after March 1995. They may flee once again, as fighting continues for control of the capital.[2]

Others have been displaced by intermittent battles around Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, where forces led by formerly Soviet-supported General Abdul Rashid Dostum, based in Mazar-I Sharif, have intermittently attacked the local shura (council) of former mujahedin forces, backed by Kabul military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Ahmad Massoud had, during the war, emerged as the leading mujahed commander of northeastern Afghanistan.

Kunduz and the nearby region also host about 20,000 remaining refugees from the 1992 civil war in Afghanistan's northern neighbour, Tajikistan (refugee leaders place the total remaining at about 40,000).[3] Initially as many as 100,000 refugees from Tajikistan may have crossed the Amu Darya and Panj rivers into northern Afghanistan. Some crossed back into more secure areas of Tajikistan, but in early 1993 approximately 60,000 remained in Afghanistan. A UNHCR programme of closely monitored voluntary repatriation has returned about 40,000 of these refugees to their homes in Tajikistan, but a sizeable number remain in Balkh, Kunduz, and Takhar provinces, mainly in four refugee camps.

Movements of the population in and out of Afghanistan have been almost entirely the result of insecurity engendered by war. During the Soviet occupation, some Afghans were said to have left in response to Islamic preachers calling upon them to undertake hijra or emigration from a former Islamic territory now controlled by "non-believers", which gave a religious meaning to the act of flight. Nonetheless, the vast majority of Afghan refugees from rural areas fled physical attacks on their villages, homes, farms and flocks. Those from urban areas spoke of political persecution, arrests, and, for males, fear of being conscripted or press-ganged into the Soviet-supported government forces. Desertion from government forces was another reason for the flight into exile. In the factional fighting since 1992, heavy fighting in Kabul led hundreds of thousands to flee in the wake of battles that destroyed their homes and killed their family members.

The principal reason for the continuation of displacement from and within Afghanistan is the destruction of the country's fragile state and political institutions. A poor and weakly governed country, it could hardly withstand the flood of modern weaponry indiscriminately lavished on virtually all social groups and aspiring leaders by the superpowers during the Cold War and by regional competitors thereafter. The country is divided into a patchwork of regions under the more or less unstable or despotic control of various ruling factions, several of which are at war over control of the capital and other strategic key points. The rule of law has broken down completely, as has any institutional basis of governance. There is little respect for human rights or humanitarian law, and more importantly, there are no institutions functioning to protect such rights anywhere in the country. There is no constitution, no legal system, no courts, no police, and no army. While in various regions different agencies purportedly carry out such functions, none follows international standards or even traditional Afghan standards. Insecurity is general.[4]

It is worth noting what has not happened: despite extreme poverty and occasional warnings of famine in some areas, no mass population movements in or out of Afghanistan have occurred as a result of economic scarcities. There are flows of migrant labour to Pakistan and the oil-rich Gulf countries. Although some of the refugees in Iran and Pakistan appear to resemble economic migrants, refugee figures for Iran generally include the 600,000 Afghans working there before the war, as well as their families and descendants. Some members of the middle class have also found their way to the West in search of a better life.

Furthermore, despite the ethnic tone of the war, in which each major military force is drawn predominantly or exclusively from one ethnic group, there have been few if any cases of forced displacement on ethnic grounds. The city of Kunduz continues to have a mixed Tajik-Pashtun-Uzbek population, despite having changed hands several times in battles between a mainly Tajik-Pashtun local shura and mainly Uzbek former communist forces based in Mazar-I Sharif. The mainly Persian-speaking region of Herat, where a third of the population are Shi'a, was captured in September 1995 by the Qandahari Pashtun and fiercely Sunni Taliban movement, but there have been no reports of ethnic cleansing or expulsions. The return of refugees from Iran to Herat was halted, but no new outflows seem to have resulted. Furthermore, the displaced do not need to flee to ethnically compatible areas to find safety: the largely ethnic-Tajik Kabulis fled in hundreds of thousands to the mainly Pashtun province of Nangarhar (around Jalalabad). They complained of victimization by all groups in Kabul, including the mainly Tajik ones, and they were welcomed and assisted by the local authorities.[5] The main exception to this rule seems to have been fierce fighting between various Sunni (Tajik and Pashtun) and Shi'a (mainly Hazara) militias in Kabul, where some neighbourhoods were, indeed, ethnically cleansed. Still, this remains an exception rather than a rule.

Although the situation may change, an important factor speaks against it. In the Balkans, for instance, ethnic and religious differences coincide. Indeed, under the Ottoman millet system, a group could only be defined as having a distinct identity if it had a distinct religious organization, leading to the constitution, for instance, of separate Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Greek Patriarchates. Differences in transcendental beliefs therefore reinforce ethnic cleavages. In Afghanistan, however, the ethno-linguistic groups share a common religion which preaches the unity of all believers. Ethnic conflicts emerge from the social structure and generate ethnic resentment, but it is difficult to legitimize such resentment and to transform it into an ideology. Hence, ethnic politics tend to remain fluid and opportunistic, and cannot be elevated to a rigid principle (Sunni-Shi'a relations being the main exception). This is an important resource for reintegration and resettlement, should the war eventually subside. Unlike in the former Yugoslavia, nearly all refugees and displaced persons in Afghanistan could return home without fear of persecution or revenge from either neighbours or the authorities, if there were any. The main obstacles to return are continued war, a devastated economy and infrastructure, and, in some areas, the widespread existence of land mines.


Afghanistan was formally established as a state after the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880) to serve as a buffer between the British and Russian empires. Competition between these empires gave rise to two Anglo-Afghan wars and numerous smaller skirmishes. Consolidation of Afghanistan as a buffer state under British protection ended these clashes. After the Second Anglo-Afghan War, Britain forced Amir Abdul Rahman Khan of Afghanistan to conduct all foreign affairs through the British Government of India.[7]

Both Britain and Afghanistan agreed not to extend their administration forward into what became the Pashtun tribal territories on the Afghan frontier; the boundary marking the limits of the Amir's administration became known as the Durand Line, after Sir Mortimer Durand, who demarcated it. While Britain and its successor, Pakistan, claimed sovereignty over these territories, claims which are not recognized by any Afghan government, they constituted a sort of buffer area between British India (later Pakistan) and Afghanistan. All of these understandings were cemented in the Anglo-Russian Convention on Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet in 1907.[8]

Making Afghanistan into a buffer state required more than drawing boundaries around it; a government had to be consolidated that could control the territories and boundaries. Since 1747, various branches of the Durrani section of the Pashtuns had built up a dynasty of varying strength, centred first in Qandahar, then in Kabul, with a powerful and often independent branch in Herat. After the First Anglo-Afghan War, all Afghan rulers came from the Muhammadzai clan of the Barakzai tribe of Durrani Pashtuns.

After the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880), Britain sought to create a strong monarchy in Afghanistan. The weapons and funds it supplied to Amir Abdul Rahman Khan (1880-1901) enabled the ruler to erect a sort of absolutist state, crushing over 40 revolts by the local tribal-republican forces and creating a brutal secret police force. The basic state structure he erected--a Pashtun ruler encapsulating a variety of local social structures with a nominally centralized bureaucracy and army, supported by foreign aid for strategic reasons--largely endured until 1992.

After 1919, the Amir's grandson, King Amanullah Khan, declared independence and lost the British subsidy. His failure to find an alternative source of revenue and military aid left him defenceless when tribes and religious movements mobilized against his state-building efforts in 1928.[9] After a nine-month interregnum of rule by a Tajik social bandit, in 1929 the British supported the establishment of a new dynasty, under one of Amanullah's former generals, Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah was assassinated in 1933 and succeeded by his 19-year old son, Zahir Shah, who reigned until 1973.

Throughout the Cold War, great powers supported the persistence of the state of Afghanistan and provided its elites with respective ideologies, organizational models, and financial and coercive resources. A breakdown of the decades-long pattern of cooperation between the superpowers in the 1970s led to the outbreak of war. The negotiations to end the war in the 1980s attempted to reinstate cooperation over the flows of precisely those power resources that first built and then destroyed the Afghan state. The collapse of vestigial state institutions (notably the army) after the dissolution of the Soviet Union left Afghanistan a regional patchwork of armed quasi-authorities, with no national institutions or basis for political legitimacy.          


The Cold War provided new opportunities to the rulers of Afghanistan. During the 1950s, Prime Minister Daoud, a cousin of the king, played on the country's renewed status as a buffer--now between the USSR and the U.S.-sponsored Baghdad Pact (later CENTO)--to build an expanded state apparatus with foreign aid from both the Cold War antagonists. He began programmes of building roads, schools, and development projects. All of these increased the mobility of both people and products.

The Soviet Union, Afghanistan's northern neighbour, became the major aid provider, in particular by sponsoring the recruitment and equipping of a 100,000-strong army. From 1956 to 1978, the USSR provided Afghanistan with US$ 1,265 million of economic aid and roughly US$ 1,250 million of military aid, while the U.S. provided US$ 533 million of economic aid.[11]

Nonaligned Afghanistan had turned to the Soviet Union for military aid after the U.S. had refused to consider such aid. The U.S. had recruited Afghanistan's new neighbour, Pakistan, into both CENTO and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Pakistan and Afghanistan pursued a bitter dispute over "Pashtunistan," as the Afghan Government called the areas of Northwest Pakistan inhabited by Pashtuns, who, it argued, should enjoy the right to self-determination.[12]

The rulers of Afghanistan exploited its location to make it into a sort of rentier or "allocation" state, financing over 40 per cent of its annual state expenditures from 1958 to 1968 and again from the mid-1970s from "revenue accruing directly from abroad".[13] These revenues included both foreign aid and sales of natural gas to the USSR, which began in 1968, and enabled the state leadership to expand the apparatus under its control without bargaining with, or being accountable to, its citizens. Rather than try to penetrate the countryside and govern it, the Afghan state pursued a "cover-over" strategy of encapsulating local institutions with an administration laid over the existing society, which it attempted to disturb as little as possible.[14]

The state elite did not rule the people of Afghanistan by representing them and managing the conflicts among them. Nor had it mobilized networks of clientelism into a national organization for a political struggle against colonialism (as in India, Tunisia, and elsewhere). Amir Abdul Rahman Khan had devoted his efforts to crushing, not institutionalizing, the tribal coalitions that had defeated the British during the Anglo-Afghan Wars. The rulers periodically convened assemblies called the Loya Jirga, Pashto for Great Assembly. While this body evoked the traditions of tribal republicanism, it was in nearly every case composed of appointed representatives who assented to the ruler's decrees. A few exceptions showed that the institution had the potential for developing into a genuine representative body, but usually it showed the encapsulation, not the continuing power, of the tribes. Rather than integrating the various sectors of the population into a common, national political system, the state elite acted as an ethnically stratified hierarchy of intermediaries between the foreign powers who provided the resources and the groups who received the largesse of patronage. The consequent political fragmentation of both the population and the elite meant that the elite of the old regime had no political or organizational base from which to resist those who deposed them. The structure of the old regime of Afghanistan imposed a pattern of ethnic stratification on the diverse and fragmented local societies. This stratification defined the relation of various groups to the state, although local systems of identity and ethnic relations differed from that defined by the state. The mountainous country, with few roads and no railroads, was also divided into distinct regions with different ethnic compositions.

The head of state (King until 1973, President from 1973 to 1978) was a member of the Muhammadzai clan of the Barakzai tribe of the Durrani confederation, one of the three major groups of Pashtun tribes. The state claimed to represent the national identity of Pashtuns (about 40-45 per cent of the population). Indeed, the word "Afghan" was originally the Persian term for Pashtuns, and "Afghanistan" denoted the territory of Pashtuns. In the 1920s, the country's first constitution defined "Afghan" as any citizen of the state, but the term still retains the ethnic meaning in popular usage.[15] The official religion of the state was Sunni Islam. Though the royal clan originated in Qandahar, the state's capital was the mainly Persian-speaking city of Kabul. The royal clan topped the ethnic hierarchy. Below them came the other Pashtuns, with some preference for Durranis. The Shi'a (about 15 per cent of the population), most of them belonging to the Hazara ethnic group, occupied the bottom of the social hierarchy. Between the Pashtuns and Hazaras were the other predominantly Sunni ethnic groups. Of these, the Tajiks, Sunni Persian-speakers of the northeast and west, served as junior partners of the Pashtuns in ruling the country. Other groups of intermediate status included the Turki speakers of the north, mostly Uzbeks.[16]


State formation financed by foreign aid led to an expansion of the state and engendered new relations between the state and society. Zahir Shah promulgated a new constitution with an elected, consultative parliament in 1964. Until 1973 Afghanistan enjoyed a form of constitutional rule known as "New Democracy". The government held two national elections. Although political parties were not permitted in the elections, various factions of the intelligentsia that had developed out of the state's expanded educational system began to organize politically, creating nationalist, communist, and Islamic movements with different links to the international system. Although the state increasingly relied on the intelligentsia to run the expanding bureaucracy and staff the growing army, it lacked political power or institutionalized channels of participation, and was split by different foreign ideologies and models.[18]

Until the mid-1970s, the U.S. and USSR competed for influence over a regime they both supported rather than backing political factions seeking to replace it. In 1973, however, Daoud overthrew his cousin Zahir Shah in a coup d'état, abolished the monarchy, and proclaimed himself President.[19] Both superpowers, as well as regional states, feared that the abolition of the monarchy without the institutionalization of an alternative political system could provoke a future succession crisis. This crisis was yet harder to contain because opposing ideological interests and perceptions of what constituted equitable agreements had led to the breakdown of superpower détente in several areas of the Third World. In Southwest Asia, the Shah of Iran took on the role of proxy for U.S. interests. He tried to use his oil wealth to draw Afghanistan into a regional grouping under his leadership. What the U.S. and Iran saw as legitimate manoeuvring for influence in the interests of stability, the Soviet Union perceived as a threat. The increasing tensions affected foreign powers' attitudes toward domestic political forces in Afghanistan. Both the USSR and Pakistan, the latter with U.S. support, increased their aid to political groups challenging the Afghan regime, the Communists and Islamic movements, respectively.[20]

The principal Soviet-oriented Communist organization in Afghanistan was the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), founded in 1965. In 1967 the party split into two factions: Khalq (the People), led by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin, and Parcham (the Banner), led by Babrak Karmal. Parcham and Khalq constituted distinct political and social groups. While Parcham recruited from the middle and upper ranks of the urban elite, many of whom were Persian speakers, the group also included many Pashtuns, mostly either urbanized or of relatively high (but not the highest) social status, Khalq recruited from the newly educated of rural background, mainly tribal Pashtuns from more humble backgrounds. Many of the leaders of both groups had studied or received military training in the USSR,[21] and the Soviets pressured the factions to reunite in 1977.

After 1965, an Islamic movement gained influence among students and professors at Kabul University.[22] In 1973, the movement formed a leadership shura (council). Burhanuddin Rabbani, a lecturer at the shari'a (Islamic law) faculty of Kabul University, was chosen as chairman of the council, which selected the name Jamiat-i Islami (Islamic Society) for the movement. The deputy head was another lecturer, 'Abd al-Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf. The main student leader was Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a student in the Engineering Faculty. These three men came to lead the three main Sunni Islamist parties (see below section 5.1 Party Structures).

Mohammad Daoud's coup d'état against Zahir Shah represented the first time the government in Afghanistan was overthrown not by a rural-based tribal uprising but by professional military officers. These officers, trained in the Soviet Union, some of them members or sympathizers of Parcham, constituted part of the first generation of the newly educated. The coup d'état thus signalled the entry into the political arena of a previously powerless group created by foreign-aid-funded state building. It was the same new elite which headed the Islamist opposition.

Daoud moved quickly to repress the Islamic movement. Some of its leaders were arrested, and the rest fled to Peshawar, capital of the mainly Pashtun Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, where there they received aid from the Government of Pakistan. The latter, headed by Premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, did not sympathize with the Islamists' ideology but wanted to use the movements to pressure Daoud over the Pashtunistan issue. Thus began a pattern that persists to this day, with Pakistan using Islamic movements in Afghanistan to pressure the authorities in Kabul or as a means to try and install a more friendly government. The exiled movement collaborated closely with the Pakistani Islamist party, Jama'at-i Islami, which delivered aid provided by the Muslim World League (Rabitat al-'Alam al-Islami, or Rabita). In 1975, Pakistan relied on Islamist exiles to stage a brief uprising in several areas of Afghanistan.[23]

After the failure of this uprising, the Islamic movement split, into the Jamiat-i Islami, still led by Bouhanuddin Rabbani (eventually joined by Ahmad Shah Massoud), and the Hizb-i Islami (Islamic Party), led by Gulbuddin Hikmatyar. Both groups recruited from the newly educated of rural background. Jamiat's cadres largely consisted of young men like Ahmed Massoud, Tajiks with secular education from the northeast of Afghanistan. Hizb, the more radical of the two factions, mainly attracted Pashtuns with secular educations from outside the tribal social system. No faction was ethnically homogeneous, and all denied (and still deny) that ethnicity played any role in their politics. Nonetheless, Pashto was the main language within Hizb and Khalq, while Persian was the main language within Parcham and Jamiat. Certain ethnic groups remained outside these factions altogether. Durrani Pashtuns from Qandahar tended to support the royal regime, and, except for a few aristocratic families, hardly participated in the modern institutions of higher education where the new organizations recruited. Uzbeks participated little in national politics. Radical Hazara youth joined either Maoist or separate Shi'a Islamist organizations.[24]

In 1978, a shakily reunited PDPA seized power in a military coup d'état in which Daoud was killed. The PDPA-established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) became exclusively dependent on Soviet aid. Far from stabilizing Afghanistan, the PDPA regime fragmented internally. Its revolutionary policies started the process of destroying the state institutions built up over the past century. Within a few months the Khalqis expelled the Parchamis and announced a revolutionary programme, which they attempted to impose by force. They began to arrest, torture, and execute real and suspected enemies. These persecutions set off the first major flows of refugees to the Pashtun areas of neighbouring Pakistan.[25]

In response to the Khalqis' policies, revolts broke out in parts of the country, although usually without any link to national political groups. These revolts were largely led by local religious or social leaders: some were set off by Islamic militants who returned to their native areas or led mutinies in their army units. Some managed to obtain weapons from Pakistan, either from the markets in the tribal territories or from the Islamists, thousands of whom had in the meantime received military training in Pakistan.[26]

The Islamists declared a jihad against the Communists from their exile in Pakistan. They were soon joined by representatives of the conservative clergy and the elites of the old regime, although former high state officials generally made their way to the West. Dozens of exiled leaders competed to form resistance organizations in Peshawar. One of the legacies of the old regime was a fragmented polity and civil society, so that no organizations other than the Islamists aided by Pakistan were ready to take to the field.

In February 1979, the Shah of Iran, the main pillar of Western security policy in the Persian Gulf, was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution. In March 1979, military officers led by Captain Ismail Khan, a member of Jamiat, took over the garrison and city of Herat for several days, killing Soviet advisers. The army and administration seemed headed for collapse. The government of the Soviet Union expected strong reaction from Washington to events in Iran, such as an attempt to install a pro-American government in Kabul with Pakistan's assistance.[27] To forestall this, the Soviet Union carried out a defensively motivated aggressive act: in December 1979, they sent a "limited contingent" of troops to take control of Afghanistan.[28]

The Soviet troops secured the capital as its secret service, the KGB, seized the Afghan government from the unreliable and brutal Khalqi leader, Hafizullah Amin, who was killed.[29] The Soviet Union used its military presence to force the party to reunite and to elaborate a new programme for the government. By 1981, the Soviet troop presence stabilized at about 105,000. The Soviet troops and the regime they protected carried out massive repression, including systematic torture of thousands of detainees by the secret police, the Khat, headed by Mohammad Najibullah, and indiscriminate bombing of rural areas. These policies created a mass flood of refugees into Pakistan and Iran in the early 1980s.[30]

It is notable that both superpowers expended far more resources in the Afghanistan conflict than they had ever devoted to cooperation for development. The intervention cost the Soviet Union about US$ 5,000 million per year, compared to the total of about US$ 2,500 million of aid over the previous 25 years. Their yearly expenditure thus averaged about 50 times more.[31]

American aid to the anti-Soviet Islamic resistance started at about US$ 30 million in 1980, already more than the average of US$ 20 million per year in aid given to Afghanistan during the previous 25 years. Saudi Arabia and other Arab sources at least matched U.S. aid, which rose to about US$ 50 million in 1981 and 1982. Under the Reagan administration this amount increased to US$ 80 million in 1983, US$ 120 million in 1984, and US$ 250 million in 1985.[32] The U.S. budget for aid to the mujahedin, still matched by Saudi Arabia's contributions, climbed to US$ 470 million in 1986 and US$ 630 million in 1987, where it remained through 1989. Starting in September 1986, the U.S. also supplied hundreds of shoulder-held, laser-guided Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the mujahedin, the first time this ultra-sophisticated weapon had been distributed outside of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). During 1986-1989, total aid to the mujahedin from all sources exceeded US$ 1,000 million per year.[33] Like the Soviet expenditure, this amount was also about 50 times the average yearly expenditure by the U.S. on aid to Afghanistan during 1955-1978.

The cooperative security arrangements among great powers which had unsteadily furthered the consolidation of an Afghan state since the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan War had completely broken down, and the two superpowers, engaged in the intense endgame of the Cold War, poured sophisticated weapons and massive quantities of aid into every social network they could recruit. The arms flows empowered new elites without enabling any of them to achieve consolidation or dominance. The breakdown of international cooperation made inevitable the breakdown of the state. The resulting breakdown of security sent nearly half the population of Afghanistan on the path of exile or internal displacement.


The progressive collapse of state administration in various regions of Afghanistan permitted the establishment of new forms of power in the countryside. Different political elites competed for leadership of jihad and for control of the external resources (arms and money) that flowed to the fighters. The landlords and bureaucrats favoured by the royal regime and regarded by many as the traditional, legitimate leadership of Afghan society, lost power to new elites promoted by the war.

Exiled Afghan political parties based in Pakistan (for the Sunni majority) and in Iran (for the Shi'a minority) acted as intermediaries between the commanders inside Afghanistan and the foreign intelligence services who provided the aid. The political and military structures of the resistance consisted of loose social networks cemented by flows of patronage and subject to change and realignment as those flows ebbed or grew.[35]

The government increasingly came to resemble the resistance in organization. The Afghan military, shattered by purges, mutinies, desertions, and factional infighting, never regained its pre-1978 strength. After the departure of Soviet troops in February 1989, the government increasingly relied on para-military groups (militias) rather than regular troops to perform key functions, such as guarding the road from Kabul to the USSR and therefore the flow of aid on which the government depended. Since the road ran from Uzbekistan into largely ethnic Uzbek territory in Afghanistan, the government created a large Uzbek militia, led by Abdul Rashid Dostum, to perform this task.[36]

The new power structures included political parties, based in exile or in Kabul, and units based on regional or tribal-ethnic social units in various parts of Afghan territory. This section describes first the party units and then the regional structures of power that had emerged by the fall of Mohammad Najibullah in 1992. The next section (6. Political alignments after the Soviet breakup) describes changes in the alignment of political forces and the emergence of a new force, the Taliban, after 1992. These developments owed much to the new international environment after the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

5.1 Party Structures[37]

The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which changed its name in 1988 to the Watan (Homeland) Party, remained in control of what remained of the state apparatus, the capital, and regional centres (some more than others). In May 1986, the Soviet Union replaced General Secretary Babrak Karmal with secret police chief Mohammad Najibullah. In November 1987, he also became President of the renamed Republic of Afghanistan. The party continued to be riven by factional and, increasingly, ethnic conflicts, which surfaced in a failed coup d'état by the Khalqi Defence Minister in March 1990.[38] Najibullah balanced the Pashtun and Khalqi-dominated officer corps of the army with a Presidential Guard recruited from Kabul and largely non-Pashtun militias in north Afghanistan. Such balancing was possible only so long as he remained the conduit for Soviet aid flows. When the flows ceased, the party and army dissolved. The northern non-Pashtun militias, led by Abdul Rashid Dostum, constituted themselves into a new organization, the Junbish-i Milli-yi Islami (National Islamic Movement). Junbish includes many former Parchamis.[39]

The mujahedin political parties consisted of organizations (tanzims) recognized by their host countries, Pakistan and Iran. Secular nationalist parties found no foreign support and hence died out.

Pakistan recognized seven Sunni parties. Three trace their origin to the Islamist movement at Kabul University. These are:

Hizb-i Islami (Islamic Party), led by Gulbuddin Hikmatyar; this was the most radical, predominantly Pashtun, Islamist party, and the most favoured by Pakistan's military and intelligence services, as well as by the Pakistani Islamist party, the Jamaat-i Islami. Hizb controlled little territory in Afghanistan though it had forces in all Sunni areas, but it had relatively well-organized militias based in the refugee areas in Pakistan. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Union many Khalqis gravitated to this party. After its defeat by the Taliban in February 1995, it ceased to be a major military power.

Jamiat-i Islami (Islamic Society), led by Burhanuddin Rabbani; a predominantly Tajik Islamist party which developed a strong ethnic character as the dominant party of the Persian speaking areas of northeastern and western Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, some non-Pashtun Parchamis sought to secure their future by allying with this party. It received substantial if at times grudging support from Pakistan. Some commanders (notably Massoud) received substantial U.S. aid in 1990-1991. This party now controls Kabul and northeast Afghanistan. One of its commanders, Ismail Khan, controlled Herat and Western Afghanistan but was defeated by the Taliban in September 1995.

Ittihad-i Islami (Islamic Unity), led by Abdul Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf, it lacked any strong social networks, but many commanders proclaimed some sort of allegiance to it because of its vast resources of money and arms. This party is currently allied with Jamiat but controls little territory inside Afghanistan. Its leader is Pashtun, but its image is more sectarian than ethnic. Some of its former commanders (ulama) play senior roles in the Taliban movement.

One party combined elements of the Islamist movement with a more traditional power base:

Hizb-i Islami, led by Mawlawi Yunus Khalis; Khalis, a mullah with a traditional educational background from Eastern Afghanistan (Nangarhar), allied with the Islamists against President Daoud but later formed his own splinter of Hizb-i Islami. His party consisted of an alliance between charismatic fighting mullahs in Eastern Afghanistan and Pashtun clans and tribes (mainly the Jabbarkhel, Khugiani, and Jadran) in Eastern Afghanistan. Its commanders dominate the shura of Jalalabad, more because of their tribal status as leaders of the Jabbarkhel and Khugiani than because of the party. The party's commanders elsewhere in the Pashtun areas have largely been absorbed into the Taliban movement.

Three parties represented conservative, religious elements of the old regime:

The National Islamic Front of Afghanistan (NIFA - Mahaz-i Milli-yi Islami), led by Sayyid Ahmad Gailani, the pir (spiritual leader) of the Qadiri Sufi order in Afghanistan, was the most liberal and closest to the old royal regime of all the parties. It had followings among Pashtun tribes in Qandahar and Eastern Afghanistan, mostly among tribes who were followers of the pir. Those members of the administrative and intellectual elite of the old regime that remained with the resistance in Pakistan tended to affiliate with this party. It had no strong foreign support. Some of its commanders are still active in eastern Afghanistan, and the leader is consulted by negotiators, but it has little power on the ground. It might play a role as a conduit to Zahir Shah in the unlikely event that he plays a role in a political settlement.

The Jabha-yi Nijat-i Milli (National Salvation Front) is led by Hazrat Sibghatullah Hazrat Mujaddidi. Mujaddidi, while not himself a pir, was the senior surviving member of the family of spiritual leaders of the Naqshbandi Sufi order in Afghanistan. Despite his family's former importance, the party had hardly any military presence in Afghanistan and little foreign support. The combination of a well-known leader with no real power, made Hazrat Mujaddidi a prominent candidate to head powerless coalitions or interim governments, roles he avidly sought and repeatedly filled. He now seeks to fill that role as leader of an anti-Jamiat coalition, although he is unlikely to play a significant role again. His party has no effective presence on the ground.

Harakat-i Inqilab-i Islami (Movement of the Islamic Revolution), led by Mawlawi Muhammad Nabi Muhammadi; despite its name, this was a conservative party of traditionalist clergy, led by one of their own. Mawlawi Muhammadi was the head of a madrasa in Logar province, and he had emerged as a spokesman for the ulama under the New Democracy. His party at first embraced all ethnic groups but gradually became more Pashtun as his Tajik followers gravitated toward Jamiat. He was supported by a clergy-led party in Pakistan (Jamiat-ul-Ulema, Fazlur Rahman group), whose leader's father had been Mawlawi Muhammadi's teacher. This was the same Pakistani party that later helped incubate the Taliban movement. Many leaders of the Taliban had originally joined the jihad as commanders of Harakat-i Inqilab. While this party started out as perhaps the largest, its poor organization and extensive corruption led to a continual decline. It never played a significant political role. Its former commanders, however, play a major role in the Taliban movement.

The Shi'a groupings were equally fragmented. The first Shi'a resistance organization was the traditionalist Shura-yi Ittifaq (Unity Council), which brought together landlords, clergy and intelligentsia from the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan. This organization was later weakened by attacks from radical Islamist groups supported by different Iranian factions. The two main such groups were Nasr (victory) and Sipah (guards). Another party, Harakat-i Islami (Islamic Movement) had mainly urban Shi'a support and a particularly poor relationship with Iran. The best known leaders of these parties were Sayyid Jagran of Shura-yi Ittifaq, a former army officer and landlord; Abdul Ali Mazari of Nasr, an Iranian-trained clergyman; and Asif Muhsini of Harakat, also a clergyman, who eventually claimed the title of Ayatollah. Abdul Mazari was killed in Taliban custody in February 1995.

In 1988, Iran united eight Shi'a parties (all but Harakat-i Islami) into the Hizb-i Wahdat (Unity Party). In 1993, Wahdat split into factions allied respectively with Jamiat and Hizb. In January 1996, Iran announced it had reunited the two factions and reconciled them with President Rabbani. Asif Muhsini consistently allied with Jamiat. Hizb-i Wahdat effectively controls central Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah Massoud crushed its forces in Kabul in a February 1995 offensive after its ally, Hizb-Hikmatyar, had been defeated by the Taliban.

5.2 Regional Power

The degree to which these parties had consolidated regional bases in Afghanistan varied greatly. Hence some became of only marginal importance after the fall of Mohammad Najibullah, while some were transformed to some extent from national parties to regional warlords.

In general, the traditionalist parties had a significant presence only south of the Hindu Kush. This reflected the traditionalist orientation of some Pashtun tribes and their partial support for the old regime. But it also resulted from the fact that the Arab Islamists who paid for the transport of weapons paid the whole cost for the Islamist parties and only 15 per cent for the traditionalists. Hence the traditionalists could not afford the heavy costs of maintaining fronts north of the Hindu Kush. One consequence of both the non-tribal social organization of the population of northern Afghanistan and the smaller number of parties was a somewhat greater degree of political consolidation in that area, either under the aegis of the resistance (mainly Jamiat) or the regime and its successor, Junbish.[40]

The largest resistance party in the Sunni non-Pashtun areas was Jamiat. In northeastern Afghanistan (the mountainous areas east of the Salang highway that linked Kabul to the USSR), Ahmad Shah Massoud built the most sophisticated military-political organization of the resistance, the Supervisory Council of the North (SCN - Shura-yi Nazar-i Shamali). SCN coordinated Jamiat commanders in about five provinces and also created region-wide forces which developed into Massoud's Islamic Army (Urdu-yi Islami). This force reportedly had 5,000 mobile fighters by 1992. SCN also oversaw a regional administration from its base in Taloqan, centre of Takhar province, which Ahmad Massoud captured after the Soviet Union troop withdrawal from the area in mid-1988.[41] Local Hizb commanders, government militias, and rivals within Jamiat continually challenged Ahmad Shah Massoud in this area, but by 1992 he had managed to subdue or neutralize most such forces in the area, which included many sources of precious stones (emeralds and lapis lazuli) and the opium-growing area of Badakhshan, both of which ensured some income.

The North Central area (centred on Mazar-i Sharif), which contained most of Afghanistan's modern economic assets, including the fledgling state industries and the natural gas fields, was more firmly under government control. Mohammad Najibullah relied increasingly on the local militias to exert his power in this heavily Uzbek area, and the militias took over under Dostum's leadership when they no longer needed Najibullah to deliver Soviet aid. Jamiat had the largest resistance presence in this area, but it never fully recovered from the assassination of its commander in Balkh province in December 1984.

Herat came under the domination of a shura led by Jamiat commander Ismail Khan, the former army captain who had led the garrison's revolt in March 1979. Ismail Khan initially integrated both the regime's garrison and his major rivals into his administration. He manifested considerable independence from Iran and presided over a significant economic revival. Lacking stable foreign support, he reinstituted taxation and conscription in mid-1995 and increasingly relied on forces from Kabul for the defence of his area (about 5 provinces). These measures undermined his popularity, easing the way for the Taliban's surprising capture of Herat in September 1995 (see below).[42]

The Hazarajat of Central Afghanistan remained under fairly stable control by Hizb-i Wahdat, though the Jamiat government contested their power in the town of Bamiyan.

The Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan remained more fragmented. In 1992, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar had the largest mobile forces in this area, but these were effectively based in Pakistan, not in any areas of Afghanistan. He had no stable territorial base and did not receive support from most of the Pashtun tribes. Though he commanded the largest single Pashtun military force and had a presence throughout southern Afghanistan, he controlled hardly any of the Pashtun areas in Afghanistan. His swift demise after a change in Pakistan's policy in 1994-1995 showed the extent to which his strength depended on foreign aid.[43]

Southern Afghanistan included two major opium-growing regions (Helmand and Nangarhar) and two major shuras, Jalalabad and Qandahar. Both of these shuras exerted influence over several provinces. The mountainous tribal area of Paktia remained, however, as fragmented and divided as ever.

Jalalabad, benefiting from both the opium trade and its position on the trade route between Peshawar and Kabul, became one of the most stable areas of Afghanistan. The shura was led by members of the Arsala clan, a prominent family from the tribe appointed by the Mughal emperor Akbar as khans of the Ghilzai to guard the trade route from Kabul to India. They had joined Hizb-Khalis during the war, but their tribal position proved more important than their partisan one in the post-jihad environment.[44]

The Qandahar shura was less stable. Pakistan's intelligence service had repeatedly exacerbated rifts in the area in an attempt to force the mujahedin to attack the city.[45] Despite attempts to heal these rifts after the surrender of the garrison in 1992, feuds and insecurity deepened, exacerbated by the increasing erosion by the drug trade of Qandahar's traditional social order. The degeneration of the leadership that had arisen in the jihad prepared the ground for the rise of the Taliban, supported by Pakistan in late 1994. Helmand remained contested among different opium-growing warlords.


After the fall of Mohammad Najibullah, four main armed groups with different ethnic characteristics and foreign support initially fought for power in Kabul. All to differing extents also enjoyed incomes from local taxes or customs as well as the drug trade and other smuggling enterprises:

Abdul Rashid Dostum (commander of the former government militias, renamed Junbish) controlled the northern area centred on Mazar-i Sharif. He received support from the Karimov government in Uzbekistan and from Russia.[47]

Ahmad Massoud and Burhanuddin Rabbani led mainly Tajiks, with members of some other northeastern ethnic groups; they were allied to Sayyaf and Harakat-i Islami. Several key government figures (notably Tajik army officers and intelligence officers) also joined them. At first Burhanuddin Rabbani received some financial support from the government of Saudi Arabia (as well as fuel), but this appears to have ended in 1993. He enjoyed the use of Afghanistan's new bank notes (printed under commercial contract in Russia) after he became acting President in June 1992.

Gulbuddin Hikmatyar led a mainly Pashtun group consisting of Hizb recruits from the refugee camps, former Khalqi military officers, and Pashtun former government militias.[48] He never succeeded in galvanizing the main Pashtun tribal shuras behind him, however. The tribes were hardly involved in the struggle for Kabul. Mr. Hikmatyar continued to receive help from Arab and Pakistani Islamic sources.

Finally, Hizb-i Wahdat organized the Shi'a of Kabul city, armed by Iran and the Parchamis during Mohammad Najibullah's fall, and enjoyed a base in the Hazarajat. Several Shi'a government militias joined them, notably in Kabul city.[49]

The ethnic structure of the conflict, however, changed over time with shifts in the balance of power, indicating that power rather than ethnic relations was the fundamental cause of the conflict. At first, Ahmad Massoud, Abdul Rashid Dostum, and Hizb-i Wahdat took joint control of Kabul and repulsed an attack by the Hizb-Khalq coalition. The conflict seemed to pit Pashtuns against non-Pashtuns. By the end of 1992, however, the predominance of Ahmed Massoud and Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul (and their unwillingness to share power) alienated first Hizb-i Wahdat and then Dostum. The former signed an agreement with Hikmatyar in January 1993. Abdul Dostum at first manoeuvred between the two sides but openly allied with Guldubbin Hikmatyar in January of 1994, when the two former enemies launched a joint attack on Ahmad Massoud's forces.[50]

In the rest of the country, between the fall of Mazar on 19 March and the surrender of Jalalabad on 23 April, mujahedin had negotiated the surrender of all major government garrisons. Regional councils, some including commanders formerly on opposite sides, formed on the basis of local ethnic and tribal ties.

A somewhat different set of alignments emerged in Northern Afghanistan, where the political logic of post-Soviet Central Asia exerted a pull on the Afghan actors. In the wake of the fall of Mohammad Najibullah, political alignments in the north reflected a reaction to Afghanistan's history of domination by Pashtun governments: non-Pashtun political forces allied to take control of Kabul.

Abdul Dostum and Ahmad Massoud, however, were allied with different sides in the civil war in Tajikistan. President Karimov of Uzbekistan actively supported the armed movement that ousted the-Islamo-democrat-Tajik nationalists from power in Dushanbe.[51] Their restorationist movement was supported by the Uzbeks of certain regions of Tajikistan, who had been attacked by Tajik nationalists. Ahmad Massoud, as well as other mujahedin commanders in the north, gave refuge to the Tajik Islamist guerrillas and their political leadership.[52]

Throughout 1993, President Karimov seems to have encouraged Abdul Dostum to exert pressure on Kunduz, the Tajik opposition's main political centre in Afghanistan. In a series of offensives by Dostum in late 1993 and early 1994, the town changed hands several times, though ultimately reverting to the local shura, allied with Massoud. President Karimov also appears to have encouraged Abdul Dostum to ally with Guldubbin Hikmatyar in the January 1994 attempt to seize power in Kabul.[53]

Two years later, however, President Karimov wished to reduce the Russian presence in neighbouring Tajikistan. Hence he had opened talks with Tajikistan's Islamic opposition. In addition, he, like Russia and Iran, saw the Taliban movement as a form of aggression by Pakistan.[54] These considerations may have encouraged Abdul Dostum to maintain operational neutrality between Ahmad Massoud and the Taliban, as long as neither side attacked his area.

In late 1994 both the interests of regional states and the alienation of Afghan public opinion from all the existing political leadership found a new and unexpected form of expression in the sudden appearance of the new armed movement of Taliban, or religious students. The appearance of this new movement requires reference to changes in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

In October 1993, Benazir Bhutto was once again elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. She appointed General Naseerullah Khan Babar as Interior Minister. Upon assuming office, Prime Minister Bhutto and General Babar presumably found plans for the January 1994 Kabul coup d'état already well advanced and acquiesced in it, in the hopes that it would stabilize Afghanistan. When it failed, General Babar, it appears, began to move Pakistan away from its reliance on Guldubbin Hikmatyar as an agent of Pakistan's influence.

Since the fall of 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, moderates in Pakistan's foreign policy establishment led by then-Minister of State for Economic Affairs, Sardar Asif Ali, had argued that opening trade with the new states of Central Asia, not an Islamic campaign, should be the focus of Pakistan's foreign policy on its northwest borders.[55] Sardar Asif became Benazir Bhutto's Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1993, and General Babar appears to have adopted his policy. If the route from Peshawar through Kabul and the Salang highway to Tashkent was blocked by the war in Kabul, Pakistan should seek to open the western route, from Quetta through Qandahar and Herat to Turkmenistan.

In June 1994, Prime Minister Bhutto's cabinet decided to proceed with building rail and road links to Central Asia. On 14 September, General Babar announced that the following week he would travel to Central Asia via Qandahar and Herat to negotiate the transit of a Pakistani convoy that would leave in mid-October. The convoy would be organized by the National Logistics Cell, the same military transport unit that had been in charge of supplying the mujahedin with weapons.[56] The convoy was delayed until Benazir Bhutto personally made the final arrangements. While attending independence day celebrations in Turkmenistan on 25 October, she reached agreements with both Ismail Khan and Abdul Rashid Dostum, who controlled Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.[57] Four days later 30 trucks laden with food, clothes, and medical supplies left Quetta, reportedly escorted by personnel of Pakistan's intelligence services. Soon after crossing into Afghanistan, on 1 November, the convoy was stopped by Afghan tribesmen who had long exacted tolls from travellers and had served Mohammad Najibullah as a militia in the area.[58] By 5 November, the convoy was freed and sent on its way by a new group--armed Taliban or religious students, apparently including both Afghan refugees and Pakistani Pashtuns, who had streamed across the border armed with new weapons. After a quick battle they dispersed the tribesmen and quickly swept into Qandahar city, where with little resistance they captured the city.[59] The students quickly gained popular support by imposing order on Qandahar, though their strictures on women and education caused resentment.

The core leadership of the Taliban movement consisted of traditional, privately-educated ulama from the southern Pashtun tribes and students studying in traditional Sunni madrasas in Pakistani Baluchistan. Some of these ulama had been commanders in the jihad but had become alienated from the party leaderships. Most of the madrasas where they recruited student followers were affiliated to the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i Islam in Pakistan. This party (divided into two factions) was virulently opposed to the Islamist radical Jama'at-i Islami and had intermittently allied itself with the Pakistan People's Party. It seems likely that the Taliban received arms from Pakistan (whether Babar's Interior Ministry or the Intelligence Services) in support of their effort to free the convoy.

Taliban fronts recruited from madrasas had always been one of the components of the jihad.[60] These fronts, recruited from the private madrasas of tribal-rural Afghanistan, generally belonged to traditionalist parties (especially Muhammadi's) and expressed the common people's identification of Islam with justice, not with a radical political ideology. One might also note that the southern Pashtun tribes represented by the Taliban had little if any representation in the leadership of the parties fighting over Kabul and involved in negotiations for a political settlement (see section 7. Failure of attempts at a political solution).

As this amorphous movement consolidated its hold over Qandahar, however, its leaders expanded their goals. The Taliban helped provide security for Pakistan's activities directed toward Central Asia. They undoubtedly received aid from Pakistan, but they also had plans of their own and began to march toward Kabul.[61] It is unclear to what extent this was their decision and to what extent Pakistan's. With both Pakistan's aid and an avalanche of public opinion supporting the movement, the mujahedin parties in the southern Pashtun areas collapsed much as Mohammad Najibullah's forces did in 1992. The Taliban advanced toward Kabul with little if any fighting, as most armed groups either fled or joined them. At the beginning of February 1995, the Taliban had encountered the rear forces of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar south of Kabul.

By 14 February, Taliban occupied Hikmatyar's main base in Charasyab, Logar Province. Guldubbin Hikmatyar fled without a fight. Ahmad Massoud moved his front lines south to posts deserted by Hikmatyar, then moved back slightly under an agreement negotiated with Taliban. Except for a Shi'a neighbourhood dominated by Hizb-i Wahdat, all of Kabul was now under Ahmad Massoud's control. The neutralization of Guldubbin Hikmatyar removed one of the obstacles to a negotiated settlement, but the arrival of Taliban created another. The ulama who constituted the core leadership of this amorphous movement insisted that they alone would carry out disarmament and oversee security in Kabul. They refused to cooperate or negotiate with any of the existing parties, which the Taliban denounced as criminal.

After the Iranian-supported Shi'a militia in South Kabul was crushed between the Taliban and Ahmad Massoud, the latter succeeded in pushing the Taliban out of the Kabul area. By March 1995, Abmad Massoud had secured the capital from rocket attacks for the first time in years. The Rabbani-Massoud government seemed more firmly entrenched than ever. Under these new conditions of increased security, displaced people returned to Kabul by the hundreds of thousands, returning its population to an estimated 1.2 million.[62]

On 5 September, however, the resurgent Taliban overran the city of Herat while firing hardly a shot. Ismail Khan fled to Iran, weakened by internal dissension in his forces, who refused to fight for him. The Taliban soon stood once more at the gates of Kabul, leading the government to charge that Pakistan had armed and organized the movement to try once again to place a supine government in Kabul. The war for the capital resumed with a Taliban offensive on 10 October.

Both of these attacks were accompanied by overt political, and more or less covert logistical, support from Pakistan. Pakistan regarded the Rabbani government as hostile and beholden to both India and Russia, which had supplied it with some equipment. Furthermore, Pakistan feared that an exclusively non-Pashtun government in Kabul would lead Afghan's Pashtuns to turn their national aspirations again on Pakistan, reviving the demand for Pashtunistan.

Pakistan's policy deeply offended Iran, a neighbour with whom Pakistan sought and needed good relations for both international and domestic reasons. Much of Pakistan's Shi'a population, maybe 25 per cent of the population, both looks to Iran as a sort of spiritual homeland and has constituted a significant portion of the support base of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan People's Party. Iran regarded the control of Herat by the Taliban as an unacceptable affront to its national interest.[63] Pakistan's intelligence services, deeply involved in supporting the Taliban, had long-standing relations with the CIA, which had recently been tasked by the U.S. Congress to spend US$ 20 million to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Iran had virtually terminated aid to Afghan factions, but in response to Pakistan's support for the Taliban, behind which Iran suspected the hand of the U.S., Iran sharply escalated its aid to Massoud and Rabbani.[64] Together with a much higher level of Russian aid, this enabled the government to resist all offensives and strengthen itself militarily.

By early 1996, as the Taliban continued rocket attacks on the Kabul population and the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross warned of imminent starvation and the flight of hundreds of thousands of people from the city, the government of Pakistan apparently realized it had made a mistake. Despite all the aid it had given, it could not control the Taliban and had alienated an important neighbour. But Pakistan appeared to have no alternative policy on hand.


These events took place as the international community, including the superpowers, regional states and the United Nations, sought and failed to sponsor a variety of political settlements of Afghanistan's conflicts. These attempts have gone through three stages, corresponding to the development of the international system.[65]

During the first stage, that of the Soviet intervention and the Cold War, the UN Secretary-General used his good offices to mediate the Geneva Accords, signed on 14 April 1988, under which Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan by 15 February 1989.[66] These accords made no provision for an interim government or other measures for a domestic political settlement within Afghanistan. The text of the accords provided for termination of all assistance to the Pakistan-based resistance, the mujahedin, but the U.S. claimed the right to continue the provision of aid to parties in Afghanistan, just as the Soviet Union claimed the right to continue aid to the regime they had installed. U.S. determination to gain the maximum advantage over the USSR meant the accords were never implemented. UN mediator Diego Cordovez proposed an interim government under the aegis of neutral officials from Zahir Shah's regime, which would then convene a Loya Jirga (Great Assembly). This proposal found no support among the major protagonists, who were bent on winning.[67]

The Geneva Accords intended to reinstate international cooperation over Afghanistan by removing antagonistic flows of power resources: UN mediation would coordinate the withdrawal of Soviet troops with termination of aid to the mujahedin. This agreement, however, failed to provide for an Afghan Government able to control the country's territory and population in a way that apportioned influence acceptably among the external powers concerned. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev needed to withdraw from Afghanistan to build confidence in his intentions in other arenas such as arms control, while the U.S. and its partners continued aid.

The second stage, from February 1989 to April 1992, was the period of proxy war between the mujahedin, supported by the U.S., Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab and Islamic sources, and the Soviet-aided regime of Mohammad Najibullah. Despite the continuing fighting in Afghanistan, this stage corresponded to a period of international cooperation. Between the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the United States lost an enemy and seemed to gain a partner in managing the global order. The superpowers conducted an intensive direct dialogue on a range of issues, including Afghanistan, for which they elaborated a plan for a "period of transition".[68] Both superpowers would end aid to their clients, and the UN would preside over an interim authority that would sponsor elections or some other representative procedure to create a permanent government. The UN Secretary-General's office continued to mediate between Kabul and the mujahedin, but in a role largely subordinate to that of the superpowers; the UN representative circulated proposals that emerged from the U.S.-Soviet dialogue among the Afghan parties in an attempt to build support for the process.

This finally led to an agreement when Soviet hard-liners were ousted after the failure of their August 1991 coup d'état. The U.S. and USSR agreed to end aid at the end of 1991 and support UN efforts to broker a transitional regime.[69]

The disintegration of the USSR, however, precipitated the internal collapse of the Najibullah regime just as this plan was about to be implemented.[70] An alliance of some mujahedin groups with fragments of the old regime's armed forces took control of the capital, launching a new round of civil war, mainly among factions of the former mujahedin. Under the Peshawar Accord of 26 April 1992, the Pakistan-based mujahedin groups agreed on an interim presidency leading to elections, but most provisions of the accord were never implemented.

The termination of aid to both sides at the beginning of 1992 was supposed to push them toward accommodation. Instead it led to fragmentation of both sides. The coherence of the bipolar conflict was due to the aid flows, not the structure of political cleavages in Afghanistan. The aid-based state had grown without integrating a national society, and that society's fragmentation reasserted itself in the assortment of ethnic, tribal, and factional conflicts--exacerbated by probably the world's highest level of sophisticated personal weapons--that overwhelmed the attempt to create an interim government. The core of the state, the army, collapsed in ethnic-factional mutinies, leaving no core of power for an interim regime to preside over. Armed factions aided by competing regional powers filled the vacuum.

The present third stage, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, is a period of strategic vacuum in Afghanistan and, to a considerable extent, in South Asia as a whole. No longer of strategic importance to any major power, Afghanistan has become the scene of civil war fuelled by competition among regional states, including Pakistan, Iran, India, and Uzbekistan and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Turkey. For almost two years after the fall of Mohammad Najibullah, the UN appeared to have abandoned any effort to seek a political settlement. The only peace proposal during this time was the effort by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (with eventual participation by Iran) to broker the Islamabad Accords of March 1993. These accords, broken almost as soon as they were signed, provided for power sharing between what were then the two major military forces around Kabul, the mainly Tajik Jamiat-i Islami, led by President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Defence Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud, and the mainly Pashtun Hizb-i Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, who was named Prime Minister in the accords.[71]

As the war continued, a number of governments, including the U.S., exerted pressure on the United Nations to reactivate its search for a political settlement. It started a new good offices mission, led by former Tunisian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Mestiri.[72] Initially, the Mestiri mission tried a new tactic of appealing directly to the people of Afghanistan by convening public meetings in numerous towns and cities in Afghanistan and places of exile. The response--crowds of thousands of people and literally hundreds of peace proposals--left little doubt that the general populace of Afghanistan longed for peace. In the absence of any major power resources to support the initiative, however, a good offices mission was unable to pose a genuine alternative to the warring power-holders, among whom Mr. Mestiri soon began to mediate. The various proposals he circulated all had the same basic form as the one proposed in 1992: the sitting President (now Burhanuddin Rabbani rather than Mohammad Najibullah) would turn over power to a collective leadership of relatively neutral figures, who would preside over a period of transition.[73] President Rabbani avoided Mohammad Najibullah's fatal step of stating clearly that he would hand over power, and Mr. Mestiri's mission was further complicated by the rise of the Taliban, who refused to negotiate.

Thus far these third-stage efforts, like the previous ones, seem destined to fall far short of their proclaimed goal of helping Afghans to establish a stable, legitimate government in their country. Despite frequent shifts in power and the rise of the Taliban, the fundamental reality has not changed. In a situation of such instability and fragility of all alliances and power relations, it is virtually impossible to negotiate stable agreements, especially those long-term ones that form the basis of governments. The underlying reality of today's Afghanistan remains the same, whoever dominates the scene for a year, a month, or a day. No leader controls a reliable, renewable, autonomous flow of resources with which to create and manage a stable apparatus of power. Each protagonist hopes that by holding out a little longer and seeking still more foreign aid, opponents can be worn down. Power depends on transient foreign support, criss-crossing (and double-crossing) networks of informal ties, and the constant re-negotiation of all agreements. No superpower will impose order (as Britain and the Soviet Union tried to do) or pay an Afghan to impose order (as Britain ultimately did). Unless Afghanistan's neighbours reach an agreement on non-interference, it will remain a legally undivided territory of fragmented power.


The United Nations, including UNHCR, has produced many documents on the humanitarian needs of Afghanistan during this period. One may note, for instance, that as a result of war the capital city has been without municipal water and electricity for two years. Firewood is becoming scarce in much of the country. Trade is frequently blockaded or subjected to extortionate "taxes" by local power holders. Travelling around the country by road, one cannot fail to note that war damage remains unrepaired as 50 years of investment sinks back into the dust and mud. In a few areas--in Dostum's enclave in the north, in Massoud's heartland around Taloqan, in Taliban areas where Pakistan is now laying telephone connections and repairing roads--some maintenance and even investment is visible. But nearly everywhere a new generation is growing with little education except in weaponry training and no memory of life in a peaceful state, or indeed, in any state at all.

Furthermore, the war years have left the country with an extremely serious landmine problem. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Afghanistan is one of the most mine-infested countries in the world.[74] One survey found that 13.6 per cent of families interviewed were involved in a mine incident. Another estimated that 20-25 people are injured or killed by mines daily in Afghanistan, leading to about 8,000 deaths per year.[75] ICRC reports that in one district of Afghanistan, 3.5 per cent of the total population (one in eighteen people) suffered land-mine injuries during a two-year period (1989-1990), commenting that this probably constitutes the highest density of landmine victims in the world. The UN estimated in 1993 that 162 of Afghanistan's 356 districts contained minefields (17 were still unsurveyed). Grazing land accounted for 75.6 per cent of the mined areas, and agricultural land accounted for 20.2 per cent. The remainder included mainly irrigation systems, roads, and residential areas.[76]

During the conflict between the mujahedin and the Soviet and Afghan communist forces both sides laid mines. The battles for Kabul since 1992 and for Herat in 1995 have led to the placement of mines in new places. Indeed, the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs reports that "Afghanistan has the largest collection of land mines in the world: at least 50 different types ...."[77] In addition, fighters have learned how to make mines from the vast quantities of unexploded ordnance to be found around the country. Mines and unexploded ordnance were placed in almost every conceivable type of terrain in Afghanistan.... [M]ines were most usually deployed along unused footpaths, tracks and roads; on the verges of tracks and roadways; in vehicle turn-around points; near culverts and bridge abutments; along damaged building walls; in the doorways and rooms of deserted houses; in and around wells and access points; around military posts; on or near destroyed vehicles; in areas where people might hide.[78]

By very rough estimates, there are about 8 million anti-personnel and 2 million anti-tank mines in Afghanistan. As of early 1996, about 110,000 mines and 216,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance had been reported as cleared, mainly by the UN's demining program.[79] Soviet and Afghan government forces mapped the mines they laid by hand, while the Mujahedin did not. None of the forces now fighting appears, however, to map their mines.

Of particular note is the large number of Soviet made PFM-1 (butterfly) mines dropped by helicopter by Soviet and Afghan government troops. These mines cannot be mapped. They are camouflaged to fit in with the terrain, and when children find them, they often consider them as toys. Such mines have particularly serious consequences for children who tend flocks, as well as for the livestock, often a family's chief store of wealth.

Indeed, the major casualties are civilians. One study conducted by ICRC found 85 per cent of landmine victims had been engaged in non-military activities such as tending livestock, farming and travelling. Many of these victims were recently returned refugees; indeed, ICRC noted a significant increase in land mine victims when refugees returned to rural areas in large numbers in 1992.[80] Landmines thus not only kill and maim people in large numbers but considerably hamper reconstruction efforts by any returning populations.

As of this writing, there are two major areas where population movements may be imminent. The physical condition of the population of Kabul is reported to be deteriorating alarmingly as hunger and cold take their toll. A renewed blockade combined with further rocket attacks may send hundreds of thousands fleeing the city, mainly toward Jalalabad, as Pakistan keeps its border closed.[81]

In addition, signs indicate an attack on Taliban-controlled Herat may be imminent. A Kabul government spokesman stated that if Taliban refused to negotiate, the government would open an offensive from Ghor, east of Herat, while Iranian officials state that Taliban's control of Herat is intolerable for Iran and will not be allowed to stay. Already Iran has armed some Baluch tribes for raids in the area. A larger offensive may be under way with the forces of Ismail Khan, now in Mashhad, though perhaps not under his now discredited leadership.[82]

The results of such an attack are impossible to predict. If Pakistan stood firmly behind Taliban power in Herat, a prolonged battle and the flight of civilians to Iran or Quetta is likely. If Pakistan gives way, Taliban will probably not be able to sustain a front so far from their Qandahar base and may fade away with little fighting.

The question for the world community is how far a nation will be allowed to sink out of the circle of our common humanity. Afghanistan stands as a rebuke to every humanitarian, religious, or political ideal that has paraded through that land in the past decades. The UN's political mission has a budget of only about US$ 1 million and is flouted openly by neighbouring countries that continue to aid belligerents. Countries that paid thousands of millions for the war today can hardly find a million for reconstruction. The media have turned their cameras on fresher, more accessible disasters.

Afghanistan will likely remain a source of drugs, guns, violence, and a population dependent on humanitarian agencies for decades to come.


The views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of UNHCR.


[1] United Press International [Geneva], "UN Halts Afghan Repatriation Program", 5 September 1995

[2] United Nations, Department of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Emergency Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Assistance to Afghanistan (1 October 1995 - 30 September 1996). Vol. 1. (New York, October 1995), pp. 2, 4

[3] Tajikistan Refugee Agency, Kunduz, Afghanistan. Interview with officials, 11 January 1996

[4] See Amnesty International, Afghanistan: A Human Rights Disaster (London: Amnesty International, 1995)

[5] Interviews with displaced persons from Kabul and officials of the Jalalabad shura, Jalalabad, Samarkhel, Surkhrud, and Hissar Shahi, Nangarhar Province, January 1994

[6] The background information on Afghanistan in this section derives from Barnett R. Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995)

[7] On the reign of Amir Abdul Rahman see Hasan Kawun Kakar, Afghanistan: A Study in Internal Political Developments, 1880-1896 (Lahore: Punjab Educational Press, 1971), and Government and Society in Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir Abd al-Rahman Khan (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981); Vartan Gregorian, The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880-1946 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969); Louis Dupree, Afghanistan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980 [originally published 1973]); Yuri V, Gankovsky et al., A History of Afghanistan, translated by Vitaly Basakov (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985 [Russian edition, 1982])

[8] Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (New York, Tokyo, and London: Kodansha International, 1992), pp. 519-22

[9] On Amanullah and the revolts against him, see Leon B. Poullada, Reform and Rebellion in Afghanistan, 1919-1929 (Ithaca; Cornell University Press, 1973); Dupree, Afghanistan; Gregorian, Emergence of Modern Afghanistan, and Gankovsky et al, History of Afghanistan

[10] The background information in this section is based again on Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan

[11] Henry S. Bradsher, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1983), pp. 24-25

[12] On this period see: Roman T. Akhramovich, Outline History of Afghanistan after the Second World War (Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, 1966); Gankovsky et al., History of Afghanistan; Dupree, Afghanistan; Leon Poullada, "Afghanistan and the United States: The Crucial Years", Middle East Journal, 35 (Spring 1981), pp. 178-90; M. Nazif Shahrani, "State Building and Social Fragmentation in Afghanistan: An Historical Perspective", in Revolutions and Rebellions in Afghanistan: Anthropological Perspectives, edited by M. Nazif Shahrani and Robert L. Canfield (Berkeley: University of California Institute for International Studies, 1984), pp. 23-74

[13] Giacomo Luciani, "Allocation vs. Production States: A Theoretical Framework" in Hazem Beblawi and Giacomo Luciani (eds.), Nation, State and Integration in the Arab World. Vol. 2: The Rentier State (London: Croom Helm, 1987), p. 69

[14] Thomas M. Callaghy, The State-Society Struggle: Zaire in Comparative Perspective (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1984); Richard Tapper, "Introduction" in Richard Tapper (ed.), Conflict of Tribe and State in Iran and Afghanistan (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983), pp. 1-82

[15] On the use of "Afghan" in Amanullah's constitution see Poullada, Reform and Rebellion. I have personally observed the continuing use of the term "Afghan" or "Avghan" to mean Pashtun in both Pashto and Persian/Dari/Hazaragi (interview with members of Shura-yi Ittifaq, Quetta, Pakistan, October 1984; interviews with Pashtun displaced persons from Deh Sabz, Kabul Province, in Surkhrud District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, January 1994)

[16] See Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, pp. 90-98

[17] Except where otherwise indicated the information in this section is based on Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, and Barnett R. Rubin, The Search for Peace in Afghanistan: From Buffer State to Failed State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995)

[18] On New Democracy, see Dupree, Afghanistan; Hasan Kawun Kakar, "The Fall of the Afghan Monarchy in 1973", International Journal of Middle East Studies, 9 (1978), pp. 195-214 Afghanistan

[19] Kakar, "Fall of the Afghan Monarchy"; Henry S. Bradsher, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union (Durham: Duke University Press, 1983).

[20] On the breakdown of détente, see Raymond L. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation: U.S.-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1985); Friedrich Kratochwil, "Of Systems, Boundaries, and Territoriality: An Inquiry into the Formation of the State System" World Politics, 39 (October 1986), p. 47. For details and references on these events in Afghanistan, see Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan

[21] Anthony Arnold, Afghanistan's Two-Party Communism: Parcham and Khalq (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution, 1983); Olivier Roy, "Le double code afghan: marxisme et tribalisme," Révue française de science politique, 36 (December 1986), pp. 846-61

[22] The principal work on this movement is Olivier Roy, Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

[23] Selig S. Harrison, In Afghanistan's Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations (New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1981)

[24] Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, pp. 81-105

[25] Ibid., pp. 111-21

[26] Roy, Islam and Resistance, pp. 98-109; Shahrani and Canfield, eds., Revolutions and Rebellions ; Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, 184-195, which draws on confidential files of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan

[27] Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, pp. 927-31; Richard Herrmann, "Soviet Behavior in Regional Conflicts: Old Questions, New Strategies, and Important Lessons", World Politics, 44 (April 1992), pp. 432-65

[28] See Bradsher, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation; Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal. (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)

[29] Raja Anwar, The Tragedy of Afghanistan: A First-Hand Account (London: Verso, 1988), describes how Amin was killed

[30] On the pattern of repression, see Jeri Laber and Barnett R. Rubin, "A Nation is Dying": Afghanistan under the Soviets, 1979-1987 (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1988)

[31] The cost estimate was given by Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov in 1989. See Far Eastern Economic Review [Hong Kong], Hamish McDonald, "Stay of Execution: Najibullah Consolidates Power in Face of Rebel Disunity", 13 July 1989, pp. 16-17; see also an identical estimate in the archives of the CPSU Central Committee Politburo, quoted in Washington Post, Michael Dobbs, "The Afghan Archive: Into the Quagmire: Part 1: Secret Memos Trace Kremlin's March to War", 15 November 1992

[32] Selig S. Harrison, "Inside the Afghan Talks", Foreign Policy, No. 72 (Fall 1988), p. 50. For slightly different figures see Riaz Mohammad Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot: Negotiating Soviet Withdrawal (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1991), pp. 351-52. On the 1984 and 1985 increases, see Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Charles R. Babcock, "U.S. Covert Aid to Afghans on the Rise: Rep. Wilson Spurs Drive for New Funds, Anti-aircraft Cannon for the Insurgents", 13 January 1985

[33] The Independent, Ahmed Rashid, "Accord on Afghanistan Overtaken by Events", 28 May 1990, p. 6; Wall Street Journal, David Rogers, "Aid to Afghan Rebels Wins Approval of a House Panel", 27 September 1990, p. A20; Washington Post, Steve Coll, "Afghan Rebels Said to Use Iraqi Tanks; Mujaheddin Launch New Offensive; Weapons Captured in Gulf War", 1 October 1991, p. A12; Far Eastern Economic Review, Salamat Ali, "Hungry for Arms", 3 October 1991, p. 28; Daily Telegraph, Robert Adams, "Saudis and Iranians in Afghan Contest", 30 October 1991, p. 16; author's interviews with U.S. officials, March 1993

[34] The information in this section is based on Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan and Rubin, The Search for Peace in Afghanistan. The detailed information presented is a summary of the results of over 12 years of research. Many sources are given in the author's two books, cited above. These include: works of other scholars, notably Roy, Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan; several databases on mujahedin and communist-regime political elites compiled by the author from numerous sources; hundreds of press reports; probably hundreds of interviews with sources in the mujahedin, the Watan Party, the United Nations, and various governments, including the United States, the Soviet Union, Russia, Pakistan, India, and Iran; reports on Afghan provinces prepared by UNHCR's project on Data Collection for Afghan Repatriation; and files of the Cash for Food Program of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. This list is not exhaustive

[35] Roy, Islam and Resistance; Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan. An account by a Pakistani military officer who directed these operations is Mohammad Yousaf and Mark Adkin, The Bear Trap: Afghanistan's Untold Story (London: Mark Cooper, 1992)

[36] Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, pp. 160-61; Anthony Davis, "The Afghan Army", Jane's Intelligence Review, vol. 5, no. 3 (March 1993), pp. 134-39.

[37] The sketches of Afghan parties below are summarized from numerous sources and the author's original databases. The results are summarized in Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, pp. 196-246

[38] Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, pp. 151-52

[39] Ibid., pp. 155-61, 269-71; Davis, "Afghan Army"

[40] Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, p. 200

[41] Ibid, pp. 175, 181, 219, 236-37, 259-60; Abolfathi, "Reassessment," Johnson et al., "Afghanistan: The Northern Provinces"

[42] Interview with NGO official who had worked in Herat, Dushanbe, 8 January 1996; also with U.S. Department of State official, Washington, 1 February 1996

[43] See Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, 269-80, and The Search for Peace in Afghanistan, 128-42

[44] Author's observations and interviews, Jalalabad and Surkhrud Districts, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, January 1994

[45] For details see Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, 262-3

[46] In addition to the sources cited this section draws on Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan and The Search for Peace in Afghanistan

[47] Interviews, U.N. and U.S. officials, Dusti, Tajikistan, June 1993; interviews with Afghan officials and members of Junbish, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, May 1993; personal observations, Mazar-i Sharif and Hairatan, Balkh Province, Afghanistan, January 1996

[48] Davis, "The Afghan Army"

[49] Ibid.; interviews with Parchami Central Committee members in New York (May 1992) and Almaty (October 1992)

[50] Japan Economic Newswire [Islamabad], "Afghan Envoy Says Government Beating Hikmatyar, Dostam Forces", 6 January 1994

[51] Barnett R. Rubin, "The Fragmentation of Tajikistan," Survival 35 (Winter 1993-94), pp. 71-91; interviews with officials of the Uzbekistan Ministries of National Security and Defense, Tashkent, May 1993; interviews with officials of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tashkent, May 1993; interviews with members of militia of Uzbekistan's Ministry of Internal Affairs, Khujand, Tajikistan, June 1993; interviews with U.S. diplomats, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, June 1993.

[52] Rubin, "Fragmentation of Tajikistan"; interviews with U.S. and U.N. officials, Dusti, Tajikistan, June 1993; personal observations, Kunduz, Kunduz Province Afghanistan, January 1996

[53] Interview with Afghan official, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, May 1993

[54] Interview with Western diplomat, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, January 1996

[55] Ahmed Rashid, The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism? (Karachi: Oxford University Press, and London: Zed Press, 1994), pp. 215-16

[56] Reuters [Islamabad], "Pakistan to open road link with Central Asia", 14 September, 1994

[57] BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, "Iranian and Turkish Presidents and Pakistani Premier in Ashkhabad", 26 October 1994, quoting broadcast sources in Islamabad and Moscow

[58] On this group see Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, 158-59, 199, 244, 245. Some of the detail on this incident is derived from a contribution signed "Abed Afghan" to usenet newsgroup soc.culture.afghanistan on 7 November 1994

[59] Reuters [Quetta], "Students Take Afghan City, Free Pakistani Caravan", 5 November 1994

[60] Roy, Islam and Resistance, pp. 112-18

[61] Wall Street Journal [New York], Nancy DeWolf Smith, "These Rebels Aren't So Scary", 22 February 1995, p. A20; some information also from another contribution by "Abed Afghan" to the usenet newsgroup soc.culture.afghanistan, 13 December 1994

[62] UN Coordinator Martin Barber, quoted in Voice of America [Kabul], Douglas Bakshian, "Kabul Emergency", 4 February 1996 (electronic format -

[63] This analysis is based on discussions with Iranian and European diplomats in Tehran in January 1996 and at the U.S. Department of State in February 1996

[64] Interviews, U.S. Department of State officials, Washington, January 1996; interviews, officials of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Tehran, January 1996

[65] This section draws on Rubin, The Search for Peace in Afghanistan in addition to specifically cited sources

[66] Harrison, "Inside the Afghan Talks," Foreign Policy, 72 (1988), pp. 31-60; Cordovez and Harrison, Out of Afghanistan; Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot; Rubin, The Search for Peace in Afghanistan

[67] On this proposal see Barnett R. Rubin, "Afghanistan: The Next Round", Orbis, 33 (Winter 1989), pp. 57-72; Cordovez and Harrison, Out of Afghanistan, pp. 368-78

[68] Rubin, Search for Peace, pp. 96-111

[69] Communiqué of meeting between Foreign Minister Boris Pankin and Secretary of State James Baker, Moscow, September 13, 1991 supplied to the author by the U. S. Department of State; Washington Post, David Hoffman, "U.S., Soviets Sign Afghan Arms Halt: Backing of Combatants Abandoned", 14 September, 1991, p. A1

[70] Rubin, Search for Peace, pp. 126-128

[71] Text of Islamabad Accords supplied to author by Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN

[72] Mestiri's mission was authorized in United Nations, General Assembly, "Emergency International Assistance for Peace, Normalcy and Reconstruction of War-Stricken Afghanistan", A/RES/48/208, 21 December 1993

[73] United Nations, Security Council, "Security Council Welcomes Acceptance by Afghan Parties of Phased National Reconciliation Process", S/PRST/77, 30 November 1994

[74] ICRC News, "Afghanistan: the deadly legacy, some figures", 14 February 1996 [Internet]

[75] United Nations Demining Database, "Afghanistan: Country Report", p.1 [supplied to the author by the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs]

[76] United Nations Demining Database, p.2 .

[77] DHA News, "Demining the world: will it cost the Earth?", July/August 1995, p. 17

[78] United Nations Demining Database, pp. 1-2.

[79] Ibid., p. 2

[80] ICRC News, 1 September 1995

[81] Warnings by officials of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, see Reuters [Islamabad], "UN Fears Mass Exodus from Afghanistan", 2 February 1996

[82] Interviews with Afghan, Iranian, and European officials in Kunduz, Taloqan and Tehran, January 1996

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