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«MASTER OF MILITARY STUDIES TITLE: AHMAD SHAH MASSOUD: A case study in the challenges of leading modern Afghanistan. SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT ...»

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United States Marine Corps

Command and Staff College

Marine Corps University

2076 South Street

Marine Corps Combat Development Command

Quantico, Virginia 22134-5068

MASTER OF MILITARY STUDIES

TITLE:

AHMAD SHAH MASSOUD: A case study in the challenges of leading modern

Afghanistan.

SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT

OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF

MASTERS OF MILITARY STUDIES

AUTHOR:

LtCol John M. Pollock AY 2001-2 Mentor:______________________________

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Date:_____________________

Mentor:______________________________

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1. REPORT DATE (DD-MM-YYYY) 2. REPORT TYPE 3. DATES COVERED (FROM - TO) 12-04-2002 Student research paper xx-xx-2001 to xx-xx-2002

4. TITLE AND SUBTITLE 5a. CONTRACT NUMBER Ahmad Shah Massoud: A Case Study in the Challenges of Leadi

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13.

Abstract

(MAXIMUM 200 WORDS)

THIS PAPER EXAMINES THE CAREER OF MUJIHADEEN COMMANDER AHMAD SHAH MASSOUD AND WHETHER HE WOULD HAVE BEEN A

SUITABLE NATIONAL LEADER FOR THE PRESENT DAY AFGHANISTAN. THE PAPER ANALYZES MASSOUD AS A MILITARY COMMANDER,

DESCRIBES HIS CONTENTIOUS RELATIONSHIP WITH PAKISTAN, OTHER FACTIONS AND THE TALIBAN, AND PRESENTS SOME

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR U.S. FORCES CONDUCTING OPERATIONS WITHIN THE REGION.

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THE OPINIONS AND CONCLUSIONS EXPRESSED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE

INDIVIDUAL STUDENT AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT

THE VIEWS OF EITHER THE MARINE CORPS COMMAND AND STAFF

COLLEGE OR ANY OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY. REFERENCES TO

THIS STUDY SHOULD INCLUDE THE FOREGOING STATEMENT.

QUOTATION FROM, ABSTRACTION FROM, OR REPRODUCTION OF ALL OR

ANY PART OF THIS DOCUMENT IS PERMITTED PROVIDED PROPER

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT IS MADE.

Executive Summary Title: Ahmad Shah Massoud: A Case Study in Leading Modern Afghanistan.

Author: LtCol J.M. Pollock Thesis: Ahmad Shah Massoud would have emerged as an undisputed military and political leader had it not been for his difficulties with Pakistan and the troubles he faced consolidating support among the recalcitrant tribes and ethnic/factional leaders of Afghanistan.

Discussions: Massouod was perhaps the finest Mujihadeen Commander to fight against the Soviets in the Afghan insurgency. He was the only Mujihadeen military commander who grasped the operational level of war unlike other commanders who operated primarily at the tactical level. Massoud, an ethnic Tajik, operated primarily from his stronghold in the Panjsher valley. He was an outstanding operational planner, military organizer and civil administrator who patterned his guerilla concepts primarily on Mao.

Pakistan was the primary supporter of the Mujihadeen in the Afghan insurgency.

Massoud as an ethnic Tajik was never fully trusted by Pakistan because of his independent nationalist spirit and ethnic background. Pakistan’s diplomatic and military initiatives in Afghanistan were designed to ensure Pakistan’s regional security. Pakistan aligned itself with the Afghan Pushtun ethnic majority and used this ethnic group as its enabler to reach those objectives. Massoud, because of his previously mentioned ethnic background and unwillingness to act as a Pakistani surrogate, was marginalized by Pakistan during the insurgency.

Massoud’s ethnic background and Afghan societal structure also doomed Massoud as a national leader. After the insurgency against the Soviets, the Jihad became a power struggle amongst the various factions based on ethnic lines. This power struggle caused thousands of casualties in inter-Mujihadeen combat. As the Defense Minister of the interim government, Massoud’s inability to stop the factional violence in Kabul, wrest control of the outlying areas from the warlords, and provide basic services to the people, brought great disillusionment with Massoud amongst the civilian population. His inability to build long-term alliances with the various factions ultimately doomed him to failure and brought about the rise of the Taliban.





Conclusions: Massoud was probably the best candidate for national leadership of any of the factional leaders. The fact that he was unsuccessful in forging a nation from the disparate ethnic factions should be cause for concern. Afghanistan’s contentious ethnic factions and ambitious warlords may make it ungovernable under traditional western democratic concepts. A loose confederation of ethnically based states, governed under

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Introduction

Chapter I: Massoud as Military Commander

Chapter II: Contentious Relationship with Pakistan...............12 Chapter III: Uneasy Alliances with Other Factions................18 Chapter IV: Massoud and the Taliban

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United States, a former insurgency commander against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was mortally wounded in a terrorist attack.

Massoud had become a key leader of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of divergent military factions attempting to assert themselves politically in Afghanistan as a counterpoise to the Taliban. The two attackers posing as Algerian journalists had just finished touring provinces under Northern Alliance control and had even interviewed the exiled Prime Minister Burhannudin Rabbani. The attackers had waited several days for an interview with Massoud and detonated a bomb built into the VCR they were carrying. Both terrorists were killed in the attack. Massoud and his aide Assen Suhail were killed and the Northern Alliance Ambassador to India, Massoud Khalili wounded. 1

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formidable adversary to a variety of governments and organizations within the region. He was strongly opposed to Pakistani interference in Afghan affairs, and had spoken out forcefully against terrorist organizations and their danger to the future of Afghanistan. While Massoud was renowned as a resourceful guerrilla commander, a superb organizer, and charismatic and dynamic leader, could he lead a nation as ethnically diverse and politically Byzantine as Afghanistan?

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an undisputed military and political leader had it not been for his difficulties Molly Moore. “Bombing Injures Afghan Rebel Leader”. Washington Post. 11 September 2001. 16.

with Pakistan and the troubles he faced in consolidating support among the recalcitrant tribes and ethnic/factional leaders of Afghanistan. This essay will develop this argument by tracing Massoud’s rise as a military commander (Chapter One); discussing the nature of the conflict between Massoud and Pakistan (Chapter Two); examining Massoud’s political military relationship with other Afghan leaders and tribes (Chapter Three); and analyzing the conflict between Massoud and the Taliban/Al Queda (Chapter Four). Chapter Five will provide some conclusions and recommendations for U.S. forces conducting military operations in an insurgency environment in which there are contending tribes and ethnic factions.

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Massoud led the predominantly Tajik and Hazeras based Jamiat-I-Islami faction of the resistance in the Panjsher valley during the entire Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. This chapter will analyze Massoud as a military commander, describing his military and administrative organizational abilities, and his execution of operations at the operational level of war. By undertaking this examination, the reader will have a clearer understanding of why Massoud was such a viable candidate for national leadership.

Massoud was born in 1953 in the Panjsher valley, the third of six children to an Afghan army colonel. Following high school, he studied engineering at Kabul Polytechnic for a year. After the coup against King Zahir Shah in July 1973, which was sponsored by the King’s cousin Muhammed Daoud, Massoud fled to Pakistan. While there, he was trained by the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) in sabotage/guerilla warfare in an attempt to overthrow the newly formed Afghan communist government. During his time in exile, Massoud studied Che Guevera, Mao, Debray, and U.S. Special Forces doctrine, but upon closer examination, Mao’s influence is especially evident in the way Massoud evolved as a warfighter and military commander. 2 Pakistan sent Massoud and his fellow members of the Sunni Islamist Movement back into Afghanistan in 1975 in an attempt to overthrow the Daoud government. The Sunnis were organized within a loose framework known as the Young Muslims Organization. It was an organization consisting of mainly young urban intellectuals. They considered Islam as much a political movement as a religion and strongly opposed both the exiled king and the Daoud government. 3 Massoud's participation in the rebellion, however, was short lived.

He briefly captured a government office in the Panjsher, which government forces quickly reclaimed. Following this reversal of fortune, he then immediately fled back into Pakistan, where he received more guerilla training. 4

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government with the combined support of both the Khalq (The People) and Parcham (Flag) wings of the communist party and established the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. 5 That fall, the Khalqs eliminated their Parcham rivals and initiated a series of sweeping reforms against illiteracy, women’s dowries, and land reform. These initiatives struck at the basis of traditional Afghan society and sparked an insurgency combining rural peasants and fundamentalist Muslims. The newly initiated insurgency was rapidly taken over by young educated Islamists, such as Massoud, who based their ideology on the writings

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the ruthless Hafizullah Amin to Prime Minister. His rapid rise to power coupled with the assassination of President Taraki by Amin’s bodyguards and concerns over the rural insurgency, further distressed the Soviets. Subsequently, the Sandy Gall., Behind Russian lines: An Afghan Journal. (New York: St Martins Press, 1990), 155.

Oliver Roy,. The Lessons of the Soviet/Afghan War. (London :International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1991), 56.

Barnett R. Rubin., The Search for Peace in Afghanistan. ( New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1995), 27.

Roy, 12.

Roy, pg 12.

Soviet’s resorted to direct action under the pretext of a 1978 Mutual Assistance Treaty in order to establish a more moderate communist government. 7

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headquarters in the Panjsher valley where he planned for, and organized his forces for insurgency operations. Massoud’s operations were based around 20 Qarargah or village strong points within the Panjsher. Each village had a platoon

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operations. The strike force was organized into three mobile groups of 150 men, each consisting of three platoons of thirty men armed with AK-47s, Kalakovs, light machine guns, and RPG-7s. Each mobile group would also have a 50-man heavy weapons section equipped with mortars, artillery, heavy machine guns, and automatic grenade launchers. Command and control was executed by a small command element. Massoud also paid careful attention to establishing a local administration; creating a political, military, economic, law, and health section, and a ten man elected council to advise the commander. The Panjsher Valley as a whole was organized with Massoud as the commander, Abdul Hai as Deputy Commander, and departments such as military, economic, law, culture, information, political, health, intelligence, and Kabul affairs. 8 Massoud was the only resistance commander who followed up military victories with the establishment of local government infrastructure similar to Mao’s efforts in China. By establishing this local infrastructure, the Soviets were forced to clear and hold the Panjsher with government troops. This was in contrast to other Roy, 14.

Gall, 155.

areas of Afghanistan where the Soviets were able to conduct mobile operations without the establishment of permanent garrisons. 9 Finally, Massoud organized an intelligence network, concentrating his recruitment in the Ministry of Defense, that provided him information on upcoming operations and casualty figures. This information allowed Massoud to determine which Soviet and government forces were susceptible to Mujihadeen attack and allowed him to conduct these attacks at a time and place of his choosing. As the Panjsher valley was not a self-sufficient region, Massoud was able to use Panjsheri who worked in Kabul as sources of information not only in the Ministry of defense, but also in a variety of other governmental

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