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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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of the Panjsher. As such, Jamiat was the only faction operating in the valley, unlike many other areas where multiple factions operated and taxed the local populous. These taxes often caused resentment towards the Mujihadeen. In the Panjsher, however, the local populace was not taxed; revenue for the insurgency came from 25 gem mines in the region providing $8-9 million in annual revenue

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Massoud’s area of operations, the Panjsher Valley, was strategically important to both sides. Whoever controlled the Panjsher would control access into Kabul from the Soviet Union. The Panjsher sits astride the Salang Highway, Diego Cordovez, and Selig S Harrison, Out of Afghanistan. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 60.

Hassan M. Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response. (Berkley: University of California Press, 1995), 242.

Kakar, 242.

which is the main line of communication between Kabul and the Soviet Union.

Built by the Soviets, the Salang Highway is a 425 kilometer paved line of communication stretching from Shir Khan in northern Afghanistan to Kabul in the south. However, with over 40 bridges, rugged mountain terrain, adverse winter conditions, and the 2700-meter long Salang Pass, the Mujihadeen were able to conduct operations against military supply convoys that significantly degraded the Soviets ability to re-supply Kabul from the Soviet Union. 12

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assessed the period between 1980-84 to be the “stagnant years” concerning Soviet counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. Roy argued that the Soviets used their elite troops to control Kabul, but used their second rate conventional motorized rifle troops, most of whom were Muslim, in an ineffective effort to control the countryside. 13 While this is true, the real problem wasn’t the ethnicity or quality of the troops. The real problem with these forces was that they were trained and equipped to conduct conventional mechanized, combined arms operations against NATO, not fight a counter-insurgency in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. Massoud took great advantage of this policy and seized the entire Panjsher in the spring of 1980. Counterinsurgency operations against Massoud by the communist forces were ineffective.

Motorized troops were extremely vulnerable to mines, RPGs, and ambush in the restrictive terrain of the Panjsher. Massoud was able to move his guerilla force into the high mountainous terrain should conventional Soviet forces gain a Anthony H. Cordesman, and Abraham R Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War. Volume III: The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. ( San Francisco: Westview Press, 1992), 106.

tactical advantage. Once mobile forces left an area, lightly defended garrisons were left to counteract Massoud’s permanent presence. Massoud’s forces, however, easily captured these garrisons. Based on the success of his Panjsher operations, Massoud conducted one of the most daring operations of the war in the spring of 1981, by launching a raid against Bagram airbase and destroying numerous Soviet fixed and rotary wing aircraft.14

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ceasefire agreement with the Soviets. He claimed that the Russians requested the ceasefire and that it was useful to both sides. It allowed Jamiat to replenish and resupply and allowed the Soviets to deploy their forces elsewhere after conducting 3 major operations in the Panjsher in two years. 15 Yet the implementation of an autonomous ceasefire was probably a mistake by Massoud. Without coordinating his efforts with the Pakistanis, who were the major sponsor of the insurgency, Massoud lost favor with the ISI and received less support from the U.S. and Pakistan than other Faction leaders, thereafter.

The ceasefire also caused inter-Mujihadeen warfare with Gulhbudin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-I-Islami faction; another of the seven Peshwar based resistance factions. Hezb saw Massoud as an agent of the Soviets after the ceasefire. Hekmatyar claimed that Jamiat was being supplied by the Soviets and that Massoud was taking over Hezb villages outside the Panjsher with Soviet acquiescence. 16 Massoud’s action was also demoralizing to some of his own Roy, 17.

Cordovez, 70-71.

Mike Martin, Afghanistan: Inside a Rebel Stronghold.(Poole Dorsett: Blandford press, 1984), 111-115.

Martin, 198.

Mujihadeen, as they perceived the skirmishes with Hezb forces as being at the

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to reach an operational culminating point and needed time to recruit, rearm, and retrain his forces. The Soviets conducted seven major operations against Massoud in the Panjsher, more large scale operations than against any other Mujihadeen commander. By implementing the ceasefire, Massoud was able to take the pressure off the Panjsher and its inhabitants, and allowed the Soviets to deal with other factions. A more cynical point of view would have Massoud already looking past the defeat of the Soviets and viewing the strength of his post insurgency rivals with concern. By signing a ceasefire with the Soviets, Massoud may have been looking to weaken his rivals militarily, while

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and reinitiated attacks along the Salang Road 18. The Soviets, learning from previous mistakes in the Panjsher, utilized new tactics during their seventh offensive in the valley. High altitude bombers would strike the villages while armored and mechanized forces would attack along the valleys. As the Mujihadeen were forced into the higher elevations, Soviet Spetnatz and airborne forces would conduct heliborne assaults behind the Mujihadeen lines, effectively sealing their escape. While these tactics were much more effective than previous conventional Soviet operations, they were only successful in dispersing instead Martin, 217.





Cordovez, 149.

of destroying the Mujihadeen in the Panjsher. Once the Soviets were forced to redeploy their elite troops and establish static garrisons in the Panjsher, Massoud was once again easily able to reassume control of the valley. 19

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from 1985-87. Within a two-year period, his forces were able to seize a dozen strategic government bases to include the DRA divisional headquarters at Narin,

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greatest feat as a military organizer occurred in 1985 when he took 120 of his best Mujihadeen into the mountains for three months in a “train the trainer” type program. Upon completion, these 120 Mujihadeen were sent throughout the region with instructions to train 100 other Afghan men. This program provided Massoud a 12,000 man organization spread throughout the region with which he could conduct wide area operational level military operations. 21

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1989. Unlike other military commanders fighting the Jihad who focused almost exclusively at the tactical level with the objective of killing individual soldiers and destroying equipment, Massoud was able to take a more operational and strategic view of the insurgency. He trained, equipped, and organized, the Panjsher in order to conduct tactical engagements within an operational framework. He understood the strategic value of the Salang highway and the strategic geography of the Panjsher valley in relation to that line of Cordovez, 149-50.

Roy, 23.

communication. Finally, Massoud was able to conduct a series of campaigns in support of operational objectives that the other parties of the resistance were never able to match. Massoud would remain consistent in his leadership style and practice of the operational art throughout his military career and will be further analyzed in chapters three and four of this paper during a description of his struggle with various factions in the civil war and culminating later with the Taliban. Prior to these examinations, however, it is important to understand Massoud’s difficult relationship with Pakistan because that relationship directly effected his leadership efforts against other warring factions and the Taliban as

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reasons. He resisted Pakistan’s control over his activities. This was because of Massoud’s sense of independence and confidence. Massoud was also extremely popular within much of Afghanistan, especially amongst his fellow ethnic Tajiks. Pakistan viewed any Afghan public figure with grass roots support as a threat to its regional security policies, who required to be marginalized. Finally, Massoud’s ethnicity as a Tajik made him suspect to the Pakistanis who viewed the Pushtuns to be key to the successful implementation of their regional

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Pakistan’s foreign policy was influenced by three major factors; distrust of India, alliance with China, and pan-Arab unity in order to strengthen relationships with other Arab nations. The Soviet invasion also allowed Pakistan an opportunity to deal with the Pushtunistan issue. 22 Pakistan wanted to establish a geographic security belt in the Pushtun dominated region along the Afghan Pakistan border, which would incorporate the North West Free Province (NWFP) and provide a strategic buffer state against the Soviet Union. 23 Pakistan also harbored the strategic objective of establishing a Sunni Muslim belt in conjunction with a Pakistani dominated Afghanistan that would provide geographic and strategic depth to counteract India as a regional power. Control of the Afghan government in Kabul was central to accomplishing these

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forcing the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan by supporting the Mujihadeen, (2); dividing the guerillas enough to sufficiently weaken any Afghan nationalist movement that would be resistant to Pakistani influence, and (3); controlling the Afghan government in Kabul via a political party friendly to

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able to implement Pakistani policy. He had been a refugee in Pakistan since 1974 and was a Pushtun, and was thus considered more reliable by the ISI than some factional commanders with a greater vested interest and popularity with the Afghan people. He had been sponsored by the ISI since fleeing into Pakistan, and had no real base of support inside Afghanistan. Because of this lack of grass roots support inside Afghanistan, he was perceived to be less of a nationalist threat to Pakistan’s regional aims than some other commanders such as Massoud. While Pakistan did not completely ignore other factional commanders, they were given just enough support to maintain loyalty to Pakistan and were not central to Pakistani regional objectives. 25

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at least to a certain extent beholden to Pakistan and would undertake operations under ISI guidance. This policy also pitted the factions against each other in an attempt to curry favor with the Pakistanis. By dividing the factions in this manner, Pakistan was able to ensure that no strong, centralized Afghan Roy, 40.

Roy, 40.

nationalist movement would be created as a counterpoise to Pakistan’s regional security objectives.

U.S. support to the insurgency played directly into the ISI’s hands.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) policy regarding support to the insurgency was extremely cautious and dominated by the need for plausible deniability.

U.S. policy focused not on the future status of Afghanistan, but on embarrassing the Soviets and portraying them as communist aggressors. The U.S. saw the Afghan insurgency as a means of “returning the favor” for Soviet support to N.

Vietnam during the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. The U.S. government’s acquiescence to Pakistani desires to control distribution of weapons and other support to the factions effectively cut the United States out of the process of shaping the future government of Afghanistan. Pakistan was thus allowed to promote a domestically unpopular, militarily ineffective, anti-Western, fundamentalist leader in the form of Hekmatyar to national leadership. It wasn’t until later in the conflict that the CIA realized the error in its programs and undertook alternate methods of supporting other factional commanders.

During the post insurgency civil war from 1989-96, Massoud sent emissaries to the United States in an attempt to negotiate an arrangement for direct support of the Northern Commander's Shura (NCS) without going through the ISI. 26 The NCS was a coalition of non- Pushtun factions and was a counterpoise to Pakistan and its surrogate Hekmatyar. Pakistan’s previously discussed policy of predominantly supplying and supporting Hekmatyar during the war with the Soviets and during the current civil war strengthened Hezb-IIslami at the expense of the other field commanders who were constantly under Hezb attack. The myth that Hezb-I-Islami was the strongest most combat effective faction was a myth perpetrated by the ISI to convince the U.S.

government that it’s funding of the Afghan war was being properly invested.

Massoud, who by most accounts was the most effective field commander, did not receive a single round of ammunition from 1988-90 from either Pakistan or the U.S. government because of this charade. Because of Massoud’ renewed pressure, however, Washington modified its policy of blindly following the ISI position of all aid for the factions being distributed by Pakistan. Washington, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia, began to directly support various faction commanders of the NCS with increased supplies and financial support effectively counterbalancing Pakistan's support to Hekmatyar. 27

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Massoud refused to participate in a Pakistani/U.S. plan to expand the Afghan insurgency into the Central Asian Republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in order to further destabilize the USSR. While Hekmatyar was willing to participate in the expansion of the war, Massoud was not. Showing exceptional insight, Massoud realized that the Soviets viewed the war in Afghanistan as an unpopular foreign war and that an expansion into the Soviet Union could ignite the passion of the people and strengthen their resolve. 28 The Soviet experience in World War II provides sufficient example of the tenacity of the Soviets when invaded. One cannot discount, however, any ethnic or possible nationalist Rubin, 120.

Roy, 37.

concerns Massoud may have had regarding expansion of the war into his ethnic homeland of Tajikistan. His position on the issue, although astute and in the long term correct, further isolated him from Pakistan and the U.S..



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