In tribute to General Ahmed Shah Mas’oud: Afghanistan: A Victim of External Force [Archives:2001/39/Focus]

September 24 2001

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
This observer once met a former member of the Dawod Family, the former royal family that ruled Afghanistan up to the Mid – Seventies of the last Century. Having been living and working in Yemen, in the late Seventies, he described his native country as very much like Yemen, in terms of the topography and the social structure of the population and the strong attachment of the Afghanis to the Religion of Islam. Probably even more so than Yemen, Afghanistan lived in isolation, for most of the last three centuries or so, in view of being landlocked and with a very rugged mountainous terrain. The British did try to make inroads into the country but found it to be unwelcome and probably not worth the effort anyway. The proud Afghanis managed to maintain their way of life and their social structure pretty much over these centuries. The population may have been made up of many ethnic groups, but all maintained a generally xenophobic attitude to foreigners and everything foreign.
For some strategic reasons, the former Soviet Union thought that Afghanistan might as well join the other Central Asian “Republics” that were apart of the former Soviet Empire and thus provide a strategic Soviet proximity to Pakistan and Iran, which were then allies of the United States and and hopefully tip the strategic regional balance of power between the two great powers then in its favor. For Afghanistan, this Soviet ambition meant the end of a long isolation. Not only that, it also meant the end of Afghanistan, as a country, in which its people can manage to sustain themselves and find the peace and stability they need, if they had any hope of ever catching up with the rest of the world.
To the dismay of the Soviet Union, it was clear that their arithmetic was wrong. They had anticipated that taking over Afghanistan was an easy task, but found the country to be more of a graveyard for Soviet troops and a mockery of Soviet might and military prowess. Against unbelievable odds, the Afghanis managed to set a loosely tied formidable resistance to the Soviet occupation and surely convince the Soviets, that life would be miserable for them in Afghanistan. Although the Soviets had to withdraw in humiliation, they nevertheless destroyed much of the loose cohesiveness that still tied the Afghanis to their country. Thanks to periodic air bombardment of innocent civilian villages, a good third of the population ended up being displaced out of Afghanistan, in neighboring Iran and Pakistan. Those who were in or near Pakistan became easy prey for the international “fundamentalist” movement, which had set up roots in Pakistan, thanks to substantial funding from countries of the Middle East, where this “fundamentalist” movement has its roots. Thus many “fundamentalist” schools took thousands of Afghani children and nurtured them methodically in the overzealous doctrine of this fundamentalist movement.
The Americans were convinced to come to the aid of the Afghanis, in their struggle against the Soviet occupation. The significance of this American involvement is that it introduced another “foreign” element in the Afghanistan War. As if the fighting capability of the Afghanis was not enough, the Americans were somehow coaxed by some of their Arab friends that they can recruit Moslem mujahideen to fight against the Communist menace in Afghanistan from other Moslem countries. That is fine and dandy, but the only Arabs and other Moslems who were recruited for this “holy war” all happened to be the products of these very same “fundamentalist” religious schools that have also been spread throughout the Arab World, thanks to the substantial funding these institutions and the organizations behind them were getting from a couple of the rich oil countries in the region that originated and adopted the sectarian doctrine followed by most of these “fundamentalists”. At the start, these institutes seemed to be a genuine and innocent “non – sectarian” effort to uphold Islam and to help most of the poor Moslem countries, overcome illiteracy, but were in fact much more than that. In any case, with people like General Ahmed Shah Mas’oud and many other Afghani fighters, one would think that the Americans did not have to be gullible in believing that these new “Afghan Arabs”, like Osama Bin Laden, were really going to make that much of a difference in helping to bolster the Afghani resistance against the Soviets. But they were easily persuaded, and accordingly gave this new “fundamentalist” movement the paramilitary strength (weapons) and expertise (training), not to mention the additional financial support without really knowing what the background of these “volunteers” was and who is recruiting them for the “struggle”.
When the Soviets withdrew, foreign support to the different factions that made up the composition of the government continued to a certain extent, and thus stimulated an ongoing power struggle. On the other hand, the Taliban Movement had grown considerably over the years and saved their energy for the power struggle after the Soviet evacuation, letting most of the fighting against the Soviets to be handled by the other resistance groups, while they used their substantial resources to publicize the brave role of the mujahideen and the Taliban, as if they were the liberators of Afghanistan and the true defenders of the faith, while discounting and downplaying everybody else’s role. The Taliban continued to watch the other factions fight it out among themselves. When the Rabbani Government finally prevailed as a potentially stable regime and things began to settle down in the country, the Taliban with substantial Pakistani intelligence and military support, saw that the time has come for taking over, before the Rabbani regime could become firmly in place. Since the Taliban were not really a part of any fighting to speak of, whether against the Soviets or in the internal fighting that followed, and with substantial backing by the “Afghan Arabs” and the Pakistanis, the worn out factions that had become loosely affiliated with the Rabbani regime, were unable to hold out against the swift offensive of the Taliban and their friends, especially as the former did not enjoy the substantial military support of a powerful neighbor, like the Taliban was getting from Pakistan and the substantial funding from their Arab backers. The Taliban prevailed and apparently all hope for the peace and stability of Afghanistan was lost.
The Rabbani regime was only kept alive in a small part of the country, thanks to the astute military skills of the late General Ahmed Shah Mas’oud, who – probably without coincidence – was killed in a rather bizarre way a couple of days before the even more bizarre attacks in New York City and Washington DC of September 11.
For Afghanistan, General Mas’oud was a national hero and a credit to the military genius and courage of the Afghani people. For sure, those who killed him, could never be regarded as having any sense of national pride and could not be counted on to advocate for the best interests of Afghanistan, or the Moslem World for that matter. All faithful Moslems will regard Ahmed Mas’oud as the true image of the true mujahid and patriot, who refused any form of foreign interference in Afghanistan and the adulteration of the Religion of Islam.