History has had a massive effect on Afghanistan. It is the crossroads of Central Asia and it connects the pre-Soviet Russian empire, with the Indian Empire. It was created as a country by the Russians and the British in order to keep their two interests apart.
It was designed and allowed, in what was known as The Great Game, as part of the buying influence and winning influence off the great Princes of this region from the Russian Empire versus British India. There was an un-officiated agreement between these two countries that as long as they didn’t encroach into the area of Afghanistan the Russians would never get to the Indian border and subsequently the British Empire would never expand into Russia. Afghanistan was therefore created in order to be unstable and that pervades every part of Afghanistan’s existence, which consequently means that even in the present as a country it remains to be wholly unstable.
[The Great Game was a term used for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second, less intensive phase followed.
The term “The Great Game” is usually attributed to Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British East India Company’s Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry. It was introduced into mainstream consciousness by British novelist Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim (1901).]
Peter Hopkirk. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia, Kodansha International, 1992, ISBN 4-7700-1703-0, 565p.
 – ^ Hopkirk p. 1
Ultimately, it continues to be in the interest of many that Afghanistan is perpetually de-stablized. It is in the interest of Pakistan to have an unstable Afghanistan on it’s border, it is in the interest of Iran to have an unstable country on it’s border and remains reasonably within what control the Russians do have to have an unstable Afghanistan because it keeps a lid on some of the underlining problems that exist.
If they had a stable Afghanistan then it would spill over into all the other issues within Pakistan, within East Iran and neighbouring territories. During the time of The Great Game the region was kept unstable by each side paying the Princes of particular areas for loyalty, to fight each other and to accept trade and influence from one side or the other.
Furthermore, spanning back to as far as Alexandra the Great, Afghanistan has been invaded by ‘every man and his dog’. The British have been there several times, most notably the Russians have been there and the Mongols were the only people that have subjugated Afghanistan.
More recently, and with direct affect on the present, in 1978 a Soviet backed communist Government deposed the king and came to power in Afghanistan.
[Mohammad Zahir Shah was the king of Afghanistan until July 17th, 1973. He was overthrown by his cousin, who was also his brother-in-law, General Mohammad Daoud Khan. General Daoud proclaimed the end of the monarchy and the formation of the Republic of Afghanistan.
General Daoud governed Afghanistan for five years.
In 1979 a prominent leftist, Mir Akbar Khyber, was killed by the government and his associates, Nur Mohammad Taraki, Barbrak Karmal and Hafizullah Amin, fearing that a similar fate lay in store for them, organized a coup d’etat.
After the coup succeeded Taraki became President and Hafizullah Amin became prime minister. Barbrak Karmal went into exile in Moscow.
Taraki and Amin imposed extreme reforms to be carried out in a short period time with little concern for the Afghan culture. Some measures such as the emancipation of women were desirable but, given the cultural setting, were imposed too rapidly. These measures provoked resistance which spread throughout the country.
Taraki as president of Afghanistan attended a conference of so-called non aligned nations in Havana, Cuba. On his way back stopped in Moscow to meet with Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev advised Taraki to ease up on the drastic social reforms and to seek broader support for his regime. Brezhnev also advised Taraki to get rid of his prime minister, Hafizullah Amin. Unbeknownst to Taraki his body guard was an agent for Amin. The bodyguard reported to Amin the intention of Taraki to strip him of his power.
Afer Taraki returned to Kabul he requested that Amin meet with him. Amin agreed to the meeting only if his safety was guaranteed by the Soviet ambassador. Such assurances were provided, but not in good faith. Amin knew however what Taraki’s intentions were and the demand for his safety being guaranteed by the Soviet ambassador was probably a shrewd ploy on the part of Amin to mislead Taraki. Being forewarned, Amin used the palace guard to take Taraki prisoner. Amin then took control of the government. A few days later Amin’s government announced that Taraki died of an “undisclosed illness”. The “undisclosed illness” was that of being held down by the Palace Guard while he was strangled and smothered with a pillow. Taraki’s “illness” only lasted ten or fifteen minutes.
The Soviets accepted Amin’s acquisition of power and tried to work with him. But Amin was, of course, very wary of the Soviets. The Soviets wanted to put troops in Afghanistan because they feared there would be an American invasion of Iran as a result of the hostage crisis. Amin feared the Soviet troops would be used to depose him.
Amin fearing for his survival and uncertain of whom he could trust started putting his relatives into positions of power. Amin put one of his nephews in charge of the secret police, but that nephew was assassinated. Amin moved his headquarters out of Kabul in concern for his own safety.
The Soviets decided to invade Afghanistan. They sent paratroops to capture and execute Amin. After Amin was taken care of, a bogus call was make for Soviet troops to enter the country. According to the Soviet’s cover story they were only responding to a call for assistance from the Afghan Revolutionary Central Committee. According to them they were only complying with the 1978 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighbourliness. The execution of Hafizullah Amin was, according to the Soviets, the action of the Afghan Revolutionary Central Committee.
That committee then elected as head of government Barbrak Karmal, who was in exile in Moscow. Karmal returned to Afghanistan in a Soviet transport plane. He presided over the occupation of Afghanistan by 115,000 Soviet troops.]
The Russians had forced an insurgency in the same way as the British did, but by doing so were instrumental in enabling the rapid growth of the ‘Mujahadeen’ (soldier of God), which was a loose alliance of every faction that opposed the Soviet invasion. Within this alliance were 7 principle commanders and the reason they rose to prominence is because they were the ones that Pakistan, with Western agreement and finance, chose to back.
A lot of the Mujahideen key people that you see now, Googadin Helmateeya, Najah Bulla, Achmed Sharmasoo were backed by the Pakistanis and were heavily involved in the Soviet defeat. One or two of the groups, Googadin Helmateeya and a few of the others were very hardcore Islamic groups and religiously motivated. The majority however were not and were simply anti-invaders or anti-foreigners.
The Russians had invaded Afghanistan in order to promote Communism throughout the region. In order to counter the Russian invasion the Mujahideen were heavily financed by the West and at the same time significantly influenced by extreme Islamic groups, funded in part by nations such as Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden himself, with his mentor moved their setup Al Q’eada (meaning The Base) into Pakistan, which in turn also became the base for the Mujihadeen who were fighting the Soviet insurgents. The West had surreptitiously backed the Mujihadeen, Bin Laden and the Al Q’eada movement, funded them, trained them and given them the equipment and skills, which ultimately later were used against them/us following the attacks on the World Trade Centre on the ill fated September 11th 2001.
The Mujahadeen were a collective of the various Afghanistan tribes; the Tariqs, the Hazara and the Pashtoo. The best-known Mujahideen, various loosely-aligned Afghan opposition groups, initially fought against the incumbent pro-Soviet Afghan government during the late 1970s. At the Afghan government’s request, the Soviet Union became involved in the war. The Mujahideen insurgency then fought against the Soviet and Afghan government troops during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union pulled out of the conflict in the late 1980s the mujahideen fought each other in the subsequent Afghan Civil War.
The Mujahideen were significantly financed and armed (and are alleged to have been trained) by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Carter and Reagan administrations and the governments of Saudi Arabia, the People’s Republic of China, several Western European countries, Iran, and Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime in Pakistan. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was the interagent used in the majority of these activities to disguise the sources of support for the resistance.
The main base station of Mujahideen in Pakistan was the town Badaber, 24 km from Peshawar. Afghanistan Mujahideen were trained in the Badaber base under supervision by military instructors from U.S.A., Pakistan, Republic of China .The base served as the concentration camp for Soviet and DRA captives as well. In 1985, the uprising of captives destroyed the base, but the incident was concealed by Pakistani and Soviet governments until the dissolution of the USSR.
Ronald Reagan praised Mujahideen as “freedom fighters”, and three mainstream Western films, the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights, the 1988 action film Rambo III and the 2007 biographical movie Charlie Wilson’s War, portrayed them as heroic.
Afghanistan’s resistance movement was born in chaos and, at first, virtually all of its war was waged locally by regional warlords. As warfare became more sophisticated, outside support and regional coordination grew. Even so, the basic units of mujahideen organization and action continued to reflect the highly segmented nature of Afghan society. Eventually, the seven main mujahideen parties allied themselves into the political bloc called Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen.
Many Muslims from other countries volunteered to assist various Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan, and gained significant experience in guerrilla warfare. Some groups of these veterans have been significant factors in more recent conflicts in and around the Muslim world. A wealthy Saudi named Osama bin Laden was a prominent organizer and financier of an all Arab islamist group of foreign volunteers; his Maktab al-Khadamat funnelled money, arms, and Muslim fighters from around the muslim world into Afghanistan, with the assistance and support of the Saudi and Pakistani governments. These foreign fighters became known as “Afghan Arabs” and their efforts were coordinated by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.
The Mujahideen won when the Soviet Union pulled troops out of Afghanistan in 1989, followed by the fall of the Mohammad Najibullah regime in 1992. However, the mujahideen did not establish a united government, and many of the larger mujahideen groups began to fight each other over the power in Kabul. After several years of devastating infighting, a village mullah organized a new armed movement with the backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban, meaning “students”, and referring to the Saudi-backed religious schools known for producing extremism. Veteran Mujahideen were confronted by this radical splinter group in 1996.
By 2001, the Taliban, with backing from the Pakistani ISI (military intelligence) and possibly even the regular Pakistan Army, as well as al-Qaeda which found a refuge in Afghanistan, had largely defeated the militias and controlled most of the country. The opposition factions allied themselves together again and became known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (Northern Alliance). In 2001 with U.S. help and international military aid, they ousted the Taliban from power and formed the new government, and gradually militias were either incorporated into the new national army and police forces or demobilized.
At present the term “Mujahideen” is sometimes used to describe insurgents, including the Taliban/Al Qaeda, fighting NATO troops and the security forces of the US-backed government of Hamid Karzai and allied militias in Afghanistan, although most of the Mujahideen leaders who fought the Soviet Union later fought against the Taliban.
3. ^ Freedom Next Time, by John Pilger, p. 275
With Hagar’s departure to the Afghan beach pending. Every day I ask myself. What does success look like in Afghanistan? ISAF won the war and over threw the Taliban and are now in the midst of a combative stabilisation campaign as determined under the Bonn Agreement.
I would be grateful to understand what is the ISAF vision of success and stability we have for the nation of Afghanistan. Anyone…….Bueller……anyone?
This rhetoric is not being clearly articulated by any of the ISAF Governments.
NB: I cobbled this together from various sources a few years back and so if you see your own work in here and it’s not acknowledged then please drop me a line and I will duly reference it.