IASPS 

Division for Research in Strategy 

IASPS Research Papers in Strategy April 2000 No. 9 

The Afghan Vortex 

By Elie Krakowski*


* Dr. Krakowski is a former Dept of Defense official, who worked on the Afghan issue in the 1980's. For further information contact Dr. Krakowski at EDK consulting


 

Afghanistan.The very name conjures up notions of some far away land, of war with the Soviets, and now of a haven for international terrorists and drugs. The country is small, poor, inhospitable, and one of the least developed in the world. There are no railroads to speak of, a primitive road network, some of the most difficult terrain in the world, with high, sometimes inaccessible mountains. Its people are fierce. In the words of Jason Goodwin: "This is a region that has swallowed civilizations, and sent the sands to seal them up. It has been dug, charted, swindled and coerced, but what can change the fact that its deserts are as dry as ever, its mountains vast, and it is still a long, long way from the sea?"[1]

Why then have so many great nations fought in and over Afghanistan, and why should we be concerned with it now? In short, because Afghanistan is the crossroads between what Halford MacKinder called the world's Heartland and the Indian sub continent. It owes its importance to its location at the confluence of major routes. A boundary between land power and sea power, it is the meeting point between opposing forces larger than itself. Alexander the Great used it as a path to conquest. So did the Moghuls. An object of competition between the British and Russian empires in the 19th century, Afghanistan became a source of controversy between the American and Soviet superpowers in the 20th. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become an important potential opening to the sea for the landlocked new states of Central Asia. The presence of large oil and gas deposits in that area has attracted countries and multinational corporations. Russia and China, not to mention Pakistan and India, are deeply involved in trying to shape the future of what may be the world's most unchangeable people. Because Afghanistan is a major strategic pivot what happens there affects the rest of the world.

Throughout the world we see the rapid proliferation of new states (or entities seeking to become states). As quick, has been a sort of spreading collapse of state power. This has been true in most of Africa, in large segments of the former Soviet Union, and in Central and South Asia. Afghanistan may be the prototype case. It certainly remains a prime illustration of how a seemingly unimportant entities can exert disproportionate influence on the course of great events.

Today, most of the states active in the Afghanistan drama are weak, have major internal problems, and are confronting international tensions. Pakistan, currently the dominant player, is in grave economic straits, faces mounting internal instability and sectarian violence, all in addition to heightened tensions with India over Kashmir. Russia has gone from one economic crisis to another, and faces major ethnic unrest, including a protracted guerrilla war in Chechnya. Its political system is unstable. Some have questioned the capability of Moscow to control its own far-flung provinces, let alone attempt to exert influence abroad.[2] The new Central Asian republics face actual or potential ethnic and sectarian strife. All are highly vulnerable to external intervention, especially from Russia. Iran's own internal institutions are torn between the factions of a massively unpopular ruling theocratic elite. China, without doubt the most powerful of the neighboring states, also confronts an unsettled situation in its Muslim province of Xinjiang, abutting northeastern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan. Furthermore, as Beijing's crackdown on the Falun Dong sect and dissidents indicates, Chinese authorities are increasingly concerned (with reason) over their control of the population. Rapid modernization and economic progress have released decentralizing pressures and tendencies that ill accord with the requirements of Communist control.[3] Why then are they all involved in Afghanistan, and what are their chances of getting what they want?

In short, these countries' essentially zero-sum-game policies aimed at control, have virtually no chance of succeeding. Pakistan, in the driver's seat in Afghanistan for the time being, continues trying to establish a malleable puppet government led by the Taliban, a radical Islamic movement mostly of the majority Pushtun ethnic group. On the other side are most of the remaining interested parties: a loose anti-Pakistan, anti-Taliban coalition of Russia, Iran, most of the Central Asian republics, and India. Pakistani strategy rests on its association with the Pushtuns, the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan, who live in the southeast, while that of its opponents perforce leans on northern ethnic minorities, the Tadjiks, Uzbeks, and the Shiite Hazaras of the country's central massif. This coalition, even were it to be successful militarily, would not be able to effectively govern Afghanistan any more than would the Pushtuns.

All of Afghanistan's neighbors are fearful of the Islamic fundamentalist threat posed by the Taliban spreading into their own territories. Russia has from the beginning sought to keep the former Soviet Central Asian republics within the Russian orbit, which in part has meant ensuring their continued dependence on Russia. The opening of a new trade route for the Central Asian republics through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean would clearly defeat such an objective. Iran has similarly sought to prevent the possible flow of Central Asian oil and gas through Afghanistan. Iran has jealously guarded its position in the energy field and sought to discourage the construction of any pipeline that would not go through Iran itself. Blocking a consolidation of Pakistani control over Afghanistan is clearly easier to do than for Pakistan to firm up and maintain such control. But, as we will see, even Islamabad may not be looking for stability in a way familiar in the West. And attempting to perpetuate a state of what we might call "controlled chaos" is, as the Soviets were fond of saying, "playing with fire. "

The possibility of a non-zero-sum game solution, beneficial to all, exists. So far none of the parties have shown the least inclination to seek such a solution. Obviously, the West in general and the U.S. in particular, cannot hope to teach the various parties what policies would be in their ultimate interest. Yet the following pages point out some opportunities available to the West to stabilize Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's twentieth century history encompasses two major geostrategic thrusts. The first from 1978 to 1989, a Moscow-generated southward movement, was a catastrophic failure that contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The end of the first thrust was followed by a short ambiguous interregnum of some three years, 1989 to 1992, which saw both the collapse of the southward thrust and the creation of a significant political vacuum. This political vacuum presented Pakistan with unforeseen opportunities. The second thrust, from 1992 to present, is northward and underwritten by Islamabad. While still being played out, it seems well on its way to following the sad pattern established earlier by the Soviet Union. Initial successes, which by 1997 were leading some observers to proclaim a Taliban victory and counsel accommodation with the status quo, by 1998-1999 were giving way to stalemate. The Taliban's inability to achieve a definitive victory, discussed below, was then just as quickly interpreted as signifying its approaching end. Could it be that Islamabad will soon face a choice similar to the one that confronted Moscow in late 1978 and 1979? Or are there constraints upon Pakistan which did not exist for the Soviet Union? In any event, is there any reason to believe that Islamabad might succeed where Moscow failed? Or again, is there perhaps a way to break out of the established pattern? The material that follows explores the pattern of the thrusts outlined above and attempts to address these questions.

Southward Thrust, 1953 -1989 

Emir Abdur Rahman, Afghanistan's leader in the late 19th century, described his country - then the target of the Russian-British Great Game, as a goat between two lions. That apt phrase described well the position of Afghanistan between the countervailing pressures of the two empires. The British withdrawal, after WWII, removed the only counterweight to Russian expansion. Moreover, British colonial policies had ensured that relations between Afghanistan and the new state of Pakistan would be inimical from the start. Afghanistan was the only country which voted against the admission of the new state of Pakistan to the United Nations. The boundary between the two states - the so-called Durand Line - was the product of concessions forced upon a reluctant but helpless Afghanistan by the British in the 19th century. It arbitrarily divided major Pushtun tribes on the two sides of a new border, and immediately became a source of controversy. That antagonism helped the Soviet Union's gradual penetration of Afghanistan.

Soviet interest and influence in the country begins in the early post-Revolutionary period. The Soviet push for dominance of Afghanistan, however, began in 1953 when Mohammed Daoud, a cousin and brother-in-law of the king, became prime minister and availed himself of Soviet offers of assistance against Pakistan. Soviet military assistance, including the training of Afghan officers in the USSR, began at Daoud's initiative. Nevertheless, Afghanistan tried to balance its growing links with Moscow with repeated requests for American economic and military assistance. Washington rebuffed these requests.[4] As Leon Poullada wrote, by the mid 1950s "a more powerful obstacle had emerged." Pakistan, a new American ally, objected strongly to any U.S. military assistance to Afghanistan.[5]

>From that time onward, Moscow's influence in Afghanistan was never challenged by other powers. The U.S. was content to leave that country within the Soviet sphere of influence. In drawing its ring of alliances through Pakistan, Washington had conceded Afghanistan. By 1960 Moscow was already asking to have Soviet advisers placed in each Afghan ministry. As in other countries, Moscow operated through the formal state structures as well as by encouraging the development and growth of local Communist movements. The Afghan Communist Party, the PDPA (People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan) was created in 1965, a byproduct of the previous year's democratization moves by the king. In 1973, when former Prime Minister Daoud overthrew the king and proclaimed a republic, it was with the support of pro-Soviet army and air force officers, and with that of the Parcham "Banner" wing of the Communist party.

The coup fit in neatly with Moscow's desire for ever greater control over Afghan affairs. The leader of the coup, a cousin to the king, had impeccable pro-Soviet credentials. But because Daoud was a relative of the king, the change would be seen as simply part of an internal family struggle and would therefore be acceptable to the Afghan people. The transformation from monarchy to republic through a nationalist leader would be seen in the outside world as a progressive move in keeping with modernizing trends. There was every reason to believe that Soviet interests would be strengthened without raising significant opposition.

The Soviets were soon disappointed. What happened next was inherent in the nature of Afghanistan: Daoud, like many of the Afghan leaders before and since, felt that he could manipulate the Soviets while minimizing their manipulation of him and his country. Once in power, Daoud started to eliminate his Communist backers from positions of influence. Abroad, he soon embarked on a series of moves to improve relations with neighboring states and with religious Muslim states. In order to ensure a more independent stance and to diversify his base of external support, he began to send Afghan military officers to Egypt and India for training. Just prior to his overthrow in 1973, he had initiated similar steps with Pakistan.

In both the overthrow of the king and the bloody assassination of Daoud a mere five years later, an Afghan leader's attempts to improve relations with its neighbors - in particular with Pakistan - was followed by his removal from power. Moscow, twice disappointed with its path of indirect control, decided to rely on Communists. The April 1978 coup brought the Khalq "Masses" wing of the PDPA to power. The Communists immediately proceeded to implement their Marxist program, which entailed control of all aspects of Afghan life.

The Afghans, accustomed to the traditional autonomy of tribes and tribal groups, had remained largely unconcerned by how their central government was being run. However, the new rulers' interference with that autonomy and assault on their religious faith provoked massive and almost instantaneous armed resistance. Once popular resistance began in 1978, the Soviet-backed regime found itself in an increasingly difficult situation.

Yet the Soviets did not have to invade. Aside from adjusting the existing policy of military assistance, Moscow could have replaced the existing Communist regime with a pliable non-Communist "leader," and taken a much more gradual path to a Leninist agenda. Thus, the resistance would have been deprived of its reason for being. The decision to intervene with massive force was a matter of serious dispute within the Soviet leadership.[6] The Afghan Communist regime, while facing problems, was not on the brink of being overthrown. The resistance, while large scale and having an impact, was poorly armed and organized. Soviet military intervention was initially seen in Moscow as a massive show of force that would intimidate the Afghan Mujahiddin, as the resistance came to be called. [7] It was, in all likelihood, seen essentially as a shortcut to solving a messy problem with brute force.

Early Soviet operations were patterned after the earlier invasion of Czechoslovakia and, therefore poorly adapted to the Afghan terrain and conditions.[8] Had Soviet political assumptions proven correct, it may not have mattered much. As it was, the intrusion of foreign troops into Afghanistan provided the Afghans with what turned out to be the sole real unifier to the disparate groups of fighters. Moscow realizing its mistake during its first year in Afghanistan, began to adjust its operations accordingly and settled in for a prolonged stay.

The Soviets focused on control of the cities and military installations. There was never any attempt made at controlling the countryside south of the Hindu Kush mountain range. Faced with an unremittingly hostile population, Moscow never tried to "win over" the Afghans. Massive aerial bombing was meant to instill terror.[9] The Soviet solution was what became known as "migratory genocide"-to empty the water - that is to say chase the population out of the country, thereby removing the base of support for the Resistance. And this they did on a grand scale. Out of a pre-war population of 16 million, by 1985 three and half million were refugees in Pakistan and Iran. By 1989 there was approximately that many refugees in Pakistan alone, with another one million or so in Iran. In 1981 Moscow was already conducting massive aerial bombardments in various areas of the country. By 1982-1983 attention was also being given to smaller operations, including the growing use of Soviet Special Forces (Spetsnaz), the penetration of Afghan Resistance groups, and the assassination of Resistance leaders.

Interestingly, the "migratory genocide" strategy was implemented only in the southern, mostly Pushtun part of Afghanistan. In the north, down to the Hindu Kush mountain range, the Soviets followed a different, almost opposite approach.[10] Just as for the south there was systematic destruction and desolation, for the north the approach was to build up. Instead of chasing the population, the attempt was to co-opt it. The distinction between the two parts of the country was not new. It had already been made wistfully by Tsarist officials who were describing the Hindu Kush as the "natural" boundaries between the Russian and British Empires.

Instead of promoting desolation as in the south, in the north the Soviets encouraged economic development including the building of dams for irrigation, and the construction of factories. Most of Afghanistan's natural resources also happen to be in the north. The region is contiguous to the Soviet Union, is readily accessible, has flatter terrain, and is thus easier to pacify. Furthermore, a large portion of the people of northern Afghanistan are of the same ethnic background as the peoples of (then Soviet) Central Asia - Tadjiks, Uzbeks, and Turkmen. Soviet officials and publications played on the ethnic pride of the inhabitants and encouraged the use of their native tongues - a practice discouraged until then within the Soviet Union. The Soviets constantly harped on common traditions and practices as a way to ethnic unity on both sides of the northern border. Delegations were exchanged especially in cultural matters between the two sides of the border.

All of this was part of Moscow's policy toward the Indian sub-continent. The Soviets, directly and through their Afghan Communist puppets, promoted and encouraged Afghan irredentist claims over the parts of Pakistan inhabited by Pushtuns. In a September 1985 speech to a Jirga (assembly) of the Pushtun border tribes, Babrak Karmal, then the Afghan Communist leader, openly called for the reunification of the Pushtuns (from both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border) under Afghan sovereignty. Aside from reviving an old divisive issue between the two countries, it was a call for the subversion of Pakistan. Increasing Soviet military pressures upon Pakistan - large numbers of cross-border artillery strikes and aircraft penetrations - helped to drive the point home. The absorption of northern Afghanistan within the Soviet Union, together with the creation of a Pushtun state under Afghan Communist leadership (and incorporating Baluch areas of southwestern Pakistan), would have meant the end of Afghanistan as well as of Pakistan. More importantly, it would also have yielded, for the first time, a direct Soviet land route to the Arabian Sea. [11]

The key to Soviet strategy from the very beginning was to prevent outside assistance to the Resistance. Moscow was confident, and correctly so, that the Mujahiddin would not be able to continue for long without external aid. Again, things did not go quite as planned. The reaction to the Soviet invasion boiled down only to a very modest, and covert, program of U.S. aid to the Resistance, enabling the Soviets to make some significant gains through 1982 and 1983. By then, both the Afghan Mujahiddin and European humanitarian groups that were seeking to help them, had recognized that without more meaningful external assistance, the Afghans would indeed not be able to continue for much longer. Both the Afghans and the European humanitarian organizations, recognizing that the key to such assistance lay in Washington, began to approach officials there on aid to the Resistance. Because existing assistance to the Afghans was under the guise of a "covert" program, there was little open discussion of the issue. U.S. Government discussions on the matter involved a small number of officials in the executive branch and those members of Congress and their staffs who had to act on requests for aid to the Resistance. The author was part of that small number, and the remarks that follow about the U.S. reaction refer to essentially such internal arguments.

Until 1984 aid to the Resistance was sufficient only to keep the Afghans fighting. There was no thought of gearing aid toward a victory of the Resistance. As was often the case with U.S. policy, the summary phrase could well have been, and for some was, "raising the costs to the Soviets." A major shift in policy however culminated in a 1985 Presidential Directive that at least declared that the aim was to help the Afghans win. When translated into substantive action, it came to mean more forceful U.S. assistance that ultimately included Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. The significance of the shipment of Stingers to Afghanistan was not solely that they allowed the Resistance to thwart the Soviet effort to depopulate the countryside, but above all it signified to both sides a major shift in the level of American commitment.

The main impetus for this shift in policy stemmed from growing bipartisan Congressional pressure. The other part of that impetus came from a very small number of officials within the executive branch, chiefly in the Pentagon. It should be noted that throughout the war the State Department and CIA continued to resist meaningful aid to the Resistance. The eventual U.S. policy was the byproduct of this friction.

By late 1984, military assistance to the Afghan Resistance was becoming more serious, which meant that Soviet progress was at the very least slowing, increasing their frustrations. To have their intervention in Afghanistan seen as a victory, Moscow needed to win conclusively. To lose, it only needed to be confronted by the promise of a never-ending fight. As such, 1985 proved in this respect to be a turning point. It was then that the Soviet leadership, under Gorbachev, came to the conclusion that it might not be able to win on the battlefield. What it could not obtain there, it would need to make a greater effort to obtain at the negotiating table.

At the 27th Party Congress in February 1985 Gorbachev launched a major peace initiative designed to convince the outside world of the Soviet Union's genuine desire for a settlement in Afghanistan. It is then that he made his since famous reference to Afghanistan as "a bleeding wound" intimating a certain war weariness. In that same speech Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union and Afghanistan had come to a bilateral agreement on a "phased withdrawal" of Soviet troops. Such a withdrawal, Gorbachev indicated, was contingent upon a "political solution" that would guarantee "the non-resumption of foreign armed interference."

That phrase summed up for Moscow the root cause of the continuing conflict. The purpose of negotiations had always been to resolve what the Soviets called "the situation surrounding Afghanistan," which meant ending "armed intervention" from the outside. Until the very end, the Soviets successfully insisted that their actions in Afghanistan were purely a bilateral issue with the Afghan Communist government, while what others were doing was a matter for international negotiation.

The core of Soviet strategy was to build up the Communist regime sufficiently for it to stand without Soviet ground troops, albeit with continued Soviet air, logistical, and other assistance. Continued aid to the Afghan Resistance would prevent this goal from ever being attained. Hence it became crucial for Moscow to determine the level and extent of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. Was the U.S. serious when it spoke of genuine "self-determination" for the Afghans? Or did America merely intend to rid Afghanistan of Soviet troops? If the latter was true, the combination of Soviet aid to Afghanistan's Communist regime and America's cessation of aid to the Resistance would ensure a Soviet victory. By the end of 1985, Moscow had obtained from State Department negotiators an agreement that the United States would be willing to stop aid to the Afghan Resistance at the beginning of a Soviet troop withdrawal. At the end of 1985 the Soviets were talking about a four year phased withdrawal. When it became known in Washington that U.S. officials had concluded the agreement with the Soviets behind the back of the President,[12] these officials argued that they had not accepted the four year time frame. This prevented the cutoff of American assistance, and dragged out negotiations another two years. Nevertheless, Moscow now knew it could concentrate on building up the Communist Afghan infrastructure in preparation for an ultimate withdrawal.

Weeks prior to the signing of the 1988 Geneva accords, Congressional backers of the Afghan Resistance found out that the State Department had finally agreed to cutting off the anti-Soviet side in the war without a similar pledge by Moscow. An uproar led Washington to issue a "side letter" stating that it would engage in "positive symmetry," meaning that that if the Soviets continued supplying their side, so would the U.S. It is revealing that while the Soviets were unhappy about this last minute addition, it did nothing to unravel the agreement or the Soviet decision to withdraw. By February 1989 all Soviet forces were out of Afghanistan.

Interregnum: Vacuum Creation, 1989-1992 

Because U.S., and for that matter Pakistani policy was about "raising the costs" of Soviet occupation, not really ending it, few were ready when it did come. In addition, policy was based on mistaken assumptions growing out of ignorance. At the end of 1987 "Western officials" were quoted as saying that Soviet troop withdrawal would "almost inevitably mean the collapse" of the Kabul regime.[13] "Without Soviet troops," one of these diplomats was quoted as saying, the Afghan government "could not last six months."[14] Once Soviet troops had actually begun withdrawing, the forthcoming collapse of the Afghan regime became a matter of near certainty. Jon Glassman, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, had described the Kabul regime in the last months of the Soviet withdrawal as "a house without girders," and predicted that "it would fall within a matter of weeks, months at the most."[15]

How strongly such mistaken beliefs influenced actual policy can be seen by the fact that the Afghan Resistance was pressed hard then to capitalize on what was seen as an easy situation. Barely ten days after the signing of the Geneva accords a New York Times headline proclaimed "Pakistan officials tell of ordering Afghan rebel push." And in slightly smaller print: "U.S. Aide in on Decision."

No amount of evidence including the buildup of the Communist infrastructure, with particular emphasis on the KHAD, or Afghan equivalent of the KGB could convince these officials to the contrary. There was, furthermore, no evidence on the ground of any panic, mass defections, or any other signs of possible apprehension in Kabul about the forthcoming situation. Moscow had clearly and explicitly committed itself to continued support of the Afghan regime even after a Soviet troop withdrawal. It stayed true to its word and continued to provide Soviet air and other military and economic support. Whenever there was even a hint of a possible Mujahiddin success in taking a town, Soviet air support was forthcoming.

The Soviets were confident that the Resistance could either agree to Communist demands for a cease-fire and thereby admit failure; or launch attacks and fail. That confidence was amply justified. The Afghan Resistance, never united to begin with, was becoming more fragmented now that the sole unifier of a foreign troop presence was gone. Attacks on Afghan towns by other Afghans, especially when they failed, could only generate the antagonism of the Afghan population. The Afghan Resistance had never been trained or prepared to undertake coordinated operations that could lead to victory. It was not ready politically, and there was therefore no existing alternative to the Communist regime. The Soviet strategy proved to be sounder than the Soviet Union itself because the communist regime in Kabul survived the one in Moscow - though not for long.

In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed creating a major vacuum in the region, Pakistan got the opportunity to do what the Soviet Union attempted through the 1970s and 1980s. Islamabad understood that something along the lines of traditional colonialism would not be acceptable internationally, and simply not feasible in the Afghan context. Hence, like Moscow, it pursued an indirect approach. The Pakistani leadership decided that it needed to produce an Afghan "leader" and/or regime that would remain constantly dependent upon Islamabad to maintain power. That in turn meant that such a leader could not have or develop a significant popularity or genuine political base.

Afghanistan, as already indicated, is not a nation but a multiethnic-state. Its existing ethnic groupings had coexisted, but the Pushtun majority never allowed any of the minorities to dominate. The sole aberration, in 1929 when a Tadjik briefly seized power, did not even last a year. Soviet policy during the war exacerbated tribal and ethnic antagonisms and divisions. Just as Moscow favored the northern Central Asian ethnic groupings because of their affinities to Soviet Central Asians, Pakistan has relied from the beginning on Pushtuns. But to divide and rule has also entailed making sure that even the Pushtuns could never be strong enough to act together.

Even before the Soviet invasion, Islamabad had selected as one of its main agents Hekmatyar Gulbuddin, an extremist Pushtun leader with little popular base. During and after the Soviet-Afghan war, Gulbuddin was more frequently engaged in fighting other Afghan Resistance groups than the Soviets or, after 1989, the Communist Afghans. During the war, the Pakistani ISI (Inter Services Intelligence, which has in effect been in more or less independent charge of Afghan policy) made sure to channel most of the foreign assistance through Gulbuddin. It thereby strengthened him, while minimizing the development of any genuine Afghan leadership. The same reasoning was also responsible for Pakistan's reluctance to countenance any meaningful organization of the Resistance. When, in part because of growing American interest, certain steps were finally taken, the Pakistanis made sure to keep things as divided, weak, and disorganized as possible. Thus, several political parties and leadership groups were allowed to come into being. Islamabad actively fostered suspicions and competition for its attention and favors among these groups. Pakistani antagonism for the most effective Resistance leader, Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, was not due solely to his being a Tadjik. Any effective commander with a popular following was a threat to Islamabad.

The ISI also relied on its old favorite to penetrate the Kabul regime in order to collapse it from within. In March 1990, General Shah Nawaz Tanai, also a Pushtun and defense minister in the Kabul regime, joined with Gulbuddin in a coup against the Communist regime. The coup failed, but revealed the growing tensions within the Communist ruling group.[16] Aware of the growing internal weakness of his own regime, the Communist leader, Najibullah, became more serious in UN sponsored negotiations toward the establishment of a broad-based government. As these negotiations proceeded, officers from the ruling party begin to transfer weapons to Resistance commanders and to make their own deals. With the failed Moscow coup of August 1991, followed by the cessation of Soviet assistance to the Kabul regime, and the actual collapse of the Soviet Union in December of that year, the fate of the regime was sealed.

When the Kabul regime collapsed in April 1992, it was not the Pushtun forces from the south that took control of the capital, but an unlikely assortment of minority ethnic groupings from the north. This Northern Alliance as it came to be called was made up of three significant minorities in Afganistan: the Tadjiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras (the latter being not Sunni as the majority of Afghans, but Shiite). The defection of the Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum from the regime's northern forces played an important role in its collapse. It was his joining with the Tadjik Commander Massoud that enabled their joint forces to enter and take control of Kabul even as Najibullah had announced his intention of resigning in favor of a neutral interim government.[17] If, as has been argued, their intention was to prevent "the predominantly Sunni and Pushtun-dominated Peshawar (Pakistan)-based parties from taking over power," their hope was to be disappointed. [18]

Building a Northward Thrust, 1992-1999 

Clearly the Northern Alliance was now in a stronger position vis--vis the Pakistani government. For Pakistan the situation just as clearly represented a setback. Islamabad's reaction was to follow a double track of negotiate and fight. Officially Pakistan stuck to the proverbial "high road," participating in negotiations encouraging the formation of a broad-based interim government for Afghanistan. Islamabad had to acknowledge the Northern Alliance's control of Kabul by conceding the position of president to Burhannudin Rabbani, head of the Tadjik-dominated, Pakistani-based Jamiaat Party. Since this, or any other arrangement not giving Pakistan the control it sought was unsatisfactory, the "fight" component was meant both to improve the negotiating outcome and to produce the desired result more definitively.

The Rabbani government never represented more than a fragment of the Afghan political spectrum, and never actually controlled much of Afghanistan. After 1996 it did not even control Kabul or much of the north. The April 1992 Peshawar Agreements setting it up had tried to placate Islamabad by reserving the prime ministership for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. It did not work because Gulbuddin was asking for the removal of Massoud as defense minister and the subordination of Rabbani to himself.[19] When that failed to work, he launched attacks against Kabul. The other parties of the Northern Alliance, including General Dostum who had played a major role in the fall of the Communist regime and in the capture of Kabul, were also left out of major positions in the interim agreement. The end result was that by the beginning of 1994 Dostum had allied himself to Gulbuddin, and together they launched another major attack on the capital, which ultimately failed. From Islamabad's standpoint, the negotiate-while-fight-via-proxy approach was not working. Thus in 1993 Pakistan began to seek an alternative to Gulbuddin.

The fundamentalist Taliban came to public attention as major players in October, 1994. From its inception as a motley grouping, the Talibans, or "students," seemed to come principally from fundamentalist Muslim schools of one the major Pakistani fundamentalist parties, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islami (JUI). Its beginning can be traced to 1980, when a series of such schools (madrassas) were set up "in the Kunar Valley in order to create a belt of deeply religious groups close to the Afghan-Pakistani border."[20] These were meant to help resist further Communist advances and help the Mujahiddin against the Soviets.[21] Until 1994, however, they had remained inconsequential.

The Taliban appeared as a military and political force first in the western province of Kandahar, then in the south, southwest and east. Much of their rapid initial progress occurred with little or no fighting; with local commanders either joining or yielding to advancing Taliban bands. It would seem that the Pakistani ISI had had a good deal to do with that relatively effortless advance by persuading the various commanders to shift sides.[22]

Islamabad's technique, noted earlier, had been to rely on Afghan fundamentalists. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was also connected to the Pakistani JUI fundamentalist party closely associated with Pakistani governments since the rule of President Zia. The post-1994 policy relied on a fundamentalist Afghan party, itself closely connected to a rival Pakistani JUI fundamentalist party. The latter aligned itself in 1993 with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The PPP had recently emerged the winner in elections and had returned Benazir Bhutto to the prime ministership. The JUI, marginalized until then, finally gained access to the ISI and the military and government generally. The transition from the earlier support for Gulbuddin to an even stronger commitment to the Taliban was not instantaneous. It appears that the Taliban's cause was first taken on by General Nasirulah Babar, the interior minister, and only later in 1995 by the ISI.[23]

The capture of an important arms depot outside the town of Spin Boldak early in the Taliban's advance provides an excellent, if ironic, illustration of Islamabad's policy shift. The depot had belonged to Gulbuddin and was guarded by troops from Pakistan's Frontier Corps, under the control of the Interior Ministry, and therefore of the Taliban's earliest apparent advocate within the government. The guards were simply instructed to walk away, leaving the Taliban in control.[24]

The Taliban were just as, if not more fundamentalist than Gulbuddin. They also had the promise of a certain popularity that did not seem threatening. Led by "barely literate mullahs,"[25] they had a simplistic view of Islam focused almost exclusively on the Koran and on "a very narrow concept"[26] of Sharia (Islamic Law). They never developed a program of any sort beyond the vague objective of implementing Islamic law and creating a religious (in their conception) Islamic society. The Taliban's appeal to things spiritual, its claim not to monopolistic tribal power but to Afghan unity, resonated powerfully in the Afghanistan of 1994. Yet because those strengths were not accompanied by solid military or political capabilities, the Pakistani leadership was confident that the Taliban would remain dependent on Pakistan. The existence of many different groupings, many with traditions of enmity, no doubt translated into yet another lever for Islamabad. The Taliban included not only different Pushtun tribal groupings, but a significant number of former Communists. One 1997 report stated that "most of the Taliban commanders leading offensives for the past two years have false names,"[27] that gave former Communists identities more in keeping with their new persona as fundamentalist leaders. Some, like General Mohammed Gilani, a Khalqi who had just been named the Taliban's head of anti-aircraft defense, had been in the Afghan Communist army until 1992.[28] As one well-informed observer wrote: "By the time the Taliban captured Kabul, their entire air force and a large section of their armour and heavy artillery were being manned by former Khalqis."[29]

In addition, Pakistan helped the Taliban with fighting men: "Between 1994 and 1999 an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan."[30] Nevertheless, it was not until September 1996 that the Taliban were able to seize the capital. Once they went beyond Pushtun territory, their progress slowed down. A split within General Dostum's camp, combined with Pakistani subversion, facilitated the initial capture of the northern key city of Mazar-e-Sharif in 1997. However, Northern Alliance forces quickly retook the city. Still, the Taliban's progress toward militarily subduing all of Afghanistan continued through 1998 and into 1999. By the end of the latter year, however, the Talibans had lost ground. What had looked like an irresistible march in 1997 was beginning to look like the return of stalemate.

End of the Northward Thrust and the Return of Stalemate 

"The Taliban is on the decline..[it] is kind of falling from its own weight," said Richard Murphy, a former assistant secretary of state in charge of the region.[31] Or, as another observer put it, "the Taliban. has passed its high water mark. It is now disintegrating, echoing the rapid rise and fall of similar religious movements in Afghan history."[32] A more accurate assessment would be that a stalemate within Afghanistan is coinciding with a wider, regional stalemate. Rather than abandon the Taliban in favor of another alternative, Pakistan is likely to react to its unmitigated failure by following the failed Soviet example and increasing its direct involvement. This would similarly provoke an explosion of open Afghan resistance. And since Talibani - and Pakistani - actions have already generated destabilizing trends in the region, such an implosion could have major consequences on the wider international system.

In order to see why this may be so, it is necessary to examine the reasons for the Taliban's (i.e. for Pakistan's) inability to follow its initial successes to victory, thereby also exploring the nature of the internal and regional stalemates.

The Nascent Internal Afghan Stalemate. The Taliban's main claim to allegiance was its emphasis on Afghanistan as a whole, as well as on Islamic spiritualism. Its promise was, above all, to bring peace and better economic conditions. Under the abysmal conditions of 1994, few looked carefully beyond the shallowness of that promise. What mattered was the fact of an alternative. In giving the Taliban the positive reception they did, the Afghan Pushtuns were not "voting for" the Taliban. They were "casting their ballots" against the existing order. An apt analogy here would be to the earlier voting in Algeria, stopped by the government when it realized that the fundamentalists were winning. Whatever else was involved in that situation, it is certain that the vote was essentially meaningless as anything but a protest against the corruption of the existing government. Deprived of any other means of expressing their frustrations, people expressed themselves through the only means available.

There was another fundamental weakness: the Taliban's exclusive reliance on the Pushtuns. Thus, Islamabad was repeating Soviet mistakes in reverse geographical direction. A policy of such necessity spelled either protracted conflict or a division of the country into two distinct new entities. Neither would allow Pakistan to achieve its cherished objective of opening a new major trade route into Central Asia. It is possible that Islamabad might think of dividing the country and thus gain some strategic depth. Such an option would be another mirroring, again in reverse geographic direction, of another earlier and more systematic Soviet design.[33]

Were that to be the objective, it too would be unreachable. First, the Afghans themselves - both north and south - would be unlikely to accept such a solution. Despite years of war and divisive techniques used by all comers, one of the surprising factors in Afghanistan is that all groups continue to think of themselves as Afghans. Many object strenuously even to mention of the possibility of a divided Afghanistan.[34] Second, it is doubtful that the neighboring states would accede to such an extension of Pakistani influence. Third, because the Taliban continue to control a large portion of the north, there is a far greater incentive for continued military pressure to gain the rest than there is for compromise and withdrawal.

Fourth, The Taliban has proven incapable of managing the territory under its control. Instead of genuine spiritual concerns, Afghans have been confronted by a brutal, highly simplistic notion of Islam. Some Pakistani observers, preferring to cite Western sources on this sensitive subject, have tellingly quoted descriptions of Taliban controlled areas as a "terrifying picture of puritanism at a brutalizing extreme. A place governed by illiterate teenage boys." And again, giving the opinion of an "elderly scholar" in the western city of Herat, "we are ruled by men who offer us nothing but the Quran, even though many of them cannot read."[35] The Taliban, to the extent they are known in the Western world, have become associated with the repression of women for their ban on most women working outside the home or girls attending school. They have issued fatwahs (religious edicts) covering the most minute aspects of collective and individual life. These have apparently gone to the extremes of forbidding women from wearing white socks or bans on kite flying,[36] not to speak of the bans on television or the taking of pictures. These edicts have been enforced with beatings, and in the case of capital crimes with instant public executions. These and other excesses have taken their toll. Not only has finding soldiers become more difficult for the Taliban, but its fighters have actually been leaving its ranks and returning to their tribal areas.[37] However, there is no real alternative. Pakistan, past master in the art of "divide and rule," has contributed to that. Hence, as far as the internal situation is concerned, the likelihood is of a continued stalemate. One observer has actually written that "Islamabad works toward maintaining the state of war to weaken its Afghan ally."[38]

.And its Regional Consequences 

In some ways, one could say that Afghanistan has functioned for Pakistan as Lebanon has for Syria (and to some extent for Iran). Lebanon, which, for all intents and purposes is a Syrian dependency, has served to deflect direct blame and military retaliation against Syria for what are Syrian, and/or Iranian sponsored or tolerated terrorist actions. The rationale there has been that the groups operating from Lebanese territory are independent groups that neither Syria nor Iran control, and that therefore there is not much these states can do to stop them. While Syria admits to sympathy for the goals of these groups, it denies actively supporting or directing them. And, as everyone knows, the Lebanese government is powerless to control these terrorist groups. The presence of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, the basing of terrorist groups active in many parts of the world, are by now well-known facts, as is the active support of the Taliban for them.[39]

Examples of this type abound. Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who is wanted in Uzbekistan for complicity in the attempted assassination of that country's president, was given refuge in Afghanistan. The Taliban has refused demands of extradition for him by Uzbekistan as they have for Osama Bin Ladin from the United States. But the Taliban has also allowed him to run a "military training camp" near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif and several miles from the Uzbek border.[40] In this camp are trained "militants" from Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, Kirghiztan, and separatist Uigurs from the Chinese province of Xinjiang. The Chinese have claimed that weapons seized from Uigurs have come from Afghanistan. There are also close links between the Taliban and Abd el Rahman Khattab and Chamil Bassaiev, leaders of the insurrection against Russia in Daghestan in 1999. Uigurs have been involved in Yuldashev's and Bin Ladin' operations.[41] Among the major users of this Afghan sanctuary have been the groups participating in the fight against India in what Pakistan sees as occupied Kashmir.

As is Syria in the Lebanese case, both the Taliban and Pakistan have denied any connection with these groups' activities. They have repeatedly proclaimed their opposition to terrorism. A recent headline in a Pakistani paper summed this up well: "Kabul, Islamabad reaffirm opposition to terrorism: Taliban stick to stand on Bin Laden."[42] Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, "Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Afghanistan," in a press conference following a meeting in Islamabad with General Parvez Musharraf, the Pakistani leader, acknowledged that the Bin Ladin issue had come up. "Yes, the matter was raised," he said. "But Afghanistan is a free Islamic State and Osama is our guest." He also added "that Afghanistan had declared terrorism illegal and against human rights," and that it "would not be permitted in his country." Answering a question on the growing international pressure being applied to Pakistan on the issue of terrorism and Bin Ladin, the Taliban official replied that Pakistan had asked that Afghanistan resolve the issue. "But," he said, "Afghanistan is an independent state, and we take our decisions ourselves."[43]

What seems clear is that this situation has allowed Pakistan - so far at least - to actively support these groups and their activities while using the "plausible deniability" technique whenever one of the consequences of these terrorist acts becomes uncomfortable. Even if it were true that Pakistan lacks minute control on either the Taliban or the groups engaged in terrorist activities, that is largely irrelevant. Pakistan has created the overall conditions for the existence and perpetuation of this form of terrorism. Day to day control is not a necessity, and the ability to put some distance between oneself and the actual perpetrators provides useful cutouts and a certain degree of plausibility to denials of complicity.

Pakistan has nowhere near any of the capabilities of the Soviet Union when it launched its doomed southward thrust through Afghanistan. Not only is its power much smaller, but Pakistan, unlike the Soviet Union does not have a core state with long and solid traditions extending for centuries. Created just over fifty years ago out of disparate ethnic and tribal groupings, it has continued to face active sectarian tension and violence. That violence, including killings between Sunnis and Shiites, has increased in recent years. The military coup that overthrew its government in 1999, was in response to popular disaffection with the inefficiency of the government, its corruption, and the lamentable state of the economy. Yet it too undertook its own thrust into Afghanistan. Could the stalemate in Afghanistan be but a prelude to the collapse of Pakistan?

In some ways Pakistan finds itself with a more serious situation than the Soviet Union did at a similar point. In undertaking its northward thrust, and in choosing the "Taliban Option" when the earlier approach was failing, Islamabad embarked upon a no less dangerous path. The switch from the relatively small operation of the Islamic fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to the much bigger operation of the even more radical Taliban was more than just one of scale. By launching a very active intervention in Afghan affairs by Pakistani fundamentalist parties, that policy choice provided a major opening for a spread of fundamentalism back into Pakistan.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto even referred to the trends set in motion as the "Talibanisation" of Pakistan.[44] In making that characterization, Bhutto was also accusing then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of abetting the process and encouraging the lawlessness of Pakistani fundamentalist groups, that were already being heavily influenced by Taliban ideas and practices. There is little doubt that the charge against Sharif had merit. Sharif had introduced measures to make Islamic law the law of the land and in a November 1998, speech he openly called for the "introduction of instant Taliban-style justice in the country." Sharif had said that "today in Afghanistan crimes have virtually come to nought.. I want this kind of justice system in Pakistan."[45] From all available evidence, Sharif did not need to provide much encouragement. There was a growing number of instances of such summary justice by local mullahs taking the law into their own hands. These have involved mobs destroying video stores, storming police stations on the local mullahs' urging, threatening to "break the legs" of Afghan and Pakistani women if they marched in Peshawar to protest the treatment of women in Afghanistan. They have also included summary capital punishment by "Islamic courts" made up of tribesmen who refused to go through the established legal system.[46]

By the end of 1998 Pakistani fundamentalist "neo-Taliban" groups had spread throughout the Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan. By July 1999 they were already extending their presence in the provinces of Punjab and Sind, as was evidenced by the participation of some six to eight thousand Pakistanis from these two provinces in the Taliban summer offensive.[47] Pakistani fundamentalists have also borrowed techniques used by Muslim radicals in other Muslim countries. Taking advantage of the sometimes abysmal failure of the state to provide adequate basic services, these fundamentalist groups have stepped into the breach and offered such things as free education and health care. In Pakistan as elsewhere, these techniques have often proved successful in generating significant popular backing for these radical movements. The JUI and other fundamentalist parties have become the chief recruiters for the thousands of Pakistanis sent to fight alongside the Taliban.

The talk of Afghanistan as a base for terrorists to some extent hides the fact that while the base is Afghan, key players are often from Pakistani extremist parties. Yet, even in Pakistan, "Muslim militancy" is "increasingly internationalized."[48] One account cites one of these Pakistani extremist groups' (the Lashkar-e-Taiba's) claim that "300 of its 'martyrs' have been killed fighting alongside local Islamic forces in Afghanistan, Tadjikistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Lebanon, and half a dozen places it wasn't willing to name."[49] The list of course also included Kashmir.

Just as interesting in light of Pakistan's protestations of innocence concerning terrorism, is the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian airliner by terrorists fighting the Indian presence in Kashmir. Islamabad indignantly denied initial accusations by India that Pakistan was behind the hijacking. Yet evidence has mounted that, as an official U.S. statement declared, "a terrorist group supported by the Pakistani military was responsible for the hijacking."[50]

The group in question, Harakat ul-Mujahedeen, had changed its name from Harakat ul-Ansar after having been placed on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations. The Taliban, who portrayed themselves as innocent bystanders in the hijacking, in fact have close ties to the hijackers. In July 1999 that group, during a press conference in Lahore, Pakistan was openly claiming that their fighters were deployed on several fronts in Afghanistan "under the direct orders of Mullah Omar," the head of the Taliban.[51] The openness of these groups, their ability to act freely and widely, attests to their influence and to the at least tacit support of the Pakistani power structure.

The spread of Islamic fundamentalism has increasingly come to include the Pakistani army. Many of the junior officers in the army are now said to come from madrassas rather than from elite colleges. Some 30 percent of the army's officer corps are said to be "militantly Islamic and sympathetic to calls by religious parties for an Islamic revolution in the country."[52] Musharraf himself, soon after having been named army chief of staff in October 1998, "promoted to key positions several officers with close links to fundamentalist parties."[53] Given the above, it is perhaps not too surprising that General Musharraf rebuffed U.S. officials who had asked him during a January 2000 meeting to ban the Harakat ul-Mujahedeen.[54] And neither is the conclusion of an "Asian ambassador from a Muslim country" with regard to Pakistan: "there is an explosion here waiting to happen.. In Indonesia or Turkey you have the army and the middle class who still uphold secular values, but here the army will not resist an Islamic movement and no party is willing to stand up against fundamentalism."[55]

The "Taliban Option," coming as it did partly as a result of shifts in Pakistani politics, themselves intertwined within an ascending spiral of corruption and governmental inefficiency, meant falling into an endless series of concessions to extremist parties. After a certain point it probably becomes difficult even for the policymakers to know whether a particular decision is a conscious policy act or merely another mollification. The consequences of Islamabad's policy for Pakistan already are serious, and fraught with major risks just ahead.

Internationally the situation is not better. Afghanistan is completely isolated. Recognized by only three countries (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), it has managed to alienate an assortment of countries not necessarily found on the same side of issues. The United Nations in 1999 imposed sanctions on the country because of its stand on terrorism, thus further isolating it. Its position as the largest producer of heroin in the world, with Taliban controlled territory contributing 90 percent of that, has not enhanced its status.[56] The Taliban's recognition of the Chechens in 1999 has not enhanced its reputation with the Russians or the Indians. Neither did the foray into Kyrghiztan from Afghan territory by an Uzbek Islamic leader in August 1999. With Iran tensions remain also - notwithstanding periodic mentions of negotiations and improving relations. The killing of Iranian diplomats by the Taliban when it seized the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e- Sharif in August 1998 had brought the two countries to the brink of war. While Tehran is well aware that it cannot afford to become involved in an Afghan conflict, its minimal objective of blocking Pakistan remains one it can pursue at relatively little cost. The greatest source of pressure and danger for Pakistan remains India. Islamabad's ill conceived Kashmir adventure last summer, by provoking an armed confrontation with India, once again raised tensions that had only recently abated. The hijacking of the Indian airliner have brought these tensions to a new high. The refusal of the Pakistani government to outlaw the Pakistani extremist group linked to it only adds to the recklessness of recent Pakistani actions.

Conclusion 2000 and Beyond: Chaos.or Breaking Out of the Mold? 

Pakistan's strategy has depended on walking an impossible tightrope. On the one hand it needs a peaceful Afghanistan for the construction of pipelines into Pakistan for its desired trade, and for commercial routes to Central Asia. On the other hand, its neurotic fear of any Afghan independence has led to it actually encouraging something akin to "controlled chaos." Along with other surrounding states, it is unfortunate that the only major point these states have seemed to agree on has been the perpetuation of conflict.

The continuation of the Afghan conflict is not desirable for any of these entities. Pakistan and the Central Asian states suffer the most. The latter because they can ill afford further sources of destabilization while fending off continuing Russian attempts at re-absorption. Pakistan, because it cannot win militarily in Afghanistan, and because if it escalated Soviet-style it would not only lose, but quite possibly disintegrate in the process. It is likely that even without such a massive escalation, the very inconclusive prolongation of the war would continue to tear at the already frayed fabric of Pakistani society and precipitate a similar fate. Yet as was pointed out earlier, Pakistan has not shown any signs that it recognizes its quandary. On the contrary, whatever evidence there is points the other way, to a further increase in its Afghan commitment.

Yet all of the above notwithstanding, and perhaps because of the negative overall state of affairs, the moment presents a unique opportunity to escape pre-set patterns and move toward a long term stabilization of the situation in and around Afghanistan. Clearly Pakistan is the key to a resolution. But no solution can be arrived at without the active participation of the other interested states.

The double stalemate of the Afghan conundrum - within and around Afghanistan - makes it impossible for any state or combination of states to impose its will on the others. The stalemate, far from being a hindrance to a settlement, is an important element making one possible. The central stumbling block to a solution is the unwillingness of the states involved to recognize the situation confronting them. It is for this reason that external intervention is crucial.

Only the United States has this capability. It, too, cannot unilaterally bring about a conclusion. It can, however, act as a lever. For that, however, Washington must first recognize the nature of the situation and come to grips with the fact that any undertaking will require a certain constancy of attention. American power and influence in this region remains enormous. The very fact that terrorist groups change their names when put on a State Department list, and that India should bother to request that Pakistan be put on such a list, testifies to the impact of even relatively small measures.

It will be important to keep in mind that, unlike in past negotiations, the Afghans should not be ignored, but should be central players in determining their fate. A solution must include the long delayed genuine self-determination for the Afghans, by the Afghans. An Afghan government that has the support of the people, that has genuine legitimacy, need not be a threat to Pakistan or to anyone else.

An ultimate resolution of the conflict will need to take into account the rightful interests of surrounding states. It will be based on the recognition that while none of the states can have all that it wants, all of the states, through compromise, can define a common basis for understanding, and common rules of the game. These rules of the game in turn will allow a realization that each state involved stands to gain if it is willing to accept less than everything; if it is willing to share instead of to exclude. In the final analysis, something is better than nothing.


[1] Jason Goodwin, "The Playing Fields of Asia," book review of Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia, by Karl Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac (Washington: Cornelia and Michael Bessie/Counterpoint, 1999) in The New York Times Book Review, January 9, 2000.

[2] Stephen J. Blank, Why Russian Policy is Failing in Asia (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 1997). The author writes about the Yeltsin administration's chaotic policies and speaks of the "de-insitutionalization" of the state. He discusses various "structural weaknesses" of the state and writes that "these weaknesses not only undermine the center's ability to govern, formulate, and implement policy, they also erode the foundations of control over regional governments (pp.1-2).

[3] Of the various interested entities, China continues to remain more on the sidelines, giving its preferential relationship with Pakistan continued priority over the Afghanistan issue.

[4] For an excellent discussion of this American failure to pay attention, see Leon Poullada, "The Road to Crisis, 1919-1980," in Rosanne Klass, ed., Afghanistan: The Great Game Revisited (New York: Freedom House, 1987), pp. 37-70.

[5] Ibid., p. 42.

[6] Army General Ivan Pavlovsky (as reported in Literaturnaya Gazeta, September 20, 1989) who had gone on an assessment tour of Afghanistan in August 1979, is cited as having said there was "no need to send troops to Afghanistan." As cited in Elie D. Krakowski, "Red Star Over Afghanistan," Global Affairs, vol.5 no.2 (Spring 1990), p.113. General Pavlovsky's assessment is also cited in Cynthia Roberts, "Glasnost in Soviet Foreign Policy: Setting the Record Straight?" Radio Liberty, Report on the USSR, vol. I, no. 50, December 15, 1989. Much of the discussion on the Soviet-Afghan war here is drawn from the author's "Red Star Over Afghanistan."

[7] The initial troop strength of 85,000 was ultimately raised to some 120,000.

[8] See on this Anthony H. Cordesman and Abraham R. Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War, Volume III: The Afghan and Falklands Conflicts (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990), p. 26. See also General (Ret.) Mohammad Yahya Nawroz, Army of Afghanistan, and LTC (Ret.) Lester W. Grau, U.S. Army, "The Soviet War in Afghanistan: History and Harbinger of Future War?" (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office, 1996).

[9] As Bernard Malhuret (of the French Medecins Sans Frontieres) observed in a Foreign Affairs article "Report from Afghanistan," (Winter 1983/84) the Soviets were no doubt aware that a guerrilla is to the population as a fish is to water (Mao Tse Tung's expression).

[10] Not that there were no brutal acts of war, but the techniques used systematically in the south were employed here mostly only in retaliation for Resistance attacks.

[11] For a more detailed discussion of these arguments, see Elie D. Krakowski, "Afghanistan: The Strategy of Dismemberment," The National Interest, Number 7 (Spring 1987), and the fuller treatment of that subject in the author's "Afghanistan and Soviet Global Interests," in Klass ed., The Great Game Revisited, pp.161-186.

[12] Elie D. Krakowski, "US Policy on Afghanistan," in Richard H. Shultz, Jr., Uri Ra'anan, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr., William Olson, Igor Lukes, eds., Guerrilla Warfare & Counterinsurgency: US-Soviet Policy in the Third World, (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1989).

[13] The New York Times, November 29, 1987.

[14] Ibid.

[15] John F. Burns, "Afghans: Now They Blame America," The New York Times Magazine, February 4, 1990.

[16] Samina Ahmad, "The Crisis of State Legitimacy," in Lt.Gen. (Ret.) Nishat Ahmad, ed., Afghanistan: Past, Present, & Future (Islamabad, Pakistan: Institute of Regional Studies, 1997) pp. 11-75.

[17] Ibid., p.54.

[18] Ibid., p.55.

[19] Amin Saikal, "The Rabbani Government, 1992-1996," in William Maley, ed., Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban (New York: New York University Press, 1998), p.33. On the rift between Massoud and Gulbuddin, see Peter Marsden, The Taliban: War, Religion and the New Order in Afghanistan (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.40.

[20] Former Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General Mirza Aslam Beg, as cited by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Kamal Matinudddin , "The Taliban Phenomenon in Afghanistan: Genesis, Prospects, and Impact on the Region," in K.M. Asaf and Abul Barakat, eds. Central Asia: Internal and External Dynamics (Islamabad, Pakistan: Institute of Regional Studies, 1997), p.82.

[21] On the early appearances of small groups of fighters already under the name of Taliban, and on already existing Pakistani awareness and training of these and other Mujahedeen, see Anthony Davis, "How the Taliban became a Military Force," in Maley, Fundamentalism Reborn, p.45.

[22] Stephanie Allix, "Instabilite persistente en Asie Centrale: De la resistance a la prise de Kaboul, l'histoire secrete des talibans," Le Monde Diplomatique, January 1997, pp.4-5.

[23] Ahmed Rashid, "Pakistan and the Taliban," in Maley, Fundamentalism Reborn, p.85.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ahmed Rashid, "The Taliban: Exporting Extremism," Foreign Affairs, (November /December 1999) p.22.

[26] Olivier Roy, "Un fundamentalisme sunnite en panne de projet politique," Le Monde Diplomatique, October 1998, pp. 8-9.

[27] Allix, "Instabilite persistente en Asie Centrale," p.5.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Rashid, "Pakistan and the Taliban," p. 87.

[30] Rashid, "The Taliban: Exporting Extremism," p.27.

[31] Barbara Crossette, "As Hijacking Drama Plays Out, Views on Taliban Shift," The New York Times, December 30, 1999.

[32] Peter Tomsen, "A Chance for Peace in Afghanistan," Foreign Affairs, (January/February 2000), p.179.

[33] See discussion above on period of 1979-1989.

[34] The author encountered this sort of reaction from a number of Afghans from various tribal groupings and political persuasions during an extensive fact-finding mission in the summer of 1998.

[35] John F. Burns of The New York Times, as cited in Matinuddin, "The Taliban Phenomenon," p.88.

[36] Roshan Zamir, "Deoband Opposes some of Taliban Beliefs," The Nation, Pakistan, March 11, 1998.

[37] Tomsen, "A Chance for Peace," p.180.

[38] Allix, "Instabilite persistente," p.5.

[39] The U.S. State Department latest annual report Patterns of Global Terrorism 1998 (April 1999), p.9, describes the situation as follows: "Islamic extremists from around the world - including large numbers of Egyptians, Algerians, Palestinians, and Saudis - in 1998 continued to use Afghanistan as a training ground and a base of operations for their worldwide terrorist activities. The Taliban.facilitated the operation of training and indoctrination facilities for non-Afghans and provided logistical support and sometimes passports to members of various terrorist organizations. Throughout 1998 the Taliban continued to host Osama Bin Ladin, who was indicted in November for the bombings in August of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa."

[40] Ahmed Rashid, "Les talibans au coeur de la destabilisation regionale," [http://monde-diplomatique.fr/1999/11/RASHID/12663.html], November 1999.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Dawn, Pakistan, February 2, 2000.

[43] "Kabul, Islamabad Reaffirm Opposition to Terrorism: Taliban Stick to Stand on Bin Laden," [http://www.dawn.com/fixed/arch/arch.html].

[44] Ahmed Rashid, "The Talibanisation of Pakistan," Daily Telegraph, December 28, 1998.

[45] Ahmed Rashid, "Raise the Crescent," in Far Eastern Economic Review, December 3, 1998.

[46] Rashid, "The Talibanisation of Pakistan."

[47] Ahmed Rashid, "Les talibans au coeur de la destabilisation regionale," [http://monde-diplomatique.fr/1999/11/RASHID/12663.html], November 1999.

[48] Rashid, "Raise the Crescent."

[49] Ibid.

[50] Jane Perlez, "U.S. Says Pakistan Backed Hijackers of Indian Jetliner," The New York Times, January 25, 2000.

[51] Francoise Chipaux, "Une offensive generale des talibans contre l'opposition afghane se dessinerait: Le soutien pakistanais aux maitres de Kaboul s'est renforce," Le Monde, July 28, 1999.

[52] Rashid, "The Talibanisation of Pakistan."

[53] Rashid, "Raise the Crescent."

[54] Perlez, "U.S. Says Pakistan Backed Hijackers."

[55] Rashid, "Raise the Crescent."

[56] Barbara Crossette, "Afghan Heroin Feeds Addiction in Region, U.N. Report Declares," The New York Times, March 1, 2000. The report notes that Afghanistan "is also becoming a major manufacturer of heroin, which is contributing to a rise in addiction throughout the region." Another report specifies the opium production for 1999 as 5,070 tons, or about 75 percent of the global yield (Barry Bearak, "Distress in the Opium Bazaar: 'Can't Make a Profit'," The New York Times, March 3, 2000).

 

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