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Afghan Civil War - 1992-1995

Collusions between military leaders quickly brought down the Kabul government. In mid-January 1992, within three weeks of demise of the Soviet Union, Ahmad Shah Massoud was aware of conflict within the government's northern command. General Abdul Momim, in charge of the Hairatan border crossing at the northern end of Kabul's supply highway, and other non-Pushtun generals based in Mazari-i-Sharif feared removal by Najibullah and replacement by Pushtun officers. The generals rebelled and the situation was taken over by Abdul Rashid Dostam, who held general rank as head of the Jozjani militia, also based in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Worried over the prospect that the continuing turmoil might embroil themselves in the Afghan conflict, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran put pressure on the mujahidin leaders to find a political solution. In Islamabad on March 7, 1993 they reached yet another agreement. Rabbani was to continue as president until June, 1994; Hekmatyar was to resume the prime ministership, the Leadership council was to be terminated--as Rabbani had attempted to do in December--and all parties were again to be represented in the cabinet. All three neighbors endorsed the agreement as did the Organization of the Islamic Conference. To reinforce their new commitment the Afghan leaders visited Mecca and the three neighboring capitals.

Two days afterwards the Wahdat recommenced rocketing government areas. Disputes over selection of the cabinet and an attack on Rabbani when he attempted to meet Hekmatyar in a Kabul suburb negated the agreement.

Hekmatyar now demanded the removal of Massoud from the government and the setting up of commissions representing all parties in the ministries of Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs. Rabbani insisted on having the right to veto Hekmatyar's choices for the cabinet. Hekmatyar launched a major attack on April 24, which continued until mid-May. The mujahidin council governing Jalalabad then hosted a three-week conference in which leaders of all parties were confined within the conference building with much public pressure to reach an agreement.

On May 18, 1993, the previous agreement was essentially re-instated. Additional refinements authorized Hekmatyar to chair a commission governing the Interior ministry, with two commissioners appointed from every province. Rabbani was to chair Defense with a similarly unwieldy commission. This charade was to ensure that Massoud's authority would be swamped and he formally resigned, apparently leaving government for a short period. A new high council of party members and notables also was reinstated, presumably to oversee Rabbani.

Rabbani had been politically outflanked. For the first time his forces suffered significant setbacks in the Darulaman and adjacent southeastern sections of Kabul. Wahdat induced defections from the pro-government Shias led by Sheikh Asif Muhseni and there were further defections from former DRA units. Rabbani appeared cornered. At this point, the momentum appeared to shift again. In April, Massoud's forces had consolidated control of the highly strategic Shomali region north of Kabul. Rabbani's powerful regional commander, Ismail Khan, extended his authority from Herat to include much of Helmand Province in the south by reaching alliances with Durrani affiliated commanders. This strategy enabled him to drive out forces allied with Hekmatyar.

Meanwhile Hekmatyar demonstrated his well-known caution by refusing to enter Kabul. He preferred the command center he had created at Charasyab. Arrangements , but many were missing and refused to go to Charasyab to conduct government business.

Despite the devastation Hekmatyar and the allies he gained in 1993 and 1994 were not able to defeat the government defenders. In January 1993 he was joined by the Shia Hezb-i-Wahdat faction led by Abdul Ali Mazari, who had Iranian backing and the support of many Shia residents living in the western sector of Kabul. On several occasions Mazari's forces and Rasul Sayyaf's Wahhabi followers engaged in vicious battles in Kabul's western outskirts. Dostam also came to Mazari's assistance. In turn Sayyaf sided with Rabbaani's forces led by Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Throughout the rest of 1993 fighting near Kabul was reduced to occasional rocketing, except for heavy fighting between Sayyaf and Mazari's Wahdat over the proposals for applying the Sharia in the proposed constitution. Sayyaf was chair of the drafting commission. Meanwhile there was much political maneuvering. Dostam visited Kabul in July, allegedly impressed by the defense the government had mounted. There were rumors his impressive military establishment at Mazar-i-Sharif was running out of funds and he had fallen out with his major ally, Sayyid Mansor of the Kayan (Ismaili) militia, who controlled much of strategic Baghlan Province. Dostam saw Massoud and he also met Hekmatyar. In August Massoud, himself, extended a wary hand to Hekmatyar.

These intrigues ended abruptly with 1993. In the new year, Hekmatyar and Dostam mounted their joint assault on Kabul and also on Massoud's position in the northeast. The government's defenses held through five months of fighting and then counterattacked in June. Rabbani hung on to his shrinking legitimacy as president, and a quest for a political solution began in earnest.

Continual fighting over Kabul began, punctuated by assaults made by relatively small forces employing firepower never dreamed possible by the mujahidin in their guerilla phase. Short-range missiles with heavy explosives did most of the damage. They wreaked devastation, killing far more civilians than combatants. By early 1994 the city had been reduced to a shambles. Neighborhoods, mosques, and government buildings had been destroyed. A vagabond government shifted between surviving buildings. During the heaviest fighting it operated from Charikar, sixty kilometers to the north.

A year later Hekmatyar overcame his loudly expressed contempt for Dostam as an ally of the communists and formed a tripartite alliance with him and Mazari. They organized the Shura-i-ala Humaagi inquilab-i-Islami Afghanistan (Supreme Coordination Council of the Islamic Revolution in Afghanistan).

On January 1, 1994, they launched the most devastating assault so far mounted against Kabul. It took several thousand lives and reduced Kabul's population below 500,000 (it had reached more than 2 million late in the Soviet war). During the first week government units lost ground in both Southwestern and Southeastern Kabul, but soon regained most of their positions. Massoud led an offensive in June which drove Hekmatyar's rocket units off two strategic hills. Sporadic fighting punctuated by rocket attacks on the city continued until early 1995.

As the fighting settled into a stalemate, several peace initiatives were attempted. The UN renewed its peace making role in April 1994. Leaders of the less powerful Mujahidin parties offered peace proposals. Ismael Khan, the government's powerful ally in Herat, hosted a large conference in July 1994 that agreed on a process for a transition to a new government. It was blocked by opposition from the Supreme Coordination Council and other commanders. Iran and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) hosted a poorly attended peace conference in Teheran in November. On December 28, 1994 the presidential term that Rabbani, himself, recognized lapsed. With no resolution of conflict and no consensus reached on a mechanism for transferring authority, he kept the office by default, pending a new political settlement to be engineered by the UN.



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