- Civil war in Afghanistan (1989-1992)
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Afghan Civil War (1989-1992 period)
Afghan Civil War
result=Collapse of the
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
combatant2= flagicon|Afghanistan|1992 Mujahideen
Ahmed Shah Massoud, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
casualties1=5,500 killed, more than 20,000 woundedFact|date=October 2007
casualties2=65,000, estimated 80,000 woundedFact|date=October 2007
notes=The 1989 to 1992 phase of the
civil war in Afghanistanbegan after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving the Democratic Republic of Afghanistanto fend for itself against the Mujahideen. After several years of fighting, the government fell in 1992.
Civil war after the departure of Soviet troops
Military assets of the Afghan government
After the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, the U.S. intelligence agencies expected the PDPA regime to collapse within three to six monthscite news |first= Norm|last=Dixon |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Revolution and counter-revolution in Afghanistan |url=http://www.greenleft.org.au/2001/475/24709 |work= |publisher= [http://www.greenleft.org.au www.greenleft.org] |date=2001-12-12 |accessdate=2007-07-27 ] .
However, this estimation did not take into account several assets available to the government. The first of these was the large quantities of military hardware donated by the Soviet Union. In 1989, the army and pro-government
militias still had 1568 tanks, 828 armoured personnel carriers, 4880 artillerypieces, 126 modern fighter-bombers and 14 attack helicopters. Also, the DRA continued to receive massive aid from the Soviet Union, valued at two to six billion dollars a year, and Soviet military advisors were still present in Afghanistan. [Marshall, A.(2006); "Phased Withdrawal, Conflict Resolution and State Reconstruction"; Conflict research Studies Centre; ISBN 1 905058-74-8 [http://www.defac.ac.uk/colleges/csrc/document-listings/ca/06%2829%29AM.pdf] ] The government forces also came to rely on the use of large quantities of Scudmissiles: between 1988 and 1992 more than 2000 of these were fired inside Afghanistan, the largest amount of ballistic missiles used since World War II. This considerable amount of firepower was sufficient to keep the mujahideen at bay.
Another strength of the DRA were the pro-government
militias, of which the most effective was Abdul Rashid Dostum's Jozjani militia, officially called 53rd infantry division. Numbering 40,000 men drawn from the Uzbek minority, it took its orders directly fom Najibullah, who used it as a strategic reserve. After 1989, this force was the only one capable of carrying out offensive operations. [Marshall, p. 3]
Battle of Jalalabad
By the spring of 1989, the Afghan government showed no signs of falling apart, and the American and Pakistani supporters of the mujahideen decided to hasten its demise. An operation was planned, under the impulsion of U.S. ambassador to Pakistan
Robert B. Oakley, and the newly-appointed head of the ISI, General Hamid Gul, to capture Jalalabad. This switch to conventional warfare was seen as a mistake by some mujahideen leaders such as Abdul Haq, who considered that the mujahideen did not have the capacity to capture a major city. [Kaplan, Robert D. (2001); "Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan And Pakistan"; Vintage Departures; ISBN 1-4000-3025-0, p.166] Instead Haq advocated the pursuit of guerilla warfare, that would gradually weaken the regime and cause it collapse through internal divisions. But the Americans and the Pakistanis both wanted a conventional victory, each for their own reasons. The Americans wished to humiliate the Soviets, and send them out of Afghanistan "clinging to their helicopters", and thus avenge the American setback in Vietnam. The Pakistanis were intent on installing a fundamentalist-dominated government in Afghanistan, with Jalalabad as their provisional capital. [Kaplan, p.178] The Afghan Interim Government, which they supported, had Abdul Rasul Sayyafas Prime Minister and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as Foreign Minister.
The attacking force comprised 10,000 men, mostly Afghans with some foreign fighters and supported by a number of captured
T-55tanks. The attack began in March 5, 1989, and went well at first for the mujahideen, who captured the village of Samarkhel and the Jalalabad airfield. However, they were soon blocked by the main Afghan army positions held by the 11th Division, that were protected by bunkers, barbed wire and minefields. The government troops could count on intensive air support, as the Afghan air force flew up to 100 to 120 sorties a day over the battlefield. An-12transport aircraft, modified to carry bombs, flew at high altitude out of range of the Stinger missiles used by the mujahideen; cluster bombs were used intensively. Three Scud firing batteries, deployed around Kabul and manned by Soviet troops fired more than 400 missiles in support of the Jalalabad garrison. Despite their imprecision, these weapons had a severe effect on the morale of the mujahideen, who could do nothing to prevent them.cite web
last= Yousaf, Mohammad and Adkin, Mark
title="Afghanistan - The bear trap - Defeat of a superpower"
Moreover, the mujahideen forces were divided among different factions, who proved unwilling or incapable of coordinating their actions. By the middle of May, they had made no headway against the defenses of Jalalabad, and were running low on ammunition. In July, they were unable to prevent the Afghan Army from recapturing Samarkhel, and Jalalabad was still firmly in the hands of Najibullah's government. The mujahideen suffered an estimated 3,000 casualties during this battle. [Marshall, p.7]
Contrary to U.S. and Pakistani expectations, this battle proved that the Afghan Army could fight without Soviet help, and greatly increased the confidence of government supporters. Conversely, the morale of the mujahideen slumped and many local commanders concluded truces with the government. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Rebels without a cause |url=http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/asia/afghanistan/segment_8-29-89.html |work= |publisher=PBS |date=1989-08-29 |accessdate=2007-07-27 ] In the words of Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, an officer of the ISI, "the
jihadnever recovered from Jalalabad".
As a result of this failure, Hamid Gul was sacked by Pakistani Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto. He was replaced at the head of the ISI by General Shamsur Rahman Kallu, who pursued a more classical policy of support to the Afghan guerillas.
The government forces further proved their worth in April 1990, during an offensive against a fortified complex at
Paghman. After a heavy bombardment and an assault that lasted until the end of June, the Afghan army, spearheaded by Dostum's militia, was able to clear the mujahideen entrenchments. [Marshall, p.7]
The only significant success obtained by the resistance during these years was the capture of
Khost. After an eleven-year siege, the city fell to Jalaluddin Haqqani's mujahideen on April 11, 1991, following a negotiated surrender of the garrison. [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query2/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+af0119) "The Demise of the Soviet Union, 1991"] - Library of Congresscountry studies - Retrieved on 2007-08-21.]
Growing weakness of the Najibullah regime
Despite its military successes, the communist regime was still plagued by its traditional internal divisions, namely the opposition between the
The DRA defense minister,
Shahnawaz Tanai, disagreed with Najibullah's policy of National Reconciliation with the mujahideen. Also he had become convinced that his Khalq faction was losing its share of power in favour of Najibullah's Parcham. For these reasons he entered in secret negotiations with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and plotted against Najibullah. Launched on 6th March 1990, his coup failed, despite almost killing Najibullah, and Tanai was forced to flee to Pakistan, where he joined Hekmatyar. A severe repression followed, as Najibullah ordered the army to be purged of Tanai's supporters. In the ensuing fighting, several airports were bombarded, damaging 46 military aircraft. [Marshall, p.8] This episode reinforced Najibullah's suspicions and led him to govern through his personal allies rather than the government apparatus, further deepening the rift between Khalqis and Parchamis.
By 1992, Afghanistan was in dire straits. Reserves of
natural gas, Afghanistan's only export, had dried out since 1989, rendering the country completely dependent on Soviet aid. This amounted to 230,000 tons of food per year, but by 1991, the Soviet economy was itself faltering, preventing the Soviets from fulfilling their commitments.
In August 1991, following his arrival in power,
Boris Yeltsinannounced that all direct assistance to Najibullah's regime would be curtailed. In January 1992, the Afghan Air Force, which had proved vital to the survival of the regime, could no longer fly any aircraft through lack of fuel. The army suffered from crippling food shortages, causing the desertion rate to rise by 60 percent between 1990 and 1991. [Marshall, p. 8]
The pro-government militias that had grown to replace the army in many of its assignments, were faithfull to the regime only so long as it could deliver enough weapons to enable them to conserve their power. With the end of the Soviet aid, the government could no longer satisfy these demands, and the loyalty of the militias began to waiver.
Finally, after negotiations between Dostum and
Massoud, the Jozjani militia defected to the mujahideen. This reversal of fortunes effectively turned the tables in favour of the rebels, and forced Najibullah to resign. [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+af0120) "The Fall of Kabul, April 1992"] - Library of Congresscountry studies - Retrieved on 2007-07-26.]
Fall of Kabul
Collapse of the communist regime
All through the war, high-ranking communist officials had been secretly negotiating with mujahideen commanders belonging to the same ethnic group, passing on information and striking minor deals. With the end of the Soviet Union, Najibullah's regime lost all credibility, and these low-level arrangements became full-blown political understandings, causing entire government units to defect to the various mujahideen factions, according to the connections of their leaders.
In mid-January 1992, Ahmad Shah Massoud was aware of conflict within the government's northern command. General Abdul Momim, in charge of the
Hairatanborder crossing at the northern end of Kabul's supply highway, and other non-Pashtun generals based in Mazari Shariffeared removal by Najibullah and replacement by Pashtun officers. The generals rebelled and the situation was taken over by Dostum, also based in Mazar-i-Sharif. He and Massoud reached a political agreement, together with another major militia leader, Sayyed Mansour, of the Ismailicommunity based in Baghlan Province. These northern allies consolidated their position in Mazar-i-Sharif on March 21. Their coalition covered nine provinces in the north and northeast. As turmoil developed within the government in Kabul, there was no government force standing between the northern allies and the major air force base at Bagram, some seventy kilometers north of Kabul. By mid-April the air force command at Bagram had capitulated to Massoud. With no army to defend it, Kabul had become completely defenseless.
Najibullah lost internal control immediately after he announced his willingness on March 18 to resign in order to make way for a neutral interim government. As the government broke into several factions the issue had become how to carry out a transfer of power. Najibullah attempted to flee from of Kabul on
April 17, but was stopped by Dostum's troops who controlled Kabul International Airport. Najibullah then took refuge at the United Nationsmission where he remained until 1995. A group of Parchami generals and officials declared themselves an interim government for the purpose of handing over power to the mujahideen.
Major cities and military bases began to surrender all over the country: Kunduz fell on April 17, along with
Shindand Airbaseand the whole of Helmand Province. On April 20, Jalalabad finally surrendered, followed by Kandaharon the 21st, and Gardezon the 22nd. [De Ponfilly, Christophe (2001); "Massoud l'Afghan"; Gallimard; ISBN 2-07-042468-5, pp.404-405]
Race to Kabul
Massoud was now poised to enter Kabul, but the mujahideen leadership in Peshawar had no plan to take power. A new regime was hastily cobbled together, formed with a Supreme Leadership Council, and a transitory presidency that was given to
Sibghatullah Mojaddedifor two months, after which Burhanuddin Rabbaniwas to succeed him. Hekmatyar was given the post of Prime Minister, but he did not accept this state of affairs, based on Massoud's military preeminence. His Hezbi Islamiforces began to infiltrate Kabul, and struck an alliance with Raz Mohamed Paktin, commander of the Ministry of Interior troops. This forced Massoud to advance on the capital, lest it fall completely in the hands of Hezbi Islami. [cite news |first= Mark|last= Urban |authorlink=Mark Urban |coauthors= |title=Afghanistan: power struggle |url=http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/asia/afghanistan/afghan_4-28-92.html |work= |publisher=PBS |date=1992-04-28 |accessdate=2007-07-27 ]
The different Mujahideen groups entered Kabul from different directions. Hezbi Islami made the first move and entered the city from the south.
Hekmatyarhad asked other mujahideen groups such as Harakat-Inqilab-i-Islamiand Khalis factionto join him while entering Kabul, but they declined his offer. Hekmatyar's men had numeric superiority but lacked technical and strategic advantage. They were armed with light weapons such as AK-47s and RPG-7s. The Hezb had acquired some surrendered weapons from the Afghan Army on the way to Kabul but they were not sufficient. As they entered the city's southern sector, they faced no resistance. Hekmatyar aired a statement in the radio stating that the "lions had entered Kabul to liberate its people". The advance was slow and steady until the Jamiat Islamientered the city from the north.
Jamiat Islami had seized massive amount of weapons while overrunning the garrisons in
Bagram, Charikar, Takhar, Kunduz, Fayzabad and other northern cities. Adding to that, all the forces of Junbish Millihad aligned themselves to the Jamiat, and the Parchamgovernment of Afghanistanhad decided to surrender all its weapons to Jamiat, instead of Hezb. All the Parchamis had fled abroad through the Jamiat controlled areas. Jamiat had seized massive stockpiles of heavy weapons such as T-62and T-55tanks, Scud missiles and MiG-21s.
The Hezb forces were very far from key points of the city such as the Presidential Palace, Prime Minister's office,
Kabul International Airport, the Defense Ministry and many other important government offices, and much of the city lies in the North Bank of the Kabul River. The Jamiat forces quickly took control of these strategically important offices. Although Hezb forces got to the gates of Ministry of Justice and had got control of Ministry of Interior, they were quickly repulsed after bombing from the Afghan Air Force, which was supported from artillery shells fired from TV Tower onto Jade Maiwand. Hundreds of Hezb Fighters were killed or taken prisoners including some foreign fighters.
In the western sector of the city, the Hezb forces crossed the
Kabul Riverand arrived at the northern bank after taking control of the Karta-e Seh area. While charging towards the Kote Sangi and Kabul University, Sayyaf's forces attacked Hezb forces from the Ghazi School area in a surprise move, and the Hezb forces were separated into two groups after being cut off by Jamiat forces. Throughout the night, the exhausted and demoralized forces of Hezbi Islami, fought on, some to the bitter end. After suffering heavy casualties, Hezb forces in the southern bank fled out of Kabul towards Logarand deserted their positions. There were two choices for the Hezb Forces who were surrounded in the Northern bank of the Kabulriver, either to surrender or to fight to the death, and most of them chose the latter. Heavy shells were fired in the areas which they were holding. Many civilians fled, but those who were caught in the cross fire were not so fortunate.
Kabul came completely under Jamiat control on
April 30, 1992, but the situation was far from stabilized. The Hezbi Islami had been driven out, but they were still within artillery range, and soon started firing barrages of rockets into the city.
Also, when the mujahideen overran
Pul-e-Charkhi prison, they set free all the inmates, including many criminals, who were able to take arms and commit gruesome exactions against the population. [De Ponfilly, p.405] With the government institutions either collapsing or participating in the factional fighting, maintaining order in Kabul became almost impossible. The scene was set for the next phase of the civil war.
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