To begin to understand Afghanistan we need to look at the diversity of Afghanistan and its history. Present day Afghanistan borders six countries: Iran 936 km, Pakistan 2,430 km, China 76 km, Tajikistan 1,206 km, Uzbekistan 137 km, and Turkmenistan 744 km. With an area of 652,000 sq km it is 20% larger than France, 2.4 times the size of New Zealand, and 2.6 times the size of the United Kingdom. Population density is similar to New Zealand, a third of France, and just 13% of that found in the United Kingdom. The country has three distinctive regions. The northern plain (about 103,600 sq. km. or 16% of the country) is the principal agricultural area. The south-western plateau (129,500 sq. km., 20%) that includes the Rigestan Desert is largely desert and semi desert. An extension of the Himalayan mountain chain (414,400 sq. km., 64%), which includes the mountains of the Hindu Kush, often rising above 6,400 metres (21,000 feet) separates the northern and south-western regions. 12% of Afghanistan is arable compared to 56% in India, 9% in New Zealand and 6% in Australia.
Population & population growth.
The population of Afghanistan now, in 2001, stands at about 26 million with about 80% of the population rural and some 20% nomadic. Afghanistan has a high birth rate (the rate is about three times that of Australia and New Zealand and the average woman gives birth to 5.9 children), and has a high population growth rate with a doubling time of 24 years. Despite a high infant mortality rate that is about 26 times that of Australia and New Zealand, a short life expectancy of 46 years, and losses due to war and refugee migration, the population has continued to grow at a rapid pace. 42% of the population are younger than 15. With about 17 million people in 1986 (excluding 4 million refugees who had fled the country), the population has grown to 20 million in 1991 and 26 million in 2001. Population growth has put pressure on Afghanistan's food resources and drought and the destruction of agricultural land and loss of skilled farmers during the years of war have exacerbated the problem.
Ethnic diversity, linguistic and religious diversity.
Afghanistan is ethnically and linguistically diverse. The Pashtu speaking Pashtun, the traditional rulers of Afghanistan, are the largest ethnic group with over 12.5 million people, 48% of the population. They comprise about 60 clans of varying size and importance each occupying a particular territory. The most important clans are the Durrani and the Ghilzay. The next largest group are the Tajiks with more than 20% of the population followed by the Uzbeks and Hazaras at about 9% each. The remainder of the population includes Aimak, Baluchi, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Nuristani, Pamiri, and others. In general the Pashtun occupy the South Eastern areas bordering Pakistan, the Tajik's are concentrated in the North East, the Uzbeks in the North West, and the Hazaras in central Afghanistan while the Baluchi are found in the most southern areas. More than 30 languages are spoken. The major religion and a unifying factor in the country is Islam with 99% adherence: 84% are Sunni and 15% Shia. The majority of Hazara are Shia while the majority of the other groups are Sunni.
ome knowledge of the history of Afghanistan and the factors that have impinged on it is essential for anyone attempting to understand the country and its people. Because of its position, many Afghanis consider that Afghanistan is the centre of the world and believe that what happens in Afghanistan will impact on the rest of the world. Afghanistan lies on and controls the trade routes between North, Central, East, South, and West Asia including the ancient Silk Route. In the past much of the world's trade has passed through this area, as have explorers like Marco Polo.
Afghanistan became united under the rule of a personable and charismatic leader, Ahmad Shah Durrani (Durrani means pearl of pearls), in the early 1700s. He died in 1772 and his son Timur Shah, who shifted the capital from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776, succeeded him but tribal and family loyalties and the designs of Russia and Great Britain split the country. Peter the Great of Russia (1672-1725) had declared an interest in Afghanistan when he stated Russia's desire to open up a corridor through Afghanistan and Baluchistan to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. He and his successors sought to achieve this by conquest and other means. As the Russian empire moved south into Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan and the Russians increased their interest and influence in Persia and Afghanistan and some Afghani rulers sought to regain territory that they had once ruled in India the British became concerned that this was a threat to India. In what became known as the "Great Game" they sought to counter Russian influence. They invaded Afghanistanin the first Anglo-Afghan war of 1838-42 and this ultimately resulted in a massacre of the British forces in January 1842 and established the reputation of Afghanis as formidable fighters. The acceptance of a Russian mission in Kabul and the refusal of a British mission led to a second war in 1878 and in 1879 Afghanistan and Britain signed the treaty of Gandomak giving Afghanistan internal authority but Britain control of international policy.
Abdor Rahmin Khan (1880-1901) considered the founder of modern Afghanistan, ruled between 1880 and 1901. He was a cousin of the previous ruler, Yaqub Khan(1879), who went into exile following the murder of the British envoy and his escort in Kabul on 3rdSeptember 1879. Abdor Rahmin returned from exile in Central Asia and declared himself amirof Kabul. He then crushed over 40 revolts and fought some 20 wars against local leaders and convinced them that there was a central government in Kabul that must be respected. He began the modernisation of Afghanistan but also established a pattern of rule by force that was used as an example by those attempting to gain control of Afghanistan in the late 20thcentury. The respect that he gained was sufficient to ensure that after he died in 1901 his son Habibollah I was able to succeed him without the usual fratricidal fighting.
Between 1883 and 1895 Britain and Russiaset the boundaries of modern Afghanistan and the Durand line, that divided the Pashtun ethnic group in two, was established to mark the border for the maintenance of law and order, not as an international boundary, between British India and Afghanistan.
During World War I Afghanistan under Habibollah Khan (1901-1919) remained neutral but on 20 February 1919 he was murdered and Amanullah, his third son who had married a daughter of the Afghan nationalist Mahmud Beg Tarzi, seized power. Forces of Amanullah Khan (1919-29) attacked British troops in India in May 1919 resulting in a third and inconclusive Anglo-Afghan war lasting a month. As a consequence the Treaty of Rawalpindi was signed on 8 August 1919, and amended in 1921, making Afghanistan a fully independent state. Before the final document was signed Afghanistan concluded a friendship treaty with the new Bolshevik regime in Russia and through this Afghanistan became the first nation to recognise the Soviet Union.
Afghanistan was still largely a feudalistic kingdom with much of the power devolved to tribal chieftains who maintained their own armed forces. In 1921 Afghanistan signed friendship treaties with Russia, Turkey, Italy and Persia. King Amanullah Khan, who had changed his title from amirto padshah(king) in 1923, sought to continue the modernisation of Afghanistan and end his countries isolation. He toured Europe and Turkey in 1927 and was particularly impressed by the modernising and secularising reforms of Atatürk in Turkey and decided to introduce similar reforms ? the first schools for women were established. Most tribal and religious leaders, however, had never been outside Afghanistan and were alienated by some of his attempts at reform, like the banning of the veil (wearing the veil had never been compulsory and was not practiced in all areas) and the introduction of co-educational schools. Civil war broke out in November 1928 and without the backing of a central army he wasforced to abdicate on 14 January 1929 in favour of his elder brother Inayatollah. Amanullah went into exile in Italy and died in Zurich in 1960.
During the civil war that followed Kabul was taken by a Tadzhik folk hero called Baccheh Saqow (meaning: "son of a water carrier") who proclaimed himself Habibollah Ghazi (Habibollah II) amirof Afghanistan. Mohammad Nader Khan, a distant cousin of Amanullah, and his brothers overthrew Habibollah Ghazi and executed him and 17 of his followers on 10 October 1929. A tribal council was called and proclaimed Nader Khan (1929-33) king and all opposition was extinguished. A new constitution was promulgated in 1931, based on the 1923 constitution of Amanullah but amended to appease Islamic religious leaders and the national economy now began to grow.
On 8thNovember 1933 King Nader Shah was assassinated and his 19-year-old son Mohammad Zahir Shah (1933-73) came to power. Zahir Shah sought to continue the modernisation of the country but aware of Amanullah Khan's forced abdication took a cautious approach. A mutual trade agreement was signed with the USSR in 1936 and a friendship treaty with the USA. From 1946 to 1953, under Prime Minister Shah Mahmud, there were free elections and a relatively free press and a Liberal parliament. In 1953, Lieutenant General Mohammed Daoud Khan, the King's brother in law and first cousin, backed by religious and conservative elements became prime minister. He introduced some reforms including the abolition of purdahand allowed women to join the workforce. A request was made to the USA for help to establish a modern central army but President Eisenhower, who was still dealing with the Korean problem, declined assistance saying that the USA had enough commitments so Daoud, despite misgivings, turned to the USSR who willingly took up the offer giving both economic and military aid. Army officers from Afghanistan travelled to the USSR where they received both military and political training and more than 50% of the army's officers were trained this way. The USSR became Afghanistan's largest aid and trade partner.
Daoud supported the reunification of the Pashtun people under Afghanistan, the Pashtunistan problem, but this would involve taking a considerable amount of territory from the new nation of Pakistan. With the creation of an independent Pakistan the Durand line had become an international border dividing the Pashtun people. In 1961, to discourage Pashtun reunification efforts Pakistan closed its borders with Afghanistan causing a crisis and greater dependence on the USSR and the USSR became Afghanistan's principal trading partner. The crisis was finally resolved with the forced resignation of Daoud in March 1963 and the opening of the border in May. The Pashtunistan problem was not resolved and persists to this day.
In 1964 King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal constitution endorsed by a LoyaJirga(Great National assembly of Notables) that created a constitutional monarchy and a two chamber parliamentary system: women were given equal rights and elections were held in 1965 and 1969. This parliamentary system produced few lasting reforms but gave rise to a proliferation of political parties including some extreme parties on the left and the right and fundamentalist Islamic parties. Politics became increasingly polarised and there were five prime ministers between 1965 and 1972 and various struggles for power developed.
Despite this, education was producing a new educated middle class in the major cities and the country was making some progress both socially and economically. By the 1970s, 40 percent of the doctors in major cities, 60 percent of teachers, and more than half of the students at Kabul University, were women and women served as ministers in the government and as representatives at LoyaJirgameetings.
Afghanistan was non-aligned and the King played off the Soviets and the Americans and developmental aid was received from both. The Soviets built roads from their borders to the major cities in the North while the Americans constructed roads in the south. Some Afghanis marvelled that the Soviet built Salang tunnel leading to Kabul was large enough to take tanks and other military vehicles. With the development of the roads many heavy transport vehicles following the old trade routes and tourist buses began to pass through Afghanistan. But Afghanistan had become a dependent state and some 40 percent of state revenues came from international aid during this period.
Differences of opinion over the rate of reform arose and a drought in 1971-72 led to poor economic performance and allegations of corruption against the Royal family. In an almost bloodless coup aided by left wing elements, including civil servants associated with the Parcham (Banner) party and the Soviet trained army officers, Daoud seized power on 17 July 1973 while the King was in Italy for an eye operation. Daoud declared the monarchy and the 1964 constitution abolished and himself president and prime minister of the new republic. The pace of reform increased and socio-economic reforms were promulgated but Daoud failed to achieve economic stability and unity satisfying neither the extremists of the left or the right. Arguments continued over both the pace and direction of the reforms. Democracy was curtailed and there was little public representation except through the now largely nominated LoyaJirga. A new constitution backed by a Loya Jirgahwas promulgated in February 1977 but failed to satisfy all the factions. Daoud sought to increase relationships and trade with other Muslim countries and made a tentative agreement with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on a solution to the Pashtunistan problem.
It was during this period that various mujaheddin (Islamic fundamentalist freedom fighters) factions were formed but Daoud, aided by leftist army officers and Babrak Karmal and his small, urban based, Parcham(Banner or flag) party set out to crush them and in 1975 the leaders fled to Peshawar in Pakistan where they were welcomed by prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who intended to use them as a counter to Daoud. Exiled leaders such as Gulbuddin Hikmetyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Ahmad Shah Masud were later to emerge as the leaders of the mujaheddin resistance to the Soviets.
Pro-soviet communists of the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) split into two factions in 1967 but with Moscow's help reunited in 1977. They became concerned that Daoud was reducing Afghanistan's dependency on the USSR and increasing its links to the Middle East and Pakistan and united against Daoud. They promoted public unrest, public demonstrations, and political assassinations. Daoud responded by eliminating communists from the government and arresting troublemakers. Fearing arrest the deputy leader of the Khalq(Peoples) faction of the PDPA, U.S. educated Hafizullah Amin who was born in Kabul in 1929 and held a masters degree from Columbia University in New York, contacted communist elements in the army and a coup was hastily arranged for the 27-28 April 1978. This time blood was shed, Daoud and his family were assassinated along with the presidential bodyguard and more than 200 years of rule by members of the royal family and Durrani clan ended. After several days of wrangling the secretary general of the PDPA, Nur Muhammad Taraki, a Marxist scholar born in Ghazni in 1917, became prime minister. Hafizullah Amin and Babrak Karmal, leader of the Parchamfaction, became deputy prime ministers and the Khalqand Parchamfactions split the government positions between them. Members of the Maoist Shurli Javidwere excluded from power.
The leaders of the new government denied that they were a communist government, insisted that they were not controlled by the Soviet Union, and said that their government was based on Afghan nationalism, Islamic principles, socio-economic justice, nonalignment in foreign affairs, and respect for all agreements and treaties signed by previous Afghan governments. A new friendship treaty was signed with the Soviet Union and the new government began to push through reforms along Soviet lines. Decrees were issued abolishing usury, changing marriage customs, giving equal rights to women, land reform, and administrative changes. Listening to these decrees announced on the radio in classic Marxist-Leninist rhetoric the largely illiterate population (more than 68% were illiterate), that relied on the radio for news and were familiar with radio broadcasts from Soviet central Asia, were convinced that the new regime was a USSR puppet communist government. Opposition to the new government began almost immediately. Few people accepted that the PDPA had the divine right to seize power, abolish all chance of open democracy, and rule over the country by decree. They knew that the PDPA had only limited support in Afghanistan, had never been endorsed by popular plebiscite or Loya Jirgah, had seized power using the military and murdered Daoud and his family. The largely rural and poorly educated population did not understand the reforms but they were well aware of the Stalinist purges in the countries to the north of them and were concerned about their future.
Their fears were soon realised, the PDPA like many communist governments before them did not know that doing good does not justify doing harm. The PDPA wanted to eliminate any chance of an alternative government being formed and showed its darker side by responding to the unrest by arresting and torturing some 30,000 people ? members of the traditional elite, educated people like teachers, doctors, and lawyers; political leaders, tribal chiefs, and religious leaders. Many people disappeared but the western world remained largely ignorant of the purges. The borders were closed to Afghanis but refugees began to enter Pakistan and Iran. Convinced that no clear thinking person would oppose the communist government and their glorious April revolution called Saur, PDPA agents searched for CIA agents and arrested a hapless itinerant chess playing tourist named Sam Sloan from New York who was sightseeing in a VW. After some months Sam Sloan managed to escape from prison and took news of the daily executions to the US embassy where he says the real CIA agents stationed there did not believe his story. Despite this little reaction to the new government occurred until an uprising in Nüristän late in the summer of 1978. Other uncoordinated revolts followed and soon much of the country was in open revolt and periodic explosions were heard in Kabul and other cities.
The PDPA was beset with factional problems. After three months of the new government, Taraki sent the Parcham leaders to India, Iran and Turkey as ambassadors. Babrak Karmal became the Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and his mistress, Anahita Ratebzad, Ambassador to Yugoslavia, while Muhammad Najibullah became Ambassador to Iran. Taraki then began to purge Parcham members from his government with many being arrested and executed. Barbrak Karmal was recalled but went into hiding with Anahita Ratebzad in the Soviet Union fearing execution if he returned and Muhammad Najibullah followed them. Taraki then stripped them of all official positions.
Outside the USSR the world's governments were reluctant to recognise the new government and the position of US ambassador was left vacant. The Taraki government made repeated requests for the position to be filled. In August 1978, Adolph "Spike" Dubs was appointed and managed to negotiate the release of Sam Sloan who had been rearrested while attempting to leave the country but the new ambassador did not have long to enjoy his position. He was taken hostage by a group demanding the release of their relatives from Puli Charqi prison and held in a hotel room. The government responded by saying that none of the people named were being held, presumably because they had already been executed. Government forces under the command of Daud Taroon were determined that the hostage takers would not escape. On the 14thFebruary 1979 they fired AK-47s through the walls of the room killing everybody including the ambassador.
As opposition to the new government's rule spread the government became increasingly dependent on the military to control the population. Military assistance from the Soviet Union increased and Soviet bases were established in the country. A base was established at Herat but in March 1979 the population of Herat rose up against the Soviets and killed some 20 Soviet and hundreds of communist Afghan officers. In retaliation the Soviets bombed the city indiscriminately killing 20,000 people in a few days and reducing this 5,000-year-old city, regarded as one of the world's treasures, to rubble. On the 28 March Amin became prime minister but Taraki retained the posts of president of the Revolutionary Council and secretary general of the PDPA.
In a more peaceful moment, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border a camel
caravan stops for a rest in Balochistan after traversing the Rigestan desert.
Smuggling weapons, drugs, contraband, and people, has proved a lucrative
business during the last 23 years and supported this traditional means of
Photograph ? I B Middleton November 1999
Friction in the government continued and on the 14thSeptember 1979 an altercation took place in the palace between Taraki and his supporters and Amin and his supporters. A shot was fired at Amin hitting Taroon who stepped in the way. Amin supporters fired back killing Taraki. Amin now assumed leadership and carried out his own purges of the PDPA. Attempting to pacify the population he released a list of some 18,000 people who had been executed and blamed the executions on Taraki. Many people suspected it was only a partial list and did not believe that he would stop the arrests and executions so the unrest and open revolt continued. Many tribal leaders believed that the Russians had either already invaded or were about to invade. They stopped vehicles travelling through their areas looking for Russians and asked the drivers for donations to support their resistance to Soviet control. After a tourist was shot when a bus was stopped, the tourist buses that regularly travelled through Kabul and the Khyber Pass on the trip from Europe to India or Nepal and back began to avoid Afghanistan by travelling further south through Bam in Iran to Quetta in Pakistan.
The army was now in a state of collapse and had lost control of 22 of 26 provinces so Amin asked for and received additional Soviet military aid. While Amin was pro-Soviet he was also a nationalist and of independent mind and refused some Soviet advice on how to put down the revolt ? he hoped to increase international support for his government and made approaches to Pakistan and the USA for advice or help in re-establishing government control but help was not forthcoming. In turn the Soviets did not trust Amin because of his Afghan nationalism, independent mind, and American education and were concerned that the PDPA government could collapse in weeks.
On 24 December 1979, while the Western world was thinking of Christmas and the USA was still preoccupied with its hostages being held in Iran and reluctant to get involved in conflicts after the war in Vietnam, the Soviets, claiming that they were undertaking military exercises, invaded Afghanistan by air and using the roads that they had built more than a decade earlier. On arrival in Kabul they shot Amin who was waiting to welcome them and members of his family were also killed.
On the 27thDecember, Barbrak Karmal was flown in to take control of the government. Karmal, who had been involved in planning the coup against king Mohammad Zahir Shah in 1973 and Mohammed Daoud Khan in 1978, later announced that the government of Afghanistan had invited the Soviets in! It remained unclear as to whether the invitation had come from Amin or Karmal who held no position in the government when the Soviets entered Afghanistan and was not in the country. Karmal, who did not believe in letting facts stand in the way of a good story, also claimed that Amin had been overthrown in a coup but observers report that Amin was in full control until Soviet forces killed him and seized control. The Soviets held that the Brezhnev doctrine gave them the right to intervene in any country they had signed a friendship treaty with, or any country that had had a communist government, to ensure that the government remained communist and they did have reason to believe that the PDPA might loose all control of the country. This argument did not convince the majority of the population who had never agreed that the PDPA government was legitimate in the first instance or that the Soviets had the right to invade and determine their future for them. They saw the Soviets as invaders who had occupied their country. Nor did it convince the international community including China that had not recognised the PDPA government as legitimate ? only Soviet block countries supported the invasion. The international community protested and more than 60 countries boycotted the 1980 summer Olympic games in Moscow.
Barbrak Karmal, a founding member of the PDPA who was born in Kabul in 1929 and studied law at Kabul university, now blamed Amin for past errors and carried out his own purges of the PDPA eliminating Khalqis, but he was to have no greater success in restoring PDPA government control over the country. By the end of 1980 several regional groups had united inside Afghanistan to resist the Soviets and the Afghan army. The multitude of Afghani factions that relocated to Pakistan before or after the Soviet arrival now sought Pakistan's help and Arab money to repel what was to them and most of the world a Soviet invasion. General Zia responded by giving support to the various mujaheddin factions, except the Hazaras as they were Shia, at the expense of more moderate factions. It is believed that Moslem fundamentalists in Pakistan, as the fundamentalists in other Islamic countries had done, threatened to destabilise the military government if he did not support the fundamentalist factions. Zia had been involved in the expulsion of the Palestinians from Jordan and it is thought that he hoped to maintain some control over the mujaheddin by supporting a multitude of factions. Financial support was obtained from China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern sources and Middle Eastern countries openly recruited young men to send to Afghanistan to support the struggle. They sent many of their own young fundamentalists, perhaps hoping that they would not return, and this helped them to solve their own problems with fundamentalism and unemployment. Approaches were made to the USA for support and seeing that the mujaheddin were having some success the USA covertly channelled funding through the CIA ? between 1984 and 1988 about 46% of the total funding came from the USA. The resistance to the Soviets cost the USA four to five billion dollars between 1980 and 1990 while the Soviets spent some US $45 billion, or five times as much as the resistance, in their attempt to control the country.
Among the young Saudi recruits was Osama bin Laden, a committed young Moslem with ties through his large and wealthy family to the Saudi royal family. He was recruited by Saudi Intelligence to serve as their contact with the Saudi nationals fighting the Soviets. In Pakistan he met and was influenced by radical Islamic clerics who had earlier been expelled from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In Afghanistan he helped establish and organise training camps to train the recruits from Arab countries.
Soon the Mujaheddin controlled 80% of the country and government control was restricted to the larger cities and towns. But the Soviets who had much superior firepower were now able to put their own advice into practice and their response to the rebellion was brutal. In an attempt to drive the population into the larger towns where they could control them they indiscriminately bombed smaller towns and villages and mined or destroyed agricultural areas and irrigation systems. Some of these irrigation systems were thousands of years old. Large agricultural areas were rendered unusable and have yet to be recovered. This devastating war, little reported in the world's media, lasted from 1980 until 1988 and between 1.5 and 2 million Afghanis died, most of them innocent civilians, while the Soviets lost 15,000. The flow of refugees to neighbouring countries became a flood as millions of Afghanis fled into Pakistan and Iran resulting in the world's largest refugee problem. The refugees, a mixture of educated professionals, farmers, and others, reached a peak of 6.2 million in 1990 causing significant economic problems for Pakistan and Iran. Many who remained in Afghanistan were subjected to arrest and re-education and many young Afghanis who had little in common with the fundamentalist agenda of the mujaheddin saw them as heroes fighting to liberate the country from the oppression of the Soviets.
In May 1986 Barbarak Karmal resigned claiming poor health and moved to Moscow where he died on 3 December 1996. Muhammad Najibullah, chief of the Afghanistan secret police (KAD), replaced Barbrak Karmal and continued to rely on Soviet support. Najibullah, born in Kabul in 1947, graduated from Kabul University as a doctor in 1975 but never practiced medicine. As a member of the Parchamfaction he was sent to Iran as ambassador and then went into exile in Eastern Europe returning with the Soviets in 1979. As head of the secret police he was known for his brutality and ruthlessness. As president he adopted a more relaxed and conciliatory approach and reversed some of the previously enacted unpopular measures but he was generally despised and opposition to the Kabul regime continued.
Brezhnev died in 1982 and Gorbachev came to power in 1985. Under Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost(openness) the population of the Soviet Union began to question the rising death toll of Soviet citizens and the cost of the war, a war that had also soured Soviet relations with Islamic and other countries. Negotiations for Soviet withdrawal that began in 1982 finally produced an agreement between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1988 with the Soviet Union and USA acting as guarantors. Known as the Geneva Accords, the agreement called for US and Soviet non-interference in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the right of refugees to return without fear of persecution or harassment and the full withdrawal of Soviet forces by 15 February 1989.
The Soviets withdrew leaving the Najibullah government heavily armed. The USA stopped its funding causing problems for the Pakistan economy that had become reliant on the flow of money. The mujaheddin, who were not a party to the negotiations or the agreement, fought on for three years with reduced financial backing. General Rashid Dostram and his Uzbek militia supported the Najibullah government but in March 1992 they defected bringing about the final collapse of the government. The mujaheddin took Kabul and Najibullah took refuge in a United Nations compound.
But this was not the end, the mujaheddin started an Islamisation process and there were reports of rapes and atrocities as the undisciplined forces entered the city. To the better-educated and more modern people of the cities the mujaheddin were a primitive and destructive force ? they were not aware that worse was to come. The various mujaheddin factions sought to form a government but disagreements between the factions persisted and agreements were often dishonoured. Fighting broke out between the Tajik Jamiatforces of president Burhanuddin Rabbani and warlord Masud allied with the Uzbek forces of Dostrun on one side and the Pashtun Hezb-i-Islamiforces of prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Shi'a Hezb-i-Wahdatmilitia on the other side. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had been suspected of being in the pay of the Soviets at one time, was backed by Pakistan and now tried to establish control over Afghanistan. The fighting began in December 1992 and persisted intermittently through 1993, culminated in large scale fighting in Kabul and elsewhere in January 1994. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar shelled Kabul resulting in the destruction of parts of the city and tens of thousands of civilian casualties ? some estimates have put civilian deaths in Kabul as high as 60,000 during the 1990s. New waves of refugees left the country. During this period the central government had little control over the country and control fellto local warlords.
In accordance with the Geneva Accords the USA, Russia, and Western countries did not interfere in the power struggles going on in Afghanistan but Pakistan certainly did and China, Iran and perhaps other countries may have. Ironically, many Afghanis now blame the USA and the West for this failure to establish a stable government during this period saying that "we fought the Soviets for you but you did not help us when we needed it". A minute later, without seeing the contradiction, they will tell you with the same sincerity that if other countries were to leave us alone we would be able to establish peace in Afghanistan. Perhaps we should read into this that they resent the interference fromneighbouring countries that have attempted to exercise hegemony or suzerainty like Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and China, but that they would welcome help from the United Nations or the West to establish a stable government.
In the last months of 1994 the news media reported that a new force known as the Taliban had entered the conflict in Afghanistan. Many people were left wondering who they were and where they had come from. They had no previous history and were not a recognised mujaheddin force ? indeed it is important that they not be confused with the various mujaheddin groups that had fought against the Soviets. This was a different force.
The Taliban quickly captured Kandahar and large areas of southern Afghanistan. They were a group of youths from Pakistan ? the name Taliban is the plural of Tali meaning student. They initially came to Afghanistan to join a small vigilante force created by a little known village cleric known as Mullah Omar, an honorary title as he had failed his exams, in a small village near Kandahar. As thousands of students followed they soon grew into a formidable force.
Aged between 14 and 24 they were the students of Madrassas funded by the Saudi Arabian government and other Middle Eastern sources. These madrassas had originally been created to educate the children of refugees from Afghanistan, many of them orphans, but they also educated Pakistani children. Some of the refugee children had been born in Pakistan and had little or no knowledge of Afghanistan.
The education that these children received in the madrassas is of interest. In the early 1980s under the government of General Zia the public education system began to decline and General Zia channelled funding into madrassas of all sectarian persuasions. In 1971 there were 700 madrassas in Pakistan but during the Zia era the number expanded rapidly so that by the end of his time in 1988 there were 8,000 registered madrassas and 25,000 unregistered ones educating over half a million students. With the virtual collapse of the state education system the madrassas offered many poor parents the only opportunity for an education for their sons. The madrassas offered students free education, food, shelter, and military training in an all male environment. Many entered at the age of three and spent all their time there.
Afghan mullahs or Islamic fundamentalists ran the madrassas where barely literate teachers taught the Koran and the sayings of the prophet but these teachers had no knowledge of maths, science, history, or geography and were unwilling and unable to teach these subjects. The students did not understand Arabic but spent hours learning to recite the Koran by rote in Arabic! Meanwhile they learnt nothing of their tribe, their elders, or the complex mix of peoples that made up the towns and villages of Afghanistan. The students were not taught the history of their own country or even the story of the Jihadagainst the Soviets, nor did they have any knowledge of the traditional occupations of their forebears, such as farming, herding, or village crafts.
The students the madrassas produced were unlike the mujaheddin who could recite their tribal and clan lineages, who remembered their abandoned farms and valleys with nostalgia, and who could tell the stories and legends from Afghan history. These students had no self-knowledge, no knowledge at all other than their Islamic learning, and no skills. The madrassas students had little future ahead of them. They were destined to become jobless, and economically deprived.
Of particular interest are the madrassas of the Deobandi sect that was set up by the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam(JUI), a fundamentalist Islamic political party that had been founded by the Deobandis when Pakistan was established in 1947. The Deobandi sect, that had previously had little influence or presence in Afghanistan, was to become the primary religious and political influence on the Taliban. Semi-educated Pashtun mullahs who used Pashtunwali, the tribal code of the Pashtuns, to interpret Sharia, ran the madrassas and the education they gave bore little resemblance to the original Deobandi reformist agenda. As the Deobandi were sympathetic to the Wahabbi creed of Saudi Arabia the Saudis were happy to fund them.
In the 1993 elections in Pakistan the JUI allied itself with the Pakistan Peoples Party of Benazir Bhutto and after the elections became part of the winning coalition government. Interviewed in late September 2002, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has told how she and her coalition government agreed to Pakistan backing and training the Taliban. The idea, which may have originated with the Pakistan Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) or the JUI, was that the Taliban, who sought only to establish peace in Afghanistan, could be used to oust the various warring mujaheddin elements, control the local tribal leaders, and warlords, and reunite Afghanistan. This would then enable a stable government to be formed and allow trade routes to be opened up through Afghanistan to central Asia and bring prosperity to the whole region, including Pakistan. As the Taliban were of Pashtun ethnicity, originated in Pakistan, and had no political ambitions the Pakistan government hoped to use them as a means of establishing hegemony over Afghanistan. Bhutto's government instructed the army to provide military training and assistance to the Taliban. Financial backing was sought and obtained from Saudi Arabia. Benazir Bhutto has also added that with the benefit of hindsight she believes that it was a mistake to back the Taliban.
Pakistan, with ethnic ties to Afghanistan through the Pashtun people, 20% of the Pakistan army are Pashtun, had previously sought to gain hegemony over Afghanistan through Gulbuddin Hikmetyar's Hizb-e-Islam, an ethnically Pashtun mujaheddin faction. After the fall of the communist government in 1992 Pakistan channelled funds and support to the Hizb-e-Islamfaction in an attempt to achieve this. Gulbuddin Hikmetyar carries the responsibility for most of the destruction of Kabul as he attempted to oust the other mujaheddin factions but by 1994 it was plain that Gulbuddin Hikmetyar had failed to gain control and had lost the confidence of most of the Pashtun people. When the Pakistan government turned to the Taliban, Gulbuddin Hikmetyar saw his support crumble before their advance and fled into Iran.
The madrassas students were happy to turn to war. With their narrow education it was the only occupation they could adapt to. The simple messianic and puritanic beliefs inspired by simple village mullahs were the only thing that gave their lives any meaning. Many were orphans raised in almost total isolation from women. They did not know mothers, sisters, or cousins. The mullahs had taught them that women were a temptation that would distract them from a life of service to Allah. Now they were happy to respond to the call from their teachers, to take up arms and to fight for an Islamic future. It did not matter to them that the people they were fighting were already Moslem fundamentalists. In many respects the Taliban were reminiscent of the Crusader orders that had fought against Islam many years before.
With funding from Saudi Arabia and equipped with satellite telephones for communication and Japanese pickup trucks for transport the Taliban made rapid progress. Traditional Afghan leaders and warlords believed in preserving their own lives and those of their men and in a conflict would often change sides to ensure that they were on the winning side ? they were pragmatists who were influenced by money and the Taliban used large amounts of Saudi money to buy them. Many Afghanis did not recognise the Taliban as an Afghani force for they were different, they believed in the path to an afterlife through their Jihadand unlike Afghanis would fight to the death to achieve it. As the Taliban advanced warlords and local leaders accepted money and surrendered to avoid possible death in a conflict.
The initial successes of the Taliban did not continue. Their progress slowed after they had captured the Pashtun areas and the mujaheddin factions of Northern and central Afghanistan stood up to them. In time neighbouring countries became concerned about the Taliban and the influence that they might have on their own countries. The Iranians backed the largely Shiah Hazaras of central Afghanistan against the Sunni Taliban while the Russians began to assist the Northern Alliance, who were still the recognised government of Afghanistan.
In 1996 the character of the Taliban began to change. Initially they had claimed no interest in forming a government saying that they sought only to restore law and order to enable a government to be formed. This changed when the normally reclusive Mullah Omar made a rare public appearance to take out from safekeeping and don the Cloak of the Prophet, an ancient cloak said to have been the cloak of the prophet Mohammad. He was then declared Amir-ul Momineen, Leader of the Faithful. This act, to his followers, effectively gave him a status close to that of the prophet making him infallible and putting his decrees beyond question. It became clear that the Taliban now considered that they were the government.
Exactly how Mullah Omar became the leader of the Taliban is uncertain but it is generally conceded that it is related to his vigilante efforts in his local village and to brain seizures that would occasionally cause him to loose consciousness. His naive followers believed that during these periods of unconsciousness he was communicating with god and that this made him a mystic. After he recovered he would issue new decrees that they believed came directly from god. Their early successes convinced the Taliban that god was on their side.
During 1996, the now renegade Osama bin Laden, looking for a country to take him in, returned to Afghanistan and began to influence Mullah Omar. Osama bin Laden had not been anti-West during the conflict with the Soviets but had since become more radical and convinced that the Islamic people must fight to overcome the Western nations and spread Islam to the world. He specialised in setting up training camps for terrorists and Islamic fighters and in financing terrorist operations and had established an alliance of terrorist organisations known as Al Qaeda. From 1994 to 1996 the Taliban had not been anti-West but it is reported that following bin Laden's arrival there were often all night discussions between Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda representatives and Mullah Omar and his Taliban leaders that swung the Taliban thinking toward that of the radical Islamists that were significantly anti-West. This is likely to have influenced the Taliban to form their own government: a government that was to follow the Saudi practice of religious police. Mullah Omar took one of bin Laden's daughters as his wife and allowed bin Laden to re-establish the Arab training camps that had been abandoned after the Soviet withdrawal. These camps were to train radical Moslems from the Middle East and other countries to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan, to fight in other conflicts, and to undertake terrorist activities internationally. In return bin Laden provided money and equipment and trained Arab and other international Islamic mercenaries for the Taliban war effort. As the symbiotic relationship developed bin Laden became known as the man who bought a country.
The Taliban captured Kabul in September 1996 and dragged Muhammad Najibullah from the United Nations compound where he had taken refuge, beat him to death, and hung his body. Having captured Kabul the Taliban now sought international recognition as the government of Afghanistan but only three governments ever recognised them, their original backers, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This desire for recognition for their great achievement in capturing most of Afghanistan and converting it to what they believed life was like a thousand years ago in Arabia was their only concession to international opinion. It soon became clear that the Taliban considered themselves answerable to nobody and the Pakistanis and the Saudis realised that they had little real influence over the Taliban. In time the Taliban were to show their disdain for all other Governments and the United Nations and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan became increasingly disenchanted with them. As Saudi support declined the Taliban became increasingly dependent on drug trafficking and Al Qaeda for financial support. Refugees continued to leave Afghanistan and increased drug production and trafficking led to increased addition in neighbouring countries. Pakistan had hoped to be the masters of the Taliban but ultimately became their victims.
The Human Rights abuses of the Taliban and their bizarre decrees were causing concern, as was their dependence on poppy cultivation. The only agricultural policy that the Taliban ever promulgated was to grow as much poppy as possible to fund their war efforts - production escalated rapidly and 97% of the 1999 opium production in Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban (this policy was suddenly reversed in mid 2001) - for the Taliban it was more profitable to grow poppy and buy food from Pakistan than to grow food in Afghanistan.
The Taliban had little interest in anything except their war effort and religious decrees. Like many religious fanatics they believed that god would provide - if people were hungry because of crop failure it was because someone had offended god! The religious police were sent to look for the offenders, the men who might have trimmed their beards or the women that may have made too much noise while walking, distracting the Taliban from god. They provided little in the way of real government. Their treasury was trunks full of money kept by Mullah Omar in his bedroom. He handed money out to district commanders when needed. Under their rule most of the government infrastructure of Afghanistan was destroyed and many of the people who had previously run government functions fled to Pakistan. The flow of refugees continued as Afghanis fearing persecution by the Taliban left. Refugees already living in the camps in Pakistan decided it was not yet time to return.
Taliban rule was characterised by the treatment of women, banning them from education, working, and shopping and compelling them to wear the burka. The confinement of women to their homes was a characteristic of small village life in the southern Pashtun areas and not of the towns and cities of most of Afghanistan. In the north the wearing of the burka was rare and in the cities women did not cover their faces in public. As the Taliban advanced they brought a new and foreign culture with them, a culture that was largely of their own invention and not recognised by most of Afghanistan or the rest of the Islamic world. Relatively modern and progressive cities like Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif were pushed back toward what the Taliban believed life was like at the time of Mohammad.
As a reward for fighting for the Taliban some mullahs would issue pre-signed marriage certificates complete in all details except for the name of the woman. When the young fighter found a woman of his liking he would find out her name and write it on the certificate and the marriage would be completed, despite the protestations of the young woman and her family. She would then be obliged under Taliban law to become the property of her husband and she and her family could be punished for resisting. Other reports have emerged of Taliban commanders coming into villages with trucks and loading them up with all the young women over the age of 10 or 12. They were then trucked off to Pakistan to be sold into the brothels.
With their harsh punishments, the public hangings in football stadiums, and the stoning of people to death, they did manage to largely pacify the country but as Kofi Annan was to say in early 1998, "In a country of 20 million people, 50,000 armed men are holding the whole country hostage". But things were to get worse. The Taliban did not take kindly to the resistance to their advance into northern areas. They considered this resistance to be against the will of Allah. The Taliban captured Mazar-e-Sharif in May 1997 but the population rebelled when they tried to introduce their bizarre laws and they were driven out of town. On the 8thand 9thof August 1998 the Taliban overran Mazar-e-Sharif for the second time. It was reported that at first they shot and killed everybody that they saw in the streets. The Taliban, who particularly disliked Shiahs, then resorted to hunting down and killing Hazaras. They also killed 11 Iranian diplomats almost precipitating a war with Iran. It is said that Mullah Omar sanctioned two hours of killing but the killing was extended to two days. The total death toll in these two days has been estimated to be between five and eight thousand. As the Taliban overran the villages of central Afghanistan they also killed an unknown number of Hazaras. Many thousands of innocent and unwilling Afghanis were conscripted and sent to the front lines to fight and die and many innocent people were executed by the Taliban for trivial reasons, including an unwillingness to be conscripted ? some villages had their entire male population executed when they resisted conscription, using telephones, and relatively minor breaches of Taliban law. The death toll from the Taliban invasion ran into many thousands and continued with thousands dying each year the war dragged on.
Attempts to link the USA to the formation of the Taliban seem to be more fantasy and wishful thinking than reality and hard evidence has not been found. The sources of two claims of US involvement have been traced to Iranian journalists and found to have no substance. The Iranians supported the Hazaras and wanted to believe that the USA was supporting the Taliban. The other claim is a rather nebulous argument that American funding of the mujaheddin between 1984 and 1988 somehow led to the creation of the Taliban in 1994. Again this link may have more to do with wishful thinking than reality as there are many much more significant factors leading to the creation of the Taliban. During the period 1994 to 1996 the USA had no official position on the Taliban and did not attempt to influence Pakistan's Afghanistan policy but after 1996 they became concerned about the Taliban and spoke out against them.
The change of policy was consolidated by the appointment of Madeline Albright, a fervent supporter of Human Rights, as Secretary of State in early 1997. On a visit to Islamabad on 18 November 1997 she said, "We are opposed to the Taliban because of their opposition to human rights and their despicable treatment of women and children and great lack of respect for human dignity." On 27 January 1998 Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and author, who has investigated this question of US support for the Taliban, interviewed the most senior US diplomat dealing with Afghanistan in Pakistan and this diplomat said, "The US acquiesced in supporting the Taliban because of our links to the Pakistan and Saudi governments who backed them but we no longer do so and we have told them categorically ?". Rashid reports that the US did not support the Taliban with finance or the provision of arms or ammunition but continued to support its traditional allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who did support the Taliban. He concludes that from 1990 to 1997 the US did not have a covert policy on Afghanistan, for a covert policy infers planning, funding, andtaking decisions, they just had no policy.
In the USA opposition to the Taliban increased as public understanding grew. The feminist movement led by activists such as Zieba Shorish-Shamley persuaded the Feminist Majority to lead a campaign to force president Clinton to take a strong stance against the Taliban and some 300 women's groups, trade unions, and human rights groups signed up. Mavis Leno, wife of comedian Jay Leno, pledged $100,000 and appeared before a Congressional hearing in 1998.
The Taliban became increasingly unpopular internationally as news of their bizarre medieval rule spread. For many people they were no more than a bizarre phenomenon in a remote part of the earth but responsible governments were becoming increasingly concerned about their human rights abuses and the terrorist training camps that they sponsored. They did however have some following among Islamic fundamentalists in other countries who admired the terrorist acts of Osama bin Laden and believed that the Taliban were an ideal form of government.
The Security Council took an increasing interest in Afghanistan. Resolution 1076 in October 1996 called on all parties fighting in Afghanistan to end the conflict and find peaceful solutions to their differences; an end to human rights abuses, particularly regarding the treatment of women; and called on all parties outside Afghanistan to cease interfering in Afghanistan and to stop the flow of arms. Resolution 1193 in August 1998 expressed concern at the increasingly ethnic nature of the conflict and specifically named the Taliban in relation to the escalation of violence, the killing of United Nations workers; the disappearance of the Iranian diplomats that were later found to have been killed in Mazar-e-Sharif; the cultivation and trafficking of drugs; harbouring terrorists; and the continued abuse of human rights and international humanitarian law, and warned that there would be consequences for those involved. Resolution 1214 in December 1998 reiterated these sentiments and specifically named the Taliban as the party refusing to take part in peace negotiations and as the major transgressor in all areas. In October 1999, Resolution 1267 stressed the continued concern of the Security Council for human rights abuses in Taliban controlled areas and demanded that the Taliban close all terrorist training camps and hand over Usama bin Laden who had been indicted for the bombing of United States Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya on 7 August 1998; and placed limited sanctions on the Taliban including banning of Aircraft operations and the freezing of Taliban funds. This was followed by resolution 1333 in December 2000 that again pointed out the involvement of the Taliban in the production of narcotics and involvement with terrorist training camps and demanded that they hand over Usama bin Laden immediately and close all training camps. This resolution gave a more comprehensive list of sanctions against the Taliban designed to stop their war effort and production of drugs. The Taliban's response was to ignore all the resolutions and to claim that there was no evidence against Osama bin Laden, despite comprehensive details of the evidence against him having been presented to them.
On 20 August 1998 the USA responded to the bombing of their embassies by firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at the training camps. In response Osama bin Laden declared a Jihadagainst the USA and called on all Moslems to kill Americans wherever and whenever they could. On 8 March 2001 the Taliban, ignoring protests from UNESCO and many nations and organisations around the world, including the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), dynamited and destroyed the Weeping Buddhas of Bamiyan, the world's tallest Buddha statues dating back to the 3rdto 5thcentury CE saying that they were un-Islamic. It was thought that this might have been done in part to intimidate the Hazaras who are presumed to have been responsible for their creation. Then in a surprise move they banned the cultivation of poppy, perhaps to deflect some of the international criticism that was being aimed at them.
The Taliban ended almost as quickly as they began. After September 11th, increased pressure was put on them to hand over Osama bin Laden. On 12thSeptember the Security Council passed resolution 1368 condemning the terrorist attacks and calling on all states to work together to bring the perpetrators to justice and to prevent and suppress terrorist acts. Pressure was put on the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden in accordance with previous Security Council resolutions. The Taliban responded by saying that he was a guest, that there was no evidence against him, and that they did not know where he was so could not ask him to leave. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations and Pakistan, the only country that still had diplomatic relations, sent envoys to try and reason with them and tell them what would happen if they did not comply. A group of senior Taliban mullahs met and recommended, subject to Mullah Omar's approval, that bin Laden be asked to leave the country and that another country be found to take him in. Almost immediately Mullah Omar overruled the suggestion insisting that bin Laden was a guest and must be protected.
On the 8thof October the USA and Britain began to bomb Taliban supply lines and Al-Qaeda training camps and houses and later the Taliban front lines. The United Nations issued press statements saying the nations concerned were acting in accordance with Chapter 7, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This bombing caused a significant shift in the balance of power. The Northern Alliance soon captured all the Taliban areas in the north and shortly after tribal warlords captured the south, all within 45 days. Apart from pockets of largely Al Qaeda resistance in the mountains, the Taliban were eliminated from Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance government resigned allowing a new United Nations sponsored government to be formed and after 23 years of war peace was restored. Most of the population, particularly in the Northern cities, welcomed the demise of the Taliban and the departure of their Arab supporters. Now for the first time since January 1980 the flow of refugees returning to Afghanistan significantly exceeded those leaving.
Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda plotters believed that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had led to the collapse and break-up of the Soviet Union and they believed that the Arab fighters had played a significant part in this. They hoped that their provocative action in demolishing the World Trade towers in New York would force the USA to invade Afghanistan and the Americans would become engaged in a similar expensive and costly war that would ultimately put an end to the USA as a superpower, just as it had done for the Soviets. They believed that an American invasion would result in an uprising by the people of Afghanistan against the invaders and a general mobilisation of the Islamic world against the Americans and the West. They also hoped that using Saudi Arabians and Egyptians for the September 11thhijack would split the American-Saudi and American-Egyptian alliances.
But they were wrong on almost every count. They had overemphasised the significance of Afghanistan on the break-up of the Soviet Union and their part in the Afghanistan resistance to the Soviets. The Americans did not carry out a general invasion of Afghanistan but used their aircraft to attack the Taliban allowing Afghanis to recapture their own country. While the majority of Afghanis had seen the Soviets as invaders that must be driven out the majority of Afghanis now saw the Americans and their allies as liberators from the Taliban and Al Qaeda who were the invaders and oppressors. There were limited demonstrations in favour of Osama bin Laden in some countries and against America but these generally represented a minority opinion and quickly subsided as the Taliban and Al Qaeda fell.
We can only hope that Afghanistan will now be able to establish a good working democracy and that it will not disintegrate into factional fighting again. While there are positive signs that a good future can now be achieved there are still adverse factors and forces working against the establishment of good democracy. Perhaps as a sign of good faith to the new government, Iran expelled Gulbuddin Hikmetyar's and his Hizb-e-Islamfrom Iran but Gulbuddin Hikmetyar and his organisation still exist and still have ambitions to become the government of Afghanistan and may be a significant threat to the stability of Afghanistan in the future. Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden were not found and a considerable number of Taliban and others sympathetic to their ideas are still in Afghanistan. The new government contains elements of the mujaheddin and may continue to be somewhat fundamentalist in character and many local chiefs and warlords still seek to maintain their own power. The madrassas of Pakistan continue to educate Taliban fundamentalists and Afghanistan is critically short of teachers ? without a good public education system in Afghanistan we may see madrassas established to provide similar fundamentalist education.
Afghanistan has a history of conflict: conflict between local tribes; conflict between those who seek to retain local autonomy and those who would seek to impose national unity; conflict between those who seek to modernise and liberalise the country and those who would seek to resist modernisation or even to push the country back into the past. When unity comes it has generally been to fight against those who are seen as outside invaders. Real progress and peace for Afghanistan is most likely to come when the majority of Afghanis seek it and minorities and outside parties no longer attempt to enforce their own agendas on a resistant population. r
References and acknowledgements:
This article has been compiled from a range of news media and reference sources including the BBC, Afghan Times, Country Watch, The Statesman's Yearbook, Encyclopaedia Britannica, the United Nations Security Council, Sam Sloan, and personal discussions with visitors to Afghanistan and people in neighbouring countries in 1999. The section on the Taliban draws on Ahmed Rashid's book, Taliban ? The story of the Afghan Warlords, 2001 and media reports.
Iain Middleton is Editor of New Zealand Humanist
Afghanistn article issue 152