Afghanistan - at a losing position

At a loss

1996: Taliban fighters fire a missile about 20 kilometers from Kabul

Photo: Saeed Khan / AFP / Getty Images

The dead body of the former President Mohammed Najibullah was pulled up on the lamppost with a steel cable. Next to it hangs the body of his brother Shahpur Ahmadsai, who was executed in the same place. There are two lynchings with which the Taliban introduced themselves on September 27, 1996 when they conquered Kabul. The horrific deed is intended to deter, the large numbers of onlookers streaming in receive the message: enemies of Islam punish contempt, they deserve a shameful death. His executioners put dirty banknotes in the open mouth of Najibullah. It can only be bought who has dared to prevent an Afghan state of God and to avail himself of Soviet help.

With the capture of Kabul by the “(Koran) students”, as the Taliban translates, ended a self-destructive civil war to which the country fell into the early 1990s. It does not begin immediately after the last Soviet military marched across the Amu Darya River to Uzbekistan on February 14, 1989, and ten years of occupation ended. After the intervention at the end of 1979, 104.000 soldiers were temporarily stationed in the Hindu Kush in order to prevent the USA from accessing Afghanistan. According to the Soviet interpretation, this guarantees a government of the Marxist Democratic People's Party, which of course needs external support in order to assert itself against Islamist opponents.

Fragile truce from 1992

When this support was lost in early 1989, the head of state Najibullah saved himself over time by distancing himself from the People's Party as his political home. Their claim to leadership will be relativized in a changed constitution, as will the will to unconditionally modernize an introspective, backward society. Without a Soviet army, attacks by mujahideen groups on Kabul can be fended off as long as the loyalty of the Afghan armed forces is not damaged. Najibullah's fall will only be inevitable when, in April 1992, the Uzbek general Rashid Dostum and his 53rd division from the national army overflowed into the camp of the mujahideen leaders Burhanuddin Rabani and Ahmed Massoud. Dostum's betrayal sparked a power struggle between several mujahideen parties, overlaid by ethnic tensions and religious zeal. Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia act as external sponsors of the internal feud, but the USA is not uninvolved either. Since security advisor Zbigniew Brzeziński for the Carter administration (1977-1981) issued the motto that the Soviets would experience “their Vietnam” in Afghanistan, one billion dollars of weapons, including modern Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, have been smuggled to the rebels. The CIA will later fail in their attempt to buy them back. The recipients have no qualms about bothering the donors.

But it is not that far in 1992, after Najibullah's fall, it was only after months of bitter fighting in mid-1993 that a compromise was negotiated between the Rabbani / Massoud camp and the fanatic Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who with his Hezb-i-Islami party represented a radical Islam . Rabbani is proclaimed head of state and Hekmatyar as prime minister, but the truce is too fragile to be anything more to power-hungry warlords than pausing before the next exchange of blows. Tactical alliances are owed to those who are currently on the pendulum. At that time, Kabul was divided into three sectors that were ruled and plundered by rival warring factions. More than half of the population tries to escape the horror by fleeing - 50.000 people save themselves in mosques in the area, 300.000 in camps of the Afghan Red Crescent, 100.000 move north or as far as Pakistan. If you persevere, a loaf of bread costs you a valuable carpet. Ultimately, it will be the Taliban, formed in Pakistan, who are waiting in the shadow of this battle for influence and benefices, who will march through to Kabul and establish their caliphate without ever controlling the entire country.

The question of whether it will repeat itself in 2021, which will lead to ruin after 1989, touches the parallel world of the speculative. Without a protective power, President Ashraf Ghani will sooner rather than later find himself in a lost position similar to that of Mohammed Najibullah. This time, however, with the Taliban, a formation is seizing power that does not face any relevant competition from other rebel groups. The leadership around Hibatullah Achundsada is also likely to be aware of the economic risk that another civil war will create for a state that does not have its own budget and depends on external support. In view of the occupying power failing as an economic factor, this is even more true. A regime change that supports the state is obvious.