Kildare (JamesFaheyIRE) After becoming very close to C.I.A secret operations in the Afghan-Soviet War in the 1980s he became one of the most feared and underestimated rebel commanders in the following years of conflict.
The Tajik commander’s story is one of great rise and fall. His actions and legacy, so meaningful throughout the war, still live on today in the memory of many Afghans who view their former leader as unforgivingly patriotic. Ahmed Shah Massoud had firmly placed himself as a legendary figure in Afghan resistance history well before the tragic events of 9/11.
Massoud was born on September 2nd, 1953 in Bazarak in the Panshir province in Northeastern Afghanistan. Of slim build with dark hair and eyes and typically Massoud normally can be seen wearing the Afghan Pakol. Massoud’s father was part of the Afghan Army prior to King Zahir Shahs exile to Rome in 1973. His mother came from an illiterate family but later learned to read and write. Although education was important in the Massoud family other more practical activities were also highly valued. For example, inter-personal skills or using a firearm. “These are the characteristics that make a man,” according to his mother.
Although the Massoud family also lived in Helmand and Kabul they felt most comfortable in the Panshir Valley town of Jangalak. It was here where Ahmed would become a trusted leaders among his people.
Massoud was brought up by his parents as a committed muslim. It would be a defining characteristic of his character as he grew older. He attended the Kabul Polytechnic Institute where he developed a strong dislike toward Marxism and his communist neighbours. Throughout the 1960s radical elements of Islamic thought started to seep into these institutions where Massoud attended regularly. He also became more militant in his philosophy. This was partially as a result of the radical Egyptian syllabus being preached in these Afghan educational institutions which influenced many young afghans including Massoud. Some preachers included Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf and Burhanuddin Rabbani – both notable figures in Afghanistan in the following years.
It was during this period, in his college years, where Massoud would join a group known as the Muslim Youth organisation. Here he pushed his fellow Afghans to rise up against the communists who were beginning to take hold of Afghanistan around this time.
The Russian backed communist leader Nur Mohammed Taraki who led the revolution in Afghanistan started to lose his grip on power. His political rival at the time, Hafizullah Amin, managed to oust Taraki and put him to death. However, the new communist ruler began to over-assert himself which frightened his Marxist backers in Moscow. Fearful of losing control of such a strategic location so important to their cause, the decision to put Soviet troops on the ground was made on November 26th, 1979.
Massoud was one of several commanders who fought against the Russians in the 1980s. His old ally Burhanuddin Rabbani was also central as they formed an alliance known as the Islamic Society. It was about this time when Massoud began to show his battlefield capabilities. Coming under attack six times by the Soviets Massoud fended them off with a much less sophisticated army. The Panshir Valley where Massoud spent most of this time was crucial for both the Soviets and the Afghan resistance. The Salang Highway was so close to the Valley that it could be easily targeted by the Panshirs. It was the direct link between the Soviet Union in the North and Kabul.
A student of Mao Zedong and Che Guevara, Massoud was became extremely competent at ordering hit and run attacks in the valley he knew so well. By luring tanks into the valley he would order his aides to attack the first and last tanks creating a vacuum where he would unleash a tactical assault in the middle – but it wouldn’t last long. Almost instantly after the assault the Panshirs’ would run back to safety. This sort of tactic proved to be very effective for a smaller army challenging the Soviet iron fist.
After the Russians failed to make any progress in the valley Massoud’s reputation began to advance – the title of “Lion of Panshir” was his.
Massoud proved to be useful for containing communism in central Asia in the late 1980s he was then considered useful for capturing Obama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. As he stated himself his “hatred of Russians was just too great.”
However, Massoud had been warning the U.S about Al Qaeda and their potency up to 9/11. On the 9th of September 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud was assassinated by two Al Qaeda operatives posing as journalists when a bomb went off killing them all instantly. Two days later, there were reports of an incident in New York city and another at the Pentagon.
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