Afghanistan Table of Contents
Kabul ultimately fell to the mujahidin because the factions in its government had finally pulled it apart. Until demoralized by the defections of its senior officers, the army had achieved a level of performance it had never reached under direct Soviet tutelage. It was a classic case of loss of morale. The regime collapsed while it still possessed material superiority. Its stockpiles of munitions and planes would provide the victorious mujahidin with the means of waging years of highly destructive war. Kabul was short of fuel and food at the end of winter in 1992, but its military units were supplied well enough to fight indefinitely. They did not fight because their leaders were reduced to scrambling for survival. Their aid had not only been cut off, the Marxist-Leninist ideology that had provided the government its rationale for existence been repudiated at its source.
A few days after it was clear that Najibullah had lost control, his army commanders and governors arranged to turn over authority to resistance commanders and local notables throughout the country. Joint councils or shuras were immediately established for local government in which civil and military officials of the former government were usually included. Reports indicate the process was generally amicable. In many cases prior arrangements for transferring regional and local authority had been made between foes.
Through mid-1995 these local arrangements have generally remained in place in most of Afghanistan. Disruptions have occurred where local political arrangements have been linked to been linked to the struggle that has developed between the mujahidin parties. At the national level a political vacuum was created and into it fell the expatriate parties in their rush to take control. The enmities, ambitions, conceits and dogmas which had paralyzed their shadow government proved to be even more disastrous in their struggle for power. The traits they brought with them had been accentuated in the struggle for preferment in Peshawar.
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. He and Massoud reached a political agreement, together with another major militia leader, Sayyid Mansor, of the Ismaili community 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 Begram, some seventy kilometers north of Kabul. By mid-April the air force command at Begram had capitulated to Massoud. Kabul was defenseless, its army was no longer reliable.
Najibullah had 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 fly out of Kabul on April 17, but was stopped by Dostam's troops who controlled Kabul Airport under the command of Karmal's brother, Mahmud Baryalai. Vengeance between Parchami factions was reaped. Najibullah took sanctuary at the UN mission where he remained in 1995. A group of Parchami generals and officials declared themselves an interim government for the purpose of handing over power to the mujahidin.
For more than a week Massoud remained poised to move his forces into the capital. He was awaiting the arrival of political leadership from Peshawar. The parties suddenly had sovereign power in their grasp, but no plan for executing it. With his principal commander prepared to occupy Kabul, Rabbani was positioned to prevail by default. Meanwhile UN mediators tried to find a political solution that would assure a transfer of power acceptable to all sides.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress