Internecine Violence

Afghanistan Table of Contents

Confronted in mid-1989 by evidence that the Kabul government was capable of defending itself and showed no sign of immediate internal collapse, the Peshawar parties turned on each other. The most serious dispute brought the enmity between Hekmatyar and Rabbani to the surface. Throughout the war their commanders had jockeyed for turf and supply routes, especially in the strategic Shomali region with its control over the northern highway between Kabul and the Soviet Union. Hekmatyar, with some Pakistani connivance, had also waged a minor reign of terror among the refugee community. It included intimidation, kidnaping, disappearances, imprisonment and execution of critics and rivals among educated Afghans and of rival mujahidin commanders and their followers. He was widely feared and disliked.

Most of Hekmatyar's ire was focused on the Jamiat, which had developed the most extensive network of commanders and was especially identified with the minority communities. He did not avoid clashes with rival Pushtuns, having attempted to dominate the tribal fronts around Qandahar, without success.

In late July, 1989, Hekmatyar's forces in Takhar Province ambushed and slaughtered more than thirty members of the army of Ahmad Shah Massoud, Rabbani's most celebrated and successful commander. Seven senior commanders were among those slain. Assaults and killings had become common between commanders of these two parties, but this instance was the most blatant. It also disrupted Massoud's plans for an assault on Kabul. Massoud retaliated, over-running several Hezb positions in the northeast. The perpetrators of the massacre were captured and later executed by an Islamic court at Taloqan, Massoud's regional headquarters.

Hekmatyar was condemned for his complicity in the massacre by leaders other than Rabbani. For a while he withdrew from the AIG claiming that his party would stake its fate on a popular elections inside Afghanistan--a bemusing statement from a leader who prided himself on his party's closed vanguard style.

Hekmatyar further alienated his colleagues by his involvement in an attempt at a coup against Najibullah's government in March of 1990. It was led by Defense Minister Shah Nawaz Tanai, a Khalqi. Hekmatyar's forces were to attack Kabul simultaneously. The plot misfired because of faulty communications. Najibullah quickly rounded up the Khalqi conspirators. Tanai escaped by helicopter to Pakistan where he was greeted and publicly accepted as an ally by Hekmatyar.

The Pakistan government's involvement in this abortive affair was transparently obvious. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's plea to the other six party leaders to aid Tanai and Hekmatyar was rebuked as a disgrace to the jihad. The episode was a crucial turning point in the struggle against Kabul. It demonstrated that clandestine connections between mujahidin and elements in the Kabul government could determine the outcome of the civil war. It also further demonstrated the ISI's partiality toward Hekmatyar: it had been involved in planning the military follow-up to the coup attempt.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress