The Afghan Civil War

Afghan Civil War started after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and it left the Afghan communist government to protect themselves from the Mujahideen. The phase of the war was in between 1989 to 1992. Even though the government fell in 1992 the civil war continued and there was large spread infighting within the government. From the year 1994 rebels like the Taliban tried bringing down the government accusing of corruption. ISI, the Pakistan intelligence agency wanted Mujahideen to form government and the ISI head, Hamid Gul wanted an Islamic revolution which would go beyond borders and spread over Central Asia. Hamid Gul even ordered an assault on Jalalabad with the idea of making it the capital of the Mujahideen government.

Build Up To The Civil War And The Civil War

  • After the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, the US intelligence agencies expected the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan to collapse within three to six months.
  • There were many assets available with DRA government like military hardware donated by Soviet Union.
  • DRA continued to receive massive aid from the Soviet Union and many of the military advisors were present in Afghanistan.
  • The government forces depended on the large quantities of Scud missiles and between 1988 and 1992 more than 2000 of these were fired inside Afghanistan.
  • This was considered the largest amount of missiles used after the World War II and this kept the mujahidden away from action.
  • Some of the mujahideen groups received foreign military support from the United States, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.
  • During the Sino-Soviet split the relationship between China and Soviet Russia was in bad shape and there were many border clashes.
  • When the Soviet Afghan Communists held power in Afghanistan in 1978 the relationship between China and Afghan communists turned aggressive.
  • China supported the Afghan mujahideen groups and they acquired military equipment from America to defend from the Soviet attack.
  • Mujahideen groups were trained by the Chinese Liberation Army and the training camps were shifted from Pakistan to China.
  • The real battle started on March 5, 1989 and all went off well for the mujahidden initially.
  • They captured the Jalalabad airfield but had to face counter-offensive from the opposite side.
  • When the government troops started surrendering, they along with unarmed civilians were tortured and executed by Kekmatyar’s and Sayyaf’s forces.
  • Afghan air force flew 20 sorties a day over the battlefield.
  • Three Scud firing batteries were used around Kabul and it fired more than 400 missiles in support of the Jalalabad barracks.
  • The use of heavy equipments like these had major impact on the mujahideen and they could not do much to prevent them.
  • By mid May mujahideen were running low on ammunition and in July they were unable to prevent the Afghan Army from recapturing Samarkhel and Jalalabad.
  • Mujahideen suffered an estimated 3000 causalities and estimated 12,000-15,000 civilians were killed and more than 10,000 had escaped the fighting.

Consequences of the Civil War

  • Afghan army proved that they could stand alone and win wars. So the people began to believe in the government.
  • The morale of mujahideen took a dip.
  • USA and Pakistan were upset with the defeat of mujahideen.
  • Hamid Gul who headed the ISI was sacked and replaced by General Shamsur Rahman Kallu.
  • US started direct participation in helping the jihadis. Some of the leaders did not like it while some who did not like Pakistan welcomed this move.
  • The two popular leader Hekmatyar and Massoud were fighting amongst themselves and this affected the need for a united struggle.
  • Even though the communist regime had strategic victores there were internal issues especially between the factions of Khalaqs and the Parchams.
  • The sole oil drill dried up and Afghanistan was completely dependent on Russia for most of their basic needs. This was the economic situation, in fact a crisis.

Towards the end of 1980s the Communist regime was taking a beating and in early 199s it collapsed in Russia. This naturally affected Afghanistan. Now they got no support from Russia. The government had to make peace with mujahideen and decided to form an interim government. But who would form was the question as there were factions in the rebel group. While there were power centres  and struggles in most of the places Kabul came under the control of The Islamic State of Afghanistan on April 30th 1992. Moves began to destabilize this government as well. There were huge ammunition stock piles with all the factions. Added to this inmates of the prison were set free and they were allowed to take arms. This created more problems and even the civilians were affected. Soon another civil war ensued.

Afghan Civil War (1992–96)

This phase of the Afghan Civil war happened after the resignation of Mohammad Najiibullah who was the communist president of Afghanistan. After his resignation the Islamic State of Afghanistan was established and all the parties of that time united through the Peshawar Accord of April 1992. Only Hekmatyar’s party Hezb-e-islami did not join and this party started bombings which began the second phase of the civil war in Afghnaistan.

Background for the Civil War

  • All parties agreed to power sharing but Hekmatyar wanted complete power and so he did not join with the other parties.
  • Hekmatyar had the support of Pakistan’s ISI. Even during the Soviet support ISI and Hekmatyar had planned to bomb Kabul.
  • Since there were loud difference of opinion amongst the mujahideen groups about the bombing, USA put pressure on Pakistan to stop it at that time.
  • The plan that was postponed in 1990 was executed in 1992 by ISI and Hekmatyar.
  • There were many other internal conflicts and many other countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and more were interfering into the affairs of Afghanistan.

Time Line of The War


  • The war officially began when Hekmatyar’s party Hezb-e-islami infiltrated into Kabul to take over the power.
  • This compelled other parties to march to the capital.
  • Hekmatyar asked a couple of parties to help but that help was declined.
  • The forces of Jamiat, a party, was strong and they later were supported by amny government officials including generals.
  • Hekmatyar could not stand up to the resistance put up by Jamiat and had to recede to the outskirts of Kabul.
  • A renewed peace talk took place on 25th May 1992 and it was decided that Hekmatyar would be the President.
  • But this did not satisfy him and he wanted Dostum’s forces to depart. He also tried to shoot down the plane of President. Clash between Dostum’s forces and Hekmatyar began and the fighting between killed many, even an unknown number of civilians.
  • June and July 1992 saw many more groups clashing with each other.
  • The most noticeable one was the escalation in West of Kabul.
  • Hospitals were bombed, food was cut off, schools were closed as a result of indiscriminate bombing.


  • On 3 January 1993, the leader of the Jamiat-i Islami party, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was sworn in as President but he could control only some parts of Kabul.
  • Saudi Arabia tried to broker peace between Hekmatyar and Rabbani. Both agreed to share powers of President.
  • Hekmatyar wanted Massoud to resign from the post of Defence Minister and Massoud resigned.
  • However after one cabinet meeting Hekmatyar started bombing again and Massound came back to his relinquished post to defend the city against rocket attacks.


  • 1994 saw some dramatic changes. Dostum who was against Hekmatyar for many years, joined hands with him to fight against the interim government.
  • Iran and Saudi Arabia supported some faction and this was mainly to promote their individual political agenda.
  • Taliban entered the military scene and they were strongly supported by Pakistan as Pakistan was upset with the failure of Hekmatyar to do something tangible in the country.
  • The war hit many more civilians. The number of people fleeing Kabul increased. \


  • Rabbani refused to step down from his post. But he agreed to do so if Hekmatyr withdrew and in his place if the UN Peace interim members took over.
  • Meanwhile Taliban started its devastation and Hekmatyar was seeing defeat.
  • Massoud’s started fighting the Taliban.
  • This year saw atrocities being committed on children and civilians continued to suffer.
  • Massoud began to make its presence felt and Taliban had to retreat from some places especially Kabul.
  • By October 11th Taliban got its foothold back.
  • The National Reconciliation Commission put forth its peace proposal on the same day.
  • On November 20th Taiban forces gave an ultimatum to Rabbani to resign and leave the city. If not bombardment would start again.
  • However the ultimatum was withdrawn.


  • Taliban continued with the bombings killing many people which included civilians.
  • Taliban had the support of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Osama Bin Laden who was becoming a powerful figure.
  • Massoud withdrew his army from Kabul to minimise bloodshed.
  • In the first of its kind, Taliban hung President Najibullah and his brother from a tower and then later tortured them to death.
  • After this incident, with a matter of few hours all the key posts went into the hands of the Taliban.
  • Taliban which promised to save the people began to torture people and massacre them especially Shia and Hazara population.
  • On 7th March, Rabbani and Hekmatyar signed an agreement to take military action against the Taliban.
  • In this military retaliation some districts were recaptured and some districts were lost.
  • On 4th May the Iranian embassy was shelled.
  • On July 3rd, a 10 member cabinet was formed by the government. The ministry of interior affairs went to Rabbani and the ministries of finance and defence went to Hekmatyar.
  • Other seats were open to other factions.
  • Under the leadership of Massoud, a United Front was created against the Taliban. This came to called Northern Alliance in Pakistan and by the Western media.
  • More than a million people fled from the clutches of Taliban and went to the areas now under control of Massoud.
  • In the areas under his control, Massoud established democracy.
  • This was not well received and led to the third Civil war that lasted till 2001.


Amongst all the factions and all the leader Massoud was the only leader with a vision on empowering people and his ideas were progressive. The people who lived in the areas under his control were very happy and could do what they wanted to do. He was a devout muslim and was against the wrong interpretations of Islam given by the other factions. Taliban offered him the highest post had he joined them. But he refused as his views were totally opposing that of Taliban. Meanwhile in other parts of the country, Taliban and Al Qaeda were becoming very strong. Two days before the September stile of the US twin towers, Massoud was assassinated allegedly by Al Qaeda agents. Massoud is considered a national hero and September 9th which called “Massoud Day” is a national holiday in Afghanistan.

The one name that rang terror into the hearts of people all over the world was Osama Bin Laden. His power was known after the attack of the twin towers which the whole world watched helplessly. Since the US was hit badly, they planned to put an end to him and his group. On May 2nd 2011 he was killed in a swift action of the US Special force in Abbottabad. Unfortunately this did not put an end to insurgency. It only fired it up and more countries are being affected by this. On December 28th 2014 NATO officially ended its involvement in Afghanistan.  Taliban continues its terror not sparing even children. In 2014 the Peshawar school massacre rocked the world. Though foreign interference is supposed to have ended the US forces are still in Afghanistan trying to quell insurgency and terrorism.