Ahmad Shah Massoud
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A brief biography
Welcome to the Panjshir Valley, the stronghold of Northern Alliance, that did not fall to the Soviets in the 70s and the 80 and even today is holding strong against the marauding Taliban.
Welcome to the lair of Lion of Panjshir Ahmad Shah Massoud. He is long gone, killed by an Al-Qaeda operative posing as a TV journalist just days before the 9/11 attacks in the US. But Panjshir, now controlled by his son Ahmad Masoud, continues to hold its own.
This is where a possible resistance movement against the Taliban could build. There are pictures already out of Afghan vice-president Amrullah Saleh in a meeting with Ahmad Masoud in Panjshir. Saleh did not flee the country and was also against President Ashraf Ghani taking that chopper flight out.
Afghan vice-president Amrullah Saleh in a meeting with Ahmad Masoud in Panjshir. TOI+ could not independently confirm if this meeting took place after the Taliban gained control of Kabul.
The legend of Ahmad Shah Massoud Panjshir was the site of pitched battles during the Soviet-Afghan War between 1980 and 1985. Ahmad Shah Massoud, a guerrilla war tactics master, successfully defended the valley from being taken. Between 1996 and 2001 the valley witnessed fierce battles between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance under the command of Ahmad Shah Massoud. He once again defended the valley from being overrun by the Taliban.
A unifying figure
A veteran Tajik commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud was a grand, unifying figure in the country, instrumental in the formation of the Northern Alliance that was armed by countries, including India. Later, in the 1990s, he became the all-powerful defence minister in Burhanuddin Rabbani's cabinet.
Honoured as a hero
Massoud in 2001 visited Europe and urged European Parliament leaders to pressure Pakistan on its support for the Taliban. He also asked for humanitarian aid to combat the Afghan people's poor conditions under the Taliban.
The Northern Alliance
The Northern Alliance, officially known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, is a united military front that came to formation in late 1996 after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) took over Kabul. The United Front was assembled by key leaders of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, particularly president Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Massoud. Initially, it included mostly Tajiks, but by 2000, leaders of other ethnic groups had joined the Northern Alliance. This included Karim Khalili, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Abdullah Abdullah, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Qadir and Asif Mohseni and others.
The Northern Alliance in its defensive war against the Taliban received support from India, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The Taliban were extensively backed by the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence. The US also took the help of the Northern Alliance when it invaded Afghanistan after 9/11. With the Taliban forced from the control of the country, the Northern Alliance was dissolved as members and parties supported the new Afghan Interim Administration, with some members later becoming part of the Karzai administration.
Also spelt Panjsheer or Panjsher, it means the valley of five lions. It is located 150 km north of Kabul, near the Hindu Kush mountain range and is divided by the Panjshir River. Panjshir is also an important highway, leading to two passes over the Hindu Kush. The Khawak Pass leads to the northern plains and the Anjoman Pass crosses into Badakhshan.
The Panjshir valley has the potential to become a major centre of emerald mining. In the Middle Ages, Panjshir was famed for its silver mining and the Saffarids and Samanids minted their coins there. As of 1985, crystals upwards of 190 carats (38 g) had been found there, reported to rival in quality the finest crystals of the Muzo mine in Colombia.
American reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan has sparked a development boom in the valley with the construction of new modern roads and a new radio tower that allows valley residents to pick up radio signals from the Afghan capital, Kabul.