TLI in Afghanistan

Failed Efforts to Develop Afghanistan Institute of Peace and Justice:

Friend and colleague Aziz Ssdat was among the primary resource persons with whom we worked in Afghanistan. Aziz was born in Afghanistan, holds dual citizenship in both Afghanistan and the United States, is a veteran Mujahedeen fighter against the Soviet occupiers as well as the pro-Soviet Democratic Republic of Afghanistan [DRA], and he is the founder / president of the World Trade Center-Kabul (WTC-K). Additionally, Aziz lead the efforts to develop an “Afghanistan Institute of Peace and Justice” (AIP&J).

Despite Aziz’s broad level of national respect, despite his general popularity, and despite his copious amount of active political connections he and supporters were never able to acquire President Hamid Karzai full and unswerving support for the concept — “Afghanistan Institute of Peace and Justice”. Karzai was “continually on-and-off, continually wishy-washy”. Although the President would frequently meet with Aziz there is no evidence that Karzai ever reviewed the proposal’s comprehensive and detailed prospectus or referred such materials to key staff to do so.

The “United States Institute of Peace” (USIP) has developed in Afghanistan culturally relevant and substantively pertinent effective practitioners as well as a menu of first rate trainings in conflict resolution, and human rights. Hopefully USIP’s plans include assisting Afghanistan in developing its own national institution to house, employ, and perpetuate the theories, skills and practices that USIP has been developing with them.

Despite the numerous educators, business leaders, professional associations, and media reporters, with whom Aziz and his supporters worked, many persons often inquire if we ever associated efforts with former mujahideens and former warlords. The answer rests in the affirmative. Prior to identifying such persons it is important that the reader grasp a historical context (as provided by information cited on Google and Wikipedia).

  • mujahideen = Islamic guerrilla fighters; literally, person who wages jihad. First Known Use: 1887.
  • warlord = supreme military leader exercising civil power (without legitimate authority) in a region especially one accountable to nobody when the central government is weak.

A Brief History of Afghanistan
By Adam Ritscher

Excerpts are in red
Note: TLI is only utilizing the capsule below from 1973 to 2003 when our work began in Afghanistan.

“In 1973, the king was overthrown and a republic was declared. But this in reality represented very little. For the king had simply been overthrown by a prominent member of his own family, Daoud, who decided to title himself president instead of king.

“Under Daoud a certain liberalization took place, meaning that some of the most draconian realities of the monarchy were rolled back, but by and large whatever hopes and expectations arose among the people – little was done to satisfy them.

“Daoud had seized power with the help of an underground party named the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan – a pro-Moscow communist party. The PDPA had aided and collaborated with Daoud in exchange for government posts. Once he had consolidated power though and felt he no longer needed these controversial allies, he ditched them, and ordered a crack down upon the party.

“In 1978 the PDPA seized power from Daoud in a military coup. After seizing power they began a series of limited reforms, such as declaring, more or less, a secular state, and that women were deserving of equal treatment of men. They sought to curtail the practice of purchasing brides, and tried to implement a land reform program. They quickly met with fierce opposition from many sections of the deeply religious population though. The PDPA’s response to this was very heavy-handed, aggravating the situation. Soon several rural areas rose in open armed rebellion against the new government.

“At the same time, the party’s long history of factionalism came to a bloody head as the more radical wing of the party sought to wipe out the more moderate leaning wing.

“Immediately following the PDPA coup, the Soviet Union took an active interest in the so-called socialist revolution unfolding in its backyard. Dismayed by the clumsiness of the radical faction of the PDPA, the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 and handed power over a man named Karmal, who was the leader of the more moderate faction of the PDPA.

“Though perhaps this was not the Soviets original intent, once inside Afghanistan, they found themselves forced to commit more and more troops and material to prop up the unpopular PDPA government. Several Islamic fundamentalist groups sprang up and began waging guerilla warfare, many of them operating from camps set up by the CIA and Pakistani Intelligence within Pakistan, from which they could strike into Afghanistan, and then beat a hasty retreat over a guarded border.

“For its part, the United States government initially paid little attention to the PDPA coup in Afghanistan; its attention was instead focused to the west, where a popular revolution has overthrown their most valuable Middle East ally, the brutal and autocratic Shah of Iran. This changed of course once the Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan.

“At that point the United States took an active interest in the Islamic fundamentalists waging war on the PDPA and the Soviets. The CIA began providing military training to the Mujahadeen – the name the Islamic guerillas came to be called. They provided what in the end amounted to billions of dollars worth of weapons, including sophisticated anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles that allowed the guerillas to take out modern Soviet tanks and jet planes.

“After offensive after offensive, year after year, gradually the Soviet military became discouraged. They were able to occupy and hold all of the major cities, just at the British imperialists had been able to the century before, but they were unable to subjugate the countryside. Soviet causalities began to mount dramatically, and with the CIA’s providing the Mujahadeen with Stinger missiles, even their control of the air was becoming a costly affair.

“At the same time the CIA kept increasing and updating the Mujahadeen’s supply of weaponry, the Saudis and Persian Gulf Emirates contributed billions of dollars to their coffers, and thousands of Arabs responded to the Mujahadeen’s call for jihad, or holy war, against the secular Soviets – including the wealthy Saudi playboy, Osama bin Laden – who quickly became one of the CIA’s most important operatives in its proxy war against communism.

“In 1989 the Soviets withdrew, leaving the PDPA government to fend for itself. The CIA soon lost interest in its mercenary forces now that they had accomplished their mission of bleeding the Soviets white. The misc. Mujahadeen factions began fighting as much with themselves as with the PDPA forces, resulting in increased suffering and bloodshed. It wasn’t until 1992 that Mujahadeen fighters were able to topple the remnants of the PDPA government – ending the Stalinists attempts to bring revolution to the people of Afghanistan at the point of a gun.

“Different Mujahadeen warlords occupied different cities and regions of the country. Burhanuddin Rabbani, the same Northern Alliance warlord who recently took Kabul from the Taliban, was the warlord who ruled over the city from 1992 until his ouster in 1996. During his reign over 60,000 people were murdered and thousands of women were raped. Current Northern Alliance warlord Rashid Dostum who is in control of the city of Mazar –E – Sharif, also ruled over it from 1992 until his ouster in 1997. Similarly the warlord Ismail Khan again rules the city of Heart, which he also ruled from 1992 to 1995; and warlord Yunis Khalis is back in control of Jalabad, which he ruled from 1992 to 1996.

“The collapse of the PDPA government did not mark the end of Afghanistan’s civil war. The Mujahadeen warlords continued to bring death and destruction upon the country as they fought over the spoils, and sought to enlarge their new fiefdoms at the expense of their neighboring rivals.

“While the CIA, after having done such a fine job of instigating unrest and warfare in the 1980s, could care less about the aftermath, Pakistani Intelligence forces maintained their interest. Seeking to end the civil war which threatened the stability of their own country – itself a prison house of many nationalities – Pakistani Intelligence aided in the creation of a new Islamic fundamentalist movement, the Taliban. The Taliban was born in the Islamic schools that had sprung up inside the Afghan refugee camps inside Pakistan. Its leadership and the bulk of its initial ranks, were made up of young religious students, primarily Pashtuns, motivated by the zeal of religion and the belief that they were ordained to bring stability and the ways of Allah back to their war torn land. They railed against the corruption, greed and factionalism of the contending Mujahadeen factions inside Afghanistan, and when they mounted a military push to conquer the country, they were initially well received by certain sections of the weary population. Their “members” were filled by rank and file Mujahadeen fighters and young idealists from inside a country; city-by-city they were able to occupy most of the country. In 1996 they captured the capital city of Kabul, and had forced most of the remaining warlords into a small pocket in the far north of the country. These warlords subsequently formed a defensive alliance termed the Northern Alliance. By the time of the start of the current war, Taliban offensives had reduced their enclave to a mere 10% of the country.

“Once in power the Taliban sought to create a theocratic state based on their interpretations of the Koran. Though already severely repressed by the various Mujahadeen warlords, the plight of Afghanistan’s women was made even worse under the new regime. The veil became the law of the land, and women were forbidden from attending school or holding employment outside of the home. Television was banned and an effort was made to purge the country of any signs or remnants of secular or Western influence. The country became politically and diplomatically isolated.

“Then came the current war. Following the September 11 World Trade Center bombings the United States accused Osama Bin Laden of the crime. Bin Laden, who had left Afghanistan following the defeat of the Soviets, had returned after falling out of favor in Saudi Arabia, and being pressured to leave his first nation of refuge, the Sudan.

“The U.S. government demanded that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden. The Taliban’s response was to demand proof of Bin Laden’s guilt, and after receiving none, they refused to hand him over.

“Within a few weeks the United States began bombing the impoverished country, as well as providing active support to the Northern Alliance warlords. Following weeks of devastating bombing, and several failed offensives, the Northern Alliance succeeded in breaking out of its northern enclave, seizing the city of Mazar – E – Sharif, and then moving on to take Kabul. This set in motion a series of defeats for the Taliban, which began surrendering and abandoning almost every major city in the country, and retreating into the mountains.

Key Contacts

Now to identify and briefly describe a few of the key persons with whom we met, and who provided input and supported the preliminary organizational, administrative, curricula designs as well as tasks and timelines for the development to establish an “Afghanistan Institute of Peace and Justice”. It is known fact that various human rights monitoring agencies, particularly Human Rights Watch, correctly or incorrectly labeled most of the persons listed below (with the full exception of Aziz Sadat and most likely Atta Mohammed Noor) as violators of human rights, particularly during Afghanistan’s civil war. Although there is no excuse for such abuses it is commonly known that in a nation’s civil wars “civility” itself and particularly human rights are violated in countless ways — although neither advocated nor accepted. It also must be noted that perhaps with the exception of one of the persons listed below all other person so cited are now serving their nation in responsible ways.

  1. Aziz Sadat was born in Afghanistan and holds dual citizenship in both Afghanistan and the United States. He is a veteran Mujahedeen fighter against both the Soviet occupiers and the pro-Soviet Democratic Republic of Afghanistan [DRA], and is the founder / president of the World Trade Center-Kabul (WTC-K). He possessed a broad national level of respect, was and is very popular and maintains broad based political connections.
  2. Abdul Karim Khalili was Second Vice President of Afghanistan in the administration of President Hamid Karzai; (2004-2014). Prior to national politics per se Khailili demonstrated strong resistance to Soviet occupation as well as the Taliban activities and efforts. Khalili’s military strength has been estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 men.
  3. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi who following the post Soviet occupation and the resulting civil war served as the first President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan after the fall of the communist regime in 1992, and also was the leader of the Afghan National Liberation Front.
  4. Professor Mojaddedi transferred power to President Burhanuddin Rabbani serving a two-month term, based on a prior agreement that was reached by the Mujahideen forces in Pakistan — he couldn’t establish any type of reconciliation among the Mujahideen factions. In December 2003, he served as the chairman of the Loya Jirga that approved Afghanistan’s new constitution. Later he was elected as the leader of the legislature’s 102-seat upper house, the Meshrano Jirga, for a 5 year term, and also served as chairman of “National Commission for Peace in Afghanistan” when in September he was assassinated by a suicide bomber in home— the room in which we used to meet with him, [NOTE: This was the same room that Aziz and TLI would meet with Rabbani to discuss the then proposed AIP&J which he thoroughly and without condition supported].
  5. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah was Senior Advisor and medical physician in the “Northern Alliance” and closest friend to its famed leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. From October 2001 to April 2005 Dr. Abdullah served as Foreign Minister to President Hamid_Karzai. [NOTE: It was in 2005 that we /TLI conducted negotiation training for the Foreign Ministry.] In 2009 and again in 2014 Abdullah himself himself was a presidential candidate, but lost both times. However, in 2014 as a “shared power agreement” he was appointed Chief Executive Officer by the newly elected president, Ashraf Ghani — his opponent in the 2014 election.
  6. Mohammad Qasim Fahim — also known as also known as “Marshal Fahim”. As military commander of the Northern Alliance, Fahim captured the Afghan capital Kabul in the fall of 2001 from the Taliban government.” He served as Vice President from June 2002 until December 2004, and from November 2009 until his death in 2014./ Between September 2001 and December 2004. [NOTE: It was in this time frame that Aziz and TLI met with him, and received unconditional support for the then proposed AIP&J] Fahim also served as Defense Minister under the Afghan Transitional Administration. In 2004 President Hamid Karzai provided Fahim the honorary title ”Marshal for Life”
  7. Ismail Khan is a former mujahideen, he rose to become a powerful rebel commander during the Soviet War within Afghanistan, and then a key member of the Northern Alliance until becoming the Governor of Herat Province. He controlled a large sized mujahideen force, mainly his fellow Tajiks from western Afghanistan. On September 27, 2009, Ismail Khan survived a suicide blast that killed 4 of his bodyguards in Herat. He was driving to Herat Airport when a powerful explosion occurred on the way there. Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility and said the target was indeed Khan. He is currently the Minister of Water and Energy,, a post he held since 2005; and he is a key member of the political party Jamiat-e Islami. One night in his home Aziz and TLI joined about 50 prominent Shi’s and 50 prominent Sunni in an informal banquet and long discussions regarding Afghanistan and USA relations.
  8. Atta Mohammed Noor is a politician in Afghanistan serving as the Governor of Balkh Province. In late 2001, he was able to rebuild his forces, and with the help of US supplies and funds, his militia rose in two months from several hundred to several thousand men. On November 9, 2001 his forces and those of Dostum drove the Taliban from the capital city of Balkh, Mazar-i-Sharif., which is the fourth largest city of Afghanistan. Governor. Atta’s opium poppy eradication program between 2005 and 2007, advised by consultants from Adam Smith International, successfully reduced poppy cultivation in Balkh Province from 7,200. Hr remains the most popular provincial governor of Afghanistan, and is well respected for the vast redevelopment he has overseen as well as the high level of governmental responsiveness to the people of the province.
  9. Haji Mohammad Almas Zahid was born 1961 in Rabat village, Bagram District, Parwan Province. . Before becoming a member of parliament in 2005, Almas Zahid worked as a provincial commander with the Ministry of Defense. He is currently a businessman, and owns a well-known restaurant in Kabul. During the Soviet invasion, Zahid was a renowned Parwan commander of Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan, a jihadi party led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. During the civil war that followed the Soviet defeat he switched sides, joining Burhanuddin Rabbani’s Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan to fight against Hezb-e-Islami. Under Rabbani’s presidency in the 1990s, Zahid was commander of the Fifth Army corps for central Afghanistan covering Kabul, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Parwan and Kapisa provinces. In Wolesi Jirga Elections 2005 he received most votes in the Province. He was the Chairman of Interior Affairs Commission (20091028). Haji Almas “ex warlord” and businessman, as of mid-2005 was a senior Commander in the Ministry of Defense, stationed in Parwan.
    Amas was a middle level commander of Jamiat, Shura-e Nazar party of Ahmed Shah Massoud assassinated on September 9, 2001 — 2 days before 9/11 was reelected MNA 2010 and received 4th most votes.
    Amas owns a well known ‘Restaurant with Iranian Food’ in Kabul, and has owned owned businesses such as home construction and the enterprise that exported raisins to Russia. He said his sons run businesses, and his own wealth is around $10 million. He denied keeping an illegal militia, but added that Afghans can get arms if the country is invaded. He has 20 body guards – legally only being allowed to have four in his capacity.
    In 2010 “Human Rights Watch” labeled him a murderer, drug trafficker, and looter. Some people agree, some disagree, and others say to what degree. All I can report is that prior to my last trip (2007) in Afghanistan Amas was exceedingly attentive and responsive with the collective efforts to have the proposed “Afghanistan Institute of Peace and Justice” become a reality.