Northern Alliance

The capture of Kabul by the Taleban on 26 September 1996 quickly realigned political forces within Afghanistan and the region. The non-Pashtun forces allied again as they did in the Northern Alliance of 1992. The anti-Taleban Northern Alliance is composed of the ousted ethnic Tajik president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Commander Ahmad Shah Masoud and their Jamiat-i-Islami forces, and General Abdul Rashid Dostum and the ethnic Uzbek Junbish-i-Milli party. The Northern Alliance is headed by nominal President Rabbani, who holds power with de facto Defense Minister Masood as his primary military backer. After the defeat of the Tajik Commander Masood, the Alliance was clearly under the leadership of the Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum. Junbish-i Milli-yi Islami (National Islamic Movement) - After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the non-Pashtun militias in the north centered in the city of Mazar-i Sharif, constituted themselves into a new organization, the Junbish-i Milli-yi Islami (National Islamic Movement), founded by General Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose base of support lies primarily among the Sunni Muslim Uzbeks. A large number of fighters forming part of this organization (the numbers vary between 15,000 and 160,000) had a reputation of being the best equipped of Afghanistan. General Abdul Rashid Dostum received support from Uzbekistan and from Russia. He had formed an alliance with G. Hikmatyar in 1994 and was part of the alliance formed against B. Rabbani, the ‘Supreme Coordination Council’. Dostum and Commander Abdul Malik shared nominal control of five to six north central provinces. In May 1997, Dostum was defeated in battle by Malik, who defected to the Taleban and subsequently fled the country. The Taleban managed briefly to enter Mazaar-i-Sharif, though they were forced out within days after heavy street fighting. General Dostum, who had held overall control of the city, then fled the country and his faction split. In September 1997 General Dostum returned from exile in Turkey. Jamiat-i Islami (Islamic Society) In 1973 Burhanuddin Rabbani, a lecturer at the sharia (Islamic law) faculty of Kabul University, was chosen as chairman of Jamiat-i Islami, a predominately Tajik Islamist party which developed as the dominant party in the Persian speaking areas of northeastern and western Afghanistan. At first Rabbani received some financial and material support from the Government of Saudi Arabia, but this appears to have ended in 1993. Former President Rabbani claims to be the head of the Government and controls most of the country's embassies abroad and retains Afghanistan's UN seat after the U.N. General Assembly deferred a decision on Afghanistan's credentials. Rabbani received nominal support from General Malik (until he was driven out of Afghanistan), from General Dostum, and the Shi'a/Hazara Hezb-i-Wahdat. Rabbani’s famous Mujahideen military commander Ahmad Shah Masood built the most sophisticated military-political organization, the Supervisory Council of the North (SCN-Shura-yi Nazar-i Shamali). The SCN coordinated Jamiat commanders in about five provinces and also created region-wide forces which developed into Masood’s Islamic Army (Urdu-yi Islami). Rabbani and Masood control the northeastern, largely Tajik, portion of the country, including the strategic Panjshir valley north of Kabul. The area includes the opium-growing area of Badakhshan. Some of Masood's commanders in the north reportedly use torture routinely to extract information from and break the will of prisoners and political opponents; some of the victims are said to have been tortured to death. External Support The conflict in Afghanistan has continued to have an international dimension, both from political and economic perspectives. The United States is intent on offseting Iranian influence on the spread of terrorism and expansion of markets in the region. Russia had backed B. Rabbani’s government in Kabul and feared that a Pakistani backed Pashtun movement such as the Taleban would be expansionist, threatening Russia’s interests in Central-Asian countries. Russia has provided Dostem with 500 T55 and T62 tanks that are used against areas that oppose his rule. Russia has also provided Dostem with a large number of Frog 7 and Luna M missiles. Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov had clandestinely supported his fellow Uzbek, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, with tanks, aircraft and technical personnel, with an expectation that Uzbek dominated provinces in northern Afghanistan would provide a buffer against the spread of fundamentalism from Afghanistan. Tajikistan, racked by civil war and with a government backed by Russian troops, has been sympathetic to fellow Tajiks led by President B. Rabbani. Many Afghan Tajiks also support the idea of a greater Tajikistan - merging Tajik areas of Afghanistan with Tajikistan. India in the early 1990s provided technical and financial assistance to Rabani and his military commander Masood. India, according to charges by the Taleban, is using "hirelings in Afghanistan to commit terrorist acts against Afghan men, women, and children."

PEOPLE AND POLICIES TALIBAN (OR TALEBAN): Pashtun (or Pushtun) Islamic students who currently control 95% of Afghanistan. Led by one-eyed Commander of the Faithful, Mullah Mohammed Omar. JIHAD: "Holy war" against un-Islamic forces. The purpose of Afghanistan's Jihad was to end the influence and occupation by Russia. The men who engage in the physical combat in the course of a Jihad are called Mujaheddin. MUJAHEDDIN (OR MUJAHEDEEN): Afghan "holy warriors." The collective name of various ethnic factions (the Taliban among them) initially united to fight Afghanistan's Soviet occupiers. UNITED ISLAMIC FRONT FOR THE SALVATION OF AFGHANISTAN: formerly known as the Northern Alliance. Opposition group of ethnic minorities led by Ahmed Shah Massoud (former Afghan Defense Minister) and Tajik Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani (former president of Afghanistan ousted by the Taliban in 1992 but still recognised by the United Nations as head of state). The Northern Alliance controls the northern 5% of Afghanistan from its capital at Mazar-i-Sharif. AHMED SHAH MASSOUD Former leader of the Northern alliance. Killed Sept. 6, 2001 OSAMA BIN LADEN: Chief suspect in bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa. His presence in Afghanistan prompted the United States to bomb Afghanistan in 1998. LOYA JIRGA A "Grand Assembly" or consultative gathering held in Afghanistan to decide matters of national importance. A Loya Jirga convened in 1941 by King Mohammed Zahir Shah voted to keep Afghanistan neutral during World War II. In 1963 King Zahir Shah held a Loya Jirga to oversee the drafting of a new constitution as did his successor Daoud, in 1977. The communists attempted to legitimize the Soviet occupation through the use of a Loya Jirga but were unsuccessful. SHAHID Holy martyr.

PLAYERS Taliban (Sunni) Pakistan (Formerly) United Arab Emirates (Formerly) Saudi Arabia vs. United Islamic Front Iran (Shiite) Russia Hazaras (Shiite)

LATEST NEWS September, 2001 Terrorist experts believe Osama bin Laden's al-Queda paramilitary organization was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11. Laden had issued a fatwa or holy war against the U.S.and had warned three weeks earlier that he would attack American interests in an unprecendented way. Specialists believed that only Osama bin Laden's organizations had the motive and capabilites to execute such a mission. Taliban leaders formally condemned the attacks and also insisted that bin Laden was not involved. They claim that Bin Laden has had no link with the outside world after the Taliban withdrew communication facilities from him three years ago. The U.S. government said that it was not responsible for explosions that rocked Kabul on September 11, 2001. The Northern Alliance may have been retaliating for a bombing attack on Ahmed Shah Massoud. Sunday, Sept. 9, 2001 Ahmed Shah Massoud was the victim of a suicide bomb attack at the remote base of the Northern Alliance in Khodja Bhauddin. The bomb was believed to have been hidden in a TV camera or on the body of a man posing as a journalist interviewing Massoud. Some Afghan officials claimed that he only suffered injuries to his leg, hip and scalp, perhaps in order to buy time to build up troops in case of a Taliban onslaught. U.S. intelligence sources strongly believe that he was killed. March, 2001 Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, ordered the demolition of all statues and works of art representing "gods of the infidels." Two giant Buddhas carved in the mountains of Bamian in the 3rd and 5th centuries were among 1000s of statues destroyed at the beginning of the month despite very strong objections from Western and Islamic leaders.

IN A NUTSHELL Afghanistan followed the same fate as dozens of formerly Soviet-occupied countries after the collapse of Moscow's Marxist government in 1991. Islamic factions, which had united to expel the Russian occupiers in 1992, began to fight among themselves when it became apparent that post-communist coalition governments could not overcome the deep-rooted ethnic and religious differences of the members. It was in this atmosphere of economic strife and civil war that a fundamentalist band of religious students emerged victorious. By 1996, this group, the Taliban, ruled 90% of the country with a controversial holy iron hand. Today the contest continues between ethnic minorities, united again in northern Afghanistan, and the ethnically Pashtun Taliban. The rivalry that keeps Afghanistan in a perpetual state of economic and political instability is further complicated by foreign participants vying for access to oil reserves or hoping to use Afghanistan as a pawn in their own international rivalries. Other interested nations fear the spread of Islamic fundamentalism or simply object to perceived civil rights abuses. Also at issue: Afghanistan’s putative support of international terrorism (especially Osama bin Laden), alleged ethnic discrimination and the cultivation and trade of opium.

BACKGROUND While rival warlords terrorized the Afghan people in a competition for power, the Taliban swept into southern Afghanistan with little resistance from a population disgusted by the corruption, lawlessness and political instability that now plagued the country. By September 1996, the refugees had restored peace and allowed commerce to flourish again. Today they rule 95% of Afghanistan in accordance with strict laws of the Sharia (Islamic law). The other 5% of the country is tenaciously held by minority opposition groups led by president Rabbani and led by military commander Ahmed Shah Massoud until his death September 9, 2001. This United National Islamic Front or Northern Alliance shared critics' objections to the Taliban's extreme fundamentalist methods and especially scorns Pashtun ethnic chauvinism.

TALIBAN Backed by Pakistan to open trade routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Taliban rose to power in 1994. The word "Taliban," from the Persian "Talib" meaning religious student, accurately describes the make up of Afghanistan's current rulers. Most core members attended religious schools (Madrassas) in Pakistan where their families had sought refuge during the Soviet occupation, and adhere to their own fundamental interpretation of Sunni Islamic law. Their proclaimed objective, to set up the world's most pure Islamic state in their homeland, Afghanistan, comes as no surprise. To fulfill this religious agenda, the small group of students swept though Afghanistan in 1994, neutralized antagonistic warlords along the way, and implemented strict Islamic law from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, two years later. Such a swift military victory has been attributed to the receptiveness of the "invaders" by the ethnically Pashtun majority in the south as well as foreign interference.

PAKISTAN The relationship between the Afghan religious students and Pakistan was forged long before the Taliban became a major force. Most Taliban members were born, educated and trained in Pakistani refugee camps and share a religious identity with Pakistan's majority Sunni population as well as an ethnic identity with the Pashtuns from the North West Frontier province which borders on Afghanistan. This kinship played a large role in Pakistan's decision to back the refugees. By training and arming the band of Afghan refugees Islamabad hoped to bring political stability to their war-wearied neighbor and help to install a strategic ally in the face of Pakistan's ongoing conflict with India. By playing on Saudi Arabian and US interests against Iran, furthermore, and by indicating that transit routes through Afghanistan to Central Asian Muslim countries would be opened, Pakistan was instrumental in securing Saudi and American support for the religious refugees. Ironically, the success of the Taliban inspired the "Talibanization" of Pakistan's own Islamic community thereby driving the country closer to an Islamic revolution of its own. According to US intelligence reports, the Taliban's latest territorial gains over the opposition have partly been due to Pakistan's growing military assistance and material aid.

a.Pakistan is the second most populous Muslim nation in the world after Indonesia and carries a lot of weight in the Islamic world.

b.Pakistan opposes the Northern Alliance. Most members of the Northern Alliance do not share an ethnic identity with the country. Members of the Taliban and many Pakistanis are Pashtun.

c.Pakistan has been stuck in the middle of the battle between the US and Afghanistan.

d.Pakistan desperately needs economic and political support from the West but can't afford to alienate the increasingly militant Islamic fundamentalist minority.

e.When the US attacked Bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan 3 years ago, Pakistan suffered 3 days of protests.

f.Musharraf's rule has already lost some public support.

g.Many of Pakistans schools were reportedly built and staffed using Bin Laden's money.


a.Some Islamic groups spread word that Bin Laden was being framed for the attacks in order to defame Islam and to justify an American strike against Afghanistan.

b.Some Muslims believe that Jews staged the attack to implicate Muslims and help gain support for their cause in Israel.


a.The destruction in Manhattan will cost New Yorker's $105 billion over the next 2 years.


a.Israel -- In the eyes of many Arabs, Israel and its foreign vanquishers occupied territory inhabited by Arabs in 1948, and subsequently ruled with an iron fist. America's support of Israel during the wars of 1967 and 1973 further angered Arabs and Muslims around the world who took up the cause of the Palestinian as a symbol of their indignation over the West's encroachment.

b.Westernization -- With globalization, the spread of capitalism, tourism and westernization, some Muslims fear their way of life is being jeopardized.

c.Oil -- Cynical belief that American actions in the Middle East are all geared toward protecting America's oil interests.

d.Iraq -- Many Arabs feel that the US bombing and isolation of Iraq has severely harmed the innocent Iraqi population rather than the US target of the measures, Saddam Hussein.

e.Saudi Arabia -- Some Muslims, including Osama Bin Laden, felt US troops should not have been welcomed by the Saudi royal family to base its troops in Islam's holiest countries (Saudi Arabia is the home of Mecca and Medina, two of Islam's holiest cities) to save Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Especially objectionable: the presence of female soldiers driving cars and wearing soliers uniforms.



a.There are more than 4 million Afghan refugees in neighboring Iran and Pakistan

b.Since September 11, another 1.5 million have fled.

WOMEN a.The Taliban and their supporters claim the closure of women's schools and prohibitions of female employment are only temporary measures and that institutions would be reopened once peace and prosperity allowed the Taliban to devote energy to social issues. As for edicts mandating women to wear the burqa in public -- supporters say that the garment was already worn voluntarily by most religious women in the country. The Taliban's universal enforcement, they say, was intended to "promote dignity for women by sheltering them from men in public" and to protect women from marauding warlords who only recently roamed the country raping and pillaging townspeople. b.Western organizations believe the Taliban is trampling on the fundamental human rights of women by forcing them to stay at home or hide under confining garments that dangerously impede vision and movement. Women, moreover, cannot receive medical care since men are forbidden to see female patients and women doctors are prohibited from practicing medicine. Women in Afghanistan, they say, are suffering from anxiety and depression and Western nations have a moral obligation to come to their aid.

OSAMA BIN LADEN Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire accused of financing terrorist activity against the West (including the September 11 terrorist attack) waged a "jihad" (holy war) against the Soviets in Afghanistan at the behest of US and Saudi Arabian intelligence and then turned his jihad against Western infidels once the communists were defeated. a.The Taliban refused requests to extradite the Bin Laden for trial claiming Washington didn't have enough evidence to support claims that he masterminded the East Africa bombings. Bin Laden, who helped expel the Soviets and funded the Taliban's final thrust to Kabul was classified a "guest" in Afghanistan and permitted to remain in the country. b.The US now claims to have ample evidence of his involvement. c.Intelligence officials believe that bin Laden was financing the Chechen operation in Dagestan and reported that the dissident once considered leaving Afghanistan for the Russian republic. NBC reported that Russia and the U.S. were concerned that he may be working with Chechen rebels to obtain radioactive material for a "radiological dispersal device" that would spray the potentially deadly material over a small area. d.Bin Laden has claimed credit for the attack on US soldiers in Somalia in October 1993 which killed 18 people. e.He is also suspected of playing a role in the attack on US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 which killed 224 and injured nearly 5000 people and linked to the attack on the USS Cole on Oct. 12, 2000 killing 17 crew members and injuring 40 others. f.Of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, at least three have been found to have links with the Osama bin Laden's Al-Queda organization.


a.Afghanistan used to produce more than 1/3 of the world's opium and heroin.

b.The Taliban banned the production and cultivation of opium last year.

c.The UN estimated that the Taliban earned $10 million to $30 million a year from taxes levied on opium growers. The US estimates it earned $40 million to $50 million.

d.This year the UN stated that most opium grown in Afghanistan was in areas controlled by the Northern Alliance.

e.The northeaster border of Afghanistan (still controlled by the Northern Alliance) is a major corridor for trafficking drugs through Tajikistan.


a.Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country in the world.

b.The mines are a legacy of the war against the Soviets and the civil war.


Today, many of the parties below are part of either the Taliban or the United Front.

Party: Harakat-i-Islami English name: Islamic Movement Leader: Mohammed Asif Mohseni With the United Front

Party: Harakat-Inqilab-i-Islami English name: Islamic Revolutionary Movement Leader: Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi With the United Front

Party: Hizbi Islami-Gulbuddin English name: Islamic Party Leader Gulbuddin Hikmatyar Independent

Party: Hizbi Islami-Khalis English name: Islamic Party Leader: Yunis Khalis Supports the Taliban

Party: Hizbi Wahdat-Khalili faction English name: Islamic Unity Party Leader: Abdul Karim Khalili With the United Front

Party: Hizbi Wahdat-Akbari faction English name: Islamic Unity Party Leader: Mohammad Akbar Akbari With the Taliban

Party: Ittihad-i-Islami Barai Azadi Afghanistan English name: Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan Leader: Abdul Rasul Sayaf With the United Front

Party: Jabha-i-Najat-i-Milli Afghanistan English name: Afghanistan National Liberation Front Leader: Sibghatullah Mojadedi Independent

Party: Jamiat-i-Islami English name: Islamic Society Leader: Burhanuddin Rabbani With the United Front

Party: Jumbesh-i-Milli Islami English name: National Islamic Movement Leader: Abdul Rashid Dostum With the United Front

Party: Mahaz-i-Milli-Islami English name: National Islamic Front Leader: Sayed Ahamad Gailani Independent

Party: Taliban English name: Students Leader: Mullah Mohammad Omar

Hizb-i Wahdat (The Unity Party) Muslims comprise 99 per cent of the population of Afghanistan , approximately 80 per cent of them Sunni and the remainder Shi’a followers. The Shi’a minority is concentrated in central and western Afghanistan, and are among the most economically disadvantaged persons in the country. The Shi'a minority wants a national government to give them equal rights as citizens. In 1988, Iran united eight Shi’a parties (all but Harakat-i Islami) into Hizb-i Wahdat (The Unity Party), primarily consisting of the political representative of ethnic Hazara chiefs. In January 1996, Iran announced it had reconciled them under President B. Rabbani. Hizb-i Wahdat effectively controls Central Afghanistan. Commander Masood defeated the Hizb-i-Wahdat forces in Kabul in a February 1995 offensive after its ally, Hizb-i Islam, had been defeated by the Taleban. Hazarajat remains under the control of Hizb-i Wahdat, though initially the Jamiat government and later the Taleban contested their power in the town of Bamiyan. By November 1997 the Taleban-imposed blockade on the Hazarajat region ruled by Hezb-i-Wahdat had pushed the population (of about 1 million) to the verge of starvation. External Support Iran considers itself the protector of the Shi’a Hazaras from the Taleban who are Sunni and militarily anti-Shi’a. The Hizb-i-Wahdat is the instrument of the interests of the Iranian regime in Afghanistan, against the interests of Pakistan, currently expressed through the Taleban. The Hezb-i-Wahdat is alleged to provide espionage and agent provocateur services to the Iranian regime. The government of Iran has recognized B. Rabbani as the president of Afghanistan and diplomatic relations have been maintained through the Iranian consulate in Taloquan, in the Tajik-controlled north-east of Afghanistan, and not through Kabul, which was captured by the Taleban militia. Iran is providing Rabani-Dostem-Masood forces with thousands of anti-personal mines that are being deployed in Badghis province and the Bala Murghab areas.

Afghanistan Players

The following information was taken from a variety of sources, including,,, as well as various James Dunningan books.