The Ascension Of The Taliban From The Soviet-Afghan Conflict

Adam Fitzgerald
8 min readDec 30, 2019

The Soviet Union’s Vietnam, began during the Russian-Afghan War between 1979–1989. The move against Afghanistan and it’s Democratic Army came from the many rebel factions residing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With Nur Muhammad Taraki being chosen as the President of Afghanistan amidst controversy. It brought about a 10 year war that would cost the lives of approximately 2 million people. It would also give rise to many important and leading figures, some whose influence and actions, would have reverberating consequences for all time. With the Russian Army moving ahead to the capitol, Kabul, the Afghan Mujahedeen rallied behind the local tribal forces. Soon a young Saudi would join the conflict, Osama Bin Laden, who at the time was simply the son of a wealthy but successfully industrious contractor, the biggest in all the Kingdom, the Saudi BinLaden Group.

Bin Laden would use his own money to purchase earth moving machines to build roads and build trenches for the Afghan rebels. He would also meet with religious leaders of these rebel group, Abdullah Azzam and an Egyptian doctor with notoriety, Ayman al-Zawahiri. With the financial assitance of Bin Laden, and with Abdullah Azzam, they would in turn create the Maktab al-Khidamat (Afghan Services Bureau). It would be an organization which was primarily funded by Bin Laden to recruit and train Muslims, mostly from abroad. It would also be an idea for the CIA to fund other Afghan tribal leaders against the invading Soviet forces.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski were intimately involved in the Afghan Mujahedeen. Knowing they could not be seen affiliated with the Mujahidin without cos-signing into a major war. The CIA started covertly funding the Pakistani ISI who then funded the Afghan Jihadists. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, head of the Hezb i-Islami was the most properly funded of the Afghan warlords. And had one of the most largest conscripts in the region. Backed by numerous intelligence agencies including the MI-6, CIA and Pakistan ISI, who helped strengthen his rebel group. With Osama Bin Laden primarily financing the (MAK) services group with his fathers construction finances (Saudi BinLaden) and with help from Ahmed Shah Massoud (Jamiat e-Islami) the Soviet invasion had to primarily fight against numerous warlords thru-ought the vast Afghan terrain. The (MAK) services center also had numerous influential donors abroad including one major pipeline inside NYC, Al-Kifah Mosque which was headed by Mustafa Shalabi who was closely aligned with Abdullah Azzam (MAK). Both were influential in the Sunni Islamic communities thru-ought the world.

The Afghan Mujahedeen would receive the necessary assistance from the CIA’s Operation Cyclone, where the State Dept. and Afghan rebels main leaders came to an agreement that stinger missiles would be given to them with a clause, that they would return them back to the State Dept. after the war. It would help change the war to favor the Afghan armies.

In 1987, Osama Bin Laden would partake in a battle that would be a decisive victory over an overwhelming Soviet Bin Laden’s Lion’s den camp in Jaji, Afghanistan. According to numerous sources the battle was 200 Soviets to 50 Afghan Mujahedeen, after the short but fierce battle Bin Laden would be given the Soviet commander’s AK-47 (He would later be seen in numerous interviews with same rifle by his side). Bin Laden would retreat back to a neighboring Afghan camp held by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf (who had close ties with Saudi Arabia, which financed him generously during the war). In February 15, 1989 the Soviet forces would retreat and end the war after 10 years.

With the soviet military collapse in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence agencies halted all funding to the Afghan neighboring tribes. With approximately one million Afghan lives extinguished and some of the areas still smoldering and without proper leadership, the country had a festering internal problem growing each passing day. Most of the Islamic Jihadists returned back to their homes (Malaysia, United States, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia) but the Pashtuns and Afghani’s had begun warring with each other to gain as much ground as they could. The CIA favors Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, while Ahmed Shah Massoud was favored to lead the more moderate Afghans. It would lead to both of them committed to war over which tribal leader to govern Afghanistan.

1993 Afghanistan…with the Soviet Invasion defeated at the hands of the Mujaheddin, civil war races across the region with sectarian tribes fighting over small swaths of farmland which were previously left in tatters from the ten year war. Gulbulddin Hekmatyar (Hezb i-islami) and Ahmed Shah Massoud (Jamiat e-islami) are at odds and are the two largest factions in this civil war. Hekmatyar with a more rigid Sunni background and Massoud wanting a more structural government without an oppressive religious state. With the complete backing of Pakistan, Hekmatyar pushed forward into Northern Afghanistan to diffuse the smaller but brave Massoud sectors.

“We went to Kabul with a lot of glory and pride. . . .We were encouraged that our country would lead forward, gain strength, and we would stand on our own two feet.The recent attacks on Kabul have shattered all the hopes of the Afghan people and caused us tremendous humiliation in the international community.” — Hamid Karzai, deputy foreign minister, to the Associated Press, August 23, 1992.…/past-atrocities-kabul-and

The period between, 1995–96, saw the rise of the Taliban as religious madrassas in Pakistan, especially in Islamabad and Lahore, saw an influx of more “orthodox” Sunni Muslims after the war ended. The rise of the more dedicated, extremists replaced the Nationalist Pan Arabists who fought in the Jihad against the Soviets. Saudi Arabia would seize on the opportunity and continue funding, along with Pakistan ISI, the “Sunni schools of thought” (Hanbali). By February 1996, all of Afghanistan’s armed factions — except for the Taliban — had agreed to take part in the peace process and to set up a peace council to elect a new interim president. Many Pashtun areas under Taliban control had representatives also advocating for a peace agreement with the Islamic State government. But Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the Kandaharis surrounding him wanted to expand the war.…/as-the-taliban-finish-off-foes

From 1996 onward, Massoud would continue to battle against his bitter rival Hekmatyar. Massoud would join other Pashtun forces and regroup them into a new sect, Northern Alliance. As the Taliban continued to drive forward while leaving behind its religious persecution against the farming villages tribal leaders and women forced to acquiesce to their demands. With most of the rival factions liquidated and their tribal leaders in exile, Massoud was the only rival left. Massoud stated that the Taliban repeatedly offered him a position of power to make him stop his resistance. He declined, declaring the differences between their ideology and his own pro-democratic outlook on society to be insurmountable.…/texts/Ahmad_Shah_Masood_en.htm

In 1999 Julie Sims, A Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, would later visit Massoud. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. She sees a terrorist training center in Taliban-controlled territory. Sirrs will later claim: “The Taliban’s brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by Bin Laden’s money, plus the narcotics trade, while Massoud’s resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.”

She partly blames the interest of the U.S government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability to enable a trans-Afghanistan pipeline She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn’t want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.” Returning home, she was relieved from the DIA for insubordination, because at that time the U.S. administration had no trust in Massoud.

November 1999, the United Nations imposed its first, in a series over the years, economic sanctions against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) in it’s refusal to hand over Osama Bin Laden for his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania. United Nation’s Security Council 1267 list of sanctions were as follows:

The resolutions imposed a series of demands on member states as well as on Afghanistan under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The first included:

The Taliban must not allow territory under its control to be used for terrorist training.
The Taliban must turn over Osama bin Laden to the appropriate authorities.
All countries must deny flight permission to all Taliban operated aircraft.
All countries must freeze all financial resources that could benefit the Taliban.
All countries must report back within 30 days on what measures they had taken.

The Taliban had offered to Clinton a proposal in regards to the sanctions. Show evidence of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s sponsorship to bomb the U.S. Embassies. In which Clinton refused to show. The CIA would later claim this would be a mistake on the State Department’s part to not acquiesce to the Taliban’s inquiry regarding Bin Laden authorizing the bombing of the U.S Embassies. Meanwhile, the Taliban push forward and overtake Mazar-Sharif,, the fourth largest city Northeast Afghanistan. United Nations and Human Rights watch would later report of mass killings of Shia minorities especially those of the Hazara ethnic group, mainly of Persian descent. Massoud would shortly repel the attack by mounting forces from the Southern end and the Taliban would retreat,.

Mullah Omar however had given a rare interview and declared the United States as the priority enemy. In 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks inside the United States. His interview was conducted thru a Pashtun interpreter which was the interview itself conducted by a representative thru phone from Voice of America, a U.S. international broadcasting magnate. The interview was 12 minutes long, during the exchange, Mullah Omar had spoken about the disregard for Muslims by the U.S Government during and after the war in Afghanistan. Omar was defiant throughout and even dared the United States to engage in a long standing war against a country for which never saw a foreign land successfully conquer it in all of human history.

VOA: But aren’t you afraid for the people, yourself, the Taliban, your country?

Omar: Almighty God… is helping the believers and the Muslims. God says he will never be satisfied with the infidels. In terms of worldly affairs, America is very strong. Even if it were twice as strong or twice that, it could not be strong enough to defeat us. We are confident that no one can harm us if God is with us.

VOA: You are telling me you are not concerned, but Afghans all over the world are concerned.

Omar: We are also concerned. Great issues lie ahead. But we depend on God’s mercy. Consider our point of view: if we give Osama away today, Muslims who are now pleading to give him up would then be reviling us for giving him up… Everyone is afraid of America and wants to please it. But Americans will not be able to prevent such acts like the one that has just occurred because America has taken Islam hostage. If you look at Islamic countries, the people are in despair. They are complaining that Islam is gone. But people remain firm in their Islamic beliefs. In their pain and frustration, some of them commit suicide acts. They feel they have nothing to lose.

VOA: If you fight America with all your might — can the Taliban do that? Won’t America beat you and won’t your people suffer even more?

Omar: I’m very confident that it won’t turn out this way. Please note this: there is nothing more we can do except depend on almighty God. If a person does, then he is assured that the Almighty will help him, have mercy on him and he will succeed.



Adam Fitzgerald

Geo-political scientist/researcher into the events of September 11th 2001.