The Lion Of Panjshir: Ahmad Shah Massoud

Adam Fitzgerald
7 min readDec 8, 2019


Ahmad Shah Massoud was a political and military leader for Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion from 1979–1989. But during the years of 1992–2001 he became a part of a tribal war against Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (Taliban) in a fight against the Sunni radicalization (Salafist) of the country. Massoud became part of the Sunni movement Jamiat-a Islami (Islamic Society of Afghanistan) in 1972 which was headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, Hekmatyar was also closely allied with Burhanuddin as well. The Jamiat-e Islami is a peculiar branch of Sunni Islamist thought as it closely resembled Communism mixed with Sunni Islamic law, it was one of the most powerful Mujahideen forces against the Soviet invasion at one point which also received some of the more favorable aid in forms of military weaponry and financing from the Pakistan ISI.

Following the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, Massoud and Hekmatyar worked together to diffuse the powerful Soviet forces from coming thru important valleys such as the Salang Pass which connects the borders of Northern Afghanistan to the main city of Kabul. With expertise in asymmetrical warfare and learning about guerrilla tactics from reading Mao Sze Tung, these guerrilla operations had great success and gave vigorous motivation for the Mujaheddin fighters. After the Soviet retreat in 1989, the country itself still smoldering from the prolonged war and massive casualties of both sides, Hekmatyar and Massoud wanted to allow a new form of government be created for the stability of the country, With the country left to warring Afghan tribes to fight for sectioned areas for power, a civil war broke out between the Sunni Pashtuns and fractured sections of the Afghan government.

“A recorded radio communication between the two leaders showed the divide as Massoud asked Hekmatyar: “The Kabul regime is ready to surrender, so instead of the fighting we should gather. … The leaders are meeting in Peshawar. … The troops should not enter Kabul, they should enter later on as part of the government.” Hekmatyar’s response: “We will march into Kabul with our naked sword. No one can stop us. … Why should we meet the leaders?” Massoud answered:

“It seems to me that you don’t want to join the leaders in Peshawar nor stop your threat, and you are planning to enter Kabul … in that case I must defend the people.”

With Osama Bin Laden acting as mediator, Bin Laden had asked Hekmatyar to overcome the sectarian divide and meet Massoud with some compromise, even thou Bin Laden detested Massoud for being too “Westernized”. Hekmatyar declined, and thought with the Hizb-e Islami and Taliban at his side he could defeat Massoud and the Northern Alliance just as he did against the Soviet forces just 4 years ago. The war between the lasted between 1992–95, with tens of thousands of civilians dying in the process. A backlash over Massoud’s indiscriminate killing of people in small provinces such as Ashraf and Jaldak by Human Rights Watch put Massoud in a negative light and thus a tentative settlement to end the war was reached suspiciously by Hekmatyar. In 1996 the Taliban seized the capitol (Kabul) and had military dominance in most of Afghanistan. In 1999, areas under Massoud’s control such as Panjshir, Takhar and Badakhshan survived barely but weren’t under the religious mullahs of the Taliban where the major cities of Kabul and Nuristan suffered immensely including the women, forced to wear full Burkas.

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 US 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.

With the Taliban taking almost full power over Afghanistan behind the backing of the Saudi’s funding and Pakistan ISI military weaponry, the U.S. State Dept. interferes with the Northern Alliances advances toward the Taliban in it’s final assault. In a U.S. Capitol speech (2004) Democratic Senator of California Dana Rohrabacher took the initiative to place blame on two Bill Clinton appointees who intervened on behalf of the Taliban from being attacked by Massoud and his army:

“I sent a message to Commander Massoud and to others that Kabul should be liberated and that the King should be brought back to oversee a transition government, which then would hopefully evolve into a democratically elected government, perhaps like what happened in Spain where the King returned and it evolved into a democratic government; but before the anti-Taliban forces could strike, Assistant Secretary of State Rick Indefurth and American U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson flew to northern Afghanistan and convinced the anti-Taliban leadership that this was not the time for an offensive. Instead, they insisted this was the time for a cease-fire and an arms embargo. This clearly was a statement of U.S. policy.

Two top foreign policy leaders in the Clinton administration flew to northern Afghanistan to convince the anti-Taliban forces not to take advantage of their one opportunity to soundly defeat and, thus eliminate, this enemy. These Clinton appointees saved the Taliban; and let me underscore, by this time the evil nature of these Islamic Nazis was clearly evident. Right after the cease-fire and the release of prisoners brokered by these Clinton administration geniuses, the Pakistanis began a Berlin-like airlift to resupply and re-equip the Taliban, obviously financed with Saudi money.”

April 2001, the European Parliament trying to seize the opportunity invited Ahmed Massoud to address the French and Belgian parliament members in order to win their backing and support his fight against the growing Taliban and Bin Laden Mujahideen. In his speech, he asked for humanitarian aid for the people of Afghanistan. Massoud further went on to warn that his intelligence agents had gained limited knowledge about a large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil being imminent. A classified US intelligence document states, “Massoud’s intelligence staff is aware that the attack against the US will be on a scale larger than the 1998 embassy bombings, which killed over two hundred people and injured thousands.”

September 9,2001 Northern Alliance leader Amrullah Saleh gives an urgent call to CIA Alec Station (Bin Laden Issue Station) manager Richard Blee informing him that Al Qaeda operatives in a suicide mission had killed Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Although Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, an expert on Afghanistan, realizes the assassination means “something terrible [is] about to happen” Blee does not appear to connect the assassination to a spike in warnings about an al-Qaeda attack against US interests, even though he has been briefing senior officials about this all summer. The timing of the assassination and the actions of the Taliban army suggest that the 9/11 attacks were known to the Taliban leadership. The Northern Alliance would release a press statement blaming the Pakistan ISI and Osama Bin Laden for the death of Ahmed Shah Massoud, and the reason for Bin Laden helping in said assassination was so he could hide out in Afghanistan following the events of 9/11, thus the Taliban in protecting him from assassination or capture from U.S. forces.

An agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency sends two classified cables to various US government agencies detailing how Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) created the Taliban and helped al-Qaeda. The agent writes that during the Soviet-Afghan War, the “Pakistan government also had a hidden agenda… Pakistan decided to deliberately influence the outcome. Rather than allow the most gifted Afghan commanders and parties to flourish, who would be hard to control later, Pakistan preferred to groom the incompetent ones because they would be wholly reliant on Pakistan for support… Pakistan also encouraged, facilitated, and often escorted Arabs from the Middle East into Afghanistan. Eventually a special facility was constructed… with Pakistan ISI funding.” When Ahmed Shah Massoud captured Kabul in the early 1990's, “Pakistan could not accept this result and the fragile Afghan coalition began another civil war, with the Pakistan stooge Gulbuddin Hekmatyar being backed to seize total power.

In the end Pakistan was proved right about only one thing, Hekmatyar was incompetent. He was never able to wrest Kabul from Massoud, despite massive logistical and material, including manpower, support from Pakistan.” When Hekmatyar failed, “Pakistan created another force they hoped to have better control over than Hekmatyar’s rabble. It was called the Taliban… To lead the Taliban, Pakistan chose Mullah Mohammad Omar, who was willing to do as he was told… Omar’s emergence is credited to Pakistan ISI actions… The fully supported (by Pakistan) Taliban prevailed over the unsupported legitimate government of Afghanistan.



Adam Fitzgerald

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