Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ahmad Shah Massoud

Ahmad Shah Massoud (September 2, 1953 – September 9, 2001) was a Kabul University engineering student turned military leader who played a leading role in driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan, earning him the name "Lion of Panjshir". His followers call him Amir Sahib-e Shahid (Our Beloved Martyred Commander). A Sunni Muslim reportedly also always carrying a book of Sufi mystic Ghazali with him, he strongly rejected the interpretations of Islam followed by the Taliban, Al Qaeda or the Saudi establishment. His followers not only saw him as a military commander but also as a spiritual leader.

Following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan the Wall Street Journal named Massoud "the Afghan who won the Cold War". After the collapse of the communist Soviet-backed government of Mohammad Najibullah in 1992, Massoud became the Minister of Defense under the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani. Following the rise of the Taliban in 1996, Massoud returned to the role of an armed opposition leader, serving as the military commander and political leader of the United Islamic Front (also known in the West as Northern Alliance).

On September 9, 2001, two days before the September 11 attacks in the United States, Massoud was assassinated in Takhar Province of Afghanistan by two suspected Arab al-Qaeda suicide bombers posing as journalists. The following year, he was named "National Hero" by the order of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The date of his death, September 9, is observed as a national holiday known as "Massoud Day" in Afghanistan. The year following his assassination, in 2002, Massoud was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Early life
The son of police commander Dost Mohammad, an ethnic Tajik, Ahmad Shah Massoud was born on September 2, 1953 in Bazarak, Panjshir, Afghanistan. At the age of five, he started grammar school in Bazarak and stayed there until second grade. Since his father was promoted to be police chief of Herat, he attended 3rd and 4th grade at the Mowaffaq School in Herat. He also received a religious education at the "Masjed-e Jame" mosque in Herat. Later, his father was moved to Kabul where he attended the Lycée Esteqlal and obtained his Baccalaureate. Since his childhood, he was considered exceedingly talented; from 10th grade on, his school acknowledged him as a particularly gifted student. He knew many languages including Persian, Pashtu, Urdu, Hindi and French. He also had a good working knowledge of Arabic and English.

While studying in Kabul in 1972, Massoud became involved with the Sazman-i Jawanan-i Musulman ("organization of Muslim youth"), the student branch of the Jamiat-i Islami ("Islamic Society"), whose chairman was professor Burhanuddin Rabbani. This Islamist organization opposed the rising communist and Soviet influence that became especially evident after the coup d'état that brought Mohammed Daoud Khan to power in 1973: the coup was orchestrated by the Parcham faction of the PDPA, the Afghan communist party.

In 1976, the movement split between supporters of Rabbani, who led the Jamiat, and the extremist elements surrounding Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who then founded the Hezb-i Islami. Massoud who had regular and vehement disputes with Hekmatyar joined Rabbani's faction.

Massoud, then aged 48, was the target of a suicide attack at Khwaja Bahauddin, in Takhar Province in northeastern Afghanistan on September 9, 2001. The attackers' names were alternately given as Dahmane Abd al-Sattar, husband of Malika El Aroud, and Bouraoui el-Ouaer; or 34-year-old Karim Touzani and 26-year-old Kacem Bakkali.

The attackers claimed to be Belgians originally from Morocco. However, their passports turned out to be stolen and their nationality was later determined to be Tunisian. Waiting for almost three weeks (during which they also interviewed Burhanuddin Rabbani and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf) for an interview opportunity, on September 8, 2001, an aide to Massoud recalls the would-be suicide attackers "were so worried" and threatened to leave if the interview did not happen in the next 24 hours (until September 10, 2001). They were finally granted an interview. During the interview they set off a bomb that was composed of explosives hidden in the camera and in a battery pack belt. Commander Massoud died in a helicopter that was taking him to a military field hospital in nearby Tajikistan. The explosion also killed Mohammed Asim Suhail, a United Front official, while Mohammad Fahim Dashty and Massoud Khalili were injured. One of the suicide attackers, Bouraoui, was also killed by the explosion while Dahmane was captured and shot while trying to escape.

Despite initial denials by the United Front, news of Massoud's death was reported almost immediately, appearing on the BBC, and in European and North American newspapers on September 10, 2001. On September 16, however, the United Front officially announced that Massoud had died of injuries in the suicide attack. Massoud was buried in his home village of Bazarak in the Panjshir Valley. The funeral, although happening in a rather rural area, was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

Afghan journalist Fahim Dashty summarized: "He was the only one, ever, to serve Afghanistan, to serve Afghans. To do a lot of things for Afghanistan, for Afghans. And we lost him."

Until he was assassinated, Massoud had survived assassination attempts for 26 years, including attempts made by Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Pakistani ISI and before them the Soviet KGB, the Afghan communist KHAD and Hekmatyar. The first attempt on Massoud's life was carried out by Hekmatyar and two Pakistani ISI agents in 1975 when Massoud was only 22 years old.[29] In early 2001 Al Qaeda would-be assassins were captured by Massoud's forces while trying to enter his territory.

Connection to September 11, 2001
The assassination of Massoud is considered to have a strong connection to the September 11 attacks in 2001 on U.S. soil which killed nearly 3,000 people and which appeared to be the terrorist attack that Massoud had warned against in his speech to the European Parliament several months earlier.

John P. O'Neill was a counter-terrorism expert and the Assistant Director of the FBI until late 2001. He retired from the FBI and was offered the position of director of security at the World Trade Center (WTC). He took the job at the WTC two weeks before 9/11. On September 10, 2001, John O'Neill told two of his friends, "We're due. And we're due for something big.... Some things have happened in Afghanistan. [referring to the assassination of Massoud] I don't like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan.... I sense a shift, and I think things are going to happen... soon." John O'Neill died on September 11, 2001, when the south tower collapsed.

U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher would later claim that he immediately saw the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud as a sign that "something terrible [was] about to happen." Rohrabacher recounted his convictions in a 2004 speech to congress: "As I mourned his loss, I struggled to fully understand the significance of his death. Then it dawned on me. It dawned on me why Massoud had been assassinated. America was going to be attacked. It would be so monstrous that bin Laden's gang in Afghanistan wanted to cut us off from a means of counterattacking them in their base of operations in Afghanistan. We would have turned to Massoud if we were attacked. That is what we would have done, and they were cutting us off from turning to Massoud, but now Massoud was dead. Perhaps his death was a signal to set the planned attack on our country in motion...."

Analysts believe Osama bin Laden ordered the assassination to help his Taliban protectors and ensure he would have their protection and co-operation in Afghanistan. Following the assassination, Osama bin Laden had an emissary deliver a cassette of Dahmane speaking of his love for his wife and his decision to blow himself up as well as $500 in an envelope to settle a debt, to the assassin's widow. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan Wahhabi Islamist, have also been mentioned as possible organizers or collaborators of the Massoud assassins. The assassins are said to have entered United Front (Northern Alliance) territory under the auspices of the Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and had his assistance in bypassing "normal security procedures."

Investigative commission
In April 2003, the Karzai administration announced the setup of a commission to investigate the assassination of Massoud, as the country celebrated the 11th anniversary of the defeat of the communist government The French secret service revealed on October 16, 2003 that the camera used by Massoud's assassins had been stolen in December 2000 in Grenoble, France from a photojournalist, Jean-Pierre Vincendet, who was then working on a story on that city's Christmas store window displays. By tracing the camera's serial number, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to determine that Vincendet was its original owner. The French secret service and the FBI then began working on tracing the route the camera took between the time it was taken from Vincendet and the Massoud assassination.

National Hero of Afghanistan
Massoud was the only main Afghan leader who never left Afghanistan in the fight against the Soviet Union and later in the fight against the Taliban Emirate. The National Geographic about that time concluded: "The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres [was] Ahmad Shah Massoud."  In the areas under his direct control such as Panjshir, some parts of Parwan and Takhar Massoud established democratic institutions. One refugee who cramped his family of 27 into an old jeep to flee from the Taliban to the area of Massoud described Massoud's territory in 1997 as "the last tolerant corner of Afghanistan". About his life in Massoud's area he stated:"I feel freedom here. I like... you know, nobody bothers me. I do my job. I take care of my family. The way which I like I live in this area."

In 2001, the Afghan Interim Government under president Hamid Karzai officially awarded Massoud the title of "Hero of the Afghan Nation". One analyst in 2004 put it this way: "One man holds a greater political punch than all 18 living [Afghan] presidential candidates combined. Though already dead for three years.... Since his death on September 9, 2001 at the hands of two al Qaeda-linked Islamic radicals, Massoud has been transformed from mujahedin to national hero—if not saint. Pictures of Massoud, the Afghan mujahedin who battled the Soviets, other warlords, and the Taliban for more than 20 years, vastly outnumber those of any other Afghan including those of Karzai." Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, one of the closest friends of Massoud, was Karzai's strongest rival in the Afghan Presidential Elections of 2009. Dr. Abdullah said about Massoud: "He was everything. He was a friend. He was a leader. He was a teacher without acting as a teacher."

Journalist Sebastian Junger reports: "A lot of people who knew him felt that he was the best hope for that part of the world." Junger who traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to profile Massoud further states: "Afghanistan's government has been accused of being corrupt and weak. Massoud had a reputation for integrity and strength.... He would have been very hard for the [insurgents] to intimidate." Shorish-Shamley, a women's rights activist, says: "If they [al Qaeda leaders] were hiding under a rock, he would have found them. He was that type of person. He would have found bin Laden." Among supporters of the Taliban or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i Islami he is obviously seen differently. Still, a 2009 CNN report concludes: "He remains today a hero on the streets of Kabul among a people who have more faith in a leader from the past than the leaders of the future."

Today Panjshir - the home of Massoud - "is arguably the most peaceful place in the entire country. A small US military reconstruction team is based here, but there are none of the signs of foreign occupation that exist elsewhere. Even Afghan soldiers are few and far between. Instead, the people like to boast about how they keep their own security," observes the United Arab Emirates newspaper The National. The people of Panjshir (and Takhar) remain realistic however: "We are very sure that if they [the Taliban] come back they will not leave one man in Panjshir alive. If we don't fight they will kill us, so if we fight we will at least die with glory." The National further states: "Those who knew him say he would never have accepted the Taliban's return to power and they have vowed to defend his memory."

Many documentaries, books and movies have been made about Ahmad Shah Massoud. Massoud is the subject of Ken Follett's Lie Down With Lions, a novel about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He also plays a significant role in James McGee's thriller Crow's War. Another is Fire by Sebastian Junger. Junger was one of the last Western journalists to interview Massoud in depth. The bulk of this interview was first published in March 2001 for National Geographic's Adventure Magazine, along with photographs by the renowned Iranian photographer Reza Deghati.

The Massoud Foundation was established in 2003, as an independent, non-aligned, non-profitable and non-political organization by people who have been affected by Massoud. It provides humanitarian assistance to Afghans especially in the fields of health care and education. It also runs programs in the fields of culture, construction, agriculture and welfare.

Lion of Panjshir
Massoud was named "The Afghan who won the cold war" by the Wall Street Journal. He defeated the Soviet Red Army nine times in the Panjshir. The Soviet Union's defeat was not only a defeat in Afghanistan, but led to the collapse of the Soviet system and was followed by the liberation of the Central Asian and Eastern European countries from Moscow's control. His struggle against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan earned him the name "Lion of Panjshir".

"Lion of Panjshir", is a rhyme and play on words in Persian, which alludes to the strength of his resistance against the Soviet Union, the mythological exaltation of the lion in Persian literature, and finally, the place name of the Panjshir Valley, where Massoud was born. The place name of "Panjshir" Valley in Persian means (Valley of the) Five Lions. Thus, the phrase "Lion of Panjshir", which in Persian is "Shir-e-Panjshir," is a rhyming play on words, with the connotation "Lion of the Five Lions".

Warning the world (September 11, 2001)
In spring 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels stating that behind the situation in Afghanistan there was the regime in Pakistan. He also stated his conviction that without the support of Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden and Saudi Arabia, the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year, also because the Afghan population was ready to rise against them. Addressing the United States specifically he issued the warning that should the U.S. not work for peace in Afghanistan and put pressure on Pakistan to cease their support to the Taliban, the problems of Afghanistan would soon become the problems of the U.S. and the world.

Declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents from November 2001 show that Massoud had gained "limited knowledge... regarding the intentions of [al-Qaeda] to perform a terrorist act against the US on a scale larger than the 1998 bombing of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania." They also point out that he warned about such attacks.

In 2002, French singer-songwriter and author Damien Saez wrote a song about 9/11 entitled "Massoud". He was also featured in the ABC Television mini-series The Path to 9/11, which aired commercial-free in the USA in 2006, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The mini-series depicts Massoud warning U.S. intelligence agents of the coming U.S. attack by al-Qaeda and Massoud's September 9, 2001 assassination.

Personal Life
Massoud was married to Sediqa Massoud. They have one son (Ahmad born in 1989) and five daughters (Fatima born in 1992, Mariam born in 1993, Ayesha born in 1995, Zohra born in 1996 and Nasrine born in 1998).

Massoud's wife and his children live in Iran. In 2005 Sediqa Massoud published a personal account on her life with Massoud (co-authored by two women's rights activists and friends of Sediqa Massoud, Chékéba Hachemi and Marie-Francoise Colombani) called "Pour l'amour de Massoud" (For the love of Massoud) in which she describes a very decent and loving husband.

After his death, Massoud was interred in a mausoleum in Panjshir Valley. A larger mausoleum is currently being constructed to replace the current one.

A major road in Kabul was named Great Massoud Road, and just outside the US Embassy stands a monument to Massoud.

The family has a great deal of prestige in the politics of Afghanistan. One of his six brothers, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was a vice-president of Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai. There have been unsuccessful attempts on the life of Ahmad Zia Massoud in 2004 and late 2009. The Associated Press reported that 8 Afghans died in the attempt on Ahmad Zia Massoud's life.

Another brother, Ahmad Wali Massoud, was Afghanistan's Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2002 to 2006. He founded the Nahzat-e-Mili political party which is now known as the National Movement of Afghanistan party.

From : www.wikipedia.org