Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai (February 1947 – 28 September 1996), better known mononymously as Najibullah or Najib, was an Afghan politician and statesman during the Cold War. Najibullah was born in Gardiz and educated at Kabul University, after which he began his career in the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). He became a member of the Parcham faction led by Babrak Karmal. Following the Saur Revolution Najibullah was a low profile bureaucrat, who was sent into exile during Hafizullah Amin's rise to power as Afghan ambassador to Iran. He returned to Afghanistan following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan which toppled Amin's rule, and placed Karmal as head of state, party and government. During Karmal's rule, Najibullah became head of the KHAD, the Afghan equivalent to the Soviet KGB.
During Najibullah's tenure as KHAD head, it became one of the most efficient governmental organs. Because of this he gained the attention of several leading Soviet officials, such as Yuri Andropov, Dmitriy Ustinov and Boris Ponomarev. In 1981, Najibullah was appointed to the PDPA Politburo. Because of its efficiency, the KHAD was turned into the Ministry of State Security in 1985. On 21 September 1985 Najibullah stepped down as state security minister to focus on PDPA politics; he had just recently been appointed to the PDPA Secretariat. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, was able to get Karmal to step down as PDPA General Secretary on 4 May 1986, and replace him with Najibullah. From then, until November, Najibullah was locked in a power struggle against Karmal, who still retained his post of Chairman of the Revolutionary Council. Najibullah accused Karmal of trying to wreck his policy of National Reconciliation.
During his tenure as leader of Afghanistan, the Soviets began their withdrawal (they withdrew in 1989), and from 1989 until 1992, his government tried to solve the ongoing civil war. While direct Soviet assistance had ended, the Soviet Union still supported Najibullah with plentiful economic and military aid. Throughout his tenure, he tried to build support for his government. Najibullah even tried to portray his government as Islamic, and in the 1990 constitution the country officially became an Islamic state and all references ofcommunism were removed. This change, coupled with others, did not win Najibullah any significant support. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991, Najibullah was left without foreign aid. This, coupled with the internal collapse of his government, led to his ousting from power on 14 April 1992. Najibullah lived in the United Nations headquarters in Kabul until 1996, when the Talibantook Kabul. In 1996 Najibullah was castrated by the Taliban, and was dragged behind a truck in the streets of Kabul, before he was publicly hanged.
Early life and career
Najibullah was born in February 1947 to the Ahmadzai sub-tribe of the Ghilzai Pashtun tribe in Gardiz, Kingdom of Afghanistan.
Though born in Kabul, his ancestral village was located between the towns of Said Karam and Gardēz in Paktia Province, this place is known as Mehlan. He was educated at Habibia High School,St.Joseph's School Baramulla Kashmir and Kabul University, where he graduated with a doctor degree in medicine in 1975.
In 1965 Najibullah joined the Parcham faction of the Communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and in 1977 joined the Central Committee.
In 1978 the PDPA took power in Afghanistan, with Najibullah a member of the ruling Revolutionary Council. However, the Khalq faction of the PDPA gained supremacy over his ownParcham faction, and after a brief stint as ambassador in Iran, he was dismissed from government and went into exile in Europe.
Under Karmal: 1979–1986
Minister of State Security: 1980–1985
He returned to Kabul after the Soviet intervention in 1979. In 1980, he was appointed the head of KHAD, the Afghan equivalent to the Soviet KGB, and was promoted to the rank ofMajor General. He was appointed following lobbying made by the Soviets, most notable among them was Yuri Andropov, the KGB Chairman. During his six years as head of KHAD he had two to four deputies under his command, who in turn were responsible for an esimated 12 departments. According to evidence, Najibullah dependent on his family and his professional network, and appointed more often than not people he know to top positions within the KHAD. In June 1981, Najibullah, along with Mohammad Aslam Watanjar, a former tank commander and the then Minister of Communications and Major General Mohammad Rafi, the Minister of Defence were appointed to the PDPA Politburo. Under Najibullah, KHAD's personnel increased from 120 to 25,000 to 30,000. KHAD employees were amongst the best-paid government bureaucrats in communist Afghanistan, and because of it, the political indoctrination of KHAD officials was a top priority. During a PDPA conference Najibullah, talking about the indoctrination programme of KHAD officials, said "a weapon in one hand, a book in the other." Terrorist activities launched by KHAD reached its peak under Najibullah. He reported directly to the Soviet KGB, and a big part of KHAD's budget came from the Soviet Union itself.
As time would show, Najibullah was very efficient, and during his tenure as leader of KHAD several thousands were arrested, tortured and executed. KHAD targeted anti-communist citizens, political opponents, and educated members of society. It was this efficiency which made him interesting to the Soviets. Because of this, KHAD became known for its ruthlessness. During his ascension to power, several Afghan politician did not want Najibullah to succeed Babrak Karmal because of the fact that Najibullah was known for exploiting his powers for his own benefit. It didn't help either that during his period as KHAD chief that the Pul-i Charki had become the home of several Khalqist politicians. Another problem was that Najibullah allowed graft, theft, bribery and corruption on a scale not seen previously. As would later be proven by the power struggle he had with Karmal after becoming PDPA General Secretary, despite Najibullah heading the KHAD for five years, Karmal still had sizeable to support in the organisation.
Rise to power: 1985–1986
|History of Afghanistan|
He was appointed to the PDPA Secretariat in November 1985. Najibullah's ascent to power was proven by turning KHAD from a government organ to a ministry in January 1986. With the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating, and the Soviet leadership looking for ways to withdraw, Mikhail Gorbachev wanted Karmal to resign as PDPA General Secretary. The question of who was to succeed Karmal was hotly debated, but Gorbachev supported Najibullah. Yuri Andropov, Boris Ponomarev and Dmitriy Ustinov all thought highly of Najibullah, and negotiations of who would succeed Karmal might have begun as early as 1983. Despite this, Najibullah was not the only choice the Soviets had; a GRU report claimed he was unfit to be leader considering the fact that he was a Pashtun nationalist, a stance which could decrease the regimes popularity even more. The GRU believed that Assadullah Sarwari, earlier head of ASGA, the pre-KHAD secret police. They believed that Sarwari, in contrast to Najibullah would be able to balance between the Pashtuns, Tajiks and Uzbeks. Another viable candidate was Abdul Qadir Dagarwal, who had been a participant in the Saur Revolution. Najibullah succeeded Karmal as PDPA General Secretary on 4 May 1986 at the 18th PDPA meeting, but Karmal still retained his post as Chairman of the Presidium of the Revolutionary Council.
On 15 May Najibullah announced that a collective leadership had been established, which was led by himself consisted of himself as head of party, Karmal as head of state and Sultan Ali Keshtmand as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. When Najibullah took the office of PDPA General Secretary, Karmal still had enough support in the party to disgrace Najibullah. Karmal went as far as to spread rumours that Najibullah's rule was little more than a interregnum, and that he would soon be reappointed to the general secretaryship. As it turned out, Karmal's power base during this period was KHAD. The Soviet leadership wanted to ease Karmal out of politics, but when Najibullah began to complain that he was hampering his plans of National Reconciliation, the Soviet Politburo decided to remove Karmal; this motion was supported by Andrei Gromyko, Yuli Vorontsov, Eduard Shevardnadze, Anatoly Dobrynin and Viktor Chebrikov. A meeting in the PDPA in November relieved Karmal of his Revolutionary Council chairmanship, and he was exiled to Moscow where he was given a state-owned apartment and a dacha. In his position as Revolutionary Council chairman Karmal was succeeded by Haji Mohammad Chamkani, who was not a member of the PDPA.
In September 1986 the National Compromise Commission (NCC) was established on the orders of Najibullah. The NCC's goal was to contact counter-revolutionaries "in order to complete the Saur Revolution in its new phase." Allegedly, an estimated 40,000 rebels were contacted by the government. At the end of 1986, Najibullah called for a six-months ceasefire and talks between the various opposition forces, this was part of his police of National Reconciliation. The discussions, if fruitful, would lead to the establishment of a coalition government and be the end of the PDPA's monopoly of power. The programme failed, but the government was able to recruit disillusioned mujahideen fighters as government militas. In many ways, the National Reconciliation led to an increasing number of urban dwellers to support his rule, and the stabilisation of the Afghan defence forces.
In September 1986 a new constitution was written, which was adopted on 29 November 1987. The constitution weakened the powers of the head of state by canceling his absolute veto. The reason for this move, according to Najibullah, was the need for real-power sharing. On 13 July 1987 the official name of Afghanistan was changed from the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan to Republic of Afghanistan, and in June 1988 the Revolutionary Council, whose members were elected by the party leadership, was replaced by a National Assembly, an organ in which members were to be elected by the people. The PDPA's socialist stance was denied even more than previously, in 1989 the Minister of Higher Education began to work on the "de-Sovietisation" of universities, and in 1990 it was even announced by a party member that all PDPA members were Muslims and that the party had abandoned Marxism. Many parts of the Afghan government's economic monopoly was also broken, this had more to do with the tight situation than any ideological conviction.Abdul Hakim Misaq, the Mayor of Kabul, even stated that traffickers of stolen goods would not be prosecuted by law as long as their goods were given to the market. Yuli Vorontsov, on Gorbachev's orders, was able to get an agreement with the PDPA leadership to offer the posts of Gossoviet chairman (the state planning organ), the Council of Ministers chairmanship (head of government), ministries of defence, state security, communications, finance, presidencies of banks and the Supreme Court. It should be noted, the PDPA still demanded it held on to all deputy ministers, retained its majority in the state bureaucracy and that it retained all its provincial governors. The government was not willing to concede all of these positions, and when the offer was broadcasted, the ministries of defence and state security.
Several figures of the intelligentsia took Najibullah's offer seriously, even if they sympathised or were against the regime. There hopes were dampened when the Najibullah government introduced the state of emergency on 18 February 1989, four days after the Soviet withdrawal. 1,700 intellectuals were arrested in February alone, and until November 1991 the government still supervised and restrictedfreedom of speech. Another problem was that party members took his policy seriously too, Najibullah recanted that most party members felt "panic and pessimism." At the Second Conference of the party, the majority of members, maybe up to 60 percent, were radical socialists. According to Soviet advisors (in 1987), a bitter debate within the party had broken out between those who advocated theislamisation of the party and those who wanted to defend the gains of the Saur Revolution. Opposition to his policy of National Reconciliation was met party-wide, but especially from Karmalists. Many people did not support the handing out of the already small state resources the Afghan state had at its disposal. On the other side, several members were proclaiming anti-Soviet slogans as they accused the National Reconciliation programme to be supported and developed by the Soviet Union. Najibullah reassured the inter-party opposition that he would not give up the gains of the Saur Revolution, but to the contrary, preserve them, not give up the PDPA's monopoly on power, or to collaborate with reactionary Mullahs.
Elections: 1987 and 1988
Local elections were held in 1987. It began when the government introduced a law permitting the formation of other political parties, announced that it would be prepared to share power with representatives of opposition groups in the event of a coalition government, and issued a new constitution providing for a new bicameral National Assembly (Meli Shura), consisting of a Senate (Sena) and a House of Representatives (Wolesi Jirga), and a president to be indirectly elected to a 7-year term. The new politica parties had to opposecolonialism, imperialism, neo-colonialism, Zionism, racial discrimination, apartheid and fascism. Najibullah stated that only the extremist part of the opposition could not join the planned coalition government. No parties had to share the PDPA's policy or ideology, but they could not oppose the bond between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Aparliamentary election was held in 1988. The PDPA won 46 seats in the House of Representatives and controlled the government with support from the National Front, which won 45 seats, and from various newly recognized left-wing parties, which had won a total of 24 seats. Although the election was boycotted by the Mujahideen, the government left 50 of the 234 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as a small number of seats in the Senate, vacant in the hope that the guerillas would end their armed struggle and participate in the government. The only armed opposition party to make peace with the government was Hizbollah, a small Shi'a party not to be confused with the bigger party in Iran.
An Islamic state
During Babrak Karmal's later years, and during Najibullah's tenure, the PDPA tried to improve their standing with Muslims by moving, or appearing to move, to the political centre. They wanted to create a new image for the party and state. In 1987 Najibullah readded Allah to his name to appease the Muslim community. Communist symbols were completely were either replaced or removed. These measures did not contribute to any notable increase in support for the government, because the mujahideen had a stronger legitimacy to protect Islam than the government; they had rebelled against what they saw as a anti-Islamic government, that government was the PDPA. Islamic principles were embedded in the 1987 constitution, for instance, Article 2 of the constitution stated that Islam was the state religion, and Article 73 stated that the head of state had to be born into a Muslim Afghan family. The 1990 constitution stated that Afghanistan was an Islamic state, and the last references to communism were removed. Article 1 of the 1990 Constitution said that Afghanistan wan an "independent, unitary and Islamic state."
|[show]Economic growth (1986, 1988)|
Najibullah continued Karmal's economic policies. The augmenting of links with the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union continued, and so did bilateral trade. He also encouraged the development of the private sector in industry. The Five-Year Economic and Social Development Plan which was introduced in January 1986 continued until March 1991, one month before the government's fall. According to the plan, the economy, which had grown less than 2 percent annually until 1985, would grow 25 percent in the plan. Industry would grow 28 percent, agriculture 14–16 percent, domestic trade by 150 percent and foreign trade with 15 percent. As expected, none of these targets were met, and 2 percent growth annually which had been the norm before the plan continued under Najibullah. The 1990 constitution gave due attention to the private sector. Article 20 was about the establishment of private firms, and Article 25 encouraged foreign investments in the private sector.
While he may have been the de jure leader of Afghanistan, Soviet advisers still did the majority of work when Najibullah took power. As Gorbachev remarked "We're still doing everything ourselves [...]. That's all our people know how to do. They've tied Najibullah hand and foot." Fikryat Tabeev, the Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan, was accused of acting like a governor general by Gorbachev. Tabeev was recalled from Afghanistan in July 1986, but while Gorbachev called for the end of Soviet management of Afghanistan, he could not help but to do some managing himself. At a Soviet Politburo meeting, Gorbachev said "It's difficult to build a new building out of old material [...] I hope to God that we haven't made a mistake with Najibullah." As time would prove, the problem was that Najibullah's aim were the opposite of the Soviet Union's; Najibullah was opposed to a Soviet withdrawal, the Soviet Union wanted a Soviet withdrawal. This was logical, considering the fact that the Afghan military was on the brink of dissolution. The only means of survival seemed to Najibullah was to retain the Soviet presence. In July 1986 six regiments, which consisted up to 15,000 troops, were withdrawn from Afghanistan. The aim of this early withdrawal was, according to Gorbachev, to show the world that the Soviet leadership was serious about leaving Afghanistan. The Soviets told the United States Government that they were planning to withdraw, but the United States Government didn't believe it. When Gorbachev met with Ronald Reagan during his visit the United States, Reagan called, bizarrely, for the dissolution of the Afghan army.
On 14 April the Afghan and Pakistani governments signed the Geneva Accords, and the Soviet Union and the United States signed as guarantors; the treaty specifically stated that the Soviet military had to withdraw from Afghanistan by 15 February 1989. Gorbachev later confided to Anatoli Chernyaev, a personal advisor to Gorbachev, that the Soviet withdrawal would be criticised for creating a bloodbath which could have been averted if the Soviets stayed. During a Politburo meeting Eduard Shevardnadze said "We will leave the country in a deplorable situation", and further talked about the economic collapse, and the need to keep at least 10 to 15,000 troops in Afghanistan. In this Vladimir Kryuchkov, the KGB Chairman, supported him. This stance, if implemented, would be a betrayal of the Geneva Accords just signed. During the second phase of the Soviet withdrawal, in 1989, Najibullah told Valentin Varennikov openly that he would do everything to slow down the Soviet departure. Varennikov in turn replied that such a move would not help, and would only lead to an international outcry against the war. Najibullah would repeat his position later that year, to a group of senior Soviet representatives in Kabul. This time Najibullah stated that Ahmad Shah Massoud was the main problem, and that he needed to be killed. In this, the Soviets agreed, but repeated that such a move would be a breach of the Geneva Accords; to hunt for Masud so early one would disrupt the withdrawal, and would mean that the Soviet Union would fail to meet its deadline for withdrawal.
During his January 1989 visit to Shevardnadze Najibullah wanted to retain a small presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and called for moving Soviet bombers to military bases close to the Afghan–Soviet border and place them on permanent alert. Najibullah also repeated his claims that his government could not survive if Massoud remained alive. Shevardnadze again repeated that troops could not stay, since it would lead to international outcry, but said he would look into the matter. Shevardnadze demanded that the Soviet embassy created a plan in which at least 12,000 Soviet troops would remain in Afghanistan either under direct control of the United Nations or remain as "volunteers". The Soviet military leadership, when hearing of Shevardnadze's plan, became furious. But they followed orders, and named the operation Typhoon, maybe ironic considering that Operation Typhoon was the German military operation against the city of Moscow during World War II. Shevardnadze contacted the Soviet leadership about moving a unit to break the siege of Kandahar, and to protect convoys from and to the city. The Soviet leadership were against Shevardnadze's plan, and Chernyaev even believed it was part of Najibullah's plan to keep Soviet troops in the country. To which Shevardnadze replied angrily "You've not been there, [...] You've no idea all the things we have done there in the past ten years." At a Politburo meeting on 24 January, Shevardnadze argued that the Soviet leadership could be indifferent to Najibullah and his government; again, Shevardnadze received support from Kryuchkov. In the end Shevardnadze lost the debate, and the Politburo reaffirmed their commitment to withdraw from Afghanistan. There was still a small presence of Soviet troops after the Soviet withdrawal; for instance, parachutists who protected the Soviet embassy staff, military advisors and special forces and reconnaissance troops still operated in the "outlying provinces", especially along the Afghan–Soviet border.
Soviet military aid continued after their withdrawal, and massive quantities of food, fuel, ammunition and military equipment was given to the government. Varennikov visited Afghanistan in May 1989 to discuss ways and means to deliver the aid to the government. In 1990 Soviet aid mounted to an estimated 3 billion United States dollars. As it turned out, the Afghan military was entirely dependent on Soviet aid to function. When the Soviet Union was dissolved on 26 December 1991, Najibullah turned to former Soviet Central Asia for aid. These newly-independent states had no wish to see Afghanistan being taken over by religious fundamentalist, and supplied Afghanistan with 6 million barrels of oil and 500,000 tons of wheat to survive the winter.
The most effective, and largest, assaults on the mujahideen were undertaken during the 1985–86 period. This offensives had forces the mujahideen on the defensive near Herat andKandahar. The Soviets ensued a bomb and negotiate during 1986, and a major offensive that year included 10,000 Soviet troops and 8,000 Afghan troops.
Without the Soviets
Pakistan, under Zia ul-Haq, continued to support the mujahideen even if it was a contravention of the Geneva Accords. At the beginning most observers expected the Najibullah government to collapse immediately, and to be replaced with an Islamic fundamentalist government. The Central Intelligence Agency stated in a report, that the new government would be ambivalent, or even worse, hostile towards the United States. Almost immediately after the Soviet withdrawal, the Battle of Jalalabad broke out between Afghan government forces and the mujahideen. The offensive against the city began when the mujahideen bribed several government military officers, from there, they tried to take the airport, but were repulsed with heavy casualties. The willingness for the common Afghan government soldier increased when the mujahideen began to execute people early on during the battle. During the battle Najibullah called for Soviet assistance. Gorbachev called an emergency session of the Politburo to discuss his proposal, but Najibullah's request was rejected. Other attacks against the city failed, and by April the government forces were on the offensive. During the battle over four hundred Scud missiles were shot, which were fired by a Soviet crew which had stayed behind. When the battle ended in July, the mujahideen had lost an estimated 3,000 troops. One mujahideen commander lamented "the battle of Jalalabad lost us credit won in ten years of fighting." A officer of the Inter-Service Intelligence, Pakistan's intelligence agency, said "The Jihad has never recovered from Jalalabad.".
From 1989 to 1990 the Najibullah was partially successful in building up the Afghan defence forces. The Ministry of State Security had established a local milita force which stood at an estimated 100,000 men. The 17th Division in Herat, which had begun the 1979 Herat uprising against PDPA-rule, stood at 3,400 regular troops and 14,000 tribal men. In 1988, the total number of security forces available to the government stood at 300,000. Sadly for Najibullah, this trend would not continue, and by the summer of 1990, the Afghan government forces were on the defensive again. By the beginning of 1991, the government controlled only 10 percent of Afghanistan, the eleven year Siege of Khost had ended in a mujahideen victory and the moral of the Afghan military finally collapsed. In the Soviet Union, Kryuchkov and Shevardnadze, had both supported continuing aid to the Najibullah government, but Kryuchkov had been arrested following the failed 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt and Shevardnadze had resigned from his posts in the Soviet government in December 1990 – there was no longer any pro-Najibullah people in the Soviet leadership. It didn't help either that the Soviet Union was in the middle of an economic and political crisis, which would lead directly to the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991. At the same time Boris Yeltsin became Russia's new hope, and he had no wish to continue to aid Najibullah's government, a government which he considered a relic of the past. In the autumn of 1991, Najibullah wrote to Shevardnadze "I didn't want to be president, you talked me into it, insisted on it, and promised support. Now you are throwing me and the Republic of Afghanistan to its fate."
Fall from power
In January 1992, the Russian government ended its aid to the Najibullah government. The effects were felt immediately: the Afghan Air Force, the most effective part of the Afghan military, was grounded due to the lack of fuel. The mujahideen, in contrast to Najibullah, continued to be supported by Pakistan. Major cities were lost to the rebels, and terrorist attacks became common in Kabul. On the fifth anniversary of his policy of National Reconciliation, Najibullah blamed the Soviet Union for the disaster that had stricken Afghanistan. The day the Soviet Union withdrew was hailed by Najibullah as the Day of National Salvation. But it was too late, and his government's collapse was imminent.
In March Najibullah offered his governments immediate resignation, and followed the United Nations (UN), to be replaced by an interim government. In mid-April Najibullah accepted a UN plan to hand power to a seven-man council, few days later on 14 April, Najibullah was forced to resign on the orders of the Watan Party because of the lose Bagram airbase and the town of Charikar. Abdul Rahim Hatef became acting head of state following Najibullah's resignation. Najibullah not long before Kabul's fall, appealed to the UN for amnesty, which he was granted. But Najibullah was hindered by Abdul Rashid Dostum to escape, instead, Najibullah sought haven in the local UN headquarters in Kabul. TheAfghan civil war did not end with Najibullah's ouster, and continued until 1996 when the Taliban took power.
When the Taliban were about to enter Kabul Ahmad Shah Massoud offered Najibullah, a political enemy but someone he had known since childhood as they had lived in the same neighborhood, twice to flee Kabul. Najibullah refused, believing the Taliban, Ghilzai Pashtuns like Najibullah, would spare his life and not harm him. General Tokhi, who was with Dr. Najibullah until the day before his torture and murder, wrote that when three people came to both Dr. Najibullah and General Tokhi and asked them to come with them to flee Kabul, they rejected the offer. This proved to be a fatal mistake. Najibullah was at the UN compound when the Taliban soldiers came for him on September 27, 1996. He was castratedbefore the Taliban dragged him to death behind a truck in the streets. His blood-soaked body was hanged from a traffic light. His brother Shahpur Ahmadzai was also with him throughout this whole ordeal at the UN compound, and was shot to death.
India, which supported Najibullah as a proxy against Pakistan, strongly condemned the public execution of Najibullah and began to support Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance in an attempt to contain the rise of the Taliban.