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Afghanistan Liberty, Fraternity – Disunity

2 minute read

Fraternity is an elusive thing among Afghanistan’s mujahedin, who have been feuding since even before the 1979 Soviet invasion. Two weeks ago, rivalries erupted in gunfire when members of the Jamiat-i-Islami faction, a fundamentalist group, were ambushed while returning from a five-day strategy session in the northern Farkhar Valley. Gunmen from a local command of the more radical Hezb-i-Islami faction killed 30 Jamiat men, including seven military commanders. Jamiat quickly pointed an accusing finger at Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Hezb’s leader, whose power struggle with the Jamiat leadership dates back to the 1970s. Without Hekmatyar’s authorization, said Jamiat spokesman Mohammed Shoaib, “this incident would not have happened.”

While Hezb, which has gained a reputation for strong-arm tactics, dismissed the incident as local feuding, some Jamiat members called for immediate revenge — even if it risked jeopardizing the plans of their military commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud, for a late-summer offensive. Most, however, cautioned restraint. The loss of key lieutenants in the ambush was already a major setback to Massoud’s efforts to transform his guerrilla force into a more conventional army capable of cracking government defenses.

The flare-up of factional feuding was of particular concern to Pakistan and the U.S., which have long feared that internal disputes might divert the rebels from fighting the Najibullah government. Washington urged the mujahedin to forgo further infighting in favor of the “vital work of improving unity and coordination” at a time when the Kabul regime is increasingly assertive on the military and political fronts — and the guerrillas’ drive has faltered. Whatever the fallout, the prospect for future unity is bleak. U.S. analysts fear that once Najibullah is ousted, mujahedin factions will turn on one another in the effort to achieve power.

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