The Soviet Politburo votes to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, but a majority express a lack of confidence in the abilities of Secretary General Babrak Karmal, the head of the puppet government in Kabul. It is noted that the Soviet troops have won a major victory at the mouth of the tunnel into the Hindu Kush mountains, with four hundred rebels dead.
Afghani rebels capture three Soviet soldiers and carry them across the border into camps in Pakistan. Moscow declares an end to its unofficial truce with Pakistan, stepping up air and artillery strikes across the border. These strikes, which will soon number into the hundreds each month, have no strategic targets, merely training camps for the muhajadeen. Secretary General Gorbachev declares Pakistan to be a “terrorist state”.
The Soviet Army sends the First Guards Tank Army into Afghanistan to support the government in Kabul, transferring the forces from Eastern Europe. With them comes General Viktor Kulikov, former Chairman of the Warsaw Pact Organisation and now Deputy Chairman of the Soviet High Command. His boss, Sergei Akhromeev, opposes the changes.
Afghan rebel leaders admit that Soviet forces have taken control of the strategic mountain passes on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This has the effect of cutting off supplies and arms to the rebels. Pakistan lodges a protest with the United Nations, claiming that thirteen civilians have been killed in cross-border attacks.
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi arrives in Washington, where he will ask President Reagan to cease its support of the mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan. He argues that a stable Afghan regime is in the interests of the region and calls for support for the recent Soviet attacks on Pakistan, warning that Pakistan is likely to be a proliferating nuclear power.
The Soviet Air Force commences a series of bombing raids on the hills above Kabul after a small group of resistance fighters entrench themselves there. The attack is followed up with another strike against Pakistan, in which aviation fuel tanks, ammunition dumps and water tanks are the major allocated targets. One Western analyst suggests that the CIA weapons pipeline to the mujahideen is deteriorating quickly and, with it, the discipline of the rebels.
With the hajj requiring the attendance of many leaders of the Afghanistan mujahedeen, it is agreed that the Soviet and Afghan forces would launch a joint strike on Zhawar, the logistical centre for the rebellion. After a ten-day battle, General Shahnawaz Tanai will emerge as a national hero. There have been many thousands killed, including mujahedeen captain, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) advocates an increase in support for the Afghan mujahedeen, arguing that the Pakistan military is keeping up to twenty percent of weapons sent through the pipeline into Afghanistan, either for their own use or sale on the black market. It also appears as though mujahedeen leaders and commanders are peddling US aid for profit, with guerrillas frequenting selling their weapons on in Afghanistan in the knowledge they can get another over the border. These are combining to spill the unrest in Afghanistan over into the North-West Frontier and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan.
Soviet air force jets begin sending waves of airplanes across the Afghan-Pakistani border, hitting strategic planning centres of the mujahedeen in Peshawar, including a major training and storage site just outside the city. The International Centre for Strategic Studies suggests that “the future is beginning to look very bleak for the mujahedeen.” It is later confirmed that three thousand people died in the attack.
Afghan Secretary General Babrak Karmal dies in Kabul, allegedly of lung disease. Major General Mohammed Najibullah, the head of the Afghan secret police, is invited to a private audience with Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR, strengthening expectations that Najibullah will be the new leader of Afghanistan.
The USSR conducts a coup d’etat in Afghanistan. Lieutenant General Shahnawaz Tanai is appointed as new head of government. The head of KHAD, the Afghan Secret Police, Mohammad Najibullah, is offered asylum in Moscow. General Secretary Tanai pledges to move against Islamabad with more force. He is asking for a staged withdrawal of Soviet forces in conjunction with an end to interference by the United States and Pakistan. When asked about a timetable for a withdrawal, he suggests that three years would provide time for a security handover.
New President of Afghanistan, General Shahnawaz Tanai, warns that continued Pakistani support for Islamist radicals threatens the future of the whole region. He confirms today that Soviet and Afghani troops have undertaken heavy battles in Kandahar Province and have relieved the city of Khost. He offers a substantial reward for the head of Pakistan’s favoured mujahedeen leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Pakistan’s General Akhtar Abdur Rahman. He also convinces the USSR to begin supporting the communist insurgency in the Sindh.
The Soviet Defence Minister, Sergei Sokholov, announces the intended withdrawal of 5,500 troops from Afghanistan by the year’s end, stating that “the Soviet surge” has stabilised the country. Though attacks are not uncommon, they have fallen by over ninety percent and deaths have fallen by nearly the same amount. He warns that further moves to pull back forces would be “premature in the face of the threats we have seen arise before”. He confirms plans for a staged withdrawal of a large number of troops from Mongolia, with the aim to improve relations with China.
A Soviet combined operations team crosses the Afghani border into Pakistan and strike the town of Arandu, a major supply base for the mujahedeen which is located near the juncture of the Nuristan and Chitral Rivers. This had been preceded by a rain of rockets and artillery fire from a ridge to the north, and from accompanying Soviet jets. During the assault, the mujahedeen, armed with new anti-aircraft missiles, take down two MiGs, but the Politburo accept this as a “reasonable loss”, given the success to date in crushing the Afghani resistance.
Javier Perez de Cuellar, the UN Secretary General, announces the expulsion of two members of the Afghan mujahedeen, flown in by the US Administration to conduct a press conference in the United Nations building. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Vernon Walters, refuses to comment on the insulting behaviour and refers questions to the White House.
The United Nations produces a report on Afghanistan, stating that intensified military operations and continued air raids are creating massive social disruption in Pakistan, but notes that the Soviets have abandoned the use of chemical weapons, booby-trapped toys and is reputed to be using new psychological torture techniques, instead of traditional physical brutality. Soviet Defence Minister Sergei Sokholov denies the accusations of torture, and suggests that the United States’ “murderous rage in Libya” is comparable.
Member of the Supreme Soviet and Nobel laureate, Andrei Sakharov, gives a press conference, attended by dissident Anatoly Marchenko in which he demands that the government “make immediate preparations” to withdraw forces from Afghanistan. Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev comments that there are already plans well underway to withdraw the troops and that such plans could be accelerated if the United States would cease “funding terrorism” in Pakistan.
The Soviets report that December, 1986, was the month with the lowest number of Soviet troop death since the invasion of Afghanistan. However, Marshal Viktor Kulikov states that the relative peace is fragile and reversible unless firm steps are taken to build a new Afghani state. At the demand of Kulikov, most Afghanis in cities are now required to meet a constant curfew, and those who defy it are regularly killed. This is to prevent any resurgence of support within the cities for the mujahedeen.
Afghanistan’s President, Shahnawaz Tanai, formally requests the Soviet Union to commence withdrawal of forces in his country, while steps are taken to reform the country. The request outlines exact terms of generous aid that Afghanistan will expect from Moscow, and is reported at the time to exceed $10 billion. While violence continues sporadically around Afghanistan, the KGB has already completely infiltrated the country and has been given the task of systematically eliminating insurgents en masse. Tanai states that all Soviet military forces must be gone by the end of 1990.
Soviet Politburo member Anatoly Dobrynin arrives in Washington D.C., speaking to US Vice President George Bush. He advises the Vice President of the planned timetable for withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, and that the Soviets will play no role in negotiations with the mujahedeen.
Lt General Shahnawaz Tanai, President of Afghanistan, meets with Mohammed Nabi Mohammedi, leader of the mujahedeen rebellion, in secret in Geneva, Switzerland. The two sides agree to a fifty-day truce and to meet again in February for concrete proposals from both sides. The President advises that the Soviets have made a commitment to draw down their forces, starting with an immediate withdrawal of three thousand within the next fortnight, and the withdrawal will continue for as long as the truce holds.
President Shahnawaz Tanai of Afghanistan takes a group of international journalists on a tour of strangely-quiet but war-shattered Kabul. He states that it is time for the US Administration to end its support for Afghan enemies and contribute to the reconstruction of the country. US Secretary of State George Schultz states that he is examining the Afghan President’s long-term plan for the country and is considering an appropriate American response.
Representatives of the Soviet and Afghan governments meet with members of the mujahedeen leadership in Geneva. While not successful in extending the terms of the truce for all parties, five of the seven Afghan rebel parties agree to extend the truce for a further ninety days. The two leaders who refuse continued negotiations are Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. President Shahnawaz Tanai states that he will “pursue them to the ends of the earth”.
A Soviet bombing raid hits selected targets in the city of Khost, near the Afghan border with Pakistan. General Viktor Kulikov states that the bombing destroyed a storage facility for US-provided Stinger missiles and killed forty-three members of the mujahedeen. There are suspicions that some of the rebels may be using an interim ceasefire with the government to eliminate competition for leadership of the rebels.
The President of Afghanistan, Shahnawaz Tanai, announces the suspension of the constitution and appoints a new National Governing Council, consisting of various factions of the Communist Party and other civic and religious leaders not affiliated with the rebellion. He states that the new ministers will be charged with drafting a “transitional arrangement for the nation”.
A Kabul mosque is bombed by the mujahideen, killing over one hundred people. President Shahnawaz Tanai states that this is an act of desperation by a failing rebellion.
The Afghan President, Shahnawaz Tanai, states that he has reached an agreement with mujahedeen factions, giving some of their leadership key positions in a new national unity government. Among the new appointees are: Ahmad Shah Massoud, governor of Panjshir; Ismail Khan, governor of Herat; Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, deputy chairman of the constitutional commission; and Abdul Haq, Foreign Minister. With some of the mujahedeen agreeing to merge into the national army, Tanai states that he can make public an agreement with the Soviets under which their armed forces will pull out the majority of their forces. Withdrawal will commence on 15 May, 1988 (the anniversary of the agreement) and will be completed by 15 May, 1989. The United Nations has been invited to oversee the resettlement of refugees and to ensure that Soviet forces are no longer used in attacks on Pakistan. President Tanai warns that, unless Pakistan ceases interference in Afghan affairs, he will “take all necessary action”.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev suggests that Mohammed Zahir Shah, the aging former monarch of Afghanistan, is favoured by many Afghan elements as an acceptable symbol of national unity. However, he warns that there will be a period of two years before “the Afghan people will have the security to independently decide their future”. He pledges that the USSR is committed to a full withdrawal after “that security has been fully assured”.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze make a surprise visit to Afghanistan, spending time with the troops and holding a meeting with President Shahnawaz Tanai. Gorbachev is permitted to address the interim national council, but the contents of his speech are kept classified.
Soviet troops in Afghanistan are found to be using a prototype hand-held directed-energy rifle, which immediately become known as phasers, even though they bear little similarity to the Star Trek model. Using a red laser at a classified frequency, they have the capacity to temporarily blind enemy combatants for up to twenty minutes without causing any permanent damage to the eye. The British will later determine similarities with technology used to protect their ships from aircraft during the Falklands War.
Substantial protests in Afghanistan highlight the failure of the Tanai government to resolve the issue of unemployment in the country. President Shahnawaz Tanai calls for international donors to increase their support for the government and pledges to his people that he will take all possible measures to improve the economy.
New member of the Soviet Politburo, Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov, is injured during a visit to Soviet military headquarters in Kabul after the detonation of a car bomb. The attempted assassination is condemned by Afghan President Shahnawaz Tanai, who states that internal security is improving in the country and that such an attack tempts another Soviet intervention.
US Secretary of State James Baker, attending the Valletta conference, is tackled by the media over recent rumours that the Administration will be ending support for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, estimated to be in excess of $600 million per annum. Baker states that there has been some difficult funding decisions in the new budget, but argues national security concerns to avoid going into details.
Colonel General Boris Gromov, the commander of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, claims that conflict near the provincial capital of Gardez has succeeded in the capture of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. He admits that over two hundred Soviet troops and over one thousand rebels were killed in a furious battle and that the Soviet forces also lost seven Sukhoi jets in the encounter. “Once we knew his location, we could not afford to let the opportunity pass, no matter the cost,” Gromov states.
Afghan President Shahnawaz Tanai declares a new constitution, which allows him to remain in office until March, 1991, and gives him permission to stand for a second term. It creates a permanent Executive Council, with five members, approved by the National Assembly. The weak National Assembly will have 250 elected members and 100 members appointed by the President and its task is to approve the actions of the Executive Council. The national legal system will be based on secular law, but, where no secular law exists, judges will be entitled to refer to Hanafi jurisprudence, the predominant Sunni school of legal thought. The nation will change its name from “Democratic Republic of Afghanistan” to “State of Afghanistan”.
Outgoing Soviet Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, visits Kabul. During the visit, he tells Afghani President Shahnawaz Tanai that the Soviet Union will be withdrawing its troops by the end of the year. Replacing them will be a large volume of military aid, designed to deal with the outstanding rebellion by Hezb-e-Islami based in Jalalabad.
Pravda reports, “They’re Coming Home”, after it is announced that the Soviet Union will immediately begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, falling from 135,000 to 40,000 by May. Field Marshal Viktor Kulikov states that the Red Army will retain three divisions at military bases at Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Bagram for the rest of the year.
Mujahedeen leader Yunus Khalis states that he will never endorse the Soviet “puppet government” and condemns former rebel Abdul Haq for failing to gain any firm commitment to a full Soviet departure. He also warns new Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto not to interfere when she expresses hope for peace in Afghanistan.
President Shahnawaz Tanai of Afghanistan announces he will purchase heavily discounted armoured personnel carriers from the Soviet Union. While the price is not disclosed, the units transferred in ownership represent over two-thirds of the Soviet military armaments currently in Afghanistan.
The Soviet Commonwealth criticises the recent violence against a Saudi businessman in Pakistan, arguing that the ongoing instability justifies a “transitional force” in Afghanistan. While it is clear that the Soviets intend to draw down their forces, President Mikhail Gorbachev states that “if we must go entirely, then it will leave Afghanistan as a power vacuum, as well as being a nation in dire need of support and sponsorship”. He continues to commit to the withdrawal of 75,000 troops, but states that tens of thousands could remain behind.
A US satellite notes large movements of troops are occurring across the Afghan-Soviet border, with most headed north. It is the first clear evidence, beyond diplomatic statements, that the Soviet Commonwealth has begun its military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto tells a joint session of the parliament that an agreement with Afghanistan, designed to end the tensions between the two countries, is imminent. It provides for “non-interference and non-intervention” in each other’s affairs, provides for the voluntary return of three million refugees and stipulates that all foreign troops and intelligence teams, those belonging to the USA and the CSSN, will be removed by the end of 1990. All deliveries of armaments must cease by 15 May.
Republican Senators calls on US President George Bush to resist the new Pakistani position, stating that any “tacit or spoken agreements with Moscow amount to delusion”. Confronted with the question, US Defense Secretary Dick Cheney states that both sides remain well supplied with armaments and will for the next year. “We will continue to observe cautiously and our actions will be guided by what the Soviets do next,” he states.
As the majority of the Soviet Army in Afghanistan continues its withdrawal, US intelligence estimates report to the Oval Office that the Tanai administration faces an internal coup d’etat within twelve months unless they address the ongoing rebellion by political Islamists. The person named by the CIA as a potential new leader is Defence Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud, who recently offered general’s stars to whatever soldier takes the life of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
At the invitation of the Afghan government, US Secretary of State James Baker appoints Ambassador Robert White, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as an envoy to observe the withdrawal of Soviet forces. He reports that roadblocks and checkpoints remain in place in the south and the east of the country to defend against the surviving rebellion, but predicts that the Tanai government will survive.
A CIA report proves that Soviet troop numbers in Afghanistan have fallen below one hundred thousand for the first time this decade. The report, released in later years, also makes it clear that up to thirty thousand Soviet troops have been removed from Eastern Europe since Gorbachev came to office three years ago. It suggests that the moves have been made to allow the Soviets to focus on the greater confusion at home, pointing out that, since taking charge, Gorbachev has replaced over half the Central Committee, two-thirds of the regional secretaries and three-quarters of the Council of Ministers.
Afghan news reports reveal the death of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the last of the senior leaders of the rebellion against the coalition government. The Executive Council of Afghanistan issues a directive stating that the rebellion is over, though a low level insurgency will continue in the south for some months to come. President Shahnawaz Tanai gives a national address, stating the broad-based government will now turn its focus to development of the country’s oil, gas and copper deposits with the help of long-term Soviet aid.
Afghan cosmonaut Abdul ahad Momand becomes the first of his people and the third Muslim in space after he completes the trip to Mir as part of a three-man crew. As part of the media coverage, Radio Kabul broadcasts his reading of the Koran and a greeting to all the people of Afghanistan.
Afghani Defence Minister and Governor of Panjshir, Ahmad Shah Massoud, expresses hope for a ceasefire with the Afghan rebels after directing another successful campaign. He states that, at that point, there must be an open democratic election in Afghanistan, arguing that the national government was only ever a temporary phenomenon to achieve peace. He states that there can be “no permanent coexistence with Communists” and goes so far as to suggest that all former Communists should be disqualified from an electoral contest.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visits Afghanistan to discuss 309 soldiers who are reported as missing and for whom there is no record of death. He admits publicly that some of these individuals may be defectors and that such a decision is “understandable” given the “mistakes” made by his nation. He also admits that “reconstruction assistance” is owed to Kabul for those mistakes, but calls on Afghan rebels not to make these soldiers a bargaining chip. He advises that no person should fear imprisonment if they decide to return home and that, if Afghanistan is prepared to accept them, they should be welcome to stay without consequence to their families. “God alone knows their hearts, but I hope a way will be found to relieve the hearts of those who love them”.
Afghan President Shahnawaz Tanai dismisses Defence Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud, threatening the break down of the government. The new Defence Minister is General Mohammed Aslam Watanjar, who immediately requests the Soviet Commonwealth to cease withdrawing and to return some missiles, fighters and two bombers. Tanai publicly warns Massoud he should not have attempted to win the personal loyalty of the army and states he will not hesitate to suspend the provisional government if Massoud should rebel.
US President George Bush expresses concern to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev over the recent reversal of policy in Afghanistan. The Soviets claim that the United States has still not ceased supplying weapons to factions within the mujahedin and that the deadline for withdrawal must therefore be delayed. The day on which the Cold War ended, the Soviet Commonwealth and the United States are still in debate over the future.
Rumours of a coup d’etat again spread throughout Kabul, with President Shahnawaz Tanai ordering the detention of Interior Minister Sayed Muhammed Gulabzoi. Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Lakanwal flees the country to the north, claiming that the government is so focused on the Islamic threat that they are ignoring a growing threat from Baluchi separatists operating out of Pakistan but based in Kandahar and Lashkar Gah. Ironically, these groups were originally supported by Kabul in order to weaken Pakistan.
Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev flies into Afghanistan to act as a mediator for the Tanai government to former Defence Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud, whose resistance had made government in much of the north increasingly difficult. He states that, if Massoud is prepared to negotiate, he will try to broker a deal that will allow the Soviets to continue military withdrawal, which is behind three months behind schedule and halted. The treaty deadline for troop withdrawal is in three months away but fifty thousand remain in the country, controlling the Salang road and its key facilities. Tanai warns that withdrawal at this date could result in civil war.
Former Afghan Defence Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud agrees to return to Kabul after President Shahnawai Tanai agrees to move the scheduled 1991 presidential elections up to September this year. Massoud states that he will contest the election and will spend the duration in political opposition to the government. He is immediately publicly backed by respected journalist, Sayed Ahmed Gailani, who has also vocally supported the restoration of King Zahir Shah.
The Vice President of Afghanistan’s Constitutional Commission, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, announces his resignation from his post, declaring himself a candidate for the September presidential elections. This prompts a similar announcement by Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi, the former mujahideen leader who signed the Geneva Accords thirteen months ago to end the civil war.
Afghan presidential candidate Sibghatullah Mojadeddi meets with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Ameen Faheem, and suggests that he may be the only candidate likely to unify the country. He argues that Shahnawaz Tanai has too many connections to the Communist regime to be fully accepted by the former rebels, while Ahmed Shah Massoud has threatened the opportunity of former Communists to participate in the country’s future. Mojadeddi also expresses his condolences over the recent death of Islamic scholar Abdullah Yusuf Azzam who was killed in an attack on his Peshawar mosque.
Afghan presidential candidate Sibghatullah Mojaddedi narrowly escapes assassination during a visit to the city of Jalalabad. Shaken but unharmed, he refuses to level blame for the attack, but many people suspect that the order may have come from the President. President Tanai expresses “great relief” that Mojaddedi is unharmed, despite indications that Mojaddedi will win the presidential election later in the year.
Afghan presidential candidate, Sighbutullah Mojadeddi, declares that he will restore a constitutional monarchy in Afghanistan if he is elected in September. He also states that the nation must clearly pick a new leader at the election, not being able to afford a stalemate without threatening its newfound stability.
Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev condemns the United States for its continued support of various factions in Afghanistan, arguing that it constitutes “grave interference” in that country’s internal affairs and violates the terms of the treaty which enabled the Soviets to withdraw. He also warns that the high number of candidates, now up to five, may cause a splintering of the Pashtun vote in September and lead to the election of Ahmad Shah Massoud.