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Afghanistan - The Struggle for Kabul
On January 1, 1994, they launched the most devastating assault so far mounted against Kabul. It took several thousand lives and reduced Kabul's population below 500,000 (it had reached more than 2 million late in the Soviet war). During the first week government units lost ground in both Southwestern and Southeastern Kabul, but soon regained most of their positions. Massoud led an offensive in June which drove Hekmatyar's rocket units off two strategic hills. Sporadic fighting punctuated by rocket attacks on the city continued until early 1995.
Sudden, unexpected developments in early 1995 profoundly changed the situation. A new political/military force, the Taliban, sprang into existence. This movement, identified with religious students was centered among the Durrani Pushtuns who had been politically passive during the previous fifteen years of war and tumult. The movement took control of Kandahar in November, 1994. By February it was challenging the Rabbani government from Kabul to Herat. The Taliban were students or recent graduates of a network of traditional madrasas in southern Afghanistan and adjacent areas of Pakistan. The origin of the movement itself remains obscure, but once again a religious cause that offered political purification and an end to Afghanistan's suffering won widespread support.
A year later Hekmatyar overcame his loudly expressed contempt for Dostam as an ally of the communists and formed a tripartite alliance with him and Mazari. They organized the Shura-i-ala Humaagi inquilab-i-Islami Afghanistan (Supreme Coordination Council of the Islamic Revolution in Afghanistan).
As the fighting settled into a stalemate, several peace initiatives were attempted. The UN renewed its peace making role in April 1994. Leaders of the less powerful Mujahidin parties offered peace proposals. Ismael Khan, the government's powerful ally in Herat, hosted a large conference in July 1994 that agreed on a process for a transition to a new government. It was blocked by opposition from the Supreme Coordination Council and other commanders. Iran and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) hosted a poorly attended peace conference in Teheran in November. On December 28, 1994 the presidential term that Rabbani, himself, recognized lapsed. With no resolution of conflict and no consensus reached on a mechanism for transferring authority, he kept the office by default, pending a new political settlement to be engineered by the UN.
The struggle for kabul
Continual fighting over Kabul began, punctuated by assaults made by relatively small forces employing firepower never dreamed possible by the mujahidin in their guerilla phase. Short-range missiles with heavy explosives did most of the damage. They wreaked devastation, killing far more civilians than combatants. By early 1994 the city had been reduced to a shambles. Neighborhoods, mosques, and government buildings had been destroyed. A vagabond government shifted between surviving buildings. During the heaviest fighting it operated from Charikar, sixty kilometers to the north.
The most significant and immediate result of the Taliban rise to power, was the ignominious collapse of Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami as a fighting force. In early February his headquarters at Charasyab, twenty-five kilometers south of Kabul, became trapped between the government army and the Taliban. On February 15, Hekmatyar and his disintegrating army fled eastward toward Jalalabad leaving a large arsenal of weapons behind. Hezb was no longer a deadly threat to Kabul; the struggle for power had been profoundly changed.
Despite the devastation Hekmatyar and the allies he gained in 1993 and 1994 were not able to defeat the government defenders. In January 1993 he was joined by the Shia Hezb-i-Wahdat faction led by Abdul Ali Mazari, who had Iranian backing and the support of many Shia residents living in the western sector of Kabul. On several occasions Mazari's forces and Rasul Sayyaf's Wahhabi followers engaged in vicious battles in Kabul's western outskirts. Dostam also came to Mazari's assistance. In turn Sayyaf sided with Rabbaani's forces led by Ahmad Shah Massoud.
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