General Yahyah Nawroz was Chief of Army Staff and in charge of Operations during
Daoud’s Republic. After a period of time in jail under the Communists, he
was released in 1980, at which time he joined the Mujahideen Resistance based in
Peshawar, Pakistan. He went on to be in charge of the military affairs for two
of the Peshawar parties and then as Adviser to the Interim President. He was
born 1927 and passed away on May 3, 2012.|
Below is a excerpt from Dr. Assem Akram's
book (Afghanistan: An Approach to Issues of Society, Religion, Power and Conflict) regarding Gen. Yahya Nawroz.
Who is going to explain that to a 15-year-old kid?
"Who is going to explain that to a fifteen year old kid armed with a stick
and a gun," questioned General Yahyah Nawroz 1.
The Taliban were in power in Kabul. There were a number of factors and actors
that played a role in organizing and unleashing this potent alliance of a
fundamentalist view of Islam and military effectiveness, but probably the major
reason for their success was the endless chaos and fighting that followed the
1992 victory of the Afghan Mujaheddin groups.
Once the Taliban seized power in September 1996, they quickly revealed
themselves as not only religiously narrow-minded, but also void of any ability
to govern the country. Opinions shifted and the Taliban quickly found themselves
to be just another militia group embattled in a civil war. During a short window
of time – roughly the years 1996-1998 - and before being influenced by Al-Qaeda,
the Taliban attempted to use more traditional ways to consolidate their power,
including negotiating with other groups and attempting to attract non-Taliban
personalities to join their Administration.
I was discussing the situation with a former Army General over a cup of tea
at his place. The General was a man of great military experience, who had
reached the highest levels of the military hierarchy before the Communist
takeover of 1978. He was fluent in six languages and knew his country inside and
out. He had worked with two different Mujaheddin groups as chief of their
military operations’ branch, and as an Adviser to the Interim Government’s
President after in 1989.
The General had been in charge of military operations for the Harakat
movement to which Mullah Omar belonged before he decided to fly solo – a
relation that helped fuel some rumors about the General’s involvement in the
Taliban is the Dari plural of the Arabic word Talib, originally meaning “one
who seeks [knowledge]” - i.e., a student. In the Afghan context, a Talib is a
student of religious matters, who studies in a madrassa. The Taliban movement,
which started in 1994 in the Kandahar area of southwestern Afghanistan,
initially recruited from amongst the many madrassas set up by political
organizations in Pakistan. These institutions were filled with young Afghan
refugees, some of whom had spent more time in camps than in their homeland
proper. The Taliban ruled Kabul and most of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.
Mullah Omar was their leader - more of a spiritual leader à la Khomeiny than an
administrator. When they took Kabul in September of 1996, the first provisional
Taliban cabinet was led by Mullah Mohammad Rabbani 3.
The Taliban Regime was only recognized by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the
United Arab Emirates. Starting in 1998, the nexus between the Taliban Regime and
the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, led by the Saudi Osama Bin Laden, became
more and more obvious. Bin Laden was helping Mullah Omar financially and
tactically to fight off and defeat the armed opposition to the Taliban inside
Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban were offering Al Qaeda a base to operate
from and advance their international terrorist designs.
As a result of Operation Enduring Freedom launched on October 7, 2001, the
United States, its mostly European allies, and with the help of the Northern
Alliance, toppled the Taliban and forced its leaders to go into hiding in
The Taliban were backed from the beginning in 1994 by a murky coalition of
interests leaguing Pakistani, Saudi and American intelligence services. They
were developed and removed by the same Sorcerer’s apprentices, who had earlier
backed some of the most radical groups among the Afghan Resistance. Chief among
them was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose Hizb Islami’s only two accomplishments
throughout the war of resistance were to scare off - including through physical
intimidation and murders - intellectuals and technocrats, so that they would not
actively join the ranks of the Resistance; and to deplete the fighting
capability of rival Resistance groups - to the ultimate satisfaction of the
Soviets and the Pakistanis.
The Taliban went through two phases: 1) 1996-1998: Quest to expand their rule
to the whole country and, in parallel, show some willingness to negotiate with
rival groups. 2) 1998-2001: Radicalization and growing influence of Bin Laden’s
Throughout its tenure as ruler of Afghanistan (1996-2001), the fundamentalist
movement had strong ties with the other side of the Durand Line, and an
unfortunate ‘pakistanization’ of Afghanistan was in progress. Whether it was
Islamic movements, such as the one led by Mawlana Sami-ul-Haq, or components of
the more traditional Pakistani military-political system, links between the
Taliban leadership and Pakistan were obvious. To the Pakistani influence was
later added the ‘Arab’ one through Bin-Laden, who bought his way into Mullah
Omar’s heart and mind with money and flattery by calling on all Muslims to
recognize the one-eyed mullah as the “Commander of the Faithful” (Amir-ul-Momeneen),
thus propelling him to claim leadership over Muslims beyond the Afghan borders.
The Taliban regime exemplified perhaps the worst case of a repressive government
made up of totally inexperienced and incompetent people, solely driven by a
retrograde vision of Islam, and absolutely unaware and scornful of what a State
is and how it ought to be run, as well as being utterly ignorant of their own
Today, and in particular since 2006, thanks to the protection offered by
Pakistan and the financial resources originating from Gulf States, as well as
drug money and taxation - to which should be added the effects of an
inefficient, weak and mostly corrupt government in Kabul, and the lack of a real
comprehensive plan by the US and its allies - the Taliban have been able to
regroup, reorganize and expand their influence over sizable chunks of Afghan
There sometimes is confusion and all armed opposition groups are labeled as
“Taliban,” whereas groups such as Haqqani’s are not part of the Taliban
organization per se, but rather allied to them. In reality, the Taliban movement
itself is probably today more of a loose coalition of local Commanders and
shuras, who nominally recognize the leadership of Mullah Omar, but who for many
During their time in power, the Taliban restricted personal liberties for
women and men in an attempt to implement rules inspired by a very restrictive
interpretation of Islamic Law (Sharia) à la Saudi.
Concepts of development, administration, education, culture, history, etc.,
seemed to be completely unknown to them. Their main focus was, on the one side,
to eliminate all opposition and, on the other, to ensure that women were covered
sufficiently and men’s beards were of the right length. The Taliban instituted
for the first time in Afghan history a theocratic regime, where their leader
Mullah Omar was leading by issuing fatwas 4 rather than
The movement was completely disassociated from religious, secular, tribal,
and intellectual elites and, in any case, had been unable to attract them. In
some ways, the Taliban were as much a revolutionary movement as the Communists,
and were as intolerant and self-righteous as them. But even these kinds of
movements realize at one point that, in order to survive, they need to bring in
people with the right kind of skills and credibility.
The General and I were discussing the overall political situation and the
Taliban regime’s efforts to open up. I suggested that, while I had no
commonality with them and could not possibly fathom how I could collaborate in
any shape or form with them, perhaps he, because of his background and the
respect he commanded among the Taliban leadership, would be able to influence
them towards a more reasonable course of action for the benefit of all. The
General hinted at calls on him from acquaintances to do so, but that he had been
closed to the idea.
Upon my pressing further, he turned to me and said:
“All things set aside, this is the reason why I can’t work with those folks,”
said the General, pointing to his face.
“What do you mean?”
“I am a man who has always shaved. Even during the Peshawar years, I remained
I understood that he was referring to the Taliban decree that compelled all
men to sport a beard, under risk of being jailed. In the streets and in public
places, Taliban rules regarding the dress code and appearance were often
enforced by young recruits, oftentimes teenagers, walking around with guns and
sticks, under the auspices of the ministry in charge of pubic morale.
“A personality such as you, co-opted at the highest level, would not be
subjected to the general rules,” I suggested.
“Perhaps; but who is going to explain that to a fifteen-year-old kid, armed
with a stick and a gun, who stops me while I am doing my usual morning or
1 Gen. Nawroz (January 15, 1927 – May 3, 2012)
co-wrote with Lester Grau, in 1995, “The Soviet War in Afghanistan: History and
Harbinger of Future War,” Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS.
2 Harakat Inqilab Islami Afghanistan: Islamic
Revolution Movement of Afghanistan.
3 Not to be confused with
Borhanuddin Rabbani, head
of the Jamiat Islami Afghanistan and one-time President of the Mujaheddin’s
4 Fatwa: Religious decree.
5 Farman: Decree, edict emanating from a ruler or a
head of government.
(Copyright: Assem Akram)
Last updated: May 12, 2012