Biography of Ahmad Shah Masood

by Abdullah Qazi /2001 (updated November 18, 2007 by AQ)

Ahmad Shah Masood – Photo by A. Raffaele Ciriello

Ahmad Shah Masood (also spelled Massoud) was was born in 1953 in the Jangalak district of Panjsher.  He played one of the most important roles in Afghanistan’s modern history. To his admirers, he is known as the “Lion of Panjsher”, a name given to him for his successes as a military commander during the war against the Soviet occupation. In fact, his fight against the Soviets was so well known that the Wall Street Journal labeled him as the “Afghan who won the cold war”.

After the Communists were defeated, Masood’s troops were the first Mujahideen group to enter Kabul, and help establish a Mujahideen government. He served as President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s Defense Minister, and engaged in numerous battles to prevent Rabbani’s rivals such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar from taking over the government. E

ventually, Rabbani’s government fell, and the Taliban with secret financial and military help from the Pakistanis, took over the capital. Masood and his allies pulled their forces north and worked on defending the north and the central regions from being completely taken over by the Taliban. Masood was chosen as the military leader of UNIFSA when on September 9, 2001, two days before the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Masood was killed. He was the victim of an Al Qaeda suicide attack. The attackers posed as television journalists, setting off a bomb packed inside their video camera.

In 2001, after the removal of the Taliban by the UNIFSA and US forces, the the Afghan Interim Government under President Hamid Karzai awarded Masood the title of “Hero of the Afghan Nation”.

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Chronology of Ahmad Shah Masood’s life

Year Event
September 2, 1953 Birth – Jangalak district of Panjsher
1972/1973 Masood enrolls at Kabul Polytechnic Institute for Engineering and Architecture. Masood also becomes involved with the Sazman-i Jawanan-i Musalman (Muslim Youth Organization), the student branch of Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan (Islamic Society of Afghanistan) led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.
July 1975 Masood tries to stir up revolts against Mohammad Daoud Khan’s government in Panjsher.
1978 At this time, PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) comes to power, and Masood is actively involved in resistance against their rule. In July 1978, Masood participates in one of the first instances of revolt against the PDPA government in Nuristan province.
1976 Masood joins Rabbani’s Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan after Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar split and go separate ways.
July 1979 Masood stirs up a major revolt in Panjsher against the communist Afghan government. The revolt eventually fails and Masood learns the the ineffectiveness of open confrontation against a much better armed and larger force.  At this time, he starts to resort to guerrilla warfare.
1980s Actively involved in the Soviet resistance. Successfully defends Panjsher against massive Soviet attacks.
1983 Signed a tactical treaty with the Soviets.  This game Masood time to regroup his army, reel in greater political support, bolster resistance in other areas outside of Panjsher, and take advantage of the mineral wealth of the area to finance his resistance against the Soviets. In July 1983, Masood creates the Shura-e-Nazar (Council of Supervision).  This military council would coordinate the actions of 130 Mujahideen commanders from several provinces (Badakhshan, Parwan, Kapisa, Baghlan, Laghman, Kunar, Takhar and Kunduz ) of northern Afghanistan.
1984 Massive Soviet onslaught against Masood’s forces.  Each time, Masood successfully defeats the Soviets and the puppet Afghan government forces.
Late Summer 1986 Masood captures Farkhar in Takhar Province, and in November, his forces overrun the headquarters of the DRA 20th division at Nahrin in Baghlan province. Other resistance groups learn from Masood and  employ similar guerrilla warfare techniques against the Soviets.
1988 At the age of 35, Masood marries daughter of Kaakaa Tajuddin.
1989 Masood and his men are ambushed by Hekmatyar’s group. Several of Masood’s men are killed, however Masood manages to escape.
1992 Masood’s forces enter Kabul, and on April 26, 1992, the Peshawar Accord is announced. Mujahideen government is created. Masood becomes Minister of Defense.
1993 Masood creates “Bonyad-e Farhangi wa Ta’wani Mohammad-e Ghazali” (The cooperative Mohammad Ghazali culture foundation).
1992-1996 Battles against Hekmatyar’s army. Intensive rocket bombardment of Kabul by Hekmatyar.  Numerous civilians are killed and Kabul is massively damaged.
September 26, 1996 Masood and Rabbani are forced out of Kabul by the Taliban. Taliban march into Kabul on September 27, 1996.
Summer of 2000 Leaves Panjsher to solicit help from Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ismael Khan.
end of 2000 Masood and Alliance (United Front) forces lose more and more ground to the Taliban.
April 2001 Masood goes to Europe, holds press conferences and tries to inform western leaders about the growing power of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s secret assistance to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
September 9, 2001 Death.  Killed by suicide attackers. Interestingly enough, after this, suicide attacks become very common in Afghanistan.

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