Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai (Pashto: محمد نجيب الله; August 6, 1947 – September 27, 1996), better known mononymously as Najibullah orNajib, was President of Afghanistan from 1987 until 1992 when the mujahideen took over Kabul. He had previously held different careers under thePeople’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and was a graduate of Kabul University. Following the Saur Revolution Najibullah was a low profile bureaucrat, who was sent into exile during Hafizullah Amin‘s rise to power as Ambassador to Iran. He returned to Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion which toppled Amin’s rule, and placed Karmal as head of state, party and government. During Karmal’s rule, Najibullah became head of theKHAD, the Afghan equivalent to the Soviet KGB. He was a member of the Parcham faction led by Babrak Karmal.
During Najibullah’s tenure as KHAD head, it became one of the most efficient governmental organs. Because of this he gained the attention of several leading Soviet officials, such as Yuri Andropov, Dmitriy Ustinov and Boris Ponomarev. In 1981, Najibullah was appointed to the PDPA Politburo. In 1985 Najibullah stepped down as state security minister to focus on PDPA politics; he had been appointed to the PDPA Secretariat. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, was able to get Karmal to step down as PDPA General Secretary in 1986, and replace him with Najibullah. For a number of months Najibullah was locked in a power struggle against Karmal, who still retained his post of Chairman of the Revolutionary Council. Najibullah accused Karmal of trying to wreck his policy of National Reconciliation.
During his tenure as leader of Afghanistan, the Soviets began their withdrawal, and from 1989 until 1992, his government tried to solve the ongoing civil war without Soviet troops on the ground. While direct Soviet assistance ended with the withdraw, the Soviet Union still supported Najibullah with economic and military aid, while the United States continued its support for the mujahideen. Throughout his tenure, he tried to build support for his government. Najibullah even tried to portray his government as Islamic, and in the 1990 constitution the country officially became an Islamic state and all references of communism were removed. This change, coupled with others, did not win Najibullah any significant support. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Najibullah was left without foreign aid. This, coupled with the internal collapse of his government, led to his ousting from power in April 1992. Najibullah lived in the United Nations headquarters in Kabul until 1996, when the Taliban took Kabul. In 1996 Najibullah is said to have been castrated by the Taliban, and was dragged behind a truck in the streets of Kabul, before he was publicly hanged.
The most effective, and largest, assaults on the mujahideen were undertaken during the 1985–86 period. This offensives had forces the mujahideen on the defensive near Herat and Kandahar.The Soviets ensued a bomb and negotiate during 1986, and a major offensive that year included 10,000 Soviet troops and 8,000 Afghan troops.
Pasjtun factions in Pakistan, continued to support the Afghan mujahideen even if it was a contravention of the Geneva Accords. At the beginning most observers expected the Najibullah government to collapse immediately, and to be replaced with an Islamic fundamentalist government. The Central Intelligence Agency stated in a report, that the new government would be ambivalent, or even worse, hostile towards the United States. Almost immediately after the Soviet withdrawal, the Battle of Jalalabad broke out between Afghan government forces and themujahideen. The offensive against the city began when the mujahideen bribed several government military officers, from there, they tried to take the airport, but were repulsed with heavy casualties. The willingness for the common Afghan government soldier increased when the mujahideen began to execute people early on during the battle. During the battle Najibullah called for Soviet assistance. Gorbachev called an emergency session of the Politburo to discuss his proposal, but Najibullah’s request was rejected. Other attacks against the city failed, and by April the government forces were on the offensive. During the battle over four hundred Scud missiles were shot, which were fired by a Soviet crew which had stayed behind. When the battle ended in July, the mujahideen had lost an estimated 3,000 troops. One mujahideen commander lamented “the battle of Jalalabad lost us credit won in ten years of fighting.”
From 1989 to 1990 the Najibullah was partially successful in building up the Afghan defence forces. The Ministry of State Security had established a local milita force which stood at an estimated 100,000 men. The 17th Division in Herat, which had begun the 1979 Herat uprising against PDPA-rule, stood at 3,400 regular troops and 14,000 tribal men. In 1988, the total number of security forces available to the government stood at 300,000. Sadly for Najibullah, this trend would not continue, and by the summer of 1990, the Afghan government forces were on the defensive again. By the beginning of 1991, the government controlled only 10 percent of Afghanistan, the eleven-year Siege of Khost had ended in a mujahideen victory and the morale of the Afghan military finally collapsed. In the Soviet Union, Kryuchkov and Shevardnadze, had both supported continuing aid to the Najibullah government, but Kryuchkov had been arrested following the failed 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt and Shevardnadze had resigned from his posts in the Soviet government in December 1990 – there was no longer any pro-Najibullah people in the Soviet leadership. It didn’t help either that the Soviet Union was in the middle of an economic and political crisis, which would lead directly to the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991. At the same timeBoris Yeltsin became Russia’s new hope, and he had no wish to continue to aid Najibullah’s government, a government which he considered a relic of the past. In the autumn of 1991, Najibullah wrote to Shevardnadze “I didn’t want to be president, you talked me into it, insisted on it, and promised support. Now you are throwing me and the Republic of Afghanistan to its fate.”
Fall from power
In January 1992, the Russian government ended its aid to the Najibullah government. The effects were felt immediately: the Afghan Air Force, the most effective part of the Afghan military, was grounded due to the lack of fuel. The Afghan mujahideen, in contrast to Najibullah, continued to be supported by Pashtun factions in Pakistan. Major cities were lost to the rebels, and terrorist attacks became common in Kabul. On the fifth anniversary of his policy of National Reconciliation, Najibullah blamed the Soviet Union for the disaster that had stricken Afghanistan. The day the Soviet Union withdrew was hailed by Najibullah as the Day of National Salvation. But it was too late, and his government’s collapse was imminent.
In March Najibullah offered his government’s immediate resignation, and followed the United Nations (UN) plan, to be replaced by an interim government. In mid-April Najibullah accepted a UN plan to hand power to a seven-man council, few days later on 14 April, Najibullah was forced to resign on the orders of the Watan Party because of the loss of Bagram airbase and the town of Charikar.Abdul Rahim Hatef became acting head of state following Najibullah’s resignation. Najibullah not long before Kabul’s fall, appealed to the UN for amnesty, which he was granted. But his attempt to flee from the airport was thwarted by Abdul Rashid Dostum, and Najibullah instead sought haven in the local UN headquarters in Kabul. The Afghan civil war did not end with Najibullah’s ouster, and continued until 1996 when the Taliban took power.
Final years and death
During his 1992–96 refuge in the UN compound in Kabul, while waiting for the UN to negotiate his safe passage to India, he engaged himself in translating Peter Hopkirk‘s book The Great Gameinto his mother tongue Pashto. Few months before his execution by Taliban, he quoted, “Afghans keep making the same mistake,” reflecting upon his translation to a visitor.
When the Taliban were about to enter Kabul, Ahmad Shah Massoud twice offered Najibullah an opportunity to flee Kabul; although they were political enemies, Massoud had known Najibullah since childhood, as they had lived in the same neighborhood. Najibullah refused, believing the Taliban, Ghilzai Pashtuns like Najibullah, would spare his life and not harm him. General Tokhi, who was with Dr. Najibullah until the day before his torture and murder, wrote that when three people came to both Dr. Najibullah and General Tokhi and asked them to come with them to flee Kabul, they rejected the offer. This proved to be a fatal mistake. Najibullah was at the UN compound when the Taliban soldiers came for him on 27 September 1996. He was castrated before the Taliban dragged him to death behind a truck in the streets. His blood-soaked body was hung from a traffic light. His brother Shahpur Ahmadzai was given the same treatment. Najibullah’s and his brother’s body were hanged on public display to show the public that a new era had begun. At first Najibullah and his brother were denied an Islamic funeral because of their “crimes”, but the bodies were later handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross who in turn sent their bodies to the Paktia province where both of them were given a proper funeral by their fellow Ahmadzai tribesmen.
There was widespread international condemnation, particularly from the Muslim world. The United Nations issued a statement which condemned the execution of Najibullah, and claimed that such a murder would further destabilise Afghanistan. The Taliban responded by issuing death sentences on Dostum, Massoud and Burhanuddin Rabbani. India, which had been supporting Najibullah, strongly condemned the public execution of Najibullah and began to support Massoud’s United Front in an attempt to contain the rise of the Taliban.