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Ahmad Shah Massoud
National Geographic ^ | 10/14/01 | Philip Junger

Posted on 10/14/2001 7:26:53 PM PDT by GOP_Lady

Sebastian Junger on Afghanistan’s Slain Rebel Leader The Perfect Storm author spent a month with anti-Taliban warrior Ahmad Shah Massoud in 2000. Now he offers his reaction to the recent murder of the Northern Alliance leader—and the subsequent attacks on the U.S.

In November 2000 Adventure sent contributing editor Sebastian Junger and photojournalist Reza (see photo gallery) to profile Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. The resulting article (read an excerpt) appeared in our March/April 2001 issue and has just been reprinted in Fire, a collection of Junger’s journalistic work.

On September 9, 2001, suicide bombers killed Massoud. Two days later the U.S. was under attack. Here Junger offers his thoughts on those two days of terror and their implications.


On the morning of September 9, 2001, guerrilla leader Ahmad Shah Massoud sat down with two reporters at his base in Khvajeh Baha od Din, in northern Afghanistan, to give one more interview about the unending civil war in his country.

The two men were apparently from North Africa—Algeria, Morocco, or Tunisia, no one seems to know for sure—and said they worked for an Arab news agency. They had been at Khvajeh Baha od Din for more than a week, keeping to themselves, eating the rice and mutton provided for them, waiting for Massoud. They had a TV camera, but no one thought to inspect it, and they came recommended by people within Massoud’s own government.

Just before noon, with Massoud seated before them, they started the interview. Seconds later everyone in the room was either wounded or dead.

The attackers had packed the camera with explosives and blown themselves up. Nothing remained of one but his legs; the other was killed as he fled.

Massoud was horribly wounded but still alive. His men tried to rush him to a helicopter for the short flight to Tajikistan, but he survived only 15 minutes.

Ahmad Shah Massoud—hero of the war against the Soviets, implacable foe of the Taliban regime—passed from this life in the back of a battered Land Cruiser, racing through the mountains of Afghanistan. It was a sadly fitting end for a man whose life had been entirely dominated by war.


I found out about Massoud’s death as I walked into the small, walled garden of photographer Reza’s house in Paris. It was a week after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and I was en route back to New York. I had called Reza from the airport and said I’d like to stop in to see him.

Reza knew Massoud well from the war against the Soviets, and he and I had spent a month together with Massoud last year.

I’d seen the reports of an assassination “attempt” on Massoud just two days before the U.S. attacks. But I’d also been told that he was going to survive. It was a lie, though—a desperate effort by Massoud’s Northern Alliance to retain control of the situation.

Reza stepped out of his kitchen to greet me; his face was broken with grief, and I knew. For a few minutes there was nothing to say. “We have many works to do,” Reza finally said. “There is too much to be done.”

It was a terrible moment. Thousands of people had died in the rubble of the World Trade Center, victims of the same extremist perversion of Islam that Massoud had been fighting.

Like all Americans, I was worried about further attacks. And I was saddened that the most powerful military in the world was contemplating a campaign against one of the poorest nations on Earth. The irony was that there appeared to be no Afghans among the 19 hijackers.

It seemed to me that Osama bin Laden had ordered the attempt on Massoud’s life before going ahead with his attacks on New York and Washington. He would not have dared provoke the United States the way he had, I believed, were Massoud still alive to make use of the military aid that might have finally been offered to him.


Reza and I sat at his kitchen table with a bottle of wine. Someone had sent him an e-mail that day that said, “You must be a happy man to have met Ahmad Shah Massoud.” And in fact we knew we’d been incredibly fortunate to have met him.

Massoud—who loathed the extremism of the Taliban as much as he did the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union—once told me he was fighting not only for a free Afghanistan but for a free world. There was something about him—the slow nod of his head as he listened to a question, the exhaustion and curiosity engraved on his handsome, haggard face—that made it clear we were in the presence of an extraordinary man.

I found it impossible not to listen to Massoud when he spoke, even though I didn’t understand a word. I watched everything he did, because I had the sense that somehow—in the way he poured his tea, in the way his hands carved the air as he talked—there was some secret to be learned.

Reza and I talked for two hours. It was a windy day, and we finally put on our jackets and got ready to face the memorial service being held across town. Before we left, Reza called a close aide of Massoud’s in Tajikistan to express our sorrow.

“I’m calling to find out that the terrible news is not true,” Reza said.

“It is true. But it is OK,” the aide said. “Now we are all Massoud.”

—Sebastian Junger


TOPICS: Announcements; Front Page News; News/Current Events

1 posted on 10/14/2001 7:26:53 PM PDT by GOP_Lady
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To: GOP_Lady
2 posted on 10/14/2001 7:57:09 PM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: GOP_Lady
There was a great magazine piece on Massoud by Claire Sterling about ten years ago. I wish I could remember where I read it. He was not only a brave warrior who inspired his men, he was also highly intelligent and understood that Afghanistan needed more religious tolerance.
3 posted on 10/14/2001 7:58:38 PM PDT by Cicero
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To: GOP_Lady
Seeing the photos of Massoud, one senses that he must have been of a generous and indomitable spirit.
4 posted on 10/14/2001 8:16:30 PM PDT by aposiopetic
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To: GOP_Lady
MSNBC had a National Geographic show on the Northern Alliance tonight. The most chilling part was a news conference from several months ago in which he warned that if the U.S. and the rest of the world didn't do something about what was happening in Afghanistan, we would all have to deal with the problems. (Taliban) He also said he wanted the country to be Islamic, but that he wanted women to have equal rights etc.

It was very interesting. Massoud seemed like a good man. The Northern Alliance people in general seemed to be okay from what I could discern.

5 posted on 10/14/2001 8:22:22 PM PDT by cactmh
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To: GOP_Lady
Excellent article.

"Now we are all Massoud". You bet.

6 posted on 10/14/2001 8:22:52 PM PDT by StoneColdGOP
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To: GOP_Lady
A Message to the People of the United States of America
Posted by the Wednesday, September 12 2001 @ 15:49:24 MEST

October 8, 1998

From Ahmad Shah Massoud Defence Minister, Islamic State of Afghanistan

Through the United States SenateCommittee on Foreign Relations

Hearing on Events in Afghanistan

In the name of God

Mr. Chairman, honorable representatives of the people of the United States of America,

I send this message to you today on behalf of the freedom and peace-loving people of Afghanistan, the Mujahedeen freedom fighters who resisted and defeated Soviet communism, the men and women who are still resisting oppression and foreign hegemony and, in the name of more than one and a half million Afghan martyrs who sacrificed their lives to uphold some of the same values and ideals shared by most Americans and Afghans alike. This is a crucial and unique moment in the history of Afghanistan and the world, a time when Afghanistan has crossed yet another threshold and is entering a new stage of struggle and resistance for its survival as a free nation and independent state.
I have spent the past 20 years, most of my youth and adult life, alongside my compatriots, at the service of the Afghan nation, fighting an uphill battle to preserve our freedom, independence, right to self-determination and dignity. Afghans fought for God and country, sometime alone, at other times with the support of the international community. Against all odds, we, meaning the free world and Afghans, halted and checkmated Soviet expansionism a decade ago. But the embattled people of my country did not savor the fruits of victory. Instead they were thrust in a whirlwind of foreign intrigue, deception, great-gamesmanship and internal strife. Our country and our noble people were brutalized, the victims of misplaced greed, hegemonic designs and ignorance. We Afghans erred too. Our shortcomings were as a result of political innocence, inexperience, vulnerability, victimization, bickering and inflated egos. But by no means does this justify what some of our so-called Cold War allies did to undermine this just victory and unleash their diabolical plans to destroy and subjugate Afghanistan.

Today, the world clearly sees and feels the results of such misguided and evil deeds. South-Central Asia is in turmoil, some countries on the brink of war. Illegal drug production, terrorist activities and planning are on the rise. Ethnic and religiously-motivated mass murders and forced displacements are taking place, and the most basic human and women’s rights are shamelessly violated. The country has gradually been occupied by fanatics, extremists, terrorists, mercenaries, drug Mafias and professional murderers. One faction, the Taliban, which by no means rightly represents Islam, Afghanistan or our centuries-old cultural heritage, has with direct foreign assistance exacerbated this explosive situation. They are unyielding and unwilling to talk or reach a compromise with any other Afghan side.

Unfortunately, this dark accomplishment could not have materialized without the direct support and involvement of influential governmental and non-governmental circles in Pakistan. Aside from receiving military logistics, fuel and arms from Pakistan, our intelligence reports indicate that more than 28,000 Pakistani citizens, including paramilitary personnel and military advisers are part of the Taliban occupation forces in various parts of Afghanistan. We currently hold more than 500 Pakistani citizens including military personnel in our POW camps. Three major concerns - namely terrorism, drugs and human rights - originate from Taliban-held areas but are instigated from Pakistan, thus forming the inter-connecting angles of an evil triangle. For many Afghans, regardless of ethnicity or religion, Afghanistan, for the second time in one decade, is once again an occupied country.

Let me correct a few fallacies that are propagated by Taliban backers and their lobbies around the world. This situation over the short and long-run, even in case of total control by the Taliban, will not be to anyone’s interest. It will not result in stability, peace and prosperity in the region. The people of Afghanistan will not accept such a repressive regime. Regional countries will never feel secure and safe. Resistance will not end in Afghanistan, but will take on a new national dimension, encompassing all Afghan ethnic and social strata.

The goal is clear. Afghans want to regain their right to self-determination through a democratic or traditional mechanism acceptable to our people. No one group, faction or individual has the right to dictate or impose its will by force or proxy on others. But first, the obstacles have to be overcome, the war has to end, just peace established and a transitional administration set up to move us toward a representative government.

We are willing to move toward this noble goal. We consider this as part of our duty to defend humanity against the scourge of intolerance, violence and fanaticism. But the international community and the democracies of the world should not waste any valuable time, and instead play their critical role to assist in any way possible the valiant people of Afghanistan overcome the obstacles that exist on the path to freedom, peace, stability and prosperity. Effective pressure should be exerted on those countries who stand against the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan. I urge you to engage in constructive and substantive discussions with our representatives and all Afghans who can and want to be part of a broad consensus for peace and freedom for Afghanistan.

With all due respect and my best wishes for the government and people of the United States,

Ahmad Shah Massoud.

7 posted on 10/14/2001 9:02:35 PM PDT by BansheeBill
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To: GOP_Lady
Ahmad Shah Massoud

8 posted on 10/14/2001 9:04:03 PM PDT by BansheeBill
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To: BansheeBill
What a horrible loss. I didn't realize what a loss this was until I read his letter.
9 posted on 10/14/2001 9:19:55 PM PDT by McGavin999
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To: BansheeBill
I saw on telivison this evening a show about the efforts of Ahmad Shah Massoud against the Taliban.
I was previously unaward, of Massoud.
From what I heard he was a couragious man.
I thought to myself there was hope for Afganistan because of this man and his clear thought.
But then they said he was Assassinated two days before the Fundamentalist Muslims Murdered 6000 of our Countrymen.
I heart was broken.
Pray for Afganistan.
10 posted on 10/14/2001 9:23:12 PM PDT by Wake Up America
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To: GOP_Lady
11 posted on 10/14/2001 9:25:48 PM PDT by FReethesheeples
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To: Wake Up America
Something tells me that Massoud and W would have understood each other. What a loss for the Afghans.
12 posted on 10/14/2001 9:39:44 PM PDT by homegroan
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To: homegroan
Maybe when we do those food drops we should add this guy's picture next to the US flag and whatever other messages we feel like sending them.
13 posted on 10/14/2001 9:51:57 PM PDT by FITZ
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To: GOP_Lady
What an awesome post. Thank you.
14 posted on 10/15/2001 12:31:27 AM PDT by ppaul
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To: GOP_Lady
“It is true. But it is OK,” the aide said. “Now we are all Massoud.”

The importance of his assassination is now evident. There must be others, we must find them and raise them up.

15 posted on 10/15/2001 12:51:02 AM PDT by AndrewC
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To: GOP_Lady
The BBC did an extraordinary TV show on Masood. He had unbelievable charisma and was a genius at the utilization of what was essentially junkyard military hardware. Unbelievable combat footage.

If you can find it anywhere I highly recommend it.

16 posted on 10/15/2001 1:14:18 AM PDT by 12B
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To: 12B
Massoud was truly the McGuyver of Afghanistan.

He could make weapons work with twigs and a couple of Duracells.

17 posted on 10/15/2001 11:52:12 AM PDT by homegroan
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Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

To: GOP_Lady
What a tragic loss for the people of Afghanistan.
19 posted on 10/15/2001 5:35:45 PM PDT by shezza
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