Skip to comments.Sebastian Junger on Afghanistan’s Slain Rebel Leader Ahmad Shah Massoud
Posted on 09/08/2003 7:46:16 PM PDT by Shermy
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 leaderand the subsequent attacks on the U.S.
In November 2000 [National Geographic] 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 Jungers 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 AfricaAlgeria, Morocco, or Tunisia, no one seems to know for sureand 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 Massouds 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 Massoudhero of the war against the Soviets, implacable foe of the Taliban regimepassed 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.
PRECURSOR TO THE U.S. ATTACKS?
I found out about Massouds death as I walked into the small, walled garden of photographer Rezas 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 Id 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.
Id seen the reports of an assassination attempt on Massoud just two days before the U.S. attacks. But Id also been told that he was going to survive. It was a lie, thougha desperate effort by Massouds 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 Massouds 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.
AN EXTRAORDINARY MAN
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 wed been incredibly fortunate to have met him.
Massoudwho loathed the extremism of the Taliban as much as he did the totalitarianism of the Soviet Uniononce told me he was fighting not only for a free Afghanistan but for a free world. There was something about himthe slow nod of his head as he listened to a question, the exhaustion and curiosity engraved on his handsome, haggard facethat 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 didnt understand a word. I watched everything he did, because I had the sense that somehowin the way he poured his tea, in the way his hands carved the air as he talkedthere 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 Massouds in Tajikistan to express our sorrow.
Im 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.
September 9, 2001 - Opposition's military chief Ahmed Shah Massood injured in bomb explosion
9/11/2001 - 3:34 AM - A lion cornered - The attack on Masood is bound to strengthen the Taleban
Massoud's assassination definitely changed the face of Afghan politics. By all accounts, he would have been the new president.
Annoying remark. We didn't launch a campaign against the Afghans. We helped the Afghans win their war against the Taliban.
And the fact that their weren't any Afghans among the hijackers is not irony. It is tragedy, the tragic fact that Bin Ladin hid himself among them and at least some of them willingly gave him refuge, even knowing what he did to us. Anyone who would give him refuge knowing what he did to us willingly accepted to share his fate. Thats fine.
The unknown fact is that the major backer of the Northern Alliance this whole time has been India - just as the Pakis were the creators and sustainers of the Taliban.
The US Special Forces team operators working in Afghanistan for the last couple of years were not quite so picky, and from Robin Moore's account in The Hunt for Bin-Laden it appears that they have pretty good reason for feeling that way about some of those they've worked with to eliminate our common enemies.
There are others in *The Stan* who took a somewhat different approach that works better for me, but I am not about to sell short the abilities and dedication of those both working with us and opposing us. And they do know their own backyard exceedingly well.
[US] Post[al] worker Ahmed Abdel Sattar may be implicated in the Sept. 9 slaying of Northern Alliance Gen. Ahmed Shah Massoud. The government has described Sattar as a “”communications center” for the blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman who is serving a life sentence for plotting attacks on the WTC and other NYC landmarks. 1 posted on Monday, May 13, 2002 1:46:28 AM by LarryLied
1995 : (NY : SHEIKH OMAR ABDEL RAHMAN IS CONVICTED OF PLOTTING TO BLOW UP THE WTC IN 1993; FROM HIS PRISON CELL IN THE U.S. HE WOULD LATER DIRECT -WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF HIS LEFTWING LAWYER, US POSTAL WORKER AHMED ABDEL SATTAR, AND EGYPTIAN YASSIR SIRRI - THE MURDER PLOT WHICH ENDED IN THE ASSASSINATION OF AFGHAN NORTHERN ALLIANCE GENERAL AHMED SHAH MASSOUD ON SEPT 9, 2001; THE ASSASSINATION TOOK PLACE JUST DAYS BEFORE THE 9/11 ATTACKS ON THE USA) — “U.S. man’s letter links to Afghan killing,” Middle East Times, 2002, http://www.metimes.com/2K2/issue2002-20/eg/us_mans_letter.htm (* My note: So much for the ‘criminal justice method of dealing with terrorists...)