Every crisis reveals a leader; and so it is with Afghanistan. The chaos, anguish and incompetence in Kabul are sweeping away a century of American leadership like a tide going back out to sea. What value are modern instruments of war in the hands of woke innocents who can’t even organize a dignified retreat, much less a victorious national revival? Not much.
As the tide goes out, the true leaders of Afghanistan are revealed, most notably Ahmad Massoud, the 32-year old son of the the “Lion of Panjshir,” Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Here he is, looking energetic and competent, boarding a former Afghan Air Force helicopter, along with Amrullah Saleh, Vice President of Afghanistan.
They are gathering all Anti-Taliban commanders in Panjshir, a province still free of the Taliban, and one which historically can be easily defended.
At my initiative, France’s President Macron received him at the Elysée Palace on April 5, 2021.
I was present at that meeting, where the best of France appeared to have a rendezvous with an heir to the noblest anti-totalitarian and anti-fascist struggles of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
And I am convinced that, in the new Great Game that lies ahead, it is this young man whom France, Britain and the rest of Europe will have to support.
From his headquarters, Massoud spoke clearly on his goals and ambition:
With my Mujahideen, I intend to resume the struggle.
I call on all free women and men in the world, friends of Afghanistan old and young, to join us in spirit.
I call on all free fighters from all over the country, whatever their origin or ethnicity, to come to our valleys.
I welcome them!
They will be — we will be — the living faces of the Resistance, and, soon enough, of the counteroffensive.
Free Afghanistan has lost Kabul, but it has not lost the war.
I ask you; does this not sound inspiring? Does it not ring with truth and authenticity? At a time when Americans are conflicted and uncertain, this level of clarity is like a mountain stream in a desert. I say conflicted because while most Americans want an end to endless wars, they’re also appalled by the prospect of millions of women being thrown into slavery.
The Taliban are mostly Pashtun. Massoud is Tajik. His father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was the leader of the Northern Alliance before he was assassinated, and before the Northern Alliance overthrew the Taliban with American help. Ahmad Massoud was 12 when his father died. He went to Iran, then England where he trained for a year at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst before obtaining his Master’s degree in International Politics from City, University of London, in 2016.
So we have a British military cadet, with a Master’s degree, who speaks fluent French and has met the French President, at the head of the Afghan resistance. One could hardly invent a more attractive antidote to the bearded thugs now in charge of the country.
There’s more, of course there is. When the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan in 1989 they did so by land over the Afghanistan–Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge.
They could do so because they had a deal with the Mujahideen, in particular with one of the key Afghan warlords leading the fight against Soviet forces, none other than Ahmad Shah Massoud. So, to put this in context, Ahmad Massoud’s father was responsible for the neat and tidy exit of Soviet forces from the country. That exit was into Uzbekistan, very near the Tajikistan border. This means something to the Russians, who have long memories.
Assuming Ahmad Massoud isn’t kidnapped or killed in the next few weeks, what could he do to go on the offensive? The key lies in Afghanistan’s ethnic makeup.
To the south, half the country is occupied by Pashtuns, while the north has four main ethnic groups: Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Turkmen. If you were to draw a line from the southwest to the northeast directly through Kabul, you’d split the country neatly in half.
Unfortunately for national unity, this mix has made Afghanistan ungovernable because while the Pashtuns are the largest group, they don’t have a majority. In addition the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkmen are backed up across the border by actual countries of their own ethnicities: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
So, while the minorities in Afghanistan are smaller than the Pashtuns, their allies outside the country are larger.
They are also more inclined to cooperate with each other. The Uzbeks and Hazaras joined with the Tajiks, under Massoud’s father to form the Northern Alliance two decades ago. Now an effort is underway in the Panjshir valley to do the same a second time.
This could result in a united Northern Afghanistan, and a united southern Pashtunistan, two countries based on ethnic nationalism rather than woke multiculturalism.
Will Massoud be successful at pulling this off? We don’t know, but we do know he has the brains, the family history, the training, the connections and the redoubt to try. That’s a lot, don’t you think?