Islamic State of Afghanistan: 1992-1996

Power shifts within the Soviet Union and its ultimate dissolution in December 1991 paved the way for Moscow and Washington to agree to cease military aid to their respective clients as of January 1, 1992. While the UN urgently sought agreement from the Afghan parties on a political settlement, mujahidin and former militia forces positioned themselves to fill the anticipated power vacuum. Under pressure from the UN, on March 18, 1992, President Najibullah announced his intention to resign, but he was blocked from leaving the country on April 16 by rebel forces at the airport, and he took refuge in the UN compound in Kabul. On April 25, forces of the newly formed “Northern Alliance” of non-Pashtun mujahidin and former regime militias from Northern Afghanistan entered Kabul and took control of the major government institutions, while other mujahidin and militia forces took control of various neighborhoods.

Fighting began almost immediately between rival mujahidin forces, as commanders launched rockets and artillery attacks that killed unknown numbers of civilians. Over the next four years, efforts by the UN and Afghanistan’s neighbors to forge a lasting peace settlement failed, and the rival mujahidin factions continued to shell each other’s territory, engage in arbitrary detentions, torture, rape and summary executions. Kabul became a key battleground, and the rest of the country was carved up into fiefdoms controlled by various warlords and smaller commanders. The bombardment of Kabul during the factional conflict of 1992-96 is frequently cited as one of the most serious human rights violations of the Afghan war. It devastated much of the capital and left a generation of residents traumatized. All of the major armed factions contending for control of the city were responsible for the indiscriminate use of a full range of heavy weapons, causing destruction and the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.

The Taliban emerged out of the chaos of this period. In October 1994, the Taliban took control of Kandahar city, driving out the feuding commanders who had divided it among themselves. They closed schools for girls and prohibited women from working. They also decreed that women could not go out alone without a male escort, including to the bazaar. The core of the Taliban leadership comprised a twenty-two-member council (shura), with Mullah Omar at the head. After Kandahar, the Taliban took other provinces including Zabul and Uruzgan, with little fighting. By this time the group had attracted the support of Pakistan and benefitted from considerable military assistance. They took control of Helmand in January 1995.

Who Are We

The Afghanistan Documentation Project is the product of a partnership between the War Crimes Research Office and the Pence Law Library of the American University Washington College of Law and the U.S. Institute of Peace. It was established to collect and create a fully searchable and publicly accessible database of documents regarding human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in Afghanistan since 1978.