From the Geneva Accords to the Mujahidin's Civil War

Negotiations to end the war culminated in the 1988 Geneva Accords, whose centerpiece was an agreement by the Soviet Union to remove all its uniformed troops by February 1989. With substantial Soviet assistance, the communist government held on to power through early 1992 while the United Nations frantically tried to assemble a transitional process acceptable to all the parties. It failed. In the aftermath, the U.S. and its allies abandoned any further efforts toward a peace process until after the Taliban came to power. The UN effort continued. but suffered from the lack of international engagement on Afghanistan. Donor countries, including the U.S., continued to support the relief effort, but as the war dragged on, aid donor fatigue and the need to respond to other humanitarian crises left the assistance effort in Afghanistan chronically short.

In early 1992, the forces of Tajik leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, head of a powerful Uzbek militia that had been allied with Najibullah, and the Hazara faction Hizb-i Wahdat, joined together in a coalition they called the Northern Alliance. On April 15, non-Pashtun militia forces that had been allied with the government mutinied and took control of Kabul airport, preventing President Najibuillah from leaving the country and pre-empting the UN transition. Najibullah took refuge in the UN compound in Kabul, where he remained for the next four years. On April 25, Massoud entered Kabul, and the next day the Northern Alliance factions reached an agreement on a coalition government that excluded the Hizb-i Islami led by Gulbuddin Hikmatyar-the protégé of Pakistan. Rejecting the arrangement, Hikmatyar launched massive and indiscriminate rocket attacks on Kabul that continued intermittently until he was forced out of the Kabul area in February 1995. (For more on the Afghan parties, see Human Rights Watch backgrounder, Poor Rights Record of Opposition Commanders).

In June 1992 Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Tajik leader of Jamiat-i Islami, became president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan (ISA), while Hikmatyar continued to bombard Kabul with rockets. In fighting between the Hazara faction, Hizb-i Wahdat, and Sayyaf's Ittihad-i Islami, hundreds of civilians were abducted and killed. After ensuring that the governing council (shura) was stacked with his supporters, Rabbani was again elected president in December 1992. In January 1994, Hikmatyar joined forces with Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, head of a powerful Uzbek militia that had been allied with Najibullah until early 1992, to oust Rabbani and his defense minister, Ahmad Shah Massoud, launching full-scale civil war in Kabul. In 1994 alone, an estimated 25,000 were killed in Kabul, most of them civilians killed in rocket and artillery attacks. By 1995, one-third of the city had been reduced to rubble.