Lion of Panjshir

How did Ahmed Shah Massoud become the Lion of Panjshir? What events in his life caused this man to become one of the greatest military strategists and most charismatic leaders of the second half of the twentieth century? Why was he considered so dangerous that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network felt the need to assassinate Massoud two days before the attack on the World Trade Center?

Ahmed Shah Massoud was born in Jangalak in the Panjshir Valley in 1953. He attended the university in Kabul where he studied engineering. The invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979 changed the course of that country's history and the direction of Ahmed Shah Massoud's life. Gone were the days of prayer, study and youthful hope. Arrived were the days of resistence, war, and the mujahidin.
No one could have guessed in the early days that Massoud would become one of the most brilliant military strategists of his era.

Massoud was a natural leader of men. He was clear sighted yet visionary. While at war, he prayed for peace. While in the midst of destruction, he dreamed of rebuilding.
While his hope for Afghanistan was one of liberation and democracy for all people, he was realistic about politics, diplomacy, and cultural and religious influences

The invasion of the Soviet Union to support the collapsing Communist government in Afghanistan gave birth to a loose collection of Afghan freedom fighters. They became known around the world as the mujahadin. Ahmed Shah Massoud soon established himself as one of the mujahadin's most prominent commanders.

When he joined the mujahidin around 1980, Ahmed Shah Massoud had no idea that the next twenty years - the rest of his life - would be involved in one war campaign after the other. When the Soviet Union finally left Afghanistan, factional fighting within the country lead to a civil war. The Taliban, financed and sponsored by Pakistan, went into Afghanistan with a promise of law and order. At first the war-weary citizens welcomed the Taliban and their promises of peace and control. It did not take long, however, for the enormity of the mistake to become known.

The Taliban inflicted on the people of Afghanistan a repressive version of extreme Islam. They denied the people all human rights, abolished music and song, closed schools and medical centers, and established the Ministry of Good and Evil to enforce their belief system on the entire country. Ahmed Shah Massoud and other mujahadin found this radical form of Islam impossible to accept. They formed an alliance and swore to free their land from this latest invading force.

"We consider this our duty -- to defend humanity against the scourge of intolerance, violence, and fanaticism." -- Ahmed Shah Massoud

As time passed the Taliban, first supported by the Pakastani ISI, developed a close association with Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Well funded and with military support from those organizations, the Taliban took control of more and more areas of Afghanistan.

Commander Massoud suffered several setbacks. His appeals for help from the West fell on deaf ears. Although Massoud represented the UN recognized government of Afghanistan, few countries without a vested interest in controlling Afghan soil did anything to help the mujahidin in their struggle. They were finally forced into the northeast corner of the country, the Panjshir Valley, and maintained control of between five to ten percent of the country. The United States and other countries who had armed and supplied their former allies in the war against the Soviet Union began to consider whether or not they should recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.