Major Afghan Mujahideen Groups: A Profile

Major Afghan Mujahideen Groups: A Profile

1. Hizb-e-Islami (Islamic Party/Hikmatyar)

Radical Islamist in character, Hizb-e-Islami is one of the best armed  and organized groups. Its leader, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar who was born in Kunduz  in 1947, is a Kharuti Pashtun of Gilzai origin. He was a leader of Muslim Brotherhood movement in Kabul in the early 1970s and shifted later to Pakistan to organize an Islamic opposition movement against the Daud regime. He led a major insurrection in the Panjshir valley in 1975 near Kabul, which was sponsored by the Pakistani government in response to Daud's support of Pashtunistan movement inside Pakistan.

The Hizb-e-Islami of Hikmatyar, which is believed to have about 30,000 trained fighters, has close ties with the Jamat-i-Islami of Pakistan, Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan and Hizbul Mujahideen, Al Barq, Harkat-ul-Mujahedin and Jamat-i-Islami of Kashmir. Hikmatyar and his party have received strong support from Pakistan. Hizb-e-Islami is mainly composed of Pashtuns from the eastern and north-eastern part of Afghanistan.

Considered to be both ambitious and ruthless, Hikmatyar displayed his political opportunism first in the spring of 1990, when he aligned with the former Defence Minister in the Najibullah regime, General Shahnawaz Tanai, who staged an unsuccessful coup against the Afghan President on March 6, 1990; and more recently when he joined hands with the Uzbek Commander, Dostam against the present Afghan government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani. Though not a mullah himself, Hikmatyar is a modern Islamist committed to the ideology of Islamic state in Afghanistan. He has been lending active men and material support to Islamist extremists in Tajikistan and Kashmir.

2. Hizb-e-Islami (Islamic Party/Khalis)

This faction of Hizb-e-Islami, is led by Maulvi Mohammad Yunus Khalis, who broke away from his former colleague, Hikmatyar in 1979. Although about seventy years old, Khalis has been actively involved in the anti-Soviet operations. He is well organized and has some of the best field commanders. He viewed the Afghan resistance movement as a struggle betwecn Islam and Kufr. Khalis aimed at the establishment of an Islamic state in accordance with the Quran, Sunnah and thc Shariah. He considers the modern concept of elections as un-lslamic. Khalis is of traditional ulema (clerical) background and has translated works of a prominent Egyptian Muslim Brother, Sayyid Qutb. His party which is primarily Pashtun in membership, is believed to have around 10,000 trained cadres. Khalis maintains close relations with Burhanuddin Rabbani of Jamiat-e-Islami.

3. Jamiat-e-Islami

Jamiat-e-Islami, Afghanistan headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani distinguishes itself  by its basically northern (non-Pashtun) membership particularly Tajiks and some Uzbeks as well. Born in 1940 in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan, Rabbani is a Tajik specialised in Islamic theology. Holding a degree from Al Azhar University - the premier institute of Islamic studies, Rabbani, founded the Jamiat-e-Islami, Afghanistan in 1967 and became its President in 1972. He migrated to Pakistan in 1974 and later operated from his base in Peshawar against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Jamiat-e-Islami has been operating mainly in Panjsher valley under the effective commanders like Ahmad Shah Masood and Ismail Khan. With an effective strength of around 20,000 fighters, Jamial-e-Islami received support from Pakistan and Arab States. Though both Rabbani and Hikmatyar have Islamist orientation and wanted a strictly Islamic state in Afghanistan, their ethnic and personal differences led them split into two groups in 1976-77. Besides, Rabbani who has a broad background of classical culture, religious orthodoxy and potitical Islamism, has been willing to work with traditional ulema (clerics) which was opposed by Hikmatyar.

4. Ittehad-e-Islami (Islamic Union)

Led by Abdur Rab Rasul Sayyaf, the Ittehad-e-Islami is closely aligned to the militant international Muslim Brotherhood and is heavily financed by radical Islamic groups in Saudi Arabia. Holding a Masters degree in Islamic theology from Cairo, Sayyaf speaks fluent Arabic which has facilitated his ties with the Saudis. This group is known to be close to Wahabis, hence receiving most of the support from Saudi Arabia. It is believed to have about 20,000 fighters, mostly in the Paghman Province near Kabul. This party too is for a strictly Islamic state in Afghanistan.

5. Harakat-e-Inquilabi-e-Islami (Islamic Revolutionary Movement)

Led by Maulvi Mohammad Nabi Mohammad, this party was founded by him in Quetta in 1978. Mohammadi is a Pashtun and being a cleric himself, his party draws its strength from graduates of traditional madrasseh and the clergy. With an estimated strength of about 20000, this party has been one of Afghanistan's strongest Mujahideen groups operating mainly in Ghazni, Kabul and Herat.

6. Mahaz-e-Milli Islami Afghanistan (National Islamic Front of Afghanistan)

Led by Syed Ahmad Effendi Gaillani, a spiritual leader of Afghanistan's Sufi sect, the Qadiris, Mahaz too is Pashtun dominated and conservative. Gaillani who is related to Afghanistan's royal family, advocates the return of former King Zahir Shah. Despite his religious credentials, Gaillani is opposed to radical Islamists. His front is reported to be about 18000 strong.

7. Jabba-e-Nejat-e-Milli Afghanistan (Afghan National Liberation Front)

Led by Sebghatullah Mojaddidi, who is a theologian by training and a Pir (religious heed) of another important Sufi order, the Naqshbandi, this parly is also Sufi oriented and is opposed to radical Islamist ideology. Mojaddidi too has had links with the royalist establishment and consequently had differences with Hikmatyar. This group is reported to have about 18000 cadres, operating mostly around Qandhar, Farah and Baghlan.

8. Hizb-e-Wahdat

The nine Afghan Shia Mujahideen groups, which were based in Teheran, namely Sazman-e-Nasr Afghanistan, Harakat-e-Islami, Hezbollah-e-Afghanistan, Jabha- e-Motteheda-Afghanistan Nezhat-e-Islami, Daivet Islami, Pasdaran-e-Jehad- Islami, Sazman-e-Niruy-e-Islami and the Islamic Council formed a loose alliance in 1990 namely Hizb-e-Wahdat. This group has close contacts with Iran. Iran has been extending full support to these Shia groups in securing their share in the political set-up in Afghanistan.

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