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Contemporary conflicts and challenges

Contemporary conflicts and challenges



Who is the individual in the picture below?

A-Level taster

What atrocity did he commit?


Why did this happen? Discussion.


Afghanistan 1986

Afghanistan 1986

Looking at the map of Afghanistan (above) describe its strategic* location.

[*a geographical or social position which plays a part in a predetermined plan or a location that best suits your strategy to meet your goals.]


Afghanistan is a country that has been at conflict for the past 200 years and longer. Everyone seems to want to invade and take control of the Afghan people and their land. However, this resilient group of people have battled with the British, Soviet Union, the USA and all seem to come off second best.


Mujahedeen in Kunar, Afghanistan

Mujahedeen in Kunar, Afghanistan


A-Level taster 4

The above film (documentary) which is on IPlayer (BBC) is an incredible insight into this ravaged land.


Brief overview

International conflict and civil war have been going on in Afghanistan for over 30 years. In 1979 the Soviets invaded which triggered a response from the American’s who supported the rebel Afghan Mujahedeen groups for the next ten years.

Soviet ground forces in action against the Mujahedeen

Soviet ground forces in action against the Mujahedeen

The Soviets finally pulled out in 1989 leaving the country in ruin. This vacuum created a bitter civil war between the victorious Mujahedeen groups till the Taliban eventually defeated all civil rivals and become the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban had strong links with al-Qaeda who caused the atrocities in the USA (9/11) which inevitably led to the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan.

Reasons for civil and international wars:

Geopolitics – Afghanistan holds a strategic position in Asia and instability in the region is a concern for the neighbours and the superpowers.

Ethno-religious – the anti soviet struggle had a strong Islamic leaning and with the emergence of the Taliban a new religious extremism developed with help from al-Qaeda.

Deprivation – extreme poverty has been a feature of Afghanistan for generations which has led to a vicious cycle of violence.

State repression – communist leaning governments had an effect in this region.

Kabul (1992) destruction caused by infighting of fundamental groups - the fall of Najibullah

Kabul (1992) destruction caused by infighting of fundamental groups – the fall of Najibullah

After the Soviet invasion the country was left in ruin and many of the Mujahedeen groups were now heavily armed from US support or the spoils of war. The various factions continued the war against the Afghan communist government in Kabul which was led by Mohammed Nijibullah. Massoud allied with Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, against Nijibullah who relinquished power when Kabul fell in 1992 (fi 3). The taking of Kabul didn’t reduce insecurity as rebel groups fell out amongst themselves as to who would rule Afghanistan.

A Tajik dominated government formed in 1992 with the President Rabbani and Defence Minister being Massoud. Fighting however continued in Kabul with 25 000 civilians killed and a third of the city destroyed (see fig 3). Unrested continued to ripple through Afghanistan due to the fact that no –one or group had real control or authority – there was no central government. Amongst this chaos some Mujahedeen fighters rallied around Mullah Omar an Islamic religious leader – he became leader of a group called the Taliban.

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar

The Taliban quickly sought to improve law and order in the country. They brought in a highly conservative brand of Islam into Afghanistan and an extreme interpretation of the Sharia Law. The following laws were implemented:

  • Women were not allowed to work outside of the home or allowed to attend school
  • Men had to grow beards and attend prayers regularly
  • Entertainment was limited or banned such as: television, music, sports, games and flying kites

A-Level taster 8

Due to many years of disillusionment by the Afghan people the Taliban managed to gain a reputation thus bringing “order” to the region. This brought about more and more success and in 1994 the Taliban took control of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city. In the city they seized control of a cache of guns, ammunition, rocket launchers etc. Due to the success in Kandahar they eventually took over Kabul where upon Rabanni and Massoud fled with their forces to the north and received support from both Russia and Iran. The former communist leader Najibullah was captured by the Taliban and executed in a public manner.

A-Level taster 9

In 1997 the Taliban was recognised by the Saudi Arabian, Pakistan and the UAE as a legitimate government. During this time Osama bin Laden returned to Afghanistan with his al-Qaeda terrorist group and partnered Mullah Omar. They used Afghanistan as a training ground and some 20 000 passed through their training camps before they attacked the US on 9/11 (2001).

Osama bin Laden in 1989 with anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan as he was building his terrorism network, with American help.

Osama bin Laden in 1989 with anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan as he was building his terrorism network, with American help.


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