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Afterword: The Complicity of Other Countries

The atrocities documented in this report did not occur in a vacuum.  As noted in the introduction above, outside countries played a vital role in militarizing Afghanistan over the 1980s and fueling the political instability that plagued the country during 1992-1993, as well as in subsequent years. 

Afghanistan was not hugely unstable, fractured, or militarized in 1978, when the Soviet Union orchestrated the communist coup in Kabul.  But the decision of the Soviet Union in 1979 to invade and suppress the mujahedin uprising, and the Soviet Union’s subsequent support for a series of brutal regimes through the 1980s, coupled with decisions by the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, and Pakistan to support the mujahedin, ultimately made Afghanistan one of the most unstable, fractured, and militarized places in the world.

As noted earlier in this report, the Soviet Union spent approximately U.S. $36 to $48 billion to support successive Afghan regimes in the 1980s, while the other countries noted above sent roughly U.S. $6 to $12 billion in aid to mujahedin groups.310  Even after the Soviet Union departed in 1989, the Soviet government continued to support the Najibullah government, and the United States and Pakistan continued to support mujahedin groups.311  Hezb-e Islami forces continued to receive largescale military assistance from the United States and Pakistan through the early 1990s.312  Wahdat and Harakat continued to receive funding from Iran though the 1990s.313

All of this military aid, training, and financial support—by the Soviet Union, United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan, and Iran—provided these countries varying degrees of leverage over the armed groups they supported.  All of these seven countries (including Russia in the case of the Soviet Union) share responsibility for the international crimes that occurred in Afghanistan during the period discussed in this report.

The weapons used in the atrocities documented in this report were sent to Afghanistan by these seven countries.  These weapons sent were manufactured by the Soviet Union, the United States, China, and Pakistan.  Much of the training on their use was conducted by trainers from Pakistan, Iran, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom.  Moreover, the very fact that military force was being used in Afghanistan in 1992-1993 was in large part due to the fact that none of the seven countries above made any high-profile efforts to resolve the Afghan political situation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The governments of these seven countries today have an obligation to help Afghanistan rebuild and help it face its past.  An important way to do so would be to forcefully and publicly press for justice for past crimes and support Afghan justice-building efforts.

[310] See Goodson, Afghanistan’s Endless War,pp. 63 and 99; Coll, Ghost Wars, pp. 65-66, 151, 190, and 239.  See generally, George Crile, Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Convert Operation in History (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003); Human Rights Watch, Crisis of Impunity: The Role of Pakistan, Russia, and Iran in Fueling the Civil War, A Human Rights Watch Short Report, July 2001, vol. 13, no. 3 (C).

[311] For more on continued support by the United States, and on internal disputes between the U.S. State Department and CIA about the wisdom of such continued support, see Human Rights Watch World Report (1992), Afghanistan chapter, available at

[312] Ibid.  As noted in the introduction, the CIA, with Pakistani support, sent new massive shipments of military aid to Hekmatyar in 1991, including large shipments of Soviet weapons and tanks captured from Saddam Hussein’s forces during the first Gulf War.  The aid was meant for his forces to use in an assault on Najibullah’s forces in Kabul.  The attack was called off, but the weapons were used later by Hekmatyar to attack Kabul in 1992-1995.  See Coll, Ghost Wars, p. 226; and Steve Coll, “Afghan Rebels Said to Use Iraqi Tanks,” The Washington Post, October 1, 1991.

[313] Human Rights Watch, “The Forgotten War: Human Rights Abuses and Violations of the Laws Of War Since the Soviet Withdrawal,” A Human Rights Watch report, February 1991; Human Rights Watch, Crisis of Impunity: The Role of Pakistan, Russia, and Iran in Fueling the Civil War, A Human Rights Watch Short Report, July 2001, vol. 13, no. 3 (C).

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