Is the Afghan Civil War Ending, or Just Entering a New Phase?
While the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan in late summer of 2021 appeared to be the final step in the long Afghan civil war dating back to 1978, resistance to Taliban rule began to appear almost as soon as the Taliban set up shop (again), in the Afghan capital. Ahmed Massoud, the son of the late Northern Alliance leader, (also Ahmed Shah Massoud) declared that he and his followers were setting up a base in the Panjshir Valley (which is a very difficult area to attack, as the Soviets learned in their war), as his father had in the past, to fight against the Taliban. If the younger Massoud’s forces survive to plague the Taliban as his father’s forces did, we may see a Sixth Phase of the Afghan Civil War. See the link above to see the detailed timeline of the first five phases of the Afghan Civil War).
Background to the Afghan Civil War:
A bit of background here…after the communist coup in 1978 that sparked the Afghan Civil War and the subsequent Soviet invasion in 1979, anti-communist forces set up in the remote Panjshir Valley to the northeast of Kabul. Despite repeated Afghan army and Soviet offensives, the rebels held onto the valley. Fast forward to 1996, when the Taliban first seized Kabul, one of the non-Taliban rebel leaders who had fought the Soviets, Ahmed Shah Massoud, resumed his war against Kabul, establishing the Northern Alliance of non-Pashtun Afghans to resist the Taliban.
The Taliban is a largely Pashtun organization, while the Northern Alliance were primarily ethnic Tajik and Uzbek Afghans. The main ethnic groups in Afghanstan are the majority Pashtuns, the minority Tajiks and Uzbeks, (all Sunni Muslim), and a Shiite minority in the west, along the Iranian border called Hazaris.
After the 9/11 attacks on the United States by al-Qaida, a Sunni Jihadist group based in Afghanistan (but separate from the Taliban, but allied with them), the U.S. and allied nations worked with the Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban. Ahmed Shah Massoud, however, was killed two days prior to the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida assassins. It is believed his killing was part of the plan against America, with the belief that the U.S. would attack the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan post-9/11.
Panjshir Valley-Source Wikipedia
Now, with the U.S. retreating from Afghanistan, and a new generation of anti-Taliban fighters setting up shop in Panjshir (see map), the Afghan civil war (the late 1990s phase) has come full circle. Peace will not come to Afghanistan anytime soon.