Panjshir Gorge, Afghanistan: geography, strategic importance
Panjshir Gorge is a deep mountain valley,located in the north-east of Afghanistan. From 1980 to 1984, several military operations were conducted here with the participation of Soviet troops during the war in Afghanistan in 1979-1989.
Panjshir Gorge is known since the beginning of XI century. In literal translation from the Afghan, its name means "five lions". So in those days they called the governors of the mighty sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, who ruled in these places. He was a padishah and emir of the Ghaznavid state at the turn of the 10th-11th centuries. According to legend, these governors built a dam over the Panjshir River overnight, which still exists. Local believe that this was helped by a deep and strong faith.
Panjshir is a fairly large river thatis one of the main tributaries of the Kabul River. It enters the Indus river basin. The Panjshir valley is located along the famous mountain range of the Hindu Kush. Its area is about 3.5 thousand square kilometers. The average height exceeds 2,200 meters above sea level. Peak points are at 6 thousand meters above sea level. The village of Rukh is considered to be the center of the Pangiershsky gorge. Here the elders of the province were based.
The meaning of the gorge
Gorge is of strategic importance. It was especially strong during the Afghan war. The fact is that the valley of the river that flows through the gorge divides Afghanistan into the northern and southern parts.
It is here that the most successful and convenientPassages from one part of the country to another. The terrain in this case consists of a complex system of rivers and tributaries that pass through the gorges. Therefore, they serve as an excellent natural refuge in the course of hostilities. The valley turns into an impregnable fortress, organically suitable for conducting military operations by partisan detachments.
Panjshir Gorge was of strategic importance during the war against the communist regime in 1975, and then during the confrontation with Soviet troops during the 10-year war.
During the entire time that the Soviet Unionheld troops in this Asian country, the gorge to which this article is devoted remained the hottest point on the entire map of Afghanistan. It was here that the most fierce battles took place, it was here that the Soviet troops carried the biggest losses of personnel. For many Soviet soldiers and officers, Panjshir remained a terrible dream for the rest of his life.
Resistance in this territory was directed byinfluential Afghan field commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. A great deal of attention was paid to the Salang Pass, which in everyday life was called the "throat of Kabul." It was here that the route from Hairaton to Kabul was laid. It was considered a key highway for the columns of trucks that delivered civilian and military cargoes to Afghanistan from the USSR.
Near the village of Rukh in the first years of the warThe so-called second Muslim battalion, created on the basis of the 177th separate detachment of special purpose, was stationed. In total, it included a thousand people.
Since 1984, based on the 682 motorized rifle regiment,numbering about one and a half thousand soldiers. In total, nine large-scale operations were conducted against the partisan detachments of Ahmad Shah Massoud. Many eyewitnesses of those events remembered that the Panjurshi Gorge had the most difficult situation. Partisans were able to regularly repel the offensive of Soviet troops.
Tensions in this part of the country have been preserved andAfter the withdrawal of the Soviet army in 1989. First, confrontation with the regime of the Afghan president from 1987 to 1992, Mohammad Najibullah, and later with the Taliban. The Islamist movement, originated in Afghanistan in 1994 in the Pashtun community.
The population of the gorge
The population of this valley, whichwas the basis of the Panjshir province, estimated at about 100 thousand people. Such data were cited in the mid-1980s, when Soviet troops conducted active military operations there.
All these people were dispersed in 200settlements. At the moment there is no exact data on the population. According to various estimates, 150 to 300 thousand people live in the gorge. Mostly these are Afghan Tajiks. In general, there are many Tajiks in Afghanistan. According to some reports, from 11 to 13 million people, which is one third of the total population of the country. It is the second largest nation in Afghanistan.
Panjshir is a historical area of residence for Afghan Tajiks. Here they live 99%. In the gorge there is a mining of lithium and emeralds. The main attraction is the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Masud.
Confrontation with the troops Masud
By 1979, when the Afghan war began, from theAll the units of the government army of Afghanistan were finally knocked out of the gorge. It was under the absolute control of field commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Later he even received the nickname Panjshursky lion.
In 1979, a newhead, general secretary of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan Babrak Karmal. He demanded the immediate restoration of state power in all provinces. On this basis, government forces, with the support of a limited contingent of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, participated in military operations to liberate settlements that were under the control of the rebels.
The Panjshir Gorge area was one of thethe most problematic in this regard. The geography of Afghanistan was such that access to road transport was severely restricted due to the complex mountainous terrain. The only road led through the city of Gulbahor. However, it was not easy to use, because Masud's group was seriously opposed. In addition, Massoud himself was a local resident. This allowed him to better navigate the terrain and get support from the Aborigines.
In addition, this gorge was the optimal transport corridor for the supply of weapons from Pakistan and the organization of training bases by the rebels.
The fate of Massoud
Thus, in fact Ahmad Shah Massoud becameone of the main opponents of Soviet troops during the entire 10-year stay in Afghanistan. It is worth noting that he was born in a Tajik family.
In 1973, after a coup, he was forced to emigrate to Pakistan. There he joined the Islamist opposition, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.
In 1975 he took part in a failed uprising against dictator Mohammed Daoud. Then he fought against the Soviet troops and President Karmal.
After the withdrawal of the army of the USSR,ruler of Masudistan. This is a self-proclaimed state, which includes provinces in the north-east of Afghanistan. The capital was organized in the center of the province of Takhar - Talukane. Masudistan had its own government, about 2.5 million people, mostly Tajiks, own currency and a 60,000-strong army.
In 1992, Masud's army entered Kabul. After that, Rabbani became the president of Afghanistan, and Masud received the portfolio of the Minister of Defense. However, after the fall of the Soviet regime, Masud had to confront Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In 1994, as a result of the fighting for control of Kabul, about four thousand civilians were killed, and the city itself was significantly destroyed.
Yet in 1996 the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, and Masudistan became part of the Northern Alliance, which was headed by Masud.
It is known that since 1999, Masood has cooperated withAmerican intelligence. As a result, in 2001 he was killed during an attempt by a suicide bomber. He introduced himself as a journalist, and hid the bomb in the video camera. According to some reports, Masud was killed by order of bin Laden because of ties with the Americans.
The first Panjshir operation took place as early as1980 year. The fighting began on 9 April. Masud's headquarters were destroyed, but the retreating rebels could not be pursued. Because of the relief, heavy equipment could not pass. This was one of the first successes of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The Panjshir canyon then did not seem so impregnable.
The results of the operation were recognized as successful. Masud's grouping was broken, he himself fled, getting seriously wounded.
However, for unexplained reasons, the Soviet troops decided not to leave their battalions in the occupied villages. As a result, they were soon again in the hands of Masud's restored partisans.
The truce with Masoud
Masud was one of those Afghan warlords who willingly agreed to a truce with the Soviet units. The first truce was concluded immediately after the end of the 1980 military operation.
Masud promised not to attack the Soviet andgovernment forces, in turn, promised not to provide aviation and artillery support in the event of clashes between Masud's forces and the Islamic Party of Afghanistan headed by Hekmatyar.
Another truce was reached at the turn of 1982-1983.
Results of Panjshir operations
In total, during the time of the Soviet9 large-scale operations in this gorge were conducted in Afghanistan. The result of each of them was a temporary and partial control over the Panjshir canyon, which eventually was lost.
There is no exact data on the losses on the part of the Soviet army and the Afghan Mujahideen.