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Mujahideen by James Tigue

Mujahideen (Mujahedeen, Mujahidin)-  Islamic guerilla fighters especially in the Middle East (Merriam-Webster).

Mujahideen Origin

            The Mujahideen began as a result of a change of power in Afghanistan.  In April 1978, Soviet trained Afghani officers seized control of the government in Afghanistan.  Newly founded as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), the state became a satellite nation for the Soviet Union.  Civil war began as the new president, Nur M. Taraki, was put into power.  His Marxist ways that changed the entire social structure of Afghanistan caused the creation and growth of Mujahideen groups (Jalali and Grau xvi).

           “The Mujahideen were true volunteers—unpaid warriors who fought to protect their faith and community first and the nation next” (Jalali and Grau xiv).  Because the Mujahideen were Islamic based, they viewed professional soldiers as lowly men who had now other skills that would help provide for their families.  The Mujahideen were only part time soldiers. Most of the Mujahideen were untrained and were lead by tribal and religious leaders (xviii).  Being unpaid, they provided for their family by selling weapons in bazaars.

Mujahideen Tactics

            The Mujahideen were very notorious guerilla fighters. One of the favorite tactics of guerilla groups was ambushing. Ambushing is very effective because it allows guerillas to attack covertly with large groups of soldiers while gathering supplies and escaping before they can be overwhelmed.  Ambushing is a tradition among Afghani soldiers. Through history their culture has refined ambushing tactics, whether they fought between themselves or the British during Britain’s presence in the Middle East.  The Mujahideen used this tactic very well against Soviet/DRA logistics. This tactic was the Mujahideen’s most effective act of war against the Soviet and DRA forces.  Mujahideen teams would attack Soviet and government communication lines and armored supply caravans. The Soviets depended so much on their ability to communicate and supply. Without logistics the military forces had a hard time controlling the Mujahideen efforts (Jalali and Grau 1).

            Ambushing was important to the survival of the Mujahideen groups. The supplies that were gathered during these attacks went to more than just the soldiers. Because they were unpaid soldiers, a lot of the supply was sent back to families.   The Mujahideen took clothes, food, ammunition, weapons, and anything else valuable that they could sell for their families. “Normally all captured heavy weapons and 1/5th of the supply went to the commander. The other 4/5th was divided among the Mujahideen combatants” (Jalali and Grau 65).

            Without the gathering of modern weaponry they Mujahideen would not have been as effective as they were.  The Mujahideen only began with simple rifles and officer swords that they procured for the British during their time in the Middle East (Jalali and Grau xvi).  One of the famous ideas about Islamic warriors is their association with the Kalashnikov assault rifle. However popular the rifle was, the Mujahideen’s most important weapon was the RPG-7 grenade launcher. This allowed the combatants to fight armored vehicles, tanks, and, if they were good, helicopters. They also gathered armaments for mortar, rocket, sniper, and heavy machine gun teams (66).

            In the most effective attacks, the Mujahideen would use this weaponry in an organized assault consisting of multiple teams. First they would have a well understood communication system to coordinate between teams.  They almost always had an assault team that got close and personal using assault rifles. Next they would have a heavy support group that used the heavy machine guns and RPGs discussed earlier. For security the ambushing group had a flank defense team that usually carried anti-air and anti-armor weaponry and prevented the Soviets from surrounding the Mujahideen. Lastly there was the spoils retrieval group.  In the most successful attacks these teams would work together to come out on top with the spoils (Jalali and Grau 67).

            Another useful tactic of the Mujahideen was raiding. Raiding was another useful way to gather supply, but it also allowed the rebel fighters to gain a foot hold. Most raids were surprise attacks on enemy strong points. It was an effective way to demoralize the Soviets and DRA. (Jalali and Grau 68) Some were just security outposts and others were politically centers that boosted the moral of the Mujahideen freedom fighters (117). The success of these raids depended on how covertly they were carried out and how well the raid groups communicated. Therefore the Mujahideen conducted most of the raids at night to reduce the risk of the enemy using air retaliation against the mujahideen (103).

Aid to the Mujahideen

            In the beginning the resistance groups were wide spread and were only an annoyance to the new Communist government. Soon Soviet military presence changed the actions of the Mujahideen. Neighboring countries including Iran and Pakistan began supporting Mujahideen efforts through financial aid, training, and refuge (Jalali and Grau, xviii).

          Policy under the Carter Administration dictated that the many Mujahideen groups would be aided by American involvement through supply and aid. Money was funneled from America to Pakistan where they would be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Pakistan would then be the distributor of foreign aid. The new Regan administration decided that they were more than happy to continue the effort by the Carter administration to aid the Mujahideen freedom fighters.  The Ragan administration soon began to provide more support that the previous administration did (Freedman 114).  

          Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Service Intelligence) would distribute the money received from the United States and other aiding counrties among the various groups of Mujahideen. Pakistan was very careful with splitting up the aid among, what they considered to be, the seven recognized rebel groups. These groups were Peshawar-based, four of which were believed to be fundamentalist and three to be moderate. The ISI favored the fundamentalist groups more than the moderates because of their military effectiveness, no ties to Afghani leaders, and for personal relations development. The Hekmatyr Mujahideen received the most of all the fundamentalist Mujahideen, because of past affiliations.  Back in 1975 the Pakistani military did secret military training to over 5,000 Afghani refugees. Many of these newly trained refugees would become part of the Hekmatyr Mujahideen.(Andrews)

          After initial deployment of the Soviets in 1985, the CIA estimated that there were only 40,000 Mujahideen casualties compared to the 92,000 combined Soviet and Afghani casualties. Normally the insurgents in a guerilla war suffer far more casualties that the reigning power. The Soviet Forces could not handle the Mujahideen tactics effectively (Freedman 118). In 1983 the United States decided to increase their pressure on the Soviets in Afghanistan. With the help of “radically anti-communist” CIA leader Bill Casey, the National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 166, “Expanding Aid to Afghan Guerillas,” would provide the Mujahideen with over $200 million in aid per year (120). In the summer of 1986, Soviet heavily armored MI-24D attack helicopters, using scorched earth tactics and positioning themselves on Mujahideen supply routes near the Pakistan border, devastated rebel efforts (Andrews).  The CIA decided to aid the insurgents further by supplying the Mujahideen with American heat-seeking surface-to- air Stinger missiles along with other weapons (Freedman 120).  With the final advantage of the Stinger missiles in combination with all other aspects of the Mujahideen, came the withdrawal of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan (Andrews).

Andrews, Paul. “The CIA, ISI, Mujahideen, 1979-1992.” May 8, 2009. Suite 101: Eastern European History. Sept. 21, 2011. Web.

Freedman, Lawrence. A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East. New York: Public Affairs, 2008. Print.

Jalali, Ali A, and Lester W. Grau. The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War. Quantico, Va: U.S. Marine Corps, Studies and Analysis Division, 1999. Print.

“Mujahideen.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Encyclopaedia Britannica Company. Sept. 25, 2011. Web (picture)