Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai (Pashto: نجيب الله), originally just Najib, (August 6, 1947 – September 28, 1996) was the fourth and last President of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is also considered the second President of the Republic of Afghanistan.
Najibullah was born in August 1947 to the Ahmadzai sub-tribe of the Ghilzai Pashtun tribe. Though born in Kabul, his ancestral village was located between the towns of Said Karam and Gardēz in [[Paktia Province], this place is known as Mehlan. He was educated at Habibia High School and Kabul University, where he graduated with a doctor degree in medicine in 1975.
In 1978 the PDPA took power in Afghanistan, with Najibullah a member of the ruling Revolutionary Council. However, the Khalq faction of the PDPA gained supremacy over his own Parcham faction, and after a brief stint as ambassador in Iran, he was dismissed from government and went into exile in Europe.
He returned to Kabul after the Soviet intervention in 1979. In 1980, he was appointed the head of KHAD, the secret police. Under Najibullah’s control, it is claimed that KHAD arrested, tortured and executed tens of thousands of Afghans. It has been reported that Najibullah sometimes executed prisoners himself. In 1981 he was promoted to full membership in the Politburo.
Meanwhile, a change had taken place in Kabul. On May 4, 1986, under pressure from the Soviet Union, Babrak Karmal resigned as secretary general of the PDPA and was replaced by Dr. Najibullah. Karmal retained the presidency for a while, but power had shifted to Najibullah.
His selection by the Soviets was clearly related to his success in running KHAD more effectively than the rest of the DRA had been governed.
President of the Republic (November 1986 – April 1992)
In November 1986, Najibullah was elected president and a new constitution was adopted. Some of the innovations incorporated into the constitution were a multi-party political system, freedom of expression, and an Islamic legal system presided over by an independent judiciary.
However, all of these measures were largely outweighed by the broad powers of the president, who commanded a military and police apparatus under the control of the Homeland Party (Hizb-i Watan, as the PDPA became known in 1988). In September he set up the National Compromise Commission to contact counter-revolutionaries “in order to complete the Saur Revolution in its new phase”. Allegedly some 40,000 rebels were contacted.
In this way, Najibullah had stabilized his political position enough to begin matching Moscow‘s moves toward withdrawal. On July 20, 1987, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country was announced.
It was also during his Administration that the peak of the fighting came in 1985-86. The Soviet forces launched their largest and most effective assaults on the Mujahideen supply lines adjacent to Pakistan. Major campaigns had also forced the mujahedeen back to defensive positions near Herat and Kandahar.
Najibullah made an expanded reconciliation offer to the resistance in July 1987, including twenty seats in State (formerly Revolutionary) Council, twelve ministries and a possible prime ministership and Afghanistan’s status as an Islamic non-aligned state. Military, police, and security powers were not mentioned, and the offer still fell far short of what even the moderate mujahedeen parties would accept.
Najibullah then reorganized his government to face the mujahedeen alone. A new constitution took effect in November, 1987. The name of the country was reverted to the Republic of Afghanistan, the State Council was replaced by a National Assembly for which multiple parties could freely compete. Mohammad Hasan Sharq, a non-party politician, was named Prime Minister.
On June 7, 1988, President Najibullah addressed the UN General Assembly in request of support for a peace solution of the crisis in Afghanistan.
Soviet withdrawal and Civil War
With Afghanistan’s mujihadeen rejecting offers of reconciliation, Najibullah declared an emergency immediately after the Soviet departure. Prime Minister Sharq and the other non-party ministers were removed from the cabinet. The Soviet Union simultaneously provided a flood of military and economic supplies. Sufficient food and fuel were made available for the next two difficult winters.
Much of the military equipment belonging to Soviet units evacuating Eastern Europe was shipped to Afghanistan. Assured adequate supplies, the Afghan National Army Air Corps, which had developed tactics minimizing the threat from American-supplied Stinger missiles, now deterred mass attacks against the cities. Medium-range missiles, particularly the Scud, were successfully launched from Kabul in the defense of Jalalabad, 145 kilometres away.
Victory at Jalalabad dramatically revived the morale of the Kabul government. Its army proved able to fight effectively alongside the already hardened troops of the Soviet-trained special security forces. Defections decreased dramatically when it became apparent that the resistance was in disarray, with no capability for a quick victory.
Soviet support reached a value of $3 billion a year in 1990. Kabul had achieved a stalemate which exposed the mujahedeen weaknesses, political and military. Najibullah’s government survived for another four years. Divisions within his own ranks – including the defection of General Abdul Rashid Dostum – helped weaken the government’s resolve. Eventually, determined American support for the mujahedeen would prove decisive.
In March 1990 his government successfully withstood a Khalqi coup d’état, headed by Defense Minister Shahnawaz Tanai. According to Halimzai, a few months before the coup Mohammad Zahir Ofoq, the head of a small communist party, met with Shahnawaz Tanai to make a strategy for the coup. Halimzai says “When we were discussing how to take over the control, I told them that the coup will be unsuccessful unless we have control of departments like Media, Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in our hand. I told them that I am not willing to bring about such change. I said that you both should be aware of the all circumstances. We can’t take over Kabul, and once we fail no power will stop Ashrar (Mujahedeen) to enter Kabul. Eventually they agreed and said that they will first create grounds for a coup afterwards will act. But they were actually planning the coup and just before the coup Mr. Ofoq went to India and after failing Mr. Tanai fled to Islamabad. And I was right, Dr. Najib’s regime became weaker and in March 1992, Ashrar were wandering in the streets of Kabul, who were now Mujahedeen.” Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was one of the main supporters of the coup.
Najibullah had been working on a compromise settlement to end the civil war with Ahmad Shah Massoud, brokered by the United Nations. However, talks broke down and the government fell, and by 1992 Najibullah agreed to step down in favor of a transitional government. He also announced that a bicameral parliament would be established “within a few months,” on the basis of “free and democratic elections.”
The regime collapsed, as Kabul was short of fuel and food at the end of winter in 1992. Najibullah, on March 18, announced his willingness to resign in order to make way for a neutral interim government. On April 16, having lost internal control, was forced to resign by his own ruling party, following the capture of the strategically important Bagram air base and the nearby town of Charikar, by the Jamiat-e Islami guerrilla group.
Najibullah tried to meet Benon Sevan – director and senior political advisor to the UN Secretary-General‘s representative on the Afghan conflict at Kabul International Airport, but he was blocked by Abdul Rashid Dostum. On April 17, he sought sanctuary in the UN compound in Kabul. The newly created interim government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan left him unharmed.
When the Taliban were about to enter Kabul Ahmad Shah Massoud offered Najibullah twice to flee Kabul. Najibullah refused believing the Taliban would spare his life. General Tokhi, who was with Dr. Najibullah until the day before his torture and murder, wrote that when three people came to both Dr. Najibullah and General Tokhi and asked them to come with them to flee Kabul, they rejected the offer after losing their trust in Ahmad Shah Massoud who knowingly fired rockets at the UN compound where Najibullah and Tokhi had taken refuge. This proved to be a fatal mistake. Tokhi was with Najibullah at the UN compound when he was taken away by the Taliban, beaten and brutally murdered. His blood-soaked body was hung in public in Aryana Square in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 26, 1996. His brother Shahpur Ahmadzai was also with him throughout this whole ordeal at the UN compound and was eventually executed along with him.
A high ranking member of the Taliban militia, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, said Najibullah deserved his fate. “He killed so many Islamic people and was against Islam and his crimes were so obvious that it had to happen. He was a communist,” Rabbani said. They were buried at graveyard (Kabristan) of village Mehlan near Gardez.
India, a close ally of Najibullah, strongly condemned the public execution of Najibullah and began to extensively support Ahmed Shah Massoud‘s Northern Alliance in an attempt to contain the rise of the Taliban.