Remembering the Lion of Panjshir, 20 years later
Updated: Sep 24, 2021
Update: reports have emerged that the Taliban have desecrated the tomb of Ahmad Shah Massoud, extensively vandalising it of its valuables and leaving the interior covered in shattered glass and masonry. In doing so, they insult not only his memory, but that of every Afghan who has fought against foreign occupation of Afghanistan.
On this day in 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by Al-Qaeda operatives under direct orders from Osama bin Laden. "The Lion of Panjshir", Massoud had repeatedly repelled attempts by the Taliban to subdue the Panjshir Valley. He was so pivotal a figure to thwarting the Taliban's brutal aims for Afghanistan that bin Laden ordered Massoud's assassination to ensure their gratitude and continued protection, even after the 9/11 attacks launched two days later.
Officially a National Hero of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Massoud was the heart of Afghan resistance against both the Soviets and the Taliban. Between 1979 and 1989, he was a powerful guerilla commander in the fight against the Soviet occupation, defeating nine Soviet incursions into Panjshir. After the Taliban takeover, he served as Minister of Defense for the Northern Alliance and as its political leader second only to President Burhanuddin Rabbani. He was the only Afghan commander who never left the country in its decades of war against the Soviet Union and the Taliban.
This is the only safe place in Afghanistan. Under Ahmad Shah Massoud, there is freedom, respect for all. Panjshir is the last tolerant corner of Afghanistan.
—an internal refugee in 1997 on why he and his family made the perilous trek to Panjshir
Massoud is regarded as one of the greatest guerrilla leaders of the 20th century for successfully and repeatedly defending northern Afghanistan from capture by either hostile force. His son, Ahmad Massoud, now carries on his legacy leading the National Resistance Front against the new Taliban regime and their Al-Qaeda allies, working in concert again today as they did in 2001 to murder his father on September 9th and 2,996 innocent civilians on September 11th.
Ahmad Shah Massoud was buried in the same place he was born and spent his life fighting for: Panjshir. Despite its remoteness from the major population centers of Afghanistan, the funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of people, who would be kept away by neither distance nor danger from paying their respects to the saviour of their nation.