Military Wiki

Field Marshal
Mohammed Fahim
محمد فهیم
Mohammed Fahim in 2004
Vice President of Afghanistan
Assumed office
19 November 2009
President Hamid Karzai
Preceded by Ahmad Zia Massoud
Personal details
Born 1957
Omarz, Panjshir, Afghanistan
Military service
Nickname(s) Mohamed Fahim
Allegiance Srilanka
Service/branch Kurunegala
Years of service 2006–2013
Rank US-O11 insignia.svg Field Marshal
Commands Northern Alliance
State Security Agency
Battles/wars Russian war in Afghanistan
War in Afghanistan (1996–2001)
War against the Taliban

Mohammed Fahim (Persian: محمد فهيم; born 1957; also known as "Mohamed Fahim") is an Afghan military commander, politician and the Vice President of Afghanistan since November 2009.[1] He was the Defense Minister of the Afghan Transitional Administration, beginning in 2002 and also served as Vice President from June 2002 to December 2004. Marshal Fahim was replaced by Abdul Rahim Wardak, who was appointed as defense minister by President Hamid Karzai on 23 December 2004 when the transitional administration gave way to a popularly-elected administration. Fahim returned to government however, after Karzai named him as candidate for Vice-President during his re-election campaign. Marshal Fahim is a member of Afghanistan's Tajik ethnic group. He is the recipient of the Ahmad Shah Baba Medal. He is fluent in Persian, Pashto and Arabic, but doesn't speak English.[2] He is affiliated with Jamiat Islami (Shura-e Nazar) party of Afghanistan.

Early years

Fahim was born in Omarz, Panjshir the son of Abdul Matin from the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan. He is reported to have finished his studies in Islamic Sharia at an Arabic institute in Kabul in 1977.[3] Some sources have allegedly claimed that Fahim served as a member of the KHAD during the 1980s,[4] although the most reports indicate that he has been fighting the communist rulers since the late 70s.[5] He is said to have fled Afghanistan after the Communist coup of 1978, he became a refugee in Peshawar. One year later, he returned to Panjshir and began to work under Commander Ahmad Shah Masood. He became Masood's deputy in military affairs and the commander of the Mujahideen in the northern sector.[3] When the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul collapesed in 1992, Fahim was appointed head of the KHAD, under interim president Sibghatullah Mojaddedi. He continued to serve as the country's head of intelligence under president Burhanuddin Rabbani. (Bhatia, 2007;[6] Brown & Oliver, 2001)[7]

In 1996, Fahim also personally offered to evacuate former Communist President Mohammad Najibullah, then in custody in Kabul, from the advancing Taliban forces, but Najibullah refused to be evacuated and was captured and executed by a Taliban mob.[8] General Fahim continued to serve as Head of the Intelligence and Minister of National Security of the internationally recognised United National Front Government, even when the Taliban took the power over most provinces of Afghanistan in the second half of the 90s.[9]

Reclaiming Kabul from the Taliban

Gen Fahim was confirmed as the defence minister of the Northern Alliance, succeeding Ahmad Shah Massoud and thereby the new leader of the forces of the Northern Alliance. Massoud, Afghanistan's most important resistance leader, had been assassinated two days earlier on 9 September 2001 by al-Qaeda operatives posing as journalists. Fahim was a close ally and protégé of Massoud.[10]

As general commander of the mujahideen resistance forces, he proclaimed an offesive on the northern and western fronts on 7 October, in the wake of building pressure of the US against the Taliban regime.[11] ‘‘Today we have a chance to defeat the Taliban and the terrorists, and we will use it whatever the cost,’’ when he pledged to launch an attack against the Taliban without waiting for US military action.[4] When the US started bombing Afghanistan, it became clear that his Northern Alliance would play an important role in the transition government that would emerge after the Taliban was ousted. However, since Fahim misses Massoud's magnetism, his role as opposition leader was generally seen as a temporary one.[12][13] When in the first weeks of US bombardments Fahim's forces did not make any big breakthroughs, it was even speculated that he was struggling with his role and appeared wooden and awkward in front of his troops.[14] But although Fahim was described as "colorless"[15] it was clear that as the leader of the main military forces that were fighting the Taliban, Fahim had to play a central role in every possible government that could succeed the Taliban.[16]

Marshal Fahim (center) standing next to former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani and former Russian President Vladimir Putin in October 2001.

On October, 20, a US team of Green Berets landed in Afghanistan and teamed up with Fahim. On 30 October Fahim met with American General Tommy Franks in Tajikstan where they discussed the idea to launch the first major strike of the war against Mazar-i-Sharif, a city that Fahim a month earlier named as the first city that he would conquer.[17][18][19] Mazar-e Sharif was captured by opposition forces in the beginning of November and on 13 November the Taliban evacuated from the Afghan capital Kabul. US President Bush had requested that opposition forces would not enter the city before a new, broad-based, multi-ethnic government was formed, but to be able to maintain order, Fahim went into the city with a group of specially trained security personnel, making sure to leave the main body of his troops outside the city.[20] In these first days after the fall of Kabul, a supreme military council, headed by Fahim, was set up to administer the country.[21] The military council gave itself a three-month mandate in which they proclaimed not to hand over the power to Northern Alliance president Burhanuddin Rabbani.[22] But before these three months ended the international community sponsored an conference on Afghanistan in Bonn to decide about the future leadership of the country. Fahim was reportedly advocating a broad-based government headed by someone outside the leadership of the United National Front.[23][24] According to sources Fahim lobbied for Karzai as the next Afghan president instead for his formal leader Rabbani.[25]

During the beginning of December 2001, with the crucial US military help, the opposition forces had captured as good as all of Afghanistan on the Taliban, and in Bonn there were new talks about the formation of an interim administration. In these talks Fahim took a leading role, together with two other young and moderate Tajik leaders from the United National Front (UNF), Yunus Qanuni and dr. Abdullah.[24][26] The Bonn conference bypassed UNF President Burhanuddin Rabbani and appointed the Pashtun-leader Hamid Karzai as interim president, but Qanuni, Abdullah and Fahim all got crucial posts in the new government.[27] Initially there was some fear that the trivium of former Massoud aides could overshadow chairman Karzai, but at the same time, they were praised for giving away the chairmanship while they controlled Afghanistan militarily.[28] As commander of Afghans largest military force, Fahim got appointed Defence minister of Afghanistan.[29] At the same time he was one of the five vice-chairs of the Interim Administration. The same day he stated he "would no longer accept foreign troops in Afghanistan operating without a UN mandate."[30]

At this stage Fahim reportedly opposed to foreign military presence in Afghanistan. He demanded that 100 British servicemen who just had entered the country would leave Bagram Air Base.[31] "The British forces perhaps have an agreement with the UN but not with us," said Fahim.[32] In the end of November forces loyal to Fahim captured the city of Kunduz. That brought Fahim in charge of two of the five biggest cities, since other main cities were captured by militias of Gul Agha Sherzai and Hamid Karzai (Kandahar), Ismail Khan (Herat) en Abdul Rashid Dostum (Mazar-e Sharif). He remained weary about international intervention though. Following the Bonn Conference in December 2001, Fahim said that a UN force should not exceed 1000 men and that they should play a very limited role in Afghan politics and that his own forces could eradicate sources of instability in the country.[33][34] Fahim wanted his own Northern Alliance forces to police Kabul, because, as Fahim stated, his troops in Kabul were security troops, not military.[35][36]

Vice-Chairman of the Interim Administration

Deployment of an International Force

In the interim administration Karzai much needed the support of Fahim. When Karzai entered Afghanistan after the Bonn Conference for the first time as Afghanistan's leader, Fahim embraced Karzai like a brother on the airfield and accompanied him to a meeting with the conservative Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a Northern Alliance leader who was sidelined in the Bonn Conference.[37] The relationship between Fahim and Karzai was at this stage not easy. Karzai was the official chairman of the executive committee of the government, but as commander of the most effective military force commanding the capital, Fahim had the real power. Because Fahim was afraid a large international peace keeping force would take away his power base he argued for a limited amount of troops. Karzai however was less afraid of international involvement in Afghan affairs, and might even fear a Tajik hegemony of Afghanistan without them.[38][39] Fahim was in charge of the meetings with the British General John McColl to establish the exact task, length of stay and size of international forces.[40] In the end it was decided that an international security force of a few thousand troops would be deployed,[41] but that they would agree to Fahim's demands to not take control of Kabul and not start immediately disarming Afghan militias.[42] Earlier Fahim also discussed this with US Generals and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who also demanded the presence of a large international force.[43][44] Reportedly, Fahim refused to meet McColl until Rumsfeld pressured him and told him to meet the British general.[45]

When the first foreign troops of the peacekeeping mission arrived on 20 December 2001 Fahim said the foreign troops would not be involved in security work of panjshir but would instead assist with humanitarian aid and build the new Afghanistan army "They are here because they want to be," and because the Inited Nations Security Councel sent them to Afghanistan to prevent another CIVIL WAR Fahim said.[46] "They won't be needed for security. A new security affairs commission, whose chief is to be appointed by the new government, will oversee national security. The major reason to have international peacekeepers in Afghanistan is to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and build the New afghanistan army after the bon conference," said Fahim.[47] According to him the presence of international troops was merely symbolic and they were not supposed to use force.[48] "Some ministers in the new government who have always lived outside the country are worried about security and they feel they need the peacekeepers for protection, but when they arrive here they will see that the situation is OK and that it is not necessary" Fahim added. Chairman Karzai once one who lived for years in Pakistan. The heavily armed units of northern alliance soldiers who swept into Kabul will be withdrawn from the streets, but they will not leave the capital, Fahim added.[49]

There was not only a disagreement between Fahim and Karzai about the size of the International peacekeeping force, but also about the duration that they were supposed to stay in Afghanistan. Fahim indicated that the international forces should leave after six years, but Karzai said that they would stay "as long as we need them, six years as a minimum".[50] The unease between Fahim and the international forces was also present when he requested that they left the capital directly after the inauguration ceremony on 22 December 2001.[51]

Eventually, Fahim decided in talks with foreign powers that an international peacekeeping force of around 3000 men would be deployed, of which 2000–3000 men would be deployed in a garrison in the center of Kabul. Of the 30000 men only a third would be deployed for security reasons, the others would get logistical and humanitarian tasks.[52] Another important task for the British and Americans would be the training of the Afghan troops, since Fahim expressed he wished to build an Afghan army of around 250 000 men.[53] The Telegraph described Fahim after the negotiations as immensely suspicious of a foreign presence, popularly knows as 'the village and 5sher valley idiot,' but actually very shrewd.[2]

Defence minister of all of Afghanistan

The new government of Afghanistan was officially inaugurated on 22 December. Fahim who became Defence Minister as well as one of the five Vice-Chairman was considered one of the young and moderate leaders of the new Afghan government.[42] As Defense minister Fahim had the task to try to unite the country's disparate armed groups. A daunting task, since Fahim's own troops had so far shied away from vast stretches of southern and eastern lawless no man's lands under the sway of thousands of armed former Taliban warriors, most of them members of the dominant Pashtun ethnic group. Still, although a sometimes bumbling and awkward figure in public, and especially unpopular with the Uzbek minority in the country,[54] Fahim quietly had gained iron control of the Northern alliance's fractious military commanders.[55] He continued to hold this control, even when Abdul Rashid Dostum, the most powerful Uzbek warlord who had taken control of the city of Mazar-e Sharif and who was very critical of the Bonn Agreement, was appointed Fahim's deputy.[56] But the cooperation between the two strongmen didn't start easy, already after a month forces of Dostum were clashing with forces of Fahim over control of a district in Kunduz Province.[57] The dispute erupted after his forces tried to disarm soldiers from a rival military unit. When those troops resisted, a firefight broke out, killing three soldiers.[58]

On 29 December, Fahim urged the Americans to stop their bombing campaign on Afghanistan, because Bin Laden had probably fled Afghanistan and moved to Peshawar in Pakistan. "Osama is out of our control," Fahim said.[59] A day later foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah stated however that they didn't know where Bin Laden was and that air raides will continue "for as long as it takes to finish off the terrorists."[60]

Relations with other states

As Minister of Defence in his first months Fahim traveled extensively to neighbouring countries to build relations between the new government of Afghanistan and Afghan most influential neighbours. When US-envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said in January 2002 that Iran might be backing Afghan fighters in an attempt to unsettle the Karzai-government, Fahim, who visited the Iranian minister of Defense half January,[61] stated that there was no sign of Iran "creating insecurity" in Afghanistan.[62] At the end of January 2002 Fahim set in on a meeting of Karzaimet with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and spoke with the two of them about security issues.[63]


As Defense Minister he toured army bases in the United Kingdom, negotiated security issues with U.S. General Tommy Franks and Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum, NATO Secretary General George Robertson, visited Moscow and Washington, DC. He also replaced 15 ethnic Tajik generals with officers from the Pashtun, Uzbek and Hazara ethnic groups.

While holding the position, he continued to command his own militia which he inherited from the United Front or more commonly known as the Northern Alliance. However, on 10 December 2003, he ordered part of his militia to transport their weapons to an Afghan National Army installation near Kabul.

On 12 September 2003, Miloon Kothari, appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to investigate housing rights in Afghanistan, announced that many of the government ministers including Fahim and Education Minister Yunus Qanuni were illegally occupying land and should be removed from their posts. However, three days later, Kothari sent a letter to Lakhdar Brahimi, the head of the U.N. in Afghanistan, saying he had gone too far in naming the ministers.

Marshal Fahim greeting former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2006. Others to the side are Afghan President Hamid Karzai and 2nd Vice Afghan President Karim Khalili with the turban.

Mohammad Fahim was not chosen by Karzai's to be one of his Vice Presidents; subsequently he backed the candidacy of his fellow Tajik, Yunus Qanuni. After Karzai's victory in the presidential elections, he was not reappointed Defense Minister. However in a decree made in December 2004, Karzai confirmed that Fahim would hold the rank of Marshal, Afghanistan's highest, for life, with all rights and privileges. In this period he still was a powerful and influential figure in Afghanistan. Many believe Karzai dropped Fahim from his cabinet as a result of intense pressure from various foreign organizations who viewed Fahim as a major bottleneck in the disarmament process. Also, Fahim has no higher education, and article 72 of Afghanistan's constitution states that an appointed Minister to the President's cabinet should have a higher education.[3] In 2006, Karzai, faced with a resurgent Taliban, returned Marshal Fahim to Government as an advisor.

Some Afghan analysts attest that, despite losing his military position, Marshal Fahim still remains a very powerful figure in the political arena of the country. "[He] is particularly popular among people in the north, because he had fought Soviet Russia, and later the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. He spent many years fighting aggressors." (Erada, 2005)

Later in the year 2006, in an interview Karzai said, "Marshal Fahim is one of the sons of our [mujahedin], a patriot and [a man who loves] his country. I have a great deal of respect for Marshal Fahim. He has been my close friend and confidant. He has his own unique place in Afghanistan. He has been a respectable military man. He is a five-star general. And he is a senator." Regarding his decision in appointing Marshal Fahim as one of his advisors, Karzai added that "I hope that officially as my adviser, he will continue to cooperate with me. He comes to all of the National Security Council meetings. He is my dear brother. No one can ever reduce the respect that Marshal Fahim has earned for himself." (Azadi Radio, 5 April 2006)

Assassination attempts

Marshal Fahim survived several assassination attempts. His convoy was targeted when a mine exploded underneath the central car in Fahim's convoy. He had been on an official visit to the eastern city of Jalalabad "to discuss a new government campaign to stop farmers growing poppies for the opium trade and other issues with local commanders and tribal leaders." (BBC, 8 April 2002)

The Marshal survived another attack later in the year 2002. However, this time, the man behind the attack was arrested by the intelligence agency. The alleged person carried with him "22 pounds of explosives in the pockets of his jacket, attached to wires and apparently ready to explode." (The New York Times, 24 November 2002)

In June 2003, a bomb was found in front of his home. Later in the year, the head of his personal security died at the hands of a suicide bomber.

Marshal Fahim survived another assassination attempt in the northern Kunduz province. Only 26 July 2009, as the running mate of President Karzai for the 2009 elections, his convoy was attacked in an ambush staged by the Taliban. The Taliban attacked Marshal Fahim's convoy using automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades.[64]

Current activities

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Hamid Karzai and Marshal Fahim at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2010.

He is a member of the leadership council of the United National Front, which is a coalition of top national and regional leaders. Other members include former President Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, House Speaker Yunus Qanuni, Vice-President Ahmad Zia Massoud and others.

In June 2007, Marshal Fahim stated that his advisory role was merely symbolic and that he never had the chance to advise the President. He further said that after the 2004 elections President Karzai formed a "one-sided" cabinet and began to employ unilateralism as his main policy driver. Fahim argued that without the backing of foreign forces President Karzai's regime would not last longer than a week. (The Daily Times, Monday, 4 June 2007)

In 2009, he was one of Hamid Karzai's running mates in the presidential election. The selection was condemned by Human Rights Watch.[65]

When Karzai announced Marshal Fahim as his vice-president, many in Kabul alleged Marshal Fahim was at the time involved in criminal activities, including kidnapping for ransom: by choosing Fahim as his Vice-president, Karzai was said to have stained his own credibility even further.[66][67]

In September 2010 it was reported by an Afghan news agency that Marshal Fahim had died of cancer in Paris, France.[68] An official statement was later released by Fahim, who said: "I am completely healthy. I request the Afghan people not to trust news published by irresponsible websites".[69]

He is a sponsor of the top Buzkashi player Aziz Ahmad.[70]

Peace negotiations 2010

On the celebrations of Nowruz, New Year's Day, of 1389 (21 March 2010, Western calendar) in Mazar-i-Sharif in Northern Afghanistan, Marshal Fahim reached out to militants. He declared that, with their input, a coming national conference would lay the foundations for a peace that would end the Taliban insurgency. He called on resistance forces to participate in a jirga, or assembly, planned for late April or early May. He pledged that the Afghan government "will try to find a peaceful life for those Afghans who are unhappy," a euphemism for militants, though he didn't mention the Taliban by name.[71][72] Afghans had travelled from across the country to Mazar-i-Sharif united behind the wish that the advent of a new year would bring them peace. According to the police, up to half a million people are in the city to mark the spring equinox and the first day of the traditional Afghan new year and celebrated across Central Asia and Iran. Mazar is at the heart of one of the most peaceful regions of the country. City police chief Abdul Rauf Taj said that 4,000 security personnel had been deployed against insurgent attacks and that all visitors were being screened at seven check points around the city perimeter.[73]

The Peace Jirga took place in Kabul on 2–4 June 2010.


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External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ahmad Shah Massoud
Minister of Defense of Afghanistan
September 2001 – December 2004
Succeeded by
Abdurrahim Wardak

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