During the years that Shattering Afghanistan has examined, Afghanistan saw a tremendous amount of trauma: mass murder conducted against a population by neighbor against neighbor, followed by ten years of occupation that led to another wave of killing and unprecedented waves of mass emigration. Afghans today may relish in their country's "victory" over the Soviet Union, but it is impossible to describe Afghanistan as the "victor" to the conflict. Millions died; and in spite of an outpouring of popular and scholarly literature on Afghanistan during the 1980s, we still posess a paltry amount of the documents that will be necessary to begin a reckoning in the way that scholars of other post-traumatic societies have done.
Indeed, as we noted in the introduction to this exhibit, many factors prevent a full reckoning with this past in both Afghanistan itself as well as the region more broadly. The story that the Death Lists tell are only the tip of the iceberg as far as the KhAD's crimes go. Public opinion in Afghanistan is already strongly against Assadullah Sarwari, the Director of the agency from 1978-1979, and his successor, Assadullah Amin was murdered by Soviet Special Forces along with his brother in December 1979. Still, the successor to Amin was none other than Najibullah, who remains venerated in Afghanistan today as the last possible compromise leader of Afghanistan prior to the Civil War. This reception of Najib by a population whose average age is only 18 years may be understandable; more than half of the population was born after Najibullah was kidnapped from a UN compound, murdered, mutilated, and hung from a traffic light in downtown Kabul. However, it is impossible that Najibullah, as Director of the KhAD from 1980-1985, could not have had responsiblity (if not direct knowledge) of the crimes visited upon Afghans by the PDPA.
More than that, following the collapse of the Watan regime, Ahmad Shah Massoud - venerated as a national hero in Afghanistan, the anniversary of whose death is a national holiday - and other members of the motley Northern Alliance inherited parts of the KhAD administration and personnel in their battle against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Pakistan-supported militias. Massoud's assassination by two Tunisian terrorists posing as journalists on September 9, 2001 was no doubt a tragedy; and Massoud spent most of the 1980s fighting against the KhAD and the PDPA. Still, the extent to which the Northern Alliance was built in part from the ruins of the KhAD, and employed former perpetrators in its war against the Taliban, has not yet received critical examination.
Until more files are released, the tension between a "usable past" and critical historical scrutiny abides.