9 September is a National Holiday in Afghanistan. It is dedicated in the memory of Ahmad Shah Massoud. Massoud Day (roz e Massoud) is the only National Holiday dedicated to one person. He is remembered as the most charismatic and effective leader of the mujahideen during the struggle against Soviet occupation and control. He was an articulate man who served as a rally point and focus for the western press during the Afghan-Soviet war. He earned the nickname Lion of Panjshir- which in Dari is a play on words 'Shir e Panjshir' or more literally Lion of the (valley of) the five Lions. It is in the Panjshir valley that Massoud made a name for himself first against the Soviets- who launched 7 unsuccesful assaults into the valley to kill or clear him from the area. It is also the area where he sought refuge after the Taliban started to take control of the country. Massoud warned European and other Western leaders of the dangers of the Taliban, to no avail.
Two days before our own country was attacked by Al-Qaeda, Massoud was assasinated by a group of Al-Qaeda suicide bombers who assumed the identity of a film crew. The bomb was in the camera. It has been suggested that this was a deal between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda would kill Massoud, and the Taliban would let them train and run their worldwide terror campaign from Afghanistan.
So while we can rightly remember with indignation the attacks of 9-11 and the tremendous loss of life and symbolism of those attacks, we should also remember that the people of Afghanistan lost a great leader, liberator, and hope of a peaceful unified Afghanistan. We share loss with the people of Afghanistan. The perpetrators of these cowardly and vicious attacks were the same. That is why we are here. That is why we need to support and train them so they can defend their own country from these extremists and control their national destiny.