Marshal Fahim National Defense University

History of the Military Site at Qargha
Geography The key to Qargha’s historical importance is its geographical position. Qargha lies at the western extremity of Kabul, a low plateau dominated to the north and west by a crescent shaped range of hills. Even to the untrained eye, its strategic significance is obvious. To the south west the pass leading to Wardak, Ghazni and Kandahar forms a deep V shape cut into the mountains; to the west lie the Paghman mountains, the Paghman plateau and the road leading into the Hazarat; and to the north, beyond the ridge, the Kabul valley extends to Bagram, Charikor and the passes at Parwan and into the Panjshir Valley.
Ancient History The valley in which the university is situated has witnessed the passage of Afghanistan’s invaders throughout recorded history, from Alexander the Great in 326BC to Genghis Khan in 1222AD, followed by Tamerlane (Timur) in 1380 and Babur in 1504. On three separate occasions three hundred years later, the shepherds grazing their flocks on the hillsides would have seen the British advancing up the valley from the East, Robert Sale in 1839, George Pollock in 1842 and Frederick Roberts in 1879.
Modern History - The Royal Period The modern history of Qargha begins in the early 1880s, when Abdur Rahman Khan, the founder of the regular Afghan Army, established a logistics base in Qargha to sustain is operations in the Hazarajat region. The camp was expanded considerably during the reign of Adbul Rahman’s grandson, Emir Amānullāh Khān in the 1920s when he invited advisors from the Turkish and German Armies to train his Army in order to assert his newly won independence from British control. It became the home of the Kabul Division which was essentially the Emir’s strategic reserve. The camp performed this function until the time of the Soviet occupation in 1979.
Modern History – The Soviet Period The Soviet occupation of Qargha began in 1980. They too used the site as a logistics depot, digging ordnance storage bunkers into the northern hillside of the camp, many of which are still in use by the ANA. By the mid-1980s Qargha was occupied by around 12,000 troops, about half Soviet and half Afghan. Despite the huge number of troops on the site, the Mujahideen succeeded in launching an audacious infiltration attack which destroyed a large part of the ordnance depot with a spectacular explosion which could be heard across Kabul city. The attack caused several months of disruption to Soviet supply lines as they struggled to rebuild the depot.
Modern History – The Massoud Period The decision of Abdul Rashid Dostum to move his Jowzjani militia out of Qargha to join Ahmad Shah Massoud’s coalition of warlords in the north and North East of the country contributed to the downfall of Mohammad Najibullah’s government. Massoud sited a number of Mujahideen troops at Qargha and he was a frequent visitor to the site, staying in the commander’s white house on the hillside, which is now known as ‘Massoud House’.
Modern History – The Taliban Period Massoud’s forces pulled out of Qargha in 1996. The installations left over from the Royal Army and Soviet periods made it an ideal site for the Taliban, who moved in and used it as a training and ordnance depot. They were still in occupation when American bombs rained down in during the Post 9/11 offensive in October 2001, obliterating most of the buildings. .[1]

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