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Islamic Mercenaries in Nagorno Karabakh War
Afghan Fighters Aiding Azerbaijan in the War against NKR

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH November 10, 1993
B.J. CUTLER May 1, 1994
MOSCOW NEWS N 23, June 5-12, 1994
COMBAT AND SURVIVAL Volume 11, Issue 5, August 1999

August 11, 1993

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - The government of this Caucasian republic has hired a force of more than 1,000 Afghan mujaheddin fighters to buttress its sagging army, introducing a volatile new element to the five-year Azerbaijani-Armenian war on the former Soviet Union's southern rim.
[…]As a sign of his tenuous situation, Aliyev, a former Communist Party boss, also has aggressively sought direct military support from the United States, Iran and Turkey, according to several Western diplomats. Aliyev's face-to-face appeal last week to U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Miles was rebuffed, according to Western sources, and the forces sent by Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar so far have been unable to help the Azerbaijani army repel a surging ethnic Armenian offensive.

"We estimate that it would take two days for the Armenians to march straight into Baku," a Western diplomat said last week. "They would be almost unopposed. This city is defenseless."

Western analysts do not expect the Armenians to push as far as Baku. However, the relentless Armenian advance, in which a large swath of southwestern Azerbaijan bordering Iran was seized and burned just two weeks ago, seems on the verge of plunging Baku into a new political crisis, diplomats said. Five Baku governments have fallen in the last two years over the war, and Aliyev, who came to power in June in a military coup, "is in real trouble," one Western diplomat said.

"Aliyev's time is up," the diplomat said. "He needs to do something radical. He needs Turkish, Iranian, somebody's backing."

Aliyev's move comes at a propitious moment for Azerbaijan, which is about to become one of the former Soviet Union's wealthiest republics. Azerbaijan is soon to receive the first $250 million of an estimated $94 billion, 35-year windfall from its rich offshore oil fields. The signing bonus, to be paid by an eight-company Western oil consortium, would help pull Azerbaijan back from the verge of economic collapse. But, diplomats say, the money may do little to stave off political collapse if Aliyev is unable to improve Azerbaijan's performance on the battlefield.

The deployment of Afghan forces to save a former Soviet republic is ironic since many historians believe that Moscow's 1989 withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan marked the start of the Soviet Union's decline that ended with the superpower's December 1991 collapse.

The Afghan soldiers, identifiable by their trademark round, flat woolen caps and shin-length cotton robes, started arriving in August, soon after a visit to Afghanistan by Azerbaijani Deputy Interior Minister Roshan Jivadov, the diplomats said. Hekmatyar, the Afghan prime minister, approved the deployment for an undisclosed sum, the diplomats said. Azerbaijan and Afghanistan are both Muslim nations, while Armenia is largely Christian.

The Afghan force, which diplomats estimate at between 1,000 and 1,500 men, is part of the Iran-backed mujaheddin faction called Hezb-i-Wahdat, which is allied with Hekmaytar. Although Tehran finances and influences the party, it is unclear what role, if any, Iran played in the deployment in Azerbaijan, diplomats said.

The Afghans' first major action came two weeks ago when Baku launched a surprise offensive in the Zangelan region, near Iran. A force of ethnic Armenians immediately repulsed the Azerbaijani assault, which the Afghans either spearheaded or helped lead, diplomats said, and then the Armenians pushed out the local population of some 60,000 Azerbaijanis.

The Azerbaijani force, including the Afghans, appear to have fled when the counteroffensive began, diplomats said.

The Afghan presence is producing concern among some diplomats, who cited unconfirmed reports of tension between some mujaheddin fighters and members of the local population. An estimated 1 million Afghans and 13,000 Soviets died during the decade-long Soviet army presence in Afghanistan.

"It's a very dangerous thing to bring in the Afghans," said a senior Western diplomat. "They have very mixed feelings. Many of them had relatives killed by these very same people {former Soviets}."

November 10, 1993, Wednesday

Bitter Afghanistan Struggle Helps Fuel Asian Conflicts

By Ahmed Rashid in Lahore

INSTABILITY caused by the Afghan conflict is spreading through Asia, from India to Iran and north into China and Central Asia. In the past eight days, 200 civilians have died in heavy artillery bombardments as the Afghan Prime Minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, battles for power with President Burhanuddin Rabbani and his former defence minister, Ahmed Shah Massoud. Hundreds of wounded face acute shortages of food and water and thousands are trying to flee the fighting.

About 50,000 Afghans have been killed since the Mujahideen captured Kabul, the capital, in April 1992. It is badly damaged and has no running water, electricity or medical facilities. In the latest bout of fighting, Mr Hekmatyar's forces are trying to consolidate their grip on territory around the town of Taqab, 50 miles north-east of Kabul, so they can attack Kabul, where Mr Rabbani is based. Mr Rabbani and Mr Massoud are trying to defend Taqab and regain control of the Hekmatyar-dominated city of Sarobi, on the main road to Pakistan.

There are bitter ethnic differences between the opposing forces. Mr Hekmatyar is a Pathan and is trying to oust his rivals, who are Tajiks, from any influence in the Pathan belt, which runs along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The West has largely ignored the civil war in Afghanistan, with serious consequences. Mujahideen have been hiring themselves out as mercenaries to the highest foreign bidder. Hundreds of fundamentalist Mujahideen are fighting for the Muslim forces in Bosnia and Azerbaijan has just hired 1,000 to help in its war with Armenia. Afghans have been killed by Indian troops in Kashmir, where Mujahideen are helping Kashmiri militants. Afghans have also been fighting in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan and have been assisting Islamic militants in Uzbekistan and in Xinjiang, the Muslim region of western China.

April 21, 1994, Thursday, Final Edition

Azerbaijan Throws Raw Recruits Into Battle;
Desperate 'Human Wave' Tactics Reportedly
Cost 4,000 Lives In Winter Offensive

By Steve LeVine, Special to The Washington Post

Increasingly desperate Azerbaijan, facing a new drive by Armenian separatists based in this mountain city, has deployed little-trained teenage recruits to help halt the upheaval it has suffered since the Soviet Union's collapse two years ago, according to Western diplomats.

The recruits, some reportedly as young as 16, are part of an unconventional army that over time has included Afghan mercenaries and U.S., Iranian, Russian and Turkish trainers.

The force appears so far to have helped hold back the Armenians' 10-day-old offensive, but Azerbaijan has suffered heavy fatalities - "a few hundred" dead, one diplomat said - and neutral observers predict that the Armenians, who hold one-fifth of Azerbaijan, eventually will succeed in winning independence for the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh - an Armenian-populated enclave located within Azerbaijan.

"You can't put together any real army to fight the Armenians. There is a lack of determination in the people fighting, a disarray in the ranks," said a Western diplomat in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. "... This country is capable of gaining and holding ground only temporarily. If the Armenians don't retake territory immediately, it is only for political reasons, not because they cannot." The war waged by the Christian Armenians seeking independence from this oil-rich, predominantly Muslim nation has been by far the gravest in the former Soviet Union. Starting before the Soviet collapse made Armenia and Azerbaijan independent nations, the six-year war has spread throughout western Azerbaijan, creating 1 million internal refugees - one-seventh of the republic's population - and killing more than 15,000 people on both sides.

With winter now over and warm weather creating better fighting conditions, separatist leader Robert Kocharian, interviewed last week in Stepanakert, capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, would say only that the offensive's "first aim is to inflict losses on the enemy." But Western and local analysts in Yerevan, capital of neighboring Armenia, said Kocharian seemed to be pushing toward the strategic Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh.

If the separatists capture Yevlakh, they would control the vital main road to Georgia, as well as Azerbaijan's oil export pipeline to the port of Batumi, and, diplomats say, seriously undermine Azerbaijan's President Gaidar Aliyev.

Five governments already have fallen, each after serious Azerbaijani battlefield losses. In recent days, Aliyev has tried to rally his people, decrying the massive desertions his fledgling army has suffered as casualties have mounted.

The war also has helped stall Western commercial efforts, including a long campaign by U.S., British and other oil companies to develop Azerbaijan's offshore fields. The government has refused to sign the deal -- said ultimately to be worth $ 118 billion - in what diplomats believe is an attempt to secure Western help in ending the war.

Azerbaijan's mobilization of teenage recruits is the latest indication of growing desperation in Baku as it becomes clearer that it cannot win the war by itself.

In 1992, a Western diplomat said, the republic hired a group of American men who wore "big cowboy hats and big cowboy boots" as military trainers for its army. Some of the men, the diplomat said, are still in the country.

Last year, Azerbaijan hired more than 1,000 guerrilla fighters from Afghanistan's radical prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Meanwhile, Turkey and Iran supplied trainers, and the republic also was aided by 200 Russian officers who taught basic tactics to Azerbaijani soldiers last November in the northwest city of Barda, according to Azerbaijani officers.

When none of this worked, the republic began press-ganging young men in December and throwing them at the Armenian forces in a strategy similar to the "human waves" used by Iran against Iraq during their 1980-88 war. According to conservative Western estimates, Azerbaijan lost at least 4,000 dead in its two-month offensive - more fatalities than in the previous two years of fighting.

The hillside Martyrs' Cemetery in Baku illustrates the tremendous cost of Azerbaijan's battlefield forays. Rows of shrines decorated with red, pink and white carnations line the cemetery, where fresh concrete slabs attest to the daily interring of new war victims. Black-and-white photographs of the dead are attached to tarred iron frames that stand like tombstones behind each shrine.

The ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, with a population of 150,000 among Azerbaijan's 7.3 million, also have suffered dearly in the war.

In fact, the nine-hour drive from Stepanakert to Yerevan provides evidence that Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenians also have relied on outside help. These have included Russian mercenaries, but most of the assistance comes from the separatists' patrons in Armenia. Armenia is providing increased covert battlefield support, though it officially denies supplying military aid.

On the shoulder of the main road outside Yerevan last week, five busloads of new Armenian recruits, many of them drunk and clearly unfit, rested before heading out to an assignment. In separate interviews, about a dozen of the men said they were bound for Horadis, a city in southwestern Azerbaijan on the Iranian border where Armenian separatists are trying to uproot a last local redoubt of Azerbaijani militiamen.

One of the men, in his twenties and obviously intoxicated, said he had been drafted into the Armenian army only five days before. "We're going to fight," he said.

Though Western-led peace efforts continue, stubbornness on both sides seems to be blocking a political settlement to the war. In Baku, there appears to be no stomach to grant independence to the ethnic Armenians, who talk of accepting nothing less than sovereignty for their kidney-shaped enclave.

Meanwhile, hate has taken deep root, and youths such as Husseinglu Musayiv, 17, visiting the grave of his dead soldier brother at Baku's cemetery recently, give the impression that they must keep on fighting.

"I'll have to avenge my brother's blood," Musayiv said.

May 1, 1994 Sunday,

The Plain Dealer

By B.J. Cutler

Sometimes David does defeat Goliath. It first happened, of course, in the Old Testament narrative about the second king of Israel slaying the Philistine giant.

And in the course of history small peoples have at times managed to defeat larger ones: a few Swiss cantons wresting liberty from Habsburg Austria in the 14th century; 16th century Dutchmen driving superpower Spain from the Low Countries; modern Israel, at birth, repulsing the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in 1948. David vs. Goliath is repeating itself in the Caucasus Mountains. There, a handful of Christian Armenians in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh seem likely to win their freedom from Muslim Azerbaijan.

On paper, it should be easy for the Muslims. When the Karabakh Armenians voted to secede from Azerbaijan in 1988, they numbered 180,000. Emigration and death have reduced them to 120,000 now - facing 7 million Azeris.

Also, Azerbaijan is rich in oil, allowing it to buy arms from Turkey, China, Israel and Russia (which sells to both sides). Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, has hired mercenaries from Afghanistan and trainers from Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United States, the last ones freelancers.

When the war erupted six years ago, the Azerbaijan armed forces rained shells on Stepanakert, the enclave's capital, and other towns. The ethnic Armenians had two choices, to die or to push the Azeris out of artillery range.

In savage fighting they drove the Azeris back. In 1992, they cut a corridor through Azeri lines to Armenia proper, whose 3.5 million citizens support their Karabakh brethren. Food, weapons and conscripts come in from Armenia. Striving to keep a straight face, the government in Yerevan denies this.

Last year, the Karabakh fighters inflicted a series of defeats on Azerbaijan, occupying more than a tenth of that former Soviet republic's territory and causing regime after regime in Baku to fall.

The current Azeri leader is a sinister former KGB general named Aliyev. His first name is Gaidar when he wants to sound Russian and Haidar when he wishes to seem Islamic. A reactionary, he was fired from the Soviet Politburo by Mikhail Gorbachev.

With the ruthlessness of an old KGB man, Aliyev has been press-ganging teenagers into his army, giving them a week's training and throwing them in human-wave attacks against veteran Armenian troops. The result: slaughter of thousands since Aliyev's December "offensive."

The world thinks of Armenians as victims, largely because of their genocide at the hands of the Turks in 1915. Karabakh natives defended their mountain redoubts against Turks and Azeris over the centuries and served with distinction in czarist and Soviet armies.

Today they are skilled at maneuver, luring Azeris into lethal ambushes and capturing costly foreign weaponry. Their standard wisecrack is: "We are very grateful to Gaidar Aliyev because he's funding two armies at once."

They believe if they can beat the Azeris a few more times on the battlefield, Aliyev will let them go free.

The Armenians should prevail in their struggle since the Azerbaijan hardly needs Karabakh and demoralized Azeri draftees see little reason to die for the place. By contrast, the Karabakh forces know their women and children are only a few miles behind the lines and will die if their men fail them.

Remarkable what David can do with his back to the wall.

June 5-12, 1994

Afghan "Wild Goose" in a Karabakh Cage

"Afghan leadership disapproves the participation of Afghan citizens in military activities in Nagorno Karabakh and supports peaceful resolution of this conflict", says the letter of President of Afghanistan Burnahuddin Rabbani to the Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian.

According to the information of the Nagorno Karabakh State Department for National Security (SDNS), presently about 2500 Afghan mojahedins are fighting from Azerbaijan's side. Most of them are deployed near the Southern front near the Iranian border.

Bakhtiyar Verballah Vaberzaid is a resident of the Afghan town of Mazar-e-Sharif. Bahtiyar is twenty years old, eight of which he has been fighting in the General Adbul-Rashid Dustum's army, who is in opposition to Rabbani. Coming here via Iran as one of Afghan mojahedins in Azerbaijan, he has under his command an element consisting of 20 people. On April 22, this year he was wounded and taken prisoner by Armenians in the South -Eastern Fizuly direction of the Karabakh front. He underwent a surgical operation in Stepanakert as result of which he lost his right eye.

The Moscow News correspondents met with Bakhtiyar Vaberzaid in the NKR SDNS cell. Here the "Wild Goose" is awaiting his fate and praying five times a day - Mohammedan prayer.

Telling about himself with colourful Eastern expressions, he avoided talking about his participation in this war as in a holy war - Jihad - against the Christians -"giavours". Bakhtiyar wanted to earn some money in Azerbaijan - he has no father and lives with his mother and sister - and they are short of money. Azerbaijani headquarters promised to pay up to $5000 after the contract expires. According to Bakhtiyar, he fought along with up to 250 mojahedins in Goradiz, and during the first months they were paid around 1000 manats (a little more than one US dollar). For this period the mercenaries were to justify their employers' hopes and earn a right for currency. Mojahedins were mostly used in infantry and assault detachments, as most of the Afghans have good military experience of fighting in mountainous areas and can use many types of shooting weapons.

Majority of Azerbaijani soldiers did not undergo even a preliminary training, that is why they are quite unprepared and mojahedins are counted on. Their living conditions and food are better than those of Azerbaijani soldiers and they spend their vacations in Baku or Afghanistan. Bakhtiyar Vaberzaid said that the Afghans were living apart, as many Azerbaijanis breach Sharia laws. However, Azerbaijani soldiers maintain contacts with the Afghans because of drugs brought by mercenaries from Afghanistan. The connecting link between the mojahedins and Azerbaijani headquarters is an Afghan Vaidallah, who organizes and coordinates the work with mojahedins in Baku. He visited also Goradiz and Bahtiyar learnt from him that the Azerbaijani authorities were pleased with the Afghans and interested in the arrival of new ones and were prepared to spend a significant sums on that.

When correspondents asked Bakhtiyar whether the "Russian Afghans", who had once fought in Afghanistan, were fighting from Azerbaijani side, he answered that hadn't seen them personally but heard from some friends that there were "shouravis" on the Azerbaijani side and they were in strained relations with the mojahedins.

Calling to witness Allah, Bakhtiyar states that he had been wounded in the very first battle - before killing anyone, and hopes to be exchanged or released.

Volume 11, Issue 5
August 1999

Nagorno Karabakh

Exclusive Report from Paul Harris in Stepanakert

The frontline between the armies of Azerbaijan and the breakaway state of Nagorno-Karabakh has an air of permanence. The Karabakhi trenches, bunkers and earthworks are well dug and reinforced with concrete posts, wooden palings and empty ammunition boxes. A network of wire fences and minefields separate the two armies who watch each other warily through binoculars across a kilometer of No Man's Land. There are exchanges of sniper fire almost daily and large quantities of men and material have been committed to holding this line. Behind the lines of infantry trenches, a deep tank ditch has been excavated. Colonel Hakoupian tells me, `This is our anti-tank defense, It is 179 kilometers long and stretches all the way from the Iranian border to Armenia.' These formidable front line defenses, constructed since 1994, stretch along the entire eastern flank of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and are home to arguably the most committed troops in the region.

It is April 1999. There is scant sympathy here in the southern Caucasus for the cause of Kosovo's Albanians in flight. In his office overlooking the main square of Stepanakert, capital of self-declared, micro-state of Nagorno-Karabakh, Prime Minister Jirayr Pogossian has a clear view from his mountain republic. `What Kosovo shows is how the will of the people will determine its future. The Kosovo people were not ready to fight for their own land. Here, the Karabakhi people stayed and we fought.' Now for a bit of necessary history. Nagorno-Karabakh is the mouse that roared and -against all the odds - finally gained its freedom in 1994 after a bitter two and a half year war with the state Azerbaijan. The Karabakhis - ethnic Armenians and firm Christians - trace their roots in their mountain fastness back for more than two millenia in a land they call Artsakh. In the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan recognized Nagorno-Karabakh (translates as mountainous black garden) as part of Christian Armenia in December 1920. However, within the year, it was arbitrarily from Armenia by Moscow and, two years later, accorded the status of an autonomous region within Muslim Azerbaijan. A referendum on independence held on December 10, 1991, followed the break up of the Soviet Union and 98% of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh voted to split from Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani forces commenced an artillery attack on the capital, Stepanakert, that day and war ensued, which eventually ended with a ceasefire in May 1994. Around 22,000 Karabakhis and an unknown number of Azerbaijanis died in the conflict.

The front line has an air of permanence about it and trenches are well-constructed This was truly the struggle of David against Goliath as the tiny 4,000 square kilometer region of just 150,000 people was pitched against the might of Azerbaijan with a population of seven million. Incredibly, after three years of war, N-K, having initially lost almost half its territory to the numerically superior Azerbaijani forces, drove them out of almost all of its own land, drove a corridor through Azerbaijan to connect the tiny country to ally Armenia and set up a protective buffer zone against any further attack. How a mountain-based guerilla army of 40,000 men - and a few women - with hunting rifles, supplemented by captured weapons, defeated forces armed with MIG fighters, attack helicopters and Grad rocket batteries is an extraordinary story of tactics and courage. It was a largely untold story. As N-K launched its bid for freedom, Yugoslavia broke up and the attention of the Western media was focused on the Balkans rather than the Caucasus. Stepanakert was daily targeted by up to 400 missiles and suffered largely unheard as Sarajevo held the world in thrall. During the war, the Azerbaijanis were initially supported by Russian 4th Army troops, Turkish trainers and latterly, by Afghani Mujahadin, who referred insultingly to the fighters of Karabakh as `fedayeen': fighters lately come down from the mountains to fight for towns and villages. But this was a slur born from fear. One mujahadin mercenary admitted at the time, `You never realize where the enemy is firing from. Literally from four sides at once. No, it's not like Afghanistan. It's Karabakh.' A number of factors brought victory for the Karabakhis: commitment and determination in fighting for their own land; intimate knowledge of the territory they were defending; the support of the Armenians in terms of equipment supply and assistance with taking of a linking corridor to Armenia; capture of significant quantities of arms and munitions from the Azerbaijan forces. At the same time, there is considerable evidence that the Azerbaijani forces were insufficiently motivated and, indeed, utilized their own unwilling minorities - like the Kurds - in the front lines. The main battles were for the dominating heights where the Azerbaijanis based rockets and artillery. One of the turning points in the war came on May 8, 1992, when the Karabakhis took the town of Shushi, which looked down on the capital Stepanakert and where Grad missile batteries were based: some days as many as 400 missiles rained down on the capital restricting life to an underground existence in the cellars. In the process the Karabakhis lost less than twenty men from their relatively small force, having skillfully managed to create the impression that the assault was made up of a vast number of men and tanks. They left an escape route open for the Azerbaijani forces and, overnight, they all fled. When the Karabakhis took Hodjaly, they gained access to the airport, relieving the siege. Although fixed wing aircraft were often unable to use it, being obliged to adopt the steep, spiralling descent known as the Khe San approach, skillful helicopter pilots flying Mi-8s maintained a link with the Armenian capital. During the war, one Yak-40 and three Mi-8 helicopters were shot down by the Azerbaijanis; the Karabakhis took out more than twenty Migs and helicopters plus - mistakenly - an Iranian Hercules C-130 routed over Stepanakert in March 1994.

The deserted town of Agdam, now inside the buffer zone, is almost totally devasted, but the Christian Karabakhis have been particularly careful to preserve the Muslim mosque with its elaborate wall mosaics. Once the rocket and artillery emplacements were taken out, the Karabakhi fighters attacked infantry and armour classic guerilla tactics. By the beginning of 1994, they had not only liberated all of their own territory, apart from the northern Shaumian district which was lost, but they went on to occupy 9% of the territory of Azerbaijan as a buffer zone. They have resolutely refused to give up this buffer zone. As one of the leaders of N-K, Zorri Balayan, says, `If we gave this back, then the war would begin again the next day.' There is no peace today in N-K: just an uneasy ceasefire. Military preparation is key to the survival of the Republic of N-K. The origins of the army lie in the partisans who operated in the country during the late 1980s and the year 1990 as the Azerbaijanis started to clear Karabakhi villages in what has now become known as ethnic cleansing. They carried out more than 200 operations, blowing up bridges, sections of rail track and ambushing Azeri columns carrying munitions into the area. According to Balayan, `Almost every one [of the operations] took place in answer to a provocation by the Azerbaijani leadership or the commandant's office of the district under military rule.' Today, the standing army of Nagorno Karabakh - the NKR - is probably between 15,000 and 20,000 strong. Every young man of eighteen years must serve two years in the army as a conscript and only students in full time study can defer the obligation. There is an unspecified number of volunteers who turn up for duty every day and return home at night. And then there are the professional soldiers who sign up for twenty years service. The only grounds for breaking the 20 year contract are health failure. All the professional soldiers at the moment are veterans of the war with Azerbaijan whose skills have been forged in battle. In addition, during the time of tension which would presage another conflict, the size of the army could be almost doubled virtually overnight. Without the benefit of command and control functions, which the NKR has today, the `asphalt fedayeen' fielded around 40,000 fighters during the war with Azerbaijan. Conscripts go to the Defense Ministry Training Division at Ivanovka, ten minutes drive from the capital. Training of conscripts is based on methodology of the old Soviet Army. There is much emphasis on discipline and adherence to a strictly enforced daily routine. Training and duties between reveille at 0600 and lights out at 2200 are precisely laid down in the schedule posted on the dormitory notice board, e.g. cleaning of personal AK-74 from 1610-1700 hours. Instructions and orders are all posted in Russian and most of the textbooks are still in Russian. Much of the time in the first three months is spent on establishing the regime and on basic training. Dormitories are meticulously maintained as are the rose gardens outside.

Basic training includes care and use of uniform, drill, training in the use of the standard infantry weapon AK-74, first aid, close quarters combat and, unusually, learning to throw a knife to kill. Badges and many items of equipment still bear the insignia of the old Soviet army but are gradually being changed. Prime Minister Jirair Poghossian told me that uniforms are currently supplied by Armenia but that very shortly N-K will open its own military uniform factory. After three months, conscripts identified as being particularly able are selected for more specialized training. The commander of the training center says that `within the first two weeks we can assess the abilities of the conscripts.' At six months, route marches enter the training schedule starting with 5 km marches carrying 30 kgs of gear. After six months, those who are particularly keen and able can elect to go to military training college with a view to becoming professional soldiers. It seems that the NKR training is a mixture of the traditional - as practiced in the old Soviet Union - and guerilla skills. The command structure is said to be based on that of the Armenian Army, with which the NKR has close links. More promising soldiers go to Armenia for training at the military academy in Yerevan and there are Armenian `observers' within the NKR. There are fairly frequent joint training exercises involving the Armenian army and the NKR. There are no foreign trainers in the country.

Women are admitted to the NKR but are restricted to work in areas like administration and medical services. The commander of the training center says this is not gender discrimination. `Men are simply better at fighting than women.' The NKR says it has `special forces' although not organized as a specific unit - more a loosely knit group of particularly talented fighters which can be pulled together on an ad hoc basis. In the years since the 1994 ceasefire, N-K has lived in a bizarre and quite unique state of limbo. A self- declared independent republic, it remains unrecognized by any other country in the international community - unrecognized, officially that is, by even Armenia which, nevertheless, harbors in its capital Yerevan offices guarded by soldiers of N-K behind the nameplate of The Permanent Representation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the Republic of Armenia. The Karabakhis have steadily developed the apparatus of statehood: government ministries scattered around Stepanakert with neat nameplates in English, Russian and Armenian; passports and entry visas; a parliament with 33 democratically elected representatives; and there is even a Miss Artsakh beauty competition - bathing costumes and all - every April in the Palace of Youth. It seems the only thing in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh does not have is a national airline. The last passenger plane to fly into Stepanakert airport was shot down by the Azerbaijanis. The odd low flying helicopter gets through with skillful flying - I got in on the Armenian President's Mi-8 helicopter - but the only connection with the outside world for the inhabitants, or most visitors, is a seven hour road journey through spectacular mountains and down into the so-called Lachin Corridor.

There is the 10km wide corridor driven through Azerbaijani territory by the Karabakhis with the support of the Armenian military. This is the only vital lifeline to the outside world which winds its way up and down mountainous inclines through devastated villages and farms. All supplies from the outside world come through the corridor - and most of the trucks on the road at the moment bear the number plates and camouflage of the army of N-K. It is no secret that the military establishments of the two neighbors are working closely together. It is also clear that the material of the Karabakhi military is drawn from, or at least through, Armenia in these transporter trucks heavily laden on their axles and crawling through the mountains with weapons and munitions. A military commander observed to me that `when something happens in the Balkans there's always trouble down here.' Like the Balkans, the Caucasus are a nexus where blood, faith and belonging come together. As Kosovo burns, the cauldron of the Caucasus boils.


November 6, 2000

The 'Afghan Alumni' Terrorism:
Islamic Militants Against the Rest of the World

By Shaul Shay and Yoram Schweitzer

In the summer of 1993, Professor Samuel Huntington, a lecturer in international relations at Harvard University, published an article entitled "The Clash of Civilizations", which caused a stir within the international academic community. Three years later, Professor Huntington published a book of the same name, in which he argues that the root of global conflict at the turn of the century is neither ideological nor economic, but primarily cultural.

Item 49 - Azerbaijan

Following the defeats suffered by the Azeri (Muslim) forces in their war with the Armenians (Christians) over control of the Nagorny Karabakh region, Azerbaijan turned to Afghanistan in August 1993 for military aid. Afghanistan responded by sending 1,000 mojahedeens warriors to help the Azeris. In October 1993, the Afghan mojahedeens launched a surprise attack against the Armenian forces in the region of Zangelan (near the Iranian border), and even gained ground, before being repulsed by the Armenian forces. As far as we know, these mojahedeens forces remained in Azerbaijan where they continue to help the Azeris in their struggle against the Armenians

Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999

Although Azerbaijan did not face a serious threat from international terrorism, it served as a logistic hub for international mojahedeens with ties to terrorist groups, some of whom supported the Chechen insurgency in Russia. […]

But 2000 report says that...

Azerbaijan took strong steps to curb the international logistics networks that support the fighters in Chechnya, to include closing international Islamic relief organizations believed to assist militants in Chechnya, strengthening border controls with Russia, and arresting and extraditing suspected mojahedeens supporters. There has been good cooperation on counterterrorism cases between the Government of Azerbaijan and U.S. law enforcement. In mid-September, Azerbaijani police arrested seven Dagestani men under suspicion of working with the mojahedeens and extradited them to Russia. The government has cooperated closely and effectively with the United States on antiterrorism issues, and a program of antiterrorism assistance has been initiated. Azerbaijan intends to join the CIS Counterterrorism Center.

Azerbaijan and Russia signed a border agreement extension in early June to limit the flow of arms and militants across the borders.

In early October, the Supreme Court in Baku found 13 members of Jayshullah, an indigenous terrorist group who may have had plans to attack the U.S. Embassy, guilty of committing terrorist actions. The court sentenced them to prison terms ranging from eight years to life.


Relevant quote:

In March 1994, Steve Levine wrote in the Financial Times: "With his army weakened by desertions, Mr Aliyev sent an aide last August to Afghanistan to 'borrow' some of that country's mojahedeens rebels. More than 1,000 Afghans came to Azerbaijan and faced their first test in October, when Mr Aliyev launched his first offensive. The surprise attack, in the southwestern Zangelan region near Iran, was spearheaded by the Afghans. They advanced a few kilometers, before they and the Azeris fled from an Armenian counterattack."

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