Blog 7

Mercenary

It is well known that history is written by the victors of war. But who writes the history if there isn’t a winner? 

There has been war in Afghanistan for an incredible long time against changing enemies. So far none of them have been able to conquer the country or defeat the warriors in the mountains who also always seem to have at least some backing in the general population. 

Nothing is ever black og white in Afghanistan – and if it ever is, then it doesn’t last long. mostly everything is gray and sometimes the black and white change sides. It is all gray zone with more gray around the edges. 

The Soviet Union never really gained control over Afghanistan even if they did manage to secure one of the rebel’s largest bases near the Pakistani border. In the end they were forced to leave the country, like the English had had to do so many years earlier. 

In 1988 Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a treaty concerning the situation in Afghanistan. The treaty was signed in Geneva on April 14. The treaty meant that the Soviet Union had to withdraw its forces which they started doing just a month later. The entire force had been withdrawn by 1989, and the Soviet Union got their hands full trying to tackle the effects of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

When the occupying Soviet forces had left, Afghanistan turned into a mess. Different fractions, groups, clans and smaller armies fought to gain power. The void had to be taken over by a new leadership. But no one could hold on to the power for long, which takes me back to my first question as to who writes the history. There wasn’t a victor to write the modern history of Afghanistan.

Then in 1994 the Taliban emerged which probably made it even harder to find any real information about the newer history in the country. They forbade a lot of things that were not in accordance with their thoughts on power or their interpretation of the Quran. This led to book burnings and destruction of a lot of material including important historic documents.

There are some quiet heroes working in the shadows who try to prevent things like this from happening. People who work tirelessly to secure historic facts and knowledge of their country that has gone through so much war and terror. 

One of these groups is called OPAH (Organization for the Preservation of Afghani History). They secretly stored all the official documents that they could get their hands on. They did so from the late 1990’ies until 2009, when they could no longer get any funding for their project and had to abandon it. I don’t know what happened to all their work, but I hope that they had the opportunity to hand it over to someone else. 

In 2002 I corresponded with them via snail mail, since the internet in Afghanistan wasn’t that stabil or widespread. It cost me a donation to their organization but I did get my hands on two documents that proved that I was on the right track. 

In the letter from OPAH, they translate from two different documents that were in their safekeeping. Both documents originate at an old KGB office in Kabul.

The first quote is: 

“The man you call “The Dane” arrived yesterday. He was already familiar with his assignment but took your letter to him and said that he would read it later. He is staying in a hotel nearby but did not say where exactly. He was just here and presented a letter from the Kremlin that gave him the rank of major. He has taken 4 agents with him. He said he will return tomorrow. 

He seems dangerous. I trust him only because it is my orders. He looks disturbed somehow.“

They had sent me a copy of that document as well as proof of the originality. I can’t read or speak Russian, but I have had a university here in Denmark check it out, and it seems genuine. The translation checks out as well.

KGB document from 1983 mentioning The Dane
KGB document from 1983 mentioning The Dane

The second quote goes like this:

“We have had no news from The Dane. He left for the mountains three weeks ago. He seldom reports back, but we believe that he is still alive and operating. 

MAK has not been sending their couriers with money into the mountains so the Mujahedin are alone. We believe this is because they fear The Dane even though they do not know it is him. 

Before he left he said that he needed more money to keep operating on our side. We only have Afghani left and no American Dollars. So we ask you to pay him directly or to send the money to us. He said that you know the price and mentioned nothing to us.”

According to OPAH the first quote comes from a document that is part of a larger collection that among other things describes the bombing of a hotel in Kabul in 1983. As you can see, the year 1983 is written several times on it. 

1983 could fit the timeline as to when the Dane could have arrived in Afghanistan and already have a reputation like the one described. I don’t think just anyone could demand anything from the Soviet Union, so he must have been able to pull some strings or weight to set his own demand to the officers in charge.

The Dane is said here to have the rank of Major, which is pretty far up the lk´military ladder. It would give him the command over captains and alle below that level. He would be able to take command in a lot of situations but it must have required a lot of trust from the regime in the Kremlin, or an even greater amount of desperation. 

Looking at the evidence presented in these documents I do feel convinced that the Dane chose to become a mercenary. I don’t know exactly how he went from being in the North Vietnamese army or militias to becoming a major in the Red Army. He could have taken many paths and hidden in just as many places. It was easier to hide back then. 

But I was back on track and the trail was getting hotter again in Afghanistan

en_GBEnglish (UK)