Mohammad Aslam Watanjar

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Mohammad Aslam Watanjar
Minister of Defence
In office
6 March 1990 – April 1992
Preceded by Shahnawaz Tanai
Succeeded by Ahmad Shah Massoud
In office
April – 28 July 1979
Preceded by Abdul Qadir Dagarwal
Succeeded by Hafizullah Amin
Minister of Internal Affairs
In office
15 November 1988 – 6 March 1990
Preceded by Sayed Mohammad Gulabzoy
Succeeded by Raz Muhammad Paktin
In office
28 July – 14 September 1979
Preceded by Sherjan Mazdoryar
Succeeded by Faqir Mohammad Faqir
In office
8 July 1978 – 1979
Preceded by Nur Ahmad Nur
Succeeded by Sherjan Mazoryar
Minister of Communications
In office
10 January 1980 – 1988
Preceded by Mohammad Zarif
Succeeded by Unknown
In office
30 April 1978 – July 1978
Preceded by Abdul Karim Attayee
Succeeded by Sayed Mohammad Gulabzoy
Personal details
Born 1951
Khost Province, Afghanistan
Died 24 November 2000
Odessa, Ukraine
Political party People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
Profession Military officer

Mohammad Aslam Watanjar (1946 – 24 November 2000) was an Afghan general and politician. He played a significant role in the coup in 1978 that killed the Afghan president Mohammad Daud Khan and started the "Saur Revolution". Watanjar later became a member of the politburo in the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, playing prominent roles in the communist coup as well as the coup that overthrew the constitutional monarchy.

Early life[edit]

An Andar Ghilzai Pashtun from Zurmula in Paktia, Watanjar trained as a tank officer in the Soviet Union following his graduation from the Military Academy in Kabul.

The Saur Revolution[edit]

Watanjar's role in the communist coup of 1978 was important. Instructed by Hafizullah Amin, he initiated the march of tank forces from the motorized forces of numbers 4 and 15 near Pul-e-Charkhi against the government.

Colonel Aslam Watanjar was the Army commander on the ground during the Coup, and his troops gained control of Kabul. Colonel Abdul Qadir, the leader of the Air Force squadrons, also launched a major attack on the Royal Palace, in the course of which Mohammed Daoud Khan was killed.

Colonel Watanjar was also in charge of the announcement over Radio Kabul, in the Pashtu language, that a Revolutionary Council of the Armed Forces had been established, with Colonel Abdul Qadir Dagarwal at its head. The council's initial statement of principles, issued late in the evening of April 27, was a noncommittal affirmation of Islamic, democratic, and non-aligned ideals.

He was in charge of the operation until Amin took over from him in the evening. On April 30 the RC issued the first of a series of fateful decrees. The decree formally abolished the military's revolutionary council.

Part of the Khalqi Government[edit]

Following the coup, Watanjar was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of communications. Later he served successively as minister of the interior, of defense, and again of the interior until he joined others in a plot against Amin.

The Herat uprising also set off a new round in the Afghan regime's internal power struggle. To assuage charges of weak performance in the military leadership, Taraki finally granted Watanjar the position of Minister of Defense.

Watanjar's move to take over the Defense Ministry was a demonstrable exploitation of Amin's vulnerability in the aftermath of the failings of the army. However, by July 1979, Amin took over the defense portfolio, replacing him on the grounds that he was a Taraki-sympathizer.

Aslam Watanjar joined forces with Sarwari, Gulabzoy and others Khalqis in a plot against then Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin.

Except for Sarwari, who was from the province of Ghazni, the others were from Paktia. They had influence with the army, which was officered by a considerable number of persons from Paktia.

Until their break with Amin, Sarwari was head of the Intelligence Department (AGSA), while the others were cabinet ministers. At first close friends of Amin, they later turned against him, siding with President Nur Mohammad Taraki in opposition to Amin.

When Amin overcame them, they took refuge in the Soviet embassy along with Sarwari and Gulabzoy.

Part of the Parchami Government[edit]

The presence in Soviet Red Army of Sarwari, Watanjar, and Gulabzoy might have influenced the officers not to respond the invasion. Along with them, he served as a guide for the Soviets.

After the invasion he was promoted to membership in the central committee and the Revolutionary Council and was appointed Minister of Communications. In June 1981 he was added to the Politburo.

Later he served successively as minister of the interior, of defense, and again of the interior

He also headed the official Afghan delegation to Baikonur, in his position of communications minister and member of its ruling Politburo.

From March 1990 to April 1992, he was again Secretary of Defense.

There was no resistance from government forces, most of whom had already allied themselves with Masud. Hekmatyar had gained the support of some Pashtun hardliners in the former regime, including the Minister of Internal Affairs, Raz Mohammad Paktin, and the Defence Minister, Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Aslam Watanjar.

Fighting between the two rival factions began almost immediately, with Masud's forces quickly gaining the upper hand. After the fall of Kabul and the collapse of President Najibullah's government, he left the country.

Death[edit]

He died on 24 November 2000 because of cancer while in exile, in the Ukrainian city of Odessa. He was 56.

Political offices
Preceded by
Abdul Qadir Dagarwal
Minister of Defense
May 1978 – August 1978
Succeeded by
Hafizullah Amin
Preceded by
Shahnawaz Tanai
Minister of Defense
March 1990 – April 1992
Succeeded by
Ahmed Shah Massoud