The Shomali Plain, also called the Shomali Valley, is a plateau just north of Kabul, Afghanistan. It is approximately 30 km wide and 80 km long. Once, it was a fertile area, rich with water, where fruits and vegetables were cultivated, and where Kabul's residents picknicked on weekends.
Taliban rule (1996-2001)
During the rule of the Taliban (1996-2001), fighting in the Shomali Plain was relatively sparse, but the plateau was maintained as fighting frontier by Ahmad Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance who challenged the Taliban's control over much of Afghanistan.
When the Taliban retreated from the Plain in 1997, they poisoned wells, cut down trees, and destroyed the irrigation system of what was a largely Tajik area, although there are also many Pashtuns in the area. In 1999, the Taliban considered the region, especially towns such as Istalif with 45,000 residents, a liability and they razed such towns, destroyed farms, and forced hundreds of thousands of people from the region.
Rebuilding since 2002
In the 2001 Afghan War, the Northern Alliance was directed to take the Shomali Plain after it secured the supply routes from the north, and wait for an international peacekeeping force to move into Kabul. They did not wait, however, because the Taliban retreated from Kabul without a fight, leaving a security vacuum, and consequently the Northern Alliance occupied Kabul without major problems.
In the summer of 2002, the Taliban being driven from Afghanistan, villagers started to return to the Shomali Plain, starting to rebuild the agriculture and their houses. Late 2002, the Shomali Plain still looked mostly like a desert or destructed battleground, with hardly a bush or tree, but strewn with tank-wrecks, demolished cars, torn shipping containers, and mine fields along the main road, and was considered by the UN Mine Action Center as one of the world's most active land mine areas.
By 2009, the Shomali Plain had become one of the relatively few prospering areas of Afghanistan. The A76 highway, running through the Shomali Plain, is militarily necessary, had been rebuilt by 2009 and was being secured, which urgency and security did not exist elsewhere in the country. That A76 runs from Kabul to Bagram and Charikar in Parwan Province, and then into the Hindu Kush mountains to the Salang Tunnel. The tunnel provides the only year-round, all-weather access to the north of Afghanistan.
This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Shomali Plain", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.
- "Re-Creating Afghanistan: Returning to Istalif". NPR. 2002-08-01. Archived from the original on October 23, 2013.
- Lukas Einsele (November 2002), "Shomali Plain", One Step Beyond: An Art Project Reporting on landmines and their victims, retrieved 15 November 2017
- Ahmed Rashid (2000), Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Yale University Press, ISBN 0300089023, p. 62
- Returnees help Afghanistan's Shomali Plain to flourish again, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), July 28, 2004
- Patrick Cockburn (May 3, 2009), "Letter from Kabul: Eight years after the war to overthrow the Islamist regime, one part of Afghanistan is beginning to flourish again – but it's very much the exception", The Independent