To understand more deeply the tragic events of September 11, 2001, it is critical to know Afghanistan's turbulent past. This text provides a first-hand account of how failed diplomacy led to an Islamic fundamentalist victory in a war-torn country and, subsequently, to a Taliban takeover and a home for Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network. In April of 1992, Phillip Corwin was part of a United Nations team in Afghanistan whose mission was to help ensure the transfer of power from the Soviet-installed communist regime of President Najibullah to an interim government (that would prepare for elections). Without the support of the Soviet Union, Najibullah's regime crumbled and he was convinced to resign in favour of a national unity government, with the understanding that he would be evacuated to a neutral country (India). Due to a series of miscalculationis and machinations, the UN's diplomatic mission failed. Kabul fell to groups of mujahiddin before Najibullah could be evacuated. The inability of the various mujahiddin factions to unite led to their eventual defeat by the Taliban, who for four years later routed Najibullah from his safe haven at the UN compound and executed him.
During his career with the United Nations, Phillip Corwin was a speechwriter for the secretary-general, and served in peace-keeping operations in Haiti, the western Sahara, Afghanistan, and the former Yugoslavia. He is the author of Dubious Mandate: A Memoir of the U.N. in Bosnia, Summer 1995, and is also a widely published poet.