But even in Tajik-heavy Kabul, you need only to start speaking to residents to find that Massoud is a touchy matter. Part of this is opposition to his political party, Jamiat-e Islami, and part suspicion of foreign intelligence services with a history of designs on Afghanistan -- Massoud took money from all of them, from the CIA, MI6, and Pakistan's Inter-Intelligence Service (ISI), from the French, probably the KGB, and even the Chinese. Part is class resentment -- Marxism has never entirely left Afghanistan. Massoud, whose father was a general in King Zahir Shah's army, was raised in upper middle-class wealth and attended a lycée. There is a feeling, even among other Tajiks, that Tajiks from the Panshjir Valley, where Massoud is from, are an arrogant bunch. When I asked him what he thought of Massoud, a Tajik taxi driver and former army officer when Massoud was defense minister, said "Panjshiris, they..." and instead of finding an adjective, he hunched up his shoulders, puckered his face and snorted haughtily. "They like British." (That's an insult in Afghanistan.)
The real skepticism about Massoud, though, arises from the facts of his life and what he eventually did to the city and people of Kabul. Afghans of a certain age and education know, for instance, that far from starting out the conciliator he would later become, Massoud began his political career as an Islamist radical agitator at Kabul's Polytechnic College. He fled to Pakistan in 1975 with the Muslim Youth Organization, years before the communist coup and Soviet invasion made this exodus a tragic necessity for millions of other Afghans. There he didn't teach himself to be a soldier, as the story goes, but rather was taught to be one by the ISI. It was under the direction of Ali Bhutto, who created Pakistan's covert war in Afghanistan, and was, many would argue, the progenitor of the Taliban. If there's anyone Afghan Pashtuns and Tajiks distrust more than one another, it's a Pakistani, and particularly a Bhutto.
Afghans up on their history know, too, that Massoud began his fighting career as a failed agent provocateur -- he was drafted by the ISI and its despised Afghan satrap, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to start an uprising against the Afghan government in the Panjshir. It didn't work. According to some KGB memoirists, Massoud may have gone on to receive training from that agency in Lebanon. If that's true, it comes as little surprise that from the moment he became a mujahid and began to do battle with Soviets, after they invaded Afghanistan in 1979, making his legend, Massoud was also bargaining with the Soviets. He made a series of truces with them in the early 1980s. This duplicity is now explained away as a typically shrewd move by Massoud -- whose courage and battlefield brilliance cannot be questioned -- to win respite for his weary troops and recruit more support. No doubt it was. Nonetheless, the deals also helped bring the Soviet hammer down on less equipped mujahideen, and provided Massoud the opportunity to pursue a private war with Hekmatyar in the 1990s. (By that point, Hekmatyar was using many of his American-taxpayer-bought weapons to try to kill his old protégé).
Talking to Kabulis who don't buy into the hype, you learn that this is what what galls them the most about Massoud: the personal feud that played out in the streets of this city and caused incalculable destruction and loss of life. Hekmatyar and his Uzbek sometime helpmeet, Abdul Rashid Dostum, were the more wanton combatants, certainly, but Massoud brought his fair share of ruin, leveling whole districts of Kabul. "Massoud is responsible for half the atrocities of this country," said a prominent Afghan intellectual who did not want to named. Nor did the ruin end when he was elevated to defense minister in 1992. Many members of Afghanistan's second-largest ethnic minority, the Hazaras, will never forgive him for massacring Hazaras in south Kabul the next year. Massoud's men abused residents and looted shops. In part for that reason, many Kabulis welcomed the Taliban takeover three years later.
"It's a very difficult legacy," the prominent Afghan said, because of "his stubbornness, his lack of will to dispense with remote political masters, and his lack of willingness to resolve the issue of division of power peacefully."