DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan has awarded posthumously two former Afghan political figures, Ahmad Shah Masud and Burhanuddin Rabbani, with the country's highest honor, the Order of Ismoili Somoni.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon signed the decree awarding the two men the honor on September 2. According to the decree, Masud and Rabbani were recognized for their contribution to ending a devastating 1993-1997 civil war in Tajikistan.
Ahmad Shah Masud, nicknamed the Lion of Panjshir, was one of the leading military commanders of the Afghan resistance to Soviet troops from 1979-1989 and fought against the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
After Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan, Masud served as defense minister from 1992 until his assassination on September 9, 2001.
Rabbani served as Afghanistan's president from 1992 to 2001. Between 1996-2001 his authority was not recognized by Taliban militants, who controlled many regions of the country.
Rabbani was killed on September 20, 2011, by a bomb attack during a meeting with Taliban representatives at his home.
Both Masud and Rabbani were ethnic Tajiks involved in peace talks that ended the war in Tajikistan in 1997.
The signing of the decree awarding the two men the honor comes as the Taliban battles resistance forces in the Panjshir Valley, which is mainly populated by ethnic Tajiks.
Tajikistan has officially stated that Afghanistan's new government under the Taliban must include Tajiks, Uzbeks, and representatives of the country's other ethnic groups.