Afghanistan: The U.S. Role in the Approaching Endgame

Report Middle East

Afghanistan: The U.S. Role in the Approaching Endgame

February 27, 1989 23 min read Download Report
Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

(Archived document, may contain errors)

693 I February 27,1989 m AFGHANISTAN= THE U.S. ROIX IN THE APPROACHING ENDGAlME a I. I. INTRODUCTION The withdrawal of Soviet troop s from Afghanistan transforms the neb 4 i decade-long Afghan conflict from a war against Soviet invasion into one between'-Afghans. Although the Soviets apparently for the moment have ended their direct military involvement,.they continue to. militarily a i d diplomatically support and economically assist the beleaguered conmuhist regime of Afghan strongman Najibullah. 1 c I' I The victory of the Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors) over the Soviets is due in large part to the weapons and other aid,from the.Uni t ed States. Now that Washington has achieved its first victoryunder the Reagan Doctrine the withdrawal of Soviet troops it cannot abandon the mujahideen, but must focus on the long-term task of helping to:build a free and stable Afghanistan that can resist future Soviet attempk at domination. This may be only the first Soviet-Afghan war, just as Britain fought three wars against the Afghans in the 19th century I Violating the Geneva Accords. Despite the Soviet withdrawal, Afghan peace is not at hand. Fighti n g actually intensified in recent months as the Soviets escalated its air war to stave off mujahideen efforts to fill the power vacuum that the gradual Soviet withdrawal created. Moscow repeatedly violated the April 1988 United Nations-sponsored Genevaacco r ds on Afghanistan by launching offensive operations, introducing new weapons into the conflict, dispatching aerial attacks from bases inside the Soviet Union and continuing efforts to intimidate Pakistan. Fighting is sure to continue until the communist r egime in Kabul is overthrown.

The war in Afghanistan has now entered its endgame as the mujahideen push for full military victory and attempt to unite on a political program to i I 1 I r offer the Afghan people an alternative to the communist regime in Kabul.

The U.S. has a role in the endgame. To help the mujuhideen win the final battles of their war and safeguard the peace after victory, the Bush Administration should 1) ,Maintain the flow of U.S. arms to the mujuhideen, particularly the acNrate p 6: hea vy mortars and mine removing equipment needed to minimize casualties in assaults on heavily fortified areas. More Stinger anti-aircraft missiles also are needed to protect the mujuhideens civilian supporters from communist reprisal bombings 2) Distribute s upplies to favor those resistance groups willing to cooperate within a broad anti-communist coalition to build a pluralist Afghanistan. Any group that places its own interests above those of the resistance.coa1itiona.s a whole should be denied American ai d . The U.S. should work closely with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and, if possible,.even Iran to help forge a unified resistance coalition government I 3) Carefully monitor Soviet compliance with the Geheva accords. Warn Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that comp l iance will be a litmus test of his vaunted new hkking on international matters and that backsliding will chill superpower relations on every front. If the Soviets vjolate their commitments, particularly by continuing air attacks or retaining clandestine f i ghting forces inside Afghanistan, then the U.S. immediately should increase military aid to the resistance. 1 4) Continue the economic sanctions imposed on the Soviet Union because of its December 1979 invasion of Afghanistan until Moscows puppet regime 5 ) Organize a multilateral reconstruction effort to restore economic and political stability in Afghanistac; a 3 I in Kabul has been replaced j J I THE MILITARY SITUATION i After losing roughly 15,000 Soviet lives and shattering the Red .Aimyw image of invi ncibility in its failed effort to subdue Afghanistan, Moscow has withdrawn its military forces, meeting the February 15,1989, deadline set by the Geneva accords.

Under these accords, the U.S. and USSR are committed to frefrain from any formof interference and intervention in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and Pakistan Th.e U.S. has stressed that these obligations are symmetrical and that it reserves the right to aid the mujuhideen to the extent that the Soviet Union aids the communist Kabul regime Thi s positive symmetry was imposed on the State Department by bipartisan congressional pressure.) Because the Soviet Union did in fact continue to assist the Kabul 2 regime after May 15,l the U.S. has continued to supply the mujahideen although on a reduced s cale.

Yet, to demonstrate restraint, the quality as well as the quantity of U.S military aid was reduced after May

15. The supply of Stinger portable anti-aircraft missiles, which played a major role in blunting Soviet air power apparently was cut off. A lthough the mujahideen have hoarded these missiles, Soviet air attacks increased as the threat posed by the Stingers declined? Mine-clearing equipment and accurate heavy mortars remain scarce, though they long ago were promised to the mujahideen by Washin g ton. The mujahideen partially have offset the cutback in foreign supplies by capturing increasing amounts of military supplies from government troops Hostage Cities As the mujahideen forces advanced, the Soviets adopted a brutal hostage city strategy, des t roying any city that fell to the mujahideen. The mujahideen were not only slowed by the indiscriminate application of Soviet air power against civilian targets, but also by the pleas of civilians living in occupied areas to avoid provoking Soviet retaliat ion.

Late last.October, the Soviets escalated their air war, deploying approximately 30 sophisticated MiG-27 Flogger ground attack warplanes from airbases inside the Soviet Union to Shindand air base in western 0 Afghanistan. These planes, together with Ba &irestrategicibombers never before used in combat, launched deadly attacks against mujahideen forces surrounding Kandahar and Jalalabad. The intensified Soviet bombing campaign, involving 200 to 300 sorties a day, prompted themujahideen to renew rocket at t acks on Kabul in late December, after a six-week lull I Psychological Weapon. The Soviets also.deployed SS-1 Scud-B ground-to-ground missiles in Kabul for the first time. Scores of these missiles, armed with 2,100 pound warheads,.were fired at mujuhideen positions near the Pakistani border and at least one exploded inside Pakistan.

Because guerrillas are nearly impossible to target with such missiles, the Scuds are more of a psychological than a purely military.weapo~IThe..noisy:.l launches of the giant mi ssiles presumably raise the sagging morale of Kabuls defenders while the unpredictable detonations terrify civilians in liberated areas The immediate impact of these Soviet escalations was to prevent the mujahideen from taking Kandahar, Afghanistans secon d largest city after Kabul. Such a blow could have demoralized the Afghan communists the a 1 On May 14, the commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, Lt. General Boris Gromov, revealed that the Soviets intended to leave behind about $1 billion worth of mi l itary equipment and installations. In addition the Soviets have continued to resupply the Afghan armed forces and upgrade their arms 2 Cord Meyer, Unfinished Business in Afghanistan, The Washington nntes, August 5,1988, p. F1 3 Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA The brandishing of Soviet air and missile forces reminded. the mujahideen that they remain vulnerable to Soviet-based airpower even after the Soviet withdrawal their scorched earth tactics including saturation bombing, indiscriminate min i ng, and poisoning food and water supplies? Chemical weapons reportedly were used by the Soviet-backed Afghan army in eastern Afghanistan recently, sending mujahideen and civilians fleeing to Pakistan suffering from burns and vomiting blood 3 P Despite the peace offensives aimed at world opinion, the Soviets continued The mujahideen fear that after the Soviet troop withdrawal assuages world opinion, the mujahideen will be forgotten by the outside world and abandoned to fight alone against the Kabul regime, w hich will bolstered by Soviet advisers, arms, and air support THE AFGHAN POLITICAL WHIRLPOOL Though they have been superb warriors against invaders, Afghans historically have had less success in building stable governments. While they seem t o have won the war against the Soviets, they may lose the peace among themselves. The same qualities that make them formidable guerrilla fighters fierce independence and a decentralized structure of authority make them difficult to organize politically. B o th the mujahideen and the Afghan communists are hamstrung by personal, tribal, ethnic, and ideological rivalries that undermine their effectiveness and unity To date the mujahideen have been unable to agree on a comprehensive political program or develop p olitical institutions that could replace the Kabul regime. The seven main political parties based in Peshawar, Pakistan are divided by personal and ideological feuds Four of the parties, often called fundamentalists,I advocate the restructuring of Afghan s ociety along Islamic lines. The most radical fundamentalist group, Hezb-i-Islami (Party of Islam), is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a controversial leader who seeks domination over the other resistance groups, some of which broke away from his leadership. O n e of these splinter groups, also called Hezb-i-Islami and led by Younis Khalis, has grown steadily in strength and now rivals Hekmatyars party in terms of military effectiveness, if not in numbers Broad Ethnic Group Support. A third fundamentalist party i s the Jmiat-i-Islami (Islamic Society led by Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani; it is perhaps the strongest political-military organization. Unlike the two Hezbi groups which are dominated by Pushtuns, Afghanistans largest ethnic group I 3 Rob Shultheis, The S o viets Ugly Exit, The Washington Post, January 8,1989 4 77ze New York 7imes, November 16,1988, p. A3 4 Jumiuf is popular among Tajiks and Uzbeks concentrated in northern Afghanistan and yet also has strong Pushtun following. The smallest fundamentalist gro u p Itihad-i-IsZmi (Islamic Union is led by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. Although it has little military strength it has amassed great financial resources due to Sayyafs backing from Saudi Arabia The three other Peshawar parties are viewed as traditionalist. They ge n erally support moderate policies that appeal to Afghanistans traditional elites. Probably the most effective of the three is the Mahaz-i-MiZZi IsZumi National Islamic Front), led by Sayed Ahmad Gailani, the religious leader of the Qadirya Sufi order. Hara q at-i-InqiZub-i-IsZami (Movement for the Islamic Revolution led by Mohammed Nabi Mohammadi, though one of the largest of the traditionalist parties is loosely organized. The last traditionalist party is Jubbu-i-MiZZi-i Nujut-i-Afghunktun (National Front fo r the Rescue of Afghanistan a small group led by Professor Sibgatullah Mojadidi, a leader of the Naqshbandiya Sufi order.

Mujahideen Cleavages post-Soviet Afghanistan. While some of the traditionalist parties favor a transitional government under the king Mohammed Zahir Shah, who was deposed in 1973 and has.been living in exile in Rome, heis distrusted by the fundamentalists. They blame him for allowing the Soviets to subvert the army These seven parties have not been able to agree on a common vision of a I n addition to the political divisions between the Peshawar-based parties and party leaders in Peshawar. The field commanders, who have led the fight at great personal risk, increasingly are exasperated by. the political infighting and what appears like pe t ty intrigue which has hobbled the unity of the Peshawar coalition there is chronic friction between the field commanders inside Afghanistan Regional commanders, moreover, have built a personal following based on their military leadership rather than tradi t ional tribal connections or religious credentials. The center of gravity of the Afghan resistance gradually shifted toward the field commanders as the Soviets pulled back, allowinglocalw leaders to establish territorial power bases that are less dependent on supplies from the Peshawar parties due to the capture of government garrisons. Regional commanders such as Ahmad Shah Massoud in the north Abdul Haq around Kabul, and Ismail Khan in the west are likely to play a growing political role in determining Af g hanistans future Squabbling Resistance Groups. Given the lack of consensus on the nature of a future government, let alone on who should lead it, the Afghans have had a difficult time establishing a provisional government that could challenge the legitima c y of the communist regime in international fora. The Peshawar leaders announced the formation of an interim government in February 1988 5 composed of 28 representatives from the Peshawar parties, Afghan refugees and traditional leaders inside Afghanistan.

This was a good start. Yet this interim government has been criticized for inadequate representation of non-Pushtun groups, field commanders, and non-fundamentalist groups. Opposition to Soviet occupation has been the chief bond holding the heterogenous m ujahideen coalition together. As the Soviets lower their profile, squabbling among resistance groups will become a greater danger P D PA Factionalism Fortunately for the mujahideen, Afghanistans communist party also is split divided into the Parcham (flag ) and KhaZq (masses) factions Najibullah, the former secret police chief elevated by the Soviets to General Secretary ofithe PDPA in 1986, belongs to the Parcham faction. The Parchamis historically have advocated tactical alliances with noncommunist groups to broaden the base of the government. By contrast, the Khulqis are diehard revolutionaries who reject political compromise. They also are less subservient to Moscow than the Parchamis. In early November, Interior Minister Sayed Mohammed Gulabzoi, a Khalq i leader who was Najibullahs foremost rival, was shunted off to Moscow as ambassador. This may have been a preemptive move to forestall a coup by Khalqi army officers who oppose the Soviet-imposed I policy of national reconciliation SOVIET STRATEGY The Sov iet army was defeated militarily in-Afghanistan because it was not capable of suppressing the mujahideen at an acceptable cost. This was the first time in nearly a half-century that Soviet military forces were defeated on the battlefield.

Now that Moscow has lost militarily, Soviet leader Gorbachev clearly is seeking a political victory. He is trying to isolate the mujahideen diplomatically, cut their foreign support, drive wedges between rival groups and entice some of them into a coaliti on government with the communists.

Although Soviet officials have told Western reporters that theGeneva 8 accords were designed to give the Moscow a face-saving way to leave Afghanistan, the Soviets apparently also haves hoped that the accords would give t he Washington a face-saving way to abandon the mujahideen Trying to Spark a Civil War. What Gorbachev evidently wants to avoid is the kind of ignominious defeat in Afghanistan that could threaten his power 6 at home or fan the flames of restiveness in Eas t ern Europe, the Baltic republics, or Soviet Central Asia. The Soviets, after all, invaded Afghanistan in 1979 with an eye on Poland? As they now withdraw from Afghanistan, the Soviets will be mindful of the implications for their captive nations If they c a nnot salvage a friendly Afghan government then they probably will seek to promote dissension within mujahideen ranks and try to spark a civil war Coercing Pakistan An important element in Moscows policy has been its relentless effort to intimidate Pakista n . Since coming to power in 1985, Gorbachev has presided over a steadily escalating war of nerves with Islamabad. To drive home the risks to Pakistan of supporting the mujahideen, the Soviets frequently violated Pakistani airspace, attacked Pakistani borde r towns with artillery and from the air, and orchestrated an increasingly bloody campaign.of terrorisqr against Afghan refugees and Pakista~s. The KGB-controlled Afghan intelligence agency (WAD) launched an estimated 127 terrorist attacks in Pakistan in 19 8 7, killing 234 people and woundin 1,200; this was the largest state-supported terrorism campaign in the world. 1 The WAD, meanwhile, is believed by many to have been responsible for the suspicious August 17,1988, plane crash that took the lives of Pakista n i President Zia al-Haq, the U.S.-Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel, a U.S. military attache, and ten senior Pakistani military officers. Less than two weeks before the incident, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze warned Pakistan that its conti n ued support for the.mujahideen.would not go unpunished. The official Pakistani investigation of the incident has ruled out an accident and suggests that the cause of the crash was a highly sophisticated form of sabotage Fomenting Discord. The WAD constant l y works to exacerbate frictions among rival mujahideen groups by planting disinformation, forging letters and doctoring photographs to discredit prominent resistance leaders and fan suspicions that individual groups have made a separate peace with the Kab u l regime. The WAD has used special forces disguised as mujahideen to stage for the resistance and foment discord. By one estimate;.up. to:7O~percentaoB feuds and conflicts among the mujahi+ are initiated by the WAD, which has infiltrated many resistance g r oups. The Kabul regime particularly would like to heighten tensions between Jamiat-i-Islami and Hekmatyars Hezb-i-Islami 4 robberies along highways and attack villages to undermine civilian support 5 One reason that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 27,1979 was that it feared that if the beleaguered communist regime in Kabul was toppled by nationalist/Islamic opposition forces, it would set a dangerous precedent for Poland, whose communist government was under growing pressure from domestic d issidents and the newly installed Pope John Paul 11, a Pole. See James Phillips, Afghanistan: The Soviet Quagmire, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 101, October 25,1979 6 U.S. State Department, Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1987, August 1988, p. 27 7 S ee Abdul Rashid, The Afghan Resistance: Its Background, Its Nature and the Problem of Unity, in Rosanne Klass, ed Afghanistan: The Great Game Revisited (New York Freedom House, 1983, pp. 222-2 7a I Najibullah has been trying to play local mujahideen field commanders off against the Peshawar parties, as well as each other. He has proclaimed peace zones, attempted to entice local mujahideen into defacto ceasefires and even offered to make some of them governors of provinces: As the intensity of the jihad (ho l y war) feeling dissipates, Najibullah apparently hopes that mujahideen field commanders, exasperated by squabbling, will wash their hands of national politics in return for undisputed control over their territorial powerbases Vorontsovs Two- Track Poky tr o ubleshooter for the Middle EasVSouth Asia, was dispatched to Kabul as ambassador last October. Since then he has escalated military pressure against the mujahideen and has pressed Pakistan to abandon the mujahideen He also initiated exploratory contacts w ith the Peshawar leaders and met with a mujahideen delegation in Taif, Saudi Arabia, in early December.

These direct contacts were a victory for the mujahideen .because representatives of the Kabul regime were excluded; until then the Soviets had refused to accept the mujahideen as legitimate parties to the conflict.

After a second round the mujahideen broke off the talks early last .month because the Soviets continued to insist on a role for the PDPA in a future government First Deputy Foreign Minister Yu ri Vorontsov, Moscows chief diplomatic Moscows Failed Enticement. These tentative feelers, the demotion of Najibullahs adversary Gulabzoi, and Moscows grooming of Prime Minister 8 Mohammed Hassan Sharq as a possible successor to Najibullah suggest that th e Soviets sought to broker a political solution. Although Sharq is not a PDPA member, he is believed to be a KGB agent through which the Soviets could retain influence in Kabul. Gorbachevs December 7,.1988, U.N speech contained new proposals aimed at gaini n g the diplomatic high ground by appealing for an intra-Afghan dialogue, something that is impossible as long as the communists retain power. Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadzes visit to Pakistan in early February was a failed effort to go over the Afgha ns heads to negotiate a political settlement with Pakistan, an effort that Moscow undoubtedly hoped would drive a wedge between Islamabad and the Afghans.

In any case, Moscows failure to entice the mujahideen into a coalition government with the PDPA led Najibullah to reverse course and consolidate his control rather than continuing attempts to broaden his narrow regime.

After the February 15 Soviet withdrawal, Najibullah removed seven noncommunist ministers from his government and replaced them with PDPA members loyal to himself. Prime Minister Sharq resigned on February 20 and was replaced by longtime PDPA member Sultan Ali Keshtmand, ending the charade of the Soviet-imposed national reconciliation campaign 8 FUTURE PROSPECTS The withdrawal of uniformed S oviet troops does not mean that the Soviets are giving up their efforts to keep communist clients in power in Kabul. By one Soviet estimate, Moscow plans to leave behind 2,000 military advisers and 1,000 civilian advisers to assist the regime! There also a re reports that several thousand Soviet Central Asian troops have been infiltrated into the Afghan army and border guards? Some Soviet officials have indicated that Moscow will continue aerial resupply missions and bombing raids from Soviet air bases. Ind e ed, the Soviet Foreign Ministry refuses to rule out such air support 10 Dangers in Kabul. Although Najibullah's army of roughly30,OOO .men has more firepower than the lightly-armed mujuhideen it has much less willpower. Only elite units such as the 15,000 man Presidential Guard, the WAD, and the paramilitary police are considered reliable fighting forces.

Isolated army garrisons are likely to defect en masse to the mujahideen.

Posing a greater problem for the resistance, of course, is the heavily fortifie d city-state of Kabul. But it depends on external food and fuel supplies that are vulnerable to blockade. Indeed, prices of staple commodities recently have doubled in Kabul due to shortages caused by hoarding and successful mujahideen efforts to constric t the flow of supplies from the Soviet border.

Kabul is more likely to succumb to a psychological collapse, possibly triggered by the fall of Kandahar or Jalalabad, than to a direct military assault If Kabul falls, Moscow and the Najibullah regime seem pre pared to shift the government to the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, less than 60 miles from the Soviet border. High ranking government and WAD officials already have moved their families and household goods there At minimum Mazar-e-Sharif, one of the fe w cities effectively controlled by the Najibullah regime, would make an excellent staging area for the evacuation of Afghan communists to the Soviet Union Retreating to the North. If the mujahideen coalition disintegrates amid squabbling over the spoils of Kabul, however, Afghan communists-may.try!to salvage control of northern Afghanistan, backed up by Soviet air power and covert special forces operations. The less rugged terrain of northern Afghanistan is not as favorable for guerrilla warfare as has been the 8 llae New Yo& Times, August 31,1988, p. AlO 9 Mujahideen commander Abdul Haq claims that 15,000 Tajiks from Soviet Central Asia were brought into Kabul in July. See Claudia Rosett "Zia's Killing Haunts Afghan Peace llie Wall Stwet Journal, November 4 1988, p. A

14. See also Rosanne Klass, "Afghanistan: The Accords Fotzign Affairs, Summer 1988; also Fotzign Report, The Economist, May 26,1988 10 llie New Yo& 7imes, January 27,1989, p 8. See also llie New York Times, February 8,1989, p. 6 11 77ae New Yo& Times, January 4,1989, and January 25,1989 9 U.S. PRIO mountainous east, nor are the northern Uzbeks and Tajiks as combative as the Pushtuns to the south I Such an attempt to partition Afghanistan cannot succeed unless the mujahideen fall into fighting a m ong themselves. Vorontsovs recent diplomatic efforts have been aimed at achieving just this. He has reached out to former Afghan king Zahir Shah, in an effort to drive a wedge between fundamentalists opposed to the King and some of the moderates who suppo rt the Kings return.

Vorontsov also has tried to play the Peshawar groups off against eight small Shiite Afghan groups based in Iran. He has led diplomatic missions to Saudi Arabia and Iran, undoubtedly hoping to exploit the rivalry between these two backe rs of the mujahideen. As tensions build between the.U.S.andPgkiStanr due to Pakistans nuclear program, Moscow will be in an even better position to exploit disunity among the mujahideen and theirmpporters RITIES The highest U.S. priority is not just to ge t the Soviets out of Afghanistan but to do so in a manner that prevents them from returning. This means the PDPA, Moscows entree into Afghan affairs; ultimately must be removed from power. As long as the PDPA clings to power, Nghanistan will remain buffete d by instability that could invite future Soviet intervention Even the total defeat of the PDPA would not rule out a future Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. After all, the Geneva accords have not altered geography: Afghanistan still shares a long permea b le border with the Soviet Union. Exiled Afghan communists may remain a dangerous fifth column. If the mujuhideen fall into a civil war after ousting Najibullah, some of them may seek Soviet support against the.Pakistani-backed rivals. This may be only the first Soviet-Afghan war, just as Britain fought three wars against the Afghans in the 19th century.

Washington therefore cannot disengage from Afghanistan. Instead it Reject communist participation in a coalition government. It is unrealistic to expect th e mujuhideen to accept a coalition now that the balance of power on the ground has shifted to the mujahideen. In any event Afghans traditionally seek badal (vengeance) against their enemies; they do not join coalitions with them. It is particularly unreal i stic to expect the mujahideento compromise with Najibullah, whom they perceive to be our Hitler.l* Soviet attempts to forge a coalition government between the should 12 Najibullah also has been compared to Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele. Trained as a doctor, he used his medical knowledge to torture political prisoners when he headed the secret police from 1980-19

85. Klass, ed op. cit p. 407 10 mujuhideen and the PDPA as a face-saving device to facilitate their withdrawal were doomed from the start. The U.S. s hould press Moscow to discuss power transfer with the resistance, not power sharing arrangements that could mask continued communist domination.

While Afghan resistance leaders may accept individual non-communists associated with Najibullahs regime who have been deemed good Moslems as possible members of a transitional government, PDPA members and ex-Prime Minister Sharq are unacceptable. Persiste n t Soviet efforts to shoehorn them into a transitional government should be perceived as an attempt to buy the Soviets time to exploit mujuhideen cleavages. The U.S should be more concerned about preserving unity among resistance groups than about forging a n agreement on a transitional government Continue aid. The mujuhideen were fighting Afghan communists before the 1979 Soviet invasion and will fight them,now that Soviet troops have retreated. The U.S. should continue aiding the mujuhideen un t il the regime imposed by Moscow has been overthrown: Stinger anti-aircraft missiles are needed to protect the mujuhideen and their civilian supporters from air attack. Needed too are heavy mortars and minel clearing equipment for mujahideen attacks on for t ified positions. The U.S. should err on the side of giving too much rather than too little. Saving mujuhideen lives should be a higher priority than helping to save Soviet face Recognize the political leverage haid. The distribution of the h I muju h ideen should be revised. Until recently, Hekmatyars Hezb-i-Islumi has received the lions share of supplies because Pakistan has favored it over other groups. Pakistani President Zia backed the Hezbi because he believed that a fundamentalist regime in Kabu l would be anti-Soviet, anti-Indian, and pro-Pakistani. Zia also apparently felt that because fundamenfalists believe Islam, not ethnicity, is the basis for state formation, they would be less likely to continue past Afghan support for the formation of Pus htunistan, carved out of Pushtun tribal areas in Pakistans Northwest. Frontier Province.

Encouraged by this Pakistani backing, Hekmatyar has sought to dominate other resistance groups and has elevated his personal political ambitions over the common strugg le against the PDPA. The U.S. should not~~help~ this anti-Western radical to achieve domination. Washington should reduce the disproportionately large share of assistance that his Herbi-now receives and shift resources to the Jumiut and other groups Help t he mujahideen to reorganize. Washington must assist the mujuhideen to adapt to a changing war in which small unit guerrilla operations in the mountains give way to larger multi-unit offensives against government-held cities, garrisons, and airbases. For t h is, the mujuhideen need a strategy that integrates the military, political, diplomatic and civic efforts of disparate groups. Administrative planning in liberated territories must be coordinated better to present civilians currently living under communist domination with an appealing alternative to the Kabul regime 11 The Najibullah regime has exploited the anxiety of civilians under its control by accusing the mujahideen of looting and atrocities in liberated areas. The mujahideen need to publicize a gene ral amnesty program that would encourage defections that could undermine the regime Encourage formation of a broad noncommunist coalition government.

The Afghans must choose their own form of government. Yet Washington should work with Pakistan, Saudi Arab ia, and possibly even Iran to assure that all non-communist groups participate in the formation of a new government. Iran-based Shiite Afghan groups currently oppose plans made by the Peshawar coalition for convening a shura (council) to name an interim g o vernment until elections could be held. Washington should press the Peshawar coalition to secure Shiite participation by honoring the agreement that Sibgatullah Mojadidi, the leader of the Peshawar coalition, made with the Shiites that would give them 100 seats in the 526-seat shura. All Afghan noncommunist political, ethnic, tribal, and religious groups should be brought into a pluralistic post-Soviet government. A narrow fundamentalist or Pushtun-dominated government would create dissension that the Sovi ets could exploit.

George Bush should appoint a special envoy with ambassadorial rank to consult with Afghan resistance leaders and non-communist political leaders and coordinate U.S. policy on Afghanistan. Working with the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, this envoy should press the new Pakistani government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to reconsider the late President Zias commitment to Hekmatyars Hezb-i-Islami and to push Hekmatyar to cooperate fully with other groups. The special U.S. envoy should warn th e Peshawar parties that if they are unable to work together to form a new government then Washington will bypass them and channel aid directly to the field commanders inside Afghanistan, who have demonstrated a pragmatic, cooperative spirit Break relations with Kabul. Secretary of State James Baker ordered the closing of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on January 26 because of security and safety considerations. Closing the embassy removed one of the strongest reasons that had been given for maintaining diplomati c relations with the Najibullah regime that such relations allowed the continued .gathering.oh intelligence inside Kabul. Baker now should break relations with the Kabul regime and recognize the provisional mujahideen coalition government as the legitimate government of Afghanistan Link Soviet action on Afghanistan with superpower relations. The U.S. should warn Moscow that Soviet nonintervention in Afghan affairs will be a litmus testof Gorbachevs claim that there is a Soviet new thinking on international matters. If the Soviets resume their air war over Afghanistan the U.S. should respond across the entire spectrum of U.S.-Soviet relations.

U.S. economic sanctions imposed on the Soviet Union in 1979 because of the invasion of Afghanistan should not be lift ed until Moscows puppet regime in Kabul has fallen 12 I I Aid the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Roughly 5 million Afghans have been driven into exile in Pakistan and Iran by a systematic Soviet terror campaign designed to weaken the resistance by depopul ating the countryside.

This is the words largest refugee group.-These refugees will need extensive help in returning to and rehabilitating their war-tom homeland. Washington should work with Pakistan to assure a slow, phased repatriation of the refugees to liberated areas. Current agricultural production is roughly half of the pre-war level, insufficient to support the existing population, let alone large numbers of returning refugees. If and when Kabul is liberated, the resistance will be responsible for feeding the capitals 2,300,OO inhabitants.

Logistical planning for this should begin immediately. To revive agriculture improved seeds, fertilizer, oxen, and reconstruction of irrigation systems will be needed desperately.

Initially, the highest priority should be mine clearance. The Soviets have scattered up to 16 million mines throughout Afghanistan. The U.S. should organize a multinational military effort, similar to that which cleared the Suez Canal after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, to clear minefields and train the Afghans to do so When a noncommunist government has been formed in Kabul, President Bush should request Congress to appropriate substantial war recovery aid.

The U.S. government should try to recruit Afghan exiles in the U.S. to return to Af ghanistan to help reconstruction. A fund should be set up to lend seed money to small businesses. Washington also should ,organize.a long-term multinational effort to rebuild Afghanistans shattered economy and restore stability. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Eg y pt, Turkey, Japan, the People,s Republic of China, Britain, France, and West Germany could contribute financial aid or advisers to the project 0 CONCLUSION The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan does not mean the end of the conflict there only t h e beginning of a new phase in the struggle for a free Afghanistan. The mujahideen have won their war against the Soviet invaders but still have not overthrown the puppet regime imposed bythe Soviets. Moreover, the mujahideen are in danger of losing the pe ace among themselves.

The U.S. therefore must realize that the endgame for Afghanistan is only beginning. Washington should not be distracted by Gorbachevs peace offensives or his unworkable proposal for an intra-Afghan dialogue.

Moscow remains committed to the Najibullah regime, bolstering it with military, economic, and diplomatic aid. The U.S. cannot afford to be less committed to the mujahideen Ending the Great Game. Nor should the U.S. lose sight of its ultimate goal a stable, independent Afghanistan free from Soviet domination. This 13 means not only that Najibullah must be checkmated militarily, but that the mujahideen freedom fighters must be transformed into an effective government. The Bush Administration thus should provide the mujahideen with p olitical as well as military help. It should shift the flow of its aid to facilitate the formation of a broad noncommunist coalition government and work with Pakistan and other supporters of the mujuhideen to minimize Afghan factionalism.

The Soviet army r emains poised along Afghanistans northern border. The Afghans must make a long-term, unified effort to keep them from recrossing that border If the mujahideen fall into political bickering, then their military victory will be put in jeopardy In that case, the Great Game Rudyard Kiplings term for the 19th century struggle for Afghanistan will continue unabated.

James A. Phillips Senior Policy Analyst 14


James Phillips

Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation