Afghan capital: training ground for anti-Soviet guerrilla warfare and how to steal weapons, defector says
New Delhi — Afghnistan's capital city of Kabul has become a virtual training center for urban guerrillas. They learn not only ambush tactics but also such useful skills as how to ride motorbikes to get away from the scenes of their attacks.
Among the "trainers" is a young former Afghan Army officer who defected to the antigovernment insurgents a month after Soviet troops invaded his country late last December.
In Delhi on a mission he would not disclose, speaking under the admittedly false name of Muhammad Sheriff, the former Army lieutenant related to journalists his role in training and coordinating small rebel groups inside and north of Kabul. He predicted the capital city would see "many sensational happenings," such as assassinations and explosions with in the next three months.
"Sheriff" spoke with relish of the assassinations and attacks he and his colleagues had staged. They included what he called the "execuation" of an Afghan Army officer in a Kabul ambush a week ago, the killing of five Russian soldiers on a bridge outside of Kabul a month and a half ago, and the successful destruction of a Russian tank and jeep by rocket- launcher and heavy machine-gun fire in a road ambush north of Kabul.
Although his accounts of individual attacks cannot be independently confirmed , they coincide with Western diplomatic reports of increasing rebel raids in and around Kabul.
The city's nightly curfew was extended by two hours this week, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., due to the stepped-up tempo of urban attacks, according to diplomatic sources. Firing is heard nightly in the city, the sources say, and military vehicles and Russian troops have noticeably increased their movements through town.
Their reports follow numerous previous accounts of Afghan villagers pouring into the capital in large numbers in the wake of heavy Soviet bombardments of villages suspected of aiding the insurgents. The villages now outnumber Kabul's native population, according to Sheriff.
His accounts of teaching young men to adapt their clothing and hair styles to city norms and teaching them to ride motorbikes indicates that many villagers are joining the ranks of city-bred urban terrorists battling the Soviets and the Russian-backed government of Babrak Karmal.
Mr. Karmal is currently in the Soviet Union on his first official visit since Soviet troops installed him in power. Diplomats believe the Soviets will use the occasion to promote the legitimacy of Karmal's government and his stature as a leader in control of his country.
Sheriff, who said he flew out of Kabul on a false passport, contended he belonged to "a group of nationalists" -- which he could not identify -- who work among small rebel groups as catalysts and coordinators. "We have a very specific motive and it's the liberation of Afghanistan," he said.
He said his group works with some 2,000 "cells" in and north of Kabul. Each city cell consists of 10 to 15 people, he said. Throughout the contry, he estimated, about 40,000 people are organized into such small circles.
"Our weapons are manufactured in the Russian factories," he added. Through the tactics we have developed in Afghanistan, we are very successful in getting our weapons from the Russians. This may sound exaggerated, but believe me, with one piece of hashish we are able to take so many weapons." He contended that young Afghans get Russians soldiers high on the drug and then take their weapons.
Sheriff also claimed that in some incidents earlier this year, Russian soldiers "with the same features as Afghans" -- a reference to troops from the Soviet Union's Central Asian republics -- had refused to fight the rebels and turned over their weapons to them. He said his group has purchased Egyptian-made weapons near Darra, a town in Pakistan famous for gun manufacturing.
The Army defector said his group spurns aid from foreign groups and governments because it suspectts strings are attached. Laughing that its financing "mostly comes from the government," he related how a robbery had netted $250,000 meant as salaries for workers in government textile mills.
In another incident he related, a party of five rebels relieved the French cultural center in Kabul of its typewriters, duplicating machines, stationery, and a telex machine. "Don't be angry," he grinned. "We needed it very badly." The telex was taken, he added, because the thieves did not know what it was.
Sheriff said he was an Army officer for three years before he defected. He was second in command of a 200- to 300-man infantry u nit at Guldara when he and 20 of his men joined the rebels, taking with them their light machine guns, Kalash