Afghan resistance leaders strive for unity to battle Soviet occupation

Leaders of Afghanistan's seven major guerrilla organizations, despite repeated setbacks in the past, have agreed to further consolidate their alliance as a first step in creating a resistance government. Earlier this year, the exiled Peshawar-based parties -- not including those from Afghanistan's central Hazarajat region -- established a joint military committee, with each leader chairing the alliance on a three-month revolving basis.

At a press conference Thursday in this border city, present chairman Hekmatyar Gulbuddin, leader of the Hezb-e Inqilab-e Islam-e Afghanistan resistance group, announced the formation of new resistance committees. He said these committees, ranging from political to educational, are being set up in order to ``coordinate the jihad [holy war] against the Russian invaders and their Afghan lackeys.''

``This alliance is already in the shape of a mujahed [guerrilla] government representing the Afghan people. It will strengthen our demands for . . . the Afghan seat at the United Nations and Afghan embassies abroad,'' said Gulbuddin.

Gulbuddin stressed that the political parties still had to decide on the precise form of such a government. He also indicated that the resistance would seek to establish such an administration on ``liberated'' Afghan soil rather than in exile.

``For this we will require a proper antiaircraft system in order to defend ourselves. We don't possess such weaponry at the moment,'' he added.

Afghan resistance alliances are not a new phenomenon in Peshawar. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the parties have formed alliances or united fronts several times. But these alliances have always split into so-called ``moderate'' and ``fundamentalist'' factions, or collapsed in disagreement.

The resistance of the ``interior'' -- as the 300-odd guerrilla fronts operating inside Afghanistan are known -- has also suffered from internecine strife. In the past, Gulbuddin's party has been accused by other parties of being responsible for much of this infighting. Questioned about such incidents, Gulbuddin admitted that certain commanders were harming the jihad. ``We strongly condemn such actions and appropriate disciplinary measures will be discussed by the military committee,'' he said.

While observers have expressed skepticism about the success of the present alliance, the Peshawar-based leaders seem aware that the need for unity is vital if the mujahideen are to survive.

Fighting this year has been more brutal than ever. In some regions -- despite resistance denials -- the Soviets are known to have made considerable headway because of superior firepower, improved tactics, and better troops. The mujahideen have also lost many experienced and hard-to-replace commanders.

In what is perhaps an indication that the present alliance could prove more constructive than previous efforts, spokesmen among the different parties have been careful to stress guerrilla cooperation and unity.

Gulbuddin, in particular, appears to have dropped some of his earlier antagonisms and has been cultivating a more respectable resistance image. He has made several trips into the interior this year and has energetically used his chairmanship to get more foreign support.

Some interior commanders say the alliance is ``a good thing'' but are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. ``It is still to early to tell,'' said one from Nangarhar province.

Gulbuddin said that the new alliance has sought to correct problems experienced by previous unification efforts.

``We realized the need of establishing a strong military and political front with a single official spokesman,'' he said. ``This is the first time that such a concept has been accepted by all of us. But you must remember that we are a war-torn country and it is very difficult to make things 100 percent perfect.''

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