Guerrillas and refugees wage war on their own disunity. Resistance mounts rare show of unity, vows to fight on
The rejection by Afghan guerrilla leaders of a unilateral cease-fire proposed by the Moscow-backed Kabul regime has resulted in continued - if not heightened - resistance to the Soviet occupation. According to reports from Kabul and Peshawar, the mujahideen, as the resistance fighters are known, have attacked several government and Soviet Army positions since the cease-fire began Jan. 15. Government forces, for their part, have reportedly been involved in operations against mujahed positions in Kandahar, Paktia, and other regions.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Reports filtering in from the interior's war zones suggest that the guerrillas are stepping up their activities to demonstrate their disdain for the Soviet-Afghan truce. ``We had three reports of heavy fighting from Nangrahar and two in Paktia within hours of the announced cease-fire,'' said Professor Sayed Madjruh of the Peshawar-based Afghan Information Center, which closely monitors the war, in a telephone interview.
On the weekend of Jan. 17-18, leaders of Afghanistan's seven-party resistance alliance held a mass rally in a Peshawar sports field; as many as 100,000 refugees and guerrillas attended. Rarely have the guerrilla leaders, who have suffered from often bitter ideological differences since the early days of the war, appeared together as a symbol of unity - and never before in front of such a mass audience. Their united public stand was meant to be a vivid affirmation of their resolve to continue fighting until the Soviets withdraw.
The Moscow-Kabul move is seen by many as a ploy to strengthen Kabul's position and further divide the mujahideen. Some resistance sources privately acknowledge that the move has already given the Kremlin a political advantage.
Moscow may be sincere in its wishes to withdraw from Afghanistan, experienced observers in Paris and London say. But most agree that the initiative is part of a subtle propaganda push to make the mujahideen appear intransigent. They see Moscow as trying to improve its bargaining position for the Feb. 11 UN-sponsored indirect talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The main stumbling block at the UN-sponsored Geneva ``proximity'' talks on Afghanistan is the Kremlin's demand for a four-year timetable for the withdrawal of its estimated 115,000-strong force. In return, Moscow argues, the United States, China, and others must halt their support for the resistance, who are supplied primarily through Pakistan and to a lesser degree, Iran. Although the Soviets have indicated a willingness to reduce this to three or even two years, most guerrilla leaders demand a much shorter withdrawal period. Pakistan has called for six months.
At the recent weekend rally, the seven leaders rejected the offer of Kabul leader, Mohammad Najibullah, to join a coaltion government of ``national reconciliation.'' Resistance sources say the Kabul regime is not in a position to call the shots. ``The communists know ... we would chase them out as soon as the Russians leave,'' said one alliance spokesman.
The guerrillas refuse to participate in any administration that includes communists. Instead, they have announced the formation of a commission to draft laws for an ``interim government,'' which will assume power as soon as the Soviets are ``thrown out.'' The 14-member commission, which includes two representatives from each party, also appointed an Islamic court to resolve disputes within the alliance.
Despite the guerrilla brush off, Dr. Najib, as the Afghan leader is commonly called, said that he would forge ahead with his policy of ``national reconciliation.'' He called the alliance leaders reckless ``warmongers'' and claimed they were showing ``complete disregard for the people's desire [for] peace.''