In Afghan resistance, power shifts from politicians to fighters
Kunar Province, Afghanistan
Against a background of sporadic rocket and artillery exchanges, the Afghan resistance official reflected on whether his country's 10-year war was ending. ``If the Soviets withdraw, ... there is no doubt that the Kabul regime will fall. Maybe not immediately, but probably sometime next year,'' he said.Skip to next paragraph
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``But that's when our real problems start. A lot will depend on the [resistance] commanders inside. It may be much time before we have peace,'' the Afghan said.
Indeed, as more areas of Afghanistan come under resistance control, it is the guerrilla commanders, waging war inside the country, who seem to hold the key to the future. Until recently, the Afghan political parties, operating in exile in Peshawar, Pakistan, had been looked to for leadership and direction. Increasing numbers of Afghan civilians and guerrillas are, however, becoming disillusioned with the seven main parties. There are two basic reasons:
Leaders of the radical Islamic groups and the more moderate ones have not united on any goals or plans for a future government.
Instances of corruption among the political leaders have increased in recent years. Rank-and-file Afghan fighters and impoverished refugees resent the fact that some political leaders lead a comfortable existence - allegedly through skimming off foreign aid.
``The Peshawar politicians are simply out of touch with what is happening inside the country,'' says Patrick Brizay of the Paris-based Guilde du Raide, which aids Afghans. ``Only the local leaders are really aware of conditions in their own areas.''
And while the Pakistan-based parties vie among each other, jostling for power inside Afghanistan has also begun. Local and regional leaders are actively consolidating their positions. Some are creating administrative set ups, with a view to reconstruction; others are seeking to assert themselves as parochial warlords.
Observers expect leading commanders such as Ahmed Shah Massoud in the north, Ismail Khan in the west, Amin Wardak in the southeast, and Abdul Haq in the east to become more assertive. Most commanders are unlikely to relinquish their authority or weapons to a central government - whether it is entirely resistance-led or a coalition with the communists.
No matter what happens in Kabul, says experienced Swedish relief worker Anders Fange, ``the real power will lie, at least for the foreseeable future, with a vast mosaic of local and regional authorities'' - those who emerged during the war to replace the authority of the central government.
Opinions differ on whether the country will disintegrate further into a purely Afghan-vs.-Afghan war once the Soviets leave.
The ruling People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan has been plagued by bitter, sometimes bloody, factional strife ever since grabbing power in April 1978. On the resistance side, clashes have often erupted between guerrilla groups.
Still, some observers see Afghanistan developing into a federation of regions based on ethnic, tribal, and geographical considerations, similar to Yugoslavia.