Najibullah Calls on Pakistan, US to Back Negotiations on Afghanistan
RUNNING OUT OF TIME
THE Afghan government will be closely watching the visit to Washington of Pakistan's Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto this week. In Pakistan - conduit for foreign aid to Afghan rebels and host to more than 3 million refugees - Ms. Bhutto has called for new efforts to find a political settlement.Skip to next paragraph
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``I take as a good omen the utterances of Pakistan's prime minister, and I hope they will be materialized in political actions,'' President Najibullah said in a half-hour interview last week at Kabul's presidential palace.
Even as he charged that Pakistan has launched a ``naked aggression'' against Afghanistan, Najibullah was guardedly optimistic that new efforts may be in the offing to find a political solution to the 10-year Afghan conflict.
So far, Pakistan and the United States continue to endorse and underwrite the military campaign of the Afghan mujahideen to topple the Kabul regime. Heavy fighting in the Afghan cities of Jalalabad and Khost last week brought a new onslaught of rebel rockets on the Afghan capital and sent Afghan fighter aircraft screaming across the skies above Kabul.
In the interview, the Afghan leader called on US and Pakistani officials ``to revise their approach to the political situation in Afghanistan.''
``I think the developments since the completion of the withdrawal of Soviet troops provide good grounds for rethinking the actions of these countries,'' he said.
Soviet arms pouring in since the final Soviet troop withdrawal in February have enabled the Army to hold the major cities.
Last week an armored column of more than 600 tanks, ammunition trucks, and personnel carriers rumbled through Kabul, gunning engines, swirling dust, and stopping traffic. In this mile-high capital surrounded by stark gray crags, the display was not without impact.
``Najibullah is showing his strength,'' a bystander said. While the recent show of force underscores Najibullah's staying power to date, his government is under growing strain.
Soviet leaders, whose economic problems at home gave urgency to the troop pullout, are increasingly worried about the high cost of resupplying ammunition and replacement equipment, sources say. Facing declining influence with Najibullah and in Afghanistan, the Soviets would be willing to let Najibullah fall in exchange for peace, observers here say.
Najibullah, who came to power in 1986, is pushing hard for a negotiated end to the decade-old war between his pro-Soviet government and Islamic guerrillas.
He has called for a cease-fire, urged the drafting of a new constitution, and pledged to step aside for a new coalition government chosen in elections.
Recently, frustrations over the military and political deadlock in Afghanistan and worries that the civil war could ignite a regional conflict have stirred some momentum for a diplomatic solution.
Afghan officials hope Bhutto's recent dismissal of the powerful chief of Pakistan's military intelligence will lead to a softening of Islamabad's attitude toward Afghanistan.
Other backers of the Afghan guerrillas, or mujahideen, also are easing away from past support for a military victory by the rebels. China plans to halt weapons supplies to the guerrillas, while Iran - host to 2 million Afghan refugees - is taking steps to strike its own deal with Kabul, Afghan and foreign officials here say.