Afghan Mood Is Grim As Residents Lament Bitter Year of Siege

A LETTER FROM KABUL

STANDING at his office window, the Afghan doctor watched the spring rain brighten the capital with flowers and greenery. ``I thought this would be the last year of the war,'' he said. ``But now it's spring again, and I just don't know anymore.''

One year after the Soviet Army left Afghanistan, residents are disillusioned with the way Afghans have turned on each other.

Resentment is still strong against the Soviets for their decade-long occupation and the Americans for supplying rebel rockets that pound the city.

But conversations also carry a note of despair that the country will be able to settle peacefully its troubles once Afghanistan is left to the Afghans.

``Our brothers are our enemies,'' said a merchant after a guerrilla rocket attack on the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, killed dozens of people. ``Afghanistan is gone. Afghanistan is gone.''

After a year of siege, Kabul residents say the recent coup attempt against President Najibullah has injected new uncertainty. Hundreds of people have been rounded up in a security sweep. The crackdown recalled the secret police reign of terror a decade ago, when people would disappear for meeting a non-Afghan.

Now many people, who fear rocket attacks by day and listen to the roar of outgoing Soviet-made missiles by night, worry that a new rebel spring offensive is in the offing.

``Many people are very uneasy because of this coup,'' a Kabul University professor says. ``Don't we already have enough problems?''

Despite the bleak political outlook, business is brisk. Kabul's traders who risk attacks by rebels and robbers to fill the market with outdated Japanese electronics and Soviet-made watches say they've never had it so good.

Traders say that intense fighting in Jalalabad and Khost and escalating guerrilla pressure on southern trade routes is having some impact as prices of some commodities inch higher. Still, because of milder weather, prices have eased from the soaring levels of last year's brutal winter.

The thriving money market slumped briefly after the coup attempt, only to rebound when the government steadied.

``The economy and investment in Kabul is much better than before the [1978 Marxist] revolution,'' a banker says. ``The government makes life for traders very easy.''

Afghans ask anxiously about prospects for a settlement that would end the American and Soviet arms flow to Afghanistan.

``We are poor. We have always suffered as a crossroads of conquerors,'' says a teacher who favors the return of the deposed King Zahir Shah from exile in Rome. ``I hope America will sit down and look for ways to stop sending these rockets.''

However, the teacher said she has no suggestions on how to break the political deadlock among Afghans. ``Politics has always been a bit frightening in Afghanistan,'' she said. ``In this situation, no one trusts anyone.''

An Afghan office worker, who lost his young son in the war, says people are weary and want to end the fighting. He said he wants Najib (as the president is known) to be forced out and favors a rebel government in Kabul. Still, he says he's disenchanted with the bickering Afghan political parties in Pakistan.

``When America sends aid, there is something for the government of Pakistan and these parties, but nothing arrives for the people of Afghanistan,'' he said. ``We need medicine, food, and education. We need to find some good honest Afghan people to help this country.''

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