The Soviet invasion of this Central Asian country was a "walkover." Western diplomats and military analysts here in the capital, Kabul, generally agree on that assessment.
The Soviet troops, they say, seem to have brought the situation in urban Afghanistan under their control -- at least for the time being. And these sources confirm that fighting in the provinces with Afghan rebels and armny units already appears to be dying down.
"There is hardly any resistance," says one senior military analyst. "The Soviets have moved into the border regions; for the moment, there is practically no insurgence left."
Military sources put the total number of Soviet troops in Afghanistan at 60, 000 -- adding up to six mechanized divisions. However, at an estimated cost of "anything up to $10 million a day," the Soviet buildup is continuing. "There could easily be 85,000 Soviet troops here within four to five days," one senior analyst said.
As of this writing Jan. 9, a massive airlift appeared to be under way at Kabul airport. It was unclear whether the Soviets were flying personnel and material in or whether they were pulling some back home.
The soviet soldiers are said to be mainly of Central Asian origin. Western diplomats tend to believe that 40 percent from the Soviet contingent is from Tadzhikistan, 25 percent from Uzbekistan, 25 percent from Turkmenistan, and only 10 percent from European parts of the Soviet Union.
Although active resistance to the Soviet presence appears to have died down, Soviet troops stationed on the hills to the northeast of Kabul do have their guns pointed at an Afghan military camp below them. And several Afghan units have been disarmed.
"There are probably more Soviet troops than loyal afghan troops in this country," comments one senior Western diplomat. Over the past six months the Afghan Army is thought to have shrunk in numbers from 90,000 men to nearer 65, 000, due to desertion.
"The change of government here was incidental," says one diplomat, referring to the already crumbling Afghan regime. "They [the Soviets] didn't need to send divisions to Kabul to change the government."
The invasion of Afghanistan, however, broadens the military options of the Soviet Union, should the United States decide to intervene in Iran. Furthermore , it provides the Soviet Union with a base at a time when, and in a vital area where, the United States is having difficulties.
The question among Western diplomats and military analysts in Kabul is what the Soviets will do once they have completed their military buildup in Afghanistan.
"The effect of the coup is still building up on the Afghan rebels," one analyst says. "If china and the United states really mean business, it won't take long before something crops up." According to these observers, Soviets troops will have to crush any insurgency because "the Afghans can't do it themselves."
"They [the Soviets] obviously have an optimistic approach to their own ability," one military expert says.
Much will depend on what the United States and Pakistan do and how Iran plans to handle the occupation of the Us Embassy in Tehran.
"It is a frightful scenario," one Western diplomat says. "Iran is trying to call the bluff that Carter will have to do something militarily. But even if, by wishful thinking, all these problems are solved, the Soviets are not going to pull back. they have come here to stay."
On the surface of it here, meanwhile, everything seems to be quiet in the snow-covered capital. The soviets attempt to keep a low profile. Nevertheless, they did deem it necessary to stage a massive show of force on Jan. 8 by driving 26 T-72 tanks and 40 armored personnel carriers through Kabul.
Observers point to the fact that random attacks on soviet soldiers have ceased. No Soviets have been killed in Kabul sice Jan. 2. Western diplomats, however, do cite a series of violent incidents between Afghans and Soviets in the period from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2:
* On Dec. 31 a group of Afghans in their early teens hurled rocks at Soviet soldiers on patrol in a residential settlement in the northwest sector of Kabul, where the soviets have established their most important base camp. Several older Afghans joined in the scuffles and beat two Soviets to death. the Soviets retaliated by machine-gunning 12 of the Afghan assailants.
* a young Afghan killed a Soviet soldier on Jan. 1 by hitting him with a heavy rock. Soviets in the vicinity shot the attacker when he reached for his victim's machine gun.
* Two Soviet advisers were knifed to death in the southwest part of Kabul on Jan. 2 by an Afghan butcher. The advisers had had a bitter argument with the butcher about the price he charged for the meat the Soviets wanted to buy.
* a number of Afghanis are said to have been killed in car accidents with Soviet armored vehicles travelling at high speed. These vehicles never stop to render assistance or investigate what has happened.