The Kremlin, still struggling in Afghanistan seven months after sending in troops, appears to be laying down a diplomatic justification for new military aid to Kabul.
The Soviet press is telling its readers that the Americans do not want a political settlement, that, in fact, Washington "is planning to intensify its interference" there.
Late reports of a big new Soviet arms buildup cannot be confirmed here. Nor can reports of an Afghan Army mutiny. But a number of Western diplomats familiar with Afghan terrain believe Moscow has little choice but to send in more and more troops.
"Soviet press reports always talk about the victorious Afghan Army," says one source, "but they often include rebel activities -- planting bombs, blowing up bridges, infiltrating cities.
"All this is seven months after troops first went in, and it's the cities the Soviets are supposed to be holding."
It is not known here whether Moscow is actively supporting the reported purby by leadr Babrak Karmal of the Khalq (People's) faction in favor of his own Parcham (Red Flag) faction of the Afghan Communist Party -- or whether the Soviets have much choice other than to agree to it.
All reports indicate the Soviets to be in deepening trouble.
Sources here diasgree with the reasoning of a Pentagon official in Washington July 28 who was reported as doubting that the Soviet planned to send in many more troops after the Olympic Games end Aug. 3.
The Pentagon source reportedly said Moscow wanted to avoid outside criticism on the eve of a conference on European security and cooperation in Madrid, and he said winter snows in Afghan mountains would start in October and hamper Soviet forces soon.
But sources here simply don't believe the Soviets would allow the Madrid conference to stand in the way of more troops if the troops were considered really necessary -- though they agree the Moscow Olympics may have delayed large new troop arrivals.
And one source says the Afghan snows do not come until late November, giving the Soviets more time to act than Washington apparently believes.
An article in the government newspaper Izvestia July 24 argued that Washington "does not want a political settlement." The United States, it said, had rejected proposals for a settlement, "inventing groundless arguments."
Izvestia referred to Afghan proposals of May 14, which called for a guarantee for the pro-Moscow government of Babrak Karmal before any talk of neutrality or a Soviet troop pullout could be considered.
The US position is that Soviet troops must come out first and only then can Afghan neutrality be talked about.
The Tass news agency went further July 25, saying Washington planned more aid to the Afghan rebels. It cited a debate in the US press about the need for aid. Washington's strategy, it said, was to have the rebels set up a provisional government in one area of Afghanistan, then send it aid.
Sources here see no indication Moscow is prepared to budge on the Afghan issue during the US election campaign, and perhaps not later, until its lack of progress might force it to reconsider. But it took the US from about 1964 until 1968 to swing around on Vietnam, and the war did not end until years after that. The Soviet leaders have no public opinion to consider, no nightly TV scenes of the fighting, and no ocean to cross.