Soviet terror and brutality inflicted upon the Afghan people seem to know no limits. From the start of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I have traveled six times with Afghan friends - Freedom Fighters - throughout the interior, distributing humanitarian supplies (food, clothing, educational materials, etc.). Recently, a Swiss friend and I traveled 1,000 miles on foot in the interior of Afghanistan, witnessing again the enormity of Soviet brutality.
Often I am asked the question ''Do the Soviets control Afghanistan? This question must be answered by both Yes and No.
The Soviets do control Afghanistan, in that they have installed an obedient puppet Afghan government. More effective, however, has been the unceasing military brutality focused daily against the entire Afghan countryside and population. This pressure has been so effective that it is bringing rapid deterioration to every aspect of life. This nearly total deterioration eliminates the ability of people to resist effectively. Some examples:
1. More than half of the pre-invasion population (approximately 17 million) has been forced to become refugees, either in another country or as internal refugees within Afghanistan.
2. In agricultural areas, one can see the deterioration both of quality and quantity of production. It is estimated that production is now less than 25 percent of what it was before the war. Poor-quality and disease-ridden crops are on the rise. Malnutrition and hunger are severe problems in many areas.
3. The enormous slaughter of animals through bombing raids has greatly reduced dairy production, the number of work animals, and fertilizer for the fields. The health of surviving animals has greatly deteriorated.
4. Daily random bombings and maiming and killing of children and civilians; destruction of schools, hospitals, and mosques; destruction of crop lands and irrigation systems; use of chemicals; burning of thousands of acres of forest; imprisonment and torture; increase of KHAD (KGB-trained) informers - all of these are only a part of a well-planned and methodically executed terrorism.
The Soviets do not control the hearts and minds of the great majority of Afghans; therefore, the Soviets do not control Afghanistan. Most Afghans in the interior have made a conscious, deliberate decision to remain and to fight, and to establish as much of a ''normal'' life as possible. Their decision to defend their freedom is based on their understanding that freedom is rightfully theirs.
We of the West could learn much from these brave people, if our attention focused on their integrity and character rather than on a land and culture we have never taken the time or interest to understand or appreciate.
Richard W. Smith is founder and director of Dignity of Man Foundation, a nonprofit educational corporation.