Internal rivalry complicates task of Afghan resistance

Afghanistan's seven-party resistance alliance had a single leader to represent it in New York this week, as the UN General Assembly met to debate the now routine condemnation of Moscow's continued occupation of this ``nonaligned,'' third-world country. (The assembly Tuesday condemned the invasion by 123 votes to 19.) But the alliance's apparent unity remains a reluctant if not cynical compromise. It took more than just a bit of last-minute arm-twisting by Pakistan's President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq to persuade the parties-in-exile to stop bickering and appoint an overall spokesman. The man they chose is the eldest and perhaps least inspiring of seven: Maulvi Younis Khales of the Hezb-e-Islami, one of two fundamentalist parties bearing the same name.

Once known as the ``fighting mullah'' for his willingness to battle the Soviets, Mr. Khales is now considered to have lost much of his verve. Few expect any vibrant changes under his chairmanship.

The Reagan administration, which has supported the alliance through massive military and humanitarian aid since 1985, would like it to emerge as a workable political alternative to the Soviet-backed Kabul regime.

But, as certain Western observers and aid officials here in Pakistan point out, the Peshawar alliance will have a lot of proving to do before it can hope to act as a genuine representative body for the Afghan resistance.

``Any effective resistance body has got to include everyone, the Peshawar parties [and] the resistance of the interior,'' says one West European aid director, who has traveled inside Afghanistan. ``Now, the US is trying to artificially prop an organization that is simply not responding to the needs of the interior.''

Many guerrilla commanders affiliated with the alliance, but fighting inside Afghanistan, say the parties have grown increasingly corrupt as aid pours in. ``They are losing touch with the realities of the war [and] forgetting their own people,'' an angry commander says.

The Peshawar leaders, anxious to retain their power bases, use aid to control the inside groups. Some, particularly fundamentalist leaders, owe their existence largely to Pakistani political backing and financial support by Saudi Arabian and Gulf Wahhabi (orthodox Muslims).

Personal jealousies often prevent logistical support reaching good but out-of-favor commanders. Peshawar parties fear some commanders, such as Ahmed Shah Massoud and Ismail Khan, are becoming too big for their boots. Over the years, both men have coordinated different fronts into loose but effective regional alliances.

``There is a strong possibility,'' says a Western observer recently back from Afghanistan, ``that these resistance councils could develop into effective political bodies ... They are popular with the people, because the people can judge them by what they achieve.''

Mr. Girardet has covered Afghanistan, from the inside and outside, since before the 1979 invasion.

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