Again and Again, May God Forgive Us
The New American
February 15, 1988
On December 15, 1987, the Mujahideen captured 500 DRA (Afghan Communist) loyalists in a victorious operation against a Soviet-controlled garrison in Baghlan province -- the fifth Communist-controlled garrison to be toppled by the Mujahideen forces in the nine months since their receipt of U.S. Stinger missiles. On October 29, 1987 the Afghan Mujahideen had succeeded in a major operation against Soviet and DRA forces. The capture of the Keran garrison and elimination of the Communist presence in the Munjan valley of the northern province of Badakhshan was an important achievement for the freedom fighters in 1987. The fighting lasted only an hour and forty minutes and ended in the capture of 566 DRA loyalists, important documents revealing informers, and a large amount of armaments and supplies. Located on a strategic supply route for the Mujahideen, the Keran garrison was a stronghold for DRA forces since it was captured by Communists in 1981.
In June 1987, the Mujahideen carried out "Operation Avalanche" which resulted in 800 Soviet casualties. In the surprise attack directed by Commander Rahim Wardak, the Mujahideen fired bazookas at garrisons along the strategic road linking Kabul with Jalalabad, causing the soldiers to take cover inside the fortresses. Incendiary devices were then fired into the garrisons forcing the soldiers out and into rebel fire. During the operation, 133 convoy vehicles were trapped on the same road and fired upon with armor-piercing missiles, while Stingers were used against Soviet aircraft that responded to the attack.
These successful operations exemplify the improved coordination of the freedom fighters in attacks against the Soviets. A year ago the Mujahideen were prevented from travelling on much of the land during daylight hours because of the Soviet's domination of the skies. But the delivery of the U.S. Stinger missiles in April 1987 has helped the freedom fighters gain valuable ground from the Red Army. In 1978, when resistance to Communist forces in Afghanistan began, the Mujahideen possessed little more than Molotov cocktails and pre-WWI Lee Enfield rifles, but today they are inflicting heavy damage on sophisticated Soviet weaponry. The dominant problem the Mujahideen have faced is lack of defense from Soviet air attack. With the receipt of anti-aircraft Stingers, however, they are challenging Soviet occupation with an average of 1.2 downed Soviet aircraft per day. A victorious free Afghanistan could have a tremendous effect on anti-Communist resistance movements world-wide. A successful Afghan resistance could start the dominos falling in the opposite direction.
Moreover, despite Afghan Communist leader Najibullah's latest propaganda campaign of national reconciliation and cease fire, the Afghans have won a number of political victories on their own, the latest being the defection of Najib's younger brother, Sidiqullah, to the forces of rebel Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud. Massoud, Commander of the Mujahideen forces in the Panjshir valley, has been a bulwark against Soviet aggression in that region for the past nine years. The defection of Sidiqullah is a source of personal embarrassment for Najib, who has desperately sought to legitimize his regime by claiming that his government is thoroughly Islamic, even though he was known for his criticism of religion during his early days at Kabul University. Since that time, Najib has added to his name the ullah that means "of God." The defection of his own brother can only harm his campaign.
There were also unconfirmed reports that the brother of Noor Mohammed Taraki, the first Communist to take power in Afghanistan in a violent coup in 1978, had also surrendered to the Mujahideen. Anahita Ratebzad, the woman who set out with former president Babrak Karmal to bring Communism to Afghanistan in the 1960s and 70s, now works with the Mujahideen Alliance. Red Army defections have been increasing as well; between 1980 and 1982 there were only 34 known defections of Soviet soldiers to the Mujahideen, but between 1983 and 1986 there were 843 known defections, and in just the first six months of 1987 there were 350 defections. Among Afghan DRA forces, about 50 percent are actively working with Mujahideen. Because most of them have been forcibly conscripted, many under the age of 17, the defection rate among Afghan soldiers ran at about 80 to 90 percent at the beginning of the invasion, many returning with Mujahideen to capture whole weapons arsenals. Now, many remain with DRA forces only to act as double agents for Mujahideen to uncover informers and orchestrate attacks. Suffering low morale, Soviet and puppet DRA troops sell their weapons and ammunition for hashish and opium and often shoot their officers in the back during battles.
One Afghan boasted recently in a Wall Street Journal article, "The world thinks the Russians cannot be conquered. But we've been fighting them for eight years and we know they're nothing. They only have more modern weapons." Now if we could only get the American government to stop aiding the Soviet Union and their puppet regime in Kabul!
Reagan Vows To Halt Afghan Aid
With U.S. Stinger and British Blowpipe anti-aircraft missiles, the Afghans could surely make strategic gains against the Soviets, if not win the war. Historically, the Afghans have never been defeated or ruled by a foreign power. In 1919, the Afghans were the first people to defeat the British Army, foiling an attempt by Great Britain to colonize the country.
The U.S. administration has done little more than provide lip service to the Afghan Mujahideen Alliance based in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Reagan administration, despite its rhetoric concerning the heroic freedom fighters, has yet to offer diplomatic recognition of the Afghan Alliance, thus depriving them of a place in the Geneva negotiations and thereby minimizing their political clout in the international arena. The latest and probably the most decisive move by the Reagan administration toward the Afghan freedom fighters has been the pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev during the INF negotiations in December to halt the trickle of U.S. aid to the Afghan Mujahideen. According to the Boston Globe of December 14, 1987, Mr. Reagan "reconfirmed the US commitments, which include a pledge of noninterference in Afghanistan's internal affairs -- understood by 'all' sides to include an end to providing military supplies to the Afghan anti-communist resistance ... apparently in an attempt to clear up confusion caused by President Reagan's (earlier) comments suggesting there would be no such cutoff." Just two days before, when asked in an interview with Congressional Quarterly if he would make a commitment not to supply the Mujahideen if the Soviets agreed to withdraw from Afghanistan, Mr. Reagan said:
I don't think we could do anything of that kind because the puppet government that has been left there has a military and it would be the same as what I'm arguing about with regard to Nicaragua. You can't suddenly disarm them and leave them prey to the other government ... the people of Afghanistan must be assured of the right of all of them to participate in establishing the government they want, and that requires more than just getting his forces out of there.
During a recent tour through Indochina, Afghan Communist leader Najibullah stated on a Vietnamese television broadcast: "Today the policy of national reconciliation is the way forward for some countries such as Cambodia, Nicaragua, Angola, Ethiopia and so on who are fighting for revolutionary transformation, independence and territorial integrity." All of the countries he mentioned are currently under Soviet-backed Communist domination. He added: "[T]his new way of thinking will appear as a norm in relations between people." The elements of the policy of "national reconciliation" include negotiated ends to guerrilla conflicts, withdrawal of foreign troops, and establishment of a coalition government. An open letter from the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was published in the New York Times in February 1987 calling for national reconciliation and urging native Afghans to return to their homeland "regardless of their previous political views, grudges and hostilities" in order to bring legitimacy to the Communist puppet regime and help rebuild the country in accordance with Marxist-Leninist principles. The policy is not limited to Afghanistan, but is being applied to all developing nations presently under Communist domination.
On January 10, 1988, Secretary of State George Shultz confirmed the U.S. intention to cut off aid to the Mujahideen and seemingly endorsed the Soviet campaign of "national reconciliation." "We would presume that, as a part of that agreement (of a Soviet timetable for military withdrawal), military supplies would stop going in there," he said. "What we want to see is the people of Afghanistan, through a process of 'national reconciliation' take control of their own destiny." Shultz added: "We would do our part to see an Afghanistan which rules itself ... an Afghanistan that is not in any way aligned with us as a military matter..."
Background to Betrayal
During the initial invasion of Soviet troops on December 27, 1979, lines of communication, roads, and media were immediately severed. Kabul was isolated from the rest of the world, while Soviet troops -- disguised as Afghan Army soldiers -- engaged in a bloody shoot-out at the Presidential Palace that lasted five hours and resulted in the assassination of Afghan President Hafezullah Amin. Babrak Karmal, exiled in Czechoslovakia, was then installed as the new President. Karmal promptly issued a statement that under Article 4 of the Soviet-Afghan Treaty of Friendship Goodneighborliness and Cooperation, the government of Afghanistan had called upon the Soviet Union to provide "urgent political, moral and economic aid, including military aid" in order to protect the Communist revolution and help combat the "provocation of external enemies." These external enemies were purported to be American and Chinese forces, and Soviet soldiers entered Afghanistan believing that they would be combatting American and Chinese forces, rather than bombing villages filled with Afghan women and children.
1987 marked a heightened propaganda campaign toward Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, as well as within Afghanistan by the Communist regime. Probably not so coincidentally, 1987 was the first in eight years of bloodshed that Western media paid any real attention to the Afghan-Soviet war. Gorbachev lamented that Afghanistan had become a "bleeding wound." Meanwhile, Western media sources were drawing parallels between the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The conflict in Afghanistan, however, is no Soviet Vietnam. The Kremlin has initiated no effort to "win the hearts and minds" of the Afghan people, instead pursuing a policy of scorched earth designed to drive all opposition to Communist rule out of the country. The Soviets have been drawing a reported 95 percent of the country's natural gas resources to fuel the Soviet war on the remaining Afghan population or to sell to Western Europe.
In the words of Senior Soviet official Yuri Gankovsky: "We are paid for everything we are sending to Afghanistan. All of our expenses are paid by Afghanistan ... There is a giant gas field in the northern part of (the country), by supplying the gas they are paying for everything. Afghanistan is also supplying agricultural products such as fruit, skins, and cotton." The payment for these commodities is deducted from the Kabul regime's interest payments on their outstanding debt for Soviet military aid. Moscow has also confiscated without compensation large quantities of minerals, including uranium.
World condemnation of the Soviet invasion has been faint and desultory; the United States has maintained relations with the puppet regime in Kabul, in 1986 selling them $7.3 million worth of chemicals and aircraft parts; and there has been little internal condemnation of the Soviet involvement in the war. With all of these reprehensible acts committed by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan alone, not to mention the heinous human rights violations committed against the Soviet people themselves, it is apparent that the conciliatory policy toward the Soviet Union adopted by the United States is incongruent with the principles of Americanism. During the past few weeks in particular, the Reagan Administration has bent over backwards to please the Soviets. During an interview in December 1987, Mr. Reagan was asked if he agreed with Mr. Gorbachev's contention that the Soviet troops were invited into Afghanistan in December 1979. Mr. Reagan's answer: "Well, you must remember that there were other leaders under which this happened. He inherited that. And those leaders are the ones who had created the puppet government. Whether he knows that -- to what extent they did that -- I don't know."
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Michael H. Armacost (CFR) is presently in charge of negotiating an Afghan settlement with Pakistani leaders, who have recently been put under a great deal of pressure to acquiesce to Soviet demands. In addition, Diego Cordovez, United Nations Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, visited Moscow in December 1987 in order to negotiate an Afghan settlement. The New York Times reported on December 31, 1987: "In recent months Mr. Cordovez, with tacit American and Soviet support, has been urging the various guerrilla groups as well as the exiled Afghan King, Mohammed Zahir Shah, to start preparing a broad-based coalition government of national reconciliation that would give Moscow reassurances it needs before removing its forces." Industrialist Armand Hammer, acting as a self-appointed diplomat between Kabul and Moscow, has been lobbying for Shah to resume his position as Afghan leader. In a brief interview given to the New York Times in a Moscow restaurant, Hammer said "he hoped to persuade the major parties in the conflict to accept a coalition government with the participation of the country's former King, Mohammed Zahir Shah." The "three major parties" that Hammer referred to are "President Reagan, Mikhail S. Gorbachev and President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan." No mention was made of the Afghan Mujahideen Alliance.
Living in near-seclusion on the outskirts of Rome since 1973, Zahir Shah has refrained from speaking out in condemnation of the atrocities committed against his countrymen for the past nine years. The 73-year-old King has been previously condemned by Mujahideen groups as leading the way to international agreements and treaties with the Soviets that eventually set the stage for the invasion. Despite this fact, Zahir Shah has emerged as a key figure in efforts to negotiate a Soviet withdrawal from his country. Shah ruled the country for 40 years, until 1978, when his brother-in-law and cousin, General Mohammed Daoud, staged a coup while Shah was in Italy for medical treatment. Daoud was Afghanistan's first openly Communist President, and it was his brazen policy of removing religious books from school curricula that enraged the Afghan people and led them to take up arms in defense of their Islamic beliefs.
The plan for an interim government, which is a Soviet precondition to an agreement for troop withdrawal, would include the King. However, it is highly likely that Zahir Shah would serve in much the same way that the Royal family of Great Britain serves. On November 29, 1987 Najibullah approved a new Afghan Constitution creating an all-powerful post of president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces endowed with sweeping "emergency powers." This is the plan for a coalition government for which the Mujahideen are to lay down their arms, and which the United States has approved as representative of the Afghan people.
In the words of conservative columnist Don Feder: "Now Gorby and his Afghan Gunga Din want the West to hand them the victory they've been denied on the battlefield, and we are asked to thank Moscow in the bargain, to view the scheme as further evidence of Soviet beneficence." Just as timely is the writing of Robert Welch, founder of The John Birch Society, in his book, Again, May God Forgive Us. In it he lamented:
America was long looked to as the light of the world; a land and a people of happiness and strength; a nation that had for itself, and promoted for others wherever its influence reached, justice and honor and decency and freedom. The remembrance of that light dies slowly, even when it can no longer be seen. Today in Poland, in China, in Czecho-Slovakia, in numberless areas behind the Iron Curtain, there are millions of families -- like yours and mine -- which have been decimated, starved, and frightened into abject submission; but which still cling to the dream that presently, maybe even next week or next year, the United States is going to come, in all its beneficent majesty, to rescue them from the inhuman tyranny which owns them now. In their moments of greatest misery or despair they ask the question: "When will the Americans come?" The Americans, unfortunately, all of us, are busy playing our little games; while our government, far from worrying about how the Iron Curtain might ever be lifted, is frequently lending a hand -- as to Mao in China -- to those who are trying to bring down another section of the curtain to swallow up another piece of the globe.