Afghanistan marked the third anniversary April 27 of its first Marxist coup, but more than one-fifth of its population was not on hand to attend, deride, or ignore the official celebrations.
While the military paraded in Kabul to commemorate the Saur (April) revolution of 1978, some 1.8 million Afghan refugees registered by the United Nations sat out the event in camps in Pakistan. Another 300,000 to 500,000, passed the time in neighboring Iran. And scattered throughout Europe, the United States, and India were still more Afghan exiles, estimated at 100,000 to 200,000.
Population control was hardly high up on Nur Muhammad Taraki's agenda when he seized power in Afghanistan's first pro-Soviet military coup three years ago. But two more coups, a Soviet troop invasion, and an ongoing bloody insurgency later, it has turned out to be a major byproduct of the Saur revolution.
Afghanistan statistics are notoriously unreliable, and there are no firm estimates of how many Afghans have died battling for or against the Taraki government, the short succeeding regime of Hafizullah Amin, and the current Babrak Karmal government installed by Soviet troops in December 1979.
Muhammad Siddiq Farhang, a legislator, ambassador, and planning official in pre-communist Afghan governments and more recently an economic adviser to Karmal , estimates that half a million Afghans have died in the fighting and in intraparty purges and assassinations since April 1978.
Three years into the revolution, the insurgents continue to deny the Kabul government control of anything more than the main towns and roads -- and those, often, in daylight hours only. The ruling People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan remains wracked with dissension between Karmal's Parcham faction and the Khalq wing headed by Amin until his execution -- by unknown hand and method --
The 85,000 Soviet troops, ostensibly sent in to help the Afghan Army secure the revolution against the resistance, have had to assume most of the fighting as the Army dwindled by two-thirds through desertions and defections. The resistance now appears more confident, better armed, and better prepared to deal with the Soviet style of warfare than ever, according to Western journalists.
What went wrong in the first place, according to area analysts, is that the Saur revolution tried to move too far and too fast for Afghanistan's deeply traditional countryside.
Conservative Islamic tribesmen, were offended by the Taraki government's godless communist ideology. "Radical" social changes pushed by the new government, such as land reform and women's education, were seen as a threat to the Afghan way of life.
"If you want to live in good relations with an Afghan, you must avoid touching the three z's: zar [money], zan [women], and zamin [land]," says Mr. Farhang, who left his country earlier this year. "The Khalqis and the Parchamites made the big mistake of interfering with all three."
The armed resistance, which began in reaction to the Taraki government's measures, did not abate when Amin took over and executed his predecessor in an intraparty coup.
Analysts believe that the Soviet invasion only strengthened the insurgency by giving it a strong new motivation: ridding the country of outside forces.
"It is a resistance movement against foreign invasion and alien ideology," Mr. Farhang says.
The former Afghan official predicts, "The war of liberation will go on with or without foreign aid up to any foreseeable future because . . . every family has suffered, and one of the elements in the Afghan character is never to forget the harm which has been done to one's family. That is in the blood of Afghans, in our wh ole culture."