KUNAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
GROUPS of Kalashnikov-toting guerrillas mill around the main square of Asadabad, a town they captured more than four months ago from the Afghan government. Having firmly established its presence in this eastern provincial capital, the Afghan resistance displays all the trappings of recently acquired power - their own party offices, living quarters, depots, and checkpoints. Former government forts lining the main road to Jalalabad now fly Islamic mujahed flags.
The guerrilla tribesmen sport an eclectic assortment of battle gear, including Soviet helmets, United States Army surplus jackets, and flowers tucked into their traditional woolen caps.
And the merchants, who inevitably trail just behind the resistance as more former government towns are taken, have begun to unshutter their shops in the bazaar. The entrepreneurial spirit of Afghans has already ensured the beginnings of a revival of the local economy. There are no shortages of wheat flour, plastic buckets, clothes, and other necessities - albeit at usurious prices.
Just past the Asadabad ``hotel,'' the town's only three-story building, shouting drivers draw up in pickup trucks to ferry passengers up and down the Kunar Valley.
This valley, a 60-mile fertile stretch of irrigated fields and fruit orchards, is now completely in the hands of the resistance. It was the first Afghan region to suffer a major Soviet offensive following the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. In late February 1980, some 5,000 Soviet troops supported by heavy armor, helicopter gunships and MIG jetfighters, launched an attack against the province.
In the bitter fighting that ensued, numerous Afghan civilians were killed or wounded. Thousands more fled into the side valleys or up the snow-covered slopes of the surrounding mountains, and many eventually made their way to Pakistan as refugees.
The retaking of Kunar has brought mixed reactions among mujahed commanders from other regions, particularly those concerned with operations against Kabul, Jalalabad, and towns still held by the communists. The behavior of the Kunar guerrillas has not proven exemplary for the resistance, they say.
As part of the traditional ``raider'' mentality, some of the frontier tribes who moved into Asadabad and other towns plundered whatever they found: Offices and homes of government collaborators were looted; furniture was smashed and used for firewood; windows were broken; and generators were destroyed. This has caused concern among Afghans living in major cities targeted by the guerrillas.
AT Shewa, a farming community in northern Nangrahar Province, an area long considered to be particularly pro-regime, attacking mujahideen deliberately killed suspected collaborators, including slitting the throats of a number of women and children, resistance and humanitarian sources say.
Reportedly, too, staunch Arab Wahhabi Muslims, who have come to Afghanistan to fight in the ``jihad,'' egged on the mujahideen to show no mercy. In Shewa, local mujahideen would not confirm whether innocent civilians had been murdered, only that there had been ``much fighting.''
The reports have also highlighted the potential for deepening splits that already exist among the numerous mujahideen factions. Some commanders preparing a coordinated operation against Jalalabad are not keen on involving the Kunari mujahideen.
But the local commanders and party officials say there is no question that they will march on Jalalabad, Nangrahar's regional capital, and then Kabul, as soon as possible. ``We shall continue fighting until all the shouravi [Soviets] are gone,'' declared commander Gujar Malek Badam.
Another indication of the type of political problems that could mar resistance efforts to establish a peace-time government is the fact that Kunar is now being administered by two separate shura, or councils. One representing the seven Peshawar-based parties of the resistance alliance, the other represents Arab-backed Wahhabi headed by a local Kunar mullah.
There has not been any direct armed confrontation between the two groups, who both insist they are the true government. But neither has there been any collaboration either. Guerrilla sources in Peshawar as well as local alliance leaders charge that Arab Wahhabi efforts to ``buy off'' their guerrillas with guns and money is destroying the jihad spirit and causing severe divisions within the resistance. Many Afghans who have joined the Wahhabi groups openly admit they are doing so for money.