Pakistani fears mount -- as do hopes for US arms
As Soviet troops continue to fan out from Kabul across Afghanistan, concern mounts in Pakistan. The government here in Islamabad has issued a statement condemning the interference in its neighbor's affairs and called on the Russians to withdraw. But this and many other similar protests have fallen on deaf ears in the Kremlin.
The Soviet forces are pressing on to take complete control of the country. Their numbers have swollen to some 100,000 men, according to the latest reports.
What is less clear is how much resistance they are meeting. Fighting has been reported in various parts of the mountainous country. Yet, on the other hand, travelers reaching here discount much of this. "We have seen no Russians, " they say.
There do appear to have been some clashes in the southern city of Jalalabad. But recent arrivals here speak of only sporadic shooting in that city, and then only at night, with no sign of the Russians during daylight.
Reports persist of Afghan government troops defecting to the rebels. The fact that the Russian invaders do seem to be meeting some resistance tends to confirm this. But just where, and to what extent, is a matter for debate.
Pakistan, as next-door neighbor, should have more clues than most as to the answers to these questions. But communications between the embassies here and Afghanistan are less than good. Reports, such as they are, appear to be outdated before they even arrive.
The British diplomats in Kabul, for instance, say they are holed up in their small compound and only know what is going on by peering over the wall. The Americans in Kabul are not much better off; they say only that virtually all they themselves have to go on are the vague reports reaching New Delhi, and they are not entirely convinced of their accuracy.
The Pakistanis seem to be the least well informed of all -- at least so far as they are prepared to admit publicly. They, too, point to the dubious reports reaching New Delhi. It seems that the people who should know what is going on plainly do not -- or at least do not want to admit it. So correspondents are left in the dark.
The same lack of reliable information goes for President Carter's bid to restore arms supplies to Pakistan.
It is appreciated here that he faces a problem in getting around the ban imposed earlier by the US Congress on this. Plainly, this is not going to be easy.
Pakistan, however, is anxious that the weapons supplies should start rolling again as soon as possible -- if only as a deterrent to the Soviets. But it seems from here that the present stalemate on deliveries will continue until Mr. Carter can put the wheels in motion.
The same goes for the refugee problem, which is mounting daily. The total number of Afghan refugees is well over 400,000 and going up by the hour. Although the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has promised $9 1/2 million by next September, Pakistani officials recognize this is nowhere near the amount Pakistan will have to spend on minimal food, accomodation, and medical supplies.