Afghanistan: a war without army against army
Despite the hopeful prognoses declared in newspaper headlines over the last few months, the recent round of UN-sponsored negotiations in Geneva between Pakistan and the Kabul government aimed at resolving the war in Afghanistan ended without substantial progress. This is not surprising to any seasoned observer of the region; what is difficult to believe is the naivete of those Western journalists who have been gullible enough to believe that a peaceful Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan is just around the corner.
The proposed ''peace settlement'' being discussed by representatives of Pakistan and the Soviet-installed Afghanistan government centers on four main points: (1) phased withdrawal of Soviet troops; (2) repatriation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran; (3) ending of all foreign aid to the Afghan freedom fighters; and (4) international guarantees (including, presumably, the United States) that the terms of the agreement will be respected.
There are almost insurmountable difficulties in all four areas. Withdrawal of Soviet troops would not be immediate, but phased in? gradually. Pakistan would be required to sever the supply lines of the Afghan resistance before the Soviets had actually removed their invasion forces. The Soviets, apparently with straight faces, are trying to negotiate an agreement which would starve out the resistance and permit the Soviet Army to remain in Afghanistan for one and a half years. It is astonishing that the Soviets are so honest about their intentions. The USSR knows that the Afghan freedom fighters are not the result of outside agitation. The mujahideen will not stop their fight until the puppet regime of Babrak Karmal falls. But the Soviets have already declared their unwillingness to tolerate any government in Kabul which is not pro-Russian.
So the peace negotiations in Geneva are either a propaganda ploy or a blueprint for final Soviet victory. When the supply lines of the mujahideen have been cut off, the USSR will be free to impose a military solution with impunity.
With the failure of the Geneva talks, the war in Afghanistan rages on. Regardless of one's view of the relative justice of the causes of the Soviets and the resistance in Afghanistan - regardless of the political realities - the human reality is this: The people of Afghanistan are suffering.
In Afghanistan it is not just a question of army fighting army. Ninety percent of the population opposes the Russian tyranny. Therefore, the Soviets have chosen to make war on the entire population. Massive air strikes against unarmed civilian targets, the planting of mines along frequently traveled paths and roads, persistent reports of gas attacks against civilians - the litany of Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan goes on and on.
In Herat, Afghanistan's third largest city, the Soviets have conducted saturation bombing raids resulting in thousands of casualties - innocent men, women, and children.
For a settlement to be reached, the cooperation of mujahideen must be engaged. To understand how unlikely this possibility is, one has to have spoken to the freedom fighters and to the civilians who wait in Pakistani refugee camps for the liberation of their country. Representatives of Americares, a private foundation which airlifts medicines to trouble spots around the world, recently visited refugee camps and an Americares associate went into Afghanistan itself on a fact-finding tour in preparation for an August airlift of medical supplies. Despite a June 20 report in Tass labeling the airlift as ''a cover for the delivery of additional armaments and military aid,'' this venture is a private, nongovernmental, strictly humanitarian venture.
Morale among the Afghan resistance is high, and hatred for the Soviets and Soviet sympathizers runs even higher. Traditionally both extremely religious and ethnocentric, the attitude of the Afghan people has been hardened by the brutal tactics of the Soviet invaders. Any regime that maintains strong ties to the USSR is bound to inherit the hatred and contempt the Afghans feel to the current nominal leader. Most Soviet offers of truce to resistance leaders have been flatly rejected. Even when a cease-fire agreement is made, as Ahmad Shah Massoud? recently did in the Panshir? valley, the truce is merely tactical and is short-lived. Recent reports from Panshir? indicate that the resistance leader plans to resume fighting ''within six months.''
So even if a temporary cease-fire were to hold while the Soviet troops withdrew, this amnesty would not likely extend to the pro-Soviet government left behind. And if it didn't, the Soviet Union would have a pretext for invading again, just as they did in 1979 - with the important difference that the United States by guaranteeing the negotiated settlement would have given its tacit consent to a return invasion.
Whatever sweet words of reason Andropov whispers to gullible Western ears, he is not likely to abandon the Brezhnev Doctrine - ''no retreat from the frontiers of socialism.''