Afghan resistance prepares offensive. But internal power struggle could hamper assault on Kabul
As Soviet troops began their scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan, unprecedented quantities of weapons, ammunition, and supplies destined for the resistance were being shipped to border areas from Pakistan. According to Western diplomatic, resistance, and other sources, the weapons are to be used for large-scale guerrilla operations against the Soviet-backed Kabul regime. Huge quantities of ammunition - mortars, small arms, and rockets including new 122-millimeter missiles with a 20.5-kilometer (12.7-mile) range - have been trucked into Afghanistan over the past few weeks, sources say.
Guerrilla commanders say they are planning to mount major assaults against government installations in Kabul, Jalalabad, Khost, and elsewhere as soon as the Soviets pull out.
One recent visitor to Paktia Province described over 40 vehicles a day transporting ammunition from the frontier town of Parachinar to mujahed (guerrilla) camps in the region. Similar traffic has been reported from other Pakistani areas bordering Afghanistan.
``There is so much it is spilling out into the open. They are not even bothering to hide it,'' commented a Western journalist, who visited mujahed bases near Jagi.
Most of the supplies are reportedly being directed by the Pakistanis to the mainly Pushtun fundamentalist groups. The United States, Saudi Arabia, and China are the principal sources of weaponry for the resistance, but Pakistan's intelligence services determine how weapons will be distributed.
The sources claim that over half the supplies are being channeled to the extremist Hezb-e-Islami faction of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, chairman of the seven-party resistance alliance in Peshawar.
Huge quantities of arms are also being directed to Prof. Rassul Sayyaf's Ittehad-e-Islami, a smaller but well-supported fundamentalist party backed by Arab Wahhabi (a strict Sunni Muslim sect).
According to Western observers who have visited the border areas, Hezb-e-Islami has already stockpiled vast quantities of weapons and ammunition, mainly in depots on Pakistani territory.
Many here fear Mr. Hekmatyar may use them in a power struggle against other resistance members as the guerrillas make their move for Kabul.
According to West European diplomats and other sources, the Pakistanis hope that by channeling much of their support toward Hekmatyar, they will be able to extend their influence over the guerrilla commanders inside Afghanistan as the war moves away from the borders and into the cities.
Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq is known to favor Hekmatyar's group, not only because he is a fundamentalist Pushtun (Pushtuns, or Pathans tribesmen exist on both sides of the border), but because Pakistan views Hekmatyar as controllable and in the best interests of Pakistan.
The apparent increase in support to Hezb-e-Islami seems at odds with recent statements by senior US officials that US support for Hekmatyar has been substantially reduced, and that weapons are now being distributed on a more equitable basis to the mujahideen.
While some conservative US politicians argue that Hezb-e-Islami is the most effective of the political parties, other Washington officials note that Hekmatyar appears to command only limited support inside Afghanistan. It would also be a mistake, they say, for the US to show favoritism toward any particular organization.
Hekmatyar has consistently denied that his party receives any outside weaponry but captures all of its supplies.
Leaders of the non-Pushtun ``fundamentalist'' Jamiat-e-Islami, which represents some of Afghanistan's top resistance commanders - notably Ahmad Shah Massoud of the Panjshair and Ismail Khan of Herat - are increasingly worried by Islamabad's preferential treatment for Hezb-e-Islami.
International relief agencies in Peshawar have also voiced concern that Pakistan's increased backing for Hezb-e-Islami could seriously threaten future humanitarian operations inside Afghanistan. (The radical fundamentalist group has been accused of kidnapping and murdering international relief workers.)
The mainly Tadjik Jamiat leadership, however, is reluctant to provoke a split between the tribal Pushtuns and other minority ethnic groups at a point when the Soviets are withdrawing troops. Further divisions within the resistance, they say, would only prove detrimental.
The parties are also worried that too much criticism of Hezb-e-Islami may cause problems with Pakistan.
As alliance spokesman, Hekmatyar reiterated the alliance's position at a news conference Saturday that the resistance would not support the efforts of United Nations special negotiator Diego Cordovez to establish a broad-based coalition government including members of the ruling People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).
He also said that once the Soviet Army has withdrawn completely, the resistance would be prepared to exchange its Soviet prisoners for the PDPA regime leaders, who, he predicted, would by then have fled to the Soviet Union. The mujahideen have said they will grant amnesty to all members of the PDPA forces on the condition that they surrendered within one month of the Soviets leaving their respective regions.