Afghan Guerrillas Fail a First Test. FROM GUNS TO BUTTER
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
SINCE their capture by Afghan guerrillas late last year, the once impressive state-run model farms in this province have fallen into dereliction. While some of the devastation was the result of sabotage and aerial bombardments by the Soviet-backed Kabul regime, the bulk of the destruction appears to have been the result of guerrilla plundering and neglect.
For concerned resistance representatives and international aid officials, the condition of the farms raises serious doubts about the ability of the bickering exile parties to run post-war Afghanistan. Experienced observers also question whether the recently formed interim resistance government will prove capable of administering the proposed international aid program.
``The parties promised that they would keep the Ghaziabad farms intact and they failed. Why should the forming of an interim government mean that they have suddenly changed?'' asks an American aid coordinator, based in Peshawar, Pakistan.
The four farms, which line the Khyber-to-Jalalabad highway, were established during the late 1960s with Soviet assistance. They once included sprawling citrus and olive groves, selective livestock breeding, and crop research stations.
According to Western sources, who visited the area shortly after the guerrillas moved in last November, farm machinery and facilities were still largely intact.
When this correspondent recently toured the region, however, most of the farm buildings, housing blocks, and repair shops had been destroyed.
The guerrillas say government bombing has been responsible for this. But there was little evidence that aerial destruction had caused the removal of all usable tractors, harvesters, and other machinery. Gardens shaded by towering eucalyptus trees lay strewn with rubbish, ranging from broken refrigerators to smashed furniture, old newspapers, and torn mattresses.
On seizing this enormous agricultural complex last November, guerrilla groups representing different political parties immediately began dividing the spoils.
``We were afraid that the government would return,'' said Faqir Mohammed, a local guerrilla representative.
The mujahideen, as Afghan resistance fighters are known, carted off vehicles, machinery, and cattle - either for local distribution or ``safekeeping'' by the political parties in Peshawar.
Visiting resistance representatives from Peshawar were visibly embarrassed by the failure of the guerrillas to organize clean-up brigades or at least make an effort to preserve what remained of the farm complex, such as irrigating the orange and grapefruit trees. ``This is very bad,'' commented a Peshawar-based political officer. ``The parties should have done something about this.''
When queried as to why nothing was being done, local commanders said that as long as fighting continued there was no point in cleaning up. Others argued that it was up to the political parties, but that no real direction had come from Peshawar. Finally, in a response that was perhaps closest to the truth, one Afghan said:``Mujahideen are fighters. They don't clean up.''
With humanitarian aid rapidly becoming the new weapon of influence among the local population, the interim resistance government is demanding that all international support be channeled through its offices and not given directly to individual guerrilla commanders and village councils inside Afghanistan. Several aid agencies say that, although they may pay lip service to the interim government, they will continue to provide support directly to the commanders and local shura (councils).
``They are the only ones who know is going on in their respective areas,'' says Anders Fange of the Swedish Committee in Peshawar, in a view shared by many other aid coordinators.
Says a Western aid worker: ``The politicians will have to prove that they truly concerned and responsible before they will be entrusted by the relief organizations, let alone their own people.''