Afghan Leader Accuses Reagan of ‘Farce’
Najib, this country’s new leader, accused President Reagan on Wednesday of staging a “political farce” with his warm White House welcome for Afghan resistance leaders trying to overthrow the Soviet-backed regime here.
In an interview, Najib charged that Reagan’s pledge Monday to continue supplying arms to the guerrillas was only a ploy to conceal their military weakness and dissensions.
The fighting, now in its seventh year, is slowing down considerably, and the guerrillas have lost a series of key battles recently, Najib said. The setbacks occurred mainly in areas close to guerrilla base camps across the border in Pakistan, he said, contending that this showed the guerrillas are “losing their strength.”
“The war on the bandit front is dwindling,” he insisted. “The situation is getting stabilized and peace is going to be assured throughout the country.”
Najib made his remarks in the first interview that he has had with an American reporter since he replaced Babrak Karmal as general secretary of the ruling People’s Democratic Party on May 4. (The new leader’s name was first reported as Najibullah, but he now is referred to simply as Najib, with no second name.) Two Canadian reporters also questioned him during the interview in his office at the party’s Central Committee headquarters.
Karmal, who remains as president of the ruling Revolutionary Council, was removed from the key party post for unspecified health reasons.
At one point, Najib said the resistance fighters have “no power” inside Afghanistan anymore. But he also said an estimated 120,000 Soviet troops in his country to aid the government will stay until the United States and other supporters of the guerrillas halt their intervention.
His remarks gave little hope that an agreement on withdrawal of Soviet forces and an end to the guerrilla war can be negotiated during the next round of peace talks in Geneva next month.
Despite his optimistic words, however, Najib told a group of army recruits in Kabul last week that “years will pass by” before victory can be achieved. At the same time, he appealed to Afghan women to join the army as nurses and doctors.
And, under a new regulation, students no longer will be exempted from military service when they become 18 years old.
From Islamabad, Pakistan, Reuters quoted Western diplomats as saying Wednesday that Afghan authorities are rounding up youths from the streets of Kabul and the nearby town of Paghman to fight in an army that has dwindled to fewer than 40,000 from 80,000 in the late 1970s--before the Soviet Union sent troops in to prop up the Marxist government in Afghanistan.
The diplomats said that initial reports reaching Islamabad indicate that the drive to reinforce the army does not appear to be making much headway, but they had no figures to substantiate this.
Najib acknowledged in the interview that he is trying to build up his army and take measures to deal with the problem of mass desertions. But he blamed “agents of imperialism” for provoking soldiers to desert and added:
“We will get rid of all this difficulty when we get rid of the main factor, imperialism, and its dissolute system.”