U.S. Urging Afghan Rebels Not to Attack Departing Soviets

Associated Press

The Reagan Administration has been trying to persuade the Afghan guerrillas not to attack departing Soviet troops, fearing this tactic could prompt Moscow to back off its promise to be out of Afghanistan by Feb. 15, U.S. officials said Monday.

This is among the issues that a newly appointed U.S. envoy to the rebels, Edmund McWilliams, is expected to discuss with insurgent leaders operating out of base camps in Pakistan, the officials said.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley confirmed McWilliams' appointment Monday. He is a career diplomat who once served at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

The U.S. officials, speaking on condition they not be identified, said some Afghan rebel factions believe that attacks on Soviet forces will ensure their prompt withdrawal. But they said the Administration holds the opposite view.

"We don't want the Soviets to have any excuse to slow their withdrawal or to attack the Afghans," one official said.

On Friday, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze bitterly criticized the Pakistani role in supplying the Afghan rebels, even though the Soviets are continuing with their withdrawal schedule.

Shevardnadze proposed a meeting at the United Nations this week of representatives of countries that signed the April 14 Geneva agreement on Afghanistan: the Soviet Union, the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Asked about the proposal, Oakley said Monday that the Administration "sees no need" to have such a meeting.

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