Big Supply Convoy Breaks Through Rebels’ Blockade to Reach Kabul
A convoy of up to 1,000 armored vehicles and 500 trucks carrying Soviet arms and food broke through a guerrilla blockade and rumbled into Kabul on Tuesday in the biggest operation of its kind since Moscow’s troops left Afghanistan two months ago.
Helicopter gunships flew overhead as the columns of tanks, armored cars, mounted multiple-rocket launchers and food trucks reached the capital after running a gauntlet of guerrillas dug in on mountains dominating the Salang Highway.
Drivers said the convoy carrying arms, rice, flour and wheat took 45 days to get from the Soviet border--normally a three-day journey.
Its arrival was a significant victory for the Soviet-backed Kabul government, which has fought a powerful moujahedeen alliance on its own since the last Soviet troops pulled out Feb. 15.
The convoy had to battle moujahedeen determined to starve Kabul into surrender, and drivers said they saw dozens of trucks and armored cars burning along the highway.
The drivers said they saw soldiers handing over truckloads of food and ammunition to the moujahedeen as security for safe passage.
With the Salang Highway closed, a Soviet airlift of food and military equipment has enabled the government of President Najibullah to continue fighting the moujahedeen, armed and financed by the West.
Closure of the highway had caused a pileup of up to 140,000 tons of essential supplies on the Soviet border, with wheat germinating and other perishable food rotting.
A 90-truck vanguard reached Kabul last Friday, but the moujahedeen, who sometimes operate only 12 miles from the capital, had prevented the rest from getting through.