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Spurred by Soviet Buildup, U.S. to Boost Aid to Afghan Rebels

The Washington Post

Responding to a massive increase in Soviet shipments of military supplies to the Kabul government, the Bush Administration has decided to increase its arms supply to the Afghan resistance and will provide ordnance capable of destroying Afghan government airfields and aircraft, according to Administration officials.

A senior official, disclosing U.S. intentions to increase shipments after a lull, expressed considerable irritation at what he described as the Soviet decision to make “an extraordinary (military) investment” to Afghanistan after the final Soviet troop withdrawal from that country on Feb. 15.

“The Soviets have put in orders of a magnitude more than we had anticipated and that they had ever done before,” he said.

The decisions of both superpowers to escalate arms deliveries despite their 15-month-old agreement to end outside interference in Afghanistan suggest that both sides are determined to back a full-scale showdown between their respective Afghan allies, minimizing chances of an early political settlement.

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In April, 1988, Washington and Moscow agreed to act as “guarantors” of the Geneva accords that the Soviets hoped would serve as “a model” for joint superpower efforts in resolving regional conflicts. The accords provided for the withdrawal of 115,000 Soviet troops stationed in Afghanistan and an end to outside involvement there.

The senior U.S. official said that the Soviet Union had been “pumping in” arms at the rate of $200 million to $300 million a month since early March. By contrast, the United States at the height of its covert military program for the rebels supplied in one year a little more than $600 million worth.

But the United States, which has continued to arm the rebels, began to reduce that assistance in the expectation that the Kabul government would collapse rapidly once the Soviet troops withdrew. In addition, the United States was ending, or cutting sharply, the supply of the most sophisticated weapons, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and long-range heavy mortars.

U.S. officials said the unexpected massive Soviet supply to Kabul is partly to blame for the poor performance by the Afghan resistance on the battlefield so far.

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