Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

David Kline

Afghan resistance tackles big problems

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 16, April 21, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Peshawar, Pakistan–A host of problems confront the fledgling Afghan resistance movement in its struggle against the vastly more-powerful Soviet enemy.

A relatively untrained leadership, lack of organization among the various rebel groups, spontaneous and uncoordinated military campaigns, and an extreme lack of modern arms–all hamper the effectiveness of the guerrilla movement. Yet while the problems remain serious, there are signs that some progress is being made in forging an insurgency capable of challenging Soviet occupation forces inside Afghanistan.

One step towards the creation of a unified fighting force, for instance, was taken when five of the six major rebel groups based here formed the Islamic Alliance for the Liberation of Afghanistan two months ago. But at best, this is only a first step–the insurgent groups have yet to integrate their different military and political commands, or agree on common policy and tactics in the independence war.

But organization aside, guerrilla spokesmen readily concede that their movement has few leaders experienced in military, political or economic affairs or in the requirements of protracted insurgent warfare.

Says Alliance president Professor Saiyaf [he doesn’t use his given name]: “Intellectuals, trained people, men with knowledge of organization, leaders who can command the respect of our countrymen, all have been wiped out by the Russian puppets in Kabul over the years.”

Indeed, there is no question that widespread arrests and executions of intellectuals and religious and political leaders have been carried out since the first of the pro-Soviet Afghan regimes came to power in April 1978. Amnesty International, in fact, has reported that human rights violations in Afghanistan have centered on these social groups.

Further, Saiyaf maintains that this repression was aimed precisely at crippling any potential resistance to the long-planned Soviet domination of the country. And he claims that the killings have reached staggering proportions.

“We estimate that the number of executions is so high as to produce a statistical decline in our national literacy rate,” declared the Alliance leader, a former professor of Islamic law at Kabul University and himself a political prisoner for six years.

With current estimates showing that barely 10% of Afghanistan’s 15 million people are literate, Mr. Saiyaf would seem to be talking about executions in the range of 100,000 people or more. Though this is far more than the admittedly-limited Amnesty International figure, the Alliance president sticks to his claim.

Pointing to the significance of the problem, the 35-year-old Saiyaf said: “Essentially, we must start from scratch with the people we have. It is not an easy thing to fight a superpower that is the biggest enemy of humanity, but we do the best we can.”


Another factor tending to limit the effectiveness of the resistance forces is the fact that, by all accounts, the Alliance commands only 30% of all the mujahadeen [Islamic guerrillas] now fighting inside Afghanistan. The majority of fighters battle the Moscow-installed regime of Babrak Karmal under the independent leadership of various tribal or religious elders.

“Every family, every village, has declared its own individual war against the Russian invader,” notes Aziz-Rahman Ulfat, a leader in Younis Khalis’ wing of the Hezb-i-Islami Party and the son of renowned Afghan poet Gul Pacha Ulfat.

While this situation demonstrates the breadth of anti-Soviet feeling among the population, from a military standpoint, it results in an uncoordinated and spontaneous guerrilla war.

There are indications, however, that the Alliance is beginning to weld the disparate tribal and ethnic fighting groups under its command.


In late March, for example, a religious leader of several million minority Hazara Afghans came to Peshawar for talks with Alliance leaders. Shiek Ali Osukul Islam claims to command a militia of nearly 60,000 men that has been fighting independently for 11 months in three provinces.

“We don’t want to join just one of the political, parties; we want to be part of the whole Alliance,” said the Sheik. ̶-;This is better for unity and the only way to liberate Afghanistan.

“I hope to place my forces under the command of the Alliance very soon,” he added.

Undoubtedly, the Sheik’s situation is common throughout Afghanistan, where probably many people have not yet even heard of the Alliance.

To this, Mr. Saiyaf replies: “The majority of Afghans will rally to our leadership only when we can fulfill their needs for the jehad [holy war]. The Alliance must prove it can lead our people to victory against the Russians.”

The basic weapon of the mujahadeen remains the Lee-Enfield rifle, circa 1916, or a hand-made copy of the same. Perhaps 10% of the fighters also have automatic rifles, usually captured Soviet Kalashnikovs. This is slightly higher than the generally-agreed upon figure of 5% six months ago, but it still illustrates the woeful lack of modern weaponry.

Against the near-indestructable MI-24 helicopter gunship, the tank columns, MiG bombers and the like, the insurgents have practically no defense.


“We rarely even shoot at the helicopters anymore,” maintained Jamal Ahmad of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami Party, the one group that has not joined the Alliance. “It’s just a waste of very expensive bullets.”

Mr. Hekmatyar is the only rebel leader that publicly disdains to ask for aid from the U.S. or other Western powers, though it is likely he has received financial grants from private sources in the Islamic world.

Though the Alliance member-groups do call for aid from America and the West as part of a common world effort to check Soviet expansionism, there is also concern that such aid be free of conditions or demands by the granting countries.

Says Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of Alliance-member Jamiat-i-Islami: “We don’t want interference from any foreign power. Any imperialistic power–be it Western or Eastern–that wants to stand against our national interests, we will fight against them the same way we are fighting the Russians.”

Adds Professor Saiyaf: “Big powers often have their own interests in mind.”

Nonetheless, both Saiyaf and Rabbani maintain that no-strings aid would be in the interests not only of the Afghan people but of all people concerned with stopping aggression.

One thing seems clear. Until the Afghan insurgents acquire sophisticated weapons, either through capture or outside aid, they will at best only be able to harass the Soviets and disrupt Moscow’s efforts to consolidate the occupation of Afghanistan.

This fact–combined with certain other weaknesses in guerrilla organization and leadership as well as the Kremlin’s awesome superiority of firepower–points to the likelihood of a very protracted and difficult trial ahead for the Afghan resistance.