Horrors of Kabul

February 05, 1993

The rain of rockets and artillery on Kabul makes the Afghan capital another Sarajevo. Hundreds are dead. Thousands are wounded. The hospitals cannot cope. The victims' crime is to dTC live in Kabul. The perpetrators are the militia Hezb-I-Islami whose leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, believes that interim President Burhanuddin Rabbani is insufficiently Islamic and should step down, preferably in favor of Mr. Hekmatyar. The weapons are American.

Perhaps Mr. Rabbani, a comparatively gentle cleric who favors an Islamic Afghanistan, should step down. He does not control much outside the capital. Most embassies have removed non-essential staff. Only this week, Iran, India and Pakistan joined the exodus. Mr. Hekmatyar's men control the eastern city of Jalalabad. Four people were murdered in a United Nations convoy nearby. The U.N. withdrew non-Afghan staff from eastern and southern Afghanistan because the Kabul government could not guarantee their safety. Hunger is growing in many parts of the country.

On top of that, northern towns are taking refugees from the civil war raging in Tajikistan, which used to be part of the Soviet Union. Ethnic Tajiks are an important minority in Afghanistan. The danger is that the two anarchies could merge.

When the U.S. was arming Afghan insurgencies in Peshawar, Pakistan, the lion's share went to Mr. Hekmatyar, the fiercest rebel. But his ferocity was not directed at the Communist regime then in power or its Soviet ally, but rather at the majority of Afghans and rival guerrilla groups for insufficient devotion to Islam. When the regime fell to a hastily cobbled coalition, Mr. Hekmatyar unleashed the fury of his American-built army at the coalition.

No narrowly construed dictatorship will rule Afghanistan for long. If it is pure in any one ideology, tribe or interpretation of Islamic law, it will terrorize and alienate most of the people. What Afghanistan needs is a regime that includes all its peoples, tribes, languages, ideologies and religious persuasions. It must be regionally and politically diverse to withstand forces of

fragmentation. Like Somalia and Liberia and Yugoslavia, Afghanistan appears too important a problem to be left to its own people, yet incapable of being solved by anyone else.

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