President Amin’s Faith in his Soviet Comrades
At this time Jahandad, commander of the eighteen hundred presidential guards, presented himself to Amin and asked for instructions. Amin wanted to know who the attackers were. When told that they were the comrades from the north, Amin was stunned. He did not believe his communist comrades would overthrow his government by force, even though he had earlier confided to one of his senior surviving officials that the Soviets might do away with him personally. As will be described in the next chapter, early in 1979 Soviet Premier Alexi Kosygin had made clear to Kabul that the Soviet government did not wish to send its troops to Afghanistan. That was why, even in the gravest minutes of his life, Amin did not believe Jahandad, to whom he had entrusted his own life and the lives of his dearest ones. He even admonished Jahandad for his report.
There are two versions of what Amin told his protecting commander. One version is that Amin said the attackers might be the Ikhwanis, that is, the Muslim fundamentalists who are the irreconcilable enemiesof the communists. This version cannot be taken seriously, because the Ikhwanis in the army were not strong enough to make a coup. Duringthe twenty-month rule of the Khalqis, the army had been purged of Ikhwanis.
More likely is the second version, according to which Amin told Jahandad, “It is the work of Paktiawal”—that is, people from the province of Paktia. In the present context “Paktiawal” referred to Sayyed Mohammad Gulabzoy, Asadullah Sarwari, and Aslam Watanjar. Except for Sarwari, who was from the province of Ghazni bordering the province of Paktia, the others were from Paktia. All three were military officers who had played prominent roles in the communist coup as well as the coup that overthrew the constitutional monarchy. They had influence with the army, which was officered by a considerable number of persons from Paktia. Until their break with Amin, Sarwari was head of the Intelligence Department (AGSA), while the others were cabinet ministers. At first close friends of Amin, they later turned against him, siding with President Nur Mohammad Taraki in opposition to Amin. When Amin overcame them, they took refuge in the Soviet embassy.
On this point, as well as a number of others that will be described in the next chapter, Amin’s relations with the Soviets became strained. The Soviets, however, showed no signs of displeasure. Although the initial warmth of the relationships that existed between them had evaporated, the Soviets showed interest in supporting Amin’s government. In particular, during the last weeks of Amin’s rule the Soviet Union sent a number of missions to Kabul to help the government organize its five-year development plan, which it intended to launch at the beginning of the new Afghan year (21 March 1980), and also to assess the amount of credit that it wished to extend. The three opponents of Amin now assisted the invading forces. Amin was thus partly correct in saying that the attack was the work of Paktiawal.
It is unknown what specific instructions, if any, Amin gave to Jahandad. What is known is that Jahandad, who was of the Sabari tribe from the district of Khost of Paktia Province, had decided that the time had come to prove his loyalty to the land of his birth and defy the invaders, even though they were the Soviets. On returning to his brigade, Jahandad ordered his men, who were a select corps of the loyal party members and close relatives of Amin, to fight the aggressors. They counterattacked and halted the initial advance of the invaders. The confrontation was intense and prolonged. Both sides sustained losses until the Afghans were finally overcome by some kind of nerve gas. The Afghans were in a commanding position in the nine-kilometer-long perimeter of the palace. The palace is, as already noted, situated on a mound. Also, the Soviet soldiers did not overwhelm the Afghan soldiers in numbers, although they were, of course, better armed. The invaders feared that if the Afghans were not soon overcome, forces from the nearby military divisions of Rishkhor and Qargha might join them.
According to eyewitnesses, “The Soviet soldiers then launched, from a sort of large gun, a grey gas in the direction of the Afghan soldiers, causing dizziness, nausea and paralysis of the limbs.” According to Ghulam M. Zurmulwal, the Afghan troops were overcome by the use of “napalm bombs and incendiary bombs.” This still did not bring an end to the fighting. Troops from the nearby Rishkhor Division arrived and started firing toward the enemies. But by that time the invaders had entered the palace and were themselves in a commanding position. Firing in the surrounding area of the palace was heard throughout the night and even into the next morning. Of the eighteen hundred soldiers of the presidential guards, none survived. “Boyarinov ordered that no witnesses in the palace were to survive to tell the tale.” Those who were still alive but unconscious were killed by the invaders after they entered the palace. They carried their bodies to the foot of nearby hills, where they buried them; the burial sites were forbidden areas throughout the occupation. To distort the truth, the new regime spread rumors that the presidential guards dispersed after they were defeated. In fact, those who dispersed were soldiers from the Rishkhor Division. Only Jahandad was taken alive; he was then imprisoned in the Pul-e-Charkhi prison with other members of the government and later executed.