Military Officers and the Invasion: An Evaluation
In the next chapter I discuss Amin’s relations with the Soviets and to describe why they invaded Afghanistan. Here I want to evaluate the attitude of the military officers toward the invasion. To understand this matter, the following points about the army must be borne in mind. When the Khalqis came to power, they tried to make the army a “Khalqi army,” that is, the army of the people. They purged the army of the non-Khalqi officers and promoted their own officers. This was the biggest source of tension, which, along with other problems, led to major abortive uprisings, all of which weakened the army.
Added to this was the alienation of many officers, particularly in Division Seven of Rishkhor, who were loyal to President Taraki, replaced by Amin after their differences had led to a confrontation that will be detailed in the next chapter. The pro-Taraki officers rebelled after Taraki was suffocated on 9 October 1979. Although pro-Amin officers were more numerous than any other committed group of officers, and although they were more determined than either the pro-Taraki or Parchami officers, they declined to oppose the invaders, despite the fact that of all communist officers the pro-Amin officers were the most patriotic and the least communist. The presence in the invading army of Sarwari, Watanjar, and Gulabzoy might have influenced the officers not to respond actively. More important was the faith these officers had in communism and the Soviet Union. Even officers loyal to Amin did not know of his disillusionment with the Soviets. Also, the effects of the indoctrination courses on communism and friendship with the Soviet Union carried out in the army cells cannot be discounted. On the point of winning Soviet friendship, the two main factions of the party, Khalqi and Parchami, competed with each other so much that people sarcastically remarked that in order to win the Soviet favor, they behaved as if they were cowives.
All this led to a naive belief among the communist officers that the Soviet Union was the true friend of the Afghans and that whatever its rulers did was for their good. Whether these officers were communists is open to question, but their faith in the Soviet Union was total. Their sudden rise to power had intoxicated them. After the invasion some officers argued that because Amin had betrayed communism, the Soviet Union was forced to do what it did. Also, the commanding officers were confounded by events because they did not have instructions from Amin on what to do if the Soviet Union invaded their country. Besides, unlike most Afghans, they were aware of the Soviet military might, and they had been influenced by propaganda about the dangers posed to the “glorious April Revolution” by “reactionary forces” and “imperialists” led by “the world-consuming imperialist,” that is, the United States of America. This meant that their country, their compatriots, and their dignity, which required them to stand against invaders as their predecessors had stood, were sacrificed for an ideology that served the national interest of Russia.
Never before have the Afghan defenders of national dignity failed in their duty as these communist officers failed. Never before have uniformed Afghan military officers been insulted so much as these officers were by individual men and women, particularly the latter, in public places in the city of Kabul for months after the invasion. To escape the sarcastic remarks of women, these officers avoided going by public buses in the city in uniform, as is the custom in Afghanistan. Indeed, the expression Mairmun Mansabdar (Mrs. Officer) became a common insult in the months after the invasion.