Along with the efforts to build up the regular army, the regime tried to establish military posts and organize militias. The regime followed this policy after its efforts to build up the army failed. In this it was successful. Since the calling of tribal militias was a tradition, the governments in the past had made extensive use of it. Since the Afghans are good marksmen, the militias were equal, if not superior, to the regular army. But the success of the policy depended on the standing of the rulers. The Karmal regime could not count on the loyalty of the militia. It had to buy it for money.
The regime set up military posts first around provincial capitals and then in areas of military significance in the countryside. The military posts were manned by mercenaries whom the regime recruited from among the poor people. Each was paid 3,000 afghanis and additional bonuses. When these mercenaries searched houses, they also took away valuables. By the standard of the time and by comparison with the pay of government employees, the incomes of the mercenaries were high. Some were even given government posts. The militiamen were equipped with sufficient weapons, including long-range guns. They fought better than did the unreliable soldiers, who sympathized with the mujahideen. The militiamen were safe in their posts, which were surrounded by barbed wire and minefields. But the posts were defensive. The increase in their number meant the mining of more areas, which, along with mines planted around military garrisons or dropped from the air, long remained a deadly legacy of the Soviet invasion.
The mujahideen were unable to overcome the military posts by frontal assault. They had to infiltrate them to effect their surrender. In this way they would dismantle the posts, but the regime would replace them with new ones. Since the militiamen in the posts were unable to move about, the regime supplied them by either helicopters or armored units. The militia posts were also unable to influence the districts where they were stationed. Their presence in the midst of the hostile rural people was merely an odious symbol of the regime. When the mujahideen attacked that symbol, the militiamen played havoc with their guns on the villages. They were so accurate in shelling that they could hit a small target miles away. I will never forget the wailing of a father, Ali Mohammad, whose only son was hit fatally when he was going shopping from the village of Deva to the town of Alishang in Laghman. Farming and other activities—weddings, funerals, and the like—became hazardous. In the villages and towns around Mihtarlam, the provincial capital of Laghman, villagers could neither put on the lights at night nor go from village to village for fear of being fired at from the nearby posts. They begged the mujahideen to leave their villages or not to fire at the posts. A rift was thus created between the villagers and the mujahideen. This was a victory for the regime. A network of military posts throughout the country would have enabled the regime to pacify the land, but the government was, of course, unable to create such a system.