Security Measures for the Land
During its third plenum, held in August 1980, the PDPA passed a resolution stating that peace and security should be maintained throughout the land. It also stated that, since the reform measures had not been observed, the government felt duty bound to maintain security. This statement confirmed the long-circulated rumors that the Soviets intended to suppress the resistance by the wide use of force after the Olympic games, which were held in Moscow that summer. After the Olympics the Soviets dispatched three fresh divisions of troops to Afghanistan. The troops were composed mainly of commandos who had been trained in conditions similar to those in Afghanistan. At this time party members, low in spirit because of the mujahideen’s program of terrorism, needed a boost. In the plenum Karmal informed his comrades of a decision already made by his Soviet comrades in Moscow. The latter had assured its PDPA comrades that, since they were determined to crush the “dark forces of reaction and counterrevolution,” they should not lose heart on account of temporary setbacks. The assurance was based on an assessment of the situation by Vladimir Kryuchkov, the head of foreign intelligence in Moscow. Kryuchkov had predicted that “the spring and summer of 1981 will be decisive for the final and complete defeat of the forces of the counterrevolution”: hence the program of carrot and stick to pacify the land as quickly as possible.
In August 1980 the authorities divided Afghanistan into eight new “zones,” or administrative units, each comprising a number of provinces. The country had twenty-eight provinces in all. A member of the central committee of the party headed each zone; under him was a permanent commission, composed of the provincial governors and a Soviet adviser in command of the military unit stationed there. Although the head of each zone was given special power to resolve administrative, political, and security issues, his real job was that of a social liaison officer. By spending money and exerting pressure, the regime was able to summon community elders to meet with him. The program was a resort to conventions according to which rulers in times of crisis would seek the cooperation of community elders in repairing the broken chains of social order. The heads of the zones would lecture the elders on the goodwill of the regime and the advantages that would be theirs once peace and security were restored. Official propaganda stressed this welfare and peace offensive, while the Soviets undertook military operations.
The permanent commission was more important than its boss, who was not present all the time. Also, since the new arrangement was intended to help pacify the country, security matters dominated the rest of the issues: thus the significance of the military personnel and the Soviet adviser, a general at the head of a thousand commandos. In this sense, the new zones were military rather than civil units. Officially nothing was said about the arrangement except that the head of the unit was described as the “chief of the zone” (raees-e-zoan). The Soviet military officers acted on their own, even snubbing the heads of the units when reminded of the excesses they were committing. Whatever social standing the chiefs of zones had, their own Soviet comrades belittled them by their overbearing attitude, their arrogance, and their policy of genocide, which will be described in the last two chapters. Like his predecessor Fayz Mohammad, Sulaiman Laweq, the chief of the Ningrahar zone and the minister of tribal affairs, had established a good relationship with elders of Ningrahar. In response to a request by the elders that he tell the Soviets to withdraw their troops, he jokingly asked them how he could make such a request when the Soviets had refused to comply with the selfsame call from the United Nations.