The Invisible Ruling Circle
Like Karmal, others in the politburo, the central committee, and the Revolutionary Council did not have to trouble to formulate policies or make decisions. These matters were handled for them. Whatever the guidelines of the Kremlin rulers, they were handed over to the regime’s appropriate agencies. This was done through an invisible body or council, composed of the Soviet ambassador, the local head of the KGB, and the commander of the Soviet army, and headed by the Soviet supreme commander, Marshall Sergei Sokolov. The council met regularly. As the actual ruler behind the scene, Sokolov issued directives to agents of the party and the government. He received Karmal in his presence in his own headquarters. Through his own agents Sokolov likewise supervised how the directives were implemented. In particular, policies on security matters emanated from this body, and they were handed over through its advisers to the regime’s intelligence department (KhAD) for implementation.
The number of Soviet advisers was on the increase. In the first month after the invasion their numbers more than doubled, surpassing total PDPA members at the time. By early 1984 they were believed to total over ten thousand. They worked not only as advisers but also as executives in all the military and civilian departments to which they were assigned. Bureaucrats of the regime found that even routine orders had to be approved and countersigned by the Soviets. In fact, “no minister [could] make a single decision, even a minor one, without consulting his omnipresent shadow.” As noted, even Karmal was not permitted to make decisions. “Slowly his power was confined to approving dismissals or appointments which, under instructions from Soviet advisers, the Intelligence Department or his comrades in the politburo would propose. He would neither postpone nor reject such proposals.” But as a Persian saying has it, “Alive, the hero is happy.” To comrades who complained of the domineering attitude of Soviet advisers, Karmal said, “The Soviets have enough experience in implementing socialism and social justice in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. They will never make mistakes in their accomplishments. Be patient. They have come here to develop our country as a model in the region.” During his stay in Czechoslovakia, Karmal’s belief in the Soviet Union had become total. The Czechoslovak leaders had impressed on him that the world’s progress was due to the invincible Red Army. That was why “he did not think he had made a mistake to have come [to Afghanistan] along with the Soviet army.”
Promotions became a source of profit for corrupt advisers. An adviser in Herat, in return for a golden necklace for his wife, released a member of the Afghan Millat Party who had been sentenced to death. A few Parchami officers were said to have obtained promotion by offering women to their Soviet comrades. Similarly, a Soviet adviser who wished to remain longer in his post sent his own wife to the arms of a senior Afghan official to obtain his recommendation. Not all advisers were qualified. When a non-PDPA official informed Karmal that the advisers attached to his ministry were unqualified, Karmal ignored him and, holding to the party line, told him that “the Soviet advisers were most qualified in their fields, and…Afghanistan should take advantage of their expertise.”
Soviet advisers composed statements in the Russian and Tajiki languages for party members and government officials to read on official occasions. Party and government experts paraphrased the Tajiki texts into Afghan Persian (Dari). Under Soviet supervision government officials also composed statements. Soviet advisers did not allow government and party officials—even Karmal or his brother Baryalay—to make statements of their own, particularly on issues relating to foreign affairs. Karmal and Baryalay were admonished after making unauthorized statements. However, within the framework of the guidelines, party members and government officials had a wide range in which to demonstrate their talents and to win over the public.