A Government without Rural Territories
The Khalqi government was the government of Afghanistan in the sense that it ruled over it despite opposition. By the time of the invasion, except for the four districts of Gizao, Barak, Oaz, and one other and two subdistricts, which had been wrested from government control, all administrative units in the rural areas functioned. In certain rural areas where the opposition was strong, party members and collaborators were exposed to acts of terror. The government retaliated by sending troops there, and in the clashes that followed government forces compelled the recalcitrants to retreat to the upper parts of the valleys. They were thus safe from being crushed, but weakened. Some main roads were also unsafe, but once a week I and other university professors went to Jalalabad to teach, and we continued to do so right up to the invasion without observing any signs of insecurity. By contrast, the Parchami government was not a government even in this sense. It did not rule over the country. Within weeks of the invasion it was, as already noted, besieged in the cities. The greater part of the people lived in the countryside beyond the regime’s control or fled abroad. The regime was less than a state, since state refers to a government ruling despotically or constitutionally over a people living within internationally accepted boundaries and recognized as such by the world community. For want of a better term, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, which the Parchamis stressed as the state (dawlat), is here referred to as the Parchami regime or the Kabul regime.
If the installment of the puppet regime was quick, so was the opposition to it. The Islamic groups were the first to descend on the plains from the upper parts of the valleys, surrounding the provincial capitals. The city of Baghlan, close to the Soviet Union, fell to them on 14 January. Soon the groups cleared the country’s rural areas of party members and collaborators. In the province of Laghman the mujahideen besieged its capital city, Mihtarlam, then eliminated those party members who had remained behind and set their houses on fire. Former collaborators were also forced to leave their homes for cities. By February the city of Jalalabad, close to Pakistan, was besieged. By mid-February, when all the rural areas had been wrested away, the Kabul regime became confined to cities. The Soviets and the regime set up military posts along the main roads, but in places along those very roads resistance groups searched transport vehicles for party members and took them away when they recognized them. It was no longer safe for party members and proregime Afghans to travel between cities. To escape unharmed, they traveled in disguise. By the second week of May 1980 the Khalqis and Parchamis were no longer to be found in the rural areas. They had either been killed or fled to cities.
Most uluswals (heads of districts) had either been killed or fled, and those few who remained guarded themselves with armored units. Alaqadaran (heads of subdistricts) were no longer to be found. Some provincial governors had to spend the nights in military cantonments. By the first week of March the main roads had become unsafe for traffic in spite of the military posts stationed along them. Accompanied by contingents of the army, transport buses and other vehicles had to go in caravans.
This success of the mujahideen indicated their support by the locals, who either opposed the regime or refused to cooperate with it. Only certain small sectors supported the regime—for instance, the residents of the Nazyan Valley in Shinwar, some Uzbeks in Takhar and Dawlatabad, and some Isma’ili Tajiks of Roashan and Shighnan. The opposition to the invasion was thus national, crossing regional, ethnic, and linguistic lines. Never before in Afghan history had so many people been as united as they now were in opposition to an invader. What polarized the society was political and ideological. Those who supported the regime and the Soviets were usually educated persons drawn from various ethnic groups, particularly the urban minorities.
After the invasion, Karmal sent deputations to the frontier provinces to obtain their allegiance, but the deputations could not reach their destinations. Provincial governors were then instructed to summon local notables and explain to them that the government had plans to promote their welfare. This also failed to impress the people. On Friday, 5 April 1980, for example, the governor of Laghman addressed a meeting of about fifteen hundred worshipers in a public mosque and asked for those who supported his government to raise their hands. No one raised a hand. The notables of the city of Baghlan were more open and demanding, telling the governor that they would accept the government provided the Russians left and elections were held. They also voiced their support for an Islamic republic. In June 1980 the notables of the province of Balkh told their governor that unless the foreign troops were withdrawn, they would be unwilling to pay taxes or furnish men for military service.