Dis the Soviets, given to planning, have a five-year plan for the conquest of Afghanistan when they invaded in December 1979? If they did, they have not fulfilled it. Neither by their own brutal efforts nor by the service of their few Afghan recruits have they managed to put down a brave resistance. Simple people, fighting with hand-me-down weapons, have borne tremendous costs and kept a modern, well-armed state from imposing an alien political will. The fight for freedom in Afghanistan is an awesome spectacle and deserves generous tribute.
Does it also deserve greater American support, beyond the reported several hundred million dollars now being provided? Many in the Afghan resistance think so, and a broad collection of American liberals and conservatives, admiring both the mujahidins' courage and their anti-communism, appears to agree. In Congress in October, a unanimous resolution was passed urging "material aid, as the United States considers appropriate, to help (the Afghan people) fight effectively for their freedom." Some of its sponsors state that the amounts and kinds of help reaching the guerrillas mock the agreed significance of their cause.
It seems strange to find an administration led by Ronald Reagan having to fend off a charge of letting down the Afghans. The irony, however, does credit to the administration's sense. No doubt the flow of "material aid," including not only humanitarian assistance but also arms, could be improved; inefficiency, corruption and leakage are said to plague the long and necessarily devious pipeline. The administration understands, however, as some of its critics do not, the grounds for residual discretion and restraint.
Specifically, the interests of Pakistan, the key guerrilla sanctuary and a country vulnerable to Soviet reprisal, are critical. Its support of the Afghan resistance has brought it an immense refugee burden (3 million people) and 63 aerial incursions from Afghanistan this year alone. Its judgment of the risks must be respected on matters of aid to the Afghans.
The United Nations, by repeated top-heavy votes, offers the Soviet Union a negotiated withdrawal protecting the internationally accepted Soviet interest in Afghanistan's neutrality and nonalignment. But the Soviets continue to press a policy seemingly aimed at eventual absorption of Afghanistan as a constituent "republic." This policy is rejected even by many of the Third World countries that otherwise seldom question the Moscow line. The Kremlin remains isolated on the issue. Its only practical prospect of breaking out is to go the United Nations way.