Because of a typographical error, The Washington Post reported incorrectly yesterday in an article on remarks by Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher that the number of Afghan refugees forced into Pakistan is 50,000. The correct number is 500,000.
Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher said yesterday that U.S. allies must face up to the brutality being carried out by Soviet forces in Afghanistan -- including about 50 executions daily, the use of napalm against villages and recurrent reports of poison gas use.
Addressing a luncheon meeting with reporters, Christopher struck two major themes: the "daily reality" of what is happening in Afghanistan must not be allowed to fade from public consciousness and America's allies cannot duck their responsibilities just because the aggression is not occurring in their backyard.
Christopher's comments seemed to be part of an new adminstration drive to pressure reluctant U.S. allies into taking steps -- such as restricting favorable trade credits to the Soviet Union and announcing a clear stand on boycotting the Moscow Olympics -- that the White House believes must be taken soon to punish the Soviets and head off further Soviet actions.
In making the administration's case, Christopher put on the public record for the first time an assessment of the situation in Afghanistan that thus far has been provided only sporadically by government analysts who could not be identified.
Christopher said there are an estimated 15,000 political prisoners in Afghan jails. In addition to about 50 executions every night in the capital city and countryside, he said. Soviet forces are turning to other "very tough methods." Villages reportedly are being destroyed by napalm and high explosives. The invasion, he said, had forced more than 50,000 Afghan refugees into neighboring Pakistan, according to Pakistan registration figures.
Christopher said Soviet soldiers are firing on religious groups and mosques, and there is "mounting evidence" that the Soviets are using gas warfare.
There are so many recurrent reports that lethal gas, as opposed to incapacitating gas, is being used, "they almost seem to be undeniable," he said.
"I think we continue to view these reports with a healthy skepticism, but the volume and intensity [of these reports] makes them impossible to disregard."
There is also "sufficient evidence," he said, to indicate that the Soviets have suffered 6,000 to 7,000 casualties in Afghanistan, including perhaps 1,000 to 1,400 killed. This, he said, was probably the most important cost to the Kremlin because of its impact on the Russian people.
Other high U.S. officials said privately yesterday that during a visit to Moscow two weeks ago, the Afghan foreign minister from the Soviet-installed government in Kabul signed a "status of forces" agreement with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Such agreements set out the details of the Soviet troop presence.
The U.S. officials said that Moscow has not acknowledged the agreement because of fears it would serve as a reminder in Eastern Europe of a similar agreement involving "Temporary" stationing of Soviet troops that followed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Officials also reported rumors of uneasiness in Eastern Europe that Moscow may ask for a small number of troops from Warsaw Pact countries as "token" of solidarity.
Christopher said that the "brutal life-and-death reality" of Afghanistan must be faced not just by the United States but also by "others who share a commitment to freedom."
The United States will maintain its sanctions against Moscow, he said, adding, "it is essential that our allies stand with us against such aggression," not only for the sake of peace "but for the sake of the alliance." aChristopher stressed that he wasn't asking the allies to tear down the framework of East-West detente built over the past 30 years, but to take "concrete measures to exact a price" for Moscow.
"To assume that detente is divisible, that aggression be met only when it affects your own region, is both a short-sighted and dangerous concept," he said.