The Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda today underscored Moscow's commitment to Afghanistan in an authoritative editorial that put the blame for continued fighting in the country on Pakistan and the United States.
The editorial also restated earlier Soviet conditions for withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, but well-informed diplomats here noted a slight shift in the Soviet position.
Pravda said that the "door for a political settlement" remains open on the basis of Afghan proposals advanced in August 1981, including an "effective discontinuance" of foreign intervention and through negotiation of an agreement between Afghanistan and its neighbors.
"The question of withdrawal of the Soviet military contingent temporarily staying in Afghanistan territory can be considered within the context of such settlement," Pravda said.
Ranking diplomats who closely follow Soviet policy toward Afghanistan and the neighboring region said this formulation constituted a departure from previous Soviet pronouncements, which always linked the withdrawal of Soviet forces to an already concluded political settlement.
The diplomats also were puzzled by another aspect of the statement. While asserting that the Afghan revolution was irreversible, Pravda made no mention of Afghan leader Babrak Karmal or his ruling People's Democratic Party.
According to the diplomats, the editorial did not appear to suggest any impending change in Moscow's policy and seemed to go to considerable lengths to counter speculation that the new Soviet leadership is considering a pullout of its forces from Afghanistan.
Asian diplomats said, however, that the editorial also suggested Moscow's interest in finding a face-saving compromise on Afghanistan's future. The editorial described Soviet objectives in Afghanistan as having that country as a "neutral and nonaligned state and a good neighbor."
According to this view, recent developments seem to have impressed the Soviets with the prevailing view in the Moslem world that Afghanistan is the key obstacle to Moscow's relations with the Moslems