PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN -- Rasul Amin fled Afghanistan a week after Soviet troops invaded his country. A writer and political scientist, he was chairman of the social sciences department at Kabul University. Since then he has lived in this dusty headquarters town of the Afghan resistance, "fighting with the pen" against Kabul's Soviet-backed, leftist government.

For years, Amin flourished in exile here, becoming director of the Writers' Union of Free Afghanistan, a group of intellectuals that publishes analyses of the Afghan jihad, or holy war. But at some point after Soviet troops left his homeland 18 months ago, things began to sour.

The war dragged on and on. The world began to turn away. As squabbling and infighting accelerated among the Peshawar-based Afghan resistance groups, or mujaheddin, Amin's politically moderate friends -- social activists, doctors, professors -- were assassinated or threatened with death, apparently by Islamic fundamentalists among the rebels.

About two months ago, Amin was hospitalized with depression. Now back in his office and feeling stronger, he describes his recent illness as primarily political. "When you are depressed, it's the very environment that makes you depressive. When you see the destruction of your country, and you can't see the future of the country or your family, it can be very depressive.

"Intellectuals don't feel safe here. A pistol and Kalashnikov {assault rifle}, it's not for me. So many party leaders and intellectuals have already been killed. . . . It has an effect on your mind."

Amin's experience in many ways reflects the demoralization of Peshawar, a chaotic city in the barren mountains of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier, the central staging ground for the celebrated defeat of the Soviet army by ragtag Moslem guerrillas and long a magnet for Western enthusiasts of the Afghan rebel cause.

Just two years ago, the city was abustle with fervor and optimism. Proud Afghan fighters cruised the streets in Japanese four-wheel-drive trucks, brandishing Chinese guns paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Spies, humanitarians, cold warriors, diplomats, journalists, filmmakers and adventurers flocked here. Back then, even atheists called the Afghan fight against Soviet occupation a holy war.

These days, the mood is cynical. Allies in the war effort -- including Islamic fundamentalists from the Middle East, humanitarian-aid workers from the West, Pakistani generals, the U.S. government and the splintered mujaheddin political parties -- have turned openly and sometimes bitterly against one another. Across the border, the war continues in fits and starts, with few signs that even the apparent inclination of the two superpowers to cut a political settlement will slow the bloodshed anytime soon.

Following a spate of violent attacks, assassinations and death threats by Islamic fundamentalists, Afghans who work for Western aid organizations and even a few Westerners themselves say they are wary about the future. "Down with America!" slogans have sprouted on the walls of University Town, where many of the Western-financed aid groups are located. The cliches of pub talk at the American Club are that Afghanistan has become "another Lebanon" and that its foreign friends are suffering "donor burnout."

The million-plus impoverished Afghan refugees who have swelled Peshawar's population since the war began still swarm through the bazaars, but many now have roots so deep in the city that they appear to be a permanent expatriate community. An attempt this year by the United Nations, with U.S. support, to return a half-million refugees to areas of Afghanistan liberated by the mujaheddin is going poorly, according to relief workers and some diplomats.

Even those Afghans -- and there are many -- who say they will keep fighting the government of President Najibullah with or without help from outsiders acknowledge that fatigue is creeping in.

"We are sick and tired of {internal} differences," said mujaheddin commander Abdul Haq. Speaking of his effort to help form a new military council to provide fresh leadership in the war, he added: "We don't want to go and fight forever. . . . We know we are behind the time. We know it's too late. But we want to do things right. We haven't succeeded in doing it right yet."

The unraveling of the holy war, particularly the disaffection of the West from Islamic radicals among the mujaheddin, has led many Afghans to wonder whether all the young weapons specialists, freelancers, doctors and ambulance drivers who migrated here to help the cause ever really cared about the Afghans.

"This is natural, yes, that the Afghans feel angry at the Americans," said an Afghan social worker who treats refugees for psychological problems. "It is natural that people feel angry and sad because Najibullah killed our millions and the Americans want us to get in touch with him."

Even some of the Western adventurers have grown skeptical about the origins and purpose of U.S support for the mujaheddin. "There are some who are sincere, but I don't think the Westerners here are that interested in the cause," said an American aid worker who arrived earlier this year. "They're here because it's an interesting experience. It looks good on their resumes."

In this torpid monsoon season once projected by U.S. officials and Pakistani intelligence officers as the setting for a decisive mujaheddin offensive against Najibullah's government, Peshawar looks half-abandoned. There is little military training or recruitment underway.

"Most mujaheddin don't want to die at this stage of the war. Frankly, I don't blame them," said a Western diplomat in Pakistan who has been closely involved in the Afghan conflict. "At the end of the day, everybody is getting very tired of this."