The Afghan Resistance

The Afghan Resistance

Resistance to the Kabul Marxists and Soviet occupation forces came from thevirtually all sectors of the Afghan population, but overwhelmingly from therural communities. Cultural, historical and religious factors combined to makethe reaction chaotic, but persistent and effective.

Centralized government and foreign authority has been consistently and oftensuccessfully resisted by Afghanistan's physically and demographically segmentedsociety. For the vast majority of the population, all communities are alienexcept those directly known. The narrow confines of mountainous valleys,isolated oases, and tribal lineages kept them separated from each other. Socialinstitutions generally reinforced the niche pattern of the forbidding landscape.Distinct religious and social codes, authority structures, and economicarrangements fostered inward looking mentalities which favored survival in aharsh physical environment.

Political changes over the past century have lessened Afghanistan'sfragmentation. Noncoercive interactions from travel, trade, resettlement,educational opportunity, and economic diversification had begun to open socialnetworks beyond the family, lineage, village and valley. Suspicion of governmentwas softening as services began to complement coercion, but the institutions andbeliefs sustaining resistance remained firmly in place. Political autonomy fromcentral government buffered by the mediating functions of local notablesremained the norm of experience for most Afghans. Consequently, when abruptpolitical change at the center brought sudden, unwelcome interference, thereaction was widespread and varied, but often violent. When the Soviets invaded,there were no large formations of rebels converging on the capital. Reactionsagainst the Marxists had been local. Connections with the police and civilauthorities which linked them to the capital had been severed. Repression ofsuch an atomized rebellion required crushing resistance everywhere. Ultimately,that is why Soviet repression failed, but the process that enabled chaotic,isolated resistance to prevail also destroyed the delicate fabric of Afghanistanas a national community that had been tentatively woven in the previous twogenerations.

Among the most serious of the casualties has been the loss of a large segmentof the elite and middle class which had begun to think and act nationally. Manywere lost in the orgy of political murder at the outset of the Saur Revolution.More escaped to permanent exile. Their loss was catastrophic. Perhaps worse wasthe alienation which accompanied it. Afghanistan's rural society saw betrayal inthe behavior of school teachers, civil officials and exiled professionals.Afghanistan's experiment in modernization had brought disastrous politics and aforeign invasion of the countryside. The beneficiaries of modern opportunitieshad either perpetrated these evils or had fled seeking such opportunitieselsewhere. Rage and resentment became serious barriers to reconciliation betweenthe rural majority and what was left of the urban elite.

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