The Decision to Accept Soviet Economic and Military Assistance

The Decision to Accept Soviet Economic and Military Assistance

Within this condition of fierce appearance and shallow control ,PrimeMinister Muhammad Daud and King Zahir Shah attempted to transform the structureand purpose of Afghan government. The most fateful innovation was Daud'sdecision to accept Soviet military assistance. This move would immenselyincrease the government's coercive powers, but at the risk of losing control ofsome military officers to Marxist indoctrination.

As prime minister, Daud maintained the royal style of ruling as an autocratover a rigidly centralized bureaucracy, but he saw that significant economic andtechnological development required the broadening of educational, professional,and entrepreneurial opportunities previously monopolized by the royal family andcourt aristocracy. He also recognized the political implications of a rapidlygrowing professional and technocratic elite. He was the first royal leader togive major cabinet posts to commoners, for example.

His cousin, King Zahir Shah, then gambled that reforms offering a majorpolitical role to entrepreneurs, technocrats, professionals and managers couldbe devolved gradually without destroying the monarchy. This gamble turned out tobe as portentous as Daud's acceptance of Soviet aid. In both cases the purposewas compelling, but implementation brought disaster. The consequences of bothmoves have demonstrated how fragile was the political fabric that heldAfghanistan together.

Great physical developments were achieved under Daud. Dominated by the SovietUnion, the government began large scale constructions projects in the mid-1950s,building hydroelectric power plants, long-distance highways, and major civilinstallations. Shortly thereafter the United States, Western European nations,Japan, and United Nations (UN) agencies became heavily involved in thedevelopment of mining, agriculture, education, civil administration, and health.

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