Mohammad Najibullah, 1986-1992
a series of splits when the Soviets insisted on replacing Babrak Karmal with Mohammad Najibullah as head of the
PDPA on May 4, 1986. The PDPA was riven by divisions which prevented implementation of policies and compromised its internal
security. These fundamental weaknesses were later partially masked by the urgency of rallying for common survival in the immediate
aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal. Yet, after military successes rifts again began to surface.
Karmal retained the presidency
for a while, but power had shifted to Najibullah, who had previously headed the State Information Service (Khadamate Ettelaate
Dowlati--KHAD), the Afghan secret service agency. Najibullah tried to diminish differences with the resistance and appeared
prepared to allow Islam a greater role as well as legalize opposition groups, but any moves he made toward concessions
were rejected out of hand by the mujahedin.
Factionalism had a critical impact on the leadership of the PDPA. Najibullah's
achievements as a mediator between factions, an effective diplomat, a clever foe, a resourceful administrator and a brilliant
spokesman who coped with constant and changing turmoil throughout his six years as head of government, qualified him as a
leader among Afghans. His leadership qualities might be summarized as conciliatory authoritarianism: a sure sense of power,
how to get it, how to use it, but mediated by willingness to give options to rivals. This combination was glaringly lacking
in most of his colleagues and rivals.
Najibullah suffered, to a lesser degree, the same disadvantage that Karmal had when
he was installed as General Secretary of the PDPA by the Soviets. Despite Soviet interference and his own frustration and
discouragement over the failure to generate substantial popular support, Karmal still had retained enough loyalty within the
party to remain in office. This fact was shown by the fierceness of the resistance to Najibullah's appointment within the
Parcham faction. This split persisted, forcing Najibullah to straddle his politics between whatever Parchami support he could
maintain and alliances he could win from the Khalqis.
Najibullah's reputation was that of a secret police apparatchik
with especially effective skills in disengaging Ghilzai and eastern Pashtuns from the resistance. Najibullah was himself a
Ghilzai from the large Ahmedzai tribe. His selection by the Soviets was clearly related to his success in running KHAD, the
secret police, more effectively than the rest of the DRA had been governed. His appointment thus, was not principally the
result of intra-party politics. It was related to crucial changes in the Soviet-Afghan war that would lead to the Soviet military
The failure to bring peace
The accords did not bring peace to Afghanistan. There
was little expectation among its enemies or the Soviet Union that the Kabul government would survive. Its refusal
to collapse introduced a three-year period of civil war.
The Geneva process failed to prevent the further carnage which
a political solution among Afghans might have prevented or lessened. It failed partially because the Geneva process prevented
participation by the Afghan resistance. The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) occupied Afghanistan's seat at the United
Nations General Assembly. Denied recognition, the resistance leadership resented the central role that DRA was permitted to
play at Geneva. When the United Nations representative Diego Cordovez approached the mujahedin parties to discuss
a possible political settlement in February 1988--more than five years after negotiations began--they were not interested.
Their bitterness would hover over subsequent efforts to find a political solution.
Considerable diplomatic energy was
expended throughout 1987 to find a political compromise that would end the fighting before the Soviets left. While Pakistan,
the Soviet Union and the DRA haggled over a timetable for the Soviet withdrawal, Cordovez worked on a formula for an Afghan
government that would reconcile the combatants. The formula involved Mohammed Zahir Shah, and by extension, the leading members
of his former government, most of whom had gone into exile. This approach also called for a meeting in the loya jirga tradition
representing all Afghan protagonists and communities. It was to reach a consensus on the features of a future government.
The jirgah also was to select a small group of respected leaders to act as a transitional government in place of the Kabul
government and the mujahedin. During the transition a new constitution was to be promulgated and elections conducted leading
to the installation of a popularly accepted government. This package kept re-emerging in modified forms throughout the civil
war that followed. Suggested roles for the king and his followers slipped into and out of these formulas, despite the implacable
opposition of most of the mujahedin leaders.
The peace prospect faltered because no credible consensus was attainable.
By mid-1987 the resistance forces sensed a military victory. They had stymied what proved to be the last set of major Soviet
offensives, the Stinger missiles were still having a devastating effect, and they were receiving an unprecedented surge of
outside assistance. Defeat of the Kabul government was their solution for peace. This confidence, sharpened by their distrust
of the UN virtually guaranteed their refusal of a political compromise. Top