Guerillas control much of Afghanistan, French doctors find From RALPH JOSEPH, in Paris (The Canberra Times 1984)

SOVIET troops and the regime of President Babrak Karmal have considerably less than total control over Afghanistan, and there are whole provinces where neither the Soviet occupation forces nor the communist Government have any permanent presence at all.

French doctors who have been into the country several times say it is possible to travel great distances inside the country, even by car, without encountering Soviet or Government troops – though the chances of capture always do exist.

A young French doctor from the ‘Paris-based organisation Medecinssans Frontieres (Doctors Beyond All Borders) told me he had been into the country four times between October, 1981, and October, 1983. On the last two occasions he had done almost the entire trip by car, travelling part of the way along the Kabul-Kandahar highway in broad daylight.

Dr Antoine Crouam, 29, says that in several places he has been to, the ‘local people’ run their own affairs as if it were “another country”. One such area was Hazarajat province, lying just west of the Kabul-Kandahar highway. No Soviet or Government troops were to be seen there and the Mujahadin guerillas were in complete control. The only evidence of the Soviets was the occasional helicopter on a reconnaissance flight, or making a sortie to drop anti-personnel plastic mines over the countryside.

Dr Claude Malhuret, executive director of Medecins sans Frontiers, has criticised the Western media for not sending in more correspondents for eyewitness accounts of what is happening in Afghanistan. The organisation has 25 doctors there at present, and has been sending them in since 1980. The French doctors seem to be the only people in a position to provide independent accounts of the struggle from the inside.

Dr Crouam said his impression was that the Soviet control did not extend beyond “the tracks of their tanks and the angles of their machineguns”. Roads and highways “belong to the Mujahadin at night, and most of the time even in the day”. This was true not only in Hazarajat, where he had worked twice, but in areas close to the capital, Kabul. During his trip along the Kabul Kandahar highway, he saw it littered with destroyed Soviet trucks, armoured personnel carriers, tanks and helicopters – the debris of numerous Mujahcdin attacks.

Several of these attacks took place when Dr Crouam was working in his village hospital in Hazarajat, and the Mujahadin brought their wounded to him for treatment. The guerillas fought mainly on foot, and it took them days to get the wounded to the hospital – the only one in the province. By the time they brought in the injured men, the wounds were often infected and Dr Crouam often had to amputate an arm or a leg to save the man’s life. “They came in batches,” he said, making it difficult for him and his small staff to handle all the injuries.

He described Hazarajat as “a liberated area .. . like another country, a poor agricultural country,
with no electricity, no water, just one primary school, no government”. Instead of a government, the administration of the area was in the hands of the Afghan resistance.

The Afghans did whatever they could. “They try to make some schools,” Dr Crouam said. “They try to do better. They try to get help in the form of medicines and teachers.” But their priority was to try to dislodge the Soviet forces from their country.

When Dr Crouam first arrived in Hazarajat in October, 1981, he found his organisation’s hospital had just been apparently deliberately attacked. “All that remained was rubble one metre high,” he said. From what he was told, the Soviet forces had first made a reconnaissance flight by helicopter. An hour later A Soviet armoured vehicle captured by guerillas in Afghanistan a few years ago. Help A Soviet armoured vehicle captured by guerillas in Afghanistan a few years ago.
helicopter gunships had arrived and repeatedly blasted the hospital with rockets till nothing remained of it. They had hit nothing else.

The hospital had been set up earlier in a large house belonging to a rich Afghan who had abandoned
it and left Hazarajat. The Soviet forces knew it was being used as a hospital and appeared to be destroying it on purpose, to deprive the area of the only-medical facility it had.

No-one had been killed, because after the initial reconnaissance flight the villagers knew an attack with bombs arid rockets would follow. They had come to recognise a pattern in the Soviet behaviour. Reconnaissance flights were always followed by attacks. They had evacuated the sick and wounded from the building and had hidden themselves.

Another helicopter operation the Afghans have come to recognise is the dropping of toys or plastic objects over the countryside or near their, villages. These objects, the Afghans know, are mines or booby trapped toys. They keep their children at home and the Mujahedin warn people not to leave the village.

The guerillas then go out and pickup the mines – coloured green, brown or grey according to the colour of the terrain on which they are dropped. If there are any explosives experts available, they will try to retrieve the explosive in the object, otherwise they simply destroy it.

Dr Malhuret says the mines are not directed at the guerillas, but at the Afghan civilians, particularly children. TKey arc not intended to kill, but to maim or wound. The object is to .harass the peasants by burdening .them with wounded to look after, in the absence of medical. facilities. There comes a point when the peasants cannot take it anymore, and decide to join the two million refugees in Pakistan, or the one million in Iran. In this way the Soviets hope to deprive the guerillas of the support they receive from the peasants.

There are other atrocities. Dr Crouam spoke to 20 witnesses of a massacre in the village of Padrabe Shana on September 21, 1982. Several Soviet soldiers had arrived there in search of deserters from the Afghan Army. The villagers had run in all directions to hide themselves,. some in a large underground channel called a kharez. The Soviet soldiers knew kharezes were favourite hiding places. They blocked the tunnel at both ends, poured about 1,000 litres of petrol into it, added explosives and set it on fire. All 110 people inside died, most of them old men.

The Soviet soldiers applauded.


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