WASHINGTON — The government of Afghanistan would reserve the right to ask for the return of Soviet troops even if an international agreement on their withdrawal is reached in Geneva next month, the top Afghan diplomat in Washington said Tuesday.
The statement of Ruhollah Erfaqi, charge d'affaires at the Afghan Embassy, was the first contention by the Kabul regime that it has the option of calling the Soviets back. The statement could threaten any agreement.
Representatives of Afghanistan and Pakistan are scheduled to resume two years of indirect negotiations on Feb. 11 in Geneva on a timetable for ending the seven-year Soviet troop deployment in Afghanistan.
Moscow recently has expressed increasing willingness to withdraw its 115,000 troops and to seek an end to the fighting with guerrillas, or moujahedeen , who are attempting to overthrow the Communist government.
Although there have been reports that Moscow might offer to pull out its forces within a year to promote an agreement at the U.N.-sponsored Geneva talks, Erfaqi said he could not confirm such an offer. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and other U.S. officials have rejected an earlier timetable of 18 months as too long, but they have not said what the period should be. Erfaqi said that the unilateral cease-fire that his government declared Jan. 15, together with an offer to include civilian opposition factions in a coalition government, have won the support of Afghans at home as well as exiles in Europe and the United States.
"If the cease-fire is respected, the government will be ready to extend it beyond six months," Erfaqi said. "My government and the Soviet side have said sufficient conditions should be established to stop foreign interference and provide international guarantees (for continuing peace)."
Asked what the Afghan government would do if internal opposition erupted after the Soviet troops departed, Erfaqi said: "They would be invited back."
Moujahedeen spokesmen, asserting that the government lacks public support, have said that the regime will fall as soon as Soviet forces leave, and many U.S. officials privately agree.