Is it in the interests of the United State to continue sending a lot of military aid to anti-government guerrilla forces in Afghanistan? More to the point, is it in the interests of the Afghan people, who increasingly seem to be the victims rather than the beneficiaries of actions by the insurgent moujahedeen ? The State Department, over objections from some defense and intelligence analysts, wants to go on giving arms to the guerrillas, for years to come if need be, and that view seems to have prevailed within the Bush Administration. Left unexplained is just what goal this expensive program is intended to serve.
For most of the 1980s, U.S. policy in Afghanistan had a clear purpose. Through clandestine arms shipments, it first of all aimed at keeping the invading Soviet army from occupying the whole country and then at making the cost of just holding on so high that the Soviets would decide to bring their forces home. The policy worked. The Russians are gone, leaving behind a pro-Soviet regime that controls little more than a few large urban areas. Confounding the predictions of some American experts, though, the regime has managed to survive, not least of all because the tribal-based moujahedeen remain unable to put aside their traditional suspicions and rivalries and cooperate on a coherent military strategy to bring down the Kabul government.