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Soviets Broke Cease-Fire in Afghanistan, U.S. Officials Say

January 30, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Soviet warplanes continued regular bombing runs against Moslem guerrillas right through a cease-fire which the Kremlin-backed Afghan government declared two weeks ago, U.S. officials say.

″The Russians never stopped shooting,″ according to one Pentagon source, who said the highly publicized cease-fire proclamation was ″one indication that they are beginning to hurt. But they are not hurting badly enough to pull out.″

Another administration source said that Soviet helicopters and warplanes continued to fly in support of Afghan government and Red Army troops. Both sources spoke on condition they not be further identified.

The Mujahedeen, or Moslem holy warriors, rejected the cease-fire in advance, and since it began have continued attacking government and Soviet forces.

Although the Soviets have said they are willing to withdraw their estimated 115,000 troops from Afghanistan, they say they will do so only after the United States cuts off its estimated $268 million in covert annual aid to the Mujahedeen.

And until the Red Army ends its occupation, the seven-year-old war will not stop, say the guerrillas and their supporters in the United States.

Administration officials share the view of the Afghan guerrillas that the cease-fire proclaimed Jan. 15 by Afghan leader Najibullah was designed not to end the war but to increase pressure on the United States and Pakistan to withdraw military and humanitarian support.

Some U.S. backers of the Afghan guerrillas say Washington needs to do more to aid the Mujahedeen, arguing that poor organization and delays in providing modern armaments have cost heavily in lives and morale.

″There is nobody in charge of the Afghan effort,″ said Sen. Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H., one of the strongest congressional backers of the Mujahedeen. ″There is no one in the federal government who spends all their time on Afghanistan.″

David Isby, director of the private Committee for a Free Afghanistan, agreed, saying: ″There needs to be one person in charge. But that would take a relatively radical overhaul.″

Divisions among policy-makers within the administration, Humphrey said, delayed delivery of the shoulder-fired Stinger missile for three years. He added, ″That weapon has been a turning point in the war.″

For the most part, the guerrillas are not receiving U.S.-made weapons, Humphrey said, but are getting Soviet bloc and European arms bought on the international market. The quality has improved, he said, as procurement officers learn which arms merchants they can trust.

″We were sending them a lot of junk, beat up stuff that had been hanging around for years,″ Humphrey said. Administration officials declined to discuss in detail the types of weapons sent to guerrillas, although they did confirm that Stingers are now in the Mujahedeen arsenal.

Some administration officials say the U.S. effort is well organized but others talk of disruptive tension between the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency on how to run the effort.

For the first several years of the Reagan administration, aid levels and interagency coordination were low, say some critics in and out of government.

Aid levels rose to the current level of $268 million a year in 1984, say congressional sources, making it the largest of the covert wars being conducted under President Reagan.

Much of the impetus for the increase came from Congress rather than Reagan, despite his proclaimed policy of opposing Kremlin-backed governments, such as those in Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua and Mozambique, according to congressional and administration sources.

Since receiving Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from the U.S. government last fall, the guerrillas have been downing more Soviet helicopters and close- support planes, the sources say. The Mujahedeen are shooting down as many as one Soviet aircraft a day, according to a State Department report issued last month.

Perhaps more important, according to administration sources, the guerrillas are receiving better training and, with experience, have improved their tactics against Soviet and Afghan government troops.

The guerrillas control most of the countryside - and at night many of the towns - although the exact balance is difficult to determine because the war largely is being fought in small skirmishes and ambushes, U.S. intelligence officials say.

While the Stinger deliveries have helped boost morale, ″the best weapon against Soviet helicopters continues to be the machine gun,″ one administration official said. The mainstay of the resistance air defense is the Soviet Dashaka heavy machine gun, according to the State Department report.

More than 600,000 Afghans, out of a total population of 15 million, reportedly have been killed since the war began.

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