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The General took the Young Man to see Professor Majrooh. Everyone meant well in this interview: the General in bringing them together, the Young Man in wishing to determine whether U.S. covert aid was effective and sufficient (imagine the laughable scene! imagine this Young Man who was about as well suited to deal with spy matters as a grasshopper!), Majrooh in aiming to help his fellow Afghans; but because the Young Man’s role was so confusingly pure, differences soon began to swarm like midges, and the usual ambiguity of these affairs dizzied the Young Man far more than the heat.

The Young Man considered that if he were going to send his nickels to a Mujahideen organization (the misunderstanding might be succinctly put by saying that Majrooh must have thought: If the boy has come all the way over here, then surely he must at least have dimes!), then he ought to make sure that said nickels went to the group that devoted the greatest proportion of its resources to killing Soviet soldiers inside as opposed to killing members of other factions in the Resistance.

And Professor Majrooh — who can blame him for responding as he did? In his mind, factionalism was unfortunate but it did not ethically prejudice the whole. And in this he was correct.

“I was a professor at Kabul University,” he said. “I was also Dean of the Faculty. I left Afghanistan at the beginning of the Soviet invasion, at the beginning of ’80, and came to help here, in my way, the war of liberation. And we are here; we have a small office. We receive information from inside and pass it on to the outside world.”

“And you are not aligned with any particular group?” asked the Young Man.

“No, we are not. The Afghan Information Office is independent and we try to be impartial, though of course we are on the side of the Resistance, but we try to have good relations with all the groups.”

“That must be very difficult,” said the Young Man politely, while on the sofa the General smiled wearily.

“A difficult task, of course,” said Majrooh brightly, “not to present the picture of one side or group, and to tell the situation as it really is: the serious burden of most refugees in Pakistan today, you know; and then we have the refugees who could not cross the border. These people must be helped. We must find a way — I don’t know how — to reach the people inside. The French are doing this, but their means are limited; the problem is too big for them.”

And he looked at the Young Man hopefully.

“How well would you say the officially recognized parties here in Pakistan represent the people in Afghanistan?”

“All are present on the fighting front inside,” said Professor Majrooh. “But they do not represent the whole. There are lots of population there who are just fighting for themselves — the Civil Defense system. Anyway, they are representing an important part of the fighting.”

“What percentage of the people in Afghanistan would you say are supporters of one or more of these officially recognized groups?”

“They make up fifty percent of the fighting forces.”

“What about the other fifty percent?”

“They have their own weapons which they captured from the Roos, and they have their own region, and they are not moving from there. And an important part inside is free; the Roos have only the big cities.”

“What would be the most practical means of distributing arms?” asked the Young Man. “If I were to give arms to Gulbuddin, say, he might use these arms to, oh, for instance, kidnap someone from the National Islamic Front.”

Professor Majrooh laughed politely. (It was here, I would say, that a shadow began to creep over the interview.)

“So can we give them directly to the people who need them,” the Young Man persisted, “or is there some party which is relatively more appealing than the others?”

“First people must agree to give arms to the Mujahideen,” replied Majrooh drily, “and secondly there is the question of what type of arms, and only thirdly the question will be this, and I think we will be led to discuss and study this with the professionals, the experts. And I think there are ways. But it cannot be answered like that.”

“Well, I don’t represent anyone,” said the Young Man, “but so far I don’t have anyone I’d want to give arms to. Can we start this process? Can we propose a favorite candidate?”

“No, no,” said Majrooh, much as a senator might say, “No comment.” “I would not propose it. That would be premature.”

“You have no suggestions as to whom I might go to to find someone who could use these arms in an effective way against the Russians? And not against others?”

“No, no, they don’t do that,” said Majrooh. “If you study — if you have time — you will understand that all the groups who are here, they are quite efficiently fighting. A small proportion, of course, and there are always in a situation like this internal problems and problems of organization, but it is not the whole picture. And now, as you have heard, they are fighting in Panjsher quite effectively, and the fifth Soviet offensive was just checked there …”

“That’s mainly the Jamiat group, Rabbani’s group?”

“No, I have told you, there are many others who have come to help, as for instance from Ghazni. It’s not a serious problem, as you seem to think. They’re not just fighting each other. There are some, but it’s not the general rule.”

“So you think that the United States should arm the Resistance.”


“Well, if you could give me a proposal as to how that ought to be done …”

Majrooh fitted his fingertips together. “I think that we … we are in Pakistan, you know. And we try to have good relations with the official authorities, and I think that all this help must come through the official authorities.”

How pleased the Reliable Source would have been to hear these words! Evidently the puppet masters yet held the strings.

“So we should give arms to the government of Pakistan and let them decide how to distribute them?” asked the Young Man.

“No, I would not make a recommendation like that. Only when they decide, the Americans, they should discuss it with the authorities in Pakistan.”

From the sofa the General said, “I know there is a firm in London that can deliver arms anywhere in the world, including Pakistan.”

“The Americans, they know how to do it,” said Majrooh. “With the Pakistani authorities. They know the problem.”

“If you had those weapons,” said the Young Man, “it would just depend on the circumstances who you gave them to?”

“I’d not accept them personally,” said Professor Majrooh. “I’d tell you where to go, but I would not take this military responsibility. But when the question is there, I think I could give you some advice — practical advice.”




The offices of the factions were scattered about Peshawar. You took a rickshaw. If the driver was Pakistani he might have to stop and ask directions a few times, but an Afghan would know. The metal trim of Pakistani-driven rickshaws was decorated with pictures of sexy Indian movie stars, whereas the Afghans preferred pictures of men with machine guns.

The “liberal” coalition known as Islamic Unity of Afghan Mujahideen was neither close to nor far from the fundamentalist Islamic Unity of Afghan Mujahideen. It was in a tan cement building several stories high. There were no guards, but then everyone seemed to be a guard. Big, well-built men lounged around in the courtyard and on the terraces, chatting, cradling their guns. Pizzarda, the Secretary-General, had work to do, so he took the Young Man to his office, told him to be comfortable, and sat behind his desk. Everyone had stood up at his arrival except for a fat man in a turban who slumbered on the bench, head forward, hands on lap, as the fan droned slowly. — Pizzarda slipped a second pair of glasses over his first, for reading, and began to sign papers.

This Pizzarda was a hospitable man. The General knew him well. Pizzarda had taken the Young Man personally to see the Hazarat Museum, which was a flat in a private apartment building where bits of rocket bombs and captured helicopter parts were mounted on a heavy brown pasteboard, along with gunship helicopter bullets, shrapnel fragments, a dead Ivan’s dogtag, a metal plaque that said something in Russian about what to do before you charged the accumulators; and from the corner Pizzarda took a Soviet helmet with a bullet hole going in and going out, and he grinned. They sat on the floor and had green tea, and later the Young Man took pictures, so that there stood Pizzarda forever, wearing his silver spectacles, unsmiling now with thin lips when the Young Man raised his camera for the Afghanistan Picture Show, and his beard was silver and gray and his wristwatch glittered and the helmet glittered and there was a bloodstain around the hole.

Watching him at work, the Young Man looked interestedly round the office, and it was at that time that Judge Dr. Said came in. Seeing that Pizzarda would be occupied for a few minutes longer, he agreed to talk with the Young Man. He was a tall, handsome, Semitic-looking man with a thick, dark beard. He spoke an Oxford-accented English.

“In your belief, are there many Communists in the other factions of the Mujahideen?” asked the Young Man. (It had been the General’s shrewd advice to ask about Communists. Anyone considered dangerous was called a Communist.)

Smiling, Dr. Said put an arm around the Young Man’s shoulder. “That is a very difficult question, my dear friend,” said he. “Nobody graphically understands how to put a graph on the heart of the people and the totality of the people, to know what faith they have got. But by political charter framework of the Mujahideen, by our efforts, by our endeavors, by our doctrine and our way of life, nobody is entitled to join who is thought to be pro-Communist.”

“So what do you do when you find a Communist?”

“Then we search to find the Communist people; when we find them it is difficult for the Communist people! It is difficult for us to find who is Communist. The Russians are not only fighting us by weapon; they are fighting us by K.G.B.; they are fighting us by any available type of means.”

“So, suppose that I were a member of your group, and you discovered conclusive evidence that I was a Communist. What would happen to me?”

“You should receive your tort, your punishment.”

“What would that be? Would you kill me?”




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