Afghan Refugees Hear Shultz Vow 'We Are With You'  

The New York Times, July 4, 1983

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KHYBER PASS, Pakistan, July 3, 1983

 

Secretary of State George P. Shultz told a crowd of cheering Afghan refugees at a camp near here today: ''Fellow fighters for freedom, we are with you!''

Speaking more in the cadence of a revival meeting than the flat diplomatic delivery he usually prefers, Mr. Shultz told the refugees at the Nasir Bagh camp in nearby Peshawar:

''This is a gathering in the name of freedom, a gathering in the name of self-determination, a gathering in the name of getting Soviet forces out of Afghanistan, a gathering in the name of a sovereign Afghanistan controlled by its own people.''

 

Most Dramatic Event of Trip

The 3,000 to 4,000 refugees, seated on the floor of an open air tent at the refugee camp, responded with shouts of ''God is great! God is great!''

Mr. Shultz went to the camp before preparing to fly to Saudi Arabia to begin a swing through the Middle East to discuss the possibility of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon.

(In Damascus, senior Syrian Government officials and Western diplomats said there was virtually no chance that Syria would back down on its opposition to the Israeli-Lebanese troop withdrawal accord. Page 3.)

The morning visit to Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province on the Afghanistan border was the most dramatic and emotional event in Mr. Shultz's 11-day tour of Asia.

The visit, which was intended to be a demonstration of United States support for Afghan guerrilla fighters opposed to the Soviet presence in their country, also turned into a moving experience for Mr. Shultz.

 

Shultz Looks Into Afghanistan

At Michni Point, an outpost manned by the Khyber Rifle Regiment located less than a mile from Afghanistan, Mr. Shultz gazed down the steep walls of a canyon toward a cluster of trees in the distance that marked the border.

Mr. Shultz scanned the parched terrain through binoculars as the commander of the rifle regiment, Maj. Gen. Mian Mohammad Afzaal, pointed out sights in Afghanistan.

''How far can your marksman hit a target?'' Mr. Shultz asked. ''They could hit a goat down there,'' General Afzaal replied, pointing his swagger stick at a pile of boulders barely visible on the hillside below.

 

Regiment Presents Gift

After accepting a gift from the regiment, two daggers crossed over the regimental seal, Mr. Shultz called the visit ''a dramatic and inspiring experience.''

In January 1980, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Adviser under President Carter, made news at the same outpost by having his picture taken holding a captured Soviet weapon.

Although the visit to the frontier by Mr. Shultz - the highest ranking American to visit the area since Mr. Brzezinski - was more subdued, he too was clearly impressed by the combination of the stark scenery and the impassioned statements made by the refugees.

At the Nasir Bagh refugee camp, a small city of red, earthen huts set in a broad plain at the foot of the Khyber Pass, Mr. Shultz came face to face with some of the three million refugees that have poured into Pakistan since the Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan at the end of 1979.

Row after row of men with rugged faces sat impassively, listening to a recitation from the Koran as Mr. Shultz arrived in a Pakistan Army helicopter.

Once the Shultz party had taken their seats facing the refugees, wearing native robes and headdresses, a spokesman for the Afghans welcomed Mr. Shultz. His remarks were translated.

 

'We Decided to Fight Back'

''When the people of Afghanistan saw the Russians on their soil, we decided to fight back,'' the spokesman said. ''We have punished them in every corner of the country.''

With rising emotion, his arms sweeping the air to punctuate his remarks, he continued: ''We are not fighting the Russians over a piece of land, a mountain or a pot. Our dispute is a dispute of ideology. Our war against the Russians is a war of faith and identity.''

When Mr. Shultz rose to speak, he paused briefly, looking out over the thousands of refugees. ''My message to you from the United States is very simple,'' he said. ''We are with you.''

 

'You Do Not Fight Alone'

Mr. Shultz went on: ''I want you to know that you do not fight alone. I assure you that the United States will continue to stand with you.'' The crowd cheered.

''In the end, freedom will prevail. We will prevail because we have strength, because we are determined, and most of all, because our cause is the cause of right and justice.''

When Mr. Shultz was finished, the refugees again cried out, ''God is great! God is great!'' Their leader then presented Mr. Shultz with an Oriental carpet.

Mr. Shultz, who usually keeps a poker face, broke into a large grin as he headed back to his helicopter.

​© 1983 The New York Times Company