Afghanistan: War, Politics, and Society in Afghanistan: 1978-1992

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War, Politics, and Society in Afghanistan: 1978-1992, by Antonio Giustozzi. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000. xiv + 250 pages. Tables to p. 296. Bibl. to p. 311. Index to p. 320. $55.

Reviewed by Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady

War, Politics, and Society in Afghanistan deals with what is commonly known as the communist regime in Afghanistan. The author, Antonio Giustozzi, rightly believes that the regime that was established by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in 1978 and that collapsed in 1992 has not been adequately studied. Giustozzi aims at filling this gap.

He has organized his book into four parts. Part One deals with the major socio-economic changes (e.g., "land reform," "women's emancipation," and the "literacy campaign") that the Popular Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) regime introduced. These measures caused rebellions throughout the country which, ironically, resulted in worse socio-economic conditions for the people. Part One also discusses the efforts of the PDPA regime to expand the social basis of its support. However, the communist regime failed to achieve this objective.

Part Two focuses on the PDPA regime's efforts to build its armed forces. In 1978, Afghanistan had a 100,000-strong military which disintegrated quickly after the PDPA coup d'etat in April of that year. By 1989, with massive material support from the Soviet Union, the PDPA regime was able to build a military force of 190,000. However, according to Giustozzi, despite its quantitative superiority, the PDPA military suffered from poor morale and could not win the war against the resistance.

Part Three deals with the political measures adopted by the PDPA to pacify the people. Regarding this subject, Giustozzi discusses the efforts of the PDPA regime to gain legitimacy by convening a number of jirgas (traditional assembly of Afghan notables), by forming the National Fatherland Front (a non-PDPA political organization), and by adopting the policy of National Reconciliation. However, none of these efforts was sincere, and none of them was successful.

In Part Four, Giustozzi discusses the rise of the militias, which totaled 100,000 in 1989. Giustozzi believes that although, in the short run, the militias helped the PDPA regime's pacification efforts in the western, northern, and southeastern parts of the country, in the long run the militias were instrumental in the downfall of the PDPA regime.

Giustozzi has gathered an impressive amount of data regarding the PDPA regime, based on PDPA, Soviet, and European sources. In addition to a long description of the data, Giustozzi presents 45 pages of tables regarding various aspects of the PDPA regime. Although some of this data may not be reliable (especially where the author has relied heavily on interviews with the former officials in the PDPA regime), collecting it in one volume is, itself, a valuable contribution. …