Once in power, the PDPA moved to permit freedom of religion and carried out an ambitious land reform, waiving farmers' debts countrywide. They also made a number of statements on women’s rights and introduced women to political life. A prominent example was Anahita Ratebzad, who was a major Marxist leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council. Ratebzad wrote the famous May 28, 1978 New Kabul Times editorial which declared: “Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country ... Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention.”
Many people in the cities including Kabul either welcomed or were ambivalent to these policies. However, the secular nature of the government made it unpopular with religiously conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside, who favoured traditionalist 'Islamic' law.
The U.S. saw the situation as a prime opportunity to weaken the Soviet Union. As part of a Cold War strategy, in 1979 the United States government (under President Jimmy Carter) began to covertly fund forces ranged against the pro-Soviet government, although warned that this might prompt a Soviet intervention, according to President Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski described the U.S. activities as the successful setting of a trap that drew the Soviet Union into "its Vietnam War" and brought about the breakup of the Soviet empire. Regarding U.S. support for Islamic fundamentalism, Brzezinski said, "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" The Mujahideen belonged to various different factions, but all shared, to varying degrees, a similarly conservative 'Islamic' ideology.