S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, “NSC 5409—Memoranda”

Memorandum by the Executive Secretary (Lay) to the National Security Council1



  • U.S. Policy Toward South Asia


  • A. NSC 54092
  • B. Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, dated November 12 and November 30, 19543
  • C. NSC Action No. 12824

The National Security Council, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director, Bureau of the Budget, and the Director, U.S. Information Agency, at the 228th Council Meeting on December 9, 1954, adopted the proposed amendments to Section D of the reference report, prepared by the NSC Planning Board and transmitted by the reference memorandum of November 12, subject to the changes set forth in NSC Action No. 1282-b. The President on December 11, 1954 approved this action.

Accordingly, the enclosed revised pages of NSC 5409, incorporating the above amendments, are transmitted herewith with the request that they be substituted for pages 12, 13 and 145 thereof and that the superseded pages be destroyed by burning.

[Page 1152]

Also enclosed for the information of the Council are a staff study on Afghanistan and a Financial Appendix, to be inserted in NSC 5409, following the staff study now ending at page 40.6

James S. Lay, Jr.


[Here follow numbered paragraphs 46 through 50, which are identical to the correspondingly numbered paragraphs in NSC 5409, February 19, page 1095.]

51. Give special consideration to Pakistan in providing military assistance, including grant, in view of Pakistan’s attitude and key position among the countries of South Asia with respect to military collaboration with the West.

D. Afghanistan

(In addition to courses of action in Section A above)

52. Support the government of Afghanistan so long as it is not unfriendly to the United States and not subservient to the USSR.

53. Encourage the growth of closer economic and political relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, thus creating conditions favorable to settlement of the Pushtunistan dispute and strengthening Afghanistan to enable it better to resist Soviet penetration.

54. Only if Afghanistan and Pakistan demonstrate within their own governments a convincing mutual desire for confederation, consider encouraging and assisting in its realization, providing acceptance of the consequences thereof is then in U.S. interests.

55. Encourage the settlement of disputes and the development of trade between Afghanistan and Iran.

56. As a means of increasing Afghanistan’s resistance to Soviet pressures, provide assistance for Afghanistan for those projects which would tend to strengthen its ties with Pakistan:

By providing technical assistance and economic assistance.
By supporting appropriate applications by Afghanistan to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and to the Export-Import Bank for sound development loans.
By supporting the inclusion of Afghanistan in the Colombo Plan as feasible.

57. Refrain from encouraging Afghanistan expectations that the United States will extend—and for the present do not extend—military assistance to Afghanistan. However, upon attainment of improved Afghanistan relations with Pakistan and Iran, consider extending military assistance to Afghanistan, through Pakistan if expedient.

[Page 1153]

58. Avoid giving the impression that the U.S. favors participation of Afghanistan in a regional defense arrangement at this stage, without foreclosing the possibility of such participation at a later date.

59. In the event of increased Soviet efforts to subvert or take over Afghanistan, immediately review U.S. policy toward Afghanistan.

60. In the event of overt attack on Afghanistan by Soviet forces:

Attempt through diplomatic measures to arrest the action and to obtain prompt withdrawal of Soviet forces.
If unsuccessful, decide in the light of the circumstances existing at the time what further action to take through the UN or otherwise.

E. Ceylon

(In addition to courses of action in Section A above)

[Here follow numbered paragraphs 61 through 64, which are identical to paragraphs 57 through 60, respectively, in NSC 5409, February 19, pages 1095–1096.]

F. Nepal

(In addition to courses of action in Section A above)

[Here follow numbered paragraphs 65 through 67, which are identical to paragraphs 61 through 63, respectively, in NSC 5409, February 19, page 1096.]


Staff Study on Afghanistan


(Supplementary to the Staff Study on South Asia)

recent soviet activity

1. Recent Afghan–Soviet economic agreements permitting Soviet construction of important capital projects in Afghanistan and entry of considerable numbers of Soviet technicians provide evidence that the Soviets may be desirous of drawing Afghanistan out of its present buffer status into the Soviet orbit. Success of the United States in promoting a defense agreement between Pakistan and Turkey and in developing a program of military aid for Pakistan have in part been responsible for intensification of Russian interest in Afghanistan. Russian and Czech economic aid estimated at $13 million in loans and grants has been accepted by the Afghans. A gradual drift towards Soviet influence may result, although openly aggressive action by the USSR is unlikely because of strong anti-Soviet reactions which would probably occur elsewhere in the Arab-Asian bloc.

2. An advance of Soviet ascendency to the southern borders of Afghanistan would bring undesirable consequences. An added burden would be created on the defenses of Iran and Pakistan and the possibility [Page 1154] of Soviet access to the port of Karachi would be enhanced. A wedge would be driven down into the nascent Turkey–Iran–Pakistan defense tier and the prestige of the United States and the West would suffer with the subjection of another free area to Soviet control.

strengthening afghanistan

3. As Afghanistan is threatened by increasing pressure from the Soviets, success of the latter in achieving their goals will depend to a measurable degree on the extent of Afghan weakness. Proposals for strengthening Afghanistan and countering Soviet pressures have included (1) confederation or closer economic and political cooperation with Pakistan; (2) improved relations with Iran; (3) economic aid; and (4) military aid.

Confederation or Closer Economic and Political Cooperation With Pakistan

4. A major source of Afghan weakness is the country’s present unsatisfactory relations with Pakistan. Thus one means of strengthening Afghanistan and reducing the disadvantages of its present position would be through encouraging closer ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This might be approached in two ways: (a) by attempting to bring about a confederation* of the two countries within the fairly near future, or (b) by working for closer and better economic and political relationships of the two countries within their existing political frameworks which might in time lead to some form of political union.

5. Confederation should be considered in the light of the following advantages and disadvantages:

a. Advantages:

The Pushtunistan dispute (Afghanistan’s desire for some kind of autonomous state composed of the Pathan tribesmen living in the northwest frontier area of Pakistan) is the basic cause of friction between the two countries. Confederation would tend to eliminate this dispute, or at least greatly reduce its importance.
Resulting economic union, particularly elimination of trade barriers existing between the two countries, might make them economically stronger than they are at present.
From a military viewpoint confederation would make available to Pakistan additional space in which to maneuver her military forces and terrain which favors delaying or defensive action against a Soviet invasion.

. . . . . . .

[Page 1155]

b. Disadvantages:

Militarily and politically, a combined Afghanistan and Pakistan might well be weaker than the existing separate states. Since Afghanistan’s military forces are insignificant in training and equipment, Pakistan’s defenses would be extended over a larger area without any real addition to the strength of her forces. Afghanistan, far more backward administratively, would absorb some of Pakistan’s trained administrative talent. Progress towards political democracy, while not great in Pakistan, is well ahead of Afghanistan. Given the conflicting tribal groups in Afghanistan and the existing provincial tensions in Pakistan, the prospect of a politically well unified state seems remote.
Desire for confederation in either country is not sufficiently deep to make possible successful agreement on the numerous political and economic matters which would have to be negotiated to bring it about. Pakistan has at present unresolved constitutional problems of a serious nature which would tend to make its government unreceptive to injection of the complicated problems implicit in possible merger.
A step directly from the present political status of the two countries to their consolidation would represent to the Soviet Union an American inspired effort to bring United States strength up to Soviet borders in an area regarded hitherto as neutral ground. Confederation would thus involve the risk of Soviet reaction which would be beyond the capacity of the newly-merged countries to resist. Soviet reaction would create a new area of tension and might deal a serious blow at the outset to the now developing Turkish-Pakistan defense axis.
Adverse Indian reaction would be similarly severe without entailing such serious consequences. Indian objections would be based on fear of an eventual increase in Pakistan’s power and the elimination of Afghanistan as a buffer between the subcontinent and the USSR.

6. On balance, therefore, it is concluded that impracticality and the risk of adverse reaction from the USSR, make undesirable positive U.S. efforts to promote confederation of Afghanistan and Pakistan in one step. However, the concept of an eventual confederation, developed logically and gradually out of progressively improving relations between the two countries, should not be ruled out.

7. Afghanistan could be greatly strengthened by encouraging closer cooperation and better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan within their existing political frameworks. Such a policy is more feasible now than confederation for the following reasons:

Real economic weakness is an important factor in Afghan willingness to accept Soviet offers of economic assistance with consequent gradual increase in Soviet influence. Strengthened economic ties with Pakistan would combat this important cause of Afghan susceptibility to Soviet penetration.
A program for increasing cooperation in economic matters between the two countries presents a series of more readily obtainable objectives than confederation. Economic cooperation might help to [Page 1156] create an atmosphere conducive to elimination of the Pushtunistan dispute, which, once resolved, would open the way for gradual evolution of a merger.
Merger conceived as the end-product of a gradual evolution would be less likely to excite violent Soviet antipathies and reaction.
As Pakistan and Afghanistan are drawn together through various forms of cooperation, Pakistan’s strength and that of the Northern tier defense system is expected to grow. An Afghanistan gradually drawn into closer relations with Pakistan could be fitted more easily into this defense concept with benefit and less risk, eliminating the strategic liability consequent to Afghanistan’s geographic intrusion between Pakistan and Iran.

Improved Relations with Iran

8. Afghanistan would also be strengthened by the settlement of disputes and the development of trade between Afghanistan and Iran. The chief controversy between the two countries concerns disposition of the waters of the Helmand River, which rises in Afghanistan and flows into Iran, and which is important for irrigation. Iran feels that it receives insufficient water and that its position will become worse as new irrigation facilities using more water are developed along the upper river in Afghanistan. Iran has recently agreed to resume negotiations, which have been suspended since Iran in 1952 rejected the report of a neutral technical commission appointed at the instance of the U.S. to find a basis for sharing the waters.

Economic Aid

9. The United States has been carrying on a small program of technical assistance in Afghanistan of about $1.5 million annually and the Export-Import Bank has in recent years extended loans totalling approximately $40 million primarily for the Helmand River valley development project. Future United States economic assistance to Afghanistan should be directed toward giving it maximum resistance to Soviet pressure primarily through promoting better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

10. A program of stepped-up United States aid attempting directly to counteract Soviet economic penetration would entail two disadvantages: (a) it might involve us in a bidding contest with the Soviets which would be expensive and perhaps ultimately useless, or (b) stimulated by our increased interest in Afghanistan, the Soviets might try countermeasures dangerous to Afghan independence.

11. Economic aid directed to projects mutually beneficial to Pakistan and Afghanistan would entail these disadvantages to a much smaller degree. Such a program would serve to bring the two countries closer, creating conditions favorable for greater cooperation and merger as described above. Afghan susceptibility to offers of assistance from the USSR is the result in part of economic difficulties arising from its existing bad relations with Pakistan. Use of our aid to improve relations [Page 1157] between the two countries represents the most practical means of strengthening Afghanistan.

12. Projects which might help to strengthen and smooth relations between the two countries could include (a) the establishment of a “free port” for Afghanistan in Karachi, (b) supply of additional locomotives and rolling stock to facilitate the movement of goods between Karachi and Afghanistan, (c) a railway spur, bringing the northern railhead into Afghan territory, (d) storage facilities at Karachi and the railhead, (e) accelerating the construction of the Warsak hydro-electric project in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier province, with the end of supplying electricity from Warsak to neighboring areas of Afghanistan, (f) development of hydro-electric potential of Kajakai and Arghandab dams for power deliveries in Quetta and Chamon in Pakistan, and (g) improvement of roads connecting Kabul with Pakistan.

Military Assistance

13. Military assistance to Afghanistan would have the advantage of strengthening Afghanistan’s internal security forces and providing a basis for resisting external aggression should that develop.

14. However, these advantages would, at present, be outweighed by an accompanying disadvantage: a possible Soviet threat to the independence of Afghanistan and perhaps the security of its neighbors as well. The future assistance and support needed to counteract the effect of such threats might involve the U.S. in responsibilities beyond what we would wish to assume in this area at this time. Recent Russian economic assistance to Afghanistan indicates a possible Soviet intention to establish control over the country, altering Afghanistan’s buffer status. Delivery of U.S. arms would change this possibility to a near certainty.

15. In addition, there would be the difficulty of overcoming Pakistan’s probable objections to arms deliveries to Afghanistan arising from the discordant relations now existing between the two countries and Pakistan’s fear that arms delivered to the Afghanistan Government might well fall into the hands of tribesmen for harassment of Pakistan’s borders.

16. Nevertheless, there are possibilities that military assistance could be profitably extended to Afghanistan at some later date. This would be particularly true if Afghan relations with Pakistan should improve and if Pakistan should agree to act as intermediary for such assistance. In the light of our present relations with Pakistan, anything we undertake in the way of military assistance should be with the knowledge and concurrence of Pakistan.

17. Because of probable adverse Soviet reaction, the present very limited military capabilities of Afghanistan, and the latter’s unsettled [Page 1158] dispute with Pakistan, the adherence of Afghanistan to a Middle East defense system at this stage in the system’s development would result in a worsening of the position of Afghanistan and a weakening of the system itself. We should, therefore, avoid giving the impression that the U.S. favors participation of Afghanistan in a regional defense arrangement at this time, without foreclosing the possibility of such participation at a later date.




Estimated Cost of the Proposed Policies

Table I. Expenditures by Programs

(Millions of Dollars)

Actual Expenditures Estimated Expenditures
1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1955–58
Military Assistance
Economic Assistance § 1.4 . 4 . 8 .8
Technical Assistance .3 .8 1.8 2.3 2.4 2.5 9.0
Information Services** †† †† .1 .1 .1 .1 .4
Educational Exchange** †† †† †† †† †† †† ‡‡
Total 1.7 1.2 2.7 2.4 2.5 2.6 10.2
[Page 1159]

Table II. Availability of Funds in Relation to Expenditures FY 1955-FY 1957 (Millions of Dollars)

Total Technical Assistance Economic Assistance Military Assistance Information Services§§ Educational Exchange§§
Unexpended carryover into FY 1955 1.2 .8
Plus: FY Funds 1.6
Equals: Total available for expenditures 2.8 .8
Less: Estimated expenditures FY 1955 1.8 .8 .1 ║║
Equals: Unexpended carryover into FY 1956 1.0
Plus: FY 1956 Funds 2.5
Equals: Total available for expenditures 3.5
Less: Estimated expenditures FY 1956 2.3 .1 ║║
Equals: Unexpended carryover into FY 1957 1.2
[Page 1160]

summary explanation

1. Objectives

Since the end of World War II Afghanistan has been engaged in an ambitious program of economic development. The Afghans intend to develop their own basic natural resources at the maximum rate possible. The effort may be described broadly as natural resources development (largely in Southwest Afghanistan and largely by the government) and industrial and power development by private investors mostly in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

However, these capital development plans have not been accompanied by a requisite increase in numbers of skilled and semi-skilled persons to make effective use of them. Thus the dams and irrigation canals need competent men in the various fields of administration and operation; the new textile and power plants require semi-skilled technicians in management and technical operations; and the farmers need new methods and techniques to make the most of the new water resources available.

The FOA program has as its principal objective (a) to aid the Afghan Government in the reclamation, development and settlement of new agricultural land especially in the Helmand River Valley, (b) to give assistance in improving primitive agricultural practices throughout the country, (c) to aid the Afghan Government in establishing and strengthening schools to train technicians required in the economic development efforts, (d) to aid in improving public administration in all fields of activity, (e) to assist in developing sounder communications and transportation systems, (f) to assist in utilizing coal resources, and (g) to assist in raising the level of technical competence by awarding grants for training in the United States and elsewhere.

2. Progress to Date

FOA has provided technical assistance to Afghanistan in several major fields of activity. FOA technicians in the Helmand Valley working with the Helmand Valley Authority have trained men in stream gauging, have established experimental and demonstration farms, have demonstrated improved irrigation techniques, and are assisting the Helmand Valley Authority itself to become an effective administrative body able to regulate the use of land and water resources and to provide service to the people already there and to the nomads who are settling on newly irrigated lands.

In the field of education, teachers and equipment have been provided for the Afghanistan Institute of Technology. Salaries of teachers at Habibia College have been supplemented in order to permit the maintenance of a higher standard of instruction. By means of a contract with the University of Wyoming a vocational agricultural school [Page 1161] has been strengthened. A training program for sub-professional health workers is now underway at the extension training center in the Helmand Valley. Assistance in teacher training is being given through a contract with Columbia Teachers College. Output of coal in two mines has been increased and safety measures for mines has been improved.

3. The FY 1955 Program

The FY 1955 program is planned at a level of $1,620,000. The FOA Mission will continue in the activities started in earlier years with a major part of their efforts being devoted to the Helmand Valley Development program.

4. Host Country Participation

In the past seven years Afghanistan has invested between 60 and 70 million dollars of its own and borrowed funds for Helmand Valley development. Its contributions to activities associated with the technical cooperation program are about four times the U.S. contribution. Despite extreme shortages of trained personnel, Afghanistan officials and technicians head up each of the program activities and work cooperatively with the FOA technicians. The Afghans, realizing the importance of modernizing techniques and methods, have sent annually at least 50 students to the U.S. and other Western countries for advanced training not available in that country.

5. Other Technical Assistance Programs

The United Nations and its Specialized Agencies have sent large numbers of technicians to Afghanistan. The total cost of these operations is estimated at approximately $500,000 annually. Close coordination of FOA operations and other technical assistance programs is maintained at all times.

  1. Copies of this memorandum and the enclosures to it were furnished to the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of Central Intelligence.
  2. Dated Feb. 19, p. 1089.
  3. See footnote 2, supra.
  4. See footnote 8, supra.
  5. Page 12 of NSC 5409 began with numbered paragraph 46; page 14 concluded with numbered paragraph 63.
  6. The staff study on Afghanistan and the Financial Appendix were to be inserted in NSC 5409 immediately after paragraph 58 of the Study Prepared by the Staff of the National Security Council, p. 1096.
  7. Suggestions for confederation have come largely from Afghan spokesmen. The concept has not been precisely defined nor is there evidence of unanimity among the Afghan ruling oligarchy as to the desirability of confederation. Pakistani spokesmen have not been particularly receptive to the idea of confederation although they have evinced willingness to consider means of greater cooperation between the two countries. Presumably confederation would involve at least a central government over both countries and economic union (freedom of internal trade). [Footnote in the source text.]
  8. Estimated expenditures given above are premised on the policy of limited economic assistance contained in NSC 5409, as adopted prior to the increase in Soviet pressure on Afghanistan and prior to NSC 5409’s revision by NSC Action No. 1282. The Department of State and The Central Intelligence Agency believe that considerably larger expenditures will be necessary to carry out the proposed new policy. Detailed estimates of the cost of such new policy have not yet been worked out, but the Department of State believes that the maximum needed for FY 56 would not exceed $30 million, even if none of the assistance could be financed by loans. No estimates are available as to the continuing annual costs of such an expanded program subsequent to FY 56. [Footnote in the source text.]
  9. Does not include Export-Import Bank Loans authorized in FY 1950 ($21 million) and in FY 1955 ($18.5 million). [Footnote in the source text.]
  10. Emergency wheat loan. [Footnote in the source text.]
  11. Sale of wheat for local currency under Section 550 of the Mutual Security Act of 1953. [Footnote in the source text.]
  12. Sale of wheat for local currency under Section 550 of the Mutual Security Act of 1953. [Footnote in the source text.]
  13. No estimate available for possible programs for disposal of surplus agricultural commodities under Public Law 480. [Footnote in the source text.]
  14. Based on financial appendix to NSC 5409. [Footnote in the source text.]
  15. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  16. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  17. Based on financial appendix to NSC 5409. [Footnote in the source text.]
  18. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  19. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  20. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  21. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  22. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  23. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  24. Figure not available. [Footnote in the source text.]
  25. Not available except expenditure data in Financial Appendix to NSC 5409. [Footnote in the source text.]
  26. Not available except expenditure data in Financial Appendix to NSC 5409. [Footnote in the source text.]
  27. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]
  28. Less than $100,000. [Footnote in the source text.]