100. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of South Asian Affairs (Jones) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Allen)1


  • Problem of U.S. Policy Regarding the Pushtunistan Dispute


On October 20 Afghanistan Ambassador Ludin delivered to the Secretary a message from the King of Afghanistan for the President, requesting him not to “withhold …2 efforts for the creation of ways and means of understanding” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.3 Ambassador Ward on November 19 delivered the President’s reply to the King which stated that the President would be glad to do what he could to achieve understanding between Afghanistan and Pakistan and asking for the King’s views regarding the way in which the President could be of assistance.4

The problem is to determine what action the United States Government should take following the King’s reply to the President’s message.

Expected Nature of King’s Reply:

It is, of course, impossible to decide definitely on U.S. policy until after the receipt of the King’s reply. If the past attitude of the Afghan Government regarding the U.S. role in the Pushtunistan dispute can be considered as a guide, however, it is anticipated that the King in his reply will request the United States Government to utilize its influence with the Pakistan Government to get it to agree to some concession to the Afghan position regarding self-determination for the Pushtu-speaking peoples resident on the Pakistan side of the border between the two countries.

Considerations Affecting U.S. Decision:

One of the most important considerations affecting the U.S. as to the action which it might take following the King’s reply is the [Page 200] evaluation of the chances that the Soviet Union would increase its influence in Afghanistan to the extent that it became dominant if the U.S. did not intervene with the Pakistan Government in Afghanistan’s behalf. This evaluation will be a continuing one affected by unfolding events such as the pending visit of Bulganin and Khrushchev to Afghanistan.5

Perhaps the second most important consideration in determining U.S. policy towards the Pushtunistan question is its effect upon our relations with our close ally Pakistan. Pakistan has openly and clearly allied itself, both militarily and politically, with the free world and great care should be exercised to take no action that would weaken its ties with the U.S. and other countries of the free world. However, almost any action we may take by way of mediating the Pushtunistan dispute with the hope of mollifying the Afghans will be distasteful to the Pakistanis as it will involve some retreat from their position that any question of the status of the Pushtuns inside Pakistan’s borders is solely an internal affair and that Pushtunistan cannot be considered an international question.


Probably the most advisable action for the U.S. is to try to get discussions started between Afghanistan and Pakistan on outstanding problems. The Afghans probably would not agree to participate in such discussions unless it was understood, tacitly at least, that Pushtunistan might be discussed. We should strive to be sure the discussions do not break down.
Concurrently with this we should take other steps to try by concrete action to show the Afghans that their national interests lie with the free world.


That we ask the Pakistanis to undertake discussions with the Afghans of Pak-Afghan problems not excluding the Pushtunistan question, and similarly try to persuade the Afghans to join in such discussions. The next message to the King could suggest such discussions.
That we study in light of the effect of the Khrushchev and Bulganin visit and other factors:
What concessions the Government of Pakistan might make with regard to the Pushtunistan issue—or the creation of better relations with Afghanistan—which would not weaken Pakistan’s sovereignty over Pakistan territory, including the tribal areas.
What assistance we might offer the Afghans in such matters as expediting transit of goods or in purchase of small arms to prevent the Afghans from moving further towards the Soviets and to demonstrate that Afghan interests lie with the free world.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 689.90D/11–2355. Also addressed to Rountree.
  2. Ellipsis in the source text.
  3. See Document 98.
  4. See footnote 5, supra.
  5. Bulganin and Khrushchev were scheduled to visit Afghanistan on December 15 for the purpose of considering additional Soviet aid to that country.
  6. In a handwritten note on the source text, Allen made the following comments: “I would also like to consider the possibility of a counter-move by Pakistan. They might stir up some trouble among the Pushtoons of Afghanistan, or at least threaten to do so.”