501. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson1


  • U.S. Communications Facility at Peshawar, Pakistan


That Ambassador Oehlert be authorized to indicate to President Ayub your recognition of his problems and your willingness, despite the damage it will do to our interests, to agree to close out the Peshawar station, asking at the same time that in order to reduce the damage we be given adequate time beyond July 18, 1969, to close out the station along the lines suggested in the last two paragraphs of this memorandum.2

The Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concur in this paper.


President Ayub told Ambassador Oehlert in the course of a long and agitated statement on Peshawar on May 31 that the security of Pakistan requires that the United States communications station there be closed. Ayub’s position confirmed the earlier delivery of a note by the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a public statement by the Pakistani Foreign Minister to the National Assembly that the GOP intended to terminate the communications facility when the present ten-year agreement expires on July 18, 1969. Ayub’s statement seemed to overrule previous hints from the Pakistani Ministry of Defense that a way could be found to preserve the station—especially if United States military supply policy were to be changed to permit direct arms sales to Pakistan. When pressed by the Ambassador, Ayub said the only possibility he could think of, apart from complete withdrawal, was replacement of the present Peshawar station by a smaller, less visible installation in a different location under complete Pakistani control.

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The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Peshawar [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] is still important to the United States intelligence community and we would like to retain it as long as possible. A recent comprehensive technical assessment prepared under the cognizance of the Director of Central Intelligence indicated that Peshawar is substantially less important now than it was a few years ago and that the loss of intelligence on [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] can, to an acceptable degree, be offset provided that we can find alternative facilities elsewhere in the area, Iran being the most promising. From a technical viewpoint, [1 line of source text not declassified], but there is no realistic substitute facility available to obtain the information now derived on certain targets in [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. This information, though desirable, is not vital in itself.

Development of these alternatives presents certain technical and political problems. A contingency facility planned for Iran, for example, could not be ready before the spring of 1970 and we might not find it advisable to introduce into Iran the full number of personnel planned for this facility in accordance with the contingency plan for Peshawar (NSAM 348).3 However, it appears at present that alternatives are likely to be available at least to the degree where it would not be in our interests to offer a substantial price to Pakistan in an effort to maintain the facility at Peshawar.

For this reason, and because we feel that our basic policy decisions on economic aid and military supply should be made on the basis of broader United States interests vis-à-vis Pakistan, we do not believe that any major change in these policies is likely to be desirable for the specific purpose of affecting the Pakistani position on Peshawar. Ambassador Oehlert will, of course, make continued tactical use of our military sales and of our AID program in ways designed to help us get the most advantageous possible settlement of the Peshawar question. However, we do not believe prior decisions are necessary either to give Ayub something beyond that permitted by our present military supply policy in order to save Peshawar or to deny him something otherwise possible under this policy or under our economic aid program in order to pressure him into meeting our requirements on Peshawar.

Within this framework, our purpose is to hold as much as we can at Peshawar as long as we can. Probably the most acceptable arrangement would be one in which we accepted Pakistani termination of the ten-year agreement as of July 18, 1969, but sought to arrange an [Page 991] indefinite additional period during which we would actually move out. During this period we might dismantle some of the antenna which are not essential to us, seek other ways to reduce the visibility of the activity, see whether or not the Pakistanis would be interested in some of the equipment which we do not want to relocate, and attempt to eliminate or greatly reduce our exclusion area so that the Pakistani presence on the base could be complete. Should Ayub insist on setting definite dates for completion of the move, we might first ask for a maximum of three years, aim at getting two, and settle for the most we get.

The possibility of establishing some kind of smaller United States-operated facility, [1 line of source text not declassified] agreeable to the GOP, will also be explored. Ayub himself has already mentioned the possibility of Pakistani continuation of a part of the Peshawar operation in a smaller, less visible facility in a different location completely under GOP control. This too will be investigated.

Detailed supporting guidance for Ambassador Oehlert’s discussions with President Ayub is now being prepared.

Nicholas deB Katzenbach
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15 PAK-US. Top Secret. Drafted by Spain and Major Wix on July 1 and cleared by Wolf, Battle, Curl (INR/RCI), and [text not declassified] (CIA).
  2. The memorandum does not indicate the President’s response to the recommendation. A handwritten note by Harry Brock of S/S notes that the President’s response to the recommendation was contained in his July 14 letter to Ayub which was transmitted to Rawalpindi in telegram 202058; see Document 503.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 340.