2. Telegram 1121 From the Embassy in Afghanistan to the Department of State1 2


  • Afghan-Pakistani Relations—Current Problem in Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province


  • Kabul 1118
My commentary on reftel:
RGA is deeply concerned over situation in neighboring Pakistan for domestic as well as foreign policy reasons. Like its predecessors, Shafiq government is not repeat not committed to National Awami Party (NAP) or Wali Khan in Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and even less to various Baluchi faction, whatever RGA public stance. RGA well aware that if “Pushtunistan” ever emerged, political and economic weight would be on other side of present border. But Afghan domestic politics requires “loyalty oath” to Pushtoons and to Baluchis to lesser extent because conservative Afghan element, whose support considered vital by regime, uses it effectively to maintain hold over any Afghan Government. Thus, RGA [Page 2] remains prisioner of this issue.
Shafiq, who has made first systematic effort to tackle nagging economic and administrative problems of administration, is probably more vulnerable than predecessors as attempted reforms increasingly threaten certain vested interests and those affected would be only too glad to turn on Shafiq under cover of seemingy “patriotic” slogan. On other hand, if, in event actual fighting breaks out in Pakistan, Shafiq were to give into pressures and were to act in support of dissident movements in NWFP and Baluchistan, he would drain Afghan’s scarce resources and incur danger of confrontation with Pakistan without much real hope of seriously affecting situation. In that extreme case, only tribal groups would be effective if dubious tools of intervention as regular armed forces are held by us in low esteem. Formal military intervention would therefore combine minimum of effectiveness with maximum of danger to Afghanistan. But latter fact would not diminish pressure of Shafiq because Afghan opinion considers Pathans (Pushtoons) just as superior to Punjabis as Pakistanis consider Punjabis—equally wrongly—superior to Hindus.
Therefore whether Shafiq were to act in such situtation or not, survival of his government would be seriously endangered and, what is probably more important to him, entire reform movement which Afghanistan needs so badly would go down drain.
Furthermore Shafiq and King see in event of such intervention being forced upon Afghanistan, frightful dangers of numerous conflicting foreign interest, invervention, funds, and arms tearing Afghanistan apart. They view Soviet, Iranian, and Indian machinations as particulary probable and dangerous, and see them as potential threat to stability of entire region.
Although depth of their apprehension may well be exaggerated, their fears as such seem to be well founded.
Bhutto is well known and therefore deeply distrusted here and his latest moves have only increased his reputation for unpredictability and for preferring short-term personal or [Page 3] political gain over long-range consolidation. Nevertheless, nobody here thinks that better alternative exists in Pakistan.
Shafiq and undoubtedly Monarch therefore strongly hope that all those countries who desire stability throughout the region, notably US and Iran, might prevail upon Bhutto not to let sitaution deteriorate any further.
Present situation, while clearly undesirable and dangerous, from RGA point of view, is still acceptable and certainly preferable to return to Ayub type of military regime. RGA believes that, if serious conflagrations were to occur, such a military regime would eventually push Bhutto aside. In turn, it would not only cause turmoil in Afghanistan but would in opinion of Afghans seek greater national unity in Pakistan under aegis not only of centralism but of renewed confrontation with India. As Shafiq pointed out (reftel) he believes Pakistan military is again at least mentally moving in that direction, however unrealistic. Past Indo-Pak wars have created much hardship and great fears in Afghanistan. Moreover it must be remembered that Afghans, who have no love for Pakistan, nevertheless prefer Paks at Khyber Pass to Indians whom they would fear even more as more powerful and even less tractable.
RGA therefore concludes that entire region and especially Afghanistan face great instability or worse should situation in Pakistan further deteriorate and therefore hopes that interested powers may succeed in arresting such development.
It seems to me that these Afghan aspirations fit well USG policy in this area and therefore deserve diplomatic support, especially as I do not envisage excessive expenditure of our physical or diplomatic captial.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL AFG–PAK. Confidential; Priority; Limdis. It was drafted by Neumann and repeated to Islamabad, Tehran, New Delhi, Moscow, Lahore, and Karachi. In telegram 1118 from Kabul, February 15, the Embassy summarized the Ambassador’s discussion with Shafiq regarding developments in Baluchistan and the NWFP. Shafiq asked that the United States use its influence to contain the Pakistani crisis because the “course of action now being followed by Bhutto might lead to events which would not be confined to the borders of Pakistan.” (Ibid.)
  2. The Embassy reported on Afghanistan’s approach to Afghan-Pakistani relations, especially Pakistan’s policies in Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and the related issue of “Pushtunistan.” The Embassy noted the threat these issues posed to Prime Minister Shafiq’s “reform” government, which hoped the United States would help “keep the situation in hand.”