102. Minutes of a Presidential Review Committee Meeting1


  • Southwest Asia



    • Secretary Cyrus Vance
    • Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary
    • David Newsom, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • Harold Saunders, Ass’t. Secretary for Near Eastern & South Asian Affairs

    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • W. Graham Claytor, Jr. Deputy Secretary
  • JCS

    • Admiral Thomas Hayward
    • Lt. Gen. John Pustay
  • Central Intelligence

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner, Director
    • Frank Carlucci, Deputy Director

    • Dr. Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Thomas P. Thornton
    • Marshall Brement

Turner: One unknown at this point is the extent of Soviet activity and their full intentions. They have brought in perhaps an additional 4–5,000 troops. We know that Babrak is a Parchamist who has been in Prague as Ambassador. After his dismissal he remained in Eastern Europe. His father was a Mullah and this is being used to his advantage. Resistance in Kabul has died out for the night.

Brown: Was the Soviet movement designed primarily to force a change in government?

Newsom: Or do they think perhaps that the insurgents can be better dealt with by Babrak?

Brown: The insurgents are not going to buy that.

Turner: They probably felt that they had to replace Amin; we don’t know whether they have made a broader commitment. The forces in the Turkestan military district may just be to support this move.

Brzezinski: Who is in charge of the Afghan Army?

Turner: Watanjar was purged and Amin kept the defense portfolio.

[Page 280]

Brzezinski: The Soviets have been directly engaged.

Turner: Yes. In Kabul they are engaging in combat. We do not know what is going on in the countryside. There are reports of Soviet flights in Herat and Kandahar.

Brzezinski: What is Radio Afghanistan outside of Kabul broad-casting?

Turner: We don’t know.

Vice President: What is the number of Soviet military there now?

Turner: We do not know exactly—perhaps 10,000 men.

Vice President: What are the reactions of other Islamic countries?

Saunders: We have not got them yet.

Newsom: We sent a message last night to the Islamic posts.2

Vance: Let’s go to the State paper now.3 Are there any substantial problems with the “objectives?”

Brown: Do we have a long-term interest in the unity of Iran? Is that an agreed objective? I don’t think we are ready to judge that yet. A unified pro-Soviet Iran is not necessarily in our interest.

Vance: That is true enough.

Brzezinski: But we still have an interest in avoiding the disintegration of Iran. That would benefit the Soviets.

Brown: Not necessarily—for instance if the Iraqis were to take over Khuzestan.

Brzezinski: But disintegrating Iran is not in our interest.

Vice President: Incipient disintegration is something that we might be able to use as a handle on Iran.

Brown: Perhaps the paper should say “at this time.”

Carlucci: Our covert activity, working with the tribals, could contribute to disintegration.

Vance: That is why it is in our interest to look closely at this as we agreed this morning.

Brzezinski: The fear of disintegration would favor us, not the Soviets. Perhaps we could exploit that.

Aaron: But the fear of disintegration must not immobilize us from acting.

Brzezinski: Perhaps the best formulation is that the use of the fear of disintegration could be useful but disintegration itself would not be wise unless the country were coming under Soviet control.

[Page 281]

Aaron: The paper seems to write off Pakistan.

Vance: That is a key issue. We have to get down to that. The paper doesn’t suggest writing it off but following a middle course. We recognize however that Zia may not last.

Christopher: Perhaps the point is overstated.

Aaron: The alternative, getting close to India, is extremely difficult.

Brown: What will the Indians say about the Soviet activities in Afghanistan?

Saunders: They would be very concerned but they are in the midst of an election campaign and are not likely to do or say much.

Brown: What if Afghanistan becomes another Czechoslovakia? Will that affect Indian attitudes towards the Soviets and the United States?

Saunders: It will be a cause for concern for them but . . .

Christopher: We think that the Indians won’t like it but are not likely to say much.

Turner: We agree with that. They will be concerned but it won’t change their policies much nor will it lead to a warming of relations with us. The paper makes the prospect of Pakistan more pessimistic than is warranted. We could probably maintain relations with a post Zia military regime or even with the PPP.

Vance: True enough but that would not last long. There would be an election, then the PPP which would be more hostile.

Newsom: I agree that it is badly written.

Claytor: It becomes clearer later on.

Vance: Let us turn to the “alternate frameworks.” Should we go all out with the major program in Pakistan, write them off, or take an in-between position? Some discussion of this would help.

Brown: There are many nuances in the in-between position. For instance we could untie aid from nuclear policy. Then we could have a bigger or smaller program. Under the present framework there is very little that we can do.

Vance: You are wrong. It depends on the kind of equipment that we can offer, as Agha Shahi told us.4

Brown: Would or can we sell to them outside of FMS?

Vance: We can sell whatever we want.

Aaron: But what would the Congressional reaction be?

[Page 282]

Vance: At this time Congress will not raise any objections if we can claim that we will be stabilizing the area.

Aaron: What exactly does the non-proliferation problem preclude?

Vance: We can make no military credit sales, no economic assistance except for PL–480.5 Let’s now discuss the options for Pakistan. We can negotiate promptly with the PL–480 and I think we should.

Vice President: Do we need to open up a fundamental dialogue with Pakistan?

Vance: We did that last fall.

Vice President: But our bag was empty then.

Vance: We could go back with more offers, particularly in the area of military sales. That way we could engage them.

Claytor: Their military was very interested when we talked to them.

Aaron: Is there nothing we can do on nuclear policy?

Brown: We can make a distinction between their present program and testing.

Vance: We tried this. We were told that Zia would not test—at least for six months—that he cannot bind a successor. They also told us that they would continue developing their facilities. They did agree not to transfer sensitive technology or to develop a weapon.

Aaron: Does that relate to India somehow? If they made a commitment would the Indians?

Vance: Bilateral exchanges have always fallen through on this.

Newsom: We haven’t asked each side not to test as long as the other didn’t. Anyway the legislation, absent of waiver, demands a stop to the enrichment program, not just testing. Some of us have thought about the “Dimona formula.” (I.e. not testing but purely having the capability to do so.)

Turner: My Chief of Station in Pakistan says that in all of his discussions with the military they suggest a quiet deal to turn off the enrichment facility. It would be unpopular however if that leaked. We could however justify to Congress moving ahead in cooperation with Pakistan on grounds of the Afghan problem.

Vance: We could also ask for a revision of the Symington Amendment but the President wouldn’t want to.

[Page 283]

Vice President: We have poisoned the atmosphere for two years and our policy just isn’t working. Shouldn’t we review this with the goal of enhancing our chances through a broader cooperative relationship? They obviously cannot buckle under to us for political reasons.

Brown: I agree.

Vance: Do you want to ask for a repeal of the Symington and Glenn Amendments?

Vice President: No. Let us concentrate on this issue.

Aaron: We could try to get an international security waiver written into the Symington Amendment parallel to the one in the Glenn Amendment.6

Vice President: Let’s tell Congress that it is preferable to use Glenn’s formulation. That way at least we will have Glenn on our side.

Brzezinski: How much time would that take however?

Vice President: Perhaps now we could move very fast.

Vance: I think you can go ahead faster by selling material to them outright and asking the Saudis to pay.

Brown: In my experience you can get Congress to act faster than the Saudis.

Vance: We could pursue both tracks.

Brown: What kind of sales would that be?

Vance: There are two ways. First we could sell them sophisticated equipment and just accept the fact that we are going to irritate the Indians. Secondly, we could give them a package related only to frontier defense.

Brown: But what is the threat from Afghanistan?

Vance: Agha-Shahi raised this repeatedly and asked what we would be willing to do.

Brown: But they are worried about the Soviets and machine guns are not going to help them there.

Vance: They are very worried about their tribal troubles.

Brown: Are they really assuming that the Pathans will turn against them?

Brzezinski: Isn’t the point one of generating more confidence in Pakistan so that they do not feel they are alone in a deteriorating situation? This means moving ahead on the non-proliferation issue. We should supply them arms. It doesn’t matter all that much what the arms are. We should talk to them about covert action to support the [Page 284] Afghan rebels. We share an interest there. This would be our minimum program.

Vance: We should go ahead with the PL–480, provide more help for refugees through the UNHCR, and we should open military sales channel, starting with the Gearing Destroyers.

Brzezinski: We need another top level political dialogue. Somebody should go to see Zia—perhaps Graham Claytor.7

Vance: Do we all agree on the general posture?

Vice President: Won’t the sale of military equipment bother the Indians?

Vance: I am talking about 155mm Howitzers, Mortars, Vulcans, I-Hawks. They would also be interested in the Hughes 500 Attack Helicopter.

Brown: That package should meet their psychological needs, but it is unclear whether it is useful militarily.

Vance: They also need transportation equipment.

Brown: We will take a look at the list you are giving us. This raises the question of the Saudis. Can we engage them and the Chinese?

Vance: You should talk to the Chinese about that.

Brown: The question is what I should say.

Brzezinski: To recapitulate, we will have a military package; we will seek a waiver in the Symington Amendment language; we will increase money for the refugees and move ahead on PL–480; and we will open up a high-level security dialogue concerning Afghanistan.

Christopher: The waiver is going to be tough on the Hill. Also, we don’t have much money.

Brzezinski: What about their no test pledge?

Vance: We should try but we are not going to get it.

Aaron: Couldn’t we get a reciprocal pledge with India?

Vance: We can try but it won’t work. Pakistan won’t buy it in any case.

Christopher: Zia is too weak for that kind of a commitment.

Newsom: But if the new Indian Government pledged not to test, we could make an attempt.

Christopher: That will cool, not warm the atmosphere.

Vance: We should settle for what we have. In practical terms, they are not going to be able to test.

[Page 285]

Vance: Let us turn to India. I recommend approval of the pending fuel license.

Brzezinski: I have to take note of the fact that ACDA is not here today and we cannot make a recommendation without them. We should have a separate meeting. State should check with them.

Vance: I see no alternative course of action.

Claytor: I agree.

Vance: At least this will maintain the status quo. The NRC has not acted yet; the President can take the pending license from the NRC.

Christopher: We can offer it as an opener with the new government.

Brzezinski: What will we do about selling military equipment to India?

Brown: Let’s go to the new Indian Government and point out the problem of the Soviets in Afghanistan in relationship to their role to India as an arms supplier.

Vance: What they want is high technology material from us—guidance systems for the Jaguar, etc.—the kinds of things we have been unwilling to sell under current policy.

Brown: There is a need to revise our arms sales policy for the whole subcontinent.

Vance: Pakistan and India have different needs. (At this point Secretary Vance passed out a list.)8

Brown: We have to worry about leakage from India.

Christopher: Will this not cause us trouble for [with?] the Chinese?

Vice President: They think that anybody who helps the Indians are pro-Soviet.

Vance: I propose that we go forward on the first Tarapur sale and open the dialogue with the Indians leading to a possible sale of advanced military equipment.

Christopher: Can’t we send the second sale to the NRC?

Vance: Yes. Let’s start the clock running.

Newsom: Should we not send a high-level emissary to the Indians also?

Aaron: We have a need to go to the Pakistanis immediately. Let’s go to the Indians after the election.

Turner: The following is the status of our covert operations in Afghanistan. We had two Presidential findings, one on August 3 and [Page 286] one on November 7.9 With regard to the first one, we have formed a psychological operations team in Washington which is generating material for covert broadcasting in Afghanistan. A clandestine radio was established in Afghanistan in November and indeed the Amin Government had already complained to the Pakistanis about it. We have also placed 150 articles in the world press. We have spent [amount not declassified] under this finding and have [amount not declassified] left. In the field of non-military support, we have disbursed $620,000 of the $695,000 available. Some of this went through Pakistan and some unilaterally. Under the second finding we have to work with the Saudis. We were doing fairly well with them until the attack on the Mosque in Mecca.10 I spoke to Prince Turki last week and he seemed less enthusiastic than he had before. Apparently, Prince Fahd wants to see the color of our money before he does anything. Perhaps he wants to see us buy arms for the rebels as well as do it himself. We can go back to Turki and Fahd on the basis of the original understanding that we would supply all facilities short of weapons. Alternatively, we could ask for a different finding. Under this we would be able to move appropriate materiel out of our storehouses [less than 1 line not declassified] within a week and get it to Saudi Arabia for further forwarding to Pakistan. The Pakistanis would probably prefer that. We would at that point tell the Saudis that it is up to them to pay for the next load of arms although we would of course help them find it. This is certainly the quickest way to get things moving.

Vice President: What kind of material do you have available?

Turner: [less than 1 line not declassified] anti-aircraft guns, [less than 1 line not declassified] anti-tank weapons, AK–47 rifles and 82mm mortars.

Vice President: That sounds good to me.

Brzezinski: We will need a new finding.

Vice President: Is that a lightweight anti-aircraft gun?

Turner: It would be effective against a helicopter but not against aircraft. But we cannot deliver any of this material without Pakistani assistance.

Brzezinski: We will have to discuss this in the high-level mission we send to Pakistan.

Brown: Good. We should ask something from the Pakistanis.

Hayward: (Expresses agreement.)

[Page 287]

Turner: Actually I like the terms of the last finding which meant getting the Saudis out in front.

Vance: They will still be in on it as you described the present proposal. We will take note of what you say.

You are going to have to have the Attorney General here to sign off on the recommendation for a finding.

Brzezinski: Let us do that at the SCC tomorrow morning.

Turner: We would have to give training on the RPG–7 anti-tank weapon. The way we would do it would be to train Pakistanis who then in turn could train Afghans. We also could provide SA7 anti-aircraft missiles but these are not used in Afghanistan and we are trying to restrict ourselves to equipment that the rebels could have taken from the Afghan Army. We have also set aside [amount not declassified] for communications equipment.

Newsom: Is there any sign of greater cohesion among the guerrilla forces?

Turner: No.

Christopher: Where would you provide the equipment?

Turner: Inside Pakistan. That would keep us out of it.

Newsom: Would this program give us more leverage in dealing with these amorphous rebel groups?

Carlucci: That depends on what your goal is. These weapons won’t enable them to take over the country; they will just be making life more difficult for the Soviets.

Turner: One more thing: We can work this first delivery into the money available under the November finding. We have [amount not declassified] remaining. Over the next six or eight months, however, we are going to need $10 million. We can’t go back to Congress and ask for more money until we get a significant Saudi contribution.

Brzezinski: But won’t this smoke the Saudis out?

Carlucci: This, plus our Iran program, will clearly exhaust [less than 1 line not declassified]. We will have to ask for a larger [less than 1 line not declassified] and that will mean a debate in Congress.

Vice President: Are we doing enough on broadcasting?

Brzezinski: A recent SCC meeting mandated several steps. OMB is causing trouble however and I hope that you could weigh in with them. I will send a report over to you.

Vice President: Yes, send some information to me.

Turner: Shouldn’t we lift the anti-Soviet propaganda prohibition that was laid on us at a recent meeting by Lloyd Cutler?11

[Page 288]

Vance: Let’s consider that changed.

Brzezinski: You do not get your instructions from comments made at meetings.

Vance: I want to emphasize that there absolutely must be no leaks from this meeting. There should be no backgrounding without approval at the highest levels.

What do you think about approaching the Security Council concerning Afghanistan?

Brzezinski: The President wants other countries to lead in the protest.

Vance: We will try to see to that. But at the UN we want to keep our focus on the hostage question. We can consider taking the Afghan question there later but I want to urge you now in the strongest terms not to do so at this time.

Brown: Some countries might even welcome the diversion at the UN.

Brzezinski: Maybe other countries will raise it.

Vance: (Secretary Vance invited comments on the draft cable appended to the discussion paper. This cable was to go to Moscow. There was some general critical discussion.) We will send revised instructions to Watson in Moscow.12

Brzezinski: Concerning the Soviet talking points, we should remind them of the 1972 Joint Declaration of Principles.13

Brown: Shouldn’t we draw a parallel between Iran and Afghanistan?

Brzezinski: The other proposed cable should ask our allies and other countries to raise the issue with the Soviets. What are we doing in our own broadcasting?

Newsom: VOA says its main problem is finding pegs from which they can develop themes in their broadcasts. We should all remember to get appropriate themes into our public statements. We will circulate a list of themes tomorrow.

Brzezinski: Are we sure that we are doing enough in this case? This is the first use of Soviet forces outside the Bloc.

Vice President: Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have Bob Byrd summon the Soviet Chargé and point out to them the danger to SALT? Byrd [Page 289] seemed to be on good terms with the Soviets and he could point out to them that they are about to lose a friend.

Aaron: What would we want to get them to do?

Brzezinski: We could talk to them along these lines, and convey to them that there would be far-reaching implications for our relationship. This could be similar to the problem that President Johnson faced as a result of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. It completely ruled out for a long period of time any progress in arms limitations. I am not sure how we want to communicate this. Harold Brown is going to China and we do not want to make a threat out of that to the Soviets but they should have to think about the US-Chinese relationship.14

Vice President: What do we think that the Soviets have decided to do?

Vance: I think they made a decision during the Pavlovsky visit that they had to act or lose out in Afghanistan. They doubt the prospects for SALT anyways; thus, they are willing to take larger risks.

Brzezinski: We also have to keep in mind the Soviet sponsorship of aggression in Cambodia and perhaps Angola and now Afghanistan—and we may also encounter increasing bad Soviet behavior in Iran. This is all going to result in us receiving intense domestic pressure from both the right and the left. We have to get this across to the Soviets most forcefully.

Vance: Your staff has a paper I’ve sent over on the subject.

Brzezinski: Maybe the Soviets haven’t thought all of this through. There is an aging leadership there and they may not have drawn all of the conclusions.

Newsom: Could we send somebody to Yugoslavia and Romania—perhaps also to Poland—for “political discussions?”

Brzezinski: No, we should talk to the Soviets.

Vice President: Brezhnev has sent us a very sweet message on SALT but a very bad one on Iran. Maybe they think we are so desperate for SALT . . .

Brown: The Administration is going to go ahead on the SALT but the Soviets may underestimate the sense of national revulsion.

Aaron: The President will have to decide whether to push SALT. Maybe we should invoke Senator Byrd.

Brzezinski: Perhaps we should send a Hot Line message to Brezhnev. Maybe they would agree to pull out after overthrowing Amin. The President is going to be very loath to give up on his non-proliferation [Page 290] objectives and also to get excessively close to the Chinese. There could be a lasting chill in our relations and the Soviets may not be aware of the impact.

Vance: I think our position has been made clear.

Brzezinski: They may see some of Watson’s protests as purely pro forma.

Vance: We should make fewer protests to the Soviets. We protest too many things too often.

Brzezinski: Let’s consider these things overnight for the NSC Meeting tomorrow.

Brown: What about Iraq? This is an important country where attitudes might be changed. Shouldn’t we approach them?

Vance: The paper calls for that.

Brown: Is this fast enough? It all seems too long term.

Newsom: The Iraqis will worry but not worry in our direction.

Brown: Maybe. But why not offer them a military dialogue explaining our regional goals?

Vance: We tried that and we were rebuffed. But it is worth pursuing. There is not much progress on the political side but on the military side we might find a basis for consultation.

Brown: Should we perhaps send somebody to Iran?

Vance: Somebody is going there. Perhaps for discussions more in the Defense area. It is a private sort of visit.

Brzezinski: What about with the Chinese?

Brown: We will have to issue a communique at the end of the meeting and we will say that we discussed the international security situation including in South Asia.

Vance: I talked to Chai(?) the other day. He offered no new ideas.

Thereupon the meeting ended.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Thornton, Country File, Box 102, Policy Review Committee (PRC): Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Their Neighbors, 12/27/79: 11/79–1/80. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. For the Summary of Conclusions of this meeting, see Document 103.
  2. Not further identified and not found
  3. Not further identified and not found.
  4. Presumably during Shahi’s October 16–17 visit; see footnote 2, Document 79. Documentation on the visit is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIX, South Asia.
  5. Public Law 480, signed into law by President Eisenhower as the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954, provides U.S. Government financing of sales or donation of U.S. agricultural products to developing countries and/or private entities though congressional credits. Title I of the law provides for government-to-government sales to developing countries on a grant program. Title II provides for direct donation of food by the U.S. Government. Title III provides for government-to-government grants through the sales of donated food in the recipient country.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 99.
  7. No record of a visit was found.
  8. Not found.
  9. The first Presidential Finding was dated July 3, not August 3. See footnote 5, Document 53. For the November 7 Finding, see footnote 1, Document 76.
  10. A reference to the seizure of the Grand Mosque by Islamic dissidents on November 20. Documentation on this incident is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIX, South Asia.
  11. No record of this meeting was found.
  12. Neither found.
  13. A reference to one of the basic statements of détente, or relaxation of tensions, forged between the United States and the Soviet Union, and declared during the 1972 Moscow Summit. See Document 87.
  14. See Documents 149 and 150.