122. Memorandum From Thomas Thornton of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • Pakistan and Afghanistan (U)

The attached cable from Hummel makes some very important points.2 They are similar to the ones that I made in my memo to you for last week’s PRC3 and need to be borne in mind. I would restate the situation as follows: (C)

1. Whether we like it or not, the Paks do not see the situation as we do. They think that they are doing us a favor in helping with covert action or criticizing the Soviets about Afghanistan. In their view, we are conducting superpower rivalry and they don’t think that we really care about them. (S)

2. Certainly up until now, the only way that we could get them mobilized in directions that we think are important has been by providing military equipment and (probably) security guarantees at a level far beyond anything that I think is feasible here. That is why I had hoped the PRC would look very hard at what would be involved. It didn’t, and neither, apparently, did the NSC. What Vance offered—[Page 339]and what we are still thinking about—is simply inadequate to motivate the Paks.4 (S)

3. It is barely possible that the implications of the new situation may sink in and the Paks will start changing their attitudes. But I don’t think it is likely. (S)

4. There may be some possibility of getting better results by dealing directly with Zia. This, however, is very hard to do. Even when the President called him, he equivocated until he could consult with his advisers. That means Agha Shahi who, I believe, has permanently written the US off. He will undermine at every step whatever we hope to accomplish with Zia. (S)

5. The main implication of all of this is that our chances of getting Pakistani cooperation in a CIA program are really quite poor. This has major implications for our objectives vis-a-vis the Soviets in Afghanistan, for there is no present alternative to cooperation with Pakistan. Obviously a prime Soviet objective will be to cut off support coming to the rebels from Pakistan. Here, again, if we have any chance, it is through a strong private message from the President to Zia. (S)

6. The only way of getting to Zia directly and forcing him to give his own answers is probably by a visit here. Even then, however, the odds are against us. On foreign policy matters Zia seems to rely on Shahi completely. And that is going to lead him to an accommodation with the USSR. (S)

7. That off-chance would be the one positive value of the visit. Aside from that, I wish the invitation had not been tendered. It is not good for us to be identified too much with Zia, who is in bad trouble politically at home. We may think that we are simply showing our support for Pakistan. In Pakistan, however, it will be interpreted as support for the unpopular Zia. Thus, on balance, I hope that we don’t push this question of a visit. The ball is in his court, let it stay there. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Donated Historical Material, Brzezinski Collection, Brzezinski’s Subject Files, Box 36, Serial Xs—(10/79—12/79). Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. In the top right corner, Brzezinski wrote to Thornton: “TT, we need to know what Pakistan will need in terms of aid—and what it will take to get them to do what is needed. ZB
  2. Telegram 15326 from Islamabad, December 30, is attached but not printed. In the telegram, Hummel relayed the substance of his discussion with Shahi, December 29. Shahi again rejected an immediate visit by Christopher (see footnote 3, Document 111) and told Hummel that, in light of the Soviet intervention, Pakistan “needs indication” of the extent to which the United States was willing to support Pakistan through political, economic, and military means. Hummel reported Shahi was “very anxious” that the United States not publicize the Pakistani response to Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and was upset that Carter’s conversation with Zia (see Document 111) was publicized. (For example, the conversation was reported by Don Oberdorfer in his article, “U.S. Affirms Commitment to Pakistan,” Washington Post, December 31, 1979, p. A1.) Hummel commented that the amount of support Shahi would consider sufficient to mitigate risks associated with perceived “collusion” with the United States would be too high; still, Hummel advocated, “I hope we can have Wash decisions that put us in position of offering substantial assistance so that we are seen to have offered support rather than ignored Pak needs.”
  3. See Document 102.
  4. An apparent reference to Vance’s suggestion to increase P.L.–480 aid to Pakistan, which he made during the National Security Council meeting on December 28. See Document 107.