124. Information Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Montgomery) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • CIA Report on Soviet Policy in Afghanistan

A recent CIA report [less than 1 line not declassified] confirms earlier indications that the Soviets remain committed to their long-term goal of subduing the Afghan insurgency despite the protracted military and economic costs. Moscow recognizes that this process will take years and is ready to shoulder the burden. It is not planning, however, to increase its troop levels.

The report, [less than 1 line not declassified] provides [less than 1 line not declassified] insights into Soviet thinking on Afghanistan to date. According to the report, the Soviets are aware that:

—the Babrak Karmal regime is incapable of defending itself and would be overthrown if Soviet support were withdrawn;

—the USSR must continue to control all government and industrial, (i.e., urban) centers and lines of communication and transportation in Afghanistan until the Afghan army has been sufficiently retooled and a new generation of Afghan leaders trained in the USSR;

—Afghanistan must be restructured and administered along Soviet lines, the final subjugation and pacification of Afghanistan will take several decades if not longer.

The Soviets recognize that their efforts to rebuild the Afghan army have not yet succeeded but that they are not prepared to increase the number of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. [2 lines not declassified] it may reflect some of the findings of the inspection of the military situation in Afghanistan conducted by Marshal Sokolov in early August.

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The Sokolov mission prompted speculation that the Soviets were unhappy with the lack of progress in Afghanistan and were contemplating drastic changes in their policy including Babrak’s replacement. [1 line not declassified] As a recently completed SNIE on Afghanistan argues, the Soviets may change their tactics but there are no signs of a fundamental shift in strategy or goals.2 They will probably stick with Babrak if for no other reason than they have no alternatives at present.

[5½ lines not declassified] since the Afghan adventure would last years and involve sustained Soviet assistance, some belt-tightening must take place. This may be an effort to answer long-standing Soviet military complaints that the Afghans were unable to pull their weight and that more resources were needed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S, Special Handling Restrictions Memos, 1979–1983, Lot 96D262, Super Sensitive, October 1–31 1983. Secret; Noforn; Nocontract; Orcon. Drafted by Wayne Limberg, INR/SEE; cleared by L. Carter, NESA/SOA. Hill’s handwritten initials appear on the memorandum, indicating he saw it on October 11.
  2. Scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXXIV, Afghanistan, February 1981–October 1985.