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The following is an excerpt from a declassified document released online by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as part of a searchable database on its website Reading Room. Declassified documents were previously only available to the public at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

According to an Intelligence assessment report declassified by the CIA, Pakistan’s support for the Afghan insurgents against the soviet occupation is based on a number of key factors, that include:

  • A belief that if Soviets gain control over Afghanistan, they would use it to exert influence in Balochistan as a means of influencing Pakistani politics.

  • The idea that continued support of the Afghan insurgents is that it provides Pakistan with a basis to secure further “military and financial assistance from the United States, China, Saudi Arabia and Western Europe”.

  • The fear of collusion between Moscow and New Delhi in the dismemberment of the Pakistani state.

Screen grab from declassified report
Screen grab from declassified report

Soviet pressure on Pakistan

According to the assessment, the soviets could respond by increasing “support for opposition groups in Pakistan” in addition to stepping up military pressure along the border.

The report goes on to discuss possible reasons why some Pakistani officials were advocating a more lenient approach towards Kabul and Moscow. The reasons stated in the document for this particular stance allege that continued opposition to the Soviets “endangers Pakistan’s security”, claiming that Pakistan could not successfully “defend against a major Soviet incursion”.

The report goes on to point that India remains Pakistan’s principal security threat and “sustained tensions along the Afghanistan border leave Islamabad vulnerable to coordinated pressure from Moscow and New Delhi”.

According to the report, some Pakistani Officials may also believe in a more flexible approach towards Moscow due to the continued tensions between Pakistani citizens and Afghan refugees that put local resources under increased burden. Furthermore, should the US and the European Community opt for a reduction in tensions with the Soviets, it could lead to a reduction in foreign support.

The importance of US military assistance

The declassified report claims that Pakistan views “US military assistance as the necessary underpinning to their Afghanistan Policy” and that the acquisition of modern weapons can prove vital to releasing pressure from the Soviets and India.

The “sale of advanced weapons is the yardstick by which Islamabad measures US support for Pakistan’s political and Security Interests”. The assessment states that any hesitation in military support provided by the US could ensure Pakistan’s doubts about the reliability of US commitment in the region and could “harm US interests”.

If the US does not ensure continued military assistance and support to Islamabad, it could strengthen the arguments for taking a more accommodating approach towards Moscow and Kabul and result in a diminishing effect on “the security of the insurgents’ base and propaganda platform in Pakistan”.

The report, however, does go on to point out that US willingness to provide modern weapons to Pakistan could lead to increased regional tensions between India and Pakistan until “Pakistan’s defenses were strengthened with the delivery of most of the US weapons in the mid-1980s”. Continued US military support could also lead to the Soviets increasing opposition to the Zia regime in Pakistan, according to the report.

The Soviet threat

The intelligence assessment states that Pakistan believes the Soviets moved into Afghanistan as “part of a long-term strategy to gain access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean”. In light of this, the report believes, Pakistan worries that Soviet success would lead to a major attack on Pakistan “with the aim of seizing Baluchistan and simultaneously cutting the strategic Karakoram highway to China and linking with Indian forces” in central Pakistan.

The assessment also claims that discussion between Pakistani and US officials indicate that Pakistan fears USSR and Indian plans to “dismember Pakistan into ethnically based vassal states in Pashtunistan, Baluchistan, Sind, and the Punjab”.

Pakistan's support of insurgents

The document shows that Pakistan’s support for the insurgents was crucial to US interests in denying Soviets control of Afghanistan since Pakistan “is a supply base and a sanctuary for the insurgents, and Islamabad has allowed them to establish training camps and receive foreign arms in the border regions.” The assessment cites cross-border infiltration of both insurgents and weapons as a major factor leading to the success of the insurgency.

According to the intelligence assessment, the Soviets believe Pakistan’s Afghanistan policies are “personally linked to President Zia”. It further goes on to state that the Soviets had long standing relations with Baluch and Pashtun separatist groups and could “use them to gain leverage over Pakistan’s policies.

The US intelligence community however did not believe these groups to be strong enough to threaten the Zia regime in Pakistan and that any efforts by the Soviets to challenge the Zia regime would move Pakistan and the US closer to each other.

Reliability of the US as an ally

The report repeatedly points out Pakistan’s doubts about the reliability of the US as an ally and that the longer the Soviets occupy Afghanistan, the more likely it may become that the US withdraws its support for insurgents which would leave Pakistan “without any superpower support”.

According to the report, these concerns on the part of Pakistan are rooted in the legacy of the US as an arms supplier, specifically in hindsight of US arms embargoes in the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 and that “many Pakistani officials suspect US support for Pakistan is only a temporary expedient to oppose the Soviets” and any relief in tensions between the two would result in the isolation of Pakistan.

The documents also point towards the lack for a solid commitment from China to defend Pakistan, “despite China’s strong support.”

Despite of the threats posed by continued Soviet presence in Afghanistan, threats of direct action, and even suggestions that Kabul would “recognize the Durand Line”, the intelligence assessment maintains that Pakistan has not compromised its stance due to “genuine consideration of policy alternatives” and also “to elicit more foreign support”, especially in military aid.

Pointing out implications for US policy, the intelligence assessment concludes that any shift in Pakistan’s policy towards reconciliation with the Soviets or the Afghan government “would be a severe blow” to the US in South Asia as it would legitimize a Soviet backed government in Kabul.

The assessment also touches upon the opportunity cost of increased backing and military aid to Pakistan as any such build up would “further sour US relations with India”, in addition to increasing tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.


The above-mentioned document is part of a database of 930,000 previously confidential files released by the CIA on January 17, 2017. The CIA had disseminated historical declassified documents to its CIA Records Search Tool (Crest) since 1999.

To view Dawn.com's compilation of extracts from the declassified CIA documents, click here.