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Afghanistan's Relationship with Pakistan:

The Soviet/Afghanistan War, and its Impact on the Outcome

Table of Contents

General Information
    -Relationship Prior to the War
        -Border Dispute
        -Political Conflict
Pakistan's Support
    -Reasons Why
Conflict After U.S.S.R. Withdrawal

General Information 
Pakistan lies on Afghanistan’s Southeastern border and has coastline along the Arabian Sea. It is primarily Islamic - most belong to the Sunni sect – and its population is just under 180 million. The landscape is relatively diverse, including a coast along the Arabian Sea, and its capital is Islamabad. Afghanistan’s capital city is Kabul, and it is also primarily Sunni Muslim.

Relationship Prior to the War

Border Dispute - The Durand Line

The Durand Line was formed in 1893 as a border to separate Afghanistan and British India. It is along this line that Pakistan, officially created in 1947, and Afghanistan have been divided. Afghanistan’s governments have frequently questioned this border, as it was not the original border, but rather one imposed by the British to protect their territory. It also splits what was once Pashtun (native Afghan) territory. Pakistani governments maintain that there is no dispute about the border, and that it has always stood the way it is, which has caused conflict prior to the war (“Afghanistan-Pakistan: Focus on Bilateral Border Dispute,” 2011).

Pakistan’s Relationship With Afghanistan Before the Soviet Invasion 
Out of the border disputes over the Durand line came Afghanistan’s desire to reclaim the North-West Frontier in Pakistan (see map). In 1958 there was a coup in Pakistan that brought General Mohammad Ayub Khan to power, however this failed to resolve the conflict over the creation of a Pathan (native Afghan) state. In 1960 Mohammad Daoud Khan, the prime minister of Afghanistan, sent troops into Pakistan, hoping to influence local events in favor of the creation of such a state, but the troops were defeated by Pakistan’s military. During this time the radio waves were consumed by an ongoing propaganda war, which eventually lead to suspended relations starting September 6, 1961. Not only would Pakistan no longer trade with Afghanistan, but it also refused to allow Afghanistan to export through Pakistan to India, and closed its borders to Afghan nomads who would spend their winters in Pakistan. Afghanistan’s economy suffered, and even with the intervention of the Soviet Union and the United States an agreement seemed unlikely; either Ayub Khan or Daoud Khan would have to be removed. In March 1963 Afghanistan king Zahir Shah requested that Ayub Khan retire. He did so peacefully, allowing technocrat Muhammad Yousuf to become the new prime minister, thus resolving much of the conflict (“Afghanistan Pakistan Crisis 1961-1963,” 2011).

Pakistan's Support
After the Khalq (a faction of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan supported by the Soviet Union) came to power in Kabul a National Rescue Front was created by exiled leaders, but quickly dissolved. A new partnership between the Jamiat and Hizb-i-Islami parties then formed under the Harkat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami (Islamic Revolutionary Movement), but also dispersed a few months later. The result was hundreds of resistance groups emerging, all seeking recognition and support. To combat this issue and reduce Afghani fragmentation Pakistan allowed only six groups to operate in its territory, forcing unity and giving Pakistan leverage over Mujahideen politics by only recognizing groups with similar goals as Pakistan.  Years later, Pakistan joined the coalition Islami –Ittehad-i-Mujahideen-i-Afghanistan (Islamic Unity of the Afghan Mujahideen) to be a part of the decision-making during the war. Pakistan was very good at recognizing the weaknesses of the Soviet army, and used this to its advantage by working with the resistance to develop guerrilla-style warfare, as well as channeling over $600 million into Afghanistan. This combination helped create a powerful counter-insurgency, causing a stalemate with the Soviet Union. Pakistan’s decision to not directly provoke the Soviet Union, along with the economic and military support it received from the United States, kept it from yielding to Soviet pressure (Rais, 1994).

Reasons for Pakistan to Support Afghanistan
Pakistan played a critical role in mobilizing international support for the Afghan Mujahideen, as well as in training and equipping their forces. Given the circumstances and their rough history, however, this was an unusual response. There are two theories for why Pakistan chose to strengthen the Afghanistan resistance at a potential risk to itself.
The first was its desire to strengthen its ties with the United States. After the Iranian revolution the United States lost a key strategic alliance in the Middle East, and Pakistan was hoping to fill that void. By aligning itself with American goals Pakistan was benefited in a number of ways. Not only was General Zia (who had compromised his reputation after executing Pakistan’s former prime minister) able to strengthen his civil and military support base and reduce opposition from Islamic extremists, but he was also able to stimulate Pakistan’s economy with the financial support from the US.
The second theory is that Pakistan saw the potential security risks associated with a Soviet takeover of its neighbor. Within months of the Soviet offensive hundreds of thousands of Afghani citizens were fleeing into Pakistan. There was also the risk of Soviet forces using Pakistan to move in and out of Afghanistan. Had the Soviets won, there were the potential threats of attacks on Pakistani refugee camps, seizure of the mountain passes in Pakistan, and a heavily Soviet influence on politics (Rais, 1994).

Conflict After U.S.S.R. Withdrawal
Towards the end of the war Pakistan attempted to create and build support for an Afghan Interim Government (AIG) lead by Hekmatyar, a Mujahideen leader, so that Pakistan and Afghanistan would have favorable future relations. On April 14, 1988 both nations signed the Geneva Accords, prohibiting them from supporting mercenaries within their territories, in order to protect each nation against potential hostile activities from the other.  Pakistan, however, still supported Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan, creating further tension (Dixon, 2001).    

"Afghanistan Pakistan Crisis 1961-1963." OnWar. Web. 24 Sept. 2011.      
"Afghanistan-Pakistan: Focus on Bilateral Border Dispute.” IRIN. OCHA. Web. 24 Sept. 2011. 

"Afghanistan-Pakistan Map." Map. Relaxed Politics. Web. 24 Sept. 2011.
Dixon, Norm. "SPECIAL FEATURE: Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Afghanistan." Green Left Weekly. 12 Dec. 2001. Web. 

          27 Sept. 2011. <>.
Rais, Rasul Bakhsh. War without Winners: Afghanistan's Uncertain Transition after the Cold War
. Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford UP,
         1994. Print.