Afghanistan crisis yields critical policy
The Carter administration seems to be backing down from its earlier declarations that the amount of aid offered to Pakistan in the wake of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan is not negotiable.
At the same time the United States appears to be easing pressure on the government of President Zia ul-Haq regarding Pakistan's nuclear programs.
At a press conference in Islamabad Feb. 3 President Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, stated that "the precise time" for introducing legislation to Congress regarding military and economic aid had not yet been determined. Legislation covering $200 million in military aid and an equal sum in economic aid to Pakistan had been expected to be presented to Congress this week.
After two days of talks with President Zia and Pakistan Foreign Affairs Adviser Agha Shahi, Mr. Brzezinski disclosed that a US military team would remain in Islamabad to assess Pakistan's needs and requirements.
The United States, furthermore, wished to consult with "other countries interested in the security of this region" before determining the final nature of the aid package to Pakistan.
Upon Dr. Brzezinski's arrival in Islamabad Feb. 1, US officials in Islamabad had said that the $400 million offered to Pakistan "was not open to negotiation." Pakistan was expected to clarify during the talks with the US delegation whether it would accept the American aid offer as a starter for the coming 18 months.
Asked if Pakistan now agrees to the US offer, Mr. Shahi said Feb. 3, "It is difficult to express an opinion unless we can look at the full picture through the contributions of others." Furthermore, the Pakistani foreign affairs adviser stressed that Pakistan "would like to see an overall figure before legislation [ regarding the US contribution] is introduced to Congress."
The US now seems ready to enter into detailed negotiations before determining its final aid contribution. "It is important that the needs of Pakistan be dealt with on a comprehensive and well-informed basis," Mr. Brzezinski said.
He added that "in the light of the very complicated and strategic situation" the US would like to receive "a report by our own military."
Both Dr. Brzezinski and Mr. Shahi stressed at their joint press conference the "striking similarity of views" between their two countries. Nevertheless, Washington and Islamabad still appear to differ on interpretations of the 1959 defense agreement between Pakistan and the United States.
In a joint statement the US reiterated its "firm and enduring" commitment to the security and independence of Pakistan.
But while Pakistan views it as a blanket defense commitment, Washington has ruled out support in a war with India. Dr. Brzezinski specifically stated that the 1959 agreement "covers aggression against Pakistan by the Soviet Union or any country under the control of the Soviet Union."
Finally, the Carter administration appears to be reducing its efforts to prevent Pakistan from detonating a nuclear device. Dr. Brzezinski reiterated that "we are concerned, have been concerned, and will be concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons."
But asked specifically whether the US had softened its position on Pakistan's nuclear program, one ranking US official said: "We will have to harmonize our goal of non- proliferation of nuclear weapons with the changes in the strategic situation in the area." Reuter reports from the Khyber Pass, Pakistan:
Afghan guerrillas asked Mr. Brzezinski Feb. 3 for missiles to fight Soviet tanks and planes.
Mr. Brzezinski met the guerrillas during a visit to a muddy, cold mountain refugee camp with 4,500 people at Sadda, about 12 miles from the Afghan frontier.
Camp leaders told him they had fled from Soviet troops, whom they accused of killing their people and destroying mosques.
"We don't want wheat and tents," one told him through an interpreter. "We want arms and ammunition from you to defeat the Russian imperialists."
Mr. Brzezinski diplomatically turned aside the demands for arms. He told the refugees the Muslim and Christian worlds were outraged by the Soviet action and assured them the American people were behind them in their struggle.