!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Follow Us!

We are planning some big changes! Please follow us to stay updated and be part of our community.

Twitter Facebook

A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Soviet-Afghan War Connections

Project: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
Open-Content project managed by Paul, KJF

add event | references

Front row: Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq  (left) and President Carter (right). Zbigniew Brzezinski is in the center of the back row.Front row: Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq (left) and President Carter (right). Zbigniew Brzezinski is in the center of the back row. [Source: Wally McNamee / Corbis]National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski writes a memo to President Jimmy Carter about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which has just begun (see December 8, 1979). Brzezinski focuses on fears that success in Afghanistan could give the Soviets access to the Indian Ocean, even though Afghanistan is a landlocked country. He suggests the US should continue aid to the Afghan mujaheddin, which actually began before the war and spurred the Soviets to invade (see 1978 and July 3, 1979). He says, “This means more money as well as arms shipments to the rebels and some technical advice.” He does not give any warning that such aid will strengthen Islamic fundamentalism. He also concludes, “[W]e must both reassure Pakistan and encourage it to help the rebels. This will require a review of our policy toward Pakistan, more guarantees to it, more arms aid, and alas, a decision that our security problem toward Pakistan cannot be dictated by our nonproliferation policy.” Carter apparently accepts Brzezinski’s advice. Author Joe Trento will later comment, “With that, the United States agreed to let a country admittedly in turmoil proceed to develop nuclear weapons.” [Trento, 2005, pp. 167-168] Trento and fellow author David Armstrong will add: “Once [Pakistan] became a partner in the anti-Soviet Afghan campaign and the Carter administration adopted a more lenient view of Pakistan’s nuclear activities, the [procurement] network [run by A. Q. Khan] expanded its operations dramatically. It would soon evolve into a truly global enterprise, obtaining the vast array of sophisticated equipment with which Pakistan would eventually build a bomb.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 99]

Entity Tags: James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., David Armstrong, Joseph Trento, Zbigniew Brzezinski

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections

On a trip to New York, Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq meets with former US President Richard Nixon. The meeting is to discuss the Soviet-Afghan War, but Pakistan’s nuclear program also comes up. General Khalid Mahmud Arif, who accompanies Zia, will later say that Nixon makes it clear he is in favor of Pakistan gaining nuclear weapons capability. Nixon does not say that he is acting for Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, but, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke, “his comments signal […] the way ahead,” as the future Reagan administration will enable Pakistan to continue work on its nuclear weapons program without being sanctioned. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 76]

Entity Tags: Khalid Mahmud Arif, Reagan administration, Richard M. Nixon, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections

Much of the billions of dollars in aid from Saudi Arabia and the CIA to the Afghan mujaheddin actually gets siphoned off by the Pakistani ISI. Melvin Goodman, a CIA analyst in the 1980s, will later say, “They were funding the wrong groups, and had little idea where the money was going or how it was being spent.” Sarkis Soghanalian, a middleman profiting from the aid, will later say, “The US did not want to get its hands dirty. So the Saudis’ money and the US money was handled by the ISI. I can tell you that more than three quarters of the money was skimmed off the top. What went to buy weapons for the Afghan fighters was peanuts.” Sognhanalian claims that most of the money went through various accounts held at the notoriously corrupt BCCI bank, then was distributed to the ISI and the A. Q. Khan nuclear network. [Trento, 2005, pp. 318] Robert Crowley, a CIA associate director from the 1960s until the 1980s, will also refer to the aid money going to Khan’s network, commenting, “Unfortunately, the Pakistanis knew exactly where their cut of the money was to go.” An early 1990s congressional investigation led by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) will also come to the same conclusion. [Trento, 2005, pp. 314, 384]

Entity Tags: Robert Crowley, Saudi Arabia, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Central Intelligence Agency, Melvin A. Goodman, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Sarkis Soghanalian

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Pakistani ISI Links, Soviet-Afghan War Connections

A briefing by Pakistani scientist Ishrat Usmani saying that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is experiencing difficulties is published in the influential European nuclear publication Nucleonics Week. According to Usmani, a former head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, the program faces “severe difficulties” and is unlikely ever to be capable of producing even the crudest of nuclear devices. However, Usmani, who has worked for the United Nations and is a trusted figure in the West, knows that Pakistan’s program is actually going well and several operational cascades have already been built. It appears the misleading information finds its way into print as part of a plan to convince US lawmakers to enable a change to America’s policy towards Pakistan. The Pakistanis are to be given increased aid by the incoming Reagan administration despite their nuclear weapons program, in return for their support against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 79]

Entity Tags: Ishrat Usmani

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections

The incoming Reagan administration marginalizes the State Department’s Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). Its director is supposed to be the primary advisor to the president on non-proliferation issues, but, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, he is “kept out of Reagan’s way.” In addition, many staffers are fired. Richard Barlow, an intern who will go on to have a long career in intelligence, will say that the firings greatly damaged the agency’s morale, commenting, “There were grown men crying around me in the office.” One reason for this may be that ACDA had kept former President Jimmy Carter well informed of Pakistan’s attempts to build a bomb, leading to sanctions against that country. However, the Reagan administration now wants to get close to Pakistan, whose support is viewed as necessary for the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 78]

Entity Tags: Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Adrian Levy, Reagan administration, Richard Barlow, Catherine Scott-Clark

Category Tags: Cover-up of US Intelligence, Soviet-Afghan War Connections

Congressman Alan Cranston (D-CA) writes to Secretary of State Alexander Haig about signals that the Reagan administration is preparing to turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in return for Pakistani support against the Soviet Union. Details of the deal are already being leaked, and there are rumors the aid for Pakistan will even include F-16 fighters. “I view our nation’s leadership in international nuclear non-proliferation efforts as a central component of our national security program,” Cranston writes. He adds that without much digging he has learned that “the Pakistanis—through continued purchases of sensitive hardware and dual use technology in Europe—have achieved swift progress towards making their new reprocessing plant operational and have continued development of larger reprocessing and enrichment plants.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 80-81]

Entity Tags: Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Alan Cranston

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Congressional Oversight

Congressman Jonathan Bingham (D-NY) says that Pakistan’s nuclear policy represents a “clear and present danger to the US and indeed Western security interests in the Persian Gulf and South Asia.” Bingham, chairman of the House International Economic Policy and Trade Subcommittee, is part of a group of congressmen who oppose a plan by the Reagan administration to turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in return for support against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Another of the group is former astronaut and current Senator John Glenn (D-OH). One of Glenn’s aides, Len Weiss, will later describe the feeling in Congress at this time: “Afghanistan had a huge effect on the Hill, becoming a marker of patriotism. There were only two choices. You were against the Soviets and therefore for Pakistan. Or you were against Pakistan and somehow for the Soviets. Nobody thought to tell us that we could be against Pakistan’s bomb and against the Soviets too. That required too much work for the Reagan people. They were lazy and short-sighted.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 80, 475]

Entity Tags: Len Weiss, Jonathan Bingham

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Congressional Oversight

Pakistan Foreign Minister Agha Shahi and General Khalid Arif visit Washington to discuss the new Reagan administration’s plans for the Soviet-Afghan War. The new administration is aware that Pakistani support is crucial if it wants to keep up US aid to anti-communist fighters in Afghanistan. However, the Pakistanis impose a number of conditions on their participation, one of which is that the US does not complain about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development program. According to former State Department official Dennis Kux, Shahi and Arif tell US Secretary of State Alexander Haig that Pakistan will not compromise on its nuclear program. Haig replies that if Pakistan conducts a nuclear test, this will cause trouble in Congress and “make it difficult to cooperate with Pakistan in the way that the Reagan administration hoped.” However, if Pakistan does not perform a test, the nuclear program “need not become a centerpiece of the US-Pakistani relationship.” State Department South Asia specialist James Coon will comment that there is “a tacit understanding that the Reagan administration could live with Pakistan’s nuclear program as long as Islamabad did not explode a bomb.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118, 248] Over the next few months, Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley and other US officials travel back and forth between Washington and Pakistan, in the words of authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, “refining the back-channel deal on the Pakistan nuclear program,” and reassuring the Pakistanis that the Reagan administration will allow their work on the bomb to continue. On one occasion, Arif meets Buckley and they discuss the sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan. Arif then raises the nuclear issue, but, Arif will later say, “The Americans suggested there was no need to talk about Pakistan’s [nuclear] program any more.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 88-89]

Entity Tags: Khalid Mahmud Arif, James Buckley, Dennis Kux, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Agha Shahi, James Coon

Category Tags: Assistance to Khan Network in US, Cover-up of US Intelligence, Soviet-Afghan War Connections

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes 10-7 to approve a six-year waiver requested by the Reagan administration allowing it to provide aid to Pakistan. The waiver is required because foreign aid for Pakistan was cut off in 1979 in response to revelations that it had acquired unsafeguarded uranium enrichment technology. The Reagan administration wants to provide aid to Pakistan to get it to assist anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan. An increased aid package will be approved in December (see December 1981). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118-119; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 85]

Entity Tags: Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Congressional Oversight

In response to information it has received about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see June 2, 1981), Israel begins planning a pre-emptive strike against one of Pakistan’s main nuclear facilities. The complex to be targeted is in Kahuta, near Islamabad, and houses Pakistan’s uranium enrichment centrifuges. However, the plan is not implemented due to US pressure, applied due to friendly US relations with Pakistan and Pakistani co-operation on anti-Soviet efforts in Afghanistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86]

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, Israeli Attitude to Pakistan Nukes

The US Senate approves an aid package for Pakistan worth $3.2 billion. This makes Pakistan the third largest recipient of US assistance after Israel and Egypt, and is in response to Pakistani support for the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan. The aid is granted despite the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program, as Congress is assured that the aid is conditional on Pakistan stopping this program (see September 1981). However, Pakistan does not do so and informs the Reagan administration of this (see Mid-December 1981). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 89] Due to an amendment introduced by Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), aid for any country that detonates a nuclear device will be cut off. Author Dennis Kux will note that this makes “the ‘tacit’ understanding about Pakistan’s not testing (see April 1981)… a legal requirement for US aid.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118-119]

Entity Tags: Dennis Kux, Stephen Solarz

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Congressional Oversight

Pakistani Foreign Minister Agha Shahi meets US Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley in Islamabad, Pakistan, following a large grant of US aid to Pakistan (see December 1981). The aid is theoretically conditional on Pakistan stopping its nuclear weapons program, but, according to Agha Shahi: “I mentioned the nuclear caveats and emphasized that if we had a bomb and wanted to test it there was nothing the US could do. Buckley shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I understand. Yes, we know.’” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 89]

Entity Tags: Agha Shahi, James Buckley

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, Western Intel on Pakistani Nukes

The arrest of a Pakistani agent attempting to buy components for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in the US starts a crisis that could potentially lead to the cutting off of US aid to Pakistan, and an end to US support for the mujaheddin in the Soviet-Afghan War. When Stephen Solarz (D-NY), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs and an opponent of Pakistan, learns of the attempted purchase—of Kryton high-speed triggers that are used to fire nuclear weapons—he calls for hearings to look into the affair. The crisis passes, but it is unclear exactly how. Author George Crile will attribute the resolution to threats made to Solarz by Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-TX), a strong supporter of US involvement in the war: “Wilson understood that this was a battle that could not be won with debating points; reportedly, he went to Solarz armed with certain classified intelligence about India’s nuclear program. He is said to have suggested that India might be more exposed than Pakistan when it came to the issue of the bomb.” [Crile, 2003, pp. 463-4]

Entity Tags: Charlie Wilson, Stephen Solarz, House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, George Crile

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Assistance to Khan Network in US, Soviet-Afghan War Connections, Western Intel on Pakistani Nukes, USA

A 2007 satellite image of the Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta.A 2007 satellite image of the Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta. [Source: GeoEye]Richard Barlow, an analyst working on Pakistan’s nuclear program who was released by the State Department in the early 1980s (see 1981-1982), is hired by the CIA’s Office of Scientific and Weapons Research (OSWR). Barlow re-analyzes the data and confirms his earlier conclusions—that Pakistan is pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program. Barlow learns about the trade in dual-use components—tools and equipment that can be used to make nuclear weapons, but also for other, non-nuclear purposes, meaning trade in them is hard to spot and regulate. One example of this is a California couple that exports dozens of high-speed cathode-ray oscilloscopes and special cameras to Hong Kong, where they are picked up by Pakistani agents. Barlow realizes that such a large number of oscilloscopes must be for nuclear weapons manufacturing, and also finds a link between the purchase and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). Barlow will later comment, “There was tons of it and most of it was ending up in [Pakistan]. Pakistan had a vast network of procurers, operating all over the world.” Barlow also finds that the material is going to a secret nuclear facility near Islamabad, the Khan Research Laboratories, where sensors pick up high levels of enriched uranium in the air and in dust on [trucks] leaving the laboratories. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007] Despite this, in order to prevent Congress from cutting of aid to the anti-Soviet mujaheddin, which flows through Pakistan, US authorities will repeatedly insist Pakistan is not working on a nuclear program (see August 1985-October 1990).

Entity Tags: Richard Barlow, Office of Scientific and Weapons Research (CIA), Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Kahuta Research Laboratories

Category Tags: Richard Barlow, Soviet-Afghan War Connections, Western Intel on Pakistani Nukes

Pakistani officials decide to try to sell the nuclear weapons technology and expertise they have acquired in the last decade to other countries. The decision is taken because the Pakistanis’ nuclear weapons project is extremely expensive and they realize that the US money and goodwill that is keeping it alive is finite. Former Pakistani foreign minister Agha Shahi will say: “[Pakistani President Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] began to see the truth in something I had long argued. We were now deep inside the US pocket. Pakistan needed to win independence so as not to suffer when the inevitable happened and the US dropped us. Pakistan needed to broker new alliances and develop a revenue stream that was dependable and outside the scope of the US-run Afghan war.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will write: “KRL [Khan Research Laboratories] was Pakistan’s money pit, costing hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain, but it was also potentially a cash cow, [A. Q.] Khan’s advances in the field of uranium enrichment being unique and extremely valuable. Out of the handful of countries that had mastered enrichment technology, including China, France, Pakistan, the US, and the Soviet Union, only China and Pakistan were free to share it, having refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).… This technology was worth millions if Pakistan was able to sell it.” Therefore Zia and senior cabinet members begin a series of “highly secretive meetings to explore trading KRL’s skills and assets.” The urgency of this project increases further after the Soviet Union decides to end the Afghan war in 1986 (see November 1986-November 1987). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 132-133]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Agha Shahi

Category Tags: Progress with Pakistani Nukes, Soviet-Afghan War Connections

Senator Larry Pressler.Senator Larry Pressler. [Source: Public domain]The US Congress passes the “Pressler Amendment,” requiring the president to certify that Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons every year. The amendment was championed by Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD). If the president does not issue such certification, Pakistan cannot not get any foreign aid from the US. Presidents Reagan and Bush will falsely certify Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons several times (see August 1985-October 1990). Journalist Seymour Hersh will later comment: “There is indisputable evidence that Pakistan has been able to escape public scrutiny for its violations of the law because senior officials of the Reagan and the Bush administrations chose not to share the intelligence about nuclear purchases with Congress. The two Republican administrations obviously feared that the legislators, who had voted for the Solarz (see August 1985) and Pressler Amendments, would cut off funds for the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It was yet another clash between a much desired foreign-policy goal and the law.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Larry Pressler, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Congressional Oversight

Congressman Stephen Solarz.Congressman Stephen Solarz. [Source: AP]The “Solarz Amendment” to the Foreign Assistance Act is passed by the US Congress and becomes law. The amendment, championed by Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), cuts off all military and economic aid to purportedly non-nuclear nations that illegally export or attempt to export nuclear-related materials from the US. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993] There are subsequently several examples of Pakistan exporting nuclear weapons technology from the US, but they are not punished until the end of the Soviet-Afghan War (see August 1985-October 1990).

Entity Tags: Foreign Assistance Act, Stephen Solarz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Congressional Oversight, US Sanctions

Despite the passage of two amendments dealing with Pakistan’s nuclear program in August 1985 (see August 1985 and August 1985), the Reagan and Bush administrations will fail to keep Congress properly informed of incidents related to Pakistan’s acquisition of components for its nuclear program, even though such notification is required by law. Senator John Glenn (D-OH), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), Chairman of the House Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, will later say that they are not formally briefed about any significant Pakistani procurement, with the exception of one case (see July 1987 or Shortly After), during this period. For example, Glenn will later say he should have been briefed about a nuclear scare involving Pakistan and India in 1990 (see January-May 1990) [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, Governmental Affairs Committee, Reagan administration, Stephen Solarz, John Glenn

Category Tags: US Congressional Oversight, Cover-up of US Intelligence, Soviet-Afghan War Connections

US aid to Pakistan reaches $4 billion in this year. This large amount of aid is being provided in connection with, and in addition to, US support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan, who are based in Pakistan (see May 1979). [Raw Story, 4/30/2007]

Entity Tags: Pakistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Sanctions, Other US Politics

The CIA advises Dutch authorities to back off the case of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who had stolen nuclear secrets in the Netherlands for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see March-December 15, 1975). Khan had been convicted by a Dutch court (see 1983), but the conviction was overturned on appeal due to a technicality (see 1985), and the Dutch are considering reopening the case. Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers will later say that the US wants Khan to be left alone because Pakistan is a key US ally in the battle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The CIA had told the Dutch to back off Khan once before (see November 1975) [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 67]

Entity Tags: Ruud Lubbers, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Cover-up of US Intelligence, Soviet-Afghan War Connections, Netherlands

Ronald Reagan and Pakistani dictator Zia ul-Haq.Ronald Reagan and Pakistani dictator Zia ul-Haq. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and 1988 and President George Bush in 1989 continue to certify that Pakistan does not have a nuclear weapon, a condition of continuing aid to Pakistan under the law (see August 1985). These certifications began in 1985 (see August 1985-October 1990) and are thought to be important because Pakistan is a key base for the CIA-backed Afghan mujaheddin, and cutting off aid to Pakistan might curtail CIA support for the anti-Soviet forces. According to journalist Seymour Hersh, the rationale behind the certifications is that there is “no specific evidence that Pakistan [has] indeed done what it was known to be capable of doing,” and produced a nuclear weapon. In addition, it is apparently thought that if the US continues to supply conventional weapons, Pakistan will not need a nuclear bomb, although Hersh says this is “a very thin argument, as everyone involved [knows].” However, CIA officer Richard Kerr will later say, “There is no question that we had an intelligence basis for not certifying from 1987 on.” By this time there is mounting evidence of Pakistan’s nuclear program (see 1987, (1987), and July 1987 or Shortly After). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, George Herbert Walker Bush, Richard Kerr, Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: US Congressional Oversight, Soviet-Afghan War Connections, Cover-up of US Intelligence, US Congressional Oversight, Soviet-Afghan War Connections, Cover-up of US Intelligence

Although the US is already aware that the Soviet Union intends to withdraw from Afghanistan (see November 1986-November 1987) and a formal agreement on the Soviet withdrawal will be signed in four months (see April 1988), the US Congress approves aid of $480 million for Pakistan, despite its nuclear weapons program. Legislation has been passed that automatically cuts off aid to countries with illicit nuclear weapons programs (see August 1985 and August 1985), but this legislation is not invoked. Despite apparently knowing of the Pakistani program, Congress decides that supporting the war in Afghanistan is more important (see July 1987 or Shortly After and Late 1980s). Some lawmakers and officials will later say that at this time “everybody in Congress” knows that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program (see Late 1980s), and anti-proliferation Senator John Glenn (D-OH) will later say the threat of nuclear proliferation “is a far greater danger to the world than being afraid to cut off the flow of aid to Afghanistan,” adding, “It’s the short-term versus the long-term.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: John Glenn, Pakistan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: US Congressional Oversight, Soviet-Afghan War Connections

US ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley.US ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley. [Source: Terry Mitchell / Public domain]According to some accounts, by this time it is common knowledge in certain Washington circles that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Despite this, the US government and Congress continues to pretend that Pakistan does not have such weapons, so that aid to Pakistan and the anti-Soviet mujaheddin based there can continue (see 1987-1989). A former top-level Reagan Administration official will later question the integrity of members of Congress who outwardly pretended to be tough on nuclear proliferators, but did not really want the aid to be cut off: “All this morality horse****. We were caught in a dilemma, and I didn’t know how to solve it: there was no way to stop the Pakistanis.… All this talk about breaking the law—it’s just a morality play. Of course everybody in Congress knew. The Administration was carrying out a popularly based policy in Afghanistan. If we’d cut off the aid to Pakistan, would we have been able to withstand the political heat from Congress?”
Former Ambassador: Congress 'Acquiesced' to Pakistani Program - According to the New Yorker, “many former members of the Reagan and Bush Administrations,” such as former ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley, will say that the essential facts about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program were known fully at this time to Congress, whose members “acquiesced” to the program, because of the Soviet-Afghan War and the popularity of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the US. Journalist Seymour Hersh will later comment, “Oakley’s point seemed to be that passive approval by Congress of bad policy somehow justified bad policy.”
Glenn: Nonproliferation Initiatives Thwarted - Senator John Glenn (D-OH) will say that most lawmakers did not want to know anyway: “I always thought in terms of the bigger picture—the nonproliferation treaty… We made a commitment that we’d cut off aid to transgressors, and we had to keep faith with those Third World people who signed with us. I didn’t think I had any option but to press for enforcement of the law against Pakistan.” He adds: “The Administration would always come to me and say how important it is to keep the arms flowing through to Afghanistan. I’d take my case on nonproliferation to the floor and lose the vote.”
Solarz: Balancing Concerns between Pakistan, Afghan War - Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), one of the strongest opponents of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program during the Soviet-Afghan War, will admit that he and others who cared about non-proliferation constantly tried to balance that concern with a desire to support the anti-Soviet effort, which was based in Pakistan. “There were legitimate concerns that the Afghan war might spill over to Pakistan, and I felt we needed to give the President flexibility,” Solarz will say. “I didn’t want us to be in a worst-case scenario in case the Soviets moved across the border. I thought I was being responsible at the time.” Referring to allegations made by former State Department, CIA, and Pentagon analyst Richard Barlow that the administration was well-aware of the program and constantly lied to Congress (see July 1987 or Shortly After), he adds, “If what Barlow says is true, this would have been a major scandal of Iran-Contra proportions, and the officials involved would have had to resign. We’re not dealing with minor matters. Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons is one of the major foreign-policy issues of the nation—not to mention the law of the land.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Richard Barlow, Robert Oakley, Pakistan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Assistance to Khan Network in US, Cover-up of US Intelligence, Richard Barlow, Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Congressional Oversight

President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker decide that the US will cut off foreign aid to Pakistan because of its nuclear weapons program. Pakistan was a major recipient of foreign aid during the Soviet Afghan war, when the US channeled support to the mujaheddin through it, but Soviet forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in February (see February 15, 1989). It is decided that aid will be provided for 1989, but not for 1990 (see October 1990). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush, Pakistan, James A. Baker

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: US Sanctions, Soviet-Afghan War Connections

The US briefs Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Pakistan’s nuclear program, and says it has decided to cut off aid to Pakistan in 1990, because US law does not permit aid to nuclear proliferators (see August 1985 and June 1989). However, current President George Bush and his predecessor Ronald Reagan falsely certified that Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons during the Soviet-Afghan war (see August 1985-October 1990 and 1987-1989). The initial briefing is provided by CIA Director William Webster and contains new information for Bhutto, who receives only limited information about her own country’s nuclear program (see After November 16, 1988). To dramatize the extent of American knowledge, Webster arranges for Bhutto to be shown a mockup of a Pakistani nuclear bomb. Mark Siegel, an associate of Bhutto, will later say she experienced feelings of disbelief: “The briefing was more detailed” than any information she had received from her own military and “showed that the military was doing it behind her back.” The next day, President George Bush tells her that in order to continue to receive US aid, she must assure the White House that her government will not take the final step of producing nuclear-bomb cores. Bush says he will still allow the sale of sixty more F-16 planes needed by to Pakistan, even though Pakistan has fitted such planes with nuclear weapons in the recent past, despite promising not to do so (see 1983-7). Despite this, the sale will not go through. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: William H. Webster, Central Intelligence Agency, Mark Siegel, Benazir Bhutto

Category Tags: Western Intel on Pakistani Nukes, US Sanctions, Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Weapons Sales to Pakistan, Cover-up of US Intelligence

Pakistan is disappointed when Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is told during a visit to Washington that the US will cut off foreign aid to her nation, because of its nuclear weapons program (see June 1989). This new US policy comes about shortly after the withdrawal of the Soviet military from neighboring Afghanistan (see February 15, 1989). A US official will later say: “The Paks understood us better than we understood ourselves… They knew that once the Soviets were whipped in Afghanistan we wouldn’t need them anymore. Would we unilaterally defend Pakistan? Never. Our relationship with Pakistan was to counter the Soviet-Indian relationship. The Pakistanis knew that time was limited. And that’s why they went balls out on the nuclear program.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Sanctions

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike