Afghanistan, 1973-1990
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Afghan guerilla sentry Gul Mohamar on duty outside a rebel ammunition dump keeps his RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher ready (Reuters/Bettmann Newsphotos).

Afghanistan, an underdeveloped, tribal-based country, deemed strategically insignificant by the U.S. for decades, became a battleground for the bloodiest and costliest superpower proxy war of the 1980s.

Focus of the Collection

Afghanistan, 1973-1990 contains a comprehensive, day-by-day record of the making of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan. Approximately 2,500 documents representing over 15,000 pages of primary source materials--most rarely seen--are published here for the first time.

The overthrow of Afghan King Zahir Shah by his cousin, Mohammad Daud; events leading to the "Saur Revolution" in 1978; Soviet military intervention in 1979; the entire span of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan; U.S. covert and overt efforts to support the Afghan rebels; internal and external negotiations to end the conflict are all here in microfiched copies of the actual documents originating from the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Answering the Difficult Questions That Underlie U.S.-Afghan Relations

What stimulated the U.S. to develop a sophisticated insurgency support operation for a rebellion led by Islamic religious leaders and fought by mountain tribesmen? What was the nature of the debate among U.S. officials and members of Congress over U.S. policy? What did the U.S. believe the rebels, fraught with ethnic and tribal rivalries, could accomplish against the armed forces of the Soviet Union? What effect did this war have on Pakistan--the most important U.S. ally in South Asia? And what lessons has the U.S. intelligence community drawn from this conflict and applied to America's emerging strategic doctrine of Low Intensity Warfare?

Why did the Soviet Union spend 10 years, billions of dollars, and nearly 20,000 lives trying to prop up a regime that seemed constantly on the verge of collapse? Why did Gorbachev eventually call the Red Army home and leave the Afghan government to fend for itself against formidable odds? And how did the Kabul regime manage to hold on to power without Soviet protection?

No student, scholar, librarian or journalist trying to answer questions related to the Afghan war can do justice to their studies without reviewing State Department cables from Kabul, Peshawar, Islamabad and Washington; intelligence reports from the CIA and DIA; correspondence between Congress and the Executive Branch; field reports from AID officials in Pakistan, and the many other previously classified materials found in this document set.

Primary Source Materials Facilitate In-Depth Research

Researchers will find a wealth of information covering research topics including:

  • The overthrow of King Zahir Shah and subsequent attempts by the U.S. to counter and challenge what it perceived as a rise in Soviet influence in Afghanistan

  • The relationship between the U.S. and the Afghan rebels prior to the Soviet invasion

  • Divisions among the Department of State, Congress and National Security Council over how to react to the growing Soviet role in Afghanistan

  • The change in U.S.-Pakistani relations since the Soviet invasion

  • How Pakistan, with help from the U.S. and private organizations, managed the largest refugee population in the world

  • Attempts to publicize Soviet atrocities through public diplomacy programs

  • Congress as a maker and leader of a covert military aid program

  • The impact of unrestrained drug and arms trafficking on the region

  • Unprecedented Indexing Makes Every Document Accessible

    The Archive prepares extensive, printed finding aids for its collections. The Guide contains an extensive events chronology, glossaries of key individuals, organizations and military terms and technologies, a bibliography of relevant secondary sources (including foreign and rebel publications) and a document catalog. The catalog, organized chronologically, provides bibliographic information for each document and lists all of the indexing phrases generated for each. This facilitates browsing through the document descriptions and allows researchers to preview key details about documents before perusing the microfiche.The Index contains subject and name indexes allowing researchers to pinpoint relevant documents in particular areas of study.

    This Collection is a Necessity For:

  • Scholars and students of American government and international relations
  • Scholars and students of Soviet foreign and military policy
  • Scholars and students of Islamic studies
  • Specialists in Southwest Asia and Third World affairs
  • Military and intelligence analysts
  • Librarians and bibliographers
  • Newspaper, television, radio reporters, and media educators
  • Documents in this Collection Include:

  • Embassy Cable Traffic
  • Situation Reports
  • Intelligence Biographies
  • Confidential Memoranda
  • Internal Briefing Papers
  • Official Letters
  • Diplomatic Airgrams
  • Foreign Press Reports
  • Hearings

  • Sample Document Titles

  • 08/03/73 Planning and Execution of Afghanistan Coup
  • 04/30/75 Status Report: "The Left" in Afghanistan
  • 04/30/78 Afghan Communist Leader Becomes Ruler in Afghanistan
  • 06/07/78 Afghan Opposition Coalition Forms in Pakistan
  • 04/11/79 Probable Survival of Afghanistan's Khalq Regime
  • 12/28/79 Reading Soviet Actions in Afghanistan
  • 04/17/81 Security Assistance for Pakistan
  • 06/16/81 Afghanistan: Economic Impact of the Soviet Invasion
  • 01/24/83 Afghanistan Negotiations: Genesis and Prospects
  • 03/11/84 Impact of Afghan Refugee Presence on Pakistan
  • 04/01/85 Mujahidin Arrest Afghan Intelligence Officers
  • 07/11/85 Iranian Support to the Afghan Resistance
  • 03/06/86 Pakistani Troops on Alert after Clash with Opium Growers
  • 05/18/87 A Mujahidin Cross-Border Attack Inside the Soviet Union
  • 04/01/88 AIl.D's Afghanistan Cross Border Program
  • 01/01/89 When Will Kabul Fall?

  • Overview


    Afghanistan: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1973- 1990


    Reproduces on microfiche approximately 2,500 documents totalling 15,000 pages which record U.S. policy toward Afghanistan during the last 17 turbulent years in the country's history.

    Arrangement and Access:

    Microfiche are arranged chronologically. For ease of use, the unique identification numbers assigned to documents are printed in eye-legible type at the top right hand corner and precede each document on the microfiche strip.


    Documents are reproduced on silver halide positive- reading microfiche at a nominal reduction of 24x in envelopes. They are archivally permanent and conform to AIIM, BSI and ANSI standards. Any microfiche found to be physically substandard will be replaced free of charge .


    A printed guide and index totalling over 1,000 pages accompanies the microfiche collection. The Guide contains an events chronology, glossaries of names, organizations, military terms and technologies, a bibliography of secondary sources and a chronological listing of documents. The Index provides in-depth, document-level access to subjects, individuals and organizations.

    Date of Publication:

    March 1991

    Orders and Inquiries

    The Afghanistan Editorial Board

  • Eqbal Ahmad, Professor of History Hampshire College
  • Dr. Robert Canfield, Professor of Anthropology Washington University, St. Louis
  • Selig S. Harrison, Senior Associate Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • David Isby, Defense Consultant Author of Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army
  • Tom Johnson, Director of National Security Analysis Orkand Corporation
  • Barnett R. Rubin, Associate Professor of Political Science Columbia University

  • Previously Unpublished Documents Originate From:

  • Department of State
  • The White House
  • Department of Defense
  • Defense Intelligence Agency
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • U.S. Information Agency
  • Agency for International Development
  • U.S. Central Command
  • National Security Council
  • Congressional Committees

  • Return to National Security Archive Microfiche Sets.