The conflict in Afghanistan is, in a sense, the biggest war in which the U.S. is currently involved--if only indirectly. Congress has secretly allocated $470 million for the current fiscal year for the Central Intelligence Agency to help arm Afghanistan's anti-Soviet resistance fighters. But large amounts of military materiel purchased by the CIA and funneled through Pakistan reportedly are failing to reach the mujahedin guerrillas. Instead, for reasons that range from expediency to personal profit, arms are being appropriated, traded, sold or hidden by groups with access to the shipments. That includes Pakistan's armed forces, Afghan political parties based in Pakistan, rebel commanders and individual guerrillas.
In interviews with Pakistanis, Afghans and Westerners in Peshawar and Quetta, Pakistan's two gateway cities to Afghanistan, as well as in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, evidence emerges that a large portion of the U.S. military aid--some claim as much as 50%--never reaches the mujahedin. Because of the secrecy that surrounds the pipeline (Pakistan denies that it exists), the figure is difficult to confirm. In Washington, Reagan Administration officials and members of Congress concede that shipments to Afghanistan are being skimmed, but there is sharp disagreement over how significant the losses are.
While a senior Pentagon official suggests that a seepage of up to 20% would be "normal for that area," he challenges the 50% figure. "I just don't believe it," he says. "It's all out of proportion to anything we've seen." By contrast, Washington Lobbyist Andrew Eiva, executive director of the Federation for American Afghan Action, says that his organization has found "up to 70% slippage" in CIA supplies. New Hampshire Republican Senator Gordon Humphrey, who heads the congressional caucus on Afghanistan, contends that the Administration simply does not know the extent of the leakage. The CIA has only "a handful" of people in Pakistan monitoring the pipeline. "That's not enough," says Humphrey. "It's impossible for them to know."
The pipeline, according to sources in Pakistan and in the U.S., is leaking in at least five different ways:
The Pakistani military, which takes delivery of the arms shipments at Karachi and other ports of entry, is keeping some equipment for itself.
Pakistani officers, sometimes in connivance with Afghan political leaders in Pakistan, sell some of the arms on the black market.
Afghan leaders, whose exiled political parties serve as conduits for weapons to rebel field commanders, peddle equipment for personal profit.
Mujahedin commanders trade weapons to raise the money needed to transport supplies across the Pakistan border to Afghanistan.
Guerrillas returning to Pakistan from raids in Afghanistan frequently sell their weapons at the frontier, expecting that they will be re-equipped when they return to battle.