The Great Game anew: US Cold War policy and Pakistan's North-West Frontier, 1947-65

Elisabeth Leake

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With the advent of independence, Pakistan almost immediately became embroiled in the hegemonic struggle of the cold war. Courted by the United States for its strategic North-West Frontier, Pakistan quickly became a Western ally. Fears of tribal unrest in the region and conflicting Pakistani and Afghan claims to the frontier, however, soon complicated the United States’ broader strategic vision. As Afghanistan continued to call for the establishment of an autonomous ‘Pakhtunistan’ comprising the North-West Frontier settled districts and tribal zone - and threatened to turn to the Soviet Union if US policy-makers did not support the Afghan position - US officials were torn between their official alliance with Pakistan and their desire to prevent a Soviet–Afghan understanding. Mirror- ing circumstances elsewhere in the Third World, local conflicts on the North-West Frontier mired US strategists’ wider plans for spreading Western influence. Officials ultimately opted for a flawed neutral position, angering the Pakistan government and alienating the Afghans. The US position towards the North- West Frontier - or lack thereof - eventually resulted in failure and a continued impasse in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalThe International History Review
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2013


  • cold war
  • Pakistan
  • Afghanistan

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