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Pakistan - West Front

Pakistan always counted on the western border being quiet so that they could face their main enemy in India.

The Soviet Union, if it decided to move through Pakistan, would have had three main ground approaches. The first could be through the Khyber Pass to Peshawar, along Kaitu River to Tal and then down to the Indus. The second approach could be through the Khojak and Bolan Passes down to Sukkur and Karachi, or Quetta to Karachi along the RCD highway. This would be the shortest approach from Kandahar with good trafficability of rail, road and air connections. The advance could be checked at Quetta which itself is a good natural fortress with corps strength troops. However, Quetta can be by-passed by rounding it from the west near Sheikh-Wasal and Naushki and then onto the RCD highway to Khuzdar, Las Bela and Karachi.

The defending Army Corps can be better deployed by pulling its headquarters from Quetta and redeployed near Nushki. Quetta and Khojak Pass can probably be defended by a division strength. The other division could be placed in the West while the third, a little ahead of the Corps headquarters and the reserve troops in the rear down in the South of Nushki in Kart. This approach offers opportunities and dangers to both the invaders and defendants. From own side it is well defended. The terrain friction offered by the craggy and desolate land would retard the advance of the invading army, among other factors. Enemy advance can thus be delayed for international assistance to arrive and reinforce in good time.

However, for the Soviets coming down to the Makran Coast the most obvious approach would be from Merv to Chabahar along the western border of Afghanistan and Pakistani Baluchistant. This is in spite of comparatively poor surface communications. Only one paved road runs along this approach. It would also be vulnerable to attacks as it lies on the flanks of Baluchistan [Pakistan and Seistan (Iran)]. The presence of the Soviet air base at Shindand, south of Herat, would be a formidable asset to the land forces in this area.

Looking at it from another angle: as this approach runs on common border of Iran-Pakistan it would demand coordination of defense efforts between the two states at the highest levels to evolve a comprehensive plan by the joint Chief of Staffs of the two armies. Third, it has no obstacles or any naturally defended features as in the case of other approaches. They can have a straight run from the Soviet border to the Indian Ocean. Further, for the defending armies there would be two lateral lines of communication available, that is, Quetta to Zahedan in northern Baluchistan and, second, from Karachi to Gwadar along the Makran Coast in southern Baluchistan.

The latter approach is not well developed. The Iranians can interfere with Russian advance or coordinate with Pakistan near Zahedan, using Kirman as their base. They can also operate along the coast from Bandar Abbas. There are no other lateral communication lines.The lack of laterals would also pose difficulties to the invading army as it would bind there to a single road, dangerously restricting manuverability and reinforcement.

The Russians, if they choose to advance through Pakistan would most probably use all the three approaches with main and auxilary efforts on Mary (old Merv)-Chabahar, Kandahar-Karachi, Khyber Pass- Dera Ghazi Khan-Karachi. In the Chabahar approach the resistance would perhaps be minimal, while on the Kandahar-Karachi approach it would be more and on Khyber Pass-Dera Ghazi Khan-Karachi maximum. Unlike Chabahar, Karachi itself would present the thoughest resistance by combine army, navy and air arms. If the enemy succeeded it would be an extremely rewarding operation for it to pick.

So, it seemed, immediately Iran is the more vulnerable of states to Soviet invasion. For all ends and purposes, Soviet intervention in Afghanistan added another about six hundred miles to the existing Soviet border with Iran in the shape of common border between Iran and Soviet controlled Afghanistan. This would give extra flexibility and initiative to Soviet forces invading Iran at points and time of their own choice and subsequently to advance to the Indian Ocean. If they do so, the Soviets would have multiple options to advance from the Caucasus to the Gulf by way of Iran. They have the old line of advance from the border town Jolla in the north west of Iran (near Caucasus) to Tabriz, Hamadan, Ahvaz to Bandar Shahpur in the Gulf. Its inverse approach was intensively used during the World War II by the Americans and the British for supplies to the Soviet Union. The other is from Astara on the Caspian Coast, to Tehran and then to Ahvaz and Bandar Shahpur. There could be another approach from Tehran to Shiraz and then to Bandar Abbas. All the three approaches are short, if seen from the Caucasus, but long if taken from Uzbikstan. These three approaches end up in the (closed) Gulf, with the narrow outlet through the Strait of Hormuz. Yet other approaches could be through Tehran, Kirman, and Bandar Abbas, and Mary, Herat, Zahedan and Chobahar. These are the lengthy approaches going through the southern Iranian desert before they end up in the Arabian Sea.




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