862.20290H/10: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Winant ) to the Secretary of State

3953. Department’s attitude, as outlined in telegram 3539, June 5, 11 p.m.,52 concerning the discovery of a plot to create disturbances in northern Afghanistan, was made known to the Foreign Office. In an aide-mémoire which has just been received the Foreign Office makes the following observations:

  • “1. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Soviet Government have for some time been seriously concerned about the subversive activities of a number of Axis agents in Afghanistan. As the two Governments have proof positive that the activities of these agents are organized and financed by the Axis Legations in Kabul, and are directly prejudicial to their respective interests, they recently decided to request the Afghan Government to control these agents and also to suggest at the same time that they should reduce the staffs of the Axis Legations.
  • 2. Sir F. Wylie handed to the Prime Minister on 27th May a list of 36 Afghan subjects known beyond doubt to be engaged in a subversive plot to damage British interests together with a list of Axis agents in both Kabul and in the North who are engaged in a similar plot to damage Soviet interests. It was realized that a demand for the prompt arrest of all the persons on the British list would be extremely embarrassing to the Afghan Government. His Majesty’s Government therefore demanded the immediate arrest and imprisonment of only three and they left it to the Afghan Prime Minister to decide how best the remainder could be brought under sufficient control [Page 41] to make it impossible for them to act as intermediaries between the Axis Legations and hostile elements on the frontier, including the Faqir of Ipi. If the Afghan Prime Minister expressed reluctance to agree, but only in that event, Sir F. Wylie was instructed to say that refusal to comply with our wishes would force us to consider our course of action with the Soviet Government. Further, our strong advice was that the Prime Minister in his own interests and working in his own time and in his own way, should take steps at once to reduce the staffs of all three Axis Legations which in any case had no genuine diplomatic work to do. The Prime Minister was also requested to ensure that the Axis Legations should be prevented from obtaining large quantities of extra Afghan exchange to finance subversive elements.
  • 3. The Soviet Government have made parallel representations as regards the plot to disturb security on the Soviet Afghan frontier.
  • 4. These representations which were carefully concerted with the Soviet Government were based on the imperative necessity of safeguarding security on the frontiers both of India and of the Soviet Union. As the threat to the security of these frontiers did not appear to affect the interests of the United States of America, His Majesty’s Government did not seek the support of the United States Government for their representations to the Afghan Government, though as between allies His Majesty’s Minister at Kabul was authorized to inform his United States colleague of the substance of his instructions.
  • 5. In these circumstances. His Majesty’s Government were surprised to learn that the United States Minister at Kabul had been instructed that if further representations were made he should make to the Afghan Government a communication which could not fail to encourage them to refuse the entirely reasonable requests which His Majesty’s Government and the Soviet Government have made. In view of their special responsibilities in Afghanistan as a neighbor of India, His Majesty’s Government would naturally have expected to be consulted before any such démarche was decided upon. Notwithstanding the instructions given to Mr. Engert, His Majesty’s Government are happy to note that the United States Government appear to regard the activities of Axis agents on the Indian and Russian borders as prejudicial to United States as well as to British and Soviet interests, and would it is officially stated be glad to see the Axis Legations in Kabul drastically reduced as to staffs or, still better, closed.
  • 6. It seems possible that the instructions which have been sent to the United States Minister at Kabul were based on a misapprehension. The advice offered to the Afghan Government for the reduction of the staffs of the Axis Legations has not been tendered in the form of a demand and it should be clearly understood that though His Majesty’s Government and the Soviet Government would naturally have to discuss their future course of action if the Afghan Government should refuse the requests which have been made to them, His Majesty’s Government have no present intention of asking them to expel the Axis Legations from Kabul. His Majesty’s Government are fully aware of the internal difficulties with which the Afghan Government has to contend and it is solely for this reason that they have made such very moderate requests and as regards the Axis Legations have confined their action to advising the Afghan Government in their own interests to reduce their staffs.
  • 7. Moreover, the State Department may not be aware that since his interview with the Prime Minister on the 27th May, Sir F. Wylie has also discussed this question with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (at the latter’s request) on the 30th May. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was most friendly, informed Sir F. Wylie that the three arrests which we had demanded would be made; that immediate steps were being taken to control the other persons engaged in intrigues with our tribesmen; that the sale of Afghan exchange to the Axis Legations would be effectively controlled and that our advice regarding the Legation’s staffs was under consideration.
  • 8. His Majesty’s Government therefore have good reason to hope that this matter will be settled satisfactorily as the result of the negotiations now in progress. On the other hand, if the United States Minister in Kabul acts on the instructions which have been sent to him, the only effect will be to convince the Afghan Government that, far from agreeing in principle with the Anglo Soviet requests, the United States Government entirely disapproves of them and the Afghan Government may very well draw the conclusion that the United States Government is prepared to support them if they should decide to refuse. This can hardly fail to precipitate the situation which the United States Government, His Majesty’s Government and the Soviet Government alike desire to avoid, namely a refusal by the Afghan Government to take measures which are essential if security on the frontiers of Afghanistan with both India and the Soviet Union is not to be disturbed.
  • 9. As the United States Government is not directly concerned with this question of security it may be doubted whether the Afghan Government would expect the United States Government to express its views on this matter; or again whether the latter would incur Afghan hostility unless they dissociate themselves from the Anglo-Soviet approach especially as the negotiations are proceeding quite satisfactorily. In the circumstances His Majesty’s Government entertain the very strong hope that the United States Government will refrain from a démarche which could not fail to prejudice representations essential for the British and Soviet war effort and that fresh instructions may be issued as a matter of urgency to the United States Minister at Kabul.”

The British position as developed in this aide-mémoire appears to me to be reasonable.

  1. See footnote 51, p. 38.