Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Calvin H. Oakes of the Division of Middle Eastern Affairs

Participants: The Afghan Minister Abdol Hosayn Aziz
Mr. Murray6
Mr. Oakes

The Afghan Minister called at his request. He proceeded to discuss the following matters:

[Here follows section devoted to problems of Afghan students.]

The Minister stated that the quotas provided by FEA for Afghan requirements were not satisfactory in that they included many items which the Afghans did not need, and omitted many items which were necessary. Mr. Oakes replied that because of delay in receiving [Page 47] the schedule of requirements from Afghanistan, the requirements officers in FEA had been obliged to establish quotas without precise knowledge of Afghan needs. Mr. Oakes suggested that the Minister endeavor to have his Government submit its requirement lists more promptly, including therein an estimate of all items needed from the United States by either the Government or the people of Afghanistan, and of which the importation is contemplated.
The Minister referred to the desire of the Afghan-American Trading Company to import into the United States 2,000 tons of wool, 500 tons of pistachio nuts, and 100 tons of almonds, and to the refusal of this Government to authorize import quotas in the amount requested. Mr. Oakes replied that our refusal had been based on several grounds: (a) The items were unessential (it is understood that Afghan wool is used in this country almost exclusively for carpets), and hence the conservation of shipping space was involved; (b) The railways in India were so over-taxed and their continued efficient operation so essential to our and our Allies’ war effort in India that this Government considered it necessary to discourage the transportation to ports in India for shipment to the United States of unessential items; (c) Because of lack of shipping space it had been necessary to refuse import quotas for nuts to certain of our Allies in South America, and hence it was felt that we could not reasonably import nuts at this time from faraway Afghanistan without causing resentment by the South American countries concerned.

The Minister stated that he was not so concerned about the quota for nuts but that he would greatly appreciate it if we would endeavor to do something about the wool. Our failure to permit any appreciable quantity of wool to enter this country resulted, he implied, in the British offering to pay only an unreasonably low price for Afghan wool. He felt that conditions should be such as to compel purchasers to pay the world market price. With regard to the railroads, he stated that wagons proceeding to Karachi must in many instances be empty because of the large quantity of goods entering India at that port, and that in any event there was a railroad from a point near the southern border of Afghanistan passing through Quetta to Karachi, over which very little traffic flowed. Wool could be shipped by this route. He remarked further that irrespective of the validity of our argument regarding the railroads, he felt as a friend that it was not a desirable one for us to advance as the officials in Kabul could not understand why we rather than the British must give consideration to that point. He was told that while it appeared improbable that anything could be done about the nuts, we would see if there could not be obtained an increase in the quota for Afghan wool.

[Here follows discussion of miscellaneous questions.]

  1. Wallace Murray, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.