The Minister in Afghanistan (Engert) to the Secretary of State

No. 525

Sir: [Here follows section recapitulating the visit to Kabul in January 1944, of Dr. Eric Beecroft, and describing certain changes effected in the Afghan Ministry of National Economy relative to the problem of Afghan supply requirements.]

The procedure adopted for the handling of 1945 requirements is explained in detail in an attached memorandum7 prepared by Mr. Mathews.8 It is only necessary to add here that this procedure provides an excellent basis for the establishment of a separate tonnage quota for American exports to Afghanistan. By January 1, 1945, there should be received in Washington a complete list of Afghanistan’s total import requirements from which a program of exports from the United States could be derived. A tonnage quota adequate [Page 49] for this program could then be determined and allotted to the Afghans. (Reference my telegram No. 104, June 30, 11 a.m., 1944.)

One possible reservation with respect to the completeness of the Afghan requirements lists must be noted. These lists may not include certain requirements which the Afghans hope to obtain, or have reason to believe they can obtain, from or through Russia. However, at the present time imports into Afghanistan from Russia are negligible.

The difficulties connected with requirements work here can be succinctly summarized as lack of information from Washington, London, and New Delhi. On the one hand, the British Legation has been unable to obtain from London or New Delhi any definite or comprehensive indication of the products which can, or cannot, be supplied from the United Kingdom or India. Moreover, unreasonable delays are encountered when inquiries are sent to the Government of India requesting information concerning the Indian supply position with respect to specific commodities. On the other hand, this Legation has never been able to obtain any information from Washington with respect to Lend-Lease shipments to India, total quarterly allocations for exports from the United States to Afghanistan (with the exception of allocations for one quarter which were provided), or actual exports from the United States to Afghanistan. (Reference my despatch No. 468, June 14, 19449). In the absence of the foregoing information, it is difficult for the two Legations to make intelligent recommendations as to the source of supply of Afghan requirements, or accurate evaluations of the urgency and extent of Afghan needs for 1945. I venture once again to express the hope that the Department, the Foreign Economic Administration, or some other United States agency will find it possible to provide this Legation with some reasonably current data on American exports to Afghanistan, both projected and actual.

The importance of providing Afghanistan’s minimum essential import requirements is inherent in its geographic position as a Middle Eastern country. A cessation of imports would affect most seriously certain segments of the Afghan economy. The resulting difficulties might rouse the turbulent Afghans to widespread disturbances directed against the existing Government. Such disturbances would almost certainly affect the tribal areas abutting on India and result in border incidents which, in turn, would necessitate military action against the tribes by the Government of India. Moreover, trouble in Afghanistan might have repercussions throughout the Middle and Near Eastern area, from Iran to Saudi Arabia. Afghan requirements are not large, and to supply them at the present time could therefore be regarded as a small premium to insure against an annoying distraction [Page 50] while the war is still in progress, and a focus of Moslem disaffection in the post-war period.

Respectfully yours,

C. Van H. Engert
  1. Not printed.
  2. Elbert G. Mathews, Second Secretary of Legation.
  3. Not printed.