Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Middle Eastern Affairs (Allen) to the Chief of the Eastern Hemisphere Division (Merchant)10

I am not able to say precisely whether the attached letter11 from FEA describes correctly the procedure with regard to screening exports to Afghanistan, but it seems to set forth the situation as I understand it.

There are certain features of the arrangement, however, which we have never liked and which I would be very glad to see revised. Perhaps the present is a good time to do so.

In the first place the Afghan Minister in Washington has always objected strenuously to the arrangement by which Afghan requirements must be submitted simultaneously to the British and American Legations in Kabul. The particular feature of this arrangement to which he objects is the fact that the British authorities are permitted to determine which Afghan requirements can be supplied from British or Indian sources. Those requirements which are left over are referred to the United States. The arrangement gives the British the refusal of all of Afghanistan’s foreign trade, regardless of any preference which Afghanistan may have in the matter. I concur with the Minister that this is an entirely undesirable situation both from the point of view of Afghanistan and the United States. If importers in Afghanistan prefer for reasons of their own to trade direct with the United States, I think some arrangement should be possible for them to do so. I am aware that the present situation grew out of the shortage of shipping space, but I do not believe this shortage is nearly as strenuous at present as it once was (we recently had a report from our Consulate at Tehran that cargo space from the Persian Gulf was not being fully utilized, and we know that available cargo space from the United States to the Middle East has been less than 25% utilized during the past quarter).

Since there is now an Afghan Legation in Washington and an Afghan Consulate and trading organization in New York, I would suggest the discontinuance of the present system and the establishment of an arrangement by which the Afghans would determine themselves whether they desire to purchase from the United States. If so, they should submit their American requirements solely to the American Legation in Kabul. Our Minister there should subject the requirements to the appropriate screening tests and forward them to the [Page 52] Department with his recommendations. FEA could then determine whether appropriate export licenses should be issued.

I think an arrangement reported in the following sentence in the FEA letter of September 25 is particularly objectionable: “If commodities for which an export license is requested are not listed in the program, the license is rejected even though the materials included are in free supply”. We recently had a striking example of the difficulty caused by this system. The Afghan Government desired to purchase a number of school laboratory supplies in the United States, totaling in value something over $800.00. We forwarded the export applications of the Afghan Government to FEA recently with a recommendation that they be approved despite the fact that the supplies were not included in a program for Afghanistan. It is almost impossible for forward programs to take care of numerous small items of this kind, and if the articles are a [in] free supply and there is shipping space, I see no reason in the world why the export licenses should not be issued.

George V. Allen
  1. Marginal notation by Mr. Merchant: “These objections seem cogent to me.
  2. Supra.