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

No. 577

Sir: In amplification of the final paragraph of this Legation’s despatch No. 566 of October 27, 1944,12 I have the honor to report the results to date of the efforts of the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and India to supply to Afghanistan its minimum essential import requirements in time of war.

It will be recalled that the immediate objective which led the three supplying countries to agree upon a policy favoring the release from their war-restricted stocks of the minimum needs of Afghanistan was the prevention of internal disturbances in this country which might result in tribal uprisings along the Northwest Frontier of India. This objective has been achieved. Disturbances within the country have not exceeded the usual outbreaks of normal times, and the British-Indian authorities have been gratified by the absence of serious troubles on the Frontier.

This satisfactory situation must in large part be credited to the arrival in Afghanistan of gasoline and other supplies and equipment which permitted the maintenance of minimum transportation facilities, of textiles, tea, sugar and other essential consumers goods, and of industrial supplies and equipment which enabled Afghanistan’s own productive plant to continue in operation. These imports, while far from lavish, prevented the average Afghan from falling to a level of privation which would have induced him to heed the promptings of malcontents urging revolt against the established regime. Moreover, the strength and prestige of the regime has been enhanced by its ability successfully to negotiate with foreign governments—success in this instance being tangibly attested by the importation of urgently needed goods. It would be difficult, for example, to estimate the bolstering which the present Afghan Government will receive from the appearance throughout the country of 648 new trucks, distinctively finished in the military drab of the American and British armies.

The Afghan Government has not failed to appreciate the prestige value of its successes in obtaining supplies, as evidenced by two articles which appeared in the Kabul newspaper Islah on October 1 and 7, 1944. Translations of these articles are enclosed.13 The first reports [Page 54] the acquisition of 648 trucks from the United States, and the second gives details with respect to textiles, gasoline, and other essential imports received under quota from India. It is understood that similar articles on subsequent imports will be published from time to time.

As the enclosed articles reveal, the policy adopted by the supplying countries has had the further result of measurably improving relations between Afghanistan and India, and between Afghanistan and the British generally. This development, to some extent attributable to the joint American-British requirements procedure, is very gratifying. In the long view, the stability and progress of Afghanistan are dependent upon its establishing and maintaining amicable relations with its immediate neighbors. If supply assistance during wartime should prove to be a source of continuing better relations between the Afghans and the British, it will have been a major contribution to the stability of Central Asia.

Afghan gratitude toward India and the British has not developed at the expense of the United States. The Afghan Government regards the United States as the prime source of its requirements, despite the fact that much the greater share of its needs are in fact supplied from India. Requirements problems are almost invariably discussed with this Legation in the first instance, regardless of the probable source of supply. Even after it has been determined that India or the United Kingdom will supply, this Legation is too often embarrassed by requests—usually unnecessary—from Afghan officials to intercede with the British Legation on Afghanistan’s behalf. There can be no doubt that our present policy is laying a firm foundation for cordial post-war relations between the United States and Afghanistan in the general political sphere, as well as in economic and commercial fields.

If the results thus far achieved are to be lasting, it is, of course, important that our present policy be maintained throughout the war and in the immediate post-war reconstruction period. I am somewhat concerned lest Afghanistan’s needs may be lost sight of in the latter period, and I respectfully urge the Department, and other interested agencies in Washington now planning for that period, to bear in mind that this small country has an important strategic position in the Middle East, apart from its influence as an independent Mohammedan power.

Respectfully yours,

C. Van H. Engert
  1. Not printed.
  2. Neither printed.