Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Richard S. Leach of the Division of South Asian Affairs

Participants: H. E. Abdul Majid Khan, Minister of National Economy
Mr. Abdul Hai Aziz, First Undersecretary of National Economy
Mr. Richard S. Leach—SOA

In an informal discussion of several hours duration, following a State Department luncheon in honor of the newly accredited Ambassador of Afghanistan, the Minister of National Economy again expressed the desire of his government for a definite statement of U.S. intentions with regard to assistance to his country. He said Afghanistan must know just where it stands, in the world-wide pattern, with regard to U.S. assistance.

He reiterated the opinion that a U.S.-Afghan partnership, with assurance that Afghanistan has our firm support, would be of value to both countries. However, time is growing short, and Afghanistan must have an answer soon. If the U.S. is eventually going to reach a negative conclusion on assistance to Afghanistan, Afghanistan would like to know this fact at the earliest possible moment. Although a negative decision would have a very adverse effect upon national morale, the Afghan Government would continue to look upon the United States [Page 493] as its friend, while attempting to work out its own problems on a realistic basis.

Abdul Majid explained that in speaking of assistance he had in mind the following categories: (1) political, (2) economic, (3) cultural, educational and technical, and (4) military.

Passing over the economic, cultural, educational and technical aspects, H.E. turned to the subject of military assistance, emphasizing that Afghanistan was thinking in terms of equipment for internal security purposes only. For such purposes, no large amount of expensive equipment is required. Compared with assistance the US has extended on a world wide scale, Afghanistan’s requirements are microscopic.

Abdul Majid referred repeatedly to the “war”, indicating his belief that a war between the US and USSR is inevitable, and said that when war came Afghanistan would of course be overrun and occupied. But the Russians would be unable to pacify the country. Afghanistan could and would pursue guerrilla tactics for an indefinite period.

Abdul Majid said that the early supply of light military equipment for internal defense was closely related to the possibility for a long and determined resistance to some future aggressive action by the USSR.

In connection with military cooperation he indicated that a regional pact among Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan was a reasonable possibility. If US assistance were extended to include the countries in this arc, it would cost relatively little now to create a Muslim cordon which would be a considerable factor in any future struggle with Soviet Russia. A little later this might be very costly or impossible.

The Department’s representative said that our wish had been to cooperate with Afghanistan. No change in this attitude was foreseen. We hope to see Afghanistan preserve its independence and to make-progress toward its goals of social and economic betterment. Within the limits of our facilities and responsibilities elsewhere it was reasonable to assume that our efforts would continue to be directed toward these objectives; that our cooperation was prompted not only by general considerations (such as a desire for the improvement of living conditions the world over) but also by the desire to encourage Afghanistan itself in its orientation toward the Western political philosophy.

Reference was made to some specific types of assistance now being; rendered in cultural, educational and scientific matters, and the belief was expressed that this would be continued as possible if requested by Afghanistan. It is to be hoped that this program will eventually become an exchange.

[Page 494]

With regard to financial assistance it was indicated that at present this matter awaits further action by the Afghans themselves. The Department had previously indicated that it would support a request by Afghanistan for reasonable Export-Import Bank credits in so far as these were in line with the policies of the Bank. Our position on this has not changed. Such does not however, necessarily carry assurance that an Afghan loan would be approved. Abdul Majid was encouraged to avail himself of help which officials of the Department offered in connection with any problems in this case.

With regard to U.S. cooperation in respect to Afghan internal security requirements, reference was made to the fact that the Department had already indicated that sympathetic consideration would be given to a specific request for military equipment, that we could not even consider whether we would recommend supplying such equipment to Afghanistan until definite information had been given concerning the details of its security program and the specifications of its requirements. Even if the supply of military equipment should be recommended this would have to be considered by the military authorities in relation to other areas and claimants, before final action could be taken on the request.

Mr. Majid stated that details of the arms request would be furnished to the Department quite soon.