99. Telegram From the Embassy in Afghanistan to the Department of State1

433. Embassy appreciates and welcomes Department’s utilizing opportunity of President’s reply to King Zahir to make move which may help break present Pakistan-Afghan impasse. In addition to revisions to President’s reply suggested in Embtel 431,2 Embassy offers following observations as indications of current thinking here even though points have probably already been subject of Departmental consideration:

As indicated in Deptel 250,3 proposed meeting would only be Geneva-type beginning. British here feel that meeting should not even be suggested until there has been exploration at Karachi and Kabul as to what substantive progress is possible. British point out that talks have been held periodically for 8 years with deficiency being that ground had not been adequately prepared. Our view is that exploratory approaches would result in complications and delays. We feel, moreover, that Geneva nature of initial meeting will, as Department states, establish atmosphere conducive to substantive progress in later discussions. In general, we feel maximum agreement which Pakistan-Afghan discussions can be expected to achieve in foreseeable future is:
From Pakistan side (1) “assurances” re welfare and cultural identity of Pushtunistans; (2) some joint efforts at tribal development; (3) establishment of new economic ties between 2 countries and strengthening of old ones (includes transit).
From Afghan side (1) official renunciation of territorial designs on or dismemberment of Pakistanis; (2) cessation of anti-Pakistan agitation among tribes and tapering off of hatred-breeding Pushtunistan propaganda; (3) cooperation in tribal and economic projects. Although US should continue to avoid being pushed into middle of dispute, ultimately becoming scapegoat, conferees should be aware of USG desire to be of assistance (Deptel 205)4 in carrying out economic projects.
Complete and instantaneous vanishing of Pushtunistan problem cannot be expected. Objective should be to ease us over this and [Page 198] ensuing crises until passage of time, Pakistan maturation, and developing Pakistan-Afghan relations cause problem to liquidate itself.
When delivering President’s letter to King, some oral explanatory remarks would seem be in order and Department’s guidance would be appreciated. In particular, impending success of new Soviet overtures, such as arms deal with Czechs, argues for USG laying cards on table along lines US Government spokesman quoted in October 25 issue of European edition of New York Times, namely, that USG will give sympathetic consideration of granting of economic aid to Afghan, if Afghans curtail present pro-Soviet policies, and if Afghan differences with Pakistan can be adjusted.
Role of Daud should not be considered of primary importance. Embassy believes if USG pursues active policy of what is right for both US and Afghan, putting principles above personalities, Daud will either have to cooperate with inevitable or fall.
In Department’s draft, Embassy senses reluctance and timidity. This brings us back to root question, “to what extent is USG interested in Afghan?” If interest only nominal, President’s letter would preferably be simple acknowledgement of King’s appeal and reiteration that Pakistan-Afghan affairs is none of our business. If, on other hand, it is important to USG to keep Afghan outside Soviet orbit, we must be prepared to pay price, which involves not only economic assistance but also greater heed to local preoccupations such as Pushtunistan as well as basic determinations as to this country’s role in regional defense.

Hard decisions re extent of USG interest and paying price seem be confronting us throughout mid-East these days and we realize difficulties with which these choices confront USG. However, need for such decisions re Afghan has been accentuated by increasing Soviet attention to this country, particularly following Iran’s adherence to Baghdad Pact.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 689.90D/11–255. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Karachi, London, Ankara, and Lahore.
  2. In telegram 431, November 1, Ambassador Ward suggested several minor revisions in the Department’s draft reply to the King, such as a specific reference to the King’s message to the President and a cautionary note about recent Soviet overtures. The Embassy believed that a more direct use of the “carrot-and-stick approach” was warranted than was reflected in the Department’s draft. (Ibid., 689.90D/11–155)
  3. Dated October 29, not printed. (Ibid, 689.90D/10–1555)
  4. Dated October 12, not printed. (Ibid., 689.90D/10–1255)
  5. In telegram 499 from Kabul of November 19, Ambassador Ward reported that he had delivered the President’s letter to the King the previous evening. The King stated that the letter was very welcome and most helpful and that he was most appreciative of the “good intentions” expressed therein, Ward noted. Afghan-Pakistani relations were far from satisfactory, the King explained, but he assured the Ambassador that Afghanistan would do nothing to disturb the peace of the area or “anything dangerous to Pakistan.” (Ibid., 689.90D/11–1955)