138. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House, Washington, October 12, 19591


  • Call of Prince Naim on the President


  • The President
  • His Royal Highness Sardar Mohammad Naim, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Afghanistan
  • His Excellency Mohammed Hashim Maiwandwal, Ambassador of Afghanistan to the U.S.
  • His Excellency Abdul Rahman Pazhwak, Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United Nations
  • G. Lewis Jones, Assistant Secretary, NEA

After the usual exchange of amenities Prince Naim delivered to the President the good wishes of his Sovereign and was charged, in return, with returning the President’s good wishes. The President opened up by saying that the U.S. is fully aware that the Afghan [Page 293] Government and people are determined to maintain their independence and integrity. Since the Afghans must naturally be alert to the danger of their independence being subverted by the Soviet Union he “was not going to take the trouble to talk about this”. The President wanted his visitors to know, however, that insofar as Afghan independence was at stake (or the independence of other states in the area) the Afghans could count upon U.S. backing: “we will be in your corner”, the President said.

The President went on to remark that the states of the area could pay more heed to problems of maintaining their independence if the tensions between them were lessened. Thus, it would be helpful to the stability of the area if Afghan-Iranian difficulties regarding the Helmand river could be settled and if the “territorial problem” between Afghanistan and Pakistan could be resolved. The President did not mean to say that these problems were easily solvable: the points of view of two sides were involved, but anything which could be done towards their resolution would be highly useful. The President said that he hoped Prince Naim would not think he was reading him a lecture: indeed, he wanted to hear the views of Prince Naim. He had been led to make his remarks simply because he was thinking of the problem of tensions in the area so close to the Soviet Union.

Prince Naim said he was deeply grateful for the thoughts that the President had expressed. It was true that the Afghan Government and people are fiercely determined to maintain their independence. This was no new development—the Afghan people had for centuries been fighting for their independence and would continue to do so.

With regard to Iran, Prince Naim wanted to comment that no political problem existed between Afghanistan and Iran: there is only the technical one of the Helmand river. Thanks to the help of the State Department some years ago competent experts had surveyed the situation and made certain recommendations.2 The Afghan Government stands by those recommendations and is ready to negotiate with Iran on this basis at any time.

Regarding Afghan-Pakistani relations, Prince Naim wanted to make a slight correction. The political problem of Pushtunistan was not a territorial problem. Afghanistan has no claims on Pakistan in this connection. The previous Prime Minister of Pakistan, at the suggestion of the President, had visited Kabul and “a kind of negotiation to settle the Pushtunistan problem had begun”.3 However, with the change of government in Pakistan there appeared to have developed a hardening on the Pakistani side. “We are now met with a ‘cold and distant’ [Page 294] response when we try to talk about this problem to Pakistan”. Prince Naim said that with good will on both sides he thought that Afghanistan’s problems with both Iran and Pakistan could be taken care of. They were, however, minor compared to the economic problems faced by Afghanistan. On Afghanistan’s northern frontiers lies the Soviet Union, or rather certain states of the Soviet Union with people whose appearance, language and customs are very like those of the Afghans. At one time these states shared Afghanistan’s underdeveloped backwardness. However, in recent years these states had “leaped forward” in economic development and this example made all the more pressing the need of the Afghan Government to effect similar development within its frontiers. He said that roads, agriculture and education would have to be improved in Afghanistan. It was in the field of economic development that Afghanistan must push ahead.

The President said that he could understand Afghanistan’s need for progress in these fields and that he hoped Prince Naim when he talked at the State Department would state frankly just what is needed. Within its capabilities the U.S. would like to help Afghanistan with its educational, agricultural, and communications problems.

The interview, which lasted about 40 minutes, was terminated by the entry of photographers. This last gesture on the part of the President deeply gratified Prince Naim and his two companions.

Note: This was the first contact between Prince Naim and the President. The former told me afterwards that he had been deeply impressed by the friendliness of the reception accorded him.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 789.11/10–1259. Secret. Drafted by Jones.
  2. Regarding the Neutral Commission Report on the Helmand Valley in 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. V, p. 1459.
  3. Suhrawardy visited Kabul, June 8–11, 1957.