31. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Conversation between the President and Ambassador Maiwandwal of Afghanistan


  • The President
  • His Excellency Mohammed Hashim Maiwandwal, Ambassador of Afghanistan Phillips Talbot, Assistant Secretary of State for NEA

Ambassador Maiwandwal gave a long, historical account of Afghan and Pushtun occupancy of various areas east of the Durand Line and of British determination for several generations to keep Afghanistan a backward buffer state. He said that when the British established the Durand Line in 1893 they knew that it cut through the land of the Pushtuns. Before Britain left India in 1947 it promised that on its departure the Pushtuns east of the Durand Line would have freedom to determine their future. However, after a referendum which was boycotted by the Pushtun nationalist leader, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Pakistan claimed it had the sanction to incorporate the Pushtun areas into the new Pakistani state. Afghanistan does not want these areas for itself but Afghans do feel that their Pushtun brothers must have a chance to determine their own destiny.

In the course of the Ambassador’s statement the President called for a map. When it came and the President asked the Ambassador what area he was talking about, the Ambassador swept his hand over nearly half of West Pakistan.

Of late, the Ambassador said, Pakistan has been taunting the Pushtuns with American arms. In response to the President’s question, the Ambassador confirmed that he was still talking about the areas east of the Durand Line. These actions greatly disturbed Afghans and reemphasized the problem confronting Afghanistan when the United States gives Pakistan sophisticated weapons. The President commented that he had heard that Afghanistan had weapons from the Soviet Union. Agreeing that this was true, the Ambassador said that Afghanistan had turned to the Soviet Union only after the U.S. had given weapons to Pakistan and after Afghan requests for arms from the United States and other Western countries had been refused. He added that the Afghan military and economic [Page 76] relations with the Soviet Union did not mean that Afghanistan was pro-Communist or pro-Russian. If the Pakistanis complained that Afghan roads would enable Soviet forces to reach the Pakistan frontier with ease, their reply would be that they would get there over the dead bodies of the Afghans.

The Ambassador asked for a definition of the U.S. policy toward use of American-provided military equipment in the border areas. At the President’s request Mr. Talbot explained that the bilateral Pakistan-U.S. Agreement permits the use of MAP equipment for internal security purposes and that since the U.S. recognizes the Durand Line as Pakistan’s frontier there can be no legal objection to Pakistan’s use of this equipment to meet vital internal security needs in that area. However, this did not mean that the United States could not counsel Pakistan against such uses as might exacerbate relations between Pakistan and its neighbors.

The President observed that disputes among nations that are friends of ours create difficult problems for the United States. Obviously we cannot settle all of these disputes. We do hope, however, that the parties can find peaceful solutions to them.

The President said that the United States continues to desire friendly relations with Afghanistan. We had been able to help Afghanistan to some limited extent in its economic development programs and he hoped we could do more. He asked the Ambassador to come and see him again when the Ambassador returns to Washington.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790D.00/7-2161. Confidential. Drafted by Talbot and approved by the White House on July 31. According to the President’s Appointment Book, the meeting was held at the White House. (Kennedy Library)