85. Telegram From the Embassy in Afghanistan to the Department of State0

436. Deeply appreciate quick and helpful holiday response by Department and Rountree on question moving US supplies out of Pakistan. It is therefore with more regret than usual that I report we have run into difficulties as result Foreign Ministry refusal accept text of note proposed by Department as basis for proceeding with movement goods.

Thinking it best we reserve a level for final negotiations, I asked DCM give proposed note to Etemadi and explain its contents. Etemadi, after much shuttling back and forth to Naim, finally gave us four points on which our text was not acceptable. These were as follows:

Failure of our note to refer specifically to their note.
Objection to word “proposed” in first sentence.
Change from “US owned” to “US financed” goods in first sentence, second paragraph.
Use of phrases “as far as is practical and financially feasible” and “for reasons of cost and feasibility,” last substantive paragraph of note.

It quite clear that RGA concern on all four points based not on question of substance but upon their public position, with eye on future Pakistan propaganda. It seemed, therefore, that points two and three could be easily met, while points one and four presented more difficulty. Use of word “proposed” was unfortunate. While it is true that RGA note appears to “propose,” yet we should not forget that this arises out of our previous proposal to move US goods out of Pakistan with use American teams. Similarly, the difference between US “owned” and “financed” goods is a technicality presenting no real problem. RGA simply desires that no goods under Afghan title be brought in under this agreement. This could be handled by defining goods intended more specifically.

With Hannah, I saw Naim and Etemadi this morning in effort resolve these difficulties and explained our disappointment that RGA had not seen fit accept simple text note which I convinced Washington thought to be helpfully drafted. Told him I was ready recommend Department drafting changes on points two and three which I thought he would find satisfactory, adding, however, I had no leeway on point one. If RGA insisted upon direct acknowledgment their note, it would be incumbent upon us to take exception to some of the phraseology of Afghan note. This I thought would not be helpful, either in problem of [Page 175]immediate movement of goods, or toward eventual solution transit problem. I therefore proposed, with understanding it on ad referendum basis, the following substitute paragraph to meet first three Afghan points, explaining that closest link I could make between our note and theirs was a reference in our note to same conversation mentioned in introductory paragraph Afghan note: “The Embassy of the USA presents its compliments to the Royal Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has the honor to refer to the understandings reached between His Royal Highness, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Ambassador Byroade on December 23, regarding the movement into Afghanistan of US aid goods, presently in Pakistan, and under the title of the Government of the USA or American or other foreign contractors.”

Naim said he would accept this redraft to meet their first three points.

Discussion on point four above lasted about an hour. It was difficult for some time to determine real basis his objection on this point which obviously he considered important. It eventually became quite clear to both Hannah and myself that his only valid objection was based on public impression and fear of Pakistan propaganda. He reasons that the language in US note would imply to Pakistanis that US applying pressure on Afghan by a partial or veiled threat to limit its aid program as result use Iranian route. This would be used by Pakistanis to Afghan disadvantage so as to weaken Afghan position vis-a-vis Pakistan. He made one additional point in this discussion. He said he had received report from Afghan trade delegation in Tehran which indicated their negotiations so successful that he doubted cost factors through Iran would henceforth be real problem for US. I said I hoped this correct, but could not base today’s negotiations upon this factor. Nor could I accept it myself without substantiation.

When it became apparent that Naim would accept none of the drafting compromises I suggested in effort meet his problem re publication while still retaining our qualifications on use Iranian route, and that further discussion along this line could only lead to complete stalemate, I made what I had previously decided would be my final fallback position for recommendation to Department. I asked for and received, again, Naim’s assurance that there was no misunderstanding in substance between us and that his concern stemmed from public relations considerations. I then said I would propose to Washington deletion these particular phrases from notes provided he would agree with me to formal secret minute which would make it absolutely certain there was no actual misunderstanding between governments. Believe this procedure a new one for him, but he said he would entertain idea and seek clearance his government as well if we could agree on wording. Two hours later Hannah gave Etemadi a suggested text which I felt satisfactory for negotiating purposes. Text follows with small words omitted: [Page 176]

“Following secret understanding reached connection exchange notes between Royal Afghan Ministry Foreign Affairs (No. 3180 dated December 30, 1961) and Embassy USA (No. 24, dated January 2, 1962):

“In discussions between His Royal Highness, Minister Foreign Affairs and Ambassador Byroade January 3, 1962, American Ambassador explained it is intention USG continue assistance program Afghanistan and, in doing so, to utilize route through Iran, giving due consideration factors which, in absence actual experience, cannot yet be fully defined. These factors concern question cost and question feasibility based on practical and physical nature that line communication. His Royal Highness, Minister Foreign Affairs stated he understood this to be position USG.

“It was further understood by both parties that this understanding would remain secret but would become part of record in connection exchange notes described above.”

Upon receipt above draft, Etemadi said he had no authority discuss text but would deliver to Foreign Minister. It was agreed that if Foreign Minister found text satisfactory, he would present to his government and I would propose to Department. Etemadi gave his personal opinion that RGA would not approve the whole idea of secret minute. Two hours later Etemadi telephoned Hannah to say Foreign Minister had concluded that text had only the barest minimum chance of being accepted and that therefore I should not propose it to Department. Etemadi made no proposals for modification, and in answer to question replied that Foreign Minister did not feel he could recommend acceptance to Afghan Govt. Subsequently, Hannah phoned Etemadi at my instruction to ask him relay my deep disappointment to Foreign Minister, my belief that we had come more than half way to meet RGA legitimate points particularly re publicity but had observed very little inclination understand our problems, and finally that I was at loss how to proceed since I had no new suggestions to offer.

It is too early to form final conclusions as to meaning this encounter. I would not recommend at this time that US accede to Afghan demand. It is possible that upon more mature consideration Foreign Minister will modify his view and adopt more tractable attitude. I am not hopeful that this will happen quickly since I suspect that his sudden change of action on the secret minute concept resulted from a lunchtime consultation with Daud.

Etemadi’s remarks to Hannah expressing fear that Pakistanis might obtain access to secret minute suggest Naim may fear a leak to GOP. Perhaps significantly, Naim suggested at one stage this morning that we await return Afghan delegation from Tehran in hope that terms brought back from Tehran would suffice to obviate necessity for US to make any qualifications re cost and feasibility.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 689.90D/1-362. Secret; Niact. Received in the Department of State on January 4 at 12:41 a.m. Repeated to Karachi and Tehran.