539. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President’s Conversation with Afghan Prime Minister Maiwandwal


  • United States
    • The President
    • Secretary of State Dean Rusk2
    • Mr. Walt W. Rostow, Special Assistant to the President
    • Mr. Howard Wriggins, Executive Office of the President
    • Ambassador Symington, Chief of Protocol
    • Acting Assistant Secretary William J. Handley, NEA
    • Ambassador Robert G. Neumann, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
    • Country Director James W. Spain, Pakistan-Afghanistan Affairs
  • Afghanistan
    • His Excellency Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal, Prime Minister
    • His Excellency Abdullah Malikyar, Ambassador of Afghanistan
    • His Excellency Nur Ali, Minister of Commerce
    • Secretary Farhadi, Council of Ministers

After the President and the Prime Minister joined the other members of the party, the Prime Minister thanked the President for the opportunity which his visit to the United States provided to renew old friendships.

Secretary Rusk noted that the Secretary General of the United Nations had just made public his proposal on Vietnam and that the USG had commented favorably on it. He added that he understood Hanoi’s reaction was negative.

The President said he had discussed the announcement with the Prime Minister and told him of our disappointment at Hanoi’s negative reaction. He said we had earlier consulted with our allies on the proposal and responded affirmatively. We had done this a dozen or so times in the past on other proposals. However, Hanoi’s reaction to the Secretary General was that this was none of his business.

War is everybody’s business, the President said, and the U.S. is prepared to consider anybody’s suggestion for ending it. He said he had asked Mr. Rostow to check the time and manner of our consultations on U-Thant’s latest proposal and that he wanted to show this data to the Prime Minister.

The President added that he felt more strongly then ever that the people of Vietnam should be allowed to have free elections and that after that, if they wanted us out, we would be happy to leave. The money we are spending for bullets we would be happy to spend instead for bread. We would even be willing to help Ho Chi Minh.

He stressed, however, that we were not going to surrender or pull out of Vietnam, saying that if agreements were no good there, they were no good anywhere. He said we are still ready to go toward peace. Our answer is Yes. Hanoi’s is still No.

The Prime Minister observed that the Secretary General is going abroad again and suggested that perhaps he would be having further consultations on Vietnam during his trip.

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Secretary Rusk noted that U Thant had seen two North Vietnamese diplomats in Rangoon and thought it possible that those discussions had been taken into account in the Secretary General’s present proposal. The Secretary told the Prime Minister that we knew of his interest in the cause of peace in Vietnam. He added he did not know whether or not the Prime Minister had any way to explore privately further moves; he remarked that he thought public approaches were not likely to get very far at the present time.

The Prime Minister agreed that public approaches were not apt to be effective and said that the rigid public stands which both sides have taken makes this difficult. He noted that Afghanistan has always stood by the April, 1964 recommendations of the seventeen non-aligned countries. In response to a question from Secretary Rusk as to how much attention the Vietnam problem attracted in Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said that it attracted a good deal of attention and now that there is democracy in the country it was sometimes used by the politicians for their own purposes. He expressed his concern over the problem describing it as an explosive situation which he feared might escalate into a bigger danger.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 AFG. Confidential. Drafted by Spain, approved in S and by Saunders on June 19. The President and Prime Minister Maiwandwal met privately in the Oval Office from 11:50 a.m. to 12:35 p.m.; the part of the meeting printed was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. The Prime Minister also met with Secretary Rusk on March 28. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, E 5 AFG/Five Year Plan)