341. Telegram 4851 From the Embassy in Afghanistan to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]


  • Afghan Drought Crisis—Emergency Actions and Assistance


  • (A) Kabul 4311 (NOTAL)
  • (B) Kabul 4193 (NOTAL)
  • (C) Kabul 4827 (NOTAL)
  • (D) Kabul 4745 (NOTAL)
  • (E) Kabul 4797 (NOTAL)
  • (F) Kabul 4841 (NOTAL)
  • (G) Kabul 4826 (NOTAL)
  • (H) Islamabad 8026 (NOTAL)
Introduction and summary: In accordance with authority contained in 2 FAM 060, I have determined that disaster of magnitude to require outside assistance exists in Afghanistan and that it is in interest of US to offer emergency assistance. Two years of drought are now expected cause losses of up to 70 percent of Afghanistan’s 22 million sheep and a short fall in food grain in neighborhood of 600,000 tons of wheat. New government in office less than two weeks has taken series steps with speed and determination that I have not previously seen in my four years here. In view situation of disaster proportion and as evidence US interest back up its oft stated desire support RGA if it demonstrated needed leadership, I have authorized the use of up to $25,000 for equipment and supplies to help alleviate acute water and feed shortages. In immediate future I will be requesting support for an expected RGA request for special food assistance in the area of 100,000 tons Title II wheat and Pakistani rupee or dollar financing for animal feed relief to extent bi-product feeds available. Immediate authorization open negotiations on pending Title I request on basis expedited third country consultations is also requested. End introduction and summary.
Afghanistan faces disaster resulting from two years unprecedented drought. Both RGA and foreign experts estimate that up to 70 percent of country’s 22 million sheep population will be lost, unless extraordinary relief measures undertaken. Such losses having already immediate impact on economy through major depression animal prices by flock owners dumping animals in desperate effort gain some return rather than suffer absolute loss. Longer term impact will be loss in foreign exchange from exports of Karakul and other animal products which will exacerbate present already serious balance of payments and debt repayment prorlems. Furthermore, drought causing, current estimate of short fall about 600,000 tons in wheat including prospect [Page 3] of major food shortage and relief needs in some rural drought areas. We expect RGA to request additional tonnages of wheat from present donors of assistance to help attack potential starvation. My action to utilize $25,000 of emergency contingency funds as first step will convey to new government that USG prepared back up its oft stated view that if RGA demonstrated clearly its leadership in combatting growing economic crisis USG would be in forefront of those friendly governments seeking help Afghanistan help itself. Actions by RGA outlined below and attitudes, ideas, proposals, etc., expressed to me and other members of this mission by King, Prime Minister and members of new Cabinet during past few days all clearly demonstrate that Zahir government is serious about attacking immediate crisis and longer range economic problems.
Steps taken thus far by RGA include the following:
Two teams headed by Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation with US, IBRD, and US experts made country-wide on spot inspection of livestock conditions with transportation provided by Royal Afghan Air Force. Reports of mission pinpointed areas of greatest danger.
Requested emergency assistance from all current foreign assistance donors, including PRC, Soviets, EEC, IBRD and ADB to attack drought effects. Preparing to send special mission headed by FonMin to various countries to back up request.
Requested Parliament amend Article 29 of customs law to permit export of live animals to neighboring countries and preliminary steps taken by RGA with Governments of Iran, USSR, and Pakistan for expo of Afghan sheep.
Asked USSR to permit grazing of Afghan flocks—reportedly refused by Soviets who offered purchase sheep, possibly in exchange for feed.
Continued ban on export of Afghan cotton seed cake, which being distributed to flock owners. Furthermore, PM’s office has ordered Ministries of Mines and Industries, Public Works [Page 4] and Defense to utilize their vehicles for transportation of 1,467 mt cotton seed cakes from Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, and Kashkar Gah to Andkhoy [Farayab province], Ghazni and Qala-i-Nau, which are areas of greatest need.
Announced that import of chemical fertilizer is free and no rpt no longer monopoly of RGA. Arranging negotiate purchase of urea in Pakistan and Kuwait.
Increased efforts produce low lift pumps at Jangalak factory, including airlifting 100 diesel engines for pumps from West Germany.
Undertaken campaign to inform world and own people about [Page 5] crisis including PM statment in Parliament (ref C), announcement that Jeshyn celebration this year will be one rpt one, day only instead of two weeks plus activities which has been tradition. Announcement said celebration would include only King’s speech to nation, military and student parades. Action taken “in view of the great economic difficulties and droughts which call for the adoption of austerity measures by the government and cooperation of the public.
Creation of special task forces within RGA and announcement that Minister without Portfolio, Former Senator and Minister of Agriculture, Wakil appointed to coordinate all efforts to attack drought problems.
Observable and successful efforts by PM Zahir and his Cabinet to rebuild executive-parliamentary relations.
As inital USG response to urgent RGA appeal for aid, I plan to use $25,000 emergency funds to finance purchase of few hundred tons bi-product animal feed in Pakistan (ref G) and pilot number of heavy lift pumps. If this initial shipment Pakistani animal feed successfully utilized by Afghan flock owners, I intend (a) urge RGA request GOP provide feed as direct relief contribution and (b) seek Washington approval for grant funding for Pak bi-product feed to extent of further available supply, using US held rupees plus CF dollars to extent cotton seed cake or other foreign exchange earnings components are included. Therefore, I urge Washington agencies concerned undertake necessary preliminary steps in preparation for fast action on this request.
Situation clearly will also require additional food aid, and RGA expected soon to present US with formal request for emergency deliveries of wheat in addition to pending PL 480 request. I urge that Washington agencies now reserve Title II capacity for up to 100,000 tons wheat emergency relief. Fast action on request will be needed not only because of situation here but also to assure loading of vessels prior to anticipated dock strike in US.
Lastly, I urge that third country consultations [Page 6] regarding pending 100,000 tons PL 480 Title I sales agreement for wheat be expedited and that we be authorized commence negotiations immediately.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, AID (US) 15–8 AFG. Confidential. Sent as a joint Embassy/USAID message. Sent attention for the Disaster Relief Coordinator. Repeated to Ankara, Bonn, Canberra, Islamabad, London, Moscow, Ottawa, USUN, Brussels, Tehran, and Rome for FODAG.
  2. Ambassador Neumann urged a prompt response to the Afghan request for emergency assistance to deal with the effects of drought.