364. Telegram 4884 From the Embassy in Afghanistan to the Department of State1 2


  • Coordination of Emergency Relief
As result of serious concern about lack of RGA coordination and direction over emergency relief effort expressed by AID Mission, Peace Corps, CARE, and UNICEF representatives, Charge called on Prime Minister Zahir with ADCM August 19. Wahen Karim, Director-General, Dept Political Affairs, MFA and Acting DepMin, and DepMin Finance Mohd. Khan Jallalar also present. Other subjects discussed being reported septels.
I opened discussion by recalling that several foreign governments and multilateral agencies had been working with number of RGA Ministries to help alleviate effects of two years of drought, compounded by severe winter conditions, which had resulted in emergency situation in number of provinces. Also observed that Kabul Times had reported creation of private group in US to raise $10 million for emergency relief in Afghanistan. Ministry of Health engaged in number of major programs of relief, Red Crescent had distributed large amount of supplies, and Afghan Women’s Association had also participated effectively. Noting that Ministry of Defense had provided some transportation for relief supplies, I stressed that where we have been asked, we have [Page 2] provided Peace Corps volunteers, trucks, food, technical advice, communications facilities,etc. I pointed out, however, that all these efforts appeared inadequate to seriousness of problem. We were now very concerned that in a number of provinces there remain only eight to twelve weeks in which to move supplies for stockpiling during winter and early spring when roads will be closed.
I observed that it impression of concerned foreign representatives, both bilateral and multilateral, that there was no coordinated RGA plan of action in establishing priorities, either as to provinces or supplies, and that there was no one individual in RGA to whom foreign donors or RGA officials could turn for decisions regarding priorities or allocation of domestic resources to complement available relief supplies. I noted that DepPriMin Samad Hamed had, prior to his trip to Soviet Union been playing an important role in this matter, but since that trip and his return he has been feeling somewhat unwell, and no further action has been taken to mount a truly coordinated program.
As example of problem faced by foreign agencies I described effort by US Embassy to utilize some $1,000 plus donated by individual Americans to support a special nutritional program of a small orphanage in Chakhcharan. Governor of Ghor province had refused such help, indicating no help was needed even though it was evident to our Peace Corps volunteers working in Chakhcharan that orphans badly in want and that there were food supplies available in the bazaar which were not being supplied to the children.
I stressed that foreign agencies not seeking force assistance on Afghans; perhaps we were overstating degree of emergency and there had been decision by RGA to reject outside help. If so, we would of course be guided accordingly. If, however, RGA shared our estimate of emergency need, we could assist effectively only in context of better coordinated and directed RGA relief effort. If needed changes made, RGA would find foreign donors willing to respond rapidly to any appeal for help, especially if appeal were supported by organized means of utilizing resources.
Prime Minister said we were not overstating problem, that RGA was well aware of potential second disaster if supplies not moved into areas which will be closed in wintertime. He said that, as matter of fact, he would be meeting in half an hour with key Cabinet members on this very subject and welcomed timeliness of our demarche. (We had learned of this scheduled meeting shortly before call on PM: it may well have been called in light of advance warning as to subject of my requested appointment.)
I suggested in leaving that the Americans and others sometimes pushed our ideas harder than they might be welcomed: e.g.the essentiality of appointing a cabinet-level relief coordinator with full authority for direction of the relief program. PriMin assured me that my remarks sounded like his own when he was coaxing his own people to get on with difficult chores.
We have been informed that as result of above meeting PriMin signed August 21 decree setting up centralized emergency relief organization which had been pending cabinet approval for weeks. Program under policy guidance of inter-ministerial cabinet committee headed by Wakil: all operations to be directed by General Kabir Seraj, Chief of Logistics for MinDef. MinDef representatives who last week were pulling out of relief effort in disgust at lack of policy decisions now returning. DepFinMin told us last night that he had been instructed produce additional funds immediately for support of relief effort (gasoline, truck rental, etc.).
We are under few illusions about degree of efficiency which can be expected of RGA in distribution of relief supplies even with best of intentions. Late reports from central and northwest provinces paint bleak picture of winter prospects. However, PM’s quick reaction to critical demarche provides some hope that worst can yet be prevented.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, SOC 10 AFG. Limited Official Use. Repeated to USUN.
  2. Chargé Lewis reported on his conversation with Prime Minister Zahir concerning the importance of coordinating efforts to manage and distribute emergency relief supplies.