370. Telegram 6029 From the Embassy in Afghanistan to the Department of State1 2


  • Afghan Emergency Relief Request for Assistance


  • A) Kabul 5986: B) Kabul 5348: C) Kabul 5741; D) State 183796

Summary: The RGA has requested emergency assistance totaling 50,000 tons of wheat to carry an expanded operation help program through the harvest in September 1973, and funds to help pay for domestic truck transportation cost relieving heavy financial strain. Based upon preliminary analysis mission is requesting AID/W approve an immediate emergency Title II PL 480 wheat grant of 20,000 mt to replace in-country wheat stocks now being trucked under Phase I operation help into emergency areas before winter.

Now examining RGA transportation request in light of expanded Phase I and will advise mission recommendations when situation more clear. Action required: approve Title II PL 480 emergency wheat grant of 20,000 mt wheat.

[Page 2]
Minister Seraj in discussion with Charge Lewis has amplified the written request received from Minister Sarabi for diversion of current Title II wheat to operation help and replacement under a new Title II program. Seraj said that isolated areas in northern and southern Badakhshan suffer from the same threat of winter starvation that exist in Hhor and surrounding areas. He points out also that these areas have major poppy production and that a major governmental program of help is a necessary prerequisite to prospective governmental efforts to eliminate opium production there. Accordingly, Badakshan is now included in operation help adding 3–5,000 tons of wheat to the requirement. Furthermore, initial surveys around Chakgcharan reveal that the number of needy people in the area is substantially greater than the estimate included in operation help, and that the needy population to be served may in fact be half again as large as the 100,000 previously estimated.
Seraj cites the necessity of a Phase II follow-on program in the spring and summer to continue food supply until the local harvest is available in late summer and to start the process of economic rehabilitation. Summing these requirements Seraj comes to a total need approaching 50,000 tons. There is some indication that WFP will meet 20,000 tons of this requirement but they are insisting on reports of the use made of wheat during the past year before addressing a firm request to Rome. We are also withholding any further request for food for work under Title II until improvements in the administration and reporting are demonstrated but judge that Phase I of operation help effort clearly warrants clear support at this time.
Planning for Phase II has been authorized but not yet begun. Requirements for it will be large including replacement of seed and animals and fertilizer in addition to continued food supplies. We suggest delay of any US commitment for assistance to Phase II until plans and requirements are clearer.
We have little to add at this time to the analysis of the [Page 3] overall wheat picture given in TOAID A-213. Current market behavior appears to support that analysis with prices remaining in the Afs mid-40’s per seer in most markets but as low as 35 in Lashkar Gah and Talaquan, i.e., the grain trade appears to be anticipating a normal supply situation for the winter. The government, however, is short of wheat with stocks currently below 50,000 tons and imports including U.S. Title I of only 110,000 tons in sight for this fiscal year. Since the anticipated drawdowns over this period include 70,000 tons for government employees and institutions, 30,000 tons government fixed price sales, and 30,000 tons for food for work, the government supply picture is very tight and the Cabinet has just authorized the Food Department to start domestic purchasing at the 35 Afs support price. The RGA in past good years has never purchased more than 20,000 tons of wheat locally according to Food Department officials, and we doubt if they could approach that amount at 35 Afs. Even if able to obtain 20,000 tons by paying more than 35 Afs per seer, the prospective June 30, 1973 stock position would be dangerously low.


Present stock position 50,000

Imports including Title 1 110,000

Local procurement 20,000

180,000 tons



Government and military 70,000

Fixed sales 30,000

Food for Work 30,000

Operation help (Phase 1) 20,000

150,000 tons


Ending stock June 30, 1973: 30,000 tons

Given this tight supply picture the replacement of 20,000 tons of the operation help wheat, which is a demand not anticipated when the earlier estimates were put together, is reasonable.

All Titles I and II wheat available for sale in FY 72 was sold in that year. Of the 50,000 tons Title II and 10,000 tons WFP allocated for FFW approximately 16,000 tons had been used by August 22 with program continuing at about 3,000 [Page 5] tons a month. Thus in principle nearly 40,000 tons of above stocks should be earmarked for few.
It is clear now that Phase I will require a minimum of 20,000 tons of wheat, 10,000 in accordance with the original operation help plan, 3–5,000 tons for the added areas in Badakshan, and 5–7,000 additional requirement in Ghor and surrounding areas because the population to be served is larger than had been anticipated. We recommend immediate approval of a Title II grant emergency relief program of 20,000 tons of wheat for operation help to re shipped as early as feasible to replace the wheat borrowed by the RGA from FFW availabilities for that program.
For the past ten days the Department of General Transport has overfulfilled its commitment of 50 trucks/day and has sent over 8,000 tons of wheat, CSM, blankets and other supplies into the famine area of which over 6,000 tons is already on site. However, truck availability is now cut back to 30/day because Kabul is again running out of sugar and because of necessity of moving incoming fertilizer. While 150 military trucks and over 500 civilian trucks have been committed to the program, this degree of commitment cannot be maintained because of urgent competiting requirements. Accordingly, we see the necessity of the RGA either hiring 200–250 Pakistani trucks for up to six weeks to supplement Afghan transport availabilities or hiring equivalent numbers of bazaar trucks not under contract to general transport or of greatly increasing the commitment of military trucks. At 200 rupees per truck/day the Pak trucks would require approximately $150,000 and more Afghan trucks would increase the RGA bill for commercial trucking by as much over the Afs 20 million or $250,000 budget. Some cash has been committed to the program by the UNDP ($20,000), Yugoslavia (Afs15 million), Japan ($10,000) and other donors but these amounts will be more than needed for medicine, local purchases of clothing and blankets and other costs. However, preliminary indications are that use of Pakistani trucks would be difficult if not politically impossible domestically, given the jealousies and power of afghan truckers. cabinet is considering alternatives.
Despite an extraordinarily difficult cash position the [Page 6] government has gone ahead with operation help on its own. Seraj has obtained a budget of 16 million Afs and has in addition been authorized to draw wheat from Food Department stocks without reimbursement. This apparent affluence, however, is illusory since it has been accomplished by increasing the government’s overdarft at the DA Afghanistan bank to nearly 3 billion Afs and by using wheat which is needed for other purposes. We have learned in the fertilizer exercise that the government was only able to marshal the $4.9 million temporarily needed for the initial orders by selling SDRs. Seraj said at the beginning that the government would go ahead with this program with or without assistance. This is the first time the RGA has demonstrated the courage to do exactly that rather than waiting to move until necessary support was fully pledged. We feel very strongly that their belated but encouraging initiative deserves full and generous support.
Given the general financial burden of operation help on the RGA, we are inclined toward providing up to $400,000 CF to help in meeting transportation cost of expanded Phase 1. Will advise further in light RGA action decision.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, SOC 10 AFG. Limited Official Use. Repeated to Islamabad, Tehran, and Rome for FODAG
  2. The Embassy recommended provision of 20,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan in response to an emergency assistance request from the Afghan Government. The Embassy further suggested that the U.S. provide $400,000 to help offset the transportation costs of trucking food into areas affected by famine.