171. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Vance in Mexico and the Embassies in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union1

Tosec 10016/38921. Subject: (S) Death of Ambassador Dubs: Acting Secretary’s Meeting With Dobrynin. Ref: Kabul 1098.2

1. (S-entire text)

[Page 513]

2. Acting Secretary3 called in Dobrynin evening of February 14 and, noting that he had been in touch with the Secretary, made the following points:

A. I want to express to you in the strongest possible terms our shock over the role played by Soviet advisers to the Kabul police in the events which led to the assassination of our Ambassador to Afghanistan.

B. We have reports from highly reliable eyewitnesses that Soviet advisers were intimately involved in the carrying out of the ill-advised assault which resulted in Ambassador Dubs’ death. For example, a U.S. Embassy officer on the scene saw a Soviet adviser helping arm an Afghan policeman with full knowledge that the assault was to follow momentarily, and despite repeated pleas from U.S. Embassy representatives that no such assault be launched. We also have a highly reliable report that a Soviet adviser was present in the room in the Afghan Interior Ministry in which the assault was planned.

C. I am not accusing the Soviet advisers of responsibility for Ambassador Dubs’ death. I am charging them with failure to heed repeated requests by our personnel that the assault not be undertaken.

D. The refusal of consultation by the Soviet advisers on the spot is impossible to justify, given the fact that the life of the American Ambassador was in jeopardy.

E. I ask you to furnish us with a full report of the actions taken by the Soviet advisers involved in this tragedy. We have already protested to the Afghan authorities.4

F. I wish to stress to you that this incident may well cause serious damage to our relations. We are already receiving press queries about the role that the Soviet advisers to the Afghan police may have played in the incident. I strongly advise you to recommend that your authorities respond immediately and fully to the presentation I have made.

3. On a personal basis the Acting Secretary noted that he had had a number of calls during the day from Capitol Hill and that the depth of concern there was significant. He added that when the fact of Soviet participation came out publicly it could have a devastating effect.

4. Dobrynin asked for clarification on several points, for which the Acting Secretary read passages directly from reftel. He assured Dobrynin that the eyewitnesses involved were US Embassy officials. [Page 514] When Dobrynin asked for names of the Soviet security advisers the Acting Secretary mentioned Sergey Bakhturin.

5. Dobrynin said he had no details on the matter, only what he had heard on the radio. He promised to report the demarche immediately to Moscow. He expressed his deep condolences not only as a fellow ambassador but as someone who had known Ambassador Dubs personally, especially when he was office director for Soviet Affairs and Charge in Moscow. He said he was sure the Ministry echoed these sentiments. The Acting Secretary replied that this made the matter all the more perplexing to us.

6. For Moscow: You should not make any further representations to the Soviets on this matter for now. We will be advising you further.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Cables File, State Department Out, Box 115, 2/14–28/79. Sensitive; Niact Immediate; Nodis. Sent for information Immediate to the White House. Printed from a copy that indicates the original was received in the White House Situation Room. Drafted by Shinn; cleared by Stanislaus R.P. Valerga (S/S–O); approved by Christopher. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840176–0105) Vance was in Mexico with Carter on a state visit, February 14–16.
  2. Telegram 1098 from Kabul, February 14, outlines the kidnapping and assassination of Adolph Dubs, American Ambassador to Afghanistan, who was killed on February 14 en route from his residence to the chancery. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790072–0735)
  3. Christopher.
  4. See telegram 1217 from Kabul, February 19, in which Bruce Amstutz, U.S. Chargé to Afghanistan, reported on his meeting with Foreign Minister Hafizullah Amin; and telegram 1274 from Kabul, February 20, in which Amstutz reported on Afghani efforts to minimize the role of Soviet advisers in Dubs’s death. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790077–1181 and D790079–0098)