10. Telegram From the Embassy in Afghanistan to the Departments of State and Defense, the National Security Agency, and the United States Pacific Command1

3372. CINCPAC for POLAD. Subject: Afghan Communist Leader Becomes Ruler of Afghanistan.

1. On April 30, Radio Afghanistan announced at 1700 local time that pro-Soviet Communist Khalq Party leader Nur Mohammad Taraki has been named President of the Council of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) and Prime Minister (the same information was conveyed officially to the Embassy at 1825 in a circular notice, delivered by a member of the Foreign Ministry’s Protocol Department). As the top Afghan Communist becomes head of state and chief of government, the true political character of the coup leadership is now nakedly apparent to all.

2. Taraki, who was born on July 15, 1917, in Maimana Province in Northwestern Afghanistan, is a Pushtun. He has been a prominent Communist leader since 1965. Among the significant positions he has held are: Director-General of Publications in the Ministry of Press and Information (1950–51); editor-in-chief of the official Bakhtar news [Page 20] agency (1951–52); Press Attaché at the Afghan Embassy in Washington (1952–53); translator/interpreter for the ICA USOM/A Mission at Kabul (ca. 1958); translator for the American Embassy at Kabul (1962–63); became General-Secretary of the Communist Party of Afghanistan (ca. May 1965); editor of “Khalq” (“Masses”), the far-leftist newspaper (April–May 1966); General Secretary of the Taraki group of the Communist Party of Afghanistan (April 1967); chairman of the Central Committee of the Unified Khalq-Parchamist Party (June 1977).

3. Taraki was married in 1942, but has no children. He has been described as “a shaven-headed, bulky man of almost commanding ugliness.” He visited the Soviet Union for medical treatment in 1965 or 1966, travelling extensively in the USSR during his 42-day sojourn. Taraki speaks Dari and English, in addition to his native Pushtun. Fuller biographic details will be reported later.2

4. Upon announcing the appointment of Taraki, the Radio Voice of the new DRA has proclaimed that tomorrow, May Day, will be a national holiday. Embassy officers have noted the appearance of some red flags throughout Kabul this afternoon.

5. Comment: Many Afghan and foreign observers at Kabul were surprised that the Communists have taken over complete power openly, discarding so early in the game their initial veil of “Islamic nationalism”. This could represent a serious miscalculation on their part however. The devout traditionalist majority of this society hardly seems ready to accept the leadership of what is, relatively speaking, a minuscule Communist elite. This reaction could also include those elements of the rebelling armed forces who thought they were fighting for broader nationalist and progressive goals. Additionally, the regional security implications will undoubtedly be clear to the Iranian and Pakistani Governments. With reference to the latter, we note that the long collaboration between Afghan Communist leaders and Pushtunistan nationalists appears to be continuing into the coup era. The red, black, and white flag of Pushtunistan still waves today over Pushtunistan Square in downtown Kabul. During coming days we will be able to provide a more thorough analysis of these events as we see the new Communist regime become established. The discipline we saw displayed during the anti-American demonstration before our Embassy only a few days ago, on April 19, has already translated itself into [Page 21] political power. We shall be interested to see what the first Red May Day in Afghanistan will look like tomorrow.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780185–0099. Secret; Flash. Sent for information Niact Immediate to London, Moscow, Islamabad, New Delhi, and Tehran (also for the USDAOs in the last three posts).
  2. Not found and not further identified.
  3. In telegram 3019 from Kabul, April 19, the Embassy reported that the assassination of Mir Akbar Khaibar, characterized as a “prominent Afghan Communist leader,” triggered an anti-American demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy noted that this demonstration “revealed for the first time since the establishment of the Republic in 1973 the sizable, well-organized nature of the Communist movement in Afghanistan.” In telegram 3416 from Kabul, May 1, the Embassy described the mood in the city as subdued. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780167–0764 and D780185–0592, respectively)