US embassy cable - 78KABUL3619 (original version)

FIRST CONVERSATION WITH NEW AFGHAN PRESIDENT (original version)

Identifier: 78KABUL3619
Wikileaks: View 78KABUL3619 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kabul
Created: 1978-05-06 16:01:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PTER PINT AF US
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
061601Z MAY 78
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO SECSTATE WASHDC
INFO AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
AMEMBASSY TEHRAN
CONFIDENTIAL KABUL 3619 
 
 
E.O. 11652: GDS 
TAGS: PGOV, PTER, PINT, AF, US 
SUBJECT: FIRST CONVERSATION WITH NEW AFGHAN PRESIDENT 
 
1. MUR MOHAMHAD TARAKI, THE PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN'S NEW 
REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL, AND HE LIKES TO BE CALLED "MR. PRESIDENT," 
RECEIVED ME ALONE IN HIS OFFICE AT THE OLD PRIME MINISTRY BUILDING 
AT 5 P.M. ON MAY 6, I WAS RECEIVED AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE BUILDING 
BY THE SAME CHIEF AND DEPUTY CHIEF OF PROTOCOL WHO HAD SERVED THE 
PREVIOUS REGIME. AS AN INDICATION OF THE TIMES, THE DEPUTY CHIEF, 
WHO IS A MOHAMMADZAI, STARTED WEEPING WHEN I ASKED HIM ABOUT HIS 
FAMILY. IT WAS IN THIS MOOD THAT HE USHERED ME INTO HIS NEW CHIEF'S 
OFFICE. SECURITY PRECAUTIONS SEEMED TO BE MINIMAL, WITH ONLY ONE 
ARMORED VEHICLE VISIBLE IN THE COMPOUND OF THE PRIME MINISTRY. 
 
2. TABAKI GREETED ME WITH A WARM HANDSHAKE AND A FRIENDLY SMILE, 
DULY RECORDED BY PHOTOGRAPHERS. WE THEN SAT DOWN IN THE CORNER OF 
HIS OFFICE AND EXCHANGED A FEW PLEASANTRIES WHILE OUR PICTURES 
CONTINUED TO BE SNAPPED. I GOT A GOOD LAUGH FROM HIM WHEN I SAID I 
WAS SORRY I HAD NOT MET HIM DURING MY FOUR AND ONE-HALF YEARS IN 
AFGHANISTAN -- AND EVEN SORRIER DURING THE PAST NINE DAYS. TARAKI 
SPOKE EXCELLENT, IF SOMEWHAT RUSTY, ENGLISH. 
 
3. TARAKI BEGAN HIS CONVERSATION BY RECOUNTING WITH OBVIOUS PRIDE 
AND RELISH THE SUCCESS OF HIS REVOLUTION, STRESSING THAT IT IS A 
REVOLUTION AND NOT A COUP. HE SAID ON THURSDAY, APRIL 27, THE TANKS 
FIRST MOVED IN THE DIRECTION OF KABUL ABOUT 9 A.M., BUT TOOK MORE 
THAN TWO HOURS TO REACH THE CENTER OF THE CITY. BY EVENING, THE 
DAOUD REGIME HAD LOST THE BATTLE, ALTHOUGH THEY TRIED IN VAIN 
DURING THE NIGHT TO SEND REINFORCEMENTS FROM CENTRAL CORPS 
HEADQUARTERS AND FROM KARGHA. WITH THE COMING OF DAYLIGHT, HE SAID, 
THE AIR FORCE WAS ABLE TO FINISH THE JOB. MEANWHILE, WITHIN THE 
PALACE DAOUD HAD BEEN ASKED TO SURRENDER, BUT REFUSED, SHOT AT HIS 
ATTACKERS, AS DID HIS WIFE AND FAMILY, AND WAS THEREFORE KILLED. 
THE INTENTION, SAID TARAKI, HAD BEEN TO TAKE HIM AS A CAPTIVE. 
TARAKI ADDED THAT DAOUD PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN COURT-MARTIALED 
AND POSSIBLY SHOT. TARAKI HAD YESTERDAY  
THE SOLDIER WHO HAD BEEN SHOT BY DAOUD'S "WHITE PISTOL". 
 
4. TARAKI THEN SAID HE WAS SURPRISED THAT I HAD NOT BEEN THE FIRST 
AMBASSADOR TO CALL ON HIM, BECAUSE WHAT HE IS TRYING TO ESTABLISH 
IN AFGHANISTAN IS A "GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, AND FOR 
THE PEOPLE." CORRECTING HIMSELF A BIT, HE SAID HE HAD ASKED THE SAME 
QUESTION OF THE PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR BECAUSE PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN 
HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON, CULTURALLY AND ETHNICALLY. 
 
5. I THEN EXPLAINED THAT IN CASES LIKE THIS, WE DO NOT EXTEND FORMAL 
RECOGNITION BUT INDICATE, AS WE HAVE DONE, THAT WE WANT TO CONTINUE 
NORMAL DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS. I SAID, IN FACT, WE HOPE TO HAVE CLOSE 
WORKING RELATIONS WITH THE NEW GOVERNMENT. I ADDED, AS OUR NOTE 
STATED, THAT I HOPE HIS GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE A CHANCE SOON TO 
AFFIRM THE VALIDITY OF EXISTING TREATIES AND AGREEMENTS. HE MAD NO 
COMMENT ON THAT SUGGESTION. 
 
6. AT SEVERAL POINTS DURING THESE PRELIMINARY EXCHANGES, TARAKI 
REFERRED TO THE TIME HE HAD SPENT IN THE UNITED STATES, HIS 
FRIENDSHIP FOR AMERICANS, AND HIS LIKING FOR THE AMERICAN QUALITY OF 
FRANKNESS. WE AGREED THAT AFGHANS AND AMERICANS HAVE LOTS IN COMMON 
IN THIS REGARD. 
 
7. I THEN STATED I WANTED TO BE FRANK WITH HIM. I SAID THAT, AS HE 
KNEW, THE UNITED STATES HAD NEVER SOUGHT ANY STRATEGIC OR POLITICAL 
ADVANTAGE FROM AFGHANISTAN. HE AGREED. I SAID THAT ONE OF THE CARDINAL 
POINTS OF OUR POLICY IS TO HELP AFGHANISTAN MAINTAIN ITS INDEPENDENCE, 
ITS INTEGRITY, AND ITS NATIONAL IDENTITY. HE NODDED ENTHUSIASTICALLY. 
I SAID THAT SINCE THE BRITISH LEFT INDIA, IT WAS OUR VIEW THAT THE 
ONLY COUNTRY THAT COULD POSSIBLY THREATEN AFGHANISTAN'S INDEPENDENCE 
IS THE SOVIET UNION. IN PAST TIMES, I NOTED, OUR POLICY HAD BEEN TO 
TRY TO CONSTRUCT BLOCS AGAINST SOVIET EXPANSIONISM, BUT THAT OUR 
APPROACH TO THIS PROBLEM HAD, IN THE COURSE OF TIME BECOME MORE 
SOPHISTICATED. 
 
I STATED WE COULD READILY UNDERSTAND -- GIVEN AFGHANISTAN'S 
GEOGRAPHIC POSITION AND ECONOMIC NEEDS -- WHY IT WOULD WANT A CLOSE 
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SOVIET UNION. BUT, I SAID, WE WOULD BE DISTURBED 
IF AFGHANISTAN'S FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC POLICIES WERE TO BECOME 
INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM THOSE OF THE SOVIET UNION BECAUSE THAT WOULD 
OBLITERATE AFGHANISTAN'S NATIONAL IDENTITY AND WOULD GIVE RISE TO 
TENSIONS IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD WHICH COULD THREATEN PEACE. I SAID 
THAT IT IS IN THIS CONTEXT THAT WE APPRECIATE AFGHANISTAN'S NONALIGNED 
POLICY. 
 
8. IN RESPONSE, TARAKI AFFIRMED THAT AFGHANISTAN IS AND DESIRES TO 
REMAIN AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY AND MASTER OF ITS OWN DESTINY. HE SAID HE 
WAS PLEASED THAT THE UNITED STATES TAKES A MORE FLEXIBLE VIEW OF THE 
WORLD AND ADMITS, FOR EXAMPLE, THAT IT MADE A MISTAKE IN VIETNAM. HE 
REFERRED TO HIS BEING IN WASHINGTON DURING THE DAYS OF SENATOR MCCARTHY, 
AND NOTED THAT THE THEN VICE PRESIDENT NIXON HAD REFUSED ONCE TO COME 
TO AN AFGHAN EMBASSY RECEPTION BECAUSE AFGHANISTAN WAS TOO CLOSE TO THE 
SOVIET UNION. HE WAS PLEASED THAT THAT IS NO LONGER THE APPROACH THE 
UNITED STATES TAKES TOWARD HIS COUNTRY. 
 
9. I THEN SAID THAT IN EVALUATING THE POLICIES OF A GOVERNMENT IN A 
DEVELOPING COUNTRY LIKE AFGHANISTAN, THE UNITED STATES WOULD LOOK FIRST 
AND FOREMOST AT WHAT THAT GOVERNMENT IS DOING TO RAISE THE STANDARD OF 
LIVING OF ITS PEOPLE AND TO ASSURE THE MAINTENANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS -- 
ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND LEGAL. AT THIS POINT, TARAKI BECAME 
MUCH MORE ANIMATED AND HELD FORTH AT SOME LENGTH ON THE SUBJECT OF HOW 
HIS GOVERNMENT WANTS TO HELP THE PEOPLE OF AFGHANISTAN. HE SAID THAT HE 
AND HIS COLLEAGUES -- UNLIKE HIS PREDECESSORS, REALLY CARE ABOUT THE 
POOR PEOPLE OF THIS COUNTRY AND HAVE NO INTEREST IN PUTTING MONEY IN 
SWISS BANKS. HE SAID THAT IN JUDGING HIS GOVERNMENT'S POLICIES, WE 
SHOULD ASK THE PEOPLE OF AFGHANISTAN WHETHER THEY THINK THEY ARE 
SUCCESSFUL. IN THE PAST, HE BELIEVED FOREIGNERS TENDED TO ASK THE 
ARISTOCRATS WHO, OF COURSE, WERE NOT INTERESTED IN HELPING THE POOR 
BECAUSE SUCH A POLICY WOULD THREATEN THEIR OWN PROSPERITY. REGARDING 
HUMAN RIGHTS, TARAKI SAID THIS IS A VERY COMPLICATED PROBLEM AND THAT 
EACH NATION MUST JUDGE FOR ITSELF THE KIND OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT ARE MOST 
SUITED TO ITS OWN SITUATION AND CULTURE. HE MADE IT CRYSTAL CLEAR THAT 
HE WOULD NOT WANT US TO MAKE VALUE JUDGEMENTS WHICH WOULD BE TANTAMOUNT 
TO INTERFERENCE IN AFGHANISTAN'S INTERNAL AFFAIRS. I ASSURED HIM THAT 
THE UNITED STATES HAD NO DESIRE TO TRY TO TRANSPLANT ITS GOVERNMENTAL 
SYSTEM ELSEWHERE, BUT THAT WE, NEVERTHELESS, CARE DEEPLY ABOUT HUMAN 
RIGHTS. 
 
10. TARAKI THEN SAID HIS GOVERNMENT WOULD JUDGE OTHER GOVERNMENTS BY 
THEIR WILLINGNESS TO HELP AFGHANISTAN. HE SAID THAT HIS GOVERNMENT'S 
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLANS HAD NOT YET BEEN FORMULATED, BUT THAT HE 
WOULD BE ASKING US FOR ASSISTANCE AS, INDEED, HE WOULD BE ASKING THE 
SOVIET UNION AND OTHER COUNTRIES. HE SAID THAT THE PRINCIPAL SLOGAN, 
ADDING THAT HE REALLY MEANT POLICY AND NOT SLOGAN, OF HIS GOVERNMENT IS 
TO PROVIDE BREAD, CLOTHING, AND SHELTER FOR THE MASSES. I DESCRIBED OUR 
AID PROGRAM OF RECENT YEARS AND ITS EMPHASIS ON HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND 
AGRICULTURE FOR THE RURAL POOR. HE SAID HE WOULD TELL ME, AS HE HAD 
TOLD THE SOVIET AMBASSADOR, THAT OUR RESPECTIVE AID PFORAMS HAD FAILED, 
AND THAT THE FAILURE WAS DUE TO THE LACK OF COMMITMENT OF THE PREVIOUS 
REGIME. I SAID I AGREED WITH HIM THAT OUR AID PROGRAM HAD NOT ACHIEVED 
ITS GOALS. HE ASKED ME WHY. I REPLIED THAT HE KNEW HIS OWN COUNTRY 
BETTER THAN I, AND THAT I WOULD MERELY SAY THAT THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT 
WAS NOT CAPABLE OF IMPLEMENTING THE KIND OF PROGRAM THAT WE WISHED TO 
SEE IMPLEMENTED. HE OBVIOUSLY TOOK GREAT PLEASURE IN MY SAYING THIS. 
 
11. TARAKI THEN SAID HE WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT I UNDERSTOOD WHAT HE 
MEANT BY "BREAD". HE SAID HE WANTS TO PROVIDE JOBS FOR THE THOUSANDS OF 
AFGHANS WHO HAVE LEFT THE COUNTRY TO WORK IN IGNOMINY ABROAD. THIS WILL 
MEAN THE CONSTRUCTION OF INDUSTRY AND INFRASTRUCTURE, AND HE HOPED WE 
WOULD HELP WITH THAT. I TOLD HIM THAT ONCE THE APPROPRIATE MINISTERS IN 
HIS GOVERNMENT WERE PREPARED TO DISCUSS SUCH MATTERS WITH US, MY AID 
MISSION DIRECTOR AND I WOULD BE HAPPY TO DO SO. 
 
12. I THEN SAID THAT ONE OTHER MATTER OF IMPORTANCE TO THE UNITED 
STATES IS THE STABILITY OF THIS REGION IN THE WORLD. I SAID WE HAVE BEEN 
DELIGHTED AT THE PROGRESS THAT HAS BEEN MADE IN RECENT YEARS IN 
DEVELOPING REGIONAL COOPERATION. TARAKI SAID THAT THAT WAS, OF COURSE, 
A MATTER THAT HIS GOVERNMENT WOULD BE STUDYING. HE ALSO SAID THAT WHEN 
ONE TALKS OF REGIONAL COOPERATION, THAT MEANS NOT ONLY COOPERATION WITH 
INDIA, PAKISTAN, AND IRAN -- BUT ALSO WITH THE SOVIET UNION. 
 
13. THE CONVERSATION ENDED WITH PLEASANTRIES AS IT HAD BEGUN. HE SAID 
THAT HE HOPED THE SOVIET UNION WOULD NOT JUDGE HIM BADLY IF HE BUILT MORE 
MOSQUES. BY THE SAME TOKEN, HE HOPED WE WOULD NOT JUDGE HIM BADLY IF HE, 
HIMSELF, DID NOT GO TO A MOSQUE. HE CONCLUDED BY SAYING THAT EVERYTHING 
HE HAD TOLD ME HE HAD ALSO TOLD THE SOVIET UNION. 
 
14. COMMENT:  TARAKI IS A SLIM, WHITE-HAIRED, PROFESSIONAL MAN WHO LOOKS 
SOMEWHAT OLDER THAN 61. HE HAS THE CHAN AND EMPATHY THAT ONE LEARNS TO 
ASSOCIATE WITH AFGHANS. HE IS ALSO CLEARLY HARDHEADED AND EXHILARATED BY 
HIS SUCCESS. WHEN HE IS PARTICULARLY ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT A POINT HE IS 
MAKING, HIS EYES ASSUME A FIERCE, INTENSITY. OUR CONVERSATION WAS 
EXTREMELY CORDIAL AND WAS ALSO, I THINK, A REAL DIALOGUE. 
 
ELIOT 

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