Brigadier General Henry Byroade served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Asian, South Asian, and African Affairs (1952-55), and between 1955 and 1977 served as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Union of South Africa, Afghanistan, Burma, Philippines, and Pakistan.
JOHNSON: In ’59 you went to Afghanistan.
BYROADE: “Kabul.” Most Americans say “Kabul.” When Eisenhower came out there, he was only out there for two hours on a trip. His advance man came through to take a look at the place, and when he left I said, “What can I do for you?” He said, “I want a stone.” I said, “My God, we’ve got millions of them.” I reached down in the driveway and gave him a stone. The next time we went back to the White House it was mounted on his desk and said, “A genuine Kabulstone.” A great country. No American that’s served there will ever forget it.
We have a reunion once a year; we had forty, about five years ago, with everybody that had served there. Last year we had 400. There’s something about the place you just love. I had better morale in the Embassy there than they have in places like Paris, London, or Rome. Nothing much to do socially, but beautiful outdoor country, and you do your own things. We had the world’s best amateur dramatic society. We did “My Fair Lady,” “Guys and Dolls,” built our own ski lift, etc. We didn’t have many visitors.
JOHNSON: No major issues to deal with?
BYROADE: Well, yes, we did. The Russians were making inroads when we were there, and we were sort of in competition with the Russians. They were building grain silos and we were building roads, and then they got into roads. To an extent, it was all right with me if the Russians spent their rubles doing things that the Afghans really needed, such as roads, as long as we built the best roads. We had trouble really staying with much of a presence in Afghanistan; we almost pulled our aid program out. But we did stay. I don’t think the king would have ever faced up to getting rid of [President Mohammad] Daud, but for the fact that we were there.
JOHNSON: Daud was, you say, removed?
BYROADE: Yes, he was removed, and then he came back, and of course, was killed.
JOHNSON: Was he pro-Communist?
BYROADE: No, not as far as adopting a Communist philosophy, an economic thing, and so on. But, in my opinion, he cooperated a little too readily with the Russians. Of course, they were right on the Russian border and all we wanted was an honestly neutral country. We didn’t want any bases or anything like that. We would like to have it neutral a little bit on our side, but nothing to get too excited about, as long as it was neutral. We felt Daud was a little too pro-Russian, but he wasn’t Communist.
JOHNSON: But you never foresaw Soviet intervention, military intervention, which came in the late 1970s?
BYROADE: No, I left there in about 1960. I didn’t foresee actual Soviet military intervention. There were a lot of destructive issues. Daud was for Pushtunistan, a very vague concept concerning the Pushtan tribes, which involved a part of what is now Pakistan, and there had been trouble with the border closings.
Second Oral History Interview with Henry Byroade, Potomac, Maryland, September 21, 1988, by Niel M. Johnson, Harry S. Truman Library.
Photo: 9 March 1955; Egyptian President receiving US Ambassador Henry A. Byroade in Cairo
Oral History Interview with Hank Byroade: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/oralhist/byroade.htm