US Ambassador Incident: Afghanistan 1979

[ 1979 ]

On February 14, 1979, shortly after eight in the morning, Ambassador Dubs, 56, a career foreign service officer, was on his way to the embassy in his bullet-proof vehicle, when men dressed as Afghan police stopped it. Using a ruse, the armed men, believed to be Islamic extremists, persuaded the driver to open his window, forced their way into the car and drove the Ambassador to Kabul Hotel in the city's center, where they took him hostage in an upper-floor room. The U.S. Embassy driver returned to the embassy to announce the kidnapping. 

A stand-off ensued until shortly after noon. Just as American officials believed they had persuaded Afghan Interior Ministry officials not to storm the room, at about 12:30pm a gunshot was heard. Police in the hotel corridor and on rooftops across the street opened up a fusillade into the room that lasted more than a minute. Afterward, silence. Soviet advisers were noted. Later, Ambassador Dubs was found dead, his body ridden with bullets. Three of the hostage takers had been taken alive. The kidnappers had been demanding the release of prisoners who the Minister of Interior claimed were not even in the country. 

A top expert in Soviet affairs, Adolph "Spike" Dubs, was sent to Afghanistan as the US Ambassador on the basis of business as usual in 1978. The US State Department, which had urged caution during the kidnapping, protested the role the Soviets played in the death of Ambassador Dubs. His death also initiated the phasing out of the already stagnant US aid program to Afghanistan.

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