Adolph Dubs

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Adolph Dubs
Adolph Dubs.jpg
United States Ambassador to Afghanistan
In office
June 27, 1978 February 14, 1979
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.
Succeeded by J. Bruce Amstutz (as chargé d'affaires)
Robert Finn (as Ambassador, 2002)
Personal details
Born(1920-08-04)August 4, 1920
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedFebruary 14, 1979(1979-02-14) (aged 58)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/service United States Navy
Rank Lieutenant commander
Battles/wars World War II

Adolph "Spike" Dubs [1] (August 4, 1920 – February 14, 1979) was the United States Ambassador to Afghanistan from May 13, 1978, until his death in 1979. [2] He was killed during a rescue attempt after his kidnapping.



Dubs was born in Chicago, Illinois, and graduated from Beloit College in 1942 with a degree in political science. While at Beloit, classmates who said they did not want to refer to Dubs by the first name of an enemy dictator, gave him the nickname "Spike," which stuck for the rest of his life. [3] Dubs served in the United States Navy during World War II. Later, he completed graduate studies at Georgetown University and foreign service studies at Harvard University and Washington University in St. Louis. [4] He subsequently entered the United States Foreign Service as a career diplomat, and his postings included Germany, Liberia, Canada, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. He became a noted Soviet expert, and in 1973–74 he served as ranking charge d'affaires at the United States Embassy in Moscow. [5]

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

Illinois State of the United States of America

Illinois is a state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes region of the United States. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area of all U.S. states. Illinois is often noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in northeastern Illinois, small industrial cities and immense agricultural productivity in the north and center of the state, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, encompasses over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to international ports via two main routes: from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway to the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.

Beloit College Liberal Arts College in Beloit, Wisconsin

Beloit College is a private liberal arts college in Beloit, Wisconsin. Founded in 1846, while the state of Wisconsin was still a territory, it is the oldest continuously operated college in the state. It is a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest and has an enrollment of roughly 1,402 undergraduate students.

Kidnapping and death

In 1978, Dubs was appointed United States Ambassador to Afghanistan following the Saur Revolution, a coup d'état which brought the Soviet-aligned Khalq faction to power. [6] [7] He was being driven from his residence to the U.S. embassy slightly before 9 a.m. on February 14, 1979, on the same day that Iranian militants attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, and just months before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He was approaching the U.S. Cultural Center when four men stopped his armored black Chevrolet limousine. [8] [9] [10] Some accounts say that the men were wearing Afghan police uniforms, [8] while others state that only one of the four was wearing a police uniform. [9] The men gestured to the car to open its windows, which were bulletproof, and the ambassador's driver complied. [8] [10] The militants then threatened the driver with a pistol, forcing him to take Dubs to the Kabul Serena Hotel [8] [10] in downtown Kabul. [9] The abduction occurred within sight of Afghan police." [9] Dubs was held in Room 117 on the first floor of the hotel, [8] and the driver was sent to the U.S. embassy to tell the U.S. of the kidnapping. [8]

Saur Revolution

The Saur Revolution, also called the April Revolution or April Coup, was a coup d'état led by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) against the rule of Afghan President Mohammed Daoud Khan on 27–28 April 1978. Daoud Khan and most of his family were killed at the presidential palace. The revolution resulted in the creation of a government with Nur Muhammad Taraki as President, and was the precursor to the 1979 intervention by the Soviets and the 1979–1989 Soviet–Afghan War against the Mujahideen.

Khalq political party in Afghanistan

Khalq was a faction of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). Its historical leaders were Presidents Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. It was also the name of the leftist newspaper produced by the same movement. It was supported by the USSR and was formed in 1965 when the PDPA was born. The Khalqist wing of the party was made up primarily of Pashtuns from non-elite classes. However, their Marxism was often a vehicle for tribal resentments. Bitter resentment between the Khalq and Parcham factions eventually led to the failure of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government that was formed as a result of the Saur Revolution in 1978. It was also responsible for the radical reforms and brutal dissident crackdowns that encouraged the rebellion of the religious segments present in the Afghan society, which led to the creation of the Mujahideen and, eventually, to the Soviet military intervention in December 1979.

Kabul Serena Hotel

Kabul Serena Hotel is a luxury hotel in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan. It is set in landscaped gardens, overlooking the city's famous Zarnegar Park. Originally built in 1945, the hotel has been completely refurbished and extended in recent years, reopening on November 8, 2005. The main work for the hotel was given to the Aga Khan Foundation and thus it was inaugurated by Aga Khan IV It has also twice been the subject of terrorist attacks, once in January 2008 and once more in March 2014.

At the hotel, the abductors allegedly demanded that the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) release "one or more religious or political prisoners." [9] "No demands were made of the American government, nor did the DRA ever give a complete or consistent account of the kidnappers' desires." [9] Some accounts state that the militants demanded the exchange of Tahir Badakhshi, Badruddin Bahes (who may have already been dead), and Wasef Bakhtari. [11]

Democratic Republic of Afghanistan republic in Central Asia between 1978–1992

The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, renamed in 1987 to the Republic of Afghanistan, commonly known as Afghanistan, existed from 1978 to 1992, during which time the socialist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) ruled Afghanistan.

Tahir Badakhshi Afghan politician

Taher Badakhshi (1934–1979) has been a cultural and political personality in Afghanistan. He had performed a large variety of cultural and political activities in Afghanistan including organisation of different scale gatherings of authors, journalists and writers of the country and hosting meetings in which the intelligentsia of different cultural and political backgrounds came together for discussions, and he was the founder of "Revolutionary Organization of the Toilers of Afghanistan", a liberal leftist group with affinity to the Non-Aligned Movement that was founded in Yugoslavia in 1956, triggered by Josip Broz Tito, and promoted by the two most pivotal personalities in the global South: Jawaharlal Nehru and Gamal Abdel Nasser. The group has also had a firm touch to the liberal principles and heterogeneous ideas of liberalism and modernism, and of course in the very temporal and geographic context of the country, it has had affinities to the leftist liberation and anti-colonial movements in Asia, Latin America and Africa

Wasef Bakhtari Persian poet

Wasef Bakhtari is an Afghan poet, literary figure and intellectual.

The U.S. urged waiting in order not to endanger Dubs' life, but the Afghan police disregarded these pleas to negotiate and attacked on the advice of Soviet officers. [11] [12] [13] The weapons and flak jackets used by the Afghans were provided by the Soviets, and the hotel lobby had multiple Soviet officials, including the KGB security chief, the lead Soviet advisor to the Afghan police, and the second secretary at the Soviet embassy. [8] [13] At the end of the morning, a shot was heard. [8] Afghan police then stormed Room 117 with heavy automatic gunfire. [8] [10] After a short, intense firefight, estimated at 40 seconds [9] to one minute, [8] [13] Dubs was found dead, killed by shots to the head. [8] Two abductors died in the firefight, as well. [9] An autopsy showed that he had been shot in the head from a distance of six inches. [10] The other two abductors were captured alive but were shot shortly after; their bodies were shown to U.S. officials before dusk. [9]

KGB main security agency for the Soviet Union

The KGB, translated in English as Committee for State Security, was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 until its break-up in 1991. As a direct successor of preceding agencies such as Cheka, NKGB, NKVD and MGB, the committee was attached to the Council of Ministers. It was the chief government agency of "union-republican jurisdiction", acting as internal security, intelligence and secret police. Similar agencies were constituted in each of the republics of the Soviet Union aside from Russia, and consisted of many ministries, state committees and state commissions.

The true identity and aims of the militants are uncertain, [14] and the crime "has never been satisfactorily explained" although U.S., Afghan, and Soviet officials "were all but eyewitnesses" to it. [9] The circumstances have been described as "mysterious" [9] [15] and "still clouded." [16] Several factors obscured the events, including the killing of the surviving captors, lack of forensic analysis of the scene, lack of access for U.S. investigators, and planting of evidence. Soviet or Afghan conspiracy was not proven. [13]

Some attribute responsibility for the kidnapping and murder to the leftist anti-Pashtun group Settam-e-Melli, [17] [18] but others consider that to be dubious, pointing to a former Kabul policeman who has claimed that at least one kidnapper was part of the Parcham faction of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. [19] Disinformation that was spread in the Soviet and Afghan press after the murder blamed the incident on the CIA, Hafizullah Amin, or both. [9] [10] Anthony Arnold suggested that "it was obvious that only one power… would benefit from the murder—the Soviet Union," as the death of the ambassador "irrevocably poisoned" the U.S.-Afghan relationship, "leaving the USSR with a monopoly of great power influence over" the Nur Muhammad Taraki government. [9] Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski stated that Dubs' death "was a tragic event which involved either Soviet ineptitude or collusion", [10] while the Afghan handling of the incident was "inept." [20] The Taraki government refused U.S. requests for an investigation into the death. [12]

The Carter administration was outraged by the murder of the ambassador and by the conduct of the Afghan government, and began to disengage from Afghanistan and express sympathy with Afghan regime opponents. [12] The incident hastened the decline in U.S.-Afghan relations, causing the United States to make a fundamental reassessment of its policy. [12] In reaction to Dubs' murder, the U.S. immediately cut planned humanitarian aid of $15 million by half and canceled all planned military aid of $250,000, [11] and the U.S. terminated all economic support by December 1979, when the Soviet occupation of the country was complete. [12] The Afghan government aimed to diminish the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and restricted the number of Peace Corps volunteers and cultural exchange programs. [12] On July 23, the State Department announced the withdrawal of non-essential U.S. embassy staff from Kabul and the majority of the diplomats as security deteriorated, and the U.S. only had some 20 staff members in Kabul by December. [12] [21] Dubs was not replaced by a new ambassador, and a chargé d'affaires led the skeleton staff at the embassy. [22]

The death of Dubs was listed as a "Significant Terrorist Incident" by the State Department. [23] Documents released from the Soviet KGB archives by Vasily Mitrokhin in the 1990s showed that the Afghan government clearly authorized the assault despite forceful demands for peaceful negotiations by the U.S., and that KGB adviser Sergei Batrukhin may have recommended the assault, as well as the execution of a kidnapper before U.S. experts could interrogate him. [24] The Mitrokhin archives also indicate that the fourth kidnapper escaped and the body of a freshly killed prisoner served as a substitute for the U.S. inspection. [25] Other questions remain unanswered. [26]

Dubs is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. [27]


Dubs is commemorated by the American Foreign Service Association with a plaque in the Truman Building in Washington, D.C., [28] and by a memorial in Kabul. [29]

Camp Dubs, named after Dubs, is a U.S. military camp at the Darul Aman Palace in southwest Kabul. [30]

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  1. Fineman, Mark (March 28, 1992). "Mystery of Envoy's Slaying in Kabul May Yield Secrets : Afghanistan: President offers an open inquiry into 1979 kidnap-murder of U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs" via LA Times.
  2. "Adolph Dubs (1920–1979)". U.S. State Department. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  3. Binder, David (February 15, 1979). "Slain Ambassador a career diplomat". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  4. ibid
  5. "The Assassination of Ambassador Spike Dubs – Kabul, 1979". Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  6. "The Saur Revolution: Prelude to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan – Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training". Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. April 22, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  7. "BBC News | Analysis | Afghanistan: 20 years of bloodshed". Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 J. Robert Moskin, American Statecraft: The Story of the U.S. Foreign Service (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013), p. 594.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Anthony Arnold, Afghanistan, the Soviet Invasion in Perspective (Hoover Press, 1985), p. 79.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Dick Camp, Boots on the Ground: The Fight to Liberate Afghanistan from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban (Zenith, 2012), pp. 8–9.
  11. 1 2 3 Dorronsoro, Gilles (2005). Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present. Columbia University Press. p. 87.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Jagmohan Meher, America's Afghanistan War: The Success that Failed (Kalpaz Publications, 2004), p. 64.
  13. 1 2 3 4 John Prados, Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), p. 468.
  14. Mohammad Khalid Ma'aroof, Afghanistan in World Politics: A Study of Afghan-U.S. Relations (Gian Publishing House, 1987), p. 117.
  15. Shawn Dorman, Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America (American Foreign Service Association, 2003), p. 104.
  16. Robert C. Gray & Stanley J. Michalak, American Foreign Policy Since Détente (Harper & Row, 1984), p. 99.
  17. Diego Cordovez & Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal (Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 34–35.
  18. Jagmohan Meher, America's Afghanistan War: The Success that Failed (Gyan Books, 2004), p. 64.
  19. Anthony Arnold, Afghanistan, the Soviet Invasion in Perspective (Hoover Press, 1985), p. 154.
  20. J. Bruce Amstutz, Afghanistan: The First Five Years of Soviet Occupation (Diane Publishing, 1994), p. 44.
  21. Samuel M. Katz, Relentless Pursuit: The DSS and the Manhunt for the Al-Qaeda Terrorists (Macmillan, 2002), p. 288.
  22. U.S. Foreign Police and the Third World: Agenda 1968–86 (John W. Sewell, Richard E. Feinburg, & Valeriana Kallab, eds., Overseas Development Council, 1985), pp. 125–26.
  23. "Significant Terrorist Incidents, 1961–2003: A Brief Chronology". U.S. Department of State Archive 2001–2009. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  24. PDF Archived May 8, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  25. Christopher Andrews and Vasili Mitrokhin, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 391.
  26. FINEMAN, MARK (March 28, 1992). "Mystery of Envoy's Slaying in Kabul May Yield Secrets : Afghanistan: President offers an open inquiry into 1979 kidnap-murder of U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs". Los Angeles Times. ISSN   0458-3035 . Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  27. "The Assassination of Ambassador Spike Dubs – Kabul, 1979 – Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training". Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. January 28, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  28. "AFSA Memorial Plaque List".
  29. Richardson, Bill (2007). Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life. Penguin. ISBN   9781440628962 via Google Books.
  30. "The Assassination of Ambassador Spike Dubs – Kabul, 1979". Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. January 28, 2013. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.
United States Ambassador to Afghanistan
Succeeded by
J. Bruce Amstutz
(Charge d'affaires)
Robert Finn
(Ambassador in 2002)