Adolph Dubs

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Adolph Dubs
Adolph Dubs.jpg
10th 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. 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. [3] 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. [4]

At the time of his death he was married to his second wife Mary Anne Dubs, a Washington-based journalist. He was previously married for over 30 years to Jane Wilson Dubs (1922-1993), his college girlfriend from Beloit College, whom he married in 1945 and divorced in 1976. He had one daughter, Lindsay Dubs McLaughlin (1953–), who lives in West Virginia. [5]

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]

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]

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]

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]

See also

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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.
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  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)