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Afghanistan Relief Committee

Afghanistan Relief Committee

Acronym/Code: ARC

Updated: 1/91

Categories:Political, Service

Background: The Afghanistan Relief Committee (ARC) is a private, 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organization established by former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Robert Neumann and Mary Ann Dubs in 1980 to help Afghan refugees from the war between the mujahedeen and the Soviet-backed government. (1,3) Initially the group worked within the United States, using the media and organizing activities to publicize the situation of the refugees. ARC then began to work directly with Afghan refugees living in camps inside the Pakistan border, and more recently has been providing humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. (1) ARC is housed at the law offices of attorney John Train, president of ARC. (3)

ARC was founded shortly after the onset of the Reagan administration, a time when many anticommunist, "freedom fighter" nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) undertook the cause of the Afghan mujahedeen resistance. Among the many support groups founded at that time were the Committee for a Free Afghanistan (CFA), American Friends of Afghanistan (AFA), and the Afghanistan Information Center (AIC)–all of which received funding, directly or indirectly, from the governmentfunded National Endowment for Democracy. (3,10,11)

It has been suggested that ARC was founded to organize support for Zia Khan Nassery to head a puppet government which would be under the guidance of the CIA through its cover group, The Asia Foundation. (3) However, other observers argue that ARC was formed in response to the U.S. government policy of working through NGOs to carry out foreign policy goals that could not be conducted through normal channels. In this case it was support for the mujahedeen opposition to the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan. It was believed that working through "private" organizations would maintain the credibility of the Afghan resistance as an "indigenous freedom struggle."(10)

Funding: ARC’s income in 1985 was $91,759 and in 1986 was $264,523. (2) The majority of funds ($136,522) were expended in media campaigns in 1986. In 1986 45 percent of expenditures ($119,557) were for administration and fundraising. (2)

ARC received grants from the National Endowment for Democracy of $60,000 in 1984, $50,000 in 1985, $45,000 in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989. (11,12,13,14,15) In 1986 ARC received contributions of $45,000 restricted for a public awareness campaign through the media. The total cost of that campaign was $161,000. (2)

Activities: ARC has been defined by author Helga Baitenmann as an "advocacy NGO." Advocacy NGOs support the Afghan resistance through education, information dissemination, and lobbying efforts. (10) Its initial work was to raise public awareness and interest in the situation of the Afghan refugees through extensive media campaigns in 1985 and 1986. More recently the committee has delivered food and medical services in Afghanistan through Medecins Sans Frontieres, Aide Medicale Internationale, and other international medical relief organizations. (1) It has an affiliate organization, Freedom Medicine, which trains Afghan paramedics in Pakistan. Upon completion of training, the paramedics return to Afghanistan to work. (1)

ARC used its original grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to reopen and maintain schools in areas controlled by the resistance inside of Afghanistan. The texts provided by ARC were designed to combat the Soviet "indoctrination" of Afghan youth. This project was monitored in Afghanistan by Medecins sans Frontiers, a group which received funding from the staunchly anticommunist U.S.-based NGO, the CIA-linked International Rescue Committee (IRC). (10,12)

ARC grants received from NED in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989 were used to support publication projects of three Afghan organizations–The Writers Union of Free Afghanistan (WUFA), The Afghan Information Centre (AIC), and the Afghan Information and Documentation Centre (AIDC). (11,13,14,15) WUFA translates books and articles by foreign authors about the Soviet Union for distribution inside of Afghanistan. (10) Materials are designed to "educate" the Afghan people about the problems of communism. (25) AIC and AIDC publish English-language newsletters and bulletins distributed to the U.S. media on developments inside Afghanistan. (11,13)

ARC apparently has given financial support to anticommunist propagandist Michael Barry. Barry, who is also connected to the neoconservative human rights organization, Freedom House, seemed to be able to travel in and out of Afghanistan where he gathered and disseminated "quantities of what is supremely difficult to obtain, detailed information."Barry’s information was used to rally people to the mujahedeen cause. (3)

Government Connections:All of the former living U.S. Ambassadors to Afghanistan are among the founders of ARC. (1)

Robert Neumann was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 1966-1973; ambassador to Morocco from 1973-1976; and to Saudi Arabia from 1981 to 1983. (3)

T. L. Eliot, Jr. has held U.S. State Department positions in Ceylon, U.S. S. R. , Iran and was ambassador to Afghanistan from 1973 to 1978. (3)

Jeane Kirkpatrick served as ambassador to the United Nations in the Reagan administration. (9)

Senators Alfonse D’Amato, Orrin G. Hatch, Daniel Moynihan, and Claiborne Pell, along with Representatives Robert Lagomarsino, Don Ritter, Samuel Stratton, Charles Rangel, Bill McCollum, and Jim Courter, sit on the Congressional Task Force On Afghanistan formed in 1985. (6)

Private Connections: ARC maintains an office at a firm in which board president John Train has an interest. It paid the firm $13,250 in 1985 and $4,500 in 1985 to cover the cost of rent and accounting services. During 1986 ARC paid approximately $34,000 to an advertising agency of which a member of the ARC board of directors is president. (2)

Rosanne Klass was a founding member of the Afghanistan Council of the Asia Society and is on the board of the anticommunist,"democracy-building" Freedom House. Through ARC and these groups she coordinated efforts to disseminate promujahedeen information to the western world. Klass has been described, even by other Afghan rebel supporters as "obsessed" and a "fanatic."(3) Her connection with Freedom House gave Klass access to government officials and advisers such as Freedom House Trustees Zbigniew Brzezinski and Eugene Wigner. Freedom House Chairman Leo Cherne was a close associate of then-CIA head William Casey. (3) When visitors come to ARC seeking information on the country, they are referred to works of Klass and told to contact her at Freedom House. (3)

Robert Neumann was associated with the rightwing think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) from 1976 to 1981, serving as its vice president from 1980 to 1981. Since 1983 he has been director of Middle East Programs at CSIS where he worked with Michael Ledeen, a leading figure in the Iran-contra affair. Neumann is also a member of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and is vicechairman of the Moroccan-American Foundation–a group headed by Angier Biddle Duke. Duke, among other things is honorary chairman of the International Rescue Committee. (3) Neumann is or was on the Committee for Afghanistan of AmeriCares and the American Friends of Afghanistan (AFA), another NED-funded group with an anticommunist political agenda conducting educational work inside of Afghanistan. (8,9,10)

Jeane Kirkpatrick was a prominent member of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and the Committee on the Present Danger, strongly anticommunist groups that in the 1970s came out of the conservative portion of the Democratic Party to combat the policy of detente. (16) Kirkpatrick is or was on the board of the neoconservative Committee for the Free World. (17) She also was connected with PRODEMCA (Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America). PRODEMCA used funds from Oliver North’s illegal contra support network for media campaigns in favor of aid to the Nicaraguan contras. (18) Kirkpatrick is a scholar at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, and is or was on the "faculty" at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (17,19) Kirkpatrick is or was a member of the neoconservative Social Democrats USA and has been connected with the secretive policy formation group of the Right, the Council for National Policy. (20,21)

T. L. Eliot, Jr. is a senior research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institute on War and Peace and is Dean of the CIA-linked Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. (3) Eliot and Robert G. Neumann are vice presidents of AFA. (9)

Thomas E. Gouttierre worked in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan. He was the director of the Center for Afghan Studies at the University of Nebraska. Gouttierre was denounced by the Afghan government radio for working with the CIA. He attended a pro-mujahedeen conference in 1981 with Karen McKay of Committee for a Free Afghanistan. (3) Dupree serves on the board of AFA. (9)

Senator Gordon Humphrey sat or sits on the boards of The Mercy Fund and the Council for International Development. Both groups work in support of the Afghan mujahedeen. (4,5)

Professor Louis Dupree and Representative Robert Lagomarsino are or were on the council of advisers of the Committee for a Free Afghanistan. (7)

Judith Hernstadt was on the National Council of PRODEMCA. (24)

Medicins Sans Frontiers is a French relief organization that conducted vaccination campaigns in Afghanistan with funding from the U. N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF. (10) It is known as a cross-border NGO–doing work in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Cross-border operations are illegal in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and are noted for being highly politicised operations supporting the Afghan rebels. The U.S. has been the largest funder of cross-border activities. (10) Medicins Sans Frontiers also has been active in Central America working with Nicaraguan refugees in Honduras. (22) In Guatemala the group worked with the National Reconstruction Committee, a group directed by the Guatemalan military which works on the government’s model village program. (23)

Misc:"Most of the seventy advocacy NGOs involved in Afghanistan belong to a close-knit web of rightwing organisations, which includes think-tanks, funders, activists, church representatives, university intellectuals, soldiers of fortune, retired US generals and high government officials. As in the case of Central America, ‘anticommunism’ is the glue that holds these groups together." (10)

Comments: Principals: Principals in 1987 included: James A. Michener, Hon. Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Lowell Thomas co-chairs; John Train, president; Gordon A. Thomas, executive vice president; Jenik Radon, senior vice president; Edward A. Friedman, Sr, vice president; Rosanne Klass, vice president; and Andrew Kotchoubey, treasurer. Honorable co-chairmen were: Senators Claiborne Pell, Richard G. Lugar, Alfonse M. D’Amato, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Orrin G. Hatch, Gordon J. Humphrey, and J. James Exon; Representatives Robert J. Lagomarsino, Charles B. Rangel, Don Ritter, Bill Green, Samual S. Stratton, Jim Courter, and Bill McCollum. Directors in 1987 included: Ambassadors Henry Byroade, H. Eugene Douglas, T. L. Eliot, Jr, F. L. Kellogg, Sheldon Mills, and John M. Steeves–all of whom served as ambassadors to Afghanistan. Other directors were Judith F. Hernstadt and Jerry M. Mosier. Honorary directors were Kirk Douglas, Prof. Louis Dupree, Ambassador Millicent Fenwick, Henrietta Goelet, Thomas E. Goutierre, John D. Guyer, Robert Joffrey, Prof. Arline Lederman, Ambassador Robert G. Neumann, Dr. Charles Plotz, Ambassador Leon Pollada, and Ogden Williams. The executive director was Cleo M. Paturis. (1)

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