WASHINGTON — One day in October 1979, an American diplomat named Archer K. Blood arrived at Afghanistan's government headquarters, summoned by the new president, whose ousted predecessor had just been smothered to death with a pillow.
While the Kabul government was a client of the Soviet Union, the new president, Hafizullah Amin, had something else in mind. “I think he wants an improvement in U.S.-Afghan relations,” Mr. Blood wrote in a cable back to Washington. It was possible, he added, that Mr. Amin wanted “a long-range hedge against over-dependence on the Soviet Union.”