Despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, Afghan authorities have insisted that they did not consult Soviet advisers during last week's kidnaping in which U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs was killed.
The reason for circumspection, according to Asian and Western diplomats as well as other sources here, rests on attempts by the new Afghan government of Prime Minister Noor Mohammad Taraki to disguise its Marxist character and its fealty to Moscow.
According to these sources, the Taraki government is still uncertain in its grip on the country whose population is traditionally anti-Russian and anti-Communist.
And while the Taraki government brought in an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Soviet advisers to help it run the country, senior Afghan figures in their public pronouncements have insisted that Afghanistan is a nonaligned country and that Soviet aid is a matter of good neighborly relations.
When Foreign Minister Hafizullah Amin outlined this country's foreign policy in a recent speech, it was identical to the policy of the Soviet Union on virtually every point, from the Camp David agreement to the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.
But he also reiterated that Afghanistan is following a policy of nonalignment. A few days later, he was asked at a press conference how the country could be nonaligned and such a zealous disciple of the Soviet Union at the same time.
The reason, he said, is that the Soviet Union is supporting Afghan policy, not the other way around.
"The position of the socialist countries is identical to that of the nonaligned countries on many issues," he said. "World peace, anti-apartheid, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the establishment of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace. The socialist countries support the position of the nonaligned nations. It confirms, that socialist countries are good friends of the nonaligned."
Was there any international issue, he was asked, on which Afghanistan's position is different from that of the Soviet Union? "Well," he said, grinning, "We are not members of the Warsaw Pact." Amin also said in his speech, delivered to an Iraqi delegation, that the Afghans "maintain normal friendly relations with China."
Aside from that, Afghanistan has quickly evolved into a willing handmaiden of Moscow, just as was predicted when Taraki seized power last April. But as Amin's remarks about nonalignment indicate, it still refuses to apply to itself any label that would confirm ideological or political alignment with the Soviet Union.
Claiming that 99 percent of the people support the revolution, the government carefully avoids defining what kind of revolution it really is.
Amin's reference to "the socialist countries" did not include his own. In fact, he said, Afghanistan wants to encourage private enterprise and has no plans to collectivize agriculture. He described Afghanistan as a "working class state."
A government pamphlet issued shortly after the coup that described Taraki as a "dedicated Marxist Leninist" has been withdrawn.
In a report on the achievements of his first five months in office, Taraki never used the word "socialist," let alone Marxist. He said Afghan diplomats were being trained to "raise their class consciousness and enable them to work under class diplomacy in the interest of the toiling people," but he avoided any characterization that would indicate he is following an imported ideology or taking the country into the Soviet hands.
Asian and Western diplomats and Afghan exiles denouncing the government from across the border in Pakistan say nobody is fooled. In their view, the Taraki regime is Marxist by inclination and in design, as was believed when Taraki seized power, and it refrains from saying so because the widespread discontent already apparent around the country would be increased by a forthright avowal."
In the eastern provinces, devoutly Moslem Pathan tribesman are already in armed revolt against the government they see as Communist and atheistic. A public acknowledgment of either by the government at this time would encourage the insurrection. That is why sources here believe, the government couples its arrest of religious figures with regular declarations of its "respect" for Islam.
Amin told the press that the friendship treaty with the Soviets signed by Taraki in December was only an extension of 60 years of Afghan policy, in which the impoverished, landlocked nation has always been obliged to have strong ties to its northern neighbor.
Observers here say that in a sense that is true, since no Afghan government could escape the shadow of the Soviets, but that under the Taraki government Afghanistan has gone from pragmatic acceptance to enthusiastic courtship.
The Soviets have replaced the West Germans in training the police. The official press is full of accounts of visiting delegations of the type that indicate where this country's interests lie -- North Koreans, Bulgarians, South Yemenis, East Germans.
The strong Moscow orientation of the Kabul government has stirred fears among Afghanistan's other neighbors that the Afghans would take on the role of "the Cubans of Asia," exporting the revolution to Iran and Pakistan. So far there is little evidence that this is happening.
The Taraki government has proclaimed its support for the revolution in Iran and denied Iranian claims of Afghan subversion there. If it is true, as diplomats here suspect, that the Kabul regime sees the triumph of the Islamic rebellion in Iran as only the first step toward a leftist takeover, the sentiment is well hidden.
The Taraki government has reached a modus vivendi with Pakistan, another militant Moslem and anti-Communist neighbor, suspicious of Afghan intentions. The Afghans are not pressing their claims to Pathan territory held by Pakistan and the Pakistanis are withholding support from the Moslem rebels that keep challenging the Kabul government in the border provinces.
The Afghans "don't have the motivation" to stir up trouble in the neighboring countries, a senior diplomat said.