July 14

The Afghan war

President Obama has praised the contribution of British troops in Afghanistan. His support  came after 15 British soldiers were killed in the first 11 days of July – including eight in 24 hours on Friday – taking the UK military death toll in the country since October 2001 to 184, five more than the lives lost by British forces in Iraq.

The deaths have increased concerns over the strategy in Afghanistan, in particular whether there are sufficient troop numbers and the forces are properly equipped. The Ministry of Defence is considering a troops surge and a review of tactics. 

"The contribution of the British is critical, this is not an American mission," the President told Adam Boulton on Sunday Live on Sky News (12/7).


"The mission in Afghanistan is one that the Europeans have as much, if not more, of a stake in than we do. Certainly the Afghans as well as the Pakistanis have more of a stake than we do. The likelihood of a terrorist attack in London is at least as high, if not higher, than it is in the United States. And that's the reason why Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and others have made this commitment." The US president said his "heart obviously goes out to the families of those British soldiers".

"We knew that this summer was going to be tough fighting, that there was an interest in the Taliban exerting control, they have I think been pushed back, but we still have a long way to go," President Obama said. He said there would be an evaluation of tactics after the Afghan election.

…why Afghanistan is in “a terrible mess”…

 This news reminded me of conversation I had in a taxi in Sydney last year.  “And how long have you been in Australia,” I asked the driver. He told me he had been here for over a decade. He came from Afghanistan, a country he said was in “a terrible mess.”

He volunteered that the best time for Afghanistan was under the King Zahir Shah. His reign marked the longest of stability known to Afghanistan, that is  between 1933 and 1973.He had turned Afghanistan into a constitutional monarchy, with democratic elections to a parliament, civil rights, and women’s liberation.


My driver said things were going very  well until a failed  politician , Mohammed Daoud Khan, staged a coup d'état and declared Afghanistan a republic while the King was in Europe for an operation. This was the beginning of the disaster, dictatorship, the Soviet invasion and the rule of the Taliban. After the fall of the Taliban, there were calls for a return to the monarchy.  But when he was back in Afghanistan, the King  was prevailed on  by the Americans to stand aside to allow their nominee Hamid Karzai to become President.

Under the Constitution the former King was declared to be the “Father of the Nation, “providing a symbol of leadership beyond politics.

As we reported here, “Afghan King farewelled,” 31 July 2007, he died on 23 July, 2007.

….a US view…

My taxi driver’s opinion that the Afghan constitutional monarchy was a golden period was confirmed recently by American diplomat, Peter Tomsen. He was President George H.W. Bush's special envoy on Afghanistan, with the rank of ambassador from 1989 to 1992.

He later served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as ambassador to Armenia. In  a report by Kevin Howe in  the Monterey Herald on 29 August, 2008, he said :  “Afghanistan enjoyed 45 years as a monarchy progressing toward democracy before a failed communist coup in 1978, followed by the Russian invasion in 1979 to bolster the "revolution."  “The invasion and resulting insurgency, destroyed what had been built up over 45 years.”

…crowned republics  have a proven record… 

During the 1999 referendum campaign, I was invited to address an inner city branch of the Liberal Party.  When I said that constitutional monarchies, crowned republics,  were concentrated among the most advanced countries of the world, a number of people  laughed mockingly.  As I began to list the world’s most advanced countries, they quietened down.

The experience too of several developing countries, such as Afghanistan, indicates that if the aim of government is to provide freedom and democracy, education and a better standard of living, the model form of government is ….constitutional monarchy,  the crowned republic..

The wisdom of my immigrant taxi driver far exceeded that of the inner city elites whom  I had once encountered in our referendum campaign.    


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