The deposed king of Afghanistan who is emerging as a key player in the UN-sponsored talks underway in Koenigswinter, Germany to determine the future government of Afghanistan was once celebrated by the American people as a champion of Afghanistan independence, according to state documents and photographs found in the archives of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.
In September 1963, then King Mohammad Zahir Shah paid a state visit to the United States where he was welcomed by President John F. Kennedy.
"Even though Afghanistan and the United States are separated by a good many thousands of miles, by history, by culture, by religion, I do think, Your Majesty, that we share one great, overriding, overarching conviction, and that is the strong desire of both of our peoples to maintain their independence, to live in freedom, and to look to the future with hope," said President Kennedy in welcoming the King to the White House on September 5, 1963. "You have committed your country, as it has been throughout its history, to the maintenance of that national independence and sovereignty, and it is a source of pride to us that it has been possible for the United States in some small ways to join you in that great effort."
"Our people, nevertheless have a long struggle ahead in order to overcome the problems presented by illiteracy and certain material handicaps," said King Zahir. "For us, the struggle is essentially a campaign waged for consolidation of the bases of our freedom, for we are fully aware of the fact that these factors can undermine and present a threat to the very foundation of our liberty."
King Mohammad Zahir Shah, (b. October 15, 1914) was King of Afghanistan from 1933-1973. Educated at Kabul and in France, he was proclaimed king on November 8, 1933, within a few hours after his fatherís assassination. In 1964 he promulgated a new constitution. During one of his trips abroad in 1973, the Kingsís cousin and former Prime Minister Muhammad Daud staged a coup and established a republican government with himself as president. Zahir Shah abdicated in August 1973 and has since lived in Italy. Today, loyalists to the deposed king are lobbying Zahir to play a central role in the establishment of a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan.
The John F. Kennedy and Museum is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization.