Bold move to save Afghanistan: Bring back a king
If the United States values stability more than democracy, it will recognize that restoring Afghanistan’s constitutional monarchy is the only thing that will prevent Taliban rule and victory in the war.
US forces in Afghanistan just got another competent military commander in Gen. David Petraeus. However, the current US strategy that General Petraeus must enforce only guarantees mission failure in the long run because it bolsters an unpopular Afghan government. This, in turn, ensures increased support for the insurgency led by the Taliban, who love to boast that they have Allah and time on their side.Skip to next paragraph
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It’s time that Western leaders answer a politically incorrect but vital question: Do they care more about establishing democracy than stability? Because if the mission is still about ensuring that Afghanistan – as a relatively cohesive state – remains free from Taliban and Al Qaeda, then the West should be willing to consider a dramatic step: reinstatement of a constitutional monarchy.
Pushing for a constitutional monarchy runs counter to America’s traditional antipathy toward monarchies as a form of governance, but in the case of Afghanistan, it’s probably now the only alternative to the Taliban rule that seems almost inevitable once NATO forces withdraw.
After weathering nine years of war, the Taliban have grown stronger, not weaker. Fueled by money and support from Pakistan and the Arab Khaleej states, they are getting more brazen in their attacks. Girls increasingly resist going to school, terrified that their classes might be bombed, or acid thrown in their faces, as they walk home. Shopkeepers have stopped selling videos and other “un-Islamic” items.
Meanwhile, the Karzai government, which won reelection amid wide reports of ballot fraud, continues to lose popular support. Corruption is rife. The drug and smuggling mafias are back and many are closely affiliated with the Afghan government.
In this environment, Afghans are hedging their bets. They don’t want the Taliban to return to power, but they understand that survival means siding with the winner.
It didn’t have to be this way.
In 2001, most Afghans welcomed US forces as saviors, not crusaders.
Thanks to their presence, Afghans were able to resume cherished pastimes banned under the Taliban: They played soccer, flew kites, danced the Attan, and, most importantly, they laughed out loud. Afghans could tend to their beloved rose gardens, or drive their buses and cars, blaring loud music. Woman could seek medical help, and widows could find employment, without running the risk of being beaten, or worse: stoned or shot to death in the soccer stadium.
After the fall of the Taliban, the overwhelming majority of Afghans – across ethnic lines – wanted to reinstate the constitutional monarchy that had served Afghanistan so well in the past.
During the long reign of King Zahir Shah (1933-1973), Afghanistan blossomed into a modern state. It became the largest exporter of raisins in the world, and was renowned in the region for its carpets, fruits, melons, and semi-precious stones. Kabul rivaled Islamabad as a city of modernity and culture, and was considered by Westerners in the 1960s as the Geneva of Asia.