Would Zahir Shah Have Been Better for Afghanistan?

In this week’s Corridors of Power, Roland Flamini reports that the former Afghan ambassador to the United States thinks the U.S. made a mistake in insisting on Hamid Karzai rather than the recently deceseased Zahir Shah as Afghanistan president:

WASHINGTON BLOCKED AFGHAN KING — Did the Americans foist Hamid Karzai on the Afghan people even though Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan who died this week at 92, would have been the far more popular choice? Yes, says Ishak Shariar, Afghanistan’s first ambassador to the United States following the 2001 defeat of the Taliban.

At the December 2001 U.N.-sponsored conference in Bonn to plan Afghanistan’s future and appoint an interim government, the two main Afghan political blocs were the so-called Rome group, which supported the king, and the Northern Alliance of mainly smaller ethnic groups that had spearheaded the ground offensive against the Taliban. “There was an understanding — the Rome group would choose the head of state, and the Northern Alliance would select the government,” Shariar told World Politics Review. “Out of 14 members of the Rome group, 11 voted to restore the king, but the Americans overrode the choice, and named Karzai, a relative unknown.”

For more, read the rest of this week’s Corridors of Power, which also looks at European immigration, the U.N. Human Rights Council and coca eradication in Colombia. See here for past editions of the column.