890H.001 Zahir/12

The Acting Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: On July 12, 1934, the Department received through the Embassy at Paris a formal communication from His Majesty Mohammed Zahir Shah, King of Afghanistan, notifying you of the death of his father, Mohammed Nadir Shah, and of his own accession to the throne. This communication, dated April 24, 1934, had been sent to the Afghan Minister in Paris, who handed it to the [Page 749] American Ambassador with an English translation and with the request that it be forwarded to its high destination.

Although this Government has never entered into direct diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, President Harding in 1921 received an official mission from that country by which it was generally accepted that recognition had been accorded to the régime of King Amanullah, who was then in power. You will recall, however, that King Amanullah was overthrown in 1929, and although his successor, Mohammed Nadir Shah, would no doubt have been glad to establish relations with the United States, no formal steps were ever taken toward that end.

Our failure to recognize the Government of Nadir Shah was due largely to the fact that this Government was never formally notified of the abdication of Amanullah and the accession of Nadir Shah; moreover, we have been naturally conservative on the subject of establishing relations with Afghanistan owing to the primitive condition of the country, the lack of capitulatory or other guarantees for the safety of foreigners, and the absence of any important American interests.

The régime of Nadir Shah brought peace and a fair measure of progress to Afghanistan over a period of four years. Following Nadir Shah’s death in November, 1933, his young son, Mohammed Zahir, ascended the throne with the full support of his people. Zahir Shah’s reign is said to be under the able tutelage of two uncles, one the Prime Minister and the other the Minister of War, between whom a complete accord is reported to prevail and who are anxious to have their country progress along sound, practical lines. From many sources I am informed that the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States is earnestly desired by Government officials in Afghanistan, who feel that recognition by this country would be of inestimable moral assistance in their endeavors properly to bring Afghanistan into the family of nations.

Since the Government of Afghanistan is recognized by all of the Great Powers and since the present régime appears to be a stable one, I can see no reason why we should withhold recognition of that country. I am therefore enclosing, together with a copy of the translation of King Zahir Shah’s letter to you,3 an acknowledgment which has been drafted for your approval4 and which would constitute formal recognition of his régime. If this reply meets with your approval, I shall be glad to transmit it through appropriate sources to His Majesty Zahir Shah.

Faithfully yours,

William Phillips
  1. Supra.
  2. See p. 750.