Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Cousin the King; If Tony Blair Really Wants to Find Bin Laden He Should Have a Word with My In-Laws, Suggests James Hughes-Onslow

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Cousin the King; If Tony Blair Really Wants to Find Bin Laden He Should Have a Word with My In-Laws, Suggests James Hughes-Onslow

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES HUGH-ONSLOW

IN JULY 1973 I wrote a story about the king of Afghanistan coming to London for an eye operation at Moorfields Hospital.

When asked why I thought this obscure news might be of interest, I said I hadn't a clue, but it might be more significant than it looked.

A month later, while the king was convalescing in Naples, he was ousted by his communist sympathising cousin, General Daoud, who, in turn, was murdered five years later.

This led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to the Taliban, and to the events of 11 September. It was only when the king left the country that Daoud was able to seize his opportunity. So it's not too fanciful to trace the present crisis to that eye operation.

The reason I knew about the king's health was that he happens to be a distant relative of mine and I had plans to visit him in Kabul. My family's connection with Afghanistan dates from 1840 when my maternal great-great-greatgrandfather married a niece of the Amir Dost Mohammed.

This turned out to be a good career move: two years later, when he was one of six hostages held in the capital, the rest of a defeated invasion force, 4,500 British and Indian troops, were killed on the retreat to Jalalabad.

Their son, Sir Robert Warburton, became warden of the Khyber Pass from 1879 to 1898 and managed to keep the peace for most of that time, attributing his success to the fact that he spoke local

dialects, thus earning the locals' trust. He was eventually relieved of his post because, as his commanding officer explained: "You can't trust a man who is halfnative."

Afterwards, Queen Victoria invited Warburton to Osborne House to hear his story. She protested about his treatment to the prime minister Lord Salisbury, who replied: "Racial prejudice is far too deeply ingrained in the British ruling classes ever to be rooted out."

In his book Eighteen Years in the Khyber (1900), Warburton noted that news of renewed trouble in Afghanistan after his departure proved that "to deal with Afghans, officers must be employed who have the knowledge of their lan guages, customs and ways." Warburton might have been the man to find Osama bin Laden. …

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