Official Visits

Official travels abroad provide leaders with opportunities to experience firsthand the people and culture of other countries. These visits promote direct negotiations, encourage informal exchanges, and help nations to better understand one another. Afghans and Americans benefitted enormously from face-to-face encounters and learned how much they had in common with each other.

After initial meetings in 1921 and 1922, U.S. and Afghan officials maintained contact through private business ventures and diplomatic talks. Formal missions were established in Kabul and Washington, D.C., by 1943, and this began a 35-year period of uninterrupted trips by government representatives. King Zahir Shah’s uncle and cousin, Shah Mahmood and Mohammed Naim, traveled to the United States during the Truman administration (1945-1953). On a nationwide tour in 1951, Prime Minister Shah Mahmood saw how American engineers, universities, and companies could assist Afghanistan’s development. Infrastructure improvements had already begun in the Helmand Valley, and Mahmood’s experiences had an impact on the subsequent creation of shared training programs and construction projects.

The period between 1953 and 1963 was the most important decade of formal visits between the two nations. These highly publicized events, beginning with the arrival in Kabul of Vice President Richard Nixon during a 1953 tour of Asia, reinforced the importance of U.S.-Afghan relations. In 1958, Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud visited Washington, D.C., and was the first Afghan dignitary to speak before the United States Congress. He then journeyed throughout America examining dams and hydroelectric plants, and even met celebrities in Hollywood such as John Wayne and the President of the Screen Actors Guild – Ronald Reagan.

Such voyages set the stage for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s trip to Kabul in 1959 and King Zahir Shah’s visit to Washington, D.C., in 1963. While in Afghanistan, Eisenhower was struck by the majesty of the Hindu Kush Mountains and the ruggedness of the turbaned tribesmen who lined the motorcade route to Chilsitoon Palace. In return for this warm welcome, King Zahir Shah was accorded the highest honors during his 12 days in the United States. Afghan flags flew in the U.S. capital as the King paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue waving to the crowds, and he enjoyed a fireworks display after a White House State Dinner hosted by President John F. Kennedy and his family.

A number of important meetings during the 1960s and 1970s followed these successful tours. Prime Minister Mohammed Maiwandwal met with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967 and was heralded by an honor guard, given a 19-gun salute, and feted at a White House luncheon. Secretary of State William Rogers flew to Kabul in 1969, followed by Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1970. Henry Kissinger stopped in Kabul as Secretary of State in 1974. He later joined President Gerald R. Ford for talks in Washington, D.C., with Special Envoy Mohammed Naim during the American Bicentennial in 1976, and returned to Kabul that same year.

President Harry S. Truman confers with Prime Minister Shah Mahmood (right) and Afghan Chargé d’affaires Abdul Hamid Aziz (center).
Vice President Richard Nixon greets Afghan children.
Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud addresses the U.S. House of Representatives.
Prime Minister Daoud and Vice President Nixon visit the U.S. Capitol Building.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower inspects the honor guard upon arrival at Bagram Airport.
President Eisenhower is welcomed at the airport by King Zahir Shah, Afghan government officials, and children.
The motorcade of President Eisenhower and King Zahir Shah en route to Chilsitoon Palace.
President John F. Kennedy and King Zahir Shah during the Monarch’s visit to the United States.
King Zahir Shah and President Kennedy greet the crowd.
The King meets with former President Eisenhower at the Gettysburg farm.
King Zahir Shah visits the U.S. space program and learns about the Saturn launch vehicle.
The Royal Tour of the United States.
White House luncheon for Prime Minister Mohammed Maiwandwal.
President Lyndon B. Johnson and Prime Minister Maiwandwal in the Oval Office.
Prime Minister Nur Ahmed Etemadi greets Secretary of State William Rogers.
Vice President Spiro Agnew (center) with Ambassador Robert G. Neumann and King Zahir Shah at Gulkhana Palace.
Afghanistan celebrates the American Bicentennial.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Special Envoy Mohammed Naim exchange visits.
President Mohammed Daoud and the Jimmy Carter White House.