Hot winds from the Hindu Kush blew across the grass runway of Kabul airport last week as a sleek Russian TU-104 jet airliner touched down, bringing slim, weathered King Mohammed Zahir Shah back from a 17-day state visit to Moscow, 2,000 miles away. The King stepped onto a Persian carpet and delivered a brief arrival speech. "The trip was most successful," he told the assembled dignitaries. "The hearts of the Russian people are full of friendship for Afghanistan."

The King's concrete accomplishments in Moscow, according to the official communique, added up to the creation of a joint Russian-Afghan trading mission,...

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