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Former Afghan King Surprised by Capture of Kabul

Afghanistan's former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, and his close advisers say they were caught off guard by the Northern Alliance's sweep into Kabul as Taleban forces fled. In a statement issued from exile in Rome, the former king is calling for the formation of a "National Unity Council" for Afghanistan.

An aide to the former king says the exiled monarch was surprised that the Northern Alliance has moved into Kabul. Hamid Sidig, one of the exiled king's advisers, says the Northern Alliance had promised not to enter Kabul until the city was de-militarized and a post-Taleban administration representing all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups could be established. "They didn't contact us until now," he said. "All what our understanding was that they are not entering Kabul until a political structure is shaping and coming in place. That was our understanding."

Northern Alliance troops have moved into Kabul, and senior Northern Alliance officials have moved into ministries recently vacated by the Taleban. "That is something new development for us," said Hamid Sidig. "That is against our agreement with the Northern Alliance. We don't know why they entered Kabul. We are totally confused. At the moment we are waiting for their telephone call."

The capture of Kabul has led to international calls for the swift creation of a broad-based Afghan government.

The 87 year-old former king, who has been living in exile in Rome since 1973, has been meeting in recent weeks with many representatives of foreign leaders to make plans for Afghanistan's future. He also has held meetings with the leaders of various Afghan groups to try to gain consensus for the formation of a Grand National Assembly, or Loya Jirga.

In a statement, the former king called the current situation in Afghanistan "momentous" and said "a number of groups, tribal and military personalities, including resistance commanders, have begun preparing for a series of political activities inside the country."

He called on all those who, in his words, "believe in the formation of the National Unity Council and the emergency Loya Jirga to rally behind these activities and play their historic roles."