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History of Afghanistan

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History of Afghanistan

The written history of Afghanistan (Pashto: د افغانستان تاريخ, Da Afġānistān Tārīkh), can be traced back to around 500 BCE when the area was under the Achaemenid Empire,[1] although evidence indicates that an advanced degree of urbanized culture has existed in the land since between 3000 and 2000 BCE.[2][3][4] The Indus Valley Civilisation stretched up to large parts of Afghanistan in the north, with several sites being known.[5] Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to what is now Afghanistan in 330 BCE after conquering Persia during the Battle of Gaugamela.[6] Since then, many empires have established capitals inside Afghanistan, including the Greco-Bactrians, Mauryas, Kushans, Kabul Shahi, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Timurids, Mughals, Hotakis and Durranis.[7]

Afghanistan (meaning "land of the Afghans") has been a strategically important location throughout history.[8] The land served as "a gateway to India, impinging on the ancient Silk Road, which carried trade from the Mediterranean to China".[9] Sitting on many trade and migration routes, Afghanistan may be called the 'Central Asian roundabout'[10] since routes converge from the Middle East, from the Indus Valley through the passes over the Hindu Kush, from the Far East via the Tarim Basin, and from the adjacent Eurasian Steppe.

The Aryans arrived to Afghanistan from the north after the 20th century BCE,[2] who left their languages that survived in the form of Pashto and Dari. The Arab invasions influenced the culture of Afghanistan, as its Zoroastrian, Macedonian, Hindu and Buddhist past had long vanished, or had just started to decline, as it went with Buddhism. Turkic empire-builders such as the Ghaznavids, Ghurids and Timurids made the region now called Afghanistan of major importance.

Mirwais Hotak followed by Ahmad Shah Durrani unified Afghan tribes and founded the last Afghan Empire in the early 18th century CE.[11][12][13][14][15] Afghanistan's sovereignty has been held during the Anglo-Afghan Wars, the 1980s Soviet war, and the 2001-present war by the country's many and diverse people: the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Aimak, Baloch and others. The Pashtuns form the largest group, claiming to be descendants of ancient Israelites or Qais Abdur Rashid but scholars believe that they are a confederation of various peoples from the past who united under Pashtunwali.


  • Prehistory 1
    • Indus Valley Civilisation 1.1
    • Bactria-Margiana 1.2
  • Ancient history (700 BCE–565 CE) 2
    • Medes 2.1
    • Achaemenid Empire 2.2
    • Alexander and the Seleucids 2.3
    • Greco-Bactrian Kingdom 2.4
    • Mauryan Empire 2.5
    • Sakas 2.6
    • Indo-Parthians 2.7
    • Kushans 2.8
    • Sassanids 2.9
    • Kidarites 2.10
    • Hephthalites (White Huns) 2.11
  • Middle Ages (565–1504 CE) 3
    • Hindu Shahi 3.1
    • Palas 3.2
    • Islamic conquest 3.3
    • Janjau Rajput Empire (900–1050 CE) 3.4
    • Ghaznavids 3.5
    • Ghorids 3.6
    • Mongol invasion 3.7
    • Timurids 3.8
  • Modern era (1504–1973) 4
    • Mughals, Uzbeks, and Safavids 4.1
    • Hotaki dynasty 4.2
    • Durrani Empire 4.3
    • Barakzai dynasty and British influence 4.4
    • Reforms of Amanullah Khan and civil war 4.5
    • Reigns of Nadir Khan and Zahir Khan 4.6
  • Contemporary era (1973–present) 5
    • Republic of Afghanistan and the end of monarchy 5.1
    • Democratic Republic and Soviet war 5.2
    • Foreign interference and civil war 5.3
    • Taliban and the United Front 5.4
    • NATO presence and the Karzai administration 5.5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Tents of Afghan nomads in the northern Badghis province of Afghanistan. Early peasant farming villages came into existence in Afghanistan about 7,000 years ago.

Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others at Darra-e Kur in 1966 where 800 stone implements were recovered along with a fragment of Neanderthal right temporal bone, suggest that early humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 52,000 years ago. A cave called Kara Kamar contained Upper Paleolithic blades Carbon-14 dated at 34,000 years old.[16] Farming communities in Afghanistan were among the earliest in the world.[4] Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation in Afghanistan from as far back as 50,000 BC. The artifacts indicate that the indigenous people were small farmers and herdsmen, very probably grouped into tribes, with small local kingdoms rising and falling through the ages. Urbanization may have begun as early as 3000 BCE.[17] Zoroastrianism predominated as the religion in the area; even the modern Afghan solar calendar shows the influence of Zoroastrianism in the names of the months. Other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism flourished later, leaving a major mark in the region. Gandhara is the name of an ancient kingdom from the Vedic period and its capital city located between the Hindukush and Sulaiman Mountains (mountains of Solomon),[18] although Kandahar in modern times and the ancient Gandhara are not geographically identical.[19][20]

Early inhabitants, around 3000 BCE were likely to have been connected through culture and trade to neighboring civilizations like Jiroft and Tappeh Sialk and the Indus Valley Civilization. Urban civilization may have begun as early as 3000 BCE and it is possible that the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar) was a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization.[3] The first known people were Indo-Iranians,[4] but their date of arrival has been estimated widely from as early as about 3000 BCE[21] to 1500 BCE.[22] (For further detail see Indo-Aryan migration.)

Indus Valley Civilisation

The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilisation (3300-1300 BCE; mature period 2600-1900 BCE) extending from what today is northwest Pakistan to northwest India and northeast Afghanistan.[5] An Indus Valley site has been found on the Oxus River at Shortugai in northern Afghanistan.[23] Apart from Shortughai is Mundigak another notable site. There are several other smaller IVC colonies to be found in Afghanistan as well.


The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex became prominent in the southwest region between 2200 and 1700 BCE (approximately). The city of Balkh (Bactra) was founded about this time (c. 2000–1500 BCE). It is possible that the BMAC may have been an Indo-European culture, perhaps the Proto-Indo-Aryans.[21] But the standard model holds the arrival of Indo-Aryans to have been in the Late Harappan which gave rise to the Vedic civilization of the Early Iron Age.[24]

Ancient history (700 BCE–565 CE)


There have been many different opinions about the extent of the Median kingdom. For instance, according to Ernst Herzfeld, it was a powerful empire, which stretched from central Anatolia to Bactria, to around the borders of nowadays India. On the other side, Heleen Sancisi-Weerdenburg insists that there is no real evidence about the very existence of the Median empire and that it was an unstable state formation. Nevertheless, the region of nowadays Afghanistan came under Median rule for a short time.[25]

Achaemenid Empire

Arachosia, Aria and Bactria were the ancient satraps of the Achaemenid Empire that made up most of what is now Afghanistan during 500 BCE. Some of the inhabitants of Arachosia were known as Pactyans, whose name possibly survives in today's Pakhtuns (Pashtuns).

Afghanistan fell to the Achaemenid Empire after it was conquered by Darius I of Persia. The area was divided into several provinces called satrapies, which were each ruled by a governor, or satrap. These ancient satrapies included: Aria (Herat); Arachosia (Kandahar, Lashkar Gah, and Quetta); Bactriana (Balkh); Sattagydia (Ghazni); and Gandhara (Kabul, Jalalabad, Peshawar).[26]

Alexander and the Seleucids

Alexander the Great arrived in the area of Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier at the Battle of Gaugamela.[27] His army faced very strong resistance in the Afghan tribal areas where he is said to have commented that Afghanistan is "easy to march into, hard to march out of."[28] Although his expedition through Afghanistan was brief, Alexander left behind a Hellenic cultural influence that lasted several centuries. Several great cities were built in the region named "Alexandria," including: Alexandria-of-the-Arians (modern-day Herat); Alexandria-on-the-Tarnak (near Kandahar); Alexandria-ad-Caucasum (near Begram, at Bordj-i-Abdullah); and finally, Alexandria-Eschate (near Kojend), in the north. After Alexander's death, his loosely connected empire was divided. Seleucus, a Macedonian officer during Alexander's campaign, declared himself ruler of his own Seleucid Empire, encompassing Persia and Afghanistan.[29]

Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

Approximate maximum extent of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom circa 180 BCE, including the regions of Tapuria and Traxiane to the West, Sogdiana and Ferghana to the north, Bactria and Arachosia to the south.

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was founded when Diodotus I, the satrap of Bactria (and probably the surrounding provinces) seceded from the Seleucid Empire around 250 BCE. Greco-Bactria continued until c. 130 BCE, when Eucratides' son, King Heliocles I, was defeated and driven out of Bactria by the Yuezhi tribes. It is thought that his dynasty continued to rule in Kabul and Alexandria of the Caucasus until 70 BCE when King Hermaeus was defeated by the Yuezhi.

One of Demetrius' successors, Menander I, brought the Indo-Greek Kingdom to its height between 165–130 BCE, expanding the kingdom in Afghanistan and Pakistan to even larger proportions than Demetrius. After Menander's death, the Indo-Greeks steadily declined and the last Indo-Greek king was defeated in c. 10 CE.

Mauryan Empire

The territory fell to the Maurya Empire, which was led by Chandragupta Maurya. The Mauryas introduced Hinduism and Buddhism to the region, and were planning to capture more territory of Central Asia until they faced local Greco-Bactrian forces. Seleucus is said to have reach a peace treaty with Chandragupta by given control of the territory south of the Hindu Kush to the Mauryas upon intermarriage and 500 elephants.

Alexander took these away from the Indo-Aryans and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants.[30]
— Strabo, 64 BCE–24 CE
Some time after, as he was going to war with the generals of Alexander, a wild elephant of great bulk presented itself before him of its own accord, and, as if tamed down to gentleness, took him on its back, and became his guide in the war, and conspicuous in fields of battle. Sandrocottus, having thus acquired a throne, was in possession of India, when Seleucus was laying the foundations of his future greatness; who, after making a league with him, and settling his affairs in the east, proceeded to join in the war against Antigonus. As soon as the forces, therefore, of all the confederates were united, a battle was fought, in which Antigonus was slain, and his son Demetrius put to flight.[31]
Newly excavated Buddhist stupa at Mes Aynak in Logar Province of Afghanistan. Similar stupas have been discovered in neighboring Ghazni Province, including in the northern Samangan Province.

Having consolidated power in the northwest, Chandragupta pushed east towards the Nanda Empire. Afghanistan's significant ancient tangible and intangible Buddhist heritage is recorded through wide-ranging archeological finds, including religious and artistic remnants. Buddhist doctrines are reported to have reached as far as Balkh even during the life of the Buddha (563 BCE to 483 BCE), as recorded by Husang Tsang.

In this context a legend recorded by Husang Tsang refers to the first two lay disciples of Buddha, Trapusa and Bhallika responsible for introducing Buddhism in that country. Originally these two were merchants of the kingdom of Balhika, as the name Bhalluka or Bhallika probably suggests the association of one with that country. They had gone to India for trade and had happened to be at Bodhgaya when the Buddha had just attained enlightenment.[32]





For a period, much of modern Afghanistan was part of the Sasanian Empire.


Hephthalites (White Huns)

The Hephthalite Empire in Afghanistan extended from Chinese Sinkiang to Sassanid Iran, from Sogdiana to the Punjab. Their chief antagonists were the Persian Sassanids. Consequently, there was relatively little peace during this time. At about 565 CE, the Hephthalite Empire was overthrown by a combined force consisting of western Turks and Sassanids.[33]

Middle Ages (565–1504 CE)

Map of the region during the 7th century

From the Middle Ages to around 1750 part of Afghanistan was recognized as Khorasan.[34] Two of the four main capitals of Khorasan (Balkh and Herat) are now located in Afghanistan. The countries of Kandahar, Ghazni and Kabul formed the frontier region between Khorasan and Hindustan.[35] The land inhabited by the Afghan tribes (i.e. ancestors of Pashtuns) was called Afghanistan, which loosely covered a wide area between the Hindu Kush and the Indus River, principally around the Sulaiman Mountains.[36][37] The earliest record of the name "Afghan" ("Abgân") being mentioned is by Shapur I of the Sassanid Empire during the 3rd century CE[38][39][40] which is later recorded in the form of "Avagānā" by the Indian astronomer Varāha Mihira in his 6th century CE Brihat-samhita.[41] It was used to refer to a common legendary ancestor known as "Afghana", grandson of King Saul of Israel.[42] Hiven Tsiang, a Chinese pilgrim, visiting the Afghanistan area several times between 630 to 644 CE also speaks about them.[38] Ancestors of many of today's Turkic-speaking Afghans settled in the Hindu Kush area and began to assimilate much of the culture and language of the Pashtun tribes already present there.[43] Among these were the Khalaj people which are known today as Ghilzai.[44]

Hindu Shahi


The Pāla's were a Buddhist and Vaishnav Hindu Bengali dynasty of India, which lasted for four centuries (750-1120 CE). Dharmapala expanded the empire into the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent. This triggered once again the power struggle for the control of the subcontinent. Devapala, successor of Dharmapala, extended the empire even further, covering much of South Asia and several other territories. His empire stretched from Assam and Utkala in the east, and Afghanistan in the north-west and Deccan in the south. According to Pala copperplate inscription Devapala exterminated the Utkalas, conquered the Pragjyotisha (Assam), shattered the pride of the Huna, and humbled the lords of Pratiharas, Gurjara and the Dravidas. The Pala Empire eventually disintegrated in the 12th century CE under the attack of the Sena dynasty.

Islamic conquest

In 642 CE, Rashidun Arabs had conquered most of West Asia from the Sassanids and Byzantines, and from the western city of Herat they introduced the religion of Islam as they entered new cities. Afghanistan at that period had a number of different independent rulers, depending on the area. Ancestors of Abū Ḥanīfa, including his father, were from the Kabul region.

The early Arab forces did not fully explore Afghanistan due to attacks by the mountain tribes. Much of the eastern parts of the country remained independent, as part of the Hindu Shahi kingdoms of Kabul and Gandhara, which lasted that way until the forces of the Muslim Saffarid dynasty followed by the Ghaznavids conquered them.

Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam came out of the west to defeat the Sasanians in 642 CE and then they marched with confidence to the east. On the western periphery of the Afghan area the princes of Herat and Seistan gave way to rule by Arab governors but in the east, in the mountains, cities submitted only to rise in revolt and the hastily converted returned to their old beliefs once the armies passed. The harshness and avariciousness of Arab rule produced such unrest, however, that once the waning power of the Caliphate became apparent, native rulers once again established themselves independent. Among these the Saffarids of Seistan shone briefly in the Afghan area. The fanatic founder of this dynasty, the persian Yaqub ibn Layth Saffari, came forth from his capital at Zaranj in 870 CE and marched through Bost, Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul, Bamyan, Balkh and Herat, conquering in the name of Islam. [45]
— Nancy Hatch Dupree, 1971

The Shahi or Shahiya dynasties ruled portions of the Kabul Valley (in eastern Afghanistan) and the old province of Gandhara (northern Pakistan and Kashmir) from the decline of the Kushan Empire up to the early 9th century CE. The Shahis continued to rule eastern Afghanistan until the late 9th century until the Ghaznavid invasions.

During the eighth and ninth centuries CE the eastern parts of modern Afghanistan were still in the hands of non-muslim rulers. The Muslims tended to regard them as Indians, although many of the local rulers were apparently of Hunnish or Turkic descent. Yet, the Muslims were right in so far as the non Muslim population of Eastern Afghanistan was, culturally, strongly linked to the Indian sub-continent. Most of them were either Hindus or Buddhists.[46]

Janjau Rajput Empire (900–1050 CE)

Jaypala was the most powerful ruler of this empire rule over what is today Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. He was eventually defeated by Ghazni and lost his empire.


was ruled from the city of Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan.

Mahmud of Ghazni consolidated the conquests of his predecessors and turned the city of Ghazni into a great cultural center as well as a base for frequent forays into the Indian subcontinent. The Nasher Khans became princes of the Kharoti until the Soviet invasion.[47][48][49]


The Ghaznavid dynasty was defeated in 1148 by the Ghurids from Ghor, but the Ghaznavid Sultans continued to live in Ghazni as the 'Nasher' until the early 20th century. They did not regain their once vast power until about 500 years later when the Ghilzai Hotakis rose to power. Various princes and Seljuk rulers attempted to rule parts of the country until the Shah Muhammad II of the Khwarezmid Empire conquered all of Persia in 1205 CE. By 1219, the empire had fallen to the Mongols, led by Genghis Khan.

Mongol invasion

The Mongols resulted in massive destruction of several cities, including Bamiyan, Herat, and Balkh, and the despoliation of fertile agricultural areas. Large numbers of the inhabitants were also slaughtered. Most major cities north of the Hindu Kush became part of the Mongol Empire. The Afghan tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush were usually either allied with the Khilji dynasty of northern India or independent.


Timur (Tamerlane), incorporated much of the area into his own vast Timurid Empire. The city of Herat became one of the capitals of his empire, and his grandson Pir Muhammad held the seat of Kandahar. Timur rebuilt most of Afghanistan's infrastructure which was destroyed by his early ancestor. The area was progressing under his rule. Timurid rule began declining in the early 16th century with the rise of a new ruler in Kabul, Babur. Taimur, a descendent of Genghis Khan, created a vast new empire across Russia and Persia which he ruled from his capital in Samarkland in present-day Uzbekistan. Taimur captured Herat in 1381 and his son, Shah Rudkh moved the capital of the Timurid empire to Herat in 1405. The Timurks, a Turkic people, brought the Turkic nomadic culture of Central Asia within the orbit of Persian civilisation, establishing Herat as one of the most cultured and refined cities in the world. This fusion of Central Asian and Persian culture was a major legacy for the future Afghanistan. A century later, the emperor Babur, a descendent of Taimur, visited Herat and wrote, "the whole habitable world had not such a town as Herat." For the next 300 years the eastern Afghan tribes periodically invaded India creating vast Indo-Afghan empires. In 1500 CE, Taimur's descendent Babur was driven out of his home in the Ferghana valley. By the 16th century western Afghanistan again reverted to Persian rule under the Safavid dynasty.[50][51]

Modern era (1504–1973)

Mughals, Uzbeks, and Safavids

A miniature from Padshahnama depicting the surrender of the Shia Safavid garrison of Kandahar in 1638 to the Mughal army of Shah Jahan commanded by Kilij Khan.

In 1504, Babur, a descendant of Timur, arrived from present-day Uzbekistan and moved to the city of Kabul. He began exploring new territories in the region, with Kabul serving as his military headquarters. Instead of looking towards the powerful Safavids towards the west, Babur was more focused on the Indian subcontinent, which included the region known as Kabulistan. In 1526, he left with his army to capture the seat of the Delhi Sultanate, which at that point was possessed by the Afghan Lodi dynasty of India. After defeating Ibrahim Lodi and his army, Babur turned Delhi into the capital of his newly established Mughal Empire.

From the 16th century to the 17th century CE, Afghanistan was divided into three major areas. The north was ruled by the Khanate of Bukhara, the west was under the rule of the Iranian Shia Safavids, and the eastern section was under the Sunni Mughals of northern India. The Kandahar region in the south served as a buffer zone between the Mughals and the Safavids, with the native Afghans often switching support from one side to the other. Babur explored a number of cities in the region before his campaign into India. In the city of Kandahar his personal epigraphy can be found in the Chilzina rock mountain. Like in the rest of the territories that used to make part of the Indian Mughal Empire, Afghanistan holds tombs, palaces, and forts build by the Mughals.[52]

Hotaki dynasty

Mirwais Hotak, seen as Afghanistan's first independent ruler,[53] successfully obtained independence from Safavid Persia in 1709 and founded the Hotaki dynasty.

In 1704, the Safavid Shah Mirwais Hotak who belonged to an influential family in Kandahar. Mirwais was sent as a prisoner to the Persian court in Isfahan but the charges against him were dismissed by the king, so he was sent back to his native land as a free man.[53]

In April 1709, Mirwais along with his militia under Khan

  • A Country Study: Afghanistan - Library of Congress Country Studies
  • Video on Afghan-Soviet War from the Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
  • Encyclopædia Britannica - History of Afghanistan
  • Afghanistan (Southern Khorasan / Arachosia)
  • Afghanistan's Importance From the Perspective of the History by Abdul Hai Habibi
  • An Historical Guide to Kabul by Nancy Hatch Dupree
  • Afghanistan Online – History of Afghanistan
  • Afghanistan History: Prehistory
  • British Museum Lecture: An Introduction to the History of Afghanistan by Bijan Omrani
  • Ten Myths about Afghanistan -The Guardian

External links

Further reading

  1. ^ "Country Profile: Afghanistan" (PDF). United States:  
  2. ^ a b "Afghanistan: The Pre-Islamic Period". United States. 1997. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  3. ^ a b Dupree, Nancy Hatch (1977). An Historical Guide To Afghanistan (Chapter 3: Sites in Perspective) (2 ed.). United States: Afghan Air Authority, Afghan Tourist Organization. p. 492. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  4. ^ a b c Shroder, John Ford (2006). "Afghanistan Archived". Regents Professor of Ge\Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  5. ^ a b The Ancient Indus: Urbanism, Economy, and Society. pp.1
  6. ^ "Alexander and Macedonian Rule, 330-ca. 150 B.C". United States: Library of Congress Country Studies on Afghanistan. 1997. Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  7. ^ "Kingdoms of South Asia – Afghanistan (Southern Khorasan / Arachosia)". The History Files. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  8. ^ Banting, Erinn (2003). Afghanistan: The land. Crabtree Publishing Company. p. 4.  
  9. ^ Adamec, Ludwig W. (2011). Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan. Scarecrow Press. p. 1.  
  10. ^ Afghanistan Beyond the Fog of Nation Building: Giving Economic Strategy a Chance. S. Frederick Starr
  11. ^ a b "Afghanistan and the Search for Unity" Omrani, Bijan, published in Asian Affairs, Volume 38, Issue 2, 2007, pp. 145–157.
  12. ^ "Last Afghan empire".  
  13. ^ "Last Afghan Empire". Afghanpedia. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  14. ^ D. Balland. "AFGHANISTAN x. Political History".  
  15. ^ a b Romano, Amy (2003). A Historical Atlas of Afghanistan. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 64.  
  16. ^ Langer, William L., ed. (1972). An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 9.  
  17. ^ Baxter, Craig (1995) "Historical Setting" pp. 90–120, page 91, In Gladstone, Cary (2001) Afghanistan revisited Nova Science Publications, New York, ISBN 1-59033-421-3
  18. ^ Gandara...Link
  19. ^ W. Vogelsang, "Gandahar", in The Circle Of Ancient Iranian Studies
  20. ^ E. Herzfeld, "The Persian Empire: Studies on Geography and Ethnography of the Ancient Near East", ed. G. Walser, Wiesbaden 1968, pp. 279, 293–94, 336–38, 345
  21. ^ a b  
  22. ^ Francfort, H.-P. (2005) "La civilisation de l'Oxus et les Indo-iraniens et les Indo-aryens en Asie centrale" In Fussman, G.; et al. (2005). Aryas, Aryens et Iraniens en Asie Centrale. Paris: de Boccard. pp. 276–285.  
  23. ^ Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark (1998). Ancient cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation. pp.96
  24. ^  
  25. ^ M. Dandamayev and I. Medvedskaya (2006-08-15). "MEDIA". Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  26. ^ Dupree, Louis: Afghanistan (1973), pg. 274.
  27. ^ "Achaemenid Rule, ca. 550-331 B.C". United States: Library of Congress Country Studies on Afghanistan. 1997. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  28. ^ "The Afghans - Their History and Culture". Dr. Barbara Robson and Dr. Juliene G. Lipson. Dr. Robson. United States:  
  29. ^ Dupree, Louis: Afghanistan (1973), pp. 276-283
  30. ^ Nancy Hatch Dupree / Aḥmad ʻAlī Kuhzād (1972). "An Historical Guide to Kabul - The Name". American International School of Kabul. Retrieved 2010-09-18. 
  31. ^ Historiarum Philippicarum libri XLIV, XV.4.19
  32. ^ Puri, Baij Nath (1987). Buddhism in central Asia. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 352.  
  33. ^ Dupree, Louis: Afghanistan (1973), pg. 302-303
  34. ^ "Khorasan". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2010-10-21. Khorāsān, also spelled Khurasan, historical region and realm comprising a vast territory now lying in northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Afghanistan. The historical region extended, along the north, from the Amu Darya (Oxus River) westward to the Caspian Sea and, along the south, from the fringes of the central Iranian deserts eastward to the mountains of central Afghanistan. 
  35. ^  
  36. ^ Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325-1354 (reprint, illustrated ed.). Routledge. 2004. p. 416.  
  37. ^  
  38. ^ a b "Afghan and Afghanistan".  
  39. ^ Noelle-Karimi, Christine; Conrad J. Schetter; Reinhard Schlagintweit (2002). Afghanistan -a country without a state?.  
  40. ^ "History of Afghanistan". Encyclopædia Britannica Online Version. Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  41. ^ "Afghan". Ch. M. Kieffer. Encyclopædia Iranica Online Edition. December 15, 1983. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  42. ^ "Pashtun: also spelled Pushtun, or Pakhtun, Hindustani Pathan, Persian Afghan". Encyclopædia Britannica Online Version. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  43. ^ "Islamic conquest".  
  44. ^  
  45. ^ a b Dupree, Nancy Hatch (1971) "Sites in Perspective (Chapter 3)" An Historical Guide To Afghanistan Afghan Tourist Organization, Kabul, OCLC 241390
  46. ^ Vogelsang, Willem (2002). The Afghans. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 382.  
  47. ^ Meher, Jagmohan: Afghanistan: Dynamics of Survival, p. 29, at Google Books
  48. ^ International Business Publiction: Afghanistan. Country Studiy Guidy, Volume 1, Strategic Information and Developments, p. 66, at Google Books
  49. ^
  50. ^ Babur-Nama, translated by Nette Beverage, Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore, 1979.
  51. ^ Taliban Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, 2nd ed. Rashid, Ahmed. Introduction, page 9. Yale University Press
  52. ^ Ross Marlay, Clark D. Neher. 'Patriots and Tyrants: Ten Asian Leaders pp.269. ISBN 0-8476-8442-3
  53. ^ a b Otfinoski, Steven Bruce (2004). Afghanistan. Infobase Publishing. p. 130.  
  54. ^
  55. ^ Runion, Meredith L.: The History of Afghanistan, p. 63, at Google Books
  56. ^ Malleson, George Bruce (1878). History of Afghanistan, from the Earliest Period to the Outbreak of the War of 1878. London: p. 459.  
  57. ^ Malleson, George Bruce (1878). History of Afghanistan, from the Earliest Period to the Outbreak of the War of 1878. London: p. 459.  
  58. ^ "An Outline Of The History Of Persia During The Last Two Centuries (A.D. 1722-1922)".  
  59. ^ Malleson, George Bruce (1878). History of Afghanistan, from the Earliest Period to the Outbreak of the War of 1878. London: p. 459.  
  60. ^ "An Outline Of The History Of Persia During The Last Two Centuries (A.D. 1722-1922)". Edward Granville Browne. London: Packard Humanities Institute. p. 31. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  61. ^ a b "Until His Assassination In A.D. 1747". Edward Granville Browne. London: Packard Humanities Institute. p. 33. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  62. ^ "Afghanistan".  
  63. ^  
  64. ^ Nalwa, V. (2009), Hari Singh Nalwa – Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar, p. 18, ISBN 81-7304-785-5.
  65. ^ Nalwa, V. (2009), Hari Singh Nalwa – Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar, p. 198, ISBN 81-7304-785-5.
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  153. ^ Push launched against Haqqanis in border areas


See also

, Cameron Munter, told Radio Pakistan that "The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani network. There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop."[151] Other top U.S. officials such as Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta made similar statements.[149][152] On October 16, 2011, "Operation Knife Edge" was launched by NATO and Afghan forces against the Haqqani network in south-eastern Afghanistan. Afghan Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, explained that the operation will "help eliminate the insurgents before they struck in areas along the troubled frontier".[153] In November 2011, NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani Army soldiers around the border region with Pakistan.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan
"In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan's opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence. They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet."[150]

After the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, many prominent Afghan figures began being assassinated, including Mohammed Daud Daud, Ahmad Wali Karzai, Jan Mohammad Khan, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others.[147] Also in the same year, the Pakistani-Afghan border skirmishes intensified and many large scale attacks by the Pakistani-based Haqqani network took place across Afghanistan. This led to the United States warning Pakistan of a possible military action against the Haqqanis in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.[148] The U.S. blamed Pakistan's government, mainly Pakistani Army and its ISI spy network as the masterminds behind all of this.[149]

[146] commented on the progress of peace talks to date, stating, "The prospect for reconciliation with senior Taliban leaders certainly looms out there...and there have been approaches at (a) very senior level that hold some promise."David Petraeus In September 2010 General In June 2010 the Afghan Peace Jirga 2010 took place. [145] In March 2010, the Karzai government held preliminary talks with Hezb-i-Islami, who presented a plan which included the withdrawal of all foreign troops by the end of 2010. The Taliban declined to participate, saying "The Islamic Emirate has a clear position. We have said this many, many times. There will be no talks when there are foreign troops on Afghanistan's soil killing innocent Afghans on daily basis."[144] Karzai set the framework for dialogue with Taliban leaders when he called on the group's leadership to take part in a "loya [142] Afghan President Hamid Karzai told world leaders during the London conference that he intends to reach out to the top echelons of the Taliban within a few weeks with a peace initiative.

"I should say that Taliban are not fighting in order to be accommodated. They are fighting in order to bring the state down. So it's a futile exercise, and it's just misleading. ... There are groups that will fight to the death. Whether we like to talk to them or we don't like to talk to them, they will continue to fight. So, for them, I don't think that we have a way forward with talks or negotiations or contacts or anything as such. Then we have to be prepared to tackle and deal with them militarily. In terms of the Taliban on the ground, there are lots of possibilities and opportunities that with the help of the people in different parts of the country, we can attract them to the peace process; provided, we create a favorable environment on this side of the line. At the moment, the people are leaving support for the government because of corruption. So that expectation is also not realistic at this stage."[141]

Dr. Abdullah stated: [140]) believe that Karzai plans to appease the insurgents' senior leadership at the cost of the democratic constitution, the democratic process and progress in the field of human rights especially women's rights.Abdullah Abdullah and opposition leader Dr. Amrullah Saleh Some Afghan groups (including the former intelligence chief [139] meeting to initiate peace talks. These steps have resulted in an intensification of bombings, assassinations and ambushes.loya jirga). Supported by NATO, Karzai called on the group's leadership to take part in a Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Sirajuddin Haqqani, Mullah Omar Hamid Karzai said he intends to reach out to the Taliban leadership (including Afghan President [138] By 2010 peace efforts began. In early January, Taliban commanders held secret exploratory talks with a United Nations special envoy to discuss peace terms. Regional commanders on the Taliban's leadership council, the [136] In October 2008 U.S. Defense Secretary Gates had asserted that a political settlement with the Taliban was the endgame for the Afghanistan war. "There has to be ultimately – and I'll underscore ultimately – reconciliation as part of a political outcome to this," Gates stated.

NATO's military terminal at Kabul International Airport

In FY 2009, the United States resettled just 328 refugees from Afghanistan.[124] By contrast, the U.S. admitted more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees for resettlement during the Vietnam War.[125] On the other hand, over five million Afghan refugees were repatriated in the last decade, including many who were forcefully deported from NATO countries.[126][127] This large return of Afghans may have helped the nation's economy but the country still remains one of the poorest in the world due to the decades of war, lack of foreign investment, ongoing government corruption and the Pakistani-backed Taliban insurgency.[128][129] The United States also accuses neighboring Iran of providing small level of support to the Taliban insurgents.[130][131][132] According to a report by the United Nations, the Taliban and other militants were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in 2009,[133] 75% in 2010[134] and 80% in 2011.[135]

While the Taliban began regrouping inside Pakistan, more coalition troops entered the escalating US-led war. Meanwhile, the rebuilding of war-torn Afghanistan kicked off in 2002.[120][121] The Afghan nation was able to build democratic structures over the years, and some progress was made in key areas such as governance, economy, health, education, transport, and agriculture. NATO is training the Afghan armed forces as well its national police. ISAF and Afghan troops led many offensives against the Taliban but failed to fully defeat them. By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form in many parts of the country complete with their own version of mediation court.[122] After U.S. President Barack Obama announced the deployment of another 30,000 soldiers in 2010 for a period of two years, Der Spiegel published images of the US soldiers who killed unarmed Afghan civilians.[123]

Soldiers of the Afghan National Army in 2010, including the ANA Commando Battalion standing in the front.

On 9 September 2001, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the faces behind the attacks. When the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden to US authorities and to disband al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched in which teams of American and British special forces worked with commanders of the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban.[117] At the same time the US-led forces were bombing Taliban and al-Qaeda targets everywhere inside Afghanistan with cruise missiles. These actions led to the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north followed by all the other cities, as the Taliban and al-Qaeda crossed over the porous Durand Line border into Pakistan. In December 2001, after the Taliban government was toppled and the new Afghan government under Hamid Karzai was formed, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to help assist the Karzai administration and provide basic security to the Afghan people.[118][119]

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaking before U.S. Congress in June 2004

NATO presence and the Karzai administration

In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan.[115] He stated that the Taliban and Al Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year.[115] On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent.[116]

"The Taliban are not a force to be considered invincible. They are distanced from the people now. They are weaker than in the past. There is only the assistance given by Pakistan, Osama bin Laden and other extremist groups that keep the Taliban on their feet. With a halt to that assistance, it is extremely difficult to survive."[113] In early 2001 Massoud employed a new strategy of local military pressure and global political appeals.[114] Resentment was increasingly gathering against Taliban rule from the bottom of Afghan society including the Pashtun areas.[114] Massoud publicized their cause "popular consensus, general elections and democracy" worldwide. At the same time he was very wary not to revive the failed Kabul government of the early 1990s.[114] Already in 1999 he started the training of police forces which he trained specifically to keep order and protect the civilian population in case the United Front would be successful.[92]

Massoud wanted to convince the Taliban to join a political process leading towards democratic elections in a foreseeable future.[112] His proposals for peace can be seen here: Proposal for Peace, promoted by Commander Massoud. Massoud also stated:

"The Taliban say: "Come and accept the post of prime minister and be with us", and they would keep the highest office in the country, the presidentship. But for what price?! The difference between us concerns mainly our way of thinking about the very principles of the society and the state. We can not accept their conditions of compromise, or else we would have to give up the principles of modern democracy. We are fundamentally against the system called "the Emirate of Afghanistan"."[112]
"There should be an Afghanistan where every Afghan finds himself or herself happy. And I think that can only be assured by democracy based on consensus."[113]

The Taliban repeatedly offered Massoud a position of power to make him stop his resistance. Massoud declined for he did not fight to obtain a position of power. He explained in one interview:

The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud."[105]

In the areas under his control Ahmad Shah Massoud set up democratic institutions and signed the Women's Rights Charter.[110] Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001.[109] As a consequence many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud.[105][111] National Geographic concluded in its documentary "Inside the Taliban":

According to Human Rights Watch in 1997 Taliban soldiers were summarily executed in and around Mazar-i Sharif by Dostum's Junbish forces.[109] Dostum was defeated by the Taliban in 1998 with the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif. Massoud remained the only leader of the United Front in Afghanistan.

Pakistani President [91] A further 3,000 fighter of the regular Taliban army were Arab and Central Asian militants.[104] From 1996 to 2001 the Al Qaeda of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri became a state within the Taliban state.[107] Bin Laden sent Arab recruits to join the fight against the United Front.[107][108] Of roughly 45,000 Pakistani, Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers fighting against the forces of Massoud only 14,000 were Afghan.[92][104]

The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings.[98][99] Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians.[104] The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people.[98][99]

According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians.[98][99] UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001.[98][99] They also said, that "[t]hese have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the [Taliban] Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself."[98][99] The Taliban especially targeted people of Shia religious or Hazara ethnic background.[98][99] Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, about 4,000 civilians were executed by the Taliban and many more reported tortured.[100][101] Among those killed in Mazari Sharif were several Iranian diplomats. Others were kidnapped by the Taliban, touching off a hostage crisis that nearly escalated to a full-scale war, with 150,000 Iranian soldiers massed on the Afghan border at one time.[102] It was later admitted that the diplomats were killed by the Taliban, and their bodies were returned to Iran.[103]

After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on September 27, 1996,[96] Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two former nemesis, created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban, who were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and Dostum.[97] The United Front included beside the dominantly Tajik forces of Massoud and the Uzbek forces of Dostum, Hazara factions and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq, Haji Abdul Qadir, Qari Baba or diplomat Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai. From the Taliban conquest in 1996 until November 2001 the United Front controlled roughly 30% of Afghanistan's population in provinces such as Badakhshan, Kapisa, Takhar and parts of Parwan, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Samangan, Kunduz, Ghōr and Bamyan.

To PHR's knowledge, no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment.[95]

On September 26, 1996, as the Taliban, with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia, prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul.[94] The Taliban seized Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam, issuing edicts forbidding women from working outside the home, attending school or leaving their homes unless accompanied by a male relative.[95] Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said:

This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city.[93]

The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud.[93] Amnesty International, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report:

Map of the situation in Afghanistan in August 2001 until October 2001
Map of the situation in Afghanistan in late 1996; Massoud (red), Dostum (green) and Taliban (yellow) territories.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sent more troops against the United Front of Ahmad Shah Massoud than the Afghan Taliban.


Taliban and the United Front

In 1995 the Hezb-i Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Iranian-backed Hezb-i Wahdat as well as Rashid Dostum's Junbish forces were defeated militarily in the capital Kabul by forces of the interim government under Massoud who subsequently tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban to join the process.[92] The Taliban declined.[92]

Meanwhile, southern Afghanistan was neither under the control of foreign-backed militias nor the interim government in [91] Many analysts like Amin Saikal describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests which the Taliban decline.[69] In 1994 the Taliban took power in several provinces in southern and central Afghanistan.

The main forces involved during that period in Kabul, northern, central and eastern Afghanistan were the Hezb-i Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar directed by Pakistan, the Hezb-i Wahdat of Abdul Ali Mazari directed by Iran, the Ittehad-i Islami of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf supported by Saudi Arabia, the Junbish-i Milli of Abdul Rashid Dostum backed by Uzbekisten, the Harakat-i Islami of Hussain Anwari and the Shura-i Nazar operating as the regular Islamic State forces (as agreed upon in the Peshawar Accords) under the defense ministry of Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Rare ceasefires, usually negotiated by representatives of Ahmad Shah Massoud, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi or Burhanuddin Rabbani (the interim government), or officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), commonly collapsed within days.[84]

According to Human Rights Watch, numerous Iranian agents were assisting the Shia Hezb-i Wahdat forces of Abdul Ali Mazari, as Iran was attempting to maximize Wahdat's military power and influence.[69][84][88] Saudi Arabia was trying to strengthen the Wahhabite Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction.[69][84] Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos as described in reports by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project.[84][89] Again, Human Rights Watch writes:

[O]utside forces saw instability in Afghanistan as an opportunity to press their own security and political agendas.[87]

There was no time for the interim government to create working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability. George Washington University describes:

Pakistan was keen to gear up for a breakthrough in Central Asia. [...] Islamabad could not possibly expect the new Islamic government leaders [...] to subordinate their own nationalist objectives in order to help Pakistan realize its regional ambitions. [...] Had it not been for the ISI's logistic support and supply of a large number of rockets, Hekmatyar's forces would not have been able to target and destroy half of Kabul.[86]

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was directed, funded and supplied by the Pakistani army.[85] Afghanistan analyst Amin Saikal concludes in his book Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival:

The sovereignty of Afghanistan was vested formally in the Islamic State of Afghanistan, an entity created in April 1992, after the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government. [...] With the exception of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, all of the parties [...] were ostensibly unified under this government in April 1992. [...] Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, for its part, refused to recognize the government for most of the period discussed in this report and launched attacks against government forces and Kabul generally. [...] Shells and rockets fell everywhere.[84]

After the fall of the communist Najibullah-regime in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The Peshawar Accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period. According to Human Rights Watch:


Foreign interference and civil war

The 10-year Soviet occupation resulted in the deaths of between 850,000 and 1,500,000 Afghan civilians.[80][81] About 6 million fled as Afghan refugees to Pakistan and Iran, and from there over 38,000 made it to the United States[82] and many more to the European Union. Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties on both sides, the Soviets withdrew in 1989. Their withdrawal from Afghanistan was seen as an ideological victory in the United States, which had backed some Mujahideen factions through three U.S. presidential administrations to counter Soviet influence in the vicinity of the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The USSR continued to support President Mohammad Najibullah (former head of the Afghan secret service, KHAD) until 1992.[83]

In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Carter administration and Reagan administration in the U.S. began arming the Mujahideen, thanks in large part to the efforts of Charlie Wilson and CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Early reports estimated that $6–20 billion had been spent by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia[76] but more recent reports state that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia provided as much as up to $40 billion[77][78][79] in cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, for building up Islamic groups against the Soviet Union. The U.S. handled most of its support through Pakistan's ISI. Saudi Arabia was also providing financial support.

All remaining US assistance agreements were ended after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghan refugees.

To bolster the Parcham faction, the Soviet Union decided to intervene on December 24, 1979, when the Red Army invaded its southern neighbor. Over 100,000 Soviet troops took part in the invasion, which was backed by another 100,000 Afghan military men and supporters of the Parcham faction. In the meantime, Hafizullah Amin was killed and replaced by Babrak Karmal.

In the wake of the Iranian Revolution, the US sought rapprochement with the Afghan government—a prospect that the USSR found unacceptable due to weakening Soviet leverage over the regime.[75] In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnappers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program.

Soviet troops (in right row) withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988. Afghan government BTR on the left.

At the same time, the PDPA imprisoned, tortured or murdered thousands of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the intelligentsia. The government launched a campaign of violent repression, killing some 10,000 to 27,000 people and imprisoning 14,000 to 20,000 more, mostly at [74]

Once in power, the PDPA implemented a liberal and Marxist–Leninist agenda. It moved to replace religious and traditional laws with secular and Marxist–Leninist ones. Men were obliged to cut their beards, women could not wear a chador, and mosques were placed off limits. The PDPA made a number of reforms on women's rights, banning forced marriages, giving state recognition of women's right to vote, and introducing women to political life. A prominent example was Anahita Ratebzad, who was a major Marxist leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council. Ratebzad wrote the famous New Kabul Times editorial (May 28, 1978) which declared: "Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country ... Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention." The PDPA also carried out socialist land reforms and moved to promote state atheism.[70] They also prohibited usury.[45] The PDPA invited the Soviet Union to assist in modernizing its economic infrastructure (predominantly its exploration and mining of rare minerals and natural gas). The USSR also sent contractors to build roads, hospitals and schools and to drill water wells; they also trained and equipped the Afghan army. Upon the PDPA's ascension to power, and the establishment of the DRA, the Soviet Union promised monetary aid amounting to at least $1.262 billion.

In March 1979, Hafizullah Amin took over as prime minister, retaining the position of field marshal and becoming vice-president of the Supreme Defence Council. Taraki remained President and in control of the Army. On 14 September, Amin overthrew Taraki, who was killed. Amin stated that "the Afghans recognize only crude force."[69] Afghanistan expert Amin Saikal writes: "As his powers grew, so apparently did his craving for personal dictatorship ... and his vision of the revolutionary process based on terror."[69]

On 27 April 1978, the PDPA, led by Nur Mohammad Taraki, Babrak Karmal and Amin Taha overthrew the government of Mohammad Daoud, who was assassinated along with all his family members in a bloody military coup. The coup became known as the Saur Revolution. On 1 May, Taraki became President, Prime Minister and General Secretary of the PDPA. The country was then renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), and the PDPA regime lasted, in some form or another, until April 1992.

The day after the Marxist revolution on April 28, 1978.
Outside the Presidential Palace in Kabul, a day after the Marxist revolution on April 28, 1978.

Democratic Republic and Soviet war

As disillusionment set in, in 1978 a prominent member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), Mir Akbar Khyber (or "Kaibar"), was killed by the government. The leaders of PDPA apparently feared that Daoud was planning to exterminate them all, especially since most of them were arrested by the government shortly after. Nonetheless, Hafizullah Amin and a number of military wing officers of the PDPA's Khalq faction managed to remain at large and organize a military coup.

Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and poor economic conditions created by the severe 1971–72 drought, former Prime Minister Mohammad Sardar Daoud Khan seized power in a non-violent coup on July 17, 1973, while Zahir Shah was receiving treatment for eye problems and therapy for lumbago in Italy.[68] Daoud abolished the monarchy, abrogated the 1964 constitution, and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as its first President and Prime Minister. His attempts to carry out badly needed economic and social reforms met with little success, and the new constitution promulgated in February 1977 failed to quell chronic political instability.

Republic of Afghanistan and the end of monarchy

1973 film about contemporary events in Afghanistan

Contemporary era (1973–present)

In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal constitution providing for a bicameral legislature to which the king appointed one-third of the deputies. The people elected another third, and the remainder were selected indirectly by provincial assemblies. Although Zahir's "experiment in democracy" produced few lasting reforms, it permitted the growth of unofficial extremist parties on both the left and the right. This included the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which had close ideological ties to the Soviet Union. In 1967, the PDPA split into two major rival factions: the Khalq (Masses) was headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin who were supported by elements within the military, and the Parcham (Banner) led by Babrak Karmal.

Mohammad Zahir Shah, Nadir Khan's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle Sardar Mohammad Hashim Khan, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Khan. In 1946, another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Sardar Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. In 1953, he was replaced as Prime Minister by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law. Daoud looked for a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan. However, disputes with Pakistan led to an economic crisis and he was asked to resign in 1963. From 1963 until 1973, Zahir Shah took a more active role.

Prince Mohammed Nadir Khan, cousin of Amanullah Khan, in turn defeated and executed Habibullah Kalakani in early November 1929. He was soon declared King Nadir Khan. He began consolidating power and regenerating the country. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favour of a more gradual approach to modernisation. In 1933, however, he was assassinated in a revenge killing by a student from Kabul.

Reigns of Nadir Khan and Zahir Khan

King Amanullah Khan moved to end his country's traditional isolation in the years following the Third Anglo-Afghan war. He established diplomatic relations with most major countries and, following a 1927 tour of Europe and Turkey (during which he noted the modernization and secularization advanced by Atatürk), introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, Amanullah Khan's Foreign Minister and father-in-law — and an ardent supporter of the education of women. He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's first constitution (declared through a Loya Jirga), which made elementary education compulsory.[67] Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to forces led by Habibullah Kalakani.

Reforms of Amanullah Khan and civil war

Afghanistan remained neutral during World War I, despite German encouragement of anti-British feelings and Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India. The Afghan king's policy of neutrality was not universally popular within the country, however, and Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son and successor, in 1919 was assassinated, possibly by family members opposed to British influence. His third son, Amanullah, regained control of Afghanistan's foreign policy after launching the Third Anglo-Afghan war with an attack on India in the same year. During the ensuing conflict, the war-weary British relinquished their control over Afghan foreign affairs by signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1920. In commemoration of this event, Afghans celebrate August 20 as their Independence Day.

Dost Mohammed Khan gained control in Kabul. Collision between the expanding British and Russian Empires significantly influenced Afghanistan during the 19th century in what was termed "The Great Game". British concern over Russian advances in Central Asia and growing influence in West Asia and Persia in particular culminated in two Anglo-Afghan wars and "The Siege of Herat" 1837–1838, in which the Persians, trying to retake Afghanistan and throw out the British, sent armies into the country and fought the British mostly around and in the city of Herat. The first Anglo-Afghan War (1839–1842) resulted in the destruction of a British army; it is remembered by first-hand account as an example of the ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule.[66] The Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880) was sparked by Amir Shir Ali's refusal to accept a British mission in Kabul. This conflict brought Amir Abdur Rahman, known by some as the "Iron Amir", to the Afghan throne. During his reign (1880–1901), the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan. The British retained effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs. Abdur Rahman's reforms of the army, legal system and structure of government were able to give Afghanistan a degree of unity and stability which it had not before known. This, however, came at the cost of strong centralisation, harsh punishments for crime and corruption, and a certain degree of international isolation.[11]

King Yaqub Khan with Britain's Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari on May 26, 1879, when the Treaty of Gandamak was signed.

Barakzai dynasty and British influence

Zaman Shah and his brothers had a weak hold on the legacy left to them by their famous ancestor. They sorted out their differences through a "round robin of expulsions, blindings and executions," which resulted in the deterioration of the Afghan hold over far-flung territories, such as Attock and Kashmir. Durrani's other grandson, Shuja Shah Durrani, fled the wrath of his brother and sought refuge with the Sikhs. Not only had Durrani invaded the Punjab region many times, but had destroyed the holiest shrine of the Sikhs – the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, defiling its sarowar with the blood of cows and decapitating Baba Deep Singh in 1757. The Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, eventually wrested a large part of the Kingdom of Kabul (present day Pakistan, but not including Sindh) from the Afghans.[64] In 1837, the Afghan army descended through the Khyber Pass on Sikh forces at Jamrud.[65] The Sikhs were supported by the East India Company until they were defeated later by the British forces during the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars .

In October 1772, Ahmad Shah retired to his home in Kandahar where he died peacefully and was buried at a site that is now adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak. He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah Durrani, who transferred the capital of their Afghan Empire from Kandahar to Kabul. Timur died in 1793 and his son Zaman Shah Durrani took over the reign.

Nadir Shah was assassinated on June 19, 1747, by several of his Persian officers, and the Asharid kingdom fell to pieces. At the same time the 25-year-old Ahmad Khan was busy in Afghanistan calling for a loya jirga ("grand assembly") to select a leader among his people. The Afghans gathered near Kandahar in October 1747 and chose Ahmad Shah among the challengers, making him their new head of state. After the inauguration or coronation, he became known as Ahmad Shah Durrani. He adopted the title padshah durr-i dawran ('King, "pearl of the age") and the Abdali tribe became known as the Durrani tribe after this.[62] Ahmad Shah not only represented the Durranis but he also united all the Pashtun tribes. By 1751, Ahmad Shah Durrani and his Afghan army conquered the entire present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and for a short time, the Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India.[63] He defeated the Maratha Empire in 1761 at the Battle of Panipat.

Shah Shuja, the last Durrani King, sitting at his court inside the Bala Hissar before it was destroyed by the British Army.
The greatest extent of the Durrani Empire in 1747 A.D.

and his Afsharid Persian army arrived in the town of Kandahar in 1738 and defeated Hussain Hotaki, subsequently absorbing all of Afghanistan in his empire. Here, the young imprisoned teenager Ahmad Khan joined his service in his invasion of India.

Nader Shah

Durrani Empire

The Hotakis were eventually removed from power by 1729, after a very short lived reign. They were defeated by the emerging Iranian military commander Nader Shah, head of the Afsharids, in the October 1729 Battle of Damghan, also banishing the Hotaki's to southern Afghanistan. The last ruler of the Hotaki dynasty, Shah Hussain, ruled southern Afghanistan until 1738 when the Afsharids and the Abdali Pashtuns crushed him at Kandahar.[61]

The short lived Hotaki dynasty was a troubled and violent one from the very start as internecine conflict made it difficult to establish permanent control. The dynasty lived under great turmoil due to bloody succession feuds that made their hold on power tenuous, and after the massacre of thousands of civilians in Isfahan; including more than three thousand religious scholars, nobles, and members of the Safavid family.[60] The vast majority of the Persians rejected the Afghan regime as usurping from the very start. Hotaki's rule continued in the region of Afghanistan until 1738 when Shah Hussain was defeated and banished by Nader Shah of Persia.[61]

Mahmud began a short-lived reign of terror against his Persian subjects who defied his rule from the very start, and he was eventually murdered in 1725 by his own cousin, Ashraf Hotaki. Some sources say he died of madness. Ashraf became the new Afghan Shah of Persia soon after Mahmud's death, while the home region of Afghanistan was ruled by Mahmud's younger brother Shah Hussain Hotaki. Ashraf was able to secure peace, at highly unfavourable terms, with the Ottoman Empire in 1727 winning against a superior Ottoman army, but the Russian Empire took advantage of the continuing political unrest, civil strife and utter disgust and disloyalty by the vast majority of people in the empire, to seize former Persian territories for themselves, limiting the amount of territory under Shah Mahmud's control.

Southern Afghanistan was made into an independent local Pashtun kingdom.[15] Refusing the title of a king, Mirwais was called "Prince of Qandahár and General of the national troops" by his Afghan countrymen. He died of a natural cause in November 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz Hotak. Aziz was killed about two years later by Mirwais' son Mahmud Hotaki, allegedly for planning to give Kandahar's sovereignty back to Persia.[59] Mahmud led an Afghan army into Persia in 1722 and defeated the for decades declining Safavids at the Battle of Gulnabad. The Afghans captured Isfahan (Safavid capital) and Mahmud became briefly the new Persian Shah, known after that as Shah Mahmud.

Modern-day sketch work of Mahmud Hotaki
Several half-hearted attempts to subdue the rebellious city having failed, the Persian Government despatched Khusraw Khán, nephew of the late Gurgín Khán, with an army of 30,000 men to effect its subjugation, but in spite of an initial success, which led the Afghans to offer to surrender on terms, his uncompromising attitude impelled them to make a fresh desperate effort, resulting in the complete defeat of the Persian army (of whom only some 700 escaped) and the death of their general. Two years later, in 1713, another Persian army commanded by Rustam Khán was also defeated by the rebels, who thus secured possession of the whole province of Qandahár.[58]
— Edward G. Browne, 1924


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