The location in the middle of the highways
between major Asian cultural areas has characterized
Afghanistan's history. The pressure from foreign
invaders has sometimes tore the country apart, sometimes
helped to unite it. In modern times, first, Britain,
later the Soviet Union and the United States have had a
great influence on Afghan politics.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Afghanistan, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
In the 300s BC, Afghanistan became a province in the
empire of Alexander the Great. In the 6th century AD,
the Arabs came with Islam. The Turkish ghaznavid family
created around 1000 a kingdom that extended to India. In
the 13th and 13th centuries, the country was invaded by
Mongols under the leadership of Djingi's Khan and Timur
Afghanistan remained a scene of war for Persians,
Turks and Mongols. The Persian ruler Nadir Shah defeated
the Mongols in 1739. After his death in 1747, his Afghan
bodyguard Ahmed Shah was proclaimed king. He is
considered the country's founder and his family, Durrani,
ruled Afghanistan until 1978.
Ahmed Shah's kingdom was shattered after his death by
civil war and war of succession. During this period of
weakness, the country was invaded by British forces in
1839, which sought to subdue Afghanistan to stop the
expansion of Russian tsarism through Central Asia. The
British fought back in 1842 and King Dost Mohammed
succeeded in reuniting the country in the 1860s.
The British are attacking
In 1878, the British made another attempt to invade
Afghanistan. They gained control of areas that today
belong to Pakistan but were driven out in 1880 by Abdur
Rahman, who was then crowned king. During his reign, the
country got its current borders, including the so-called
Durand Line against British India (today Pakistan) that
cuts right through the territory of the Pashtuns (see
Foreign Policy and Defense). The British retained an
influence on foreign policy, but Abdur Rahman still
managed to balance British and Russian interests. During
his time, Afghanistan was added to the Wakhan Corridor
in the northeast to keep the two empires apart.
Abdur Rahman was the country's first modern nation
builder. He was succeeded by son Habibullah and grandson
Amanullah. The latter broke with the British in 1919 and
triggered a third war, which ended with Afghanistan's
borders becoming internationally recognized.
Under Amanullah, Afghanistan got its first
constitution and a modern, non-religious judiciary.
After a visit to Europe, the king tried to introduce
Western clothing and remove the women's veils. Religious
leaders fueled dissatisfaction with the reforms of
conservative clans and Amanullah was driven into exile
After an armed struggle for a time, Mohammad Zahir
Shah ascended the king's throne in 1933 after his
father, Nadir Shah (king 1929-1933), was assassinated.
Zahir Shah ran a cautious reform line and kept the
country on an alliance-free course.
The Communists take over
In 1953, the king appointed his cousin Mohammad Daoud
as prime minister. He accelerated modernization and
economic development, largely with Soviet assistance.
Daoud resigned in 1963, followed by a period of some
democratization - including the introduction of a female
right to vote in the 1965 parliamentary elections - but
also of instability and weak governments. During this
time, the Communist People's Democratic Party (known as
the English abbreviation PDPA) was formed.
After growing up and famine in the early 1970s, Daoud
regained power in 1973. He overthrew the king and
proclaimed president. With dictatorial methods he tried
to develop the country but fought with both the left and
the right and was assassinated in April 1978 in a bloody
military coup that brought the Communist Party to power.
PDPA leader Nur Mohammad Taraki was named president.
The party tied the country near the Soviet Union
through a friendship and cooperation agreement. The
government tried to implement rapid land reform and a
literacy campaign with British methods, but came into
conflict with traditional clan leaders and conservative
Islamic groups. Armed resistance erupted in several
President Taraki was overthrown in September 1979 by
Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin. Concerned by the
weakening regime, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan
in December of that year. Amin was killed in a Soviet
military attack and Babrak Karmal, who led a rival party
faction, was made president. But instead of easily
shattering the divided resistance forces, the Soviet
Union was drawn into a protracted war. Soon, the
invasion force was up in over 100,000 men.
The war caused an enormous suffering for the
population. Many millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan,
Iran or inland. When guerrillas received modern weapons
from mainly the US and China, financial support from
Saudi Arabia and organizational assistance from
Pakistan's military intelligence service, the regime
became increasingly isolated in the cities. Large parts
of the countryside were devastated. Harvests were
burned, land mined and irrigation systems destroyed.
Following Michail Gorbachev's entry into power in the
Soviet Union, Babrak Karmal was replaced in 1986 by
Mohammad Najibullah Ahmedzai, who sought to give the
regime a more attractive facade. Land reform was
abolished almost entirely and in the spring of 1988,
parliamentary elections were held, but boycotted by the
The guerrillas were also divided. Seven Sunni
movements headquartered in Peshawar, Pakistan, had a
loose and conflicting cooperation and in Iran eight
small Shiite groups formed an alliance.
UN-led indirect peace talks between Afghanistan and
Pakistan led to a Soviet retreat agreement in 1988. The
United States and the Soviet Union would guarantee
Afghanistan's independence and the refugees would be
allowed to return home.
... and retreat
The Soviet retreat ended on February 15, 1989. During
just over nine years of war, about 15,000 Soviet
soldiers had fallen. However, the expected fall of the
Najibullah regime was delayed until Soviet arms
deliveries were interrupted at the turn of the year
1991-1992. The collapse occurred after a
communist-installed Uzbek militia in the north, led by
General Rashid Dostum, switched sides and began to
collaborate with the guerrilla that Tajik Ahmed Shah
Massoud built up in the northeast. When Massoud's and
Dostum's forces entered Kabul on April 25, 1992, the
regime surrendered without resistance, after Najibullah
resigned a few days earlier and sought protection in a
UN office. A Provisional Islamic Government was formed
by the Peshawar-based Sunni Maritime Alliance.
The United States is reinforcing the troops
US President Obama orders an additional 30,000 US soldiers to be sent to
Afghanistan, but at the same time says a troop retreat will begin in 2011.
Contested presidential election
Presidential elections are conducted under accusations of gross fraud. It was
not until November that Hamid Karzai was declared the winner, after the
challenger Abdullah Abdullah resigned from the second round, citing unfair
terms. Karzai's reputation in the outside world is severely weakened and his
allies are demanding force against corruption.
The United States General takes command
US General Stanley McChrystal is given command of all foreign forces,
including the Swedish now numbering about 500 men. The US Department of Defense
admits that the serious situation requires new thinking.
The US is building up the army and the police
President Obama announces a new strategy: increased efforts on the Afghan
army and the police to be intervened with more measures to strengthen civil
More soldiers to Afghanistan
The United States and up to 20 other NATO countries promise troops
reinforcement to Afghanistan. The US increases its strength by 17,000 men.