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History of Afghanistan

 This article is the top of the 
History of Afghanistan series.
 Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan
 Islamic conquest of Afghanistan
 Durrani Empire
 European influence in Afghanistan
 Reforms of Amanullah Khan and civil war
 Reigns of Nadir Shah and Zahir Shah
 Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan
 Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
 History of Afghanistan since 1992

Table of contents
1 History of Afghanistan
2 Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan (before 651)
3 Islamic conquest of Afghanistan (642-1747)
4 The Durrani Empire (1747-1826)
5 European influence in Afghanistan (1826-1919)
6 Reforms of Amanullah Khan and civil war (1919-1929)
7 Reigns of Nadir Shah and Zahir Shah (1929-1973)
8 Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan (1973-1978)
9 Communist rule in Afghanistan (1978-1992)
10 History of Afghanistan (1992 to present)
11 Related articles
12 External links
13 Further reading
14 References

History of Afghanistan

Afghanistan's history, internal political development, foreign relations, and very existence as an independent state have largely been determined by its geographic location at the crossroads of Central, West, and South Asia. Over the centuries, waves of migrating peoples passed through the region--described by historian Arnold Toynbee as a "roundabout of the ancient world"--leaving behind a mosaic of ethnic and linguistic groups. In modern times, as well as in antiquity, vast armies of the world passed through Afghanistan, temporarily establishing local control and often dominating Iran and northern India.

Although it was the scene of great empires and flourishing trade for over two millennia, the area's heterogeneous groups were not bound into a single political entity until the reign of Ahmad Shah Durrani, who in 1747 founded the monarchy that ruled the country until 1973. In the nineteenth century, Afghanistan lay between the expanding might of the Russian and British empires. In 1900, Abdur Rahman Khan (the "Iron Amir"), looking back on his twenty years of rule and the events of the past century, wondered how his country, which stood "like a goat between these lions [Britain and Tsarist Russia] or a grain of wheat between two strong millstones of the grinding mill, [could] stand in the midway of the stones without being ground to dust?"

Islam played a key role in the formation of Afghan history as well. Despite the Mongol invasion of Afghanistan in the early thirteenth century which has been described as resembling "more some brute cataclysm of the blind forces of nature than a phenomenon of human history," even a warrior as formidable as Genghis Khan did not uproot Islamic civilization, and within two generations his heirs had become Muslims. An often unacknowledged event that nevertheless played an important role in Afghan history (and in the politics of Afghanistan's neighbors and the entire region up to the present) was the rise in the tenth century of a strong Sunni dynasty--the Ghaznavids. Their power prevented the eastward spread of Shiism from Iran, thereby insuring that the majority of the Muslims in Afghanistan and South Asia would be Sunnis.

This article briefly outlines each period of History of Afghanistan only; details are presented in separate articles (see the links in the box and below).

Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan (before 651)

Main article: Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan

In 328 BC, Alexander the Great entered the territory of present-day Afghanistan, then part of the Persian Empire, to capture Bactria (present-day Balkh). Invasions by the Scythians, White Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries.

Islamic conquest of Afghanistan (642-1747)

Main article: Islamic conquest of Afghanistan

In AD 642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced Islam. Arab rule quickly gave way to the Persians, who controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998. Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) consolidated the conquests of his predecessors and turned Ghazni into a great cultural center as well as a base for frequent forays into India. Following Mahmud's short-lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule sections of the country until the Mongol invasion of 1219. The Mongol invasion, led by Genghis Khan, resulted in massive slaughter of the population, destruction of many cities, including Herat, Ghazni, and Balkh, and the despoliation of fertile agricultural areas.

Following Genghis Khan's death in 1227, a succession of petty chiefs and princes struggled for supremacy until late in the 14th century, when one of his descendants, Tamerlane, incorporated Afghanistan into his own vast Asian empire. Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane and the founder of India's Moghul Empire at the beginning of the 16th century, made Kabul the capital of an Afghan principality.

The Durrani Empire (1747-1826)

Main article: Durrani Empire

In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of what is known today as Afghanistan, established his rule. A Pashtun, Durrani was elected king in the first Loya Jirga after the assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir Shah at Khabushan in the same year. Throughout his reign, Durrani consolidated chieftainships, petty principalities, and fragmented provinces into one country. His rule extended from Mashad in the west to Kashmir and Delhi in the east, and from the Amu Darya (Oxus) River in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south. With the exception of a 9-month period in 1929, all of Afghanistan's rulers until the 1978 Marxist coup were from Durrani's Pashtun tribal confederation, and all were members of that tribe's Mohammadzai clan after 1818.

European influence in Afghanistan (1826-1919)

Main article: European influence in Afghanistan

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 Persia culminated in two Anglo-Afghan wars. The first(1839-1842) resulted in the destruction of a British army; it's remembered as an example of the ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule. The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-1880) was sparked by Amir Sher Ali's refusal to accept a British mission in Kabul. This conflict brought Amir Abdur Rahman 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.

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.

Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son and successor, was assassinated in 1919, 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 1919. In commemoration of this event, Afghans celebrate August 19 as their Independence Day.

Reforms of Amanullah Khan and civil war (1919-1929)

Main article: Reforms of Amanullah Khan and civil war

King Amanullah (1919-1929) 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 Ataturk--introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. Some of these, 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 Bacha-i-Saqao, a Tajik brigand.

Reigns of Nadir Shah and Zahir Shah (1929-1973)

Main article: Reigns of Nadir Shah and Zahir Shah

Prince Mohammed Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah's, in turn defeated Bacha-i-Saqao in October of the same year and, with considerable Pashtun tribal support, was declared King Nadir Shah. He began consolidating power and regenerating the country. He reversed 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 Kabul student.

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 Mohammed Hashim, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. In 1946 another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud, became Prime Minister. He 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 sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more hostile one towards Pakistan. However dipute 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.

In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal constitution providing for a two-chamber 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. These 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) faction headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and supported by elements within the military, and the Parcham (Banner) faction led by Babrak Karmal. The split reflected ethnic, class, and ideological divisions within Afghan society.

Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan (1973-1978)

Main article: Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan

Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and poor economic conditions created by the severe 1971-72 drought, former Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud Khan seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973. Zahir Shah fled the country eventually finding refuge in Italy. 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.

As disillusionment set in, on April 27, 1978, the PDPA initiated a bloody coup, which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Daoud and most of his family. Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Communist rule in Afghanistan (1978-1992)

Main article: Democratic Republic of Afghanistan

Decrees abolishing usury, forcing changes in marriage customs, and pushing through an ill-conceived land reform were particularly misunderstood by virtually all Afghans. In addition, thousands of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the intelligentsia were imprisoned, tortured, or murdered. Opposition groups proliferated and took up armed rebellion. Conflicts within the PDPA also surfaced early and resulted in exiles, purges, imprisonments, and executions.

The Soviet Union invaded on December 25, 1979 and installed Babrak Karmal as president and fought a war of attrition against the mujahedin for ten years. The Soviets withdrew in February 1989, but continued to aid the government, led by Mohammed Najibullah. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Najibullah government was overthrown on April 18, 1992 when Abdul Rashid Dostum mutinied, and allied himself with Ahmed Shah Massoud, to take control of Kabul and declare the Islamic State of Afghanistan.

History of Afghanistan (1992 to present)

Main article: History of Afghanistan since 1992

When the victorious mujahidin entered Kabul to assume control over the city and the central government, internecine fighting began between the various militias, which had coexisted only uneasily during the Soviet occupation. With the demise of their common enemy, the militias' ethnic, clan, religious, and personality differences surfaced, and the civil war continued.

An interim Islamic Jihad Council was put in place, first led by Sibghatullah Mojaddedi for two months, then by Burhanuddin Rabbani. Fighting among rival factions intensified.

In reaction to the anarchy and warlordism prevalent in the country, and the lack of Pashtun representation in the Kabul government, a movement of religious scholars, many of them former mujahideen, arose. The Taliban took control of 90% of the country by 1998, limiting the opposition largely to a small largely Tajik corner in the northeast and the Panjshir valley. The opposition formed the Northern Alliance, which continued to receive diplomatic recognition in the United Nations as the government of Afghanistan.

In response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States and its coalition allies launched a successful attack to oust the Taliban government. Sponsored by the UN, Afghan factions met in Bonn and chose a 30 member interim authority led by Hamid Karzai. After governing for 6 months, former King Zahir Shah convened a Loya Jirga, which elected Karzai president, and gave him authority to govern for two more years. However, the interim government holds little power outside of Kabul itself, with regional warlords only nominally subservient to the central government.

Related articles

External links

Further reading