A Short History of Afghanistan
Strong, tough, rugged, tribal, loyal, unforgiving and brutal are some of the words used to describe Afghanistan.
Archaeologists have identified evidence of plant remains from about 50,000 BCE in the foothill of the Hindu Kush mountains, which indicate North Afghanistan was one of the earliest places to domesticate plants and animals.
Ancient Afghanistan became the crossroads between Mesopotamia, and other Civilizations about 2500 BCE and the City of Kabul is thought to have been established about 2000BCE.
Darius the Great expanded the Achaemenid (Persian) empire to its peak in 522 BCE, when he invades and takes most of Afghanistan. The Persians empire was constantly in bitter and bloody tribal wars from Afghans living in Arachosia (Kandahar, and Quetta).
Alexander the Great conquered Afghanistan in 329 BCE but fails to really subdue its people who constantly fought against the invader. The Greeks were the next into northern Afghanistan in 323 BCE and again the people fight back. Tribal clans form together and for about 400 years defend their lands. The Buddhist teachings became the main religion until the invasion of the White Huns in 400 AD when the country was again mostly destroyed.
The Persians Empire again invaded most of what is now Afghanistan and again the people fought back. Islam was introduced to the people in 650 AD by the Arabs and Afghanistan becomes the centre of Islamic power and civilization.
Genghis Khan invaded Afghanistan in 1219 AD and completely destroyed the country’s irrigation systems. This action had the effect of turning fertile soils into waterless, barren deserts. Marco Polo crossed Afghan Turkistan in 1273 on his travels. During the next several hundred years different dyansties come and go and control of Persia and Afghanistan continue to change.
The Afghans, under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Abdali rise again in 1747 and retake Kandahar, and establish modern Afghanistan.
From 1747 to 1773 Ahmad Shah consolidates and enlarges Afghanistan. He defeats the Moghuls in the west of the Indus, and he takes Herat away from the Persians and extends the empire from Central Asia to Delhi, from Kashmir to the Arabian sea. It became the greatest Muslim empire in the second half of the 18th century.
Kabul becomes the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar because of tribal opposition. Internal tribal wars continue to cause uprisings. In 1836 the country was starting to settle after many years of war with their neighbours when the British attacked. The first Anglo-Afghan War in 1839 ended with Amir Dost Mohammad Khan surrendering to the British forces and he was deported to India. The Afghans, led by Akbar Khan continued their fight against the invaders and in 1842 slaughtered the Britishforces (16,000).
After this victory Dost Mohammad Khan returned and Afghanistan was independent again. A peace treaty was signed with India in 1855. Russia had extended their borders in 1873 to the Afghan’s border and had promised to respect their territory. The British invaded again in 1878 and the Afghans were forced to surrender Kurram, Khyber, Michni, Pishin, and Sibi permanently. The British wanted to keep Afghanistan as a dependant and the fighting continued to break out at tribal levels.
Russian forces seize a piece of Afghan territory north of the Oxus River in 1885 and when the Afghans tried to retake it they were forced to allow the Russians to keep possession. The Russians made another promise to honour the Afghan territory. In 1893 the British declared a border with India, which left half of the Afghans in what is now Pakistan and in 1907 Russia and Britain sign a treaty (convention of St. Petersburg) declaring Afghanistan is outside Russia’s influence.
Third Anglo-Afghan war began in 1907 where the British are defeated and Afghanistan gains full control of her own affairs.
Afghanistan is formally recognized by the United States of America in 1934 and the Da Afghanistan Bank (State Bank of Afghanistan) is incorporated. During WW2 Afghanistan was declared neutral.
Britain grants India her independence in 1947 and Pakistan is carved out of Indian and Afghan lands. Afghanistan’s Parliament denounces the Durand Treaty in 1949 and refuses to recognize the Durand line as a legal boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1954 Afghanistan’s request to buy military equipment from the U.S. to modernize the army was rejected. The Afghans turn to Russia and Bulgaria for assistance, which was forthcoming. Pakistan and Afghanistan come close to war over borders in 1961.
Dr Muhammad Yusuf, who was Minister of Mines and Industry in the Daoud government, presented his cabinet, composed of technocrats and intellectuals, in March 1963. He suggested that a new Constitution be prepared with a view to changing the country to a constitutional monarchy. The King agreed to that proposal, and the new constitution was drafted by Afghan experts, in collaboration with foreign legal advisers. It was based on the principles of classical democracy, but maintained the traditional values, so deeply rooted in Afghan society, of Islam and monarchy. It also excluded all members of the Royal family from the political scene.
The Constitution was adopted in October 1964, with only one vote against it, and ratified by the King. General elections were due to take place in October 1965, and, therefore, the interim government had sufficient time to prepare and promulgate by Royal decree the laws for the first democratic general elections.
The Afghan Communist Party was secretly formed in January 1965 and in September the first nationwide elections under the new constitution were held.
Second nationwide elections were held in 1969 and in 1972 Mohammad Moussa becomes the Prime Minister. The Republic of Afghanistan is established in 1973 when the government was overthrown by Daoud Khan and PDPA (Afghan Communist Party).
For its part, the United States government initially paid little attention to the PDPA coup in Afghanistan; its attention was instead focused to the west, where a popular revolution has overthrown their most valuable Middle East ally, the Shah of Iran. This changed once the Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan. At that point the United States took an active interest in the Islamic fundamentalists waging war on the PDPA and the Soviets. The CIA began providing military training to the Mujahadeen – the name the Islamic guerillas came to be called.
A Communist coup in 1978 followed by mass arrests, tortures, a change of the flag and the Mujahideen movement is born. Russia invades the country in 1979 and this war reduces the country to rubble. After years of fighting the Soviet military became discouraged. They were able to occupy and hold all of the major cities, just at the British had been able to the century before, but they were unable to subjugate the countryside. Soviet causalities began to mount dramatically, and with the CIA’s providing the Mujahadeen with arms and supplies the Soviet Union was defeated by Afghanistan (Mujahideen) and total withdrawal by the Soviets occurred on Feb. 15, 1989. It was estimated that at least 40,000-50,000 Soviets lost their lives in action, besides the wounded, suicides, and murders.
The Mujahideen formed an Islamic State but with Iranian and Pakistani interference fighting renews on new fronts. Seeking to end the civil war, which threatened the stability of their own country Pakistani Intelligence aided in the creation of a new Islamic fundamentalist movement, the Taliban. The Taliban was born in the Islamic schools inside the Afghan refugee camps inside Pakistan.
The Taliban militia are formed in 1994 and by 1996 have forced President Rabbani and his government out of Kabul and captured the city. The Taliban sought to create a theocratic state based on their interpretations of the Koran. Though already severely repressed by the various Mujahadeen warlords, the plight of Afghanistan’s women was made even worse under the new regime. Women must be fully veiled, no longer allowed to work, go out alone or even wear white socks. Men are forced to grow beards. Television was banned and an effort was made to purge the country of any signs or remnants of secular or Western influence. The country became politically and diplomatically isolated.
During 1997 / 1998 earthquakes cause heavy loss of life and destroying towns / villages and thousands are without homes or food. Osama bin Laden and his followers became names to remember. The U.S. launched missile strikes against Bin Laden within the Afghan borders and caused a lot of civilian casualties. UN Security Council Resolution 1267 is adopted in 1999; sanctions against the Taliban on grounds that they offered sanctuary to Osama bin Ladin.
In 2001, despite pleas and requests from various international diplomats and Islamic scholars, the Taliban destroy ancient historical statues in the Kabul Museum, historical sites in Ghazni, and blow up the giant Bamiyan Buddhas from the 5th century. The Americans held Osama bin Laden directly responsible for the 11th September 2001 aircraft suicide attacks on the U.S. The U.S. demanded the Taliban hand over Bin Laden but this was refused. The United States and UK working with the forces of the United Front (UNIFSA) launch air strikes against the Taliban.
When the United States began weeks of devastating bombing, the Northern Alliance succeeded in breaking out of its northern enclave and seizing the city of Mazar – E – Sharif moved on to take Kabul. This set in motion a series of defeats for the Taliban, which began surrendering and abandoning almost every major city in the country, and retreating into the mountains.
War continues against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2002. US air raid in Uruzgan province kills approximately 48 civilians, many of them members of a wedding party.
Australia joined the coalition and so began the war.
Source – A Brief History of Afghanistan: By Adam Ritscher
Afghanistan History – State Library.