History of Afghanistan

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History of Afghanistan

Capital: Kabul
Area: 652,225 sq. km.
Population: nearly 23 million
Religions: Sunni Muslim 93% and Shiite Muslim 7%.
Ethnic Groups: Pathan (Pashto), Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Chahar Aimak, Turkmen, Baluchi
Afghanistan belongs to the United Nations Organisation.

Afghanistan is a landlocked mountainous country in south/central Asia, astonishingly beautiful in parts, arid and unforgiving in others. It has the ill fortune to be bounded on the west by Iran, on the south and east by Pakistan, and on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. These three ‘istans’ originally meant, in simpler form – Russia.

The eastern region is dominated by the colossal mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush, in fact most of the country is high plateau. In winter most of Afghanistan lies beneath snow, but the moment spring comes, grass appears too, good for the grazing that covers most of Afghanistan, though it soon turns colour and is scorched into desuetude by the dry dust storms typical of the region.
Agriculture, mostly the raising of sheep and goats, is still the mainstay of the economy, as it always has been, but agriculture, like heavy industry (of which Afghanistan has none) is destroyed by civil war, and civil war seems to be the natural condition of the Afghan people, even though they themselves are not proud of it.

The first foreigner to interest himself in the possibilities of Afghanistan was Alexander the Great. He ‘conquered’ the country, and made himself popular there. In the mountains older people whisper the word ‘Iksander’ with affection and in homage. But of course the young Macedonian never really ‘conquered’ Afghanistan. Nobody does.

Alexander made the country part of what was then called ‘The Bactrian State’, and made a state marriage with the daughter of a king.

An apparently interminable of foreign overlods ruled the country after Alexander’s early death, and then the Arans started another ‘conquest’ in the 7th century after Christ, some ten centuries after Alexander’s invasion. This is the moment when the country converted to Islam, and the most important ruler in this period was Mahmoud el Ghazna.

The country was again overrun by foreigners in1219 when the Mongols arrived, and remained until the fall of Ghengis Khan, when a large number of principalities appeared, lorded by petty (but vicious) princelings. Part of Afghanistan was then claimed by Persia, but Kabul and the rest of the country remained under Mogul domination. The country had to wait until 1747 for union under an Afghan leader, Ahmed Shah, of the Durrani dynasty in Kandabar.

During most of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th, Afghanistan became a focal point of national interest for two powerful states greedy for more land and possessions – Russia and Britain. The British attempted to upset the Kabul ruler Dost Mohammad, but the British were repuled in the First Anglo-Afghan War. Afghan foreign policy came however under British control in 1879 under the Treaty of Gandamak. Britain thus gained control of the essential (and always super-dangerous) Khyber Pass, the most important route between India and Asia. But this irritated and exasperated the Pathan Tribes.

In 1880 Abdurrahman became Amir, and he established a strong central government. His heirs achieved some modernisation and even social reform. In 1953 Gen. Mohammad Daoud Khan took power by force majeure. He remained prime minister under 1963, during which time he obtained economic and military assistant from, of all people, the Russians. This was to lead to almost consistent fighting, which has not ceased until now in 2011, and which will continue.

Daoud Khan suffered plenty of border disputes with Pakistan, but it was his clever stratagem to maintain ‘non-alignment’ between the two nuclear-armed blocs. In 1964 Afghanistan became a parliamentary and monarchical democracy for the first time. This was overthrown in 1973, again by Daoud, who re-asserted control. In 1977 he issued a ‘constitution’ which allowed for a one-party state. He was soon murdered, and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was proclaimed, headed by a revolutionary council in the classic style of things. The new president was Nur Mohammad Taraki. Under Taraki new reforms were started, but the whole country was in a state of unrest – especially rural unrest. The American Ambassador was murdered in 1979, and a month later Taraki himself was elimated by followers of his deputy prime minister Hafizullah Amin, who then, rather cheekily, sought American support.

Inevitably, as Soviet Russia foresaw American intervention and empire-building on the near horizon, and decided to invade this impossible country herself, in December 1979. Amil was immediately killed and replaced by Babrak Karmal. This started a jihad or ‘holy war’ and guerilla Mujahidin forces (equipped of course with US arms) waged war against government forces armed by the Russians. This leads us into the modern epoch.
Six million homeless and jobless refuges left the country for Iran and Pakistan, imagining in vain that their lot might become better. In 1987 Russia realised what Alexander and the British had come to realise too – that Afghanistan was a hornet’s nest – and began to disengage. Russian troops were totally withdrawn by 1989.

Things might have gone better if in 1992 Mujajidin forces had not overthrown the communist government of Mohammad Najibullah, and later proclaimed the Islamic State of Afghanistan. But civil conflict between both rival Mujajidin forces and other militant groups continued and continues. In 1996 the ‘government’ was overthrown again, this time by the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban militia, who took control of Kabul and executed former president Najibullah.

The United States nand many other countries, including Britain and Spain, have an expensive military presence in Afghanistan. The allied forces (mostly in vain) try to prevent warring factions there from killing each other, and many more civilians, but it is a useless and tahnkless task, as the growing death roll of allied forces proves. There are even countries, like Spain, which claim there is no war as such in Afghanistan, which must be news for the dead, dying, maimed and homeless. Most of northern Afghanistan remains under anti-Taliban control.


By | 2011-04-20T09:37:37+00:00 April 20th, 2011|History of Afghanistan|4 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.


  1. shan July 16, 2012 at 7:56 am - Reply

    Afghanistan belongs to US? Can you elaborate on this?

    • Dean Swift July 17, 2012 at 7:12 am - Reply

      It is difficult to surmise what you mean. Who said Afghanistan belongs to the US? I certainly did not.

  2. […] History of Afghanistan | GENERAL HISTORY Many have tried…none have succeeded…you can add us to the list. […]

  3. Afghanrefugee October 6, 2016 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Afghanistan was part of the Greek Empire, and it was a part of the Mongol, Persian, Arab, Mughal, Sikh empires also, it was near Pakistan that Mongols, Cyrus, Alexander were stopped.

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