History 420 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

Periods of Afghanistan's History

In order to understand Afghanistan today, we have to take a detailed historical tour of Afghanistan’s history over the past 5000 years. We will do that through a chronology of at least five distinct stages:

  1. 3000 BC - 1747 AD: Afghanistan's multi-ethnic tribal society was shaped by its geographical location at the crossroads of many great civilizations.
  2. 1747-1919: Afghanistan became a nation under control of a single ruler from the Durrani Tribe as well as a cornerstone in the imperialistic designs of Russia and Britain.
  3. 1919-1973: Afghanistan's rulers tried to turn a powerful multi-ethnic tribal society into a modern state that, in turn, lead to periodic tribal revolts and internal turmoil.
  4. 1773-1789: The Republic of Afghanistan began with a power shift from the Durrani monarchy to Communist-backed rule which stimulates first, an internal war between the Soviet-backed Communists and the growing power of Islamic fundamentalist tribal leaders and second, 10 years of war that began with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
  5. 1989-to the present: Afghanistan was torn apart by internal struggles for control and by the two responses to 9/11: the U.S. response, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the U.N. International Response.

Selected Chronology of Afghanistan's History

First Stage Afghanistan History, 3000 BC - 1747 AD: Afghanistan's multi-ethnic tribal society was shaped by its geographical location at the crossroads of many great civilizations.

3000 BC-2000 BC. The Indus Valley civilization ruled over most of ancient Afghanistan - which was the economic, social, and political crossroad between Mesopotamia and eastern civilizations.

Map of Indus Valley Civilization

600 BC. The Median/Persian Empire conquered ancient Afghanistan.

Map of Median Persian Empire 600 BC

522 BC--486 BC. The Achaemenid/Persian Empire overthrew the Median Empire. The Persian Empire was plagued by constant bitter and bloody tribal revolts from Afghans living in Arachosia (Kandahar, and Quetta)

Map of Achaemenid/Persian Empire

329-326 BC. Alexander the Great conquered Persia, including Northern Afghanistan. Greek rule began but was plagued by constant revolts among the Afghan people.

Map of Silk Road 1st Century

170 BC-160 BC. The Greco-Bactrian Empire conquered and ruled most of Afghanistan.

Map of Greco-Bactrian Empire

50 AD. The Kushan Empire conquered the Greco-Bactrian Empire. Within 200 years, the empire fragmented into petty dynasties.

400 AD. The Central Asian, nomadic White Huns or Huna conquered present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, leaving most the area in ruins. The Huna made their capital in Bamyan where they began to destroy the Buddhist culture.

550 AD. The Persians in the Sassanian Empire reasserted control over all of what is now Afghanistan.

Map of Sassanian Empire

642 AD. The Arabs conquered Persia and invaded Afghanistan from the west, thereby introducing Islam into the region. At the time, Afghanistan had many different independent rulers and the Muslims were not welcomed. Mountain tribes attacked the Arab conquerers, making exploration of the area almost impossible.

963 AD. The Ghaznavian Empire, a Persian/Muslim dynasty of Turk orgin, conquered Persia, Afghanistan, and most of present day India. It's capital was Ghazni which is currently located in Central Afghanistan.

Map o Ghaznavian Empire

1219-1221. The Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan invaded Afghanistan and the surrounding region. The irrigation systems in Afghanistan were destroyed, turning fertile soil into permanent deserts. Intermarriage between the Mongols and local tribes led to the origins of the modern-day Hazara ethnic group.

1500-1700s. Afghanistan was divided among several foreign entities: the Uzbek Kingdom of Balk in the north, the Safavid Persians to the west, and the Moghul Empire, a Persian/Islamic dynasty, in the east ruling from its capital in Kabul.

1700 Due to thousands of years of invasions, Afghanistan had become ethnically diverse. Western Afghanistan was home to Persian speakers (Dari, as the Afghan Persian dialect is known); central Afghanistan was dominated by the Hazaras who also spoke Dari but were converted to the Shiite branch of Islam under the Persians; western Afghanistan was inhabited by Tajiks, who also spoke Dari; northern Afghanistan was home to Uzbeks, Turkmans, Kyrgyz, and others who spoke the Turkic languages of Central Asia; and in the south and east, the Pastuns spoke Pashto, a mixture of Indo-Persian languages.

Map of Ethno-Linguistic Groups in Afghanistan

1736. The Persian leader, Nadir Shah, occupied southwest Afghanistan and in 1739, he occupied Kandahar. Throughout his rule, he faced widespread Afghan resistance.

Second Stage Afghanistan History, 1747-1919: Afghanistan becomes a nation under control of a single ruler from the Durrani Tribe as well as a cornerstone in the imperialistic designs of Russia and Britain.

1747. Ahmad Shah Abdali, of Abdali Pashtuns (later known as the Durrani Pashtuns), founded the modern state of Afghanistan and made its capital at Kandahar. By 1772, Ahmad Shah Durrani's empire extended from Central Asia to Delhi, from Kashmir to the Arabian sea - thus giving it free access to ocean trade. After centuries of fragmentation, Afghanistan was under the domination of a single local ruler who, for the first time, had support from most of the tribal leaders. The already existent divisions between the Durrani and Ghilzai tribes continued until the Durrani lost power over the centralized state of Afghanistan in 1973.

Map of Durrani Afghan Empire at peak

1773. Ahmad Shah died, plunging Afghanistan into civil war over disputes about his heir. The capital of Afghanistan transferred from Kandahar to Kabul.

1809 The British and Afghans signed a treaty of mutual defense against Russia that set the Great Game into motion - a confrontation between the British and Russian empires. Both powers viewed the presence of the other power as a threat to their imperialist interests and viewed Afghanistan as a buffer state between their empires.

1834 Shuja Shah tried to regain the throne by marching a Sikh army through Punjab, (now Pakistan), the northern region in India closest to Afghanistan.

1836. The Afghan prince, Dost Mohammad Khan, defeated the Shuja Shah west of Peshawar, but lost the city. Dost Muhammad contacted the British governor general of India asking for help to regain Peshawar, thereby formally setting the stage for British intervention.

1837. With backing from Russia, a Persian army besieged the city of Herat. The British saw this as a threat to their interests in India, and began to fear a Russian invasion of the North-Western frontier of Afghanistan.

1839-1843. The First Anglo-Afghan War erupted.

1843-1895. The British greatly expanded their empire at the expense of the Afghan nation once ruled at Ahmed Shah Durrani.

1843. The British added the province of Sind to their empire.

1846. The British added Kashmir to their empire.

1849. The British added the Punjab to their empire.

1859. The British added Baluchistan to their empire. Consequently, Afghanistan became completely landlocked.

1878- 1880. The Second Anglo-Afghan War was fought.

1880. In July, Ayub Khan, Abdur Rahman's cousin, rose in revolt, defeated a British detachment at the Battle of Maiwand in July, and besieged Kandahar.

1893. The British foreign secretary of Indian, Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, signed an agreement with Afghan ruler, Amir Abdur Rehman Khan separating Afghanistan from what was then British India. The Durand Line established a 1,600 mile border between Afghanistan and British India, splitting Afghan tribal areas and leaving at least half of Pashtun Afghans in what is now Pakistan. The most contested Afghan loss was the North-West Frontier Provinces - an area that is currently part of Pakistan and whose national control has been contested since the Durand Line was established.

Map  of Durand Line 1893

1895. The British added the North-West Frontier to their empire.

Map of British-Indian Empire 1909

1907. Russia and Great Britain signed the Convention of St. Petersburg, which brought about the end of the Great Game when Russia recognized Afghanistan as a semi-protectorate of Great Britain.

1919. The Third Anglo-Afghan War occurred.

Third Stage Afghanistan History, 1919-1973: Afghanistan's rulers try to turn a powerful multi-ethnic tribal society into a modern state which, in turn, leads to periodic tribal revolts and internal turmoil.

(Note: All print in green below involves a relationship between Afghanistan and the United States)

1919-1929. Amanullah Khan Photo of King Amanullah(photograph below) created new cosmopolitan schools for both boys and girls, overturned centuries-old traditions such a strict dress codes for women, increased trade with Europe and Asia, and advanced a modernist constitution that allowed for equal rights and individual freedoms.

1920s. Beginning in 1921, Afghan leaders reached out to the United States asking for assistance in developing its natural resources. Over the decade, several Americans recommended to the U.S. State Department that the United States pay greater attention to Afghanistan. No governmental response ensued.

1924. The Khost rebellion was a response to Amanullah Khan's modernizing achievements. Occuring in the southern tribal provinces, the year-long war found Islamic tribes rising up against the government. The rebellion was brutally put down, with 14,000 people perishing.

1929. Amanullah Khan abdicated and Habibullah Kalakani took control of Afghanistan. Several months later, he was overthrown and killed by his rival, Nadir Khan. Within two years, Nadir Khan established full control of Afghanistan, abolished the modernization reforms of Amanullah Khan, and backed a new constitution giving he and his family broad powers. Much of his support came from rural, conservative mullahs.

1933. Nadir Khan was assassinated by a college student, and his son, Zahir, inherited the throne which he ruled until 1973. Mohammed Zahir Shah (photograph to the right) was the last king of Afghanistan.

Photo of Mohammed Zahir Shah in 1963

1934. The United States formally recognized Afghanistan.

1937. The U.S. Inland Exploration Company received a 75-year lease for oil exploration in Afghanistan. Within a short period, Inland paid a penalty and withdrew from the lease.

1937-1939. Germany provided Afghanistan with military training and equipment to bring its army up to western standards. For Germany, Afghanistan could provide the logistical basis for attacking British India as well as provide Lebenraum into Central Asia.

1942. The U.S. established its first American legation in Kabul.

1947. Britain withdrew from India. British India was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan - without an Afghan presence in the official partition agreement. Map  of Partitioning of India


1948-1955. Afghanistan repeatedly approached the United States for assistance to modernize their army. The U.S. rejected such requests, largely because it was reluctant to incur any obligation to Afghanistan should it be threatened by the USSR.

1948. The U.S. aligned itself with Pakistan, while Pakistan made it clear that it was determined to block Afghanistan's territorial claims to the North-West Frontier Province.

1949. Afghanistan's Parliament - the Loya Jirga - denounced the Durand Treaty and refused to recognize the Durand line as a legal boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan sought closer ties with the United States to protect it against Afghanistan.

1950s. King Zahir Shah continued to rule over the Afghan monarchy, providing a weak central government. Most Afghans had no nationalistic ties and instead, were led by local tribal leaders (khans) and teachers of Islam (mullahs). Beginning in 1973, the real ruler was the Afghan prime minister, the King's cousin and brother-in-law, Mohammad Daoud.

1955. In March, Pakistan closed the border between the two nations for five months during which it refused transshipments of goods to or from Afghanistan. Afghanistan appealed to both Iran and the U.S. for alternative routes to the Persian Gulf or Arabian Sea, but both nations denied assistance. Consequently, Daoud turned to the USSR for assistance in guaranteeing an exchange of Soviet petroleum and building materials for Afghan goods.

1956. The U.S. issued the Baghdad Pact Planning Study on Community Inspired Threat to West Pakistan which warned of a clear opportunity for the USSR to align with Afghanistan in its pursuit of a Pashtunistan ally "that borders on the Arabian Sea, [and] places the Soviets in the position ... of posing a threat to sea lines of communication in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean." But it was too late; Afghanistan had already aligned itself with the Soviets.

1960s. Two large modern universities arose - Kabul Polytechnic and Kabul University - and fostered a new Afghan intellectualism. As the decade progressed, tensions within Afghanistan grew out of class, ethnic, and religious differences between four groups: the urban-centered, foreign-educated elite who ran the nation's bureaucracy; the officer corps from the wealthier Afghan families who were increasingly radicalized by Soviet influence; the ethnic minorities - Hazara, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek - whoe each had their own culture and history; and the radical Islamists mostly from the rural areas who opposed attempts to modernize Afghan life.

1961. Pakistan and Afghanistan severed diplomatic relations and ended all border traffic between the two nations. Pakistan closed its borders to the Pashtuns on the Afghan side of the border. Afghanistan became almost entirely dependent on trade with the Soviets.

1964. The King ordered the convening of a Loya Jirga to draft and approve a new Afghan constitution. Although most of the 452 people (including six women) assembled could be expected to support the King, members elected from the entire nation also participated. After 10 days of meetings, on September 20, all the members of the Loya Jirga signed the new constitution. On October 1, the King signed the constitution and it became law of the land.

1965. On January 1, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was founded byAfghans from diverse leftist Communist groups who united for the principal purpose of gaining parliamentary seats in the elections. Four PDPA members won parliamentary seats. In September, Afghanistan held its first nationwide elections under the new constitution.

1969 Second nationwide elections were held.

1970s. Fundamentalist, radical Islamist parties arose throughout the Middle East in reaction to failed secular Arab nationalist movements. By the end of the decade, such fundamentalist groups had gained strength at universities, especially in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan.

Fourth Stage Afghanistan History, 1973-1989: The Republic of Afghanistan began with a power shift from the Durrani monarchy to Communist-backed rule which stimulates an internal war between the Soviet-backed Communists and the growing power of Islamic fundamentalist tribal leaders as well as a ten-year-war that began with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan which, in turn, launched the Afghan resistance movement.

1973. On July 17th while Zahir Shah was on vacation in Europe, Mohammad Daoud Khan Photo of Muhammed Daoud Khan(photograph to the right) and the PDPA led a military coup. Daoud Khan abolished the monarchy, declared himself the first President of Afghanistan, and established the Republic of Afghanistan. Daoud turned to the Soviet Union for aid to try to crush a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement and to try to modernize the state structure.

1978. The Communist coup, called the April Rebellion, occurred during which President Daoud and his family were killed and Nur Mohammad Taraki took power as head of the country's first Marxist government. This coup brought an end to more than 200 years of almost uninterrupted rule by the family of Zahir Shah and Mohammad Daoud.

1979-1989. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan tore the nation asunder.

1979. Hafizullah Amin, who had become prime minister, was opposed to Taraki, and in October, Taraki was secretly executed, with Amin becoming the new president. Widespread resistance to the new government spread to about two-thirds of the nation.

1981. President Ronald Reagan promised $3.2 billion to aid Pakistan in its support of the Afghan rebels. Saudi Arabia agreed to match U.S. financial support to Pakistan's efforts against the Afghan rebels.

1982. The ISI began to recruit radical Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and fight with the Afghan rebels. Pakistan had standing instructions to all its embassies abroad to give visas, with no questions asked, to anyone wanting to come and fight in Afghanistan. Between 1982 and 1992, more than 100,000 "Arab Afghans" from 43 Islamic countries were either trained in Afghanistan or educated in Pakistani and Afghani madrassas.

1983. U.S. intelligence and other sources indicated that the USSR was willing to withdraw from Afghanistan. The U.S. Congress and President Reagan worked to continue the war in the hope that it would become the Soviet Vietnam and that an Afghan victory would totally defeat the USSR.

1985. President Reagan signed National Security Directive No. 166 ordering the US to use all available means to compel the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan. The CIA immediately began supplying and training rebel mujahideen resistance fighters in Pakistan.

1986. The CIA began providing Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the mujahadeen which allowed them to destroy the Soviet air advantage. Eventually, the U.S. provided over 2,000 anti-aircraft missiles to the mujahadeen.Photo of  Mohammad Najibullah

1987. The $30 million requested by the CIA in 1984 for the Afghan resistance had grown to $630 million in 1987; each increment was matched by the Saudis.

1988. Osama bin Laden created al Qaeda (the base) as a service center for Arab Afghans and their families to forge a broad-based alliance.

1989. The USSR was defeated and withdrew from Afghanistan, ending the war that lasted 10 years, claimed 1.5 million Afghan and between 40-50,000 Soviet lives, and forced somewhere between 3-5 million Afghanis to leave the country.

To see the remaining, Fifth Stage of Afghanistan History, 1990 to the present, go to http://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/hist420/AfghanistanChronologyContinued.html