Afghan muja crossing from saohol sar pass in durand border region of pakistan  august 1985

Afghanistan: A Brief History

  • Gamesmanship

    Afghanistan's history as a theater for proxy wars begins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as both Russia and England vie for the strategic Central Asian country. Known as 'The Great Game,' the hostilities are tamed with the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente that solidified territorial boundaries between the two superpowers. England retains much of Afghanistan, while Russia gets territory in what is now Turkmenistan.
  • Exit the British

    Exit the British
    On the heels of WWI, Afghanistan sees an opportunity to repel the substantially diminished British forces. After three Anglo-Afghan wars, Afghanistan finally suceeds at claiming independence under King Amanullah Khan.
  • Reforms

    Khan begins modernizing Afghanistan, establishing diplomatic relations with other nations and, under the advice of Foreign Minister Mahmud Tarzi, passes reforms expanding woman's rights, education and freedom of the press.
  • Unrest

    Tribal leaders, angered by Khan's reforms, force him to abdicate and flee to India. Mohammed Nadir Shah claims the throne and quickly abolishes many of the reforms. Afghanistan remains a monarchy for the next 40 years.
  • Russian Ties

    Russian Ties
    Mohammed Daoud Khan becomes prime minister and shifts Afghan foreign policy away from neighboring Pakistan toward the Soviet Union, which becomes a military and economic benefactor. He also continues the slow progress of social reform in abolishing purdah, the practice of secluding women from public view.
  • Coup

    While Shah is on an official trip overseas, Mohammed Daoud Khan seizes power in a bloodless coup and becomes the first president of Afghanistan. He immediately moves to improve the military in response to neighboring Pakistan's emergence as a regional power, but runs up against a political uprising by the end of the decade.
  • Constitution

    A jirga - a traditional Pashtun council - approves a constitution that establishes a presidential one-party system of government.
  • Reforms

    The leftist People's Democratic Party (PDPA) takes over the government, resulting in further social reforms in 1978-1980. They push toward separation of religion and government, ban burquas and raise the minimum age of marriage.
  • Saur Revolution

    Saur Revolution
    The PDPA assassinates Mohammed Dauod. Tribal leaders incensed over social reforms begin an armed revolt in rural Afghanistan.
  • DRA

    After a period of political infighting within the PDPA, Nur Mohammad Taraki becomes president, prime minister and general secretary of the party. The country is renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
  • Power Struggle

    Power Struggle
    Taraki and another PDPA leader, Hafizullah Amin, jostle for power as countryside revolts continue, prompting the Soviet Union to offer aid to the government through military and personnel. Amin claims power.
  • Soviets Invade

    Soviets Invade
    The Soviet Union officially topples the Afghan government, removing Amin from power and taking over the presidential palace. Their occupation lasts nearly a decade.
  • Tensions

    Afghanistan's prominence as a communist target becomes a major ideological battleground for Ronald Reagan, the newly elected U.S. president. The Central Intelligence Agency begins pouring money and advanced weaponry into rural Afghanistan to prop up guerilla fighters - known as mujahideen.
  • Afghan Arabs

    Afghan Arabs
    The insurrection against the "godless" Soviet Union attracts young Muslim idealists from the Arab world to Afghanistan.These include Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, who later found the al Qaeda terror network.
  • Withdrawal

    After eight years of costly fighting against mujahideen, Soviet forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan. This is a major victory for the U.S. in the Cold War, as well as for neighboring Muslim states. Afghanistan falls into a period of civil war.
  • Period: to

    Civil War

    The period between the Soviet Union's withdrawal and the rise of the Taliban is marked with ethnic fighting between tribal groups that is known as Afghanistan's civil war.
  • DRA Ends

    DRA Ends
    The last president of the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, Mohammad Najibullah, resigns from power. Rival tribal mujihadeen groups vie for leadership in the country.
  • Rise of the Taliban

    After a series of small border skirmishes, the Taliban - or "students" - comes to power. They seize control of Kabul and introduce a severe version of Islamic law, requiring men to grow beards and women to fully veil themselves under burquas .
  • bin Laden

    bin Laden
    Former mujihadeen Osama bin Laden, who had helped the Taliban enforce their rule in rural provinces, is sought for the bombings of two American embassies in Africa. The United States launches 66 missles at Bin Laden's Afghan training camps, but he had escaped hours earlier.
  • Buddhas Bombed

    Buddhas Bombed
    In spite of international attempts at intervention, the Taliban dynamites two stone carvings of Buddha dating back to 500 A.D. during a crackdown on "un-Islamic" aspects of Afghan society.
  • Massoud Assasination

    Ahmad Shah Massoud, an Afghan national hero from his efforts fighting the Soviets in the mid-1980s, is killed by suspected al Qaeda agents. Massoud is believed to have warned the international community about impending terror attacks leading up to 9/11. He is posthoumously nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and the anniversary of his death becomes a national holiday.
  • 9/11 Attacks

    9/11 Attacks
    Al Qaeda operatives hijack planes and crash them into buildings in New York and Washington, D.C., which are linked to bin Laden.
  • Initial Campaign

    Initial Campaign
    British and American forces begin airstrikes in Afghanistan when the Taliban refuses to give up Bin Laden. Coalition forces team up with an existing tribal consortium called the Northern Alliance and within a month, take the city of Mazari Sharif, an important transportation hub and spiritual center. Days later they take Kabul.
  • Karzai

    A jirga appoints former mujahideen collaborator Hamid Karzai as interim head of state.
  • Iraq War Begins

    Iraq War Begins
    The U.S. and United Kingdom launch an invasion of Iraq over their stated goals of finding weapons of mass destruction. More than 10,000 troops - about 25% of all U.S. commandos - are depoloyed in the campaign, and large amounts of equipment and intelligence resources are redirected from the war in Afghanistan.
  • Elections

    In spite of surging unrest, Afghanistan holds its first democratic elections. The national elections commission declares Karzai the winner, with 55 percent of the vote. He is sworn into office in December at a ceremony attended by past presidents, which is thought to be symbolic of a new start in the country.
  • NATO Intervention

    NATO Intervention
    NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) begins replacing U.S. troops in the U.S. military mission called Operation Enduring Freedom in Helmand and Kandahar province. In October, they assume responsibilty for nationwide security.
  • Warnings

    U.N. Security Council warns that Afghanistan may become a failed state owing to a growing insurgency, increases in drug trafficking and an unstable government.
  • Amnesty Law

    Afghanistan's parliament passes an amnesty law preventing the prosecuting of war crimes committed during conflicts in past decades. The measure in intended to begin national reconciliation.
  • Strategic Kills

    U.S. and Afghan forces kill Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's senior military commander.
  • Helmand Offensive

    Helmand Offensive
    The U.S. launches a major offensive against Helmand province, which had become a southern Taliban stronghold after U.S. forces departed. The mission calls for 4,000 Marines and 650 Afghan soldiers.
  • Joint Policy Group

    Joint Policy Group
    Gen. Stanley McChrystal releases a 66-page report assessing the military's ground approach. The leak of the report, in which McChrystal recommends a 30,000 - 40,000 surge in troops, is criticized as going outside the chain of command to publicly force the president's hand.
  • Second Term

    Second Term
    Amid widespread violence, Afghanistan holds midterm elections for the presidency. Karzai is re-elected, but election monitors cite serious problems with the vote.
  • London Conference

    London Conference
    International leaders, including Hamid Karzai, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, gather in London for a one-day conference to assess the state of progress in Afghanistan. Karzai agrees to a number of timetables concerning police and military security and announces a program giving Taliban financial incentives to lay down arms.
  • Surge

    U.S. President Barack Obama pledges to boost troop levels in Afghanistan by 30,000, bringing the total to 100,000. He also says the U.S. will begin withdrawing forces by 2011.
  • Personal Status Law

    Afghanistan's parliament approves the Personal Status Law, intended to codify family practices for Shias in the country. A portion of the law is believed to state that women can only seek work, education or doctor's appointments with their husband's permission, and a controversial provision stating a husband can demand sexual relations with his wife is decried by human rights groups and other governments. Protests over the law spill into the streets, and one women's rights worker is killed.
  • Peace Jirga

    Peace Jirga
    More than 1,600 Afghan tribal leaders and community activists meet over a three-day event to discuss the peace process and seek concensus in ending the insurgency. President Hamid Karzai proposes offering economic incentives to lure Taliban members into peace, to controversial response. Many women's groups are outraged at the idea of a reconcilliation process in which their rights could be left on the bargaining table.
  • McChrystal Relieved of Duty

    President Obama relieves McChrystal of his post as top commander in Afghanistan days after the general criticizes U.S. policy in Afghanistan and nearly every member of the Obama administration’s war cabinet.