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Generational Country Study: Afghanistan

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Map of Afghanistan
Map of Afghanistan

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Generational Crisis Wars

-- Afghanistan: First Anglo-Afghan War 1839-1842 (Crisis)
-- Afghanistan: Dost Mohammed 1843-1863 (Recovery)
-- Afghanistan: Second Anglo-Afghan War 1864-1884 (Awakening)
-- Afghanistan: The Iron Amir, Divisions, and Reforms 1885-1919 (Unraveling)
-- Afghanistan: Various Conflicts and Reforms 1919-1929 (Crisis)
-- Afghanistan: Rebuilding Period 1930-1946 (Recovery)
-- Afghanistan: Women's Rights and Pashtunistan 1947-1965 (Awakening)
-- Afghanistan: Division and the Republics 1966-1977 (Unraveling)
-- Afghanistan: Soviet Invasion + Civil War 1978-1992 (Crisis)
-- Afghanistan: The Taliban and Beyond 1993-Present (Recovery)

Brief Generational History - updated 5-June-2008

In the 1830s, Russia and Britain were competing for dominance in Central Asia in a broader conflict known as "the Great Game." In 1839, Britain invaded Afghanistan, beginning the First Anglo-Afghan War as a Crisis war.

After installing a pro-British Shah, dissent among Afghanis grew into full-blown rebellion. The Crisis war climaxed with the murder of the Shah, the reinstatement of Dost Mohammed and the destruction of the British army in 1842. In the following Recovery Era, Britain and Afghanistan resumed relations by 1855, and in the intervening period between the first two Anglo-Afghan wars, Dost Mohammed attempted to secure control over his country, but was only met with mixed success.

In 1878 the British invaded Afghanistan again following a disagreement, thus launching the Second Anglo-Afghan War. As is typical in an Awakening era war, any Afghani rebellion fizzled and the British were able to control the foreign policy of Afghanistan for decades. Following the conflict, Abdur Rahman Khan rose to power, and he successfully resisted the attempts to divide Afghanistan by dissenting tribes, thus halting the societal decay in his country while helping to draw the boundaries of modern Afghanistan. His son, Habibullah, instituted a series of reforms in the early 20th century, leaving Afghanistan a relatively secular and modernized country.

Afghanistan's next Crisis era began in 1919, triggered by the assassination of Habibullah. Amanullah Khan came to power, and immediately attacked British-controlled India. This conflict, known as the Third Anglo-Afghan War, ended in stalemate, with the British already exhausted from fighting in World War I.

The real crisis war was a civil war that was triggered when King Amanullah enacted a series of reforms, including establishing diplomatic relations with other countries in an attempt to modernize Afghanistan. Conservative tribal leaders were infuriated by the reforms, leading to a civil war that climaxed in 1929, when Amanullah was forced to abdicate the throne.

Amanullah's cousin Nadir took the throne and led the country through the following Recovery Era. He quelled the resistance and reversed many of his predecessor's reforms. However, Nadir was assassinated in 1933, and the new King Zahir Shah returned to Amanullah's strategy of working with European nations with the goal of strengthening his country.

As is typical during an Awakening era, massive political conflicts began. By the 1950s rifts were apparent in Afghani culture, demonstrated by the objection to the reforms of Prime Minister Daoud Khan from religious leaders. Discussion of women's rights was prevalent, as was the Pashtunistan issue, a conflict between Afghanistan and Pakistan over control of the land where the Pashtun ethnic group resides. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan came to a complete halt, and an economic crisis ensued.

Disillusion, class and ethnic divisions grew during the Awakening era and the subsequent Unraveling era, culminating in a coup led by Daoud in 1973, when Afghanistan was established as a republic. However, the government was deadlocked and the instability continued. Another coup occurred in 1978 by those with a socialist agenda, and the new government appealed to the Soviet Union to help build its infrastructure, drawing the ire of traditionalist Afghanis. Covert support from the United States fueled attacks against the government, forcing the Soviet Union to intervene to help quell the violence.

The war dragged on until the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, leaving a total of 1 million Afghanis dead and nearly 6 million displaced from their homes (many wound up in Pakistan). A period of anarchy soon followed before being replaced through rule by the Taliban in the late 1990s. In 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Taliban was deposed, and a republican government was installed. Resistance to the current government continues today.

-- Matt Ignal

Article Cross-References

-- Pakistanis are increasingly joining forces with al-Qaeda: The contrast with the Iraq war and al-Qaeda in Iraq is instructive. (30-Dec-07)
-- Pakistan on high alert after massive terrorist bomb kills 50 worshippers: Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists from Pakistan's Tribal Regions (23-Dec-07)

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Country Flag

Flag for Afghanistan
Country Flag for Afghanistan

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