Story posted: Wednesday, 18. May 2011 by CPA Media
Pictures From History / Themes / GRAVEYARD OF INVADERS
Afghanistan, Graveyard of Invaders
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Rudyard Kipling, The Young British Soldier (1892).
Afghanistan is a welcoming land, full of hospitable (if unusually well-armed) people. I know, for I have visited several times, and travelled, more-or-less, throughout the entire country. But then, unlike Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British Empire, the Soviet Union and, most recently, NATO and the United States, I didn't try to subvert or occupy the place. Which is just as well, for if history teaches us anything about Afghanistan, it's do not interfere, do not bully, and above all - DO NOT INVADE! ...
Foundations of the Afghan State
Mirwais Hotak, an influential Afghan tribal leader of the Ghilzai tribe, gathered supporters and successfully rebelled against the Persian Safavids in the early 18th century. He overthrew and killed Gurgin Khan, the Georgian governor of Kandahar, and made the Afghan region independent from Persian rule. By 1713, Mirwais had decisively defeated two larger Persian-Georgian armies, one led by Khusraw Khán (nephew of Gurgin) and the other by Rustam Khán. The armies were sent by Soltan Hosein, the Shah in Isfahan (now Iran), to re-take control of the Kandahar region. Mirwais died of a natural cause in 1715 and his brother Abdul Aziz took over until he was killed by his nephew Mahmud. In 1722, Mahmud led an Afghan army to the Persian capital of Isfahan, sacked the city after the Battle of Gulnabad and proclaimed himself King of Persia. The Persians were unhappy with the Afghan rulers, and after the massacre of thousands of Shia religious scholars, nobles, and members of the Safavid family, the Hotaki dynasty was eventually ousted from Persia after the Battle of Damghan. In 1738, Nader Shah and his Afsharid forces captured Kandahar from Shah Hussain Hotaki, at which point the incarcerated 16 year old Ahmad Shah Abdali was freed and made the commander of Nader Shah's four thousand Abdali Pashtuns. From Kandahar they set out to conquer India, passing through Ghazni, Kabul, Lahore and ultimately plundering Delhi after the Battle of Karnal. Nader Shah and his forces abandoned Delhi but took with them huge treasure, which included the Koh-i-Noor and Darya-ye Noor diamonds. In June 1747, Nader Shah was assassinated by four of his Persian officers and his kingdom began to fall apart. In October 1747, the Afghans gathered near Kandahar at a loya jirga ('grand assembly') to select their head of state from a group of men and Ahmad Shah Abdali was chosen. Regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Durrani and his Afghan army conquered the entire present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India. He defeated the Sikhs of the Maratha Empire in the Punjab region nine times; one of the biggest battles was the 1761 Battle of Panipat. In October 1772, Ahmad Shah died of a natural cause and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Mosque of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed. He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah Durrani, who transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul. After his death in 1793, the Durrani kingdom was passed down to his son Zaman Shah followed by Mahmud Shah, Shuja Shah and others.
After Afghan Vizier Fateh Khan was defeated by the Sikhs at the Battle of Attock, he fought off an attempt by Ali Shah, the ruler of Persia, to capture the Afghan province of Herat. He was joined by his brother, Dost Mohammad Khan, and rogue Sikh Sardar Jai Singh Attarwalia. Once they had captured the city, Fateh Khan attempted to remove the ruler Mahmud Shah Durrani – a relation of his superior – and rule in his stead. In the attempt to take the city from its Afghan ruler, Dost Mohammad Khan's men forcibly took jewels from a princess and Kamran Durrani, Mahmud Shah's son, used this as a pretext to remove Fateh Khan from power, and had him tortured and executed. While in power, however, Fateh Khan had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the Afghan Empire. After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves. During this turbulent period, Kabul had many temporary rulers until Fateh Khan's brother, Dost Mohammad Khan, captured Kabul in 1826.
The Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, invaded in 1809 and eventually wrested from the Afghans a large part of their empire (present day Pakistan, but not including Sindh). Hari Singh Nalwa, the Commander-in-Chief of the Sikh Empire along its Afghan frontier, invaded the Afghanistan as far as the city of Jalalabad. In 1837, the Afghan Army descended through the Khyber Pass on Sikh forces at Jamrud. Hari Singh Nalwa's forces held off the Afghan offensive for over a week – the time it took reinforcements to reach Jamrud from Lahore.
The Barakzai Dynasty and European influence
During the 19th century, following the Second Anglo-Afghan War and the ascension of the Barakzai dynasty, Afghanistan saw much of its territory and autonomy ceded to British India. Ethnic Pashtun territories were divided by the 1893 Durand Line, an action which would lead to strained relations between Afghanistan and British India (later the new state of Pakistan). The United Kingdom exercised a great deal of influence, and it was not until the reign of King Amanullah Khan in 1919 that Afghanistan re-gained independence over its foreign affairs after the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi.
King Amanullah moved to end his country's traditional isolation in the years following the Third Anglo-Afghan War. He established diplomatic relations with major states and, following a 1927-28 tour of Europe and Turkey, introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women. He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's first constitution (declared through a Loya Jirga), which made elementary education compulsory. Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah Khan was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to rebel forces led by Habibullah Kalakani. Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Habibullah Kalakani in October 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernisation. In 1933, however, he was assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.
Mohammed Zahir Shah, Nadir Shah's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. Another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister in 1946 and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. In 1953, he was replaced by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law. Daoud sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan. Afghanistan remained neutral and was neither a participant in World War II, nor aligned with either power bloc in the Cold War. However, it was a beneficiary of the latter rivalry as both the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence by building Afghanistan's main highways, airports and other vital infrastructure. By the late 1960s, many Western travelers were using these as part of the hippie trail. In 1973, Zahir Shah's brother-in-law, Daoud Khan, launched a bloodless coup and became the first President of Afghanistan while Zahir Shah was on an official overseas visit. Daoud Khan tried to implement some much needed reforms especially in the economic sector.
The Saur Revolution and Soviet Occupation
In 1978, a prominent member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), Mir Akbar Khyber, was allegedly killed by the Daoud government. Leaders of the PDPA feared that Daoud was planning to dismantle them because many were being arrested. Hafizullah Amin along with other PDPA members managed to remain at large and organised an uprising. The PDPA, led by Nur Mohammad Taraki, Babrak Karmal and Hafizullah Amin, overthrew the regime of Mohammad Daoud, who was assassinated along with his family during the April 1978 Saur Revolution. Taraki was declared President, Prime Minister and General Secretary of the PDPA. Once in power, the PDPA implemented a socialist agenda. It moved to carry out an ill-conceived land reform, which was misunderstood by virtually all Afghans. They also imprisoned, tortured or murdered thousands of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the intelligentsia. They also prohibited usuryand made a number of statements on women's rights, by declaring equality of the sexes and introducing women to political life. Anahita Ratebzad was one of several female Marxist leaders and a member of the Revolutionary Council.
As part of its Cold War strategy, the White House in the United States began recruiting, financing and arming Mujahideen fighters during Operation Cyclone in 1979, which was aimed to defeat the Soviets. President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, warned at the time that this might prompt a Soviet intervention. In March 1979, Hafizullah Amin took over as prime minister, retaining the position of field marshal and becoming vice-president of the Supreme Defence Council. Taraki remained President and in control of the army until September 14 when he was killed. To bolster the Parcham faction, the Soviet Union decided to intervene on December 24, 1979, when the Red Army invaded its southern neighbor. Over 100,000 Soviet troops took part in the invasion, which was backed by another one hundred thousand Afghan military men and supporters of the Parcham faction. In the meantime, Hafizullah Amin was killed and replaced by Babrak Karmal. In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Reagan administration in the U.S. increased arming and funding of the Mujahideen who began a guerilla war thanks in large part to the efforts of Charlie Wilson and CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Early reports estimated that $6–20 billion had been spent by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, but more recent reports state that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia provided as much as up to $40 billion in cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, for building up Islamic groups against the Soviet Union. The U.S. handled most of its support through Pakistan's ISI. Saudi Arabia was also providing financial support. Leaders such as Ahmad Shah Massoud received only minor aid compared to Hekmatyar and some of the other parties, although Massoud was named the "Afghan who won the cold war" by the Wall Street Journal.
The 10-year Soviet occupation resulted in the killings of between 600,000 and two million Afghans, mostly civilians. About 6 million fled as Afghan refugees to Pakistan and Iran, and from there over 38,000 made it to the United States and many more to the European Union. Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties on both sides, the Soviets withdrew in 1989. Their withdrawal from Afghanistan was seen as an ideological victory in America, which had backed some Mujahideen factions through three U.S. presidential administrations to counter Soviet influence in the vicinity of the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The USSR continued to support President Mohammad Najibullah (former head of the Afghan secret service, KHAD) until 1992.
Foreign Interference and Civil War
After the fall of the communist Najibullah-regime in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The Peshawar Accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period. According to Human Rights Watch:
The sovereignty of Afghanistan was vested formally in the Islamic State of Afghanistan, an entity created in April 1992, after the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government. [...] With the exception of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, all of the parties [...] were ostensibly unified under this government in April 1992. [...] Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, for its part, refused to recognize the government for most of the period discussed in this report and launched attacks against government forces and Kabul generally. [...] Shells and rockets fell everywhere.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received operational, financial and military support from Pakistan. Afghanistan expert Amin Saikal concludes in Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival:
Pakistan was keen to gear up for a breakthrough in Central Asia. Islamabad could not possibly expect the new Islamic government leaders [...] to subordinate their own nationalist objectives in order to help Pakistan realize its regional ambitions. [...] Had it not been for the ISI's logistic support and supply of a large number of rockets, Hekmatyar's forces would not have been able to target and destroy half of Kabul.
In addition, Saudi Arabia and Iran - as competitors for regional hegemony - supported Afghan militias hostile towards each other. According to Human Rights Watch, Iran was assisting the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat forces of Abdul Ali Mazari, as Iran was attempting to maximize Wahdat's military power and influence. Saudi Arabia supported the Wahhabi Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction. Conflict between the two militias soon escalated into a full-scale war.
Due to the sudden initiation of the war, working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability for the newly-created Islamic State of Afghanistan did not have time to form. Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different armed factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos as described in reports by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project. Because of the chaos, some leaders increasingly had only nominal control over their (sub-)commanders. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion. An estimated 25,000 people died during the most intense period of bombardment by Hekmatyar's Hezb-i Islami and the Junbish-i Milli forces of Abdul Rashid Dostum, who had created an alliance with Hekmatyar in 1994. Half a million people fled Afghanistan.
Southern Afghanistan was under the control of neither foreign-backed militias nor the government in Kabul, but was ruled by local leaders such as Gul Agha Sherzai and their militias. In 1994, the Taliban (a movement originating from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-run religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan) also developed in Afghanistan as a politico-religious force, reportedly in opposition to the tyranny of the local governor. Mullah Omar started his movement with fewer than 50 armed madrassah students in his hometown of Kandahar. When the Taliban took control of the city in 1994, they forced the surrender of dozens of local Pashtun leaders who had presided over a situation of complete lawlessness and atrocities. In 1994, the Taliban took power in several provinces in southern and central Afghanistan.
In late 1994, most of the militia factions (Hezb-i Islami, Junbish-i Milli and Hezb-i Wahdat) which had been fighting in the battle for control of Kabul were defeated militarily by forces of the Islamic State's Secretary of Defense Ahmad Shah Massoud. Bombardment of the capital came to a halt. The Islamic State government took steps to restore law and order. Courts started to work again. Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban to join the process, but he Taliban declined.
The Taliban Emirate and the United Front
The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses. Pakistan provided strong support to the Taliban. Many analysts like Amin Saikal describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests which the Taliban decline. On September 26, 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul. The Taliban seized Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts forbidding women to work outside the home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on September 27, 1996, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two former arch enemies, created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and those under the control of Dostum. see video The United Front included beside the dominantly Tajik forces of Massoud and the Uzbek forces of Dostum, Hazara factions and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq, Haji Abdul Qadir, Qari Baba or diplomat Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai.According to Human Rights Watch, in late May 1997, some 3,000 captive Taliban soldiers were summarily executed in and around Mazar-i-Sharif by Dostum's Junbish forces and members of the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat faction. The Taliban defeated Dostum's Junbish forces militarily by seizing Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998. Dostum went into exile. According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. U.N. officials stated that there had been '15 massacres' between 1996 and 2001. They also said that 'These have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the [Taliban] Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself'. The Taliban especially targeted people of Shia religious or Hazara ethnic background. Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, about 4,000 civilians were executed by the Taliban and many more reported tortured. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians. The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf - then as Chief of Army Staff - was responsible for sending thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and Bin Laden against the forces of Massoud. In total there were believed to be 28,000 Pakistani nationals, many either from the Frontier Corps or army, fighting inside Afghanistan. An estimated 8,000 Pakistani militants were recruited in madrassas filling the ranks of the estimated 25,000 regular Taliban force. A 1998 document by the U.S. State Department confirms that '20-40 percent of [regular] Taliban soldiers are Pakistani'. The document further states that the parents of those Pakistani nationals 'know nothing regarding their child's military involvement with the Taliban until their bodies are brought back to Pakistan'.
From 1996 to 2001 the Al Qaeda of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri became a state within the Taliban state. Bin Laden sent Arab recruits to join the fight against the United Front. An estimated 3,000 fighters of the regular Taliban army were Arab and Central Asian militants. In total, of roughly 45,000 Pakistani, Taliban and Al-Qaeda soldiers fighting against the forces of Massoud only 14,000 were Afghan.
Ahmad Shah Massoud remained the only leader of the United Front in Afghanistan. In the areas under his control Massoud set up democratic institutions and signed the Women's Rights Declaration. Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001. As a consequence many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud. In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban.
In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He stated that the Taliban and Al Qaeda had introduced 'a very wrong perception of Islam' and that without the support of Pakistan and Bin Laden the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year. On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent.
Recent History - Post-2001
On September 9, 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud died in a suicide attack by two Arab suicide bombers in the Afghan province of Takhar. Two days later 3,000 people died on U.S. soil in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks the U.S. government identified Osama Bin Laden alongside Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the faces behind the attacks. When the Taliban refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden to U.S. authorities and refused to disband Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, the U.S. and British air forces began bombing al-Qaeda and Taliban targets inside Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. On the ground, American and British special forces along with CIA Special Activities Division units worked with commanders of the United Front (Northern Alliance) to launch a military offensive against the Taliban forces. These attacks led to the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul in November 2001, as the Taliban and al-Qaida retreated toward the mountainous Durand Line border with Pakistan. In December 2001, after the Taliban government was toppled and the new Afghan government under Hamid Karzai was formed, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to help assist the Karzai administration and provide basic security to the Afghan people.
From 2002 onward, the Taliban began regrouping while more coalition troops entered the escalating US-led war with insurgents. Meanwhile, NATO assumed control of ISAF in 2003 and the rebuilding of Afghanistan began, which is funded by the international community especially by USAID and other U.S. agencies. The European Union, Canada and India also play a major role in reconstruction. The Afghan nation was able to build democratic structures and to make some progress in key areas such as health, economy, educational, transport, agriculture and construction sector. It has also modernized in the field of technology and banking. NATO, mainly the United States armed forces through its Army Corps of Engineers, is rebuilding and modernizing the nation's military as well its police force. Between 2002 and 2010, over five million Afghan expatriates returned with new skills and capital. Still, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries due to the results of 30 years of war, corruption among high level politicians and the ongoing Taliban insurgency backed by Pakistan. U.S. officials have also accused Iran of providing limited support to the Taliban, but stated it was 'at a small level' since it is 'not in their interests to see the Taliban, a Sunni ultra-conservative, extremist element, return to take control of Afghanistan'. In this context, Iran has historically been an enemy of the Taliban.
NATO and Afghan troops in recent years led many offensives against the Taliban, but proved unable to completely dislodge their presence. By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form complete with their own version of mediation court. In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama deployed an additional 30,000 soldiers over a period of six months and proposed that he will begin troop withdrawals by 2012. At the 2010 International Conference on Afghanistan in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he intends to reach out to the Taliban leadership (including Mullah Omar, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar). Supported by senior U.S. officials Karzai called on the group's leadership to take part in a loya jirga meeting to initiate peace talks. According to the Wall Street Journal, these steps have been reciprocated so far with an intensification of bombings, assassinations and ambushes. Many Afghan groups (including the former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh and opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah) believe that Karzai's plan aims to appease the insurgents' senior leadership at the cost of the democratic constitution, the democratic process and progess in the field of human rights especially women's rights. Dr. Abdullah stated:
"I should say that Taliban are not fighting in order to be accommodated. They are fighting in order to bring the state down. So it's a futile exercise, and it's just misleading. ... There are groups that will fight to the death. Whether we like to talk to them or we don't like to talk to them, they will continue to fight. So, for them, I don't think that we have a way forward with talks or negotiations or contacts or anything as such. Then we have to be prepared to tackle and deal with them militarily. In terms of the Taliban on the ground, there are lots of possibilities and opportunities that with the help of the people in different parts of the country, we can attract them to the peace process; provided, we create a favorable environment on this side of the line. At the moment, the people are leaving support for the government because of corruption. So that expectation is also not realistic at this stage".
Main article adapted from Wikipedia: 'History of Afghanistan', June 2011Category: Afghanistan
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