Historical Context

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Pre- Soviet-Afghan War

1921 – The British, besieged in the wake of World War I, are defeated in the Third British-Afghan War (1919-1921), and Afghanistan becomes an independent nation. Amir Amanullah Khan begins a wave of socioeconomic reform.
1926 – Amanullah declares Afghanistan a monarchy, rather than an emirate, and proclaims himself king.
1928 – Critics, frustrated by Amanullah’s policies, take up arms and by 1929, the king abdicates and leaves the country.
1933 – Zahir Shah becomes king and brings a semblance of stability. He went on to rule for the next 40 years.
1934 – The United States formally recognizes Afghanistan
1947 – Britain withdraws from India, creating the predominantly Hindu (but secular) state of India and the Islamic state of Pakistan. The nation of Pakistan includes a long, largely uncontrollable, border with Afghanistan.
1953 – The pro-Soviet General Mohammed Dad Khan, cousin of the king, becomes prime minister and looks to communist USSR for economic and military assistance.
1956 – Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agrees to help Afghanistan, and the two countries become close allies.
1965 – The Afghan Community Party secretly forms. The group’s principal leaders are Babrak Karmal and Nur Mohammad Taraki.
1973 – Khan overthrows the last king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, in a military coup. The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan comes to power. Khan abolishes the monarchy and names himself president. The Republic of Afghanistan is established with firm ties to the USSR.
1975-1977 – Khan proposes a new constitution that grants women rights and works to modernize the predominantly communist state. He also cracks down on opponents, and forces many people suspected of not supporting him out of the government.
1978 – Khan is killed in a communist coup. Nur Muhammed Taraki, one of the founders of the Afghan Communist Party, takes control as president, and Babrak Karmal is named deputy prime minister. The country is renamed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA). An Islamic and conservative insurgency begins.
1978 (December 5) – A friendship treaty is signed with the USSR, building on Soviet economic and military support given to Afghanistan since the early 1950s.
1979 (March) – The USSR begins massive military aid to the DRA, including hundreds of advisers, as the U.S. scales down its presence after the murder of its kidnapped ambassador.
1979 (September) – President Nur Mohammed Taraki is killed and Hafizullah Amin emerges as DRA leader. Requests for large numbers of Soviet forces to combat the growing insurgency continue.

Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan 

1979 (December 12) – The Politburo’s (principal policymaking committee of communist parties) inner circle, fearing the possibility of an Iranian-style Islamist revolution and wary of Amin’s meetings with US diplomats, decides to invade Afghanistan.
1979 (December 24) – The Soviet defense ministry reveals orders to send troops into Afghanistan, and commandos seize strategic installations in Kabul.
1979 (December 29) – After a week of heavy fighting, during which Soviet commandos kill Amin and tens of thousands of troops are sent in by ground and air, Babrak Kamal is named the DRA’s new Soviet-backed leader.
1980 – Resistance intensifies with various mujahideen groups fighting Soviet forces and their DRA allies. Within six months, the Soviets commit more than 80,000 troops to occupy Afghanistan. The U.S., Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia supply money and weapons to the mujahideen.
1982 – The United Nations General Assembly calls for Soviet withdrawal.
1985 – More than five million Afghans are now estimated to be displaced by the war, with many fleeing to Iran or Pakistan. New Soviet leader Gorbachev says he wants to end the war in Afghanistan. In order to bring a quick victory, the resulting escalation of troops to quell the anger in the region leads to the bloodiest year of the war.
1986 – The U.S. begins supplying mujahideen with Stinger missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships. Karmal is replaced by Mohammed Najbullah.
1988 – The DRA, USSR, U.S., and Pakistan sign peace accords and the Soviets begin pulling out troops.
1989 (February 15) – The USSR announces the departure of the last Soviet troops. More than one million Afghans and thirteen thousand Soviet troops have been killed. Civil war continues as the mujahideen push to overthrow Najbullah.

Post- Soviet-Afghan War

1992 – The Mujahideen and other rebel groups, with the help of allied nation’s troops, storm the capital of Kabul, and oust Najbullah from power. The Mujahideen, a group already beginning to break apart as warlords fight over power and the future of Afghanistan, form a largely Islamic state.
1995 – Newly formed Islamic militia, the Taliban, rises to power on promises of peace. Most Afghans, exhausted by years of drought, famine and war, approve of the Taliban for upholding traditional Islamic values. They impose strict and harsh rules/regulations on Afghans, especially women who are stripped of most rights. Islamic law is enforced via public executions and amputations. The U.S. refuses to recognize the authority of the Taliban.
1995-1999 – Continuing drought makes many rural areas uninhabitable, and more than 1 million Afghans flee to neighboring Pakistan to be in squalid refugee camps.
1997 – The Taliban publicly executes Najbullah.
1998 – Following al-Qaida’s bombings of two American embassies in Africa, President Clinton orders cruise missile attacks against bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan. The attacks miss the Saudi and other leaders of the group.
2000 – Now considered an international terrorist, bin Laden is widely believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, where he is cultivating thousands of followers in terrorist training camps. The U.S. demands that bin Laden be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial for the embassy bombings. The Taliban decline. The UN punishes Afghanistan with sanctions restricting trade and economic development.
2001 (March) Ignoring international protests, the Taliban carry out their threat to destroy Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, saying they are an affront to Islam.
2001 (September 9) – Masood, still head of the Northern Alliance and the nation’s top insurgent, is killed by assassins posing as journalists.
2001 (September 11) – Hijackers commandeer four commercial airplanes and crash them into the World Trade Center Towers in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington D.C., and a Pennsylvania field, killing thousands. Days after the deadliest attack on U.S. soil, U.S. officials say bin Laden, the Saudi exile believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, is the prime suspect in the attack.
2001 (October) – Following unanswered demands that the Taliban turn over bin Laden, U.S. and British forces launch airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan. American warplanes bomb Taliban targets and bases belonging to the al-Qaida network. The Taliban proclaim they are ready for jihad.
2001 (November) – After weeks of intense fighting with the Taliban troops, the Northern Alliance enters Kabul. The retreating Taliban flee south.
2001 (December 7) – Taliban fighters abandon their final stronghold in Kandahar as their hold on Afghanistan continues to disintegrate. Two days later, Taliban leaders surrender their final Afghan territory, Zabul. The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press declares “the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan has totally ended.”
2001 (December 22) – At a UN-sponsored conference to determine an interim government in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai is elected and sworn in as the leader of the six-month government.
2002 – Karzai chooses the members of his government who will serve until 2004, when the government is required to organize elections.
2003 – Amid increased violence, NATO takes over security in Kabul. The effort is the security organization’s first-ever commitment outside of Europe.
2004 (January) – A new constitution is adopted that follows input from nearly 500,000 Afghans. It calls for a president and two Vice Presidents, but the office of prime minister is removed. It also calls for equality of women.
2004 (October) – Presidential elections are held. More than 10.5 million Afghans register to vote and Karzai is elected with 55 percent of the vote, defeating 17 other presidential candidates.
2005 – The nation holds its first parliamentary elections in more than 30 years.
2006 – Amid fighting between Taliban and al-Qaida fighters and the Afghan government forces, NATO expands its peacekeeping operation to the southern portion of the country. After the forces take over from American-led troops, Taliban fighters launch a bloody wave of suicide attacks and raids against the international troops.
2007 – The Afghan government and NATO confirm that Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah was killed during a U.S.-led operation.
2008 – The international community pledges $15 billion in aid to Afghanistan at a donors’ conference in Paris, while President Karzai promises to fight corruption in the government.
2009 – President Barack Obama announces a new strategy for the Afghanistan war that would dispatch more military and civilian trainers to the country, in addition to adding 17,000 more combat troops. The strategy also includes assistance to Pakistan in its fight against militants.
2010 – President Obama accepts General McChrystal’s resignation as the top commander in Afghanistan, and nominates General David Petraeus as his replacement.
2011 (May 2) – U.S. forces overtake a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a major victory for Americans.
2012 – President Karzai calls for American forces to leave Afghan villages and pull back to their bases after a U.S. soldier kills 16 Afghan civilians inside their homes.
2013 – The Afghan army takes over all military and security operations from NATO forces.
2014 – Ashraf Ghani becomes president of Afghanistan in September after two rounds of voting, claims of election fraud, and a power-sharing agreement with main rival Abdullah Abdullah.
2014 (December) – NATO officially ends its combat mission in Afghanistan. U.S.-led NATO troops remain to train and advise Afghan forces.

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Danny Burke ’19

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