The Creation of Afghanistan


By Avesta Aria 



In 1747, Afghanistan was created by Ahmad Shah Abdali, who was a member of the Popalzay tribe and an ethnic Pashtun or Afghan.

Mir Ways Hotaki (1709-1738)

Although in 1709, Mir Ways, who was the tribal chief of the Hotaki tribe, tried to establish a government and managed to seize all of South Afghanistan from the Safavid Empire. Nadir Shah Afshar, the king of the Safavid Empire managed to recapture southern Afghanistan in a few short attacks and re-unite it with the Persian Empire.

Ahmad Shah Durrani (1747-1772)

In 1747, Nadir Shah Afshar was assassinated and the Safavid Empire became absent of a leader. People began to establish small dynasties across the empire.  This was when Afghanistan was re-established and the former governor of Mazandaran, Ahmad Khan became elected as the new king by mostly Pashtun tribal elders. He later changed his name to ‘Ahmad Shah Durrani’ in imitation of his royal title ‘Dur e Durran’.

As the Persian and Mughal Empire slowly began to fall apart, Durrani was able to take advantage of this situation and pursue a career on expanding Afghanistan. The new Afghanistan became very successful under Durrani’s rule and stayed the dominant regional power for many decades.  At its height the empire extended from Amu Darya to the Oman Sea and from Khorasan to the Ganges plain.

However Ahmad Shah Durrani’s policy of creating a Pan-pashtun empire backfired on him and unity throughout the empire became fragile. There were constant uprisings in the North as many non-pashtun people detested Durrani’s nationalistic policy which alienated them from the empire.

In 1761, Durrani’s army defeated the Maratha confederation in Paniput. This defeat left the Indian army very weak. The British took advantage of this weakness and seized Bengal which opened Asia's doors to the British.

Ahmad Shah Durrani’s continual attacks on India resulted in a new group of Indians being created named ‘Sikhs’. Much of Lahore was surrendered back to these Sikhs.

Some Afghans are proud of Durrani's attack and seizure of India. They call it a demonstration of Afghanistan's power and strength. However it is important to note, that both Ahmad Shah Durrani and the British attacked India.

Britain's attacks on India have left it a peaceful country. Britain is now a country that has offered immigrants from around the world safety and an asylum.

However, Durrani's attacks on India have left Afghanistan a war torn country, where its citizens have been forced to become immigrants all over the world.

The outcome of the attack on India is contrastingly different for each nation. Therefore I believe Afghanistan's attack on India should not be regarded as a triumph for us. It was a savage and greedy attack by a king which has had no benefit to the people of Afghanistan.

Timur Shah (1772-1793)

After Ahmad Shah Durrani’s death, his son Timur Shah, who had been the former governor of Herat, became king. Unlike his father, Timur Shah opted to gain support from the Tajiks and Qizilbash because they were more urbanised and had strong influence in the government. Similarly, he changed the capital from Qandahar to Kabul. However by doing this, the Pashtun tribes felt alienated and after Timur Shah’s death Afghanistan was home to a period turmoil, tribalism and palace revolutions.

Timur Shah had fathered 34 sons from 14 different wives, and each one fought to become the new king of Afghanistan. The political attacks and seizures of the late 18th and earth 19th century meant the empire was not united, thus many parts disintegrated. Western Khorasan was lost in 1795, Bokhara was lost to the Uzbeks and the khanate of Kalat became independent. Sikh soldiers managed to re-gain Multan, Kashmir and Peshawar. These were considered as the ‘rich’ provinces and without them the Afghan empire weakened.

Dost Mohammad (1819-1863)

In 1836, Dost Mohammad became the new ‘shah’ of Afghanistan and took the royal title ‘amir al-mo menin’. His main aim throughout his reign was to recapture ‘rich’ provences of India to make Afghanistan prosperous again. However India's geopolitical situation had changed from the last century and it was now a colony of Britain.

The English became interested in the affairs of Afghanistan in the 19th century. 1808, when Mount Elphinston was sent to Peshawar, marks the beginning of direct contact between Afghanistan and Britain. The years 1835 and 1837 are known as the start of the Anglo-Russian ‘great game’ in central Asia. For a long period of time after this, Afghanistan lost all dominating power and became the object of European Imperialism. 

The English detested Dost Mohhamad’s ambition on conquering India; therefore their first move in ‘the great game’ was to create a policy of destabilising the king. The destabilisation process involved replacing Dost Mohammad with Shah Shoja. In order to capture India, Dost Mohammad proclaimed a ‘jehad’ against the Sikhs. The Sikhs began to invade Afghanistan and capture Qandahar and Kabul, Dost Mohammad surrendered his throne to Shah Shoja. This was when the English actually governed Afghanistan in the person of William Macnaghten. From these chains of events, we can see that if Dost Mohammad had not greedily attempted to capture India, British intervention with Afghanistan could have been avoided.

Once, Shah Shoja became king, Dost Mohammad and his son, began to harass the English communication lines. This resulted in an uprising in Kabul, where A.Burnes and Macnaughten became assassinated. When the English realised their occupation of Kabul was becoming costly, they retaliated to Qandahar and Jalalabad. Their retreat from Kabul led to the destruction of 16,000 humiliated and starving soldiers. Subsequently the English withdrew from Afghanistan and it put an end to the Anglo-Afghan War I. Once the English left, and Shah Shoja was left unprotected, he was put to death on 5th April 1842.

Dost Mohammad returned to Afghanistan and became king again with the same ambitions as his previous reign. He re-claimed Peshawar and the rich provinces of India. Surprisingly, Dost Mohammad also sought a British alliance and obtained the Peshawar Treaty (1855). The treaty proclaimed respect for Afghanistan’s and Britain’s territory in Asia and proclaimed them as ‘friends’ of each other. By 1857, Dost Mohammad had reconstituted an ‘Afghan’ state that has stayed pretty much the same until today. On 9th June 1863, an Afghanistan had been created however unity and control throughout the empire was unstable. It was left for Dost Mohammad’s successors to try fixing these problems.

Sher Ali (1868-1879)

With the help of the English, Sher Ali managed to rein Afghanistan from 1868 to 1878. However, the geography of the region was still in the hands of England and Russia. In 1872, a British mission, dealt with a territorial dispute in Sistan region between Persia and Afghanistan by marking boundaries,  that did not satisfy either neighbour. In 1873, the English and Russian gave each other a zone of influence in Central Asia, and Afghanistan was in the English sphere.

In 1874, with the Tories coming into power in England, the British wanted to directly control the politics of Afghanistan by sending a permanent diplomatic mission to Kabul. However the Afghans declined. In 1875, a Muslim agent of Russia negotiated a Russo-Afghan treaty. The English urged to also get a treaty, however when it was left unanswered, the British dispatched 30,000 men to Jalalabad and Qandahar. Sher Ali knew that his Kabul was at risk of invasion therefore he left his son Mohammad Ya-qub in charge, and went to Bactria hoping to receive aid from the Russians. The Russians offered him nothing and Sher Ali died a few months later. 

Mohammad Yaqub (1879)

In 1879, Mohammad Yaqub, the new Amir, pathetically signed the Treaty of Gandamak. Humiliatingly, this meant that the Amir would receive sums of money and would not be attacked in exchange for total control of Afghanistan’s foreign policy to the British.  The treaty also signed for a permanent English resident in Kabul. The first holder of this post, Sir Louis Cavagnari, was assassinated 47 days after his arrival. On 12 October 1879, General Roberts was commissioned to Kabul, and he established military government in Afghanistan under his own supervision. Afghanistan was then turned to a ‘buffer-state’ or a barrier between the British India and the Russian Turkestan.

Abdul Rahman Khan (1880-1901)

In 1880, Abdul Rahman Khan was offered the throne by the British and after his acceptance; he was officially declared the ‘Amir’ of Afghanistan. On 22nd July of the same year, the new Amir signed the Gandamak Treaty.

During this time, Ayyub Khan, the son of Sher Ali was based in Herat and had a strong army. Ayyub Khan, with his 25,000 men managed to defeat the English army in southern Afghanistan. However, Khan was soon defeated in Qandahar by General Roberts. After this victory, the English evacuated all its army from Afghanistan, except for those in Qandahar.

Adbul Rahman Khan was a dictator, who wanted unity in his kingdom and for the central power to be obeyed by all. There were many revolts during his reign however Abdul Rahman Khan managed to overcome these by 1892. In 1884, he managed to re-occupy the Maymana Kingdom. By 1893, with some difficulty Khan finally managed to seize Hazarajat and forced some Hazara’s to exile. In 1896, Abdul Rahman Khan captured Kafiristan and ferociously converted the Kafirs to Sunni Islam. After their forced conversion, their state was named Nuristan.

Many agree that Abdul Rahman Khan’s success in capturing many provinces was due largely to financial arms he received from England because of the Gandamak Treaty. Khan also deployed many Pashtun’s to Northern AFghanistan, where he offered them generous land grants. His unjust aim was to ‘Pashtunise’ northern Afghanistan where there was presence of many different ethnics and cultures.

Apart from expanding his kingdom, and forcefully pashtunising northern Afghanistan, Abdul Rahman Khan also recruited English and Indian specialists to construct civil and military industries. English doctors opened the first public clinic in 1895. However his efforts lacked logic because no attention was paid to educating ordinary people. Abdul Rahman Khan died in October 1901, leaving Afghanistan a stronger state, with recognised borders for the first times in its history. The ‘Durrand Line’ had been formed between Afghanistan and India which meant Afghanistan lost control of some important routes and the Pashtun people had essentially been split in two by a border.

Habibullah (1901-1919)

Abdul Rahman Khan chose his eldest son, Habibullah as his successor in 1901. In 1905, Habibullah renewed the personal agreement between the amir of Afghanistan and the British government. One of Habibullah’s most important political act was he granted general amnesty to all exiles. The meant that a conservative Kabul now turned into a centre of intellectual life, with two new sets of idea’s coming from the exiles. 

The first wave of ideas was from the Tarzi family, who had previously been in exile in Damascus. One returning to Afghanistan, they brought Ottoman advisors and doctors to Afghanistan. The Tarzi family established a group of ‘Young Afghan’ who were Pan-Turk and Anti-British. They played an important role in the appearance of a modernist Islam in Asia at the start of the 20th century. 

The second wave of ideas was from the Mohammdzi, who had returned to Afghanistan from India. They brought about Anglo-Indian ideas like golf, photography, cars and alcohol to the country.

Habibullah, being a man of weak character, could not choose between these two new ideas from the exiled Afghans. Habibullah was later assassinated.


Amanallah (1919-29)

Amanallah became the new amir of Afghanistan in 1919.

One of his first aims was to demand full power in all foreign affairs. After the British hesitated to grant him this, Amanallah called for a jihad and this became known as the 3rd Anglo Afghan War. The Afghan forces, aided by the Waziri’s attacked the Thal garrison. The Indian army advanced towards Jalalabad and launched aerial raids on Kabul. This aggression lasted for a month.  As the British had just come out of an armistice in 1918 after a World War, the idea of another war did not appeal to them. This was when in August 1919, the treaty of Rawalpindi was signed which ended the ‘rein’ the British government had on Afghanistan.

To Be Continued....

20/08/2010 = 29 Mordaad 1389