Recognized as the “Empire of Afghanistan” on August 19, 1919.
Afghanistan ironically marks its Independence Day today, though this is hardly the first time in its history that Afghanistan has done so. For the second time now, the Taliban is but the latest in a historical string of oppressive rulers to bring despair to the people of this central Asian nation.
A long history of conflict.
The earliest recorded history of the area today called Afghanistan goes back to the 6th century BCE when a Persian dynasty ruled until about the middle of the 4th century BCE when they were defeated by Alexander the Great. The nomadic Kushan people ruled from the end of the 3rd century BCE until the 3rd century CE. From then until the 7th century CE the region was fragmented and under the control of another Persian empire.
Islam comes to the region.
Arab Muslims began to take control of the area following the Battle of Qadisiya in 637 CE and then began to conquer and convert the local tribes over the next century. A variety of Islamic dynasties ruled over Afghanistan until 1220 CE when the Mongol empire conquered Central Asia under Genghis Khan. The Great Khan’s descendants ruled until early in the 16th century when Persian and Indian rulers would contest control until the mid-1700’s when indigenous Pashtuns called the Durrani took over. They would rule until the late 1970s when communist factions took over amidst an internal struggle for control within the Durranis.
The Soviet Invasion.
In late December 1979, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev ordered 80,000 troops into Afghanistan in an effort to help prop up communist Afghan leader Babrak Karmal who was under threat from a tribal insurgency.
For the next decade, the Soviets would have their hands full against the US-backed mujahadeen, thanks in large part to one of its most talented field commanders, the great Ahmad Shah Massoud. Making effective use of the difficult terrain and Stinger ground-launched anti-aircraft missiles, the mujahadeen were able to frustrate the mighty Soviet Red Army, forcing them to withdraw in 1989. Thus ended what would become known as the Soviet Union’s Vietnam.
Enter the Taliban.
What followed was more conflict as a civil war erupted between the new government and the various mujahadeen factions, who were also fighting amongst each other for control. Then, in 1996, a fundamentalist Islamic group made up of religious students that were known as the Taliban would come out on top and seize power.
September 11th, 2001.
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on American soil, al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden became the most wanted man on the planet, and he was a guest of the Taliban, who were refusing US demands that they immediately hand him over. In November of 2001, the US led an invasion of Afghanistan in an attempt to capture the Saudi terrorist, however, he and the Taliban managed to escape to neighbouring Pakistan.
The Mayor of Kabul.
Afghan leaders selected the US-backed moderate Hamid Karzai to lead a provisional government in December of 2001. A new constitution was ratified by regional leaders in a Loya Jirga, or constituent council, in early 2004, and later that year Karzai was officially elected President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in a landslide victory. Karzai would gradually begin to fall from favour in Afghanistan as economic problems and corruption would plague his administration.
He would also begin to lose favour among his American supporters following his calls for US troops to leave Afghan villages after a soldier went on a rampage, killing 16 innocent civilians in their own homes. There would also be doubts as to how much control Karzai actually held over the country, with many people referring to him mockingly as the “Mayor of Kabul”.
Corrupt governance plagues the country.
Afghans would head to the polls again in 2014, this time selecting Ashraf Ghani over the well-known one-time Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the preferred candidate of the United States, who would ultimately enter into a power-sharing agreement with Ghani. While he has fans outside of Afghanistan, it has been widely rumoured that Dr. Abdullah isn’t as popular at home, which is likely due to his alleged corruption.
Back to the Taliban.
After making a return and completely embarrassing the United States and its Allies, the Taliban paraded some of the $7.1 Billion American Dollars worth of equipment they received as a housewarming gift from the fleeing foreign army. Not only did Joe Biden fail to save those who were left behind, but he also provided the Taliban with all the means in the world to hunt them down and kill them too.
My hope is that Afghanistan will one day be well and truly independent, however, I honestly can’t see this happening any time in the foreseeable future. The only choices they seem to have had essentially come down to either extreme fundamentalists or the greedy and corrupt.
There is one group of Afghans who are independent now though, and it is made up of the millions of members of the Afghan diaspora across the globe who have managed to escape to freedom. To them, I say Happy Independence Day.