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Thursday, May 10, 2007

After Afghan casualties in NATO air-strike, Kabul considers talks with Taliban

HISTORY IN THE NEWS: DEVOTED TO THE DEEP ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.

TAG: In the wake of civilian deaths in NATO air strikes, the Afghan government's move to open talks with the Taliban is only the latest stage in an internal struggle to increase representation of Afghanistan's historic ruling people, the Pashtuns- who are presently disenfranchised and bearing the brunt of the fighting.

IN THE NEWS: After US warplanes kill 21 civilians during NATO operations in Sangin, Helmand Province, the upper house of the Karzai government passes a motion for negotiation with the Taliban, a ceasefire and a date for withdrawal of NATO troops. Althought the motion still has to be passed by the lower house, President Karzai himself favours some negotiation with the Taliban.

IN A NUTSHELL: The Pashtun people, who have long considered themselves to be Afghanistan's historic rulers, remain underrepresentd in President Karzai's NATO-backed government. The Pashtun region of the south happens also to be the main recruiting ground for the Taliban, most of whom are themselves Pashtun. Whenever NATO troops bungle, it is usually Pashtuns that suffer. So, behind the religious cause of the Taliban, is a larger, historic nationalist cause, the cause of the Pashtun people. The Karzai goverment has long been trying to find ways to placate and recognize Pashtun Afghanistan.

THEN AND NOW: It was the Pashtuns who resisted the British in 1838, 1875 and in 1919, when Britain tried to get control of Afghanistan in order to block Russian influence in South Asia and British India. All three times, Pashtun resistance prevailed and the British were forced to relent. Whether dealing with Afghan Shahs or rebels, the British were almost always dealing with Pashtuns.


RECENT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS: In the early 1990s, when the Afghan civil war that followed the end of the Soviet ccupation was at its height, Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, decided to use a Pashtun relgious militia, together with the cause of Pashtun Afghan nationalism to unite and pacify neighbouring Afghanistan. That miltia, which became the Taliban, marched from Quetta, Pakistan, across the border to Kandahar, the ancient Pashtun capital of Afghanistan, where it set up its headquarters. The Taliban emerged victorious in the civil war, ruled Afghanistan and hosted the Islamist terrorist group, Al Qaeda. After 9/11, the US and its western alllies invaded Afghanistan with the help of Afghan Uzbek and Tajik tribesmen. The first elected government was headed by Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun, but the important posts were handed out to Uzbek and Tajik warlords as rewards, leaving the Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group as well as Afghanistan historic rulers, with only a small share of the power.The Taliban began a gradual come-back in 2005, expanding its numbers through recruitment in the Pashtun region which straddles the border between Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. President Karzai began, tentatively, to negotiate with the Taliban, offering them government positions. By 2006, however, Taliban infiltration of southern Afghanistan had escalated. Through a combination of fear and favours, they continued to recruit local Pashtun tribes.

In August of 2006, the US operation, Enduring Freedom, which fought mostly in eastern Afghanistan, handed over command to NATO’s operation Mountain Thrust. In August and September, Canada led Operation Medusa against large concentrations of Taliban in Kandahar province, while Britain tried to clear the Taliban out of the province of Helmand, to the west. Though Canada appeared to be more successful, both operations were hampered by insufficient troop numbers, lack of funds and difficulty in gaining the trust of the local population, which is mostly Pashtun. By January, 2007, there was a stalemate. Since then, in Helmand, British operations to hold and pacify Musa Qala and Sangin have largely failed. The largely Pashtun population has been discouraged by continuing civilian casualties and damage to livelihood, infrastructure and property.

THE DISTANT BACKGROUND: In 1709, when the Persian Safavid dynasty controlled Afghanistan, the Pashtun chieftain, Mirwais Kahn Hotak, rallied his Ghilzai tribe around Kandahar (the Pashtuns are a people, defined by the Pashto language; they are divided into tribes), drove out the Persians and succeeded as ruler of Kandahar. He died in 1715

In 1720-22, Mirwais' son, Mahmud Hotak turned the tables and invaded Persia, overthrowing the Persian Safavids under Shah Hussein. Hotak made himself Shah at Isfahan before dying insane in 1724. By 1729, Nadir Shah of Persia had expelled all the Pashtun Hotaki Afghans.
It was Nadir Shah who turned the table this time, invading Afghanistan and northern India in 1738, his empire lasting only until ssassination in 1747.

Afghan retribution against Persia was to arrive in the form of the Durrani, the great Pashtun clan that is still powerful in Afghanistan. In 1747 a Pashtun, Ahmad Shah (of the Saddozai family of the Abdali clan) happened to be commander of the Persian Shah, Nadir's body guard. He participated in the Shah's assassination, took the name "Durrani", meaning 'Pearl of the Age' and established the Pashtun Durrani dynasty of Afghanistan and united the tribes of southern Afghanistan around their common link: the Pashtun language. He theninvaded the Gangetic Plain of India, conquering and weakening the last Moghul emperor Aurangzeb.

Under the Duranni, the modern Afghan nation began to take shape. Ahmad Shah's empire extended from near the Caspian Sea to India and entailed the final defeat of the Mahrattas of India at Panipat in 1761.

After Ahmad Shah's death in 1777, his son, Timur Shah, moved the Durrani capital from Kandahar to Kabul. But the Durrani empire weakened under Timur and disintegrated under the rule of his son, Zaman.

Under a Pashtun chieftain of the Barakzai clan , Dost Mohammed, (1826-63), the heart of the Afghan state was revived. Though the Pashtun Shahs were weak, the tribes were sufficiently organized to end British occupation twice in the nineteenth century.

By the World War I, Britain had little control in Afghanistan but it did have its garrisons along the Durand Line, protecting British India. The Afghans took advantage of Britian's distraction by the war in Europe to rally the Pashtun tribes which formed their own 'discrete' nation on both sides of the border. In response, in 1919, the British launched another invasion. Afghanistan's Pashtun leader, Amanullah, used Pashtun tribesmen from both sides of the Afghan-Indian border (the Durand line which is the current Afghan-Pakistan border) to fight the British to a standstill in what became known as the Afghan War of Independence. In that same year, the British recognized an intependent Afghanistan by the Treaty of Kabul.

Amanullah was made king in 1926 and before his death in 1929, he had put the country on the road to modernization. His successor, Nadir Shah, resisted Amanullah's westernizing reforms but managed to hold Afghanistan's quarrelsome tribes together in national unity- maintaining the state as what it had always been- a loose tribal confederation dominated by Pashtuns. Tribal conflicts, however, resulted in his assassination in 1933. In 1947, due to the overlapping Pashtun tribal 'nation' between Afghanistan and the newly created Pakistan, Afghanistan demanded that Britain's 'Durand' line could no longer be the legitimate border and supported, instead, the creation of an autonomous 'Pashtunistan'.

Nadir Shah's son, Zahir Shah, used his country’s geopolitical position to play off the United States and the Soviet Union against one another, extracting support from both and embarking on further, gradual modernization. He is responsible for bringing Afghanistan into the 20th century, the very process which divides Afghanistan today. He gave the country its first constitution in 1964 and its first elections in 1965. The move to modern, secular republicanism was accelerated with his overthrow in 1973 by one of his ministers, Mohammed Daoud who declared himself president. The tendency toward increasing secularization extended to a Marxist movement which overthrew and assassinated Daoud in 1978. The new president, Babrak Kemal, caught in a political feud with anti-Muslim Marxist radicals, asked for Soviet intervention. The Soviet Union, fearing that his opponents could cause a severe Islamic reaction, occupied Afghanistan. But instead of being placated, Afghan Muslims formed the Mujehadeen nationalist, revolutionary movement to expel the Soviet Union, which they succeeded in doing in 1989. The Mujehadeen were a loose alliance mainly between ethnic Pashtun, Tajik and Uzbek warlords. With Pashtuns cleaving to a sense of their historic right to rule Afghanistgan, and all the warlords vying anyway for personal power, a bloody civil war among he Mujehadeen factions ended with Pakistan’s decision to impose stability by creating the Taliban.

THE REMOTE BACKGROUND. One of the earliest records of a ‘national movement’ is Pashtun resistance to Alexander the Great, whose armies occupied the area in 330 BC. His Seleucid successors barely held onto the region. By the 3rd century BC, the Greek colony of Bactria, in the Oxus region had seceded to form a kingdom which included northern Afghanistan. The Bactrians were succeeded, again from the north, by the Central Asian Kushans who, responding to pressures from China, pushed downward into the Afghan region and formed an empire extending southward into northern India. This southeastern movement from Central Asia, down through Afghanistan to India would be a two-way route of invasions, including Pashtun national invasions, for centuries to come. Afghanistan's place as a link between India and Central Asia would result in its gradual empowerment. As the Kushans declined in the fifth century AD, the Sassinid Persians managed to rule Afghanistan.

The occupation of the area by Islam in the late 7th century was, perhaps, the most successful. Despite successive occupation by Mongols and by the Uzbek Tamerlane (both, again, from the north) in the middle ages, the area remained Muslim. Around 1020, Mahmoud of Ghazni, a Turkic Afghan warlord working for the Abassids of Baghdad, formed his own South-Asian empire whose influence stretched from the Tigirs to the Indus. In the 16th century, Babur, again from the north in Uzbekistan set up his own empire in Afghanistan. This became the great Moghul Empire which included northern India.

With the gradual disintegration if the Moghul empire, the first thing resembling an Afghan ‘nation’ rose in the 18th century with the growth of a Pashtun nationalist sensibility around Kandahar and directed against Persian rule. The result was the Afghan, Pashtun Durrani empire which extended, like that of the Moghuls, into India. It was a decaying Durrani dynasty that the British confronted in their attempts to control Afghanistan as a buffer state against Russia in the 19th century.

CROSS-CENTURY SUMMARY: Poor in natural resources but vital in its geopolitical situation, any state in the Afghan region has had to survive by playing larger powers off against one another. Conversely, invading powers have used the resource-poor Afghan region primarly as a political buffer zone. In turn, the only way an Afghan state could survive and prosper was by expanding. Though the last northern invader to be based in Afghanistan was Babur, founder of the Moghuls, pressure from the north, which began with the Sakas in ancient times has continued to be exerted by Russia, in its imperial period, onward to outright occupation by the Soviet Union. From the north, Mountain passes through eastern Afghanistan have also provided a route for invasion between historically expansionist Central Asia and wealthy northern India, giving room for Mauryan and Moghul ambitions as well as those of Afghanistan’s own Durrani Empire and British India.

To this day, Central Asian influence has distinguished a Tajik and Uzbek northern Afghan population from the Pashtuns of the south. The old Northwest-Southeast axis is still reflected in Afghanistan’s rivalry with its southeastern neighbour, Pakistan, and friendship based on historical links with India. The current US alliance with India and intervention in Afghanistan has increased tensions in the region by compromising and isolating Pakistan. On the east-west axis, Afghanistan was a vital trade link on the Silk Road as well as the meeting-place of Indian and Persian cultures. Afghanistan has as often as not been part of the Persian empire and their history of alternate rivalry and friendship persists in Iran’s concern for Afghanistan’s Shia Hazarra minority and its wary dislike of the Sunni Taliban. With the US invasion, Afghanistan continues, sadly, as the site of millennia of foreign intervention.

PRESENT SITUATION : Afghanistan continues to be weakened by two major dilemmas: decades of war and underdevelopment and by Pakistan’s reluctance and inability to clear the Taliban from its own border region and prevent them from moving into Afghanistan. These problems, along with the Taliban’s survival on the opium trade are deeply historical. The cultivation of the poppy is thousands of years old as are the Pashtun-speaking tribes who populate a single area of western Pakistan and eastern and southern Afghanistan. The Pashtun-speaking region is so coherent, culturally and historically, that it has been named “Pashtunistan” to distinguish it from the Tajik and Uzbek peoples of northern Afghanistan. Over the centuries, the Pashtuns have had Kandahar as their capital and still look on power exerted from Kabul with suspicion. For NATO, a foreign military alliance, it is going to be a difficult task to persuade ordinary Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan to participate in a modern Afghanistan ruled from Kabul and shared with the northern tribes that helped the US beat the Pashtun Taliban in 2002.

PLUS CA CHANGE: With the break-up of the Greek, Seleucid empire in the last centuries BC, Central Asian tribes gathered to the north, eyeing the vulnerable Afghan region. Around 100 AD, the Kushan tribes descended to occupy northern Afghanistan, while a resurgent Persia, in the form of Parthia held onto southern Afghanistan. This division between a culturally Persian south and west and a Central Asian north and east has endured into modern times. In 2002, the Northern Alliance, made up of Afghan Uzbek and Tajik tribes helped the US defeat the Persian-influenced Pashtun Taliban of the south. In Kabul, President Karzai still has the difficult task of balancing northern and southern tribal interests in his government.

CURIOSITY: In 1020, Mahmud of Ghazni, a Turkish, Central Asian warlord in Eastern Afghanistan on the edge of Islam’s Abbasid empire, hired himself out to the Abbasids. Using a Turkish slave army he extended Abbasid influence to the point of forming his own autonomous empire whose influence stretched from Mesopotamia to the valley of the Indus.

HISTORY OF AFGHANISTAN: CHRONOLOGICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

The Iranians

2200 BC: the original or Indoeuropean migrants move from Bactria (present day Uzbekistan), down through Afghanistan into the Middle East.

1500 BC: Iranians of the Bactrian and 'Afghan' regions are at the source of a second great Indoeuropean migration.

670 BC: the Sakas, an Iranian sub-group form in Bactria and to the south in the Afghan region.

The Persians

560 BC- the Medes from an Empire in northern Persia, north of the Babylonian empire. The Median Empire includes the Afghan region.

400-300- conquests of the Median, Achaeminid Kings, Cyrus the Great and Darius I create the Persian empire. Darius II conquers the eastern and northeastern Afghan and Bactrian region. In Persia, the Afghan region is known as Drangiana, Satrapy XIV.

The Greek Seleucids

330 BC: Alexander the Great of Macedon, having defeated Darius II, enters Herat in western Afghanistan and in southern Afghanistan, founds a city in his own name, Kandahar. He has to contend with determined resistance by the Pashtuns.

330 BC- 200 AD- after his death, the Seleucid Greek successors to Alexander break away from the Antigonids and the Ptolemys and rule the Middle Eastern region. They barely manage to hang on to the extreme northeastern, Afghan region, known as Drangiana in the south and Bactria in the north.

-the break-up of the Seleucid Empire.

300 BC- Changragupta Maurya extends an empire of the central Ganges up to Kabul.

321-185 BC- the Mauryan empire- the subcontinent’s first state system which stretches from Afghanistan to southern India

220 BC- Greek colonists in Bactria begin to secede, forming the kingdom of Bactria which includes northern Afghanistan.

260 BC- (circa) under the influence of the great Indian emperor, Ashoka, Buddhism becomes the religion of the Afghan-Bactrian region.

The Yue Che/Kushan People

176 BC- the Chinese Yue-Chi are forced westward by the Xiongnu of western China and press on Bactria from the north, as the Sakas press from the northwest.

74 BC- the eastern Seleucid empire breaks up into the Parthian Empire in eastern Persia. Afghanistan is divided between Parthia in the south and the Yue Chi in the North.

67 AD- the Kushan people, having emerged from the Yue Chi, form in force on the northern edges of Afghanistan.

-the Kushans, caught between pressure from the Hsiang-Nu Chinese in the east and Persia in the west, invade Afghanistan and Sind before conquering part of northern India. The route southeast from central Asia to the Gangetic plain of northern India will be used for repeated invasions, the invaders always coming from the Afghan region and the north.

140 AD- the Kushan Empire extends into northern India. Afghanistan is divided between the Kushan Empire on the North and the Parthian empire to the south.

200-400 AD- the Kushan Empire breaks up into principalities.

Sassinid Persia.

484- the White Huns or Hephthalites from Central Asia invade Afghanistan and Persia.

500-630- the Sassinids rule Persia. Afghanistan is part of the Eastern Military Region, known as Kwarazm.

561- the Hephthalites are driven out of Afghanistan by the Sassinids and the Central Asian Turks.

-the Turks are the new opponents on the northeast of the Sassinid empire.

Islam

684- the Muslim conquest of Kandahar. The Umayyads attempt to extend religious, political and economic control into Central Asia.

751- with the defeat of the Chinese by the Umayyads at the battle of Talas in Turkestan, Central Asia comes within the sphere of Islam.

800- Western Afghanistan is the Khorasan region of the Abbasid Empire. Eastern Afghanistan, including Kabul and Kandahar is in the non-Islamic tribal region of the Indus. There is already a circular trade route anticipating the modern ring road from Kandahar to Kabul in the east to Balkh in the north and to Herat in the west.

1020- Mahmud of Ghazni (971-1030), an East Afghanistan Turkic warlord and mercenary for the Abbasid Muslims, was granted autonomy, as 'Sultan' to form his own dynasty. He conquers an empire stretching from Kurdistan to the Indus.

-Mahmoud's capaigns were against the Shia Fatimids and non-Mislims like Buddhists and Hindu India. Had a reputation as a bloodthirsty tyrant.

1030- Mahmoud of Ghazni does of malaria.

The Mongols

1221- the Mongols of Gengis Khan conquer Muslim Kandahar and take Afghanistan before moving south and west.

1350- collapse of the Mongol Empire.

Tamerlane

1399-1425- Tamerlane ('Timur the Lame'), an Uzbek descendant of Babur, invades from Samarkand and takes Afghanistan, going on to conquer and briefly to hold, much of the Middle East.

1425-1506- Descendants of Tamerlane rule an empire in Turkestan and Iran.

Babur and the Moghuls

1483- the Muslim conqueror Babur fails to establish a kingdom in his native Uzbekistan and instead takes Herat and Kandahar, making them the centre of his future empire.

1526- Babur, the first Moghul, invades India, takes the Gangetic plain and founds the Moghul Empire in India.

1526-1761- the Moghuls rule India.

1502-1720- the Safavid kings rule Persia.

1504- Kabul is annexed as a Moghul military and administrative area.

1545- Kandahar becomes a Moghul military and economic base.

1540-1545- Babur’s son Humayun loses control to the Afghan chieftan Sher Shah.

1546- battle of Panipat: Humayun’s son Akbar the Great recovers the area from the Afghans, extending it to Deccan.

1700-1800- the British consolidate their trading power in India through the East India company, taking advantage of the weakened Aurangzeb and make India a British colony.

1704- the Persians, in an attempt to settle a tribal war between the Abdali (Durrani) and the Ghilzai Pashtuns sent a Georgian, Gurgin, to govern Kandahar.

1709- Mirwais Kahn Hotak, Pashtun rallies the Afghan Ghilzais of Kandahar against the Persian Safavids and defeats them. He kills Gurgin, the Persian governor of Kandahar and becomes the city's mayor.

1715- Death of Mirwais.

1720-22- Pashtun Afghans of the Kandahar region under Mahmud Hotak, son of Mirwais, invade and overthrow the Persian Safavids under Shah Hussein. Mir Mahmud Hotak declares himself Shah in Isfahan.

1724- Mahmud Hotak dies insane.

1729- Nadir Shah of Persia expels the Hotaki Afghans.

1738- Nadir Shah invades Afghanistan and northern India, his empire lasting only until his assassination in 1747.

The Durrani Empire

1747- Ahmad Shah (of the Saddozai family, Abdali clan) commander of Nadir's body guard, takes the name Durrani, meaning 'Pearl of the Age' and establishes the Durrani dynasty of Afghanistan, unites varied tribes in southern Afghanistan around their common link: the Pashtun language. He invades the Gangetic plain of India conquering and weakening the last Moghul emperor Aurangzeb. The modern Afghan nation begins to take shape. His empire extends from near the Caspian Sea to India.

1761- Ahmad Shah defeats the Marathas of India at Panipat.

-Ahmad rules Afghanistan through a federal assembly of tribal chiefs, a form of rule that last until the end of the monarchy in 1973.

1777- death of Ahmad Shah Durrani.

1777-1799- Timur Shah, son of Ahmad, moves the Durrani capital from Kandahar to Kabul. The Durrani empire weakens under Timur and under Timur's son, Zaman.

1826-1863- Afhganistan revives under a Pashtun chieftain of the Barakzai clan , Dost Mohammed. The modern state of Afghanistan begins to take shape.

The British.

1830s- to protect her interests in India from the new Russian empire to the north, Britain uses diplomacy and espionage to keep Afghanistan as a friendly buffer state between India and Russia.

1838- After Shah Mahmud of Kabul favours his Russian ambassador while imprisoning the British ambassador, Britain sends a force from India and invades Kabul.

1847- After finding it too difficult to hold Afghanistan in the face of the Pashtuns, British forces retreat with heavy losses to Jalalabad, before retreating back to India.

1876- Baluchistan becomes a British protectorate.

1878-1880- Second Afghan War- after the struggle, Britain fails to control the country and withdraws its forces.

1879- despite the withdrawal of British forces, Afghanistan forced to concede theoretical sovereignty to the British.

1880-1901- Abdur Rahman, Emir of Afghanistan rules Afghanistan with British approval. A draconian, but effective ruler, he creates the country's first, highly centralized state.

1893- the Durand line forms the limit of British territorial expansion into the Pashtun territories of Afghanistan. The Pashtun region, which had once defined Afghanistan, is split by the new boundary with Afghanistan. Western Pakistan is ceded to British India.

1907- Britain and Russia work out a treaty defining separate spheres in influence in Persia with a British sphere of influence in Afghanistan.

King Amanullah

1919- the Third Afghan War. Pashtun tribes under Ananullah, on both sides of the Durand line, defeat the British. The British concede nationhood to Afghanistan by the Treaty of Kapubl. Amanullah attempts westernizing reforms.

1926. Amanullah is made king.

1929- King Amanullah, depending too much on tribes instead of an army, is forced to abdicate. He is succeeded briefly by Nadir Shah. He rolls back Amanullah's liberalizing reforms but succeeds in uniting Afghanistan despite tribal rebellions.

1933- Nadir Shah is assassinated as a result of a tribal dispute.

King Zahir Shah

1933- Nadir Shah is succeeded by his son, Zahir Shah.

1947- Britain agrees to the formation of an independent Pakistan, separate from India, with the Durand line remaining as the border between the two nations. The border still cuts through the region of the Pashtun people- despite Afghan claims on the entire Pashtun region, which includes much of the Baluchistan region of western Pakistan.

-Zahir Shah claims the Pathan (east Pashtun) state from Pakistan. Meanwhile, he extracts support from both the US and the Soviet Union.

1964- King Zahir Shah institutes a constitutional monarchy.

1965- Afghanistan holds its first elections.

The Afghan Republic.

1973- Zahir Shah is overthrown by his own Prime Minister, General Mohammed Daoud. Khan Declares himself president. He begins an unpopular policy of nationalization of industry.

1978- 28 April. The Kalq, (Armed Forces Revolutionary Council) a radical communist group overthrows Daoud and assassinates him.

The Soviet Invasion

1979- President Babrak Kemal emerges from in-fighting. Radical anti-Muslim Marixsts threaten to overthrow Kemal. At Kemal's request, the Soviet Union Invades Afghanistan.

1979-1989- the Afghan Mujehadeen mount powerful resistance against Soviet occupying forces.

1987- the Soviets install Afghan Communist president, Najibullah.

1989- the Soviet Occupation ends in defeat. Civil war begin among Afghan mujehadeen factions.

1992- President Najibullah resigns.

The Taliban.

1993- the Taliban, an ultra-Islamist religious student organization, intended to bring order to the anarchy in Afghanistan, is formed by Pakistani intelligence.

1994 -the Taliban cross into Afghanistan and take Kandahar

1996- the Taliban are victorious in the civil war and begin strict rule according to Shariah law. They are fully supported by Pakistan.

-Najibullah is murdered by the Taliban.

1997- former Saudi Mujehadeen leader Osama Bin Laden founds al Qaeda. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda become guests of the Taliban.

1999- the Taliban control most of the country.

9/11 and the US Invasion.

2001- Al Qaeda terrorists fly passenger jets into the twin towers in New York, killing 2,900 Americans.

2001-2002- US forces invade Afghanistan to rid the country of Al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors. The Americans link up with the 'Northern Alliance', former Mujehadeen of northern Afghanistan and kill or expel Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda forces.

2002- a UN-approved interim government under President Hamid Karzai is approved by tribal leaders.

2003- Western countries, under the United Nations pursue a program of democratization and reconstruction. Hamid karzai becomes Afghanistan's first president.

The Resurgence of the Taliban.

2005- resurgent Taliban return to Afghanistan from refuges along the mountainous Pakistan border.

2005- NATO forces begin to engage the Taliban in the west and US forces fight the re-emergent Taliban and Al Qaeda in the eastern Afghanistan. Both engage in programs to reconstruct the Afghan economy.

2005- September- Hamid Karzai is re-elected president of Afghanistan.

2006- July- NATO combat forces, mostly British and Canadian, take over from US command and with US support launch Operation Mountain Thrust to the clear the Taliban from southern Afghanistan.

2006- August-September- Canadian forces lead Operation Medusa, clearing the Taliban from the Panjwai district only 30 km from Kandahar, where the Canadians are based.

2006 December- January 2007- Canadians launch operation Falcon's Summit, clearing the Taliban, once again, from Kandahar.

2007- August- joint Loya Jirga held by Pakistan and Afghanistan in Kabul. The two nations agree to increased and coordinated efforts against the Taliban in the border regions.

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