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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Taliban Raids Kandahar Prison, Freeing 400 Insurgents.


“On the southwest, (the hills) lose themselves in the sandy desert of Registan, which wraps itself around the plain of Kandahar and forms another impassable barrier. But there is a break in these hills, a gate, as it were, to the great high road between Herat and India; and it is this gate which the fortress of kandahar so effecively guards, and to which it owes its strategic importance." -Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition.

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TAG: The Taliban campaign to recapture Kandahar is part of a strategy to open the way to retaking Kabul, but also a jihad to reclaim Afghanistan's holiest city, the ancestral, royal capital of the Pashtun people who form the core of Taliban support.


*330 BC - Alexander the Great founds a city at Kandahar.
*1709- Mirwais Kahn Hotak, Pashtun rallies the Pashtun Ghilzai tribes of Kandahar against the Persian Safavids and defeats them. He kills Gurgin, the Persian governor of Kandahar and becomes the city's mayor.
*-1747- Ahmad Shah Durrani re-takes Kandahar from Persians then takes Kabul. The modern Afghan nation begins to take shape. Durrani plans and builds the old city of Kandahar and rules Afghanistan through a federal assembly of tribal chiefs, a form of rule that would last until the end of the monarchy in 1973.
* Duranni travels to Samarkand (according to legend) where he obtains a holy relic, the cloak of Mohammed. The relic has been kept at Ahmad Shah Durrani's mausoleum in Kandahar which, since then, has been Afghanistan's holiest city.
*1994 -theTaliban cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan and take Kandahar, making it their base during the Afghan civil war. By making it their religious and political capital, the Taliban were in effect reclaiming the Pashtun legacy of the Duranni kings.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Kandahar occupied a no-man's land between the Islamic empires of Baghdad and Persia on the west and the Indian empires of the Moghuls and the British on the east. Though brief Afghan states and empires rose and fell in Kabul and Ghazni during the middle ages, the foundations of the modern Afghan state were laid in Kandahar in the early 18th century. The region around the city saw the unification of powerful Pashtun tribes. Gradually, they carved Afghanistan out of the eastern end of the Persian Safavid Empire and the western frontiers of India's Moghul domains. Kandahar was Afghanistan's traditional center until the capital was moved north to Kabul in the late 18th century. Historically and culturally Kandahar and Kabul have vied for the right to rule Afghanistan while looking at each others' regions almost as foreign countries. In the 19th century Kabul maintained control over Kandahar chiefly through military might, bribery, tax exemptions- and divide-and-conquer tribal deals.
Ruins of Old Kandahar.

IN A NUTSHELL: If the Taliban ever recaptured Kandahar, it would be the most important jewel in their crown for reasons which are cultural, religious and historical as well as strategic. Militarily, possession of Kandahar means control of the south and direct military access to Kabul along Highway One. Kandahar is also the capital of the south of Afghanistan and of the Pashtun people among whom the Taliban finds its recruits and whom it claims to represent in their grievances with Kabul. The city is home to the mausoleum of Pashtun founding monarch Ahmad Shah Durrani and it's in Kandahar that the cloak of Mohammed, which Durrani obtained from Samarkand, is kept as a relic. Kandahar is also the traditional capital of the Pashtun Durrani kings of Afghanistan. In 1994, with the help of Pakistan's intelligence agencies, the Taliban's conquest of Kandahar led to their victory in the Afghan civil war. In the U.S. invasion of 2002, the Taliban lost Kandahar again. Since 2006, repeated attempts by Canadian troops to clear the Taliban out of the Panjwai region, on Kandahar's western outskirts, have been a response to Taliban's relentless campaign to use Panjwai as base for re-taking the holy city. Since the two-year fight for Panjwai seems to have ended in an uneasy standoff, it seems that the Taliban is finding more direct methods for destabilizing the city- that is, breaking open its prison and unleashing captured Taliban insurgents.

THEN AND NOW: For almost a century, from the rule of Abdur Rahman beginning in 1880 to the the Soviet Invasion in 1979, Afghanistan was more or less successfully ruled from Kabul through a combination of strong, frequently ruthless central government and political deals with provinces and tribes. Now, for almost 30 years the writ of Kabul has been weak, Afhganistan has been in chaos and Kandahar and Kabul have lived, essentially, in different realms.


DISTANT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS. 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.

Mirwais Shah Hotak

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 unti lhis assassination 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' , established the Pashtun Durrani dynasty of Afghanistan, took Kandahar and united the tribes of southern Afghanistan around their common link: the Pashtun language. He then invaded 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.
Ahmad Shah Durrani

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. 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.
Under a Pashtun chieftain of the Barakzai clan , Dost Mohammed, (1826-63), the heart of the Afghan state was revived and something resembling a modern Afghanistan developed. In the mid century, Afghanistan was drawn into 'the Great Game' as Russia and Britain vied for control of the region, Britain determined to stem any Russian encroachment on her possessions in India and South Asia. Though the Pashtun Shahs were weak, the tribes were sufficiently organized to end British occupation twice in the nineteenth century. In the first Afghan war (1839-1842) the British took Kandahar on their northward march from India. In the second Afghan War (1879-1881) both Kandahar and Kabul had to be occupied if the country was to be controlled. The British never succeeded in holding both cities for long enough to assert their authority and finally, in 1881, were  forced into a disastrous retreat from Kabul back into India.
Between 1880 and 1901, Shah Abdur Rahman, with tacit British support, became the first ruler to bind the country in something resembling a modern, centralized state. His rule was stern but moderate and effective. The first Afghan sovereign to establish the the divine right of kings, he risked the wrath of the local Mullahs who normally held all religious authority. Rahman broke their power by taking over the Waqfs or religious trusts, effectively making the Mullahs into religious bureaucrats. He went on to centralize the administration of religion, fashion a state sharia law and make himself protector of Islam from foreigners .
Rahman's son, Habibullah and religious leaders, particularly in Eastern Afghanistan, were angry that he failed to declare complete independence from Britain.King Habibullah reigned from 1901 to 1919. His adviser, Mahmoud Beg Tarzi, was also tutor to his children, Inyatullah and Amanullah. An influential modernizer and nationalist, Tarzi was influenced by the secularizing example of the young Turks and of the Japanese talent for modernization while keeping traditional social and religious structures in place. Habibullah declared his neutrality in World War One but with Russian influence declining after the revolution of 1917, nationalism was resurgent. After Habibullah's assassination in 1919, he was succeeded by his son, Amanullah.
By 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 Britain'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 of Afghanistan. King Amanullah, as a Pashtun, used fellow 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 independent Afghanistan by the Treaty of Kabul.
Amanullah attempted to put the country on the road to modernization. He forged a constitution which attempted to define the relationship between religion and state, alienating secularists and religious conservatives alike. His educational and religious reforms, meanwhile, threatened to weaken the local Mullahs and he jailed the Hazrat Shabib of Shor Bazaar for organizing a petition opposing the reforms. When the Chief Qazi of Kabul protested Amanullah's reforms, he was charged with treason and executed. The reaction gathered momentum. In 1928 a Tajik bandit and religious conservative, the Bachi i Saqao organized an attack on Kabul. Cowed, Amanullah released the Harzat Shabib of Shor Bazaar and rescinded most of his secularizing reforms. He was soon deposed and for nine months the Bachi ruled Kabul in a religious tyranny. In 1929 Amanullah's cousin, Nadir Shah succeeded in ousting the Bachi and was made king.
Nadir Shah put down tribal rebellions against further modernizing reforms. At the same time, he attempted to appease religious traditionalists by rolling back some of Amanullah's reforms and giving the Bachi authority to enforce Sharia law through the courts. Altogether, Nadir Shah managed to hold Afghanistan's quarrelsome tribes in national unity- maintaining the state in its more or less historical condition: a loose tribal confederation dominated by Pashtuns. Tribal conflicts, however, resulted in Nadir Shah's assassination in 1933.
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. Daoud accelerated the march toward secularization, outraging the Mullahs by ordering the women of the royal family to appear unveiled at the yearly Jeshn, the ceremony marking Afhganistan's independence. He cracked down on Islamic groups, jailing Mohammed Niasi, the Ikwan i Musulamin of the Muslim Brotherhood and 200 of his followers. One of them, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar fled to Pakistan where he set up an opposition group. (He would later work in alliance with the Raliban)
It was a Marxist movement that overthrew and assassinated Daoud in 1978. The new Marxist government gave lip service to Islam. In 1978 the Marxist Kalq government replaced the Afghan flag, with its green stripe for Islam, with a red Communist fag and introduced Communist style mass demonstrations. The invocation of Allah was dropped from all official statements. Muslim clergy were imprisoned and religious leaders were persecuted in the countryside. The Soviet-backed leader, Babrak Karmal restored the old Afghan flag, claimed to guarantee freedom of religion and set up 'Islamic institutions' causing a backlash of Marxist protest from the Kalq.

330 BC - Alexander the Great founds a city at Kandahar.
684 AD- the Muslim conquest of Kandahar.
750- Kandahar ruled by the Abbasids.
1000- Kandhar ruled by the Turkic warlord, Mahmud of Ghazni and his Ghaznavid successors.
1221- the Mongols of Gengis Khan conquer Muslim Kandahar and take Afghanistan before moving south and west. Kandahar then becomes a major center for clients of the Mongols, the Karts.
1383- Kandahar is taken by Tamerlane.
1507- 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 Moghul empire.
1545- Kandahar becomes a Moghul military base and economic centre.
-17th century- Kandahar-Kabul was a trade route for the Moghuls- both cities with routes connecting to Lahore in northern India.
1625- Kandahar taken from the Moghuls by Shah Abbas of Persia.
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.
-1747- Mogul and Safavid empires in disarray. Between them, a power vacuum at Kandahar. Ahmad Shah Durrani takes Kandahar then marches on Kabul from Kandahar, takes Kabul from Safavids. The modern Afghan nation begins to take shape. Durrani's empire extends from near the Caspian Sea to India.
-Durrani plans and builds the old city of Kandahar and rules Afghanistan through a federal assembly of tribal chiefs, a form of rule that would last until the end of the monarchy in 1973.
- Duranni travels to Samarkand (according to legend) where he obtains a holy relic, the cloak of Mohammed. The relic has been kept at Ahmad Shah Durrani's mausoleum in Kandahar which, since then, has been Afghanistan's holiest city.
-1777- death of Ahmad Shah Durrani.
-Kandahar's status as capital ends when Durrani's son, Timur Shah Durrani (1777-1799), moves the capital to Kabul.
-1839 -British invade from Punjab, cross from Quetta and take Kandahar. From Kandahar, they march north and take Ghazni, beating Dost Muhammad. From there the British occupy Kabul.
-1839-1842- First Afghan War- British occupy Kandahar
-1879-1881- Second Afghan War- British re-occupy Kandahar.
-1878--Sir Donald Stewart sent with a force from Kandahar via Ghazni to relieve British forces under pressure in Kabul- where Stewart received supreme command.
-1880- April 19- battle of Ahmed Khel- outside Kandahar- British defeat Gilzai tribesmen and move north on Kabul.
-July- -Afghan prince Ayub Khan, aiming to reclaim the throne, sets out from Herat to retake Kandahar.
-General Roberts sets out from Kabul with 10,000 British on a forced march of 313 miles to Kandahar.

General Roberts.

-British troops under General Burrows sent west from Kandahar to Girishk to support Kandahar’s pro-British governor against Ayub Khan. As Ayub’s forces near Girishk, the Governor’s troops mutinied and many hastened to join Ayub. Thus weakened, the British troops are forced to fall back from Girishk toward Kandahar
-July 17- British make a stand at Maiwand but are defeated by Ayub Khan.
Sept. 1- Ayub Khan defeated by British outside Kandahar.

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British troops in battle outside Kandahar, Sept 1, 1880.

-1881- the British evacuate Kandahar, retreating on India.
-Ayub Khan takes Kandahar.
1979-1989- the Soviets use Kandahar as a command base during their occupation.
1993- the Taliban, an ultra-Islamist religious student organization, intended to bring order to the anarchy in Afghanistan, is formed by Pakistani intelligence.
1994 -Taliban cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan and take Kandahar. Kandahar is the first city occupied by the Taliban at the end of the civil war. In making it their religious and political capital, they were in effect reclaiming the Pashtun legacy of the Duranni kings.
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.
2005- resurgent Taliban return to Afghanistan from refuges along the mountainous Pakistan border.
-NATO forces begin to engage the Taliban in the west and south in Helmand and around Kandahar and US forces fight the re-emergent Taliban and Al Qaeda in the eastern Afghanistan. Both engage in programs to reconstruct the Afghan economy.
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.

RECENT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS. In 1978, the Marxist president, Babrak Kemal found himself caught in a political feud with anti-Muslim Marxist radicals. He asked for Soviet intervention. The Soviet Union, fearing that Kemal's opponents could cause a severe Islamic reaction, invaded and occupied Afghanistan. In 1980, seven Afghan religious groups gathered in Peshawar, divided into two broad streams: the radical "Islamists" and the nationalist "Traditionalists". The traditionalists would be happy with the return of the monarchy while the Islamists who wanted a total Islamic state, regarding a monarchy as un-Islamic. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, 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 helping to create the Taliban. Throughout the 1980s, the Sunni Deobandi movement (which had arisen in India at the turn of the century to define a pure Islam against Shiism and British colonialism) entered southern Afghanistan. After taking Kandahar in 1994, The Taliban , educated in the Deobandi tradition, emerged victorious in the civil war, ruled Afghanistan and hosted the Islamist terrorist group, Al Qaeda. Sharia law was ruthlessly enforced throughout the country. In March of 2001, the Taliban destroyed the great Buddah sculptures of Bamian for being non-Islamic. Subsequently, Taliban ministers systematically destroyed 3,000 non-Muslim artifacts in the Kabul Museum.

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. The Taliban appealed heavily to Pashtun nationalism Afghan rural traditionalism, to the local power of the Mullahs and the perceived threat of westernization. Allied troops returned at the request of the United Nations and the Afghan government, US, British and Canadian troops engaging the returning Taliban in the south, as pecially in Panjwaii, outside Kandahar, where the Taliban have been attempting to establish a base from which to take Kandahar itself. President Karzai has begun, tentatively, to negotiate with the Taliban, offering them government positions. Repeated Canadain victories over the Taliban in the Panjwai region have not stopped the Taliban from reoccupying Panjwaii. Meanwhile, Karzai has tried to steer Afghan policy on a narrow road between democracy and human rights on the one hand, and respect of Afghan cultural and religious traditions on the other. But the overwhelming corruption in his government and his tendency to rule through cronies as serious impeded prospects for reform and self government throughout the country. Throughout 2007, American and NATO troops found themselves in a stalement as Taliban attacks increased. In 2008, troop increases, especially around Kandahar, with the arrival of US and French units to support the Canadians and a change to new types of counterinsurgency strategy promises gradual but very limited progress. In the east, US troops remain frustrated by Pakistan's repeated truces with Taliban in the tribal areas, allowing the insurgents constantly to re-arm and launch attacks in Afghanistan. Most recently the Taliban assault on the prison in Kandahar, releasing captured fellow insurgents may signal a new type of strategy in their attempt to capture what they claim as their ancestral holy city, the capital of the south and the gateway to Kabul.

In June, a Taliban attack against India's ambassy in Kabul raised the spectre of a twin Islamist offensive against India and Afghanistan, since both are allied with the west and India is pressing its influence in Kabul. The suspicion that it was the work of Pakistani intelligence pointed once again to Pakistan as the axis of the Islamists' double offensive. It also drew attention to the Taliban's growing ability move inward from outlying areas of Afghanistan and threaten Kabul. It was only kilometers east of Kabul that ten French soldiers were killed in combat with Taliban fighters in August. The ham-handedness and rigidity of the US-NATO strategy was felt oonce again awhen 89 villgers died in a US air strike in western Afghanistans, the kind of error that only pushes more Afghans into the ranks of the Taliban.

It appeared that President Bush's 45,000 troop surge in September would do little without a change in approach. In October, Germany raised its troop levels by 1,000 to 4,500 in the northen province of Kunduz: with increasing Taliban attacks, Germany has been forced into the combat role it had avoided because of its militaristic past.

November saw Karzai's panacea of negotiation with the Taliban reduced to be a chimera as Taliban leaders responded to the president's overtures by announcing there would be no talks until every last foreign soldier was out of the country. Karzai's and Pakistan president Zardari's agreement to drive the Taliban from their joint border felt like one more statement of good intentions. The new year, 2009 couldn't have been a worse time for Kyrgyzstan to close the US airbase essential to supplying the allied war effort from the north. The commitment of 14,000 more US troops in February promised numbers but again no change in direction. It was a sign of how bad things were that Afghanistan's electoral commission moved the presidential elections from April to August, over president Karzai's objections.

Finally, but perhaps too late, President Obama announed a new plan in March: discredited tactics of search and destory would give way to "clear and hold" by which newly taken territory would be used to establish a permanent military presence with improved relations with the local population. In addition, 4,000 US troops were committed to train Afghan police. In May, Defence Secretary Robert Gates replaced US commander David McKiernan with General Stanley McChrystal to apply the new strategy. In the summer the new direction began to pay off with record drug seizures in Hemland and a joint Afghan-British offensive with 4,000 US Marines in the southern Helmand River valley, the Taliban's main conduit into southern Afghanistan from Pakistan. The results, were mixed with the allies able to take and occupy territory but without the numbers to proceed further and all the while taking record casualties.

The August presidential elections were a fiasco. The Taliban, threatening death to voters, insured a low turnout while massive electoral fraud, partcularly by supporters of President Karzai, eliminated his expected majority, leaving him somewhere below fifty per cent, with the country facing a late fall run-off vote between Karzai and runner-up Amanullah. In October, meanwhile, at least eight US soldiers were killed in a firefight with the Taliban in Nimroz, in the remote southwest of the country, near the Pakistan border. The Taliban`s penetration of the formerly peaceful region suggest`s that it's occupation of the country`s periphery is complete.

. 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.
With the weakening of the Sassinids by internal dissension, the occupation of the area by Islam in the late 7th century was, perhaps, the most successful of all attempts to control the region. Despite occupation by Mongols 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. He brought about forced, mass conversions to Islam in Afghanistan and in northern India. The Samarkand warlord Tamerlane conquered much of Afghanistan around 1400 . Though his empire fell apart quickly after his death, his son Shah Rukh brought about the 'Timurid' Islamic cultural renaissance in Herat. In the 16th century, Babur, again from Samarkand, 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.
LOCATION OF NOTE: KANDAHAR, traditional capital of the Pashtun kings of Afghanistan. A settlement was present at Kandahar before Alexander the Great founded a city there in the 4th century BC.. Straddling the main trade and military route between the Indus and the Iranian Plateau, the city was fought over repeatedly by India and Persia. It was taken and converted by Muslim Arabs in the seventh century after which it fell under the rule of the Abassid Caliphate . Kandahar was then ruled by the Turkish warlord, Mahmud of Gazhni in 1010 and the Ghaznivids who succeeded him. Kandahar fell to the Mongols and was pillaged in the 13th century. It then became a major centre for clients of the Mongols, the Karts, until the city fell to Tamerlane in 1383. In 1507, Kandahar was taken by Babur, founder of the Moghul empire. In 1545, the city was made Moghul military base and economic centre. In the 17th century the city fell to Persia which fought off two attempts at reconquest by the Moghuls. Kandahar emerged in the modern age in 1704 when the Safavid Persians sent a military governor there to settle a feud between two Pashtun tribes, the Ghilzai and the Abdali. Five years later, the man who was effectively the founder of an Afghan state, Mirwais Hotaki rallied the Ghlzai against the Persian Safavids, killed the Persian governor and ruled Kandahar which was soon to be the nucleus of an Afghan state. Mahmud Hotak, son of Mirwais organized a tribal army at Kandahar, invaded Persia and seized the throne at Isfahan. After the death of Mahmud Hotak, a new king of Persia, Nadir Shah, turned the tables and conquered Afghanistan, taking Kandahar in 1738. Once again, Persian rule was thrown off by a Kandhar Pashtun, Ahmed Shah Abdali, who took the name 'Durrani' meaning 'Pearl of the Age' and gave it to his Abdali tribe. Thence arose the line of Durrani kings of Kandahar. In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani conquered an empire that stretched from northern India to Persia. He planned and built the old city of Kandahar and ruled Afghanistan through a federal assembly of tribal chiefs, a form of rule that would last until the end of the monarchy in 1973. Ahmad Shah is said to have traveled to Samarkand where he obtained a holy relic, the cloak of Mohammed. The relic has been kept at Ahmad Shah Durrani's mausoleum in Kandahar which, since then, has been Afghanistan's holiest city. Ahmad Shah died in 1777. Kandahar's status as capital ended when Durrani's son, Timur Shah Durrani (1777-1799), moved the capital to Kabul. During the First Afghan War the British occupied Kandahar from 1839 to 1842. They occupied the city during the Second Afghan War from 1879 to 1881. The Soviets used Kandahar as a command base in during their occupation in 1979-1989. Kandahar was the first city occupied by the Taliban at the end of the civil war. In making it their religious and political capital, they were in effect reclaiming the Pashtun legacy of the Duranni kings.

PROFILE: AHMAD SHAH DURRANI: (1723-1773) An Afghan of the Pashtun Abdali clan, Ahmad Shah was founder of the Durrani dynasty. He was successor to Mirwais Hotak and Mahmud Hotak, the first two Pashtun rulers of Kandahar which was, in the early 18th century, the core of the new Afghan state. After Afghanistan's brief conquest of Persia, the Persians under Nadir Shah threw them out in 1738 and invaded Afghanistan and northern India. Ahmad Shah, an Afghan and one of Nadir's ablest generals in India was also a member of Nadir's body-guard. After participating in Nadir's assassination, Ahmad Shah rallied the Afhgan tribes of Kandahar once more against the Persians and expelled them. Taking the name 'Durrani', Pashtun for 'pearl of the age', he set out in 1847 to conquer an empire from Persia on the Caspian to the Moghul region of the Indus. Twice, in 1757 and in 1760, he sacked Delhi, the Moghul capital of northern India. He is said to have brought the cloak of Mohammed from Samarkand to Kandahar where it is still kept as a relic in his mausoleum. Ahmad Shah planned and rebuilt what is now the old city of Kandahar and he founded the federal assembly of tribal chiefs which traditionally helped the king to rule Afghanistan until the end of the monarchy in 1973. Ahmad Shah's empire was too vast to hold together and it disintegrated before his death in 1773. The reign of the Durrani kings ended in 1818. He is revered by the Pashtun people of Afhganistan and the Taliban claim his legacy.

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Ahmad Shah Durrani in old age.

CROSS-CENTURY SUMMARY: The arrival of Islam in the 7th century provided the only unity in what was essentially a rough barren Asian hinterland made up of isolated tribes. Dire enmity and fast friendship developed as the means of survival which later became 'Pashutnwali', the code of the Pashtun people. Due to the difficulty of the terrain and lack of education, local power would be dominant and any centralized power would be almost impossible to maintain without extreme brutality. Until the eighteenth century, the region was only loosely ruled and from afar: by the Greeks, Persia, they Umayyads and the Abbasids. Islam would be the only cultural force defining the Afghan region. It was a strict and conservative brand, receptive to all new puritan movements entering the country even to the resent day- like the Deobandi movement if the 1980s. Afghanistan's first native rulers were the Turkic Ghaznavids of Ghazni but they were followed once more by foreigners: the Mongols, Tamerlane, the Moghuls of India. and the British. The first modern native rulers were the Durrani kings of Kandahar after whom there was a traceable descent of Afghan kings. Even then, anything resembling a nation was held together through violence.


'In the sanctuary, Mr. Shawali said, the prophet's cloak is kept inside a small silver box, which, in turn, lies inside two larger boxes. By custom and tradition Mr. Shawali, as the head keeper, holds the key to the smallest box. Simply by standing outside the inner sanctuary, Mr. Shawali said, the mute have walked out speaking, the blind seeing. ''But when there is a great danger in the country, or when there is a catastrophe, a king will ask permission to take the cloak out,'' he said. Accordingly, he said, the cloak was taken out of the box and shown when cholera swept the city about seven decades ago. In his lifetime, Mr. Shawali said, three men have tried to look at the prophet's cloak -- each of them apparently seeking vindication for their rule. The first was the now exiled king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, who in the end stopped short of looking at the cloak. ''When the chest was opened, he became afraid and began trembling,'' he said, adding that the king had walked out. ''Maybe he was a sinner.'' The second, he said, was Pir Gailani, a relative of Zahir. The king had granted him permission to look at the cloak. The third time -- and the most fateful for Afghanistan -- was in the spring of 1996. The Taliban had swept across southern Afghanistan in 1994 but had yet to defeat the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani and take Kabul. The Taliban's Pashtun supporters were split on whether to pursue the war to conquer the rest of the country. It was a critical moment.

Hundreds of religious leaders gravitated here and sought to make Mullah Omar the undisputed leader of a holy war to conquer all of Afghanistan. They nominated him to become amir-ul momineen, an Islamic title that means commander of the faithful. So one Friday, Mr. Shawali recalled, Mullah Omar arrived at the shrine. ''Here I am,'' Mullah Omar told him. ''I have taken a bath and I have put on new clothes. Let me see the robe.'' Mr. Shawali continued, ''We told him we had not taken our bath and had not changed our clothes, so we asked him to return later that day.'' On that Friday evening almost six years ago, about 100 close aides saw Mullah Omar with the robe inside the shrine, Mr. Shawali said. Despite Mullah Omar's initial confusion about the direction toward Mecca, he soon appeared to gain confidence. ''He announced on the radio that he was going to show the robe to the public,'' Mr. Shawali recalled. A week later, at 7 a.m., Mullah Omar returned and, this time, expressed his wish to take the robe out of its shrine. ''I told him I didn't want the robe to be taken to another place,'' Mr. Shawali recalled. ''We were afraid. But he said not to worry. He would bring it back.'' With the cloak in his possession, Mullah Omar went to an old mosque in the center of the city and climbed onto its roof. For the next 30 minutes, he held the cloak aloft, his palms inserted in its sleeves. According to residents of Kandahar who were present, the crowds cheered. Many lost consciousness. Many threw their hats and other items of clothes in the air, in the hope that they would make contact with the cloak. Most importantly, as other mullahs shouted, ''Amir-ul momineen!,'' Mullah Omar gained the legitimacy he needed to pursue his conquest of the rest of Afghanistan. Asked whether he, too, had been pleased by Mullah Omar's use of the cloak, Mr. Shawali answered, ''If I was happy or not is not important."' -by Noromitsi Onishi, THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 19, 2001.

Mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Durrani

NATO and the United States have both been trying to break a three-year stalemate in fighting the resurgent Taliban by increasing troop numbers and deepening their commitment. New French and American units have arrived to bolster Canada's 2500-strong force in Kandahar. Changes in the rules of engagement and lessons from the Americans' recent, successful counterinsurency strategy in Iraq may improve things on the ground. But if the allied effort were successful, it would be the first time in history that outside forces had prevailed inside the country. Time and again, invaders have taken Afghanistan but none has ever been able to hold it or change it. The prickly and unpredictable nature of the traditional Pashtun tribes, their individualusm, their resistance to modernity and their steadfastness and endurance may cost them in the short term but in the long run has helped them to prevail. Moreover, history tells us that the morale of intervening troops tends to decline the farther they are from home. It will require extraordinary innovation, indeed a feat of the imagination for the West to break the mold of history and stabilize and democratize Afghanistan. Indeed, it would amount to a revolution in the history of foreign intervention.

PLUS CA CHANGE: Kandahar, lying on traditional routes of invasion, between Herat and India and between India and Kabul and situated in a plain with mountains to the north and desert to south, has few natural defenses save as a 'gateway' among the foothills of the mountains to the north. Moreover, as a Pashtun city, it is easy for the Pashtun Taliban to infiltrate. Kandahar has fallen to Afghan or to outside forces in 684, 1000, 1221, 1383, 1507, 1625, 1709, 1747, 1839, 1879, 1979, 1994 and 2002. The city's importance and its vulnerability to attack are simply a matter of history.

ARTICLE: City of Kandahar is key that unlocks Afghanistan
City of Kandahar is key that unlocks Afghanistan

A busy street market in central Kandahar: The city has often been used by invaders and domestic antagonists as a springboard to assault the capital and gain control of the country.
Conquering armies have taken Kandahar-Kabul route since the time of Alexander the Great
June 18, 2008

History tells us that when Kandahar falls, Kabul will follow.
Of course it doesn't happen quite that quickly. But Canadians should keep history in mind after last week's Taliban raid which freed 400 fellow fighters from a Kandahar prison with the remobilized rebels apparently bolstering a Taliban force massing northwest of the city in the Arghandab district.
At this moment, Canada's government and military aren't likely to remind us of past precedents for one simple reason: The pattern of Afghan history is not on our side.
Canada and NATO have held Kandahar not just with troops but with a series of complex deals with district governors; overnight, that whole structure could become a house of cards.
History tells us that if Canada and NATO lose Kandahar, the present stalemate will end and the balance will tip in favour of the Taliban.
Then the past will flow back in with a vengeance. To control Afghanistan, you have to control Kandahar and Kabul, the two main cities.
That also means possession of the road between them, which has always favoured native resistance. Though NATO appears to dominate the Kandahar-Kabul road (the southeast quarter of the ring road that circles the entire country), it is already one of the least secure and most lethal sections of road in Afghanistan.
The region is dominated by the Ghilzai, the Pashtun tribesmen who make up the rank and file of the Taliban; and they don't just mount ambushes on the road, they live along it.
Security has been so poor that Tajiks and Uzbeks travelling from Kabul to Kandahar have had to disguise themselves as Pashtuns.
It's not only because the road links Kandahar and Kabul that it's important. Much of the present war in Afghanistan is being fought along the country's only real highway, the ring road which runs round the impassable central mountains and acts as the country's lifeline, providing the only practical communication as well as hosting the majority of Afghanistan's population and agriculture.
Ever since the ring road was a series of trade routes, over two millennia ago, the Kandahar-Kabul stretch has been the most sensitive. Alexander the Great took that very route from the settlement he founded at Kandahar, right up to Kabul.
In the Middle Ages the Kandahar-Kabul trek was the trade route that connected India to Asia.
In 1747, the father of modern Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Durrani, united the Pashtun tribes around Kandahar, seized the city from the Persians and marched north from Kandahar along that same route to take Kabul.
In 1839, in the First Afghan War, the British marched north from India, took Kandahar and from Kandahar followed the road to attack Kabul.
In the second Afghan war, in 1878, the British in Kandahar marched north to Kabul to relieve British troops trapped there. In both wars, the British lost first one city and then the other. Abdur Rahman, the next Afghan shah, marched from Kabul to Kandahar to defeat a rival claimant.
In those days, things were much as they are today: You have to be on good terms with the tribes along the way. As Nancy Hatch Dupree wrote in A Historical Guide to Afghanistan, "nineteenth century travellers approached the land of the Ghilzai between Kalat-i-Ghilzai and Ghazni (on the Kandahar-Kabul road) with fear and trepidation for the `much dreaded' Ghilzai Pushtun were a large, fiercely independent, aggressively valiant Afghan tribe whose daring exploits fill the pages of Afghan history."
When the Soviets invaded in 1979, they seized the entire ring road but could never secure it effectively or control the country beyond it.
In the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal, the Taliban "bought off" the difficult Kandahar tribes for $1.5 million. In 1995, they fought their way up the same old road to Kabul, taking the capital in 1996 by cutting the city's supply lines.
For Canada, there remains an ominous note about the Soviets: They had failed to secure the Panjwaii and Arghandab districts west of Kandahar, the natural springboards for any attack on the city.
That's the area Canada has been trying to secure for three years and that's where the Taliban are massing once again.
Over the centuries, everyone seems to have taken Afghanistan by taking Kandahar and making the trek to Kabul or vice versa. And if NATO doesn't come up with a new and better strategy, sooner or later, it is bound to happen again.
Hugh Graham is a Toronto writer and foreign affairs commentator.
CURIOSITY: In 1704 the Persians attempted to settle an Afghan tribal war between the Abdali and Ghilzai Pashtuns by sending a Gurgin, a special governor to rule Kandahar. In 1709, a Pashtun, Mirwais Kahn Hotak, rallied his own Ghilzai tribe of Kandahar against the Persian Safavids, drove them out, executed Gurgin, and took over as mayor of Kandahar. In so doing, he founded the kernel of the modern Afghan state.

Hugh Graham, Sept 24, 2007
In meetings at the UN over the weekend, Afghan President Karzai insisted that it was possible to negotiate with the Taliban because the majority of them are, in fact, “good” Taliban. If the problem is separating the good Taliban from the bad, there is, contrary to popular belief, a way that President Karzai could go about doing that.
It might help to recall a strange ceremony that took place in Kandahar back in 1996. With the Taliban approaching victory, their leader, Mullah Omar, stood near the tomb of the great Afghan king, Ahmad Shah Durrani and clothed himself in a relic said to be Mohammed's cloak- Omar's way of placing himself in the line of the Prophet. More important, however, is the fact that King Ahmad Shah, who had obtained the cloak, was an ethnic Pashtun and Mullah Omar might just as well have been identifying himself with the Pashtun kings of Afghanistan who once had their capital in Kandahar.
So closely were the Taliban identified with the Pashtuns that the 2002 invasion, in which the ethnically diverse Northern Alliance helped the U.S. unseat the Taliban, looked like an ethnic war with Tajik and Uzbek northerners defeating heartland Pashtuns. The northerners are now the United Front, the strongest party in the Karzai government. Formerly Karzai's bedrock, they are now challenging him.
With elections looming in 2009, President Karzai needs all the friends he can get and the most important, obviously, are the Pashtuns. And that's where the "moderate Taliban" are. The Pashtuns are Afghanstan's biggest single ethnic group at about forty percent, they occupy the entire south of the country, they include the poorest, most isolated and disenfranchised populations; while under-represented in the Afghan parliament, they hold an ancient claim as rulers of Afghanistan; and they supply the Taliban with almost all of its leadership and foot-soldiers.
The Taliban are enmeshed among the Pashtun people. One thing that binds both is Pashtunwali, a tribal code that governs hospitality, mutual aid, revenge, justice and so on. So the Taliban will never be uprooted from Afghan soil. They will always have to be death with. Even former US secretary of State Colin Powell has said this. So has one with more intimate knowledge: Pakistan's General Musharraff.
Pashtunwali also helps define democracy along traditional Islamic lines of consensus rather than through the adversarial, western party system. This is probably why one Taliban representative who got in touch with Karzai last week, insisted on an acceptance of "Islamic democracy" as a precondition for talks.
So the Taliban who might decide to negotiate are actually pushing a Pashtun cause. Pashtuns believe that they can all claim patrilineal descent from the four grandsons of Qais Abdur Rashid, the legendary founding father said to have brought Islam to Afghanistan in the seventh century. Pashtun claims were further entrenched in the eighteenth century when they became the core of the first Afghan nation and empire formed by King Ahmad Shah, the one who brought Mohammed's cloak to Kandahar. Ahmad Shah was from the Durrani, the Pashtun tribal confederation that provided most of the great Kandahari Afghan kings. So when the Taliban arrived in Kandahar in 1994 to end the civil war and restore order, they used their warm welcome in the Pashtun heartland to claim the Durrani dream of ruling Afghanistan again from Kandahar. In this, they sought the support of the Durrani Popolzai tribe, the direct descendants of Ahmad Shah Durrani.
Oddly, President Hamid Karzai is himself a Popolzai Pashtun of royal, Durrani lineage. For Pashtuns, however, he is a poor exemplar of Durrani tradition. He's too modern and too western. And he hasn't even the old tribal power to settle vendettas. When Karzai and US ambassador Zalmay Kalilzad vetoed the restoration of the Pashtun Afghan monarchy, Karzai lost a lot of support among the Durrani. A restoration of the monarchy, among other pro-Pashtun policies, might have drawn a lot of the Pashtuns away from the Taliban.
So often, when Kabul has failed the Pashtuns, the Taliban have been there to help. There is, for example, the split in the Pashtun cause between the blue-blooded Durrani tribal confederacy of the south and the more rugged Ghilzai Pashtuns of the east. In the past, the Durrani dominated the Ghilzai and as it happens, the Ghilzai have filled the ranks of the Taliban. So a unification and revival of the Pashtun cause could make the Taliban less important. The question remains: how do you find those Taliban who are, at heart, more Pashtun than Taliban?
One way is to look at a latent division among the Taliban. In the east, in the Pakistani tribal agencies of Waziristan, al Qaeda was often blamed for brutalizing the Taliban and directing the fight needlessly against Pakistan while the Taliban's real cause lay in Afghanistan. It's the Afghan Taliban who work alongside the Pashtun cause and it was they who brokered a truce with Pakistan and redirected the fight against Kabul where it belonged. This was seen as a challenge to the overall military authority of the 'Pakistan' Taliban who were aligned with al Qaeda. By 2006 a split was opening between the Pakistan 'al Qaeda' Taliban and the Afghan Taliban whose cause lay among the Pashtuns.
So should we be talking about 'Pashtun' Taliban rather than moderate Taliban? The ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, which helped the early Taliban, knows the ins and outs better than anyone. They realize that the best way to defang the Taliban is to support them not so much as 'moderates' but as disenfranchised, historical Pashtuns seeking political power in Kabul, rather than as west-hating terrorists. It's an approach that President Karzai seems to be trying. It's also an approach that NATO military forces, who almost never negotiate, might start thinking about.

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.
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.
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.
Abdur Rahman
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.
1901-1919- King Habibullah
1907- Britain and Russia work out a treaty defining separate spheres in influence in Persia with a British sphere of influence in Afghanistan.
1919- King Habibullah is assassinated. He is succeeded by his son, Amanullah.

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. Nadir Shah 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.

-the production of opium poppies, whose traffic funds the Taliban, reaches an all-time record.

November- in the north at Baghlan, a suicide attack on a parliamentary convoy kills 41.

-two senior UN and EU envoys are expelled from Afghanistan allegedly for making contact with Taliban.

2008- April- NATO leaders meet at Bucharest and unanimously declare their long-term commitment to bringing stability and democracy to Afghanistan.

Taliban Increase control of terriotry and latitude of attacks.

-the Taliban launch an assault on an open air state function in Kabul, directly threatening the life of President Karzai.

-June 13- Taliban truck and suicide bombers blast open the the prison in Kandahar, freeing 400 captured insurgents.

July- suicide bombing of Indian Embassy kills dozens. Kabul lays the blame on Pakistan intelligence.

August- Taliban fighters kill ten French combat troops only a few miles east from Kabul.

-89 villagers killed in an air strike by NATO-Afghan forces.

US Troop Surges by Bush and Obama.

September- US President Bush sends a troop surge of 45,000 aditional US soldiers to Afghanistan.

October- Germany lengthens its mission in Afghanistan to 2009 and adds 1,000 troops bringing levels to 4,500.

November- Karzai's attempt to negotiate with the Taliban fail as Taliban commders insist there will be no negotiation until foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

December- Karzai and Palkistani president-elect Zardari agree to joint efforts to root out the Taliban from the border region.

2009- January Kygyzstan closes US air bases needed for transporting NATO and US troops and equipment into Afghanistan.

US Change in Strategy Under Obama.

February- US sends an additional 14,000 troops to Afghanistan and in response 20 NATO countries pledge to icnrease their own commitment.

March- the electoral commission of Afghanistan moves the presidential election date from April to August, over President Karzai's objections. Karzai insists he will stay on until August.

President Obama anounces a new military strategy for Afghanistan, concentrating on a strong relationship with the civilian population, and clearing and holding liberated areas. 4000 US troops are sent in to train Afghan police.

April- President Karzai declares his intention to run for re-election in August.

The NATO Offensive in Helmand.

May- US Defence Secretary Robert Gates replaces General David McKiernan with General Stanley McChrystal, saying that the Afghan situation needs new thinking.

US-Afghan forces capture 1000 tronnes of drugs, in Helmand, the largest seizure of drugs since 2001.

July- joint British-Afghan offensive in Helmand with about 4,000 US Marines. Their intention is to pursue a new policy of holding territory and forming a permanent presence among the local population. The offensive marks limited success with high allied casualties and insuffient numbers to advance further.

The Failure of the Afghan Presidential Election

August- the Taliban attempt to derail the Afghan presidential elections by threatening voters with death.

-Afghan elections are marred by low voter turn-out and widespread electoral fraud, most of it in districts claiming to re-elect president Karzai.

-October- at least 8 US soldiers are killed during a Taliban assault in an American base in Nimroz Province in th3e southwest, near the Pakistan border.
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