By Samruddhi Mahapatra
Edited by Liz Maria Kuriakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
The history of Afghanistan has been disastrous. It has been through external invasions and internal turmoil. The people of Afghanistan have borne what we cannot even imagine. Because of its strategic location, Afghanistan has always been a point of interest for the powers looking to establish links in Central Asia and Middle East.
The external invasion in Afghanistan started with the Mongolian annexation in the 1200s.Despite much opposition, it continued till the 1500s. Following the breakdown of the Mongolian rule, Afghanistan witnessed a series of invaders in the form of Mughals from India and the Safavids of Iran. Devastation followed as the two powers fought for control. This wreckage continued till 1747. In this year, Nadir Shah, the Iranian empire builder died, leaving a vacuum in Central Asia. Ahmed Shah, a former Afghan bodyguard, took up the position. Ahmed was successful in uniting the Afghan tribes and he went on to conquer eastern Iran, Pakistan, northern India and Uzbekistan. Though his clan stayed at the helm for 200 years, they were unable to stabilise their hold, as there were many civil wars. Again the people of Afghanistan found themselves caught between those fighting for power, this time their ethnic kin, rather than external invaders.
In the 1800s, the internal politics intensified, as the two new imperial powers, the British Empire and the Czarist Russia, intervened. While the British were looking at Afghanistan to strengthen their hold on the Indian sub-continent, the Russians were looking to expand towards south, east, and Central Asia. Both were engaged in a race for the country. This battle further devastated the state of Afghanistan. Lands were seized, indigenous people were overthrown and rendered homeless. This reckless invasion came to be known as ‘The Great Game’ in the world politics. However, for the people of Afghanistan, this was far from a ‘game’. The consequences that people suffered were overwhelming. The advent of European imperialism further aggravated the desolate state of affairs. On two instances, the British army from India invaded Afghanistan and established puppet governments, which would look to the British interests and serve as an opposition to the Czarist Russia.
The first Anglo-Afghan war took place in 1838. British seized most of the important cities. However an uprising resulted in the massacre of the entire British army. The arrival of the Russian diplomats in Kabul resulted in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Again the British were able to occupy the major cities. Unlike last time, however, the British got hold of the rebellion and suppressed it.
Afghanistan remained a protectorate of the British till 1919. Following the Bolshevik Revolution, a wave of revolution pulsed through Asia. Subsequently, Amanullah, the Afghan king, declared his country’s independence, by signing a treaty with Lenin and declaring war on the British.
Unhappy with Amanullah’s attempt of secularising the country, the country broke into a civil war, which forced Amanullah to abdicate in 1929. He was succeeded by Muhammad Zahir Shah. He was, like his predecessors, another dictator. In 1973, the king was overthrown and a republic was declared. But this was short-lived, as the Russians invaded the country in 1979. On the other hand, United States put in all its efforts to dethrone the soviet forces from Afghanistan. Several Islamic fundamentalist groups sprang up and began waging war against the Soviet forces, many of them operating from Pakistan with the help of the American security agencies. The US began to provide military support to the fundamentalist forces, while the Saudis and the Persian Gulf countries contributed financial support. Thousands of Arabs responded to the call for ‘Jihad’ or holy war. Osama-bin-Laden evolved as one of America’s most important operatives. In 1989, Soviet withdrew and America soon lost interest and left Afghanis to their fate.
Following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, Pentagon, and the Capitol building of the US Congress, the US accused Osama bin Laden of this atrocious crime. In retaliation, G. W. Bush, declared a ‘Global war on terror’. The US government launched ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ against Al-Qaeda and Taliban and started bombing the impoverished country.
All the while, the people of Afghanistan have suffered beyond imagination. According to the estimation by the UN, around 8 million Afghanis will starve due to shortage of food in this winter. The disruption of the humanitarian aid and bombing of the Red Cross has worsened the condition.
In the year 2004, Afghans voted in the first ever democratic election. Hamid Karzai was elected as the first president of the Republic of Afghanistan. But that was not the end of the plight of the innocent. Taliban and other Jihadi outfits continued their offense against the Afghan government and the western forces, to regain their lost reign. The victims are the innocent people of Afghanistan.
2014 is witnessing a volatile security situation as the US and the NATO forces will leave the country by the end of the year. There are possibilities of the insurgent forces bouncing back and causing further misery to the people of Afghanistan. Recently, the people of Afghanistan enthusiastically participated in the presidential election, despite a dire warning from the Taliban not to do so. Taliban launched several inhuman attacks on the people, but this did not demoralise them.
Samruddhi is a student, pursuing English Hons. in Kirori Mal College. She is an avid reader and loves learning new things. An aspiring writer, she believes that everything around us has a story to tell. With big dreams, she strives forward to achieve them. She wants her writings to be read by everyone and appreciates constructive criticism.