Anglo-Afghan Wars

The colonial powers Russia and Great Britain (British India) continuously shifted their borders in the direction of Afghanistan since the beginning of the 19th century. Since the British feared rapprochement between the country and Russia, they twice went to war against Afghanistan (1st and 2nd Anglo-Afghan war, 1838–42; 1878–80) and occupied large parts of the country. In January 1842 the British experienced their colonial trauma when the 16,000-strong Indus army was completely wiped out by the Afghans (impressively illustrated by T. Fontane in his poem “The Tragedy of Afghanistan”, published in 1898).

The economic unprofitability as well as the constant resistance of the Afghans led Great Britain at the end of the 19th century to come to terms with Russia over a political solution in the »Great Game« (through R. Kipling famous term for the Russian-British collision of interests in this region). Afghanistan was established as a buffer state between the conquests of the colonial powers (1905 treatise of Kabul on the “integrity” of Afghanistan; 1907 British-Russian treaty on the delimitation of spheres of interest), but belonged to the sphere of influence of Great Britain from 1879 (treaty of Gandamak) to 1919 determined Afghan foreign policy. The border between Iran and Afghanistan was fixed under British pressure as early as 1863 after Persia tried repeatedly to incorporate Herat. The agreement establishing the Russian-Afghan border in the Pamirs in 1895 determined the Amu Darya over long stretches of the northern border of Afghanistan. Under British pressure, the then ruler voted Abd ur-Rahman signed the Durand Agreement (Durand Line) in 1893, which established the border with British India in the east and south (today’s border with Pakistan) and thereby cut the Pashtun settlement area.

According to politicsezine, the three most important Afghan rulers Dost Mohammed Khan (1836–39; 1842–63), Scheir Ali (* 1825, † 1879; 1863–66; 1868–79) and Abd ur-Rahman (1880–1901) all belonged to the Barakzai / Mohammadzai dynasty and were characterized by an ambivalent relationship with British India, which was characterized by phases of rapprochement and conflict. All three rulers also tried to expand and consolidate their power in Afghanistan: In many wars, Dost Mohammed Khan, who founded the Barakzai / Mohammadzai dynasty, first managed to extend his rule over the country from Kabul. Scheir Ali carried out the first administrative reforms. Abd ur-Rahman (called the “Iron Emir”) subjugated the previously largely independent regions (Hazarajat in central Afghanistan and Nuristan) in bloody wars, built an apparatus of repression, weakened the traditional elites and reformed the military and the tax system.

Rulers and heads of state in Afghanistan

The rulers and heads of state of Afghanistan
Durrani Empire (Popalzai / Sadozai line)
Ahmed Shah Durrani 1747-1772
Timur Shah 1772-1793
Zaman Shah 1793-1800
Mahmud Shah 1800-1803 and 1809-1818
Shah Shujah 1803-1809 and 1839-1842
Barakzai / Mohammadzai dynasty (until 1926 emirs, then kings)
Dost Mohammed Khan (1826) 1836-1839 and 1842-1863
Scheir Ali 1863-1866 and 1868-1879
Mohammed Afzal Khan 1866-1867
Mohammed Azam Khan 1867-1868
Yaqub Khan 1879
Abd ur-Rahman 1880-1901
Habib Ullah 1901-1919
Aman Ullah 1) 1919-1929
Nadir Shah 1929-1933
Sahir Shah 1933-1973
Republic of Afghanistan (President)
Mohammed Daud Khan 1973-1978
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (Chairman of the Revolutionary Council)
Mohammed Taraki only 1978-1979
Hafisollah Amin 1979
Babrak Karmal 1979-1986
Haji Mohammed Chamkani 1986-1987
Republic of Afghanistan (President)
Mohammed Najibullah 1987-1992
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Interim President)
Sibghatullah Mojadedi 1992
Burhanuddin Rabbani 1992
Islamic State Afghanistan (President)
Burhanuddin Rabbani 1992–1996 (formally until 2001)
Islamic Emirate Afghanistan 2)
Taliban rule under Mullah Mohammed Omar 1996 / 97-2001
Islamic State of Afghanistan (interim government)
Hamid Karzai (head of government, interim president since 2002) 2001-04
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (President)
Hamid Karzai 2004-14
Ashraf Ghani since 2014
1) Overthrown in 1929 by the Batscha-i-Saqqao, who usurped the throne for nine months as Habib Ullah II.2) proclaimed in 1997, not internationally recognized.

The Afghan monarchy from Habib Ullah to Sahir Shah (1901–73)

Habib Ullah (1901–19) pursued a more moderate course, but hardly set his own accents; Afghanistan remained neutral during the First World War. In the 3rd Anglo-Afghan War (1919), Emir Aman Ullah (1919–29; King since 1926) achieved his country’s independence in the Treaty of Rawalpindi (8 August 1919). In 1921 Afghanistan signed a friendship treaty with Soviet Russia and established diplomatic relations with Great Britain. Influenced by the ideas of the Turkish reformist Ataturk and his supporters in Afghanistan, the “young Afghans” around Mahmud Beg Tarzi (* 1865, † 1933), Aman Ullah tried to form a modern state based on the Western European model in an urgent procedure from Afghanistan. In 1923 he had a constitution passed which, among other things, Civil rights, the abolition of slavery and compulsory education. When Aman Ullah, after a trip to Europe, was concerned with the separation of church and state and among other things. To enforce the abolition of polygamy and the veil, this provoked the resistance of the Islamic clergy and tribal leaders (1924-25 revolt in the province of Khost, outbreak of an uprising in November 1928). In May 1929, Aman Ullah was forced to abdicate and go into exile in Rome. The Tajik Habibullah Kalakani (* 1890, † [executed] 1929), also known as Batscha-i-Saqqao (German son of the water carrier), was proclaimed an emir as Habib Ullah II in January 1929. In the following nine months Afghanistan sank into the chaos of civil war and anarchy.

Mohammed Nadir Khan (* 1880, † 1933), who came from a branch of the royal family, conquered Kabul in October 1929 and took power as Nadir Shah (1929–33). By balancing with the traditional forces, he was able to preserve important reforms (new constitution 1931) of his predecessor, even though his basic political line was restorative and repressive. An Afghan-Soviet neutrality and non-aggression treaty concluded in 1926 was renewed in 1931 (later extended several times). Nadir Shah was assassinated on November 8, 1933.

Thereupon his son M. Sahir Shah ascended the throne. Until 1963/64, direct governance lay with Prime Minister Haschem Khan (* around 1885, † 1953; 1933–46), Shah Mahmud (* 1890, † 1959; 1946–53) and M. Daud, who had always been from the royal family Khan (1953-63).

Afghanistan, which also maintained its neutrality during the Second World War, became a member of the UN in 1946 and was able to rely on Western as well as Eastern development aid in the following period (including 1951 agreement with the USA on technical cooperation, 1956 agreement with the USSR on the provision of technical assistance). The Federal Republic of Germany was one of the most important partners in development cooperation in the 1960s and 1970s. Persistent foreign policy tensions arose with the state of Pakistan, founded in 1947, because Afghanistan did not recognize the areas beyond the Durand Line inhabited by the Pashtuns as Pakistani territory and demanded the formation of an autonomous Pashtunistan (1961-63 temporary break in diplomatic relations with Pakistan, which in turn closed its borders with Afghanistan and thus largely blocked Afghan foreign trade).

With the abdication of Daud Khan, a constitutional constitution was passed under the leadership of the king in 1964, which contained the beginnings of western parliamentarism, but remained king-centered. Although many Afghans nostalgically glorify the constitutional phase (1964–73) as an epoch of political and democratic awakening (Golden Age), it was also a time of instability and economic stagnation. Five prime ministers were in office within ten years: Mohammed Yussuf (1963–1965), Mohammed Haschim Maiwandwal (1965–1967), Nur Ahmed Etemadi (1967–1971), Abdul Sahir (1971–1972) and Musa Schafiq (1972-1973). Foreign development aid also decreased during this period. Due to a drought (1969–72) that claimed up to 100,000 victims, the country’s economic situation came to a head and Sahir Shah and the government came under fire for inadequate disaster management.

Anglo-Afghan Wars

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