History of India’s Neighbours
- India gained independence after 200 years of colonial rule in 1947. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, let’s take a moment to go over the history of our neighbours during the same 75 years. Hence, we will be having a week long series on India’s neighbours
- Afghanistan officially the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ shares a small 106 km border with India which is now part of the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). India and Afghanistan share a common history that goes back over two millennia since evidence of the Indus Valley has been found in Shortugai in northern Afghanistan. A majority of Afghanistan was also under the Mauryan empire which brought Buddhism to the region, which flourished later under Kushanas.
- Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia and beyond and has long since held a strategic location making it a coveted land for any and all super powers. However, it has also proven to be untameable and is known as the ‘Graveyard of Empires’ which was again reiterated by the withdrawal of the United States recently.
- Afghanistan was under the Barakzai dynasty from 1823 to 1973, it was known as the Kingdom of Afghanistan from 1929 till 1973. Like almost all the kingdoms, it was also filled with coups and bloodshed till 1933 when Mohammed Zahir Shah took over power. He remained in power till 1973.
- After the second World War, Afghanistan joined the UN in 1946 and was the only country to object to the addition of Pakistan into the UN. Later during the Cold War, it wanted to remain neutral hence it joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.
- However, in 1973 while the King was undergoing medical treatment in Italy, his cousin and Army General Mohammed Daoud Khan initiated a bloodless coup which overthrew the monarchy and made Afghanistan into a Republic under single party rule, in which he became the President.
- This was not to last as, in 1978 the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), with the help of the Soviet Union staged a military coup which overthrew Daoud Khan and created a socialist regime under the name Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA). This became known as the Saur Revolution or April Revolution. The government created a large number of controversial policies such as land and marriage reforms and an enforced policy of de-Islamization along with socialisation measures. These led to civil unrest and by 1979 USSR felt the need to directly intervene in Afghanistan.
Soviet–Afghan War (1979-1992):
- The Afghan invasion of Soviet Union resulted in protracted war between the Soviets and the Afghan mujahideen (Islamist rebel groups). Mujahideen is a collective term to represent various factions which used guerrilla tactics to fight against the Soviets.
- The Afghan mujahideen though fighting a common foe, were generally divided into two distinct alliances: the larger and more significant Sunni Islamic union collectively referred to as the “Peshawar Seven”, based in Pakistan, and the smaller Shia Islamic union collectively referred to as the “Tehran Eight”, based in Iran; as well as independent units that referred to themselves as “mujahideen”.
- The Peshawar Seven was trained and funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States under Operation Cyclone while also getting large amount of funds and volunteers from various Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden joined the group during this time period and rose to prominence.
- The war was heavily taxing on the Soviet Union which was already on its last legs. Hence, they chose to withdraw from the conflict in 1989, just two years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Graveyard of Empires claimed another victory.
- Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the allied mujahideen took over the capital in 1992 and formed a coalition government under Peshawar Accords. This however did not last and the situation devolved into another civil war.
Emergence of Taliban
- In September 1994, Mullah Mohammad Omar and 50 students founded the group in his hometown of Kandahar. The group, named Taliban meaning students, quickly became a behemoth attracting various members mostly Afghan refugees who were studying in religious schools or madrasas in Pakistan.
- On 3 November 1994, the Taliban, in a surprise attack, conquered Kandahar City. Before 4 January 1995, they controlled 12 out of 34 Afghan provinces.
- On 26 September 1996, Taliban prepared a major offensive, the coalition government ordered a retreat from Kabul to continue anti-Taliban resistance in the north-eastern Hindu Kush mountains. The Taliban entered Kabul on 27 September 1996 and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (1996–2001)
- Taliban during the period 1995 to 2001 wanted the re-establishment of a state with Pashtun dominance within the northern areas. They tried to establish an Islamic government through law and order alongside a strict interpretation of Sharia law, in accordance with the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence.
- In December 2000, the UNSC in Resolution 1333, condemned the use of Taliban territory for training of “terrorists” and Taliban providing safe haven to Osama bin Laden, and issued severe sanctions against Afghanistan under Taliban control.
- In late 1996, a rebel force named Northern Alliance was formed to fight against the Taliban. They controlled roughly 30% of Afghanistan’s population and around 10% of the territory. They received support from India, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Israel, Turkmenistan, United States and Uzbekistan. They set up democratic institutions and signed the Women’s Rights Declaration. Women were allowed to work and to go to school.
NATO Intervention and Democratic Rule (2001-2021)
- On 12 September 2001, NATO approved a campaign against Afghanistan as self-defense against armed attack. Facing US pressure, on 22 September, the United Arab Emirates, and later Saudi Arabia, withdrew recognition of the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legal government, leaving neighbouring Pakistan as the only remaining country with diplomatic ties.
- On 7 October 2001, less than one month after the 11 September attacks, the US, aided by the NATO alliance, initiated military action, bombing Taliban and Al-Qaeda-related camps. By 13 November, the Taliban had withdrawn from both Kabul and Jalalabad. Finally, in early December, the Taliban gave up Kandahar, their last stronghold, dispersing without surrendering.
- In mid-2002 exiled Taliban leaders in Pakistan formed the Leadership Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in the Pakistani city of Quetta. By 2003 the Taliban showed signs of a comeback and not long afterwards their insurgency was underway. The continued support from tribal and other groups in Pakistan, the drug trade, and the small number of NATO forces, combined with the long history of resistance and isolation, allowed Taliban to initiate a protracted guerrilla war against the NATO and Afghan forces.
- Observers suggested that poppy eradication, which hurt the livelihoods of those Afghans who had resorted to their production, and civilian deaths caused by airstrikes, abetted the resurgence. By July 2016, 20% of Afghanistan came to be under Taliban control with southernmost Helmand Province as their stronghold.
- On 29 February 2020, the US–Taliban deal, officially titled Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan, was signed in Doha, Qatar. This agreement included the withdrawal of all American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge to prevent al-Qaeda from operating in areas under Taliban control, and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
- On 15 August 2021, Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul was captured by the Taliban ending the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and reinstatement of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban. While we do not know what will happen in the future, it is now evident that the Taliban are here to stay and the world has to deal with them