Afghanistan History

Afghanistan history is a complex meeting of numerous culture groups. Afghanistan first appeared in history in the 6th century BC when it was introduced into the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids. It has been invaded in subsequent succession by many foreign nations, but no-one could ever colonize the country.

The area is frequently called "Land of the Free," "Land of the Unruly," "Land of Rebels" and "Land of Insolence" (rudeness, disrespect). The ancient name for the country was Ariana (named after the ancient Aryans who inhabited the area).

It had three provinces: Drangia (northern Afghanistan), Arachosia (northeast Afghanistan and Panpamisus (Kabul valley). Later provinces were called Bactria (north), Aria (northwest), and Gandhara (in the Kabul area). During the time of the Persian invasion the area of northern Afghanistan was called Bactria.

Afghan tribes united for the first time in 1747 and the country Afghanistan was born.

Along with the rest of the Persian Empire, the region was subjugated around 330BC by Alexander the Great. After his death in 323BC, most of the region fell under the dominion of Alexander's general Seleuces I and later under the Indian king, Chandragupta.

Later another Greek dynasty established itself in Bactria and founded a state that lasted from 256 BC until 130 BC. The Greco-Bactrian state yielded to Iranian nomads called the Sakas and then to the Kushans, who adopted Buddhism.

In the 3rd and 4th century AD, the Sassanid Persian invaded the country from the west. The Hephthalites or White Huns, were largely in control of Afghanistan when conquering Arabs swept the region in the middle of the 7th century.

Mongolians overran the country during the 13th century when they swept through the rest of Asia. During the 15th and 16th century, the Persian Safavid dynasty fought with the Indian Mogul rulers for control of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan history came full circle when in 1747, the Pashtun leader Ahmad Shah Durrani proclaimed himself king at Kandahar, establishing the last Afghan empire - the foundation of the modern Afghan state consolidated by Abdur Rrahman Khan (180-1901).

The 19th century brought civil war as well as two British attempts, in 1839 and 1878, to impose imperial control. These futile British attempts dissuaded the Russians to do something similar.

In 1919, the third Anglo-Afghan war freed Afghanistan from foreign domination. From 1919 to 1979, Afghans enjoyed 60 years of independence and neutrality.

Afghanistan history will forever be marked by what happened in 1973 when all the fighting and war began. King Zaher Shaw sought medical for his eyes from NOOR, (means "light"), and was the only eye clinic operating in Afghanistan at the time.

The King was advised to go to Italy for more complex treatment than currently available at the time in the country. While he was away, he was overthrown by his cousin, Daoud. The King remained in exile in Rome until he returned to Kabul during Hamid Karzai's reign and died a few days later.

In April 1978, another coup d'etat took place and Kabul found itself at war with its people.

In December 1979, the country was invaded by the Soviets. Afghan resistance fighters, called mujahideen (fighters of the faith) started a liberation struggle which they called a jihad (holy war) against the Russians.

Russian forces retreated in February 1989 and civil war raged between different tribal groups until the Taliban took control of much of Afghanistan. Their reign of terror lasted approximately 7 years. The Americans invaded late 2001 and liberated Kabul from the Taliban.


  • Report on Afghanistan by Elizabeth Jordan, South Africa, April, 1997.

  • Private NOOR documents
  • Afghanistan, Louis Dupree

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