Military of Afghanistan - History

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From the Great Game to the Global War on Terror

Ali Ahmad Jalali

The history of Afghanistan is largely military history. From the Persians and Greeks of antiquity to the British, Soviet, and American powers in modern times, outsiders have led military conquests into the mountains and plains of Afghanistan, leaving their indelible marks on this ancient land at the juncture of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In this book Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former interior minister of Afghanistan, taps a deep understanding of his country’s distant and recent past to explore Afghanistan’s military history during the last two hundred years.

With an introductory chapter highlighting the major military developments from early times to the foundation of the modern Afghan state, Jalali’s account focuses primarily on the era of British conquest and Anglo-Afghan wars the Soviet invasion the civil war and the rise of the Taliban and the subsequent U.S. invasion. Looking beyond persistent stereotypes and generalizations—e.g., the “graveyard of empires"”designation emerging from the Anglo-Afghan wars of the 19th century and the Soviet experience of the 1980s—Jalali offers a nuanced and comprehensive portrayal of the way of war pursued by both state and non-state actors in Afghanistan against different domestic and foreign enemies, under changing social, political, and technological conditions. He reveals how the structure of states, tribes, and social communities in Afghanistan, along with the scope of their controlled space, has shaped their modes of fighting throughout history. In particular, his account shows how dynastic wars and foreign conquests differ in principle, strategy, and method from wars initiated by non-state actors including tribal and community militias against foreign invasions or repressive governments.

&ldquoJalali’s effective use of primary and secondary sources from a diverse range of participants in Afghanistan’s military history makes for a fascinating and important read. Utilizing Afghan, Indian, Pakistani, British, Soviet, and American accounts, the book comes closer than any other thus far in painting a complete picture of the turbulent history of this fascinating nation.&rdquo

&mdashArmy History

&ldquoThis magnificent achievement by Jalali should certainly become the new standard by which all other histories of conflict in the region are judged.&rdquo

&mdashMilitary Review

&ldquoAli Ahmad Jalali has now written the most comprehensive English-language study of Afghan military history.&rdquo

&mdashMichigan War Studies Review

&ldquoAs a survey of nineteenth and twentieth century Afghan military history by an experienced Afghan historian drawing on sources in several languages&mdashthose of Afghanistan, English, and Russian&mdashthis book is especially valuable.&rdquo

&mdashNew York Military Affairs Symposium Review

&ldquoReadable and will be a good source for those interested in the military history of Afghanistan.&rdquo


&ldquoProfessor Jalali’s book will be the authoritative and standard work for scholars, soldiers, statesmen, and citizens alike. Well written, thoroughly researched in multiple relevant languages, and, presented as only this highly educated Afghan army colonel, one time freedom fighter, former Afghan Minister of the Interior, and scholar could do. This is the balanced history required for a world community struggling to bring a meaningful peace to this troubled land.&rdquo

&mdashLester W. Grau, author of Operation Anaconda: America’s First Major Battle in Afghanistan and The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost

&ldquoProfessor Jalali’s deeply researched, beautifully written, and humane book places today’s headlines in the context of centuries, reminding the reader that every society’s ways of warfare change with the challenges it faces and the resources of its leaders, society, and culture. Jalali takes us far beyond sound bites to place Afghanistan’s wars in the long panorama of human history.&rdquo

&mdashBarnett R. Rubin, author of Afghanistan from the Cold War through the War on Terror

&ldquoA definitive history of Afghanistan depicting both insider and outsider perspectives. The author’s evenhanded analytical approach provides a clear and balanced picture of momentous military events that shaped the future of Afghanistan and influenced major political developments in the region. With its professional focus and unparalleled access to primary sources Jalali offers a unique and unrivaled study of the Afghan ways of warfare and lessons learned in the context of military history in general.&rdquo

&mdashGeneral Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghanistan Minister of Defense (2004�)

&ldquoTo understand Afghanistan today and in the future requires an acute understanding of the country’s past. While this truism applies to every country and people, nowhere is it truer than in Afghanistan. Ali’s monumental work provides necessary context and essential new dimensions for that understanding at a time when precious few in the West (if not the world as a whole) possess it.&rdquo

&mdashDavid M. Glantz, author of The Stalingrad Trilogy

&ldquoA must read for anyone seriously interested in Afghanistan.&rdquo

&mdashZalmay Khalilzad, Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and author of The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House

&ldquoCombining careful scholarship, a deep knowledge of Afghan society and world history, and decades of top level military and political experience in his native Afghanistan, Jalali’sstudy is a masterpiece. In lively detail he shows how both external and internal struggles have shaped the state’s ability to provide good governance at home, and implies that security and development must always go hand in hand in the future. This magnificent book will henceforth be the essential reading for anyone interested in the fate of Afghanistan.&rdquo

&mdashS. Frederick Starr, chairman, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program

&ldquoA Military History of Afghanistan is a unique work in scope, learning, and sources. The development of Afghanistan’s military is completely interwoven with the development of the Afghan state and provides a fascinating perspective through which to review and relearn Afghan history. The breadth of the Persian language as well as English language sources combined with the author's personal involvement with much of the recent history makes the work uniquely valuable.&rdquo

&mdashAmbassador Ronald E. Neumann (ret.), President of the American Academy of Diplomacy, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, and, author of The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan

Written by a professional soldier, politician, and noted scholar with a keen analytical grasp of his country’s military and political history, this magisterial work offers unique insight into the military history of Afghanistan—and thus, into Afghanistan itself.

About the Author

Ali Ahmad Jalali, is a Distinguished Professor at the National Defense. He is the author of Afghan Guerilla Warfare: In the Words of the Mujahedin Fighters and coauthor of The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahedin Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War.

Soviet intervention

1979 December - Soviet Army invades and props up communist government.

1980 - Babrak Karmal installed as ruler, backed by Soviet troops. But opposition intensifies with various mujahideen groups fighting Soviet forces. US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia supply money and arms to the mujahideen.

1985 - Mujahideen come together in Pakistan to form alliance against Soviet forces. Half of Afghan population now estimated to be displaced by war, with many fleeing to neighbouring Iran or Pakistan.

1986 - US begins supplying mujahideen with Stinger missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships. Babrak Karmal replaced by Najibullah as head of Soviet-backed regime.

1988 - Afghanistan, USSR, the US and Pakistan sign peace accords and Soviet Union begins pulling out troops.

A Military History of Afghanistan: From the Great Game to the Global War on Terror

Douglas M. Peers A Military History of Afghanistan: From the Great Game to the Global War on Terror. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2018 49 (1): 181–183. doi:

One cannot but succumb to a deep and depressing sense of déjà vu when reading Jalili’s encyclopedic history of two centuries of Afghanistan’s military history. Although the precise military nomenclature may change, there is a dispiriting commonality between the British dispatching heavily armed columns to mount a show of force in the three Anglo-Afghan Wars and twenty-first century talk of deploying a “surge” to bring a resolution to the ongoing conflict. This observation is not specific to the British and the Americans the Soviets were also drawn to use ultimately futile strategies when dealing with Afghanistan (at the time of this writing, President Trump has just announced another surge). On two occasions in the nineteenth century, the British governors-general of India resorted to a similar strategy in reaction to the Afghan people’s failure to concede defeat and comply with what others assumed was in their best interests. Moreover, conflicts in and with Afghanistan, whether in 1838, 1879, 1919, or 1978, were all too often the result of heavy-handed attempts at regime change. If history does not repeat itself, mistakes and misreadings certainly do.

Jalili offers a conventional, albeit highly detailed and thoughtful, chronology of the major military and political events throughout the course of the past two centuries. This work is based on the premise that “military history is virtually the history of Afghanistan” (xi). Hence, Jalili builds his narrative around the many ill-fated efforts at welding together a modern state along a major strategic fault line, whether these efforts emanated from indigenous, external, or mixed sources. He accomplishes this detailed reconstruction with a clear commitment to being as even-handed and as comprehensive as he can with regard to the principal actors. He carefully considers the decisions and underlying motives of key decision makers and offers fresh insights into the actions taken by Afghan rulers.

Jalili’s sources are mostly published primary accounts. Readers will be grateful for his inclusion of published works in languages other than English, such as Russian, Pashto, Farsi/Dari, and Urdu. But this reliance on published primary accounts is not without its dangers. For example, Jalali turns to Sita Ram’s memoir of life as a sepoy in the mid-nineteenth century British Indian Army to illustrate British experiences in the first Anglo-Afghan War, apparently unaware of the debates about the authenticity of this work. 1 Moreover, although he seems to be familiar with much of the extant published scholarly accounts, his omissions are noteworthy, particularly for the British period. For example, there is nothing from Yapp or Norris. 2

Jalili supplements the wide range of published sources with his own personal knowledge and experience derived from his extensive employment in the higher levels of the Afghan army and government. Currently Afghanistan’s ambassador to Germany, Jalili spent two decades as an officer in the Afghan army (1961–1981), and in the immediate post-Taliban period, he was appointed Interior Minister (2003–2005). His detailed familiarity with the region gives credence to his cautionary injunctions against much of what we have learned from Western officials and media reports. For example, concerning the Tora Bora cave complex to which Osama bin Laden retreated following the American invasion, he notes that most public accounts “overestimated the complexity of the caves, as though they were cavern castles built for the villain in a James Bond film” (479).

Jalili stresses the impact of geography throughout this work, repeatedly presenting Afghanistan as a nation in arms, wherein geography encourages and reinforces localized armed responses whenever central authority collapses. No single authority has successfully monopolized coercive power for long. Consequently, the history of Afghanistan has been marked by the co-existence of regular and irregular warfare, and by unresolved national and local tensions that created complex and ever-shifting situations in which external invaders could become easily mired. Jalili shows British failures in the first and second Anglo-Afghan War to have been the result of much more than mere British tactical incompetence, hostile geography, or primordial fanaticism on the part of the Afghan defenders. British invasions in the nineteenth century triggered widespread anti-British resistance that reflected an incipient nationalism, albeit one that was partially offset by tribal and ethnic allegiances that required constant negotiation.

Jalili carefully documents Afghan attempts at state building and military reform, as well as the challenges that beset such efforts. In particular, he carefully illuminates the care with which Afghan rulers had to juggle competing external influences and threats, principally from the British and Russians but also from the Americans, Pakistani, and Iranians who came to play a larger role during the second half of the twentieth century. At the same time, no ruler could ignore the factions within Afghanistan. Jalili frames these rulers primarily in ethno-linguistic terms he does not address such factors as socio-economic development in any depth.

A Military History of Afghanistan largely succeeds in its attempt to make sense of a complex history, and it does so thoughtfully and clearly. However, Jalili might have injected more of own voice into the book his unique perspective, founded upon years of firsthand familiarity with the people and the issues, is what really distinguishes this work.

Iraq takes centre stage

With the ouster of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the international focus shifted to reconstruction and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan. In April 2002 Bush announced a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute, promising substantial financial assistance. But from the start, development efforts in Afghanistan were inadequately funded, as attention had turned among U.S. officials to the looming confrontation in Iraq. Between 2001 and 2009, just over $38 billion in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan was appropriated by the U.S. Congress. More than half the money went to training and equipping Afghan security forces, and the remainder represented a fraction of the amount that experts said would be required to develop a country that had consistently ranked near the bottom of global human development indices. The aid program was also bedeviled by waste and by confusion over whether civilian or military authorities had responsibility for leading education, health, agriculture, and other development projects.

Despite military commitments from dozens of U.S. allies, the United States initially argued against allowing the other foreign forces—operating as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)—to deploy beyond the Kabul area. That choice was directed by the Pentagon, which insisted on a “light footprint” out of concern that Afghanistan would become a drag on U.S. resources as attention shifted to Iraq (see Iraq War). When ISAF did begin to venture beyond Kabul, its efforts were hampered by the “caveats” of its component countries—restrictions that kept all but a handful of the militaries from actively engaging in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The force, overseen by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the organization’s first mission outside Europe, was also hamstrung by a lack of troops as international commitments to Afghanistan flagged.

The United States consistently represented the largest foreign force in Afghanistan, and it bore the heaviest losses. By spring 2010 more than 1,000 U.S. troops had been killed in Afghanistan, while the British troops suffered some 300 deaths and the Canadians some 150. Both Britain and Canada stationed their troops in Afghanistan’s south, where fighting had been most intense. More than 20 other countries also lost troops during the war, though many—such as Germany and Italy—chose to focus their forces in the north and the west, where the insurgency was less potent. As the fighting dragged on and casualties escalated, the war lost popularity in many Western countries, creating domestic political pressure to keep troops out of harm’s way or to pull them out altogether.

Initially, the war appeared to have been won with relative ease. On May 1, 2003, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced an end to “major combat” in Afghanistan. On the same day, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” At that time, there were 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The first democratic Afghan elections since the fall of the Taliban were held on October 9, 2004, with approximately 80 percent of registered voters turning out to give Karzai a full five-year term as president. Parliamentary elections were staged a year later, with dozens of women claiming seats set aside for them to ensure gender diversity. The 2004 constitution provided Afghanistan with a powerful central government and weak regional and local authorities—a structure that was in opposition to the country’s long-standing traditions.

Despite vast powers under the constitution, Karzai was widely regarded as a weak leader who grew increasingly isolated as the war progressed. He survived several assassination attempts—including a September 2004 rocket attack that nearly struck a helicopter he was riding in—and security concerns kept him largely confined to the presidential palace in Kabul. Karzai’s government was beset by corruption, and efforts to build a national army and a police force were troubled from the start by inadequate international support and ethnic differences between Afghans.


Afghanistan: 10 Stories in 10 Years PBS presents ten significant stories from the first ten years of the war in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians A 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service.

Afghanistan: The Harrison Forman Collection This online exhibit documents the life and culture of Afghanistan in the late 1960s, several years before the Soviet Union invaded the country.

Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force ISAF is a NATO organization that "conducts operations in Afghanistan to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population."

Afghanistan War Medal of Honor Recipients A listing of recipients of the Medal of Honor for actions during the war in Afghanistan.

America's Battalion National Public Radio's series following the Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.

Annotated Bibliography of Government Documents Related to the Threat of Terrorism & the Attacks of September 11, 2001 The documents cited in this bibliography were produced by the United States Government concerning the events of September 11. The bibliography includes documents produced by Congress, the President, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, State Department, and many more.

Army Artists Look at the War on Terrorism The artworks reproduced in this online book from the Army Center of Military History were created by soldier-artists assigned to the Army Staff Artist Program. A chapter is devoted to the war in Afghanistan.

The Campaign against International Terrorism: prospects after the fall of the Taliban "This paper provides an update on the campaign against international terrorism following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It examines the main developments since the end of October 2001, including the ongoing military campaign, the Bonn agreement on a new interim administration for the country, and the humanitarian situation."

Coalition Countries United States Central Command's list of nations that have contributed to the war in Afghanistan.

A Different Kind of War: The United States Army in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, October 2001-September 2005 A Different Kind of War is "the Army's first comprehensive study of its campaign in Afghanistan. Based on hundreds of oral interviews and unclassified documents, this study offers a comprehensive chronological narrative of the first four years of Operation Enduring Freedom."

Obama's War PBS Frontline documentary about the war in Afghanistan after eight years, including a timeline, analysis, and interviews.

Operation Anaconda: An Air Power Perspective A report about Operation Anaconda, which was "designed and executed to remove the last remaining organized Taliban resistance."

Operation Enduring Freedom: Casualties The Defense Casualty Analysis System provides data regarding casualties incurred during the war in Afghanistan. Information is available by demographics, by casualty category, by month, and by names of the fallen.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection The University of Texas online collection of maps of Afghanistan. Types of maps include country, city, detailed, thematic, historical, war, and refugee maps.

Supporting Air and Space Expeditionary Forces: Lessons from Operation Enduring Freedom Free e-book from RAND that " presents an analysis of combat support experiences associated with Operation Enduring Freedom."

The War in Afghanistan "A listing of web sites that provide links to resources relating to the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan."

The War in Afghanistan This website from the BBC traces the history of the United States-led war in Afghanistan.

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Nutsch, who went into Special Forces because he wanted to work with small teams, served as the commander of ODA 595 for two years before the 9/11 attacks and had already deployed to the Middle East half a dozen times.

Although Nutsch left the unit and started a new assignment on Sept. 10, 2001, that was short-lived.

ODA 595 needed Nutsch, and he was subsequently reassigned the commander of the team. Days later on Sept. 14, 2001, Nutsch learned ODA 595 was poised to deploy.

“My team was informed that we were going to be the first Special Forces team deployed from the Special Forces Group into a mission that we didn’t fully know what it was going to be at that point,” Nutsch said. “But they had set us aside and said ‘start planning.’”

To prepare for Task Force Dagger, ODA 595 pored over National Geographic and tourist maps as they studied up on the regional personalities. Specifically, Nutsch said the team identified the anti-Taliban leaders of the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras who ultimately formed the Northern Alliance. The Green Berets and CIA counterparts worked to unite these groups to form a militia with nearly 5,000 fighters.

ODA 595 first headed to Uzbekistan on Oct. 5, 2001, before crossing into Afghanistan on Oct. 19 in an MH-47 Chinook helicopter and connecting with Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum and his Uzbek militia.

Dostum was a former communist general who had earned some notoriety for changing his allegiance in previous Afghan conflicts.

“We knew nothing about these guys,” retired Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, former U.S. Army Special Operations Command commander said, according to the Associated Press. “All of these guys have blood on their hands. None of these guys are clean actors.”

“There were a lot of unknowns,” Mulholland added. “That’s being gentle.”

Upon arrival, the team had a lot to learn — including how to ride the horses the locals rode within hours of touching down in Afghanistan.

“We’re figuring out, how do you carry your rifle? What gear do I keep on my body? What can I put on the horse? What do I leave behind? You know, can I trust the guys next to me? Is there an ambush up ahead?” Nutsch said.

“There’s a whole lot of things going on besides having this half-wild animal that you’re trying to figure out how to ride,” Nutsch said.

According to Nutsch, it was “pure fate” that he grew up on a cattle ranch and already knew his way around horses. Not everyone was as experienced as Nutsch. One of the other men on the team had ridden horses a little in high school, and it was a completely new experience for the other 10 members.

The men essentially received a horseback riding crash course involving hours on the horses as soon as they arrived in Afghanistan — a painful process that demanded using new muscles.

Furthermore, the saddles and riding gear wasn’t designed to accommodate the Americans, who were larger and heavier than their Afghanistan counterparts, according to an Army news release. Broken stirrups were repaired with parachute cargo straps.

Although Nutsch said there was a steep learning curve at first, the men adapted well and the horses actually provided them with some flexibility. For example, they could ride at any time during the day or night, in all terrain types.

Meanwhile, the Taliban and al-Qaida had limited mobility using in the tanks left over from when the Soviet Union exited Afghanistan in the 1980s.

“The horses allowed us to get in around them and behind them, and cut them off basically from reinforcement and retreat,” Nutsch said. This was possible because the special forces teams worked in three-man cells, along with their Afghan allies, and could view the enemy from various vantage points in adjacent districts, Nutsch said.

Although Nutsch said there were several close calls, no one on his team was seriously injured during Task Force Dagger.

On Nov. 10, ODA 595 and militia allies liberated the city of Mazar-e-Sharif from the Taliban, marking a huge victory that paved the way for future success. Weeks later, Taliban surrendered in other areas of Afghanistan.

“Our American presence on the ground gave them hope and emboldened them that they can have a little better future,” Nutsch said about the Afghan allies. “And I’m proud to say that 18 years later, those groups are still united and trying to be part of the political solution.”

/>ODA 595 with militia allies on Nov. 9, the day before Mazar-e-Shariff was liberated. (Mark Nutsch)

The brotherhood between Nutsch and the other men he served with has continued since the members exited the service. In fact, Nutsch, several other ODA 595 members and Green Berets teamed up five years ago to launch a business together, the American Freedom Distillery.

The company’s main product? Horse Soldier Bourbon Whiskey.

The bottle features an image of a soldier mounted on a horse with glass molded in steel from the World Trade Center to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11.

/>Nutsch and other men he served with launched American Freedom Distillery after they exited the service. (Mark Nutsch)

Although the men didn’t have a background in this field, they’ve used their military experience and applied it to the business.

“We approached it like a special operations mission,” Nutsch said. “We don’t know a whole lot about what’s going on, but we’re studying it, we’re learning it.”

The company, based out of St. Petersburg, Fla., has distribution in seven states: Florida, Indiana, Texas, Nevada, California, Virginia and New York. Major Navy Exchange and Coast Guard Exchanges also carry the bourbon, along with Army-Air Force Exchanges in Florida.

According to Nutsch, opening the distillery was their way of living the “dream we’ve been defending.”

Nutsch and one of his ODA 595 teammates, retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bob Pennington, are also working on publishing their own book, which will focus on operations over the span of several months for the 2001 mission.

“You could do a whole series of books on those guys from that 595 team,” Nutsch said.

Remembering the mission

In New York City near Ground Zero, a statue of a Special Forces soldier on horseback is erected to honor the special operations teams who headed into Afghanistan in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks.

Additionally, Nutsch and ODA 595’s story is the subject of the book, “Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan” that was published in 2010.

The book is the inspiration behind the Jerry Bruckheimer–produced film called “12 Strong” that was released in 2018 and stars Chris Hemsworth as Capt. Mitch Nelson, a character based on Nutsch.

“Obviously, it’s very accurate,” Nutsch joked about the movie. “Chris Hemsworth portrays me in the film, which my teenage daughters find very amusing.”

Nutsch said it was an honor the film was produced because movies aren’t often made about Green Berets.

“It’s very humbling that they worked to try to represent their portrayal of our portion of our mission,” Nutsch said.

“We’re very proud of that, but it’s still Hollywood,” Nutsch said. “Unfortunately, we were not as heavily involved in the production of the movie as we were led to believe we would be.”

Nutsch said that he and Pennington did visit the set for three days to meet the production staff and the actors.

“We hope that that movie sheds light on that historic mission and will shed some light on some of the other missions that happened during that time frame,” Nutsch said.

Additionally, Nutsch and other members of ODA 595 were featured in a 2017 documentary called "Legion of Brothers” that CNN Films, and the husband-wife team of journalist Peter Bergen and documentarian Tresha Mabile, produced.

Until the documentary and “12 Strong” came out, Nutsch said his family and those of his team were not fully aware of what ODA 595 was involved in for Task Force Dagger.

Those films have prompted deeper conversations with family members as they have gotten a better “glimpse” of what ODA 595 experienced in Afghanistan conducting Task Force Dagger, Nutsch said.

“There’s tough parts about this mission,” Nutsch said. “But I think it’s a testament to the power of what small teams that are enabled and empowered and resourced can do in incredible, challenging and complex situations.”


Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others at Darra-e Kur in 1966 where 800 stone implements were recovered along with a fragment of Neanderthal right temporal bone, suggest that early humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago. Kara Kamar , a cave, contained Upper Paleolithic blades Carbon-14 dated at 34,000 years old. [ 18 ] Farming communities in Afghanistan were among the earliest in the world. [ 5 ]

Urbanization may have begun as early as 3000 BC. [ 19 ] Zoroastrianism predominated as the religion in the area, even the modern Afghan solar calendar shows the influence of Zoroastrianism in the names of the months. [ 2 ] Other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism arrived in the region later. Gandhara is the name of an ancient Hindu kingdom from the Vedic period and its capital city located between the Hindukush and Sulaiman Mountains (mountains of Solomon), [ 20 ] although Kandahar in modern times and the ancient Gandhara are not geographically identical. [ 21 ] [ 22 ]

Early inhabitants, around 3000 BC were likely to have been connected through culture and trade to neighboring civilizations like Jiroft and Tappeh Sialk and more distantly to the Indus Valley Civilization. Urban civilization may have begun as early as 3000 BC, and it is possible that the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar) was a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization. [ 4 ] The first known people were Indo-Iranians, [ 5 ] but their date of arrival has been estimated widely from as early as about 3000 BC [ 23 ] to 1500 BC. [ 24 ] (For further detail see Indo-Aryan migration.)


The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex became prominent in the southwest region between 2200 and 1700 BC (approximately). The city of Balkh (Bactra) was founded about this time (c. 2000–1500 BC). It's possible that the BMAC may have been an Indo-European culture, perhaps the Proto-Indo-Aryans. [ 23 ] But the standard model holds the arrival of Indo-Aryans to have been in the Late Harappan which gave rise to the Vedic civilization of the Early Iron Age. [ 25 ]

Early invasions [ edit | edit source ]

The Persians of Persia (historical Persia is a part of Modern day Iran) invaded much of Afghanistan, and met heavy resistance. It is said and documented in Persian records that they required double the number of Persian troops in the city of Balkh (Northern Afghanistan) as there were many tribal and urban revolts to their rule. The first historically documented invasion of the Afghanistan region was by Alexander the Great in 330 BC as part of his string of conquests. Among the cities conquered were Herat and Kandahar. Soon after his death, the area was conquered by and incorporated into the expanding Mauryan Empire. Later conquests and rulers of Afghanistan included the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, and Indo-Greek Kingdom.

In the seventh to ninth centuries the area was again invaded from the west in the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan, resulting in the conversion of most of its inhabitants to Islam. This was one of many Muslim conquests following the establishment of a unified state in the Arabian Peninsula by the prophet Muhammad. At its height, Muslim control - during the period of the Arab Caliphate - extended from the borders of China to the Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain and Portugal) and it of course included the Middle East, North Africa, parts of southern Europe, parts of south East Europe, parts of central Asia, and parts of South Asia (South Asia is: Afghanistan, Pakistan & India).

In the Mongol invasion of Khwarezmia (1219�), Genghis Khan invaded the region from the northeast in one of his many conquests to create the huge Mongol Empire. Unlike earlier campaigns in Mongolia and China, Genghis Khan's armies completely destroyed Khwarazmia and brutally killed vast numbers of its civilians.

From 1383 to 1385, the Afghanistan area was conquered from the north by Timur, leader of neighboring Transoxiana (roughly modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and adjacent areas), and became a part of the Timurid Empire. Timur was from a Turko-Mongol tribe and although a Muslim, saw himself more as an heir of Genghis Khan. Timur's armies caused great devastation and are estimated to have caused the deaths of 17 million people. After the end of the Timurid Empire in 1506, the Mughal Empire was later established in Afghanistan and India by Babur in 1526, who was a descendant of Timur through his father and possibly a descendant of Genghis Khan through his mother. By the 17th century, the Mughal Empire ruled most of India, but later declined during the 18th century.

British invasions [ edit | edit source ]

During the nineteenth century, Afghanistan was invaded twice from British India, during the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1838� and again in the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878�, both times with the intention of limiting Russian influence in the country and quelling local tribal leaders. For the entire period, tribal cross-border warfare was constant, and parts of the Pashtun homeland were annexed to British India and referred to as the North-West Frontier Province.

Soviet intervention [ edit | edit source ]

Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988.

The Soviet Union, along with other countries, was a direct supporter of the new Afghan government after the Saur Revolution in 1978. However, Soviet-style reforms introduced by the government such as changes in marriage customs and land reform were not received well by a population deeply immersed in tradition and Islam. By 1979, fighting between the Afghan government and various other factions within the country, some of which were supported by the United States and other countries, led to a virtual civil war. The Afghan government requested increasing Soviet military support and eventually direct military involvement. Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev sent the 40th Army into Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. This event led to the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow by the United States and other countries, and kick-started U.S. funding for Islamic Mujahideen groups who opposed the Afghan government and the Soviet military presence. The local Mujahideen, along with fighters from several different Arab nations (Pathan tribes from Pakistan also participated in the war they were supported by ISI), eventually succeeded in forcing the Soviet Union out. This was a factor in the dissolution of Soviet communism, because it led to protests (similar to American Vietnam War protests) in the Soviet Union. Ώ] Eventually, in-fighting within the Mujahideen led to the rise of warlords in Afghanistan, and from them emerged the Taliban. ΐ]

Invasion by the United States and allies [ edit | edit source ]

U.S. Army soldiers prepare a Humvee to be sling-loaded by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Bagram on July 24, 2004.

On October 7, 2001 the United States, supported by some NATO countries including the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as other allies, began an invasion of Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom. The invasion was launched to capture Osama bin Laden, who was accused of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The US military forces did not capture him, though they toppled the Taliban government and disrupted bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. The Taliban government had given shelter to Bin Laden. On May 2, 2011, bin Laden was shot and killed by United States Armed Forces in Pakistan. The Taliban leadership survives in hiding throughout Afghanistan, largely in the southeast, and continues to launch freedom attacks against forces of the United States, its allies, and the current government of President Hamid Karzai.

In 2006, the US forces turned over security of the country to NATO-deployed forces in the region, integrating 12,000 of their 20,000 soldiers with NATO's 20,000. The remainder of the US forces continued to search for Al-Qaeda militants. The Canadian military assumed leadership and almost immediately began an offensive against areas where the Taliban guerrillas had encroached. At the cost of a few dozen of their own soldiers, the British, American, and Canadian Forces managed to kill over 1,000 alleged Taliban insurgents and sent thousands more into retreat. Many of the surviving insurgents, however, began to regroup and further clashes are expected by both NATO and Afghan National Army commanders.

US Military Bases in Afghanistan

Bagram Air Base is operated jointly by the United States Army and Air Force. Occupying forces include the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Coalition Forces and civilians complete the constitution of the base. History Bagram airfield was used by Soviet troops between 1979 and 1989. Between 1999 and 2001, the [&hellip]

Joint Bases

Shindand Air Base Herat Province, Afghanistan

Herat Province, US Military Bases in Afghanistan

Shindand Airbase is located in southwest Afghanistan less than 75 miles from the Iranian border. The nearest town is seven miles away at Sabzwar City in the Harat Providence. The base is a co-base which means that it is shared operations between the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. It is a [&hellip]

Kandahar International Airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan

Kandahar, US Military Bases in Afghanistan

Kandahar International Airport, Afghanistan is 16 km from Kandahar City, in the southern side of the country. It is one of the largest airports of Afghanistan. Until 2006, it was operated by the United States of America. It was taken over under the NATO administration since then. Due to the multiple damage encountered in the [&hellip]

Marine Bases

Camp Dwyer Marine Base in Hemland River Valley, Afghanistan

Helmand River Valley, US Military Bases in Afghanistan

Camp Dwyer is a United States Marine Corps installation and airfield located in the Gamir district of the Helmand River Valley in Afghanistan. The base was originally established as a Forward Operating Base (FOB) to combat insurgent activity in the Helmand Valley, a hotbed of terrorist activity. Though initially intended to only be a temporary [&hellip]

Camp Leatherneck Marine in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

Helmand Province, US Military Bases in Afghanistan

Camp Leatherneck is the home base of most United States Marine Corps operations in Afghanistan. The base began life as a barren outpost in 2009, but has quickly expanded into a 1,600 acre fairly modern facility that is a military powerhouse in the area. National Geographic Explorer filmed a documentary at the base detailing its [&hellip]

FOB Delaram Marine Corps Base in Delaram, Afghanistan

Delaram, US Military Bases in Afghanistan

FOB Delaram is a United States military base in Afghanistan. It is actually the Forward Operating Base of the United States Marine Corps in Afghanistan. This FOB in Afghanistan is located along the 2,000 km. in Afghanistan’s Delaram District. Ring Road is Afghanistan’s main thorough fare with numerous qualities of road surface connecting the country’s [&hellip]

Watch the video: List of All US Weapons Left Behind In Afghanistan