Believe it or not, Afghanistan was making strides towards a positive direction. Afghanistan was ruled by a king, the last king, who went by the name of Mohammed Zahir Shah. He was educated abroad and came back to rule Afghanistan after his stint in Europe. His rule brought peace; however, there was no real significant progress on a national scale. While he was away due to medical reasons, his cousin, Mohammed Daoud Khan, staged a coup and overthrew his cousin’s monarchy and became the first president of Afghanistan.
Daoud, which is translated as David, was in office from 1973 until 1978. But, why such a short period? Well, he was assassinated by the Russians and the PDPA (Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan). We will get to the reasons behind his assassination shortly, don’t you worry. Daoud was well known for his progressive policies and wanted to establish women rights while also initiating a ten year modernization plan which would have increased labor force significantly.
Flag of the PDPA, very, um, Soviet –esque.
Now, the Russians had also supported Daoud — heck, they even gave him military equipment at a discounted price. However, things were changing rather quickly. Daoud was starting to distance himself from the socialist/communist element which was the backbone of his political party. Daoud did not trust the heavily communist oriented individuals within his party, which we know as the PDPA. Daoud also did not favor the fact that the Afghans were becoming heavily dependent on the Soviets. He wanted to break away from the Soviets and establish relationships with other more progressive and powerful nations, all of course in the name of progress.
Knowing the USSR, they did not approve of Daoud’s actions; eventually he pissed them off. The USSR was fearing that Daoud was going to break away from their clutches and westernize itself, by bettering relationships with the U.S and using them as a means of progress into the future. (This happened before, with a country we know as Egypt.) The USSR was not going to let history repeat itself, no way. Oh, did I mention that Afghanistan also wanted to foster relations with the two oil rich nations known as Saudi Arabia and Iran? From his intentions you could tell that Daoud was going to go all in after detaching his nation from the influence of the Soviets. Daoud had a feeling that the USSR was weakening; therefore, he wanted to align with the more progressive and powerful nations.
On April 27-28th, 1978, a coup known as the Saur Revolution took place. The perpetrators were none other than members of the PDPA; they disposed of Daoud and his family while they were at the palace. The USSR was fine with his permanent removal and told themselves that they had nothing to worry in regards to Afghanistan leaving their clutches. What the Soviets didn’t know was that they were heavily mistaken.
Scene during the Saur Revoltion
A man named Nur Tarraki became the leader of Afghanistan after the coup (1978). He wanted to “modernize” the nation; however, many of the native Afghans were against this idea. In order to instill power and keep things moving along, he arrested many nationals and executed thousands of political prisoners. So much for a democratic movement. Surprisingly, a close friend and ally of Tarraki, a man named Hafizullah Amin, eventually had Tarraki assassinated so that he could obtain power. Interesting to note, Amin was also a part of the PDPA — for loyalty, I guess. By April 1979, hell was breaking loose in Afghanistan, large parts of the country were rebelling and the government had lost all control of the territories outside of the major cities.
At the plea of the new president (Mr. Amin) the USSR sent troops to Afghanistan in order to stabilize the country. However, on December 24th 1979, the 40th Army was sent to Kabul and yes, staged a coup, killed president Amin (Soviets thought he was aligned with the Americans) and installed a new man who had a more socialist ideology. His name was Babrak Karmal. (At this point you must be saying “What the hell is going on, why so many revolutions?” Don’t worry, I said the same thing.)
By 1980, 34 nations from the Islamic Conference, along with the U.N general assembly, demanded that the Soviets withdraw their forces from Afghanistan. The Afghan public wanted the Soviets out of their land but they needed a push and some support and it eventually came in the form of a group called the Mujaheddin. The Mujaheddin were a group of Afghan nationals who decided to take up arms in order to dispel the infidel/non God believing commies out of their land.
It is important to note that the Mujaheddin also consisted of individuals who were from other nations (mostly Islamic) but wanted to assist their Muslims brothers in the jihad against the Soviets. Without much contemplation America, Egypt, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia & the U.K helped in arming and training these insurgents so that they could push the Soviets back. The Afghans indulged in guerrilla warfare, which was quite effective and caused a lot of damage.
Eventually, under Gorbachev, the Soviets pulled out in 1989, but now there was a problem. What were the nations to do with all of these insurgents that they just armed? What was the chance that they would not cause a new doo doo storm of issues? Well, there was no guarantee –that’s the problem. Here’s a name you may all know: Osama Bin Laden. Yes, he was there, causing up a storm and forming his own group, known as Al Qaeda. Go figure. The Taliban also came into play, which caused even more issues for Afghanistan down the road.
As time progressed from the withdrawal of the Soviets, a man by the name of Mohammad Najibullah was “elected” the new president. However, his legacy bit the dust as well. Apparently the Taliban castrated him and dragged him along the road behind a truck. Yikes.
The Taliban took power over Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and during that time it was hell. They ran the nation like some scene from 1400 years ago, truly archaic. No one was allowed to question their rule and a strict version of Islam was implemented throughout the land. Afghanistan was known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan during that period. However, all of that came to an end in 2001.
Currently, Ashraf Ghani is the president of Afghanistan and he is trying to bring the nation back to its feet with international help. There are some good redevelopment plans in place; however, the Taliban and Al Qaeda still roam the land and are causing hell and resistance. The direction in which Afghanistan is heading is good, yet there are many tough obstacles to overcome.
Really, it’s a shame that Afghanistan is so inaccessible at this point in time. In reality, it’s actually a very beautiful place.