Afghanistan’s turbulent history

A chronology of key events:

Early history

Around 330BC: Alexander the Great conquers the area now known as Afghanistan after defeating the Persians. After his death the region is ruled by the Seleucids, one of the successor states which emerged on the break-up of his empire. After 305BC control swings between the Hindu Mauryan Empire, Parthians, various Indo-Greek rulers, Persians and Turks.

7th century AD: Arab armies bring Islam to Afghanistan

Mongol conquest

1219: Overrun by Mongols under Genghis Khan.

1504: Genghis Khan’s descendant Babur establishes Mughal Empire with its capital at Kabul. After about 200 years centralised rule breaks up again and the region is ruled by several different groups.

Afghanistan is born

1747: Modern state of Afghanistan founded by Ahmad Shah Durran, a former bodyguard of assassinated Persian ruler Nadir Shah, with its capital at Kandahar. Ahmad Shah goes on to conquer present-day Pakistan as well as parts of Iran and India.

1826: Dost Mohammad takes the throne in Kabul but soon comes under pressure from Sikh invaders and from the British, now ruling neighbouring India, over his links with Russia and Iran.

The British arrive

1838: Britain launches the First Anglo-Afghan War to place Shuja Shah on the throne in Kabul. The British stay until 1842 before withdrawing through the Khyber Pass. In the final year of the war a combined British and Raj force of 4,500 troops and more than 12,000 camp followers is massacred after leaving Kabul en route for Jalalabad.

1878: Second Anglo-Afghan War breaks out after Afghanistan’s ruler, Dost Mohammad’s son Sher Ali, refuses to accept a British delegation at his court. Lasts until 1880 when the British withdraw having secured most of their objectives.

A state is created

1919: Independence: Afghanistan regains independence after a third war against Britain.

1933: Stability: Following years of civil unrest, Zahir Shah becomes king and remains in power for the next 40 years.

1973: Republic: The former prime minister, Mohammed Daud, seizes power in a coup and declares a republic. He is overthrown in 1978 and a year later, Hufizullah Amin wins a power struggle and becomes president.

The Soviet war

1979: Occupation: Soviet troops move into Afghanistan and remove Hufizullah Amin from power. In 1980, backed by the Soviet Union, Babrack Karmal is installed as president.

1985: Resistance: Islamic fighters known as Mujahedeen intensify their resistance to the government and Soviet occupation. The United States provides financial backing to their cause and in 1986 supplies them with Stinger missiles, enabling Mujahedeen to shoot down Soviet helicopters.

Mujahedeen triumph

1989 Soviet retreat: Soviet troops leave Afghanistan, leaving pro-Soviet President Mohammed Nujiballah exposed.

1992: Capital captured: Mujahedeen take control of the capital, Kabul and President Nujibullah falls from power. Rival militias compete for control.

Taliban rule

1996: Hard-line regime: The Taliban seize control and introduce extreme Islamic law, banning women from work and using brutal punishments like stoning to death and amputations.

1998: bin Laden: The United States launches air strikes on suspected bases of Osama bin Laden, who is accused of organising bombings of US embassies in Africa.

War declared

2001: September 11: Four US airliners are hijacked. Two are flown into the World Trade Centre and one hits the Pentagon. Another crashes in Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people are killed in the attacks. The United States blames Al Qaeda.

Military action October- December: The US and Britain launch air strikes in Afghanistan after the Taliban refuse to hand over bin Laden. Opposition forces seize most major cities including Kabul and the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

New leadership: December- Hamid Karzai sworn in as head of an interim government.

2002: Peacekeepers: January- The first contingent of foreign peacekeepers moves in.

2003: Consolidation: Allied forces continue their operations to stamp out Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the country’s south-east.

2004: New constitution: January- Afghanistan’s Grand Assembly adopts a new constitution, strengthening the authority of the president.

Presidential election: October- Hamid Karzai is returned to power with 55% of the vote.

2005: Parliamentary elections: September- Parliamentary and provincial elections take place for the first time in 30 years.

2005-2006 Suicide bombings: Between January 2005 and August 2006 there are 64 suicide attacks, killing 181 people.

2006 Changing of the guard: October- NATO takes control of security across Afghanistan.

2007: Military surge: March- NATO and Afghan troops launch Operation Achilles, their largest offensive against the Taliban in the country’s south.

Mass murder: November- A bomber targets a parliamentary delegation in Baghlan. More than 40 people die in the country’s worst suicide attack so far.

2008 Jail break: June- More than 350 insurgents escape from a prison in Kandahar.

Suicide strike: July- More than 50 people die when a suicide bomber attacks the Indian embassy in Kabul.

More troops: September-The United States sends an additional 4 500 troops.

October: Germany sends an additional 3 500 troops.

2009: Renewed push: February- US President Barack Obama announces 17 000 extra troops will be sent to Afghanistan.

2009: More Australian troops: April – The Australian government announces an additional 450 troops will be sent to Afghanistan. When they arrive, Australia’s troop contribution will be approximately 1,550.