History Files
 

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

2023
Totals slider
2023

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

Far East Kingdoms

South Asia

 

Afghanistan

The modern state of Afghanistan is a relatievly recent creation, a political entity which formed during the course of the eighteenth century. Until then its territory had been a patchwork of provinces which had emerged out of the gradual decay of the Seleucid empire in the last few centuries BC.

The Parthians and then the Sassanids had attempted to keep these provinces under control with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately they faced several waves of invasion of the farther areas of eastern Iran by barbarian groups such as the Sakas, Greater Yuezhi, and Xionites.

Then the Islamic invasion created a new set of regions and a new round of battles between them to decide dominance. A 'Greater Khorasan' soon fractured, with Southern Khorasan being the heartland of pre-unification Afghanistan. Afghan territories came to be dominated by the Samanids, the Ghaznavids, the Ghurids, the Kartids, and then the Timurids. In the seventeenth century the region was a point of conflict between the Moghul emperors of India and the Safavids of Iran.

Mirwais Khan Hotak, leader of the Ghilzai Afghans, took action in 1709 to further his own career which would - unintentionally - lead to the formation of a new country out of this patchwork of regions. He killed the Safavid-appointed governor, Gurgin Khan, and declared Kandahar to be independent.

In 1722, the successful new dynasty completely turned the tables when it conquered the Safavid shahs themselves, gaining a large empire which it held for seven years before being defeated and fragmenting. Even so, Mirwais Khan sowed the seeds for the creation of today's Afghanistan.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha and Peter Kessler, with additional information from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from Revised Chronology for the Late Seleucids at Antioch, O Hoover, from History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Janos Harmatta, B N Puri, & G F Etemadi (Eds, Delhi 1999), from The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia, René Grousset (1970), from The Parthian and Early Sasanian Empires: Adaptation and Expansion, Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, Michael Alram, Touraj Daryaee, & Elizabeth Pendleton (Eds), from The Impact of Seleucid Decline on the Eastern Iranian Plateau, Jeffrey D Lerner (1999), from the Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, Ludwig W Adamec (Scarecrow Press, 2011), from Afghanistan, Louis Dupree (Princeton University Press, 1973), from Making States Work: State failure and the crisis of governance, Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, & Ramesh Thakur (Eds, United Nations University Press, 2005), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org, and Diodorus of Sicily at the Library of World History, and Ancient History Encyclopaedia (Sakas - dead link), and Ancient History Encyclopaedia (Aria), and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

Hotaki Dynasty (Ghilzai Afghans)
AD 1709 - 1738

The ancient province of Arachosia in South Asia lay largely within central areas of modern Afghanistan, and perhaps edging into western Pakistan. The Achaemenid Persians seem to have created it in the sixth century BC out of a much larger and more poorly-defined region known as Ariana.

By the ninth and tenth centuries AD, Islamic-controlled 'Greater Khorasan' faced uprisings against the ruling Samanids which resulted in a splintering of the emirate into a north and a Southern Khorasan. It is this southern region which largely formed later eastern Iran and a good deal of modern Afghanistan.

Until the eighteenth century this territory was a patchwork of provinces which were preyed upon by the Timurids, and then in the seventeenth century by the Moghul emperors of India and the Safavids of Iran.

In 1709, Mirwais Khan Hotak took action to further his own career which would - unintentionally - lead to the formation of a new country out of this patchwork of regions. As the leader of the Pashtun Ghilzai Afghans and mayor of Kandahar, he killed the Safavid-appointed governor, Gurgin Khan (who was in fact King Giorgi XI of the Georgian kingdom of Kartli). He declared Kandahar to be independent of the Safavids, ruling the city himself with support from his tribe of Afghans.

In 1722, the successful new dynasty completely turned the tables when it conquered the Safavid shahs themselves, gaining a large empire which it held for seven years before being defeated by Nadil Kuli and forced back towards the heartland of Afghan territories.

What remained of the dynasty after that disastrous loss soon fragmented. Even so, although Mirwais Khan may not have realised it at the time, his independent dynasty created the basis for the modern state of Afghanistan.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha and Peter Kessler, with additional information from Revised Chronology for the Late Seleucids at Antioch, O Hoover, from History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Janos Harmatta, B N Puri, & G F Etemadi (Eds, Delhi 1999), from The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia, René Grousset (1970), from The Parthian and Early Sasanian Empires: Adaptation and Expansion, Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, Michael Alram, Touraj Daryaee, & Elizabeth Pendleton (Eds), from The Impact of Seleucid Decline on the Eastern Iranian Plateau, Jeffrey D Lerner (1999), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Ancient History Encyclopaedia (Sakas - dead link), and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

1709 - 1715

Mirwais Khan Hotak

Leader of the Ghilzai Afghans. Died peacefully.

1715 - 1717

Abd al-Aziz

Brother. Overthrown by his nephew. Killed.

1715 - 1717

Upon his death, Mirwais has been succeeded by his brother, Adb al-Aziz, but the Ghilzai Afghans persuade the son of Mirwais, Mahmud, to seize power for himself. In 1717 he overthrows and killed his uncle.

Mahmud Shah Hotaki coin
Two sides of a coin issued under Mahmud Shah of the Hotaki dynasty of early Afghanistan, the ruler of a new, centrist Afghan ruling elite who managed to defeat the Safavids and occupy large areas of Iran for seven years

1717 - 1725

Mir Mahmud Hotaki

Son of Mirwais. Controlled Safavid Iran (1722). Killed?

1722 - 1729

Safavid ruler Shah Hosayn surrenders the Iranian capital of Isfahan to Afghan rebels after a seven month siege. The Ghilzai Afghans of Kandahar's new Hotaki dynasty occupy much of Iran, including the capital at Estfahan.

However, they are seen as usurpers by much of the population, and hold effective power only in the east. In 1725, they order the massacre of all captured Safavid princes except for Hosayn himself, although Hosayn manages to have the lives of his two sons spared as well.

Sensing the weakness of the Safavid empire, Czar Peter 'the Great' of Russia launches the Russo-Persian War of 1722-1723. Otherwise known as the 'Persian Expedition of Peter the Great', the war is designed to increase Russian influence in the Caucasus and prevent the Ottoman empire from increasing its own regional authority.

Astrabad, Baku, Derbent, Gilan, Mazandaran, and Shirvan are all successfully won (only to be subsequently leased back to Iran between 1732-1735 now that the two states are allies).

1725 - 1729

Ashraf Khan

Grandson of Mirwais. Controlled Safavid Iran.

1725 - 1729

Under Ashraf Khan, the dynasty and its newfound empire undergoes a short and sudden decline. Although he is able to beat off incursions by the Ottomans (1727) and Russians, Ashraf Khan is defeated and expelled from Iran in 1729 by the Afsharid general, Nadir Kuli.

Nadir Shah
Nadir Kuli (later Nadir Shah) rose spectacularly from his early life as the son of a maker of sheepskin coats to the leading general and then ruler of Iran's Afsharid dynasty, although he showed little compassion towards the poor people who formed part of his origins

Ashraf is murdered on the return home by Baloch tribesmen, quite possibly on the order of his cousin, who is holding Kandahar at the time. Afghanistan fragments, with Kandahar being ruled by Mir Husayn.

1729 - 1738

Mir Husayn

Cousin. In Kandahar only, but independent of Afsharid Iran.

1738 - 1747

The Afsharid shah of Iran, Nadir Shah, enters Afghan territories with a large army. He is able to conquer Ghazni, Kandahar, Kabul, and Lahore in the same year.

Alongside him is his vassal, the future King Erekle II of Kakhetia, and a contingent of Georgian troops. Iranian rule of the region is assured for the next nine years, until the effective coup which creates the Duranni dynasty.

Durrani Dynasty (Afghan Empire)
AD 1747 - 1823

It was the Hotakis in 1709 who created the foundations for an independent nation state called Afghanistan. Mirwais Khan Hotak, the leader of the Pashtun Ghilzai Afghans and mayor of Kandahar, killed the Iranian-appointed governor and declared Kandahar to be independent.

Between 1722-1729, this successful new dynasty also controlled Safavid Iran before being pushed back into its own lands and then fragmenting. The new Afsharid shah of Iran, Nadir Shah, was able to enter the region with a large army to conquer Ghazni, Kandahar, Kabul, and Lahore in 1738, and the status quo was restored as far as the Iranians were concerned.

However, in 1747 Nadir Shah was assassinated. While Iranians pointed the finger of blame firmly at his Afghan former general, Ahmad Shah Abdali, as someone who was very close to Nadir Shah, they were unable to prove it. Even so, Ahmad Shah Abdali was very quickly appointed shah by loya jirga (grand council), after which he was able to establish the Durrani empire in Afghan territories by capturing Kandahar and carving out a vast territory of conquests within a very short space of time.

His successors governed so ineptly that the empire was effectively at an end within half a century of his death. The region remained as tumultuous and conflict-riven as it had always been, but the difference now was that the label of 'Afghanistan' had officially entered the lexicon in place of 'Southern Khorasan'.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010), from The First Afghan War 1838-1842, John A Norris (Cambridge University Press, 1967), from the Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, Ludwig W Adamec (Scarecrow Press, 2011), from Afghanistan, Louis Dupree (Princeton University Press, 1973), from Making States Work: State failure and the crisis of governance, Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, & Ramesh Thakur (Eds, United Nations University Press, 2005), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1747 - 1772

Ahmad Shah Abdali

Former Afsharid general. Established the dynasty.

1747

Following his accession as Afghan shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali immediately sets out to consolidate and enlarge Afghanistan. He captures Ghazni from the Ghilzai, takes Kabul from a provincial warlord, defeats the Moghuls in the west of the Indus to gain Punjab and Kashmir, and takes Herat from the Iranians. The new empire quickly extends from Central Asia to Delhi, and from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea.

The city of Ghazni,now in Afghanistan
Under the Ghaznavids of the eleventh century AD, the small town of Ghazni had been built up into a rich and important city, with it today lying in the east of Afghanistan

1750

Southern Khorasan is officially renamed Afghanistan, while the north is now within the khanate of Khiva and the emirate of Bukhara. The westernmost section is another Khorasan, a fragment of former 'Greater Khorasan' which is now a region of Persia and is being occupied by the Afsharids after their expulsion from central Iran by the Zand regent, Karim Khan. The name 'Afghanistan' sticks, and is used to refer to the region from this point onwards.

1756 - 1757

Ahmad Shah Abdali invades the India of the declining Moghul emperors (for a fifth time in his reign) and plunders Mathura. However, he fails to spot a future threat to Afghanistan when, in 1758, Britain's East India Company defeats the nawab of Bengal, an ally of the French, which signals the end of any serious French ambitions in India.

1761

The Peshwa sends an army to challenge the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Abdali, but the mighty Maratha army is decisively defeated on 13 January 1761 at the Third Battle of Panipat. However, the Sikhs soon gain power over areas of Punjab at Ahmad's expense, while Ahmad also has to agree a border with the Uzbek emir of Bukhara at the River Amu Darya.

The Third Battle of Panipat
The Third Battle of Panipat saw the Marathas defeated by Ahmad Shah Abdali's army, confirming the greatness of the empire he had created

1773 - 1793

Timur Shah Durrani

Son.

1773

The capital of Afghanistan is transferred from Kandahar to Kabul due to tribal opposition, mainly to Timur Shah himself. Constant internal revolts occur within the state, especially in its eastern provinces. This refusal to fully unite will cost the new nation state its independence more than once.

1788

The Marathas have recently evacuated Delhi, so the opportunistic Afghan Rohillas march on the city. Financially, however, Delhi is already bankrupt. Finding nothing to loot, the Afghans blind Moghul Emperor Shah Alam II just before the Marathas return to save him and drive away the Rohillas.

1793

Humayun Shah

Son. Governor of Kandahar. Seized throne and blinded.

1793

Upon the death of Timur Shah, his son Humayun by his fourth wife declares himself king, along with another of Timur's many sons. Humayun is blinded and imprisoned by his brother, Zaman, who holds the strongest position as governor of the capital.

Many of his half brothers are also imprisoned when they arrive in Kabul to confirm the election of a new shah, not knowing that Zaman has already seized power.

Mullahs meet the shah
In a painting which exhibits a markedly Qajari style, visiting mullahs are entertained by the Iranian shah himself (on the far right)

1793 - 1801

Zaman Shah Durrani

Brother. Governor of Kabul. Overthrown.

1795

The Qajar shahs of Iran invade their 'lost' province of Khorasan and annexe it back into Iran proper (the Zands having let it go after 1750). Afghanistan itself is under constant threat of internal revolt and is in no shape to fight back.

1801 - 1803

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Brother. Overthrown.

1801

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah, or Mahmud Shah, overthrows his brother, but just two years later he is in turn overthrown by yet another of Timur Shah's sons, as Afghanistan slides towards complete dissolution as a coherent state.

1803 - 1809

Shah Shuja

Brother. Agreed first Afghan-European pact. Overthrown.

1805

The Iranians have been attempting to intrude small units of troops into Afghanistan in a bid to conquer the city of Herat while the Afghans are fighting one another for domination of their emirate. Unfortunately for the Iranian forces, that very instability undermines their own efforts and forces the plan's abandonment.

1809

Shah Shuja signs a treaty with the British which includes a clause stating that he will oppose the passage of foreign troops through his territories. This agreement is the first Afghan pact with a European power.

It stipulates the undertaking of joint action if there is any Franco-Iranian aggression against Afghan or British dominions. Only a few weeks after signing the agreement, Shuja is deposed by his predecessor, Muhammad Shah.

Britannia between Death and the Doctors
Britannia between Death and the Doctors shows an ailing Britannia being approached by Death in the guise of Napoleon, while her politicians squabble (LC-USZC4-8794)

1809 - 1819

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Restored. Overthrown. Restored again in 1839.

1809 - 1819

In a continuously tumultuous Afghanistan, a war against Iran is inconclusive following another attack on Herat. Mohamman Vali Mirza, son of the Iranian shah, is defeated at the Battle of Kafir Qala in 1818. However, internal fighting continues, and Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah's second reign is ended by yet another brother.

He finds that he controls very little of the country outside Kabul, perhaps just a 160-kilometre radius of territory, and that his dynasty has alienated not only the outlying tribes but other Durrani Pashtun tribes as well. Instead the Barakzais have taken control of large swathes of countryside, and it is they who form the country's next major power.

1818 - 1819

Sultan Ali Shah

Brother. Overthrown.

1819 - 1823

Ayub Shah

Brother. Deposed and probably killed.

1823

The Afghans lose Sindh permanently to the British in India as the Durrani dynasty is overthrown. It is briefly returned to power in 1839 but for the next sixteen years it is now the Barakzais who control Afghanistan.

Barakzai Dynasty (Emirate of Afghanistan)
AD 1823 - 1839

It was the Hotakis in 1709 who created the foundations for an independent nation state called Afghanistan. Between 1722-1729, this successful new dynasty also controlled Safavid Iran before being pushed back into its own lands and then fragmenting.

The new Afsharid shah of Iran, Nadir Shah, was able to enter the region with a large army to restore the status quo. However, in 1747 Nadir Shah was assassinated and his alleged assassin, Ahmad Shah Abdali, was able to establish the Durrani empire in Afghan territories.

Ahmad Shah Abdali's successors, however, were almost entirely unable to match his levels of success, despite making the important change in 1750 when Southern Khorasan was officially renamed Afghanistan. In fact, they governed so ineptly that the empire was effectively at an end within half a century of his death. In their defence, Afghanistan was far from being a unified state. In 1773 the empire's capital had to be transferred from Kandahar to Kabul due to tribal opposition, mainly due to the then-ruler, Timur Shah Durrani.

Constant internal revolts occurred, especially in the empire's eastern provinces, but Timur Shah's successors largely concentrated on squabbling amongst themselves for power. In 1823 the last ruler of the weakened dynasty was overthrown by Habibollah Shah and the Barakzais, who adopted the position of regents for the empire until 1836.

The country continued to remain fragmented, sometimes held together almost entirely by the regent's will, sometimes ruled by several regional warlords who usually were allied to various factions of the Barakzai clan.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010), from The First Afghan War 1838-1842, John A Norris (Cambridge University Press, 1967), from the Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, Ludwig W Adamec (Scarecrow Press, 2011), from Afghanistan, Louis Dupree (Princeton University Press, 1973), from Making States Work: State failure and the crisis of governance, Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, & Ramesh Thakur (Eds, United Nations University Press, 2005), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1823

Habibollah Shah

Instrumental in removing the Durrani from power.

1823 - 1826

Soltan Dost Mohammad Khan

Regent (1823-1836), then emir. Deposed. Deported to India.

1824 - 1825

William Moorecroft of the East India Company arrives in Peshawar in Afghanistan, while en route to Bukhara, east of Khiva (now in Uzbekistan), to trade for horses. The country is experiencing one of its most lawless periods in a long tradition of such periods and Moorecroft is killed in Balkh in 1825 while returning to India. The British in India turn an eye towards Afghan affairs and the lack of authority there.

William Moorecroft of the East India Company
William Moorecroft of the British East India Company is seen here on the road to Lake Mansarowar in Tibet, dressed in native style

1832 - 1834

The Iranian Qajar shahs move into the province of Khorasan, and then threaten Herat yet again. The Afghans are forced to defend the city but manage to repel the invaders by 1833. The following year they lose Peshawar to the Sikhs.

Later the Afghans defeat the Sikhs under the leadership of Akbar Khan, son of Dost Mohammed, near Jamrud, and kill the great Sikh general, Hari Singh. However, they fail to retake Peshawar due to their own lack of unity and bad judgment on the part of Dost Mohammad Khan regarding the people of Peshawar.

1836 - 1839

Dost Mohammad Khan is proclaimed as Amir al-mu' Minin, commander of the faithful. He is still trying to reunify the whole of the emirate when the British, in collaboration with the deposed Durrani king of 1809, Shah Shoja, invade and depose him.

The First Anglo-Afghan War is comparatively brief, although technically it does not end until the start of the Barakzai restoration period in 1842. For now, however, the restored Durrani rule.

Durrani Dynasty Restored (Emirate of Afghanistan)
AD 1839 - 1842

The Hotakis in 1709 created the foundations for the independent nation state of Afghanistan. Between 1722-1729, this successful new dynasty also briefly controlled Safavid Iran. In 1747 an Afghan leader named Ahmad Shah Abdali was able to establish the Durrani empire in Afghan territories, and in 1750 Southern Khorasan was officially renamed Afghanistan.

Constant internal revolts occurred across this new country, especially in the east. In 1823 the last ruler of the weakened dynasty was overthrown by Habibollah Shah and the Barakzais, who adopted the position of regents for the empire until 1836.

However, the country remained fragmented into several warring clan-based factions which tended either to side with the ruling dynasty or the East India Company - or both! By 1839, Britain had decided that Iranian and Russian intrigues posed a threat to their control of India and so, to counter that perceived threat, it was decided that Afghanistan would be used as a buffer state.

A British army marched on Kabul, triggering the First Anglo-Afghan War which saw the self-proclaimed Barakzai Emir Dost Mohammad replaced with a Durrani restoration ruler as the British figurehead in the country. Between 1839-1842, Britain controlled much of Afghanistan, at least in theory. In fact, although the British administration was more powerful and therefore less open to influence by the various factions and clans, those areas which lay outside the majors cities were still highly dangerous and pretty lawless.

The British also meddled across Afghan borders - in the khanate of Khiva to ensure that Russia could not find a valid reason to invade and further its own designs on India. In the end, all this foreign influence proved too much even for the fractured Afghans and they united to expel the invaders in Afghanistan's first instance of what would become known as 'the graveyard of empires'.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010), from The First Afghan War 1838-1842, John A Norris (Cambridge University Press, 1967), from the Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, Ludwig W Adamec (Scarecrow Press, 2011), from Afghanistan, Louis Dupree (Princeton University Press, 1973), from Making States Work: State failure and the crisis of governance, Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, & Ramesh Thakur (Eds, United Nations University Press, 2005), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1839 - 1842

Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah

Durrani. Restored for a second time. Puppet ruler. Killed.

1839 - 1840

Russia under Czar Nicholas I pursues a renewed policy of pressuring the Ottoman empire and Britain for control of southern Central Asia. He sends an expedition to Khiva, purportedly to free slaves who had been captured from areas of the Russian frontier and sold by Turkmen raiders.

Map of the khanate of Khiva
The khanate of Khwarazm (Khiva) covered the western territory of three modern states, namely Turkmenistan at the bottom of the yellow highlighted area on the map, Uzbekistan in the middle, and Kazakhstan at the top and along a large slice of the Caspian coastline (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Britain is already involved in the First Anglo-Afghan War in Afghanistan but, despite sending over five thousand infantry, the Russian force stumbles into one of harshest winters in living memory. It is driven back by the weather and by its losses in early 1840.

Britain decides that Russian (and also Iranian) intrigues pose a threat to their control of India. To counter that perceived threat, it is decided that Afghanistan will be used as a buffer state and the slave situation in Khiva will be solved without military intervention.The khan is convinced to free all Russian subjects under his control and to outlaw any further slavery of Russians.

1842

Fath Jang Khan

Durrani. British ally. Would-be king.

1842

Shahpur Khan

Brother. Durrani. British ally.

1842

Unwilling to endure foreign occupation, the Afghans have managed to unify for long enough to oppose the British forces. With outbreaks of resistance having broken out at various points across the territory the British find their position is becoming untenable.

First Afghan War (1839-1842)
The First Afghan War (1839-1842) pitted British forces in India against the multiple clans and factions of Afghanistan - elements of the British forces are shown here at Urghundee

They retreat from the country in January, under constant attack by a swarm of skirmishing bands. Casualties are high, while Shoja al-Mulk Muhammad Shah is killed as soon as they leave. Dost Mohammad is released from captivity to lead a restored Barakzai emirate.

Barakzai Dynasty Restored (Emirate of Afghanistan)
AD 1842 - 1926

The Hotakis in 1709 formed the basis of Afghanistan, while an Afghan leader named Ahmad Shah Abdali was able to establish the Durrani empire in Afghan territories in 1747. In 1750 the regional name of Southern Khorasan was officially replaced by the nation state name of Afghanistan.

Constant internal revolts occurred across this new country, however. The last Durrani ruler was overthrown by Habibollah Shah and the Barakzais, who adopted the position of regents for the empire until 1836. Britain's East India Company had decided by 1839 that Iranian and Russian intrigues posed a threat to their control of India so it was decided that Afghanistan would be used as a buffer state.

The First Anglo-Afghan War saw the self-proclaimed Barakzai emir replaced with a Durrani restoration ruler. Unfortunately he was murdered as soon as the British pulled out at the war's conclusion.

Dost Mohammad Khan began his career by acting as regent in 1826-1836. During that time he failed to take Peshawar but successfully defended Herat during ongoing border wars with the emirate's neighbours. He was proclaimed 'Amir al-mu' Minin', commander of the faithful, in 1836 and was still attempting the seemingly never-to-be-completed task of reunifying the entire emirate when the British invaded and deposed him.

In 1842 the situation was changing rapidly. The Afghans were able to unify for long enough to drive out British forces. When he was subsequently released from captivity in British India (very soon afterwards), Dost Mohammad Khan was able to regain the throne which he had effectively stolen in the first place, to govern an independent emirate which was not quite modern Afghanistan but was not far from it.

He renewed his hostility towards British interests in the region, instead allying himself with the Sikhs who were themselves fighting to retain their empire. Their defeat in 1849 forced him to retreat back into Afghanistan.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010), from the Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, Ludwig W Adamec (Scarecrow Press, 2011), from Afghanistan, Louis Dupree (Princeton University Press, 1973), from Making States Work: State failure and the crisis of governance, Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, & Ramesh Thakur (Eds, United Nations University Press, 2005), and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

1842 - 1863

Dost Mohammad Khan

Restored Barakzai ruler of the Afghans.

1842 - 1843

In the Afghan emirate's immediate north, Emir Nasr-Allah of Bukhara achieves an unwanted level of notoriety in early Victorian England after he has imprisoned and now executes the British envoys, Charles Stoddart and Arthur Conolly.

He also imprisons Joseph Wolff, who enters Bukhara in 1843 in search of the missing envoys. Amused by Wolff openly wearing his full ecclesiastical garb, the emir performs a rare act of leniency by allowing Wolff to leave safely.

Dost Muhammad Khan
Emir Dost Muhammad Khan played an important role in shaping the Afghanistan emirate in the nineteenth century so that it attained the form which would see it become modern Afghanistan

1855 - 1859

Dost Mohammad Khan signs a peace treaty with British India. Four years later Britain takes Baluchistan, which today forms part of eastern Iran (from 1879) and south-western Pakistan. As a result the Afghan emirate becomes completely landlocked.

1856 - 1857

The Anglo-Persian War is triggered on 1 November 1856 during a further - and this time largely successful - attempt by Iran to capture the Afghan city of Herat, a long-standing ambition to compensate them for the loss of the South Caucasus.

However, they have taken too long, and now the Afghan emirate is generally within the British sphere of operations from their base in India. Herat has already declared independence as a city state with its own emir, in alliance with the emirate at Kabul, and has accepted British protection.

A two-pronged British attack on Iran's southern coast and also in southern Mesopotamia drives Naser al-Din to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1857 in which he relinquishes control over and any claim to Herat.

Herat's citadel
Herat's citadel, known as the Qala Ikhtyaruddin or the 'Citadel of Alexander', was founded in 330 BC, although it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since then

1863 - 1866

Sher Ali Khan

Son. Deposed by elder brother but continued fighting.

1865 - 1866

Russia takes Bukhara, Tashkent, and Samarkand in 1865 (all of which go into forming Uzbekistan in 1924). The following year, Sher Ali Khan is dethroned when Mohammad Afzal Khan captures Kabul and the throne.

1866 - 1867

Mohammad Afzal Khan

Brother. Lost the internecine war against Sher Ali. Died.

1867 - 1868

Mohammad A'zam Khan

Brother. Died 4 months later.

1868

Mohammad A'zam Khan flees to Iran in the face of advances made by his deposed brother, Sher Ali Khan. Sher Ali is left free to re-impose his own control over the emirate, although he is greatly hampered in that role by pressure being placed on him by Russia and Britain.

1868 - 1879

Sher Ali Khan

Restored. Attempted to retain neutrality. Self-exiled. Died.

1873

Russia establishes a fixed boundary between the Afghan emirate and its own new territories to the immediate north, promising to respect the emirate's territorial integrity. This it does for the time being.

1879 - 1880

Sher Ali refuses a British commission in Kabul, resulting in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Sher Ali seeks political asylum with the Russians, leaving his son in command of the emirate.

Battle of Kabul 1879
The Battle of Kabul in 1879 (pictured here) was a hard-fought encounter around the Sherpur Cantonment outside Kabul, which led on 23 December 1879 to the defeat of the Afghan tribesmen who were being led by Mohammed Jan

British troops occupy Kabul for a brief period when British General Frederick 'Little Bobs' Roberts is sent with an army to force the Afghan emirate into a treaty which cedes its foreign policy to the British. The treaty is concluded, but the British envoy is murdered.

General Roberts returns to Kabul to hang the envoy's murderers and is himself ambushed with the result that another British force is almost annihilated in the southern regions of the Afghan emirate. Roberts retreats under continual guerrilla gunfire in a march from Kabul to Kandahar.

Shortly afterwards, Sher Ali dies in Mazar-i-Shariff, and Emir Mohammad Yaqub Khan takes over until October 1879. He gives up several Afghan territories to the British which include Kurram, Khyber, Michni, Pishin, and Sibi.

1879

Mohammad Yaqub Khan

Son. Interim ruler until October. Abdicated.

1879 - 1880

Mohammad Ayub Khan

Brother. Regent. Fled to Iran.

1880 - 1901

Abdur Rahman Khan 'Iron Emir'

Grandson of Dost Mohammad. Crushed several rebellions.

1880

Abdur Rahman Khan gains the throne, and during his reign he comes to be known as the 'iron emir'. British troops leave Kabul shortly after his accession, but Britain retains effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs. Over the next few years, Britain and Russia officially establish the borders of what will become modern Afghanistan.

Russia takes Khiva in 1873
Russia's determination to capture Khiva led it farther and farther east and south around the shore of the Caspian Sea - until Khiva was finally taken in 1873 and the artist Vasily Vereshchagin could be present to capture this scene of Russian troops entering the capital

1893 - 1895

In 1893 the Durand Line fixes the borders of the Afghan emirate with British India for a century, splitting Afghan tribal areas, and leaving half of these divided Afghans in what is now Pakistan (thereby explaining much of modern Pakistan's inability to combat the Afghan Taliban movement). Two years later, the emirate's northern border is fixed and guaranteed by Russia.

1901 - 1919

Habibullah Ghazi Khan

Son. Assassinated by his family.

1907

Russia and Great Britain sign a treaty at the convention of St Petersburg, in which the Afghan emirate is declared to be outside of Russia's purview. The hope is that the constant manoeuvring for superiority amongst these great powers will now cease in this particular region.

1914 - 1918

The Afghan emirate remains neutral during the First World War, despite German encouragement of anti- British feeling and an Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India.

1918 - 1920

Immediately to the north of the territories of the Afghan emirate, a reorganisation of Central Asian Soviet-controlled states along ethnic lines means the end of the khanate of Khiva, the Turkestan Krai, and the emirate of Bukhara (the latter being ousted by the Tashkent Soviet in 1920).

Emir Muhammad Alim Khan bin Abdul-Ahad
Although initially a reformer in his own right, Emir Muhammad Alim Khan bin Abdul-Ahad of Bukhara eventually realised that this path would lead to the termination of his own position, so he became increasingly reactionary, not that it helped him remain emir in 1920

All of these formerly independent territories are merged into the newly-formed 'Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic', which is a self-governing entity of the early Soviet Union.

However, in the same year, the Islamic council and the 'Council of Intelligentsia' declare the rival 'Turkestan Autonomous Republic', and set about fighting against the Bolshevik forces who start closing down mosques and persecuting Muslim clergy as part of their secularisation campaign.

1919

Nasrullah Khan

Brother. Deposed and then murdered.

1919

Shortly after Nasrullah Khan ascends the throne, his nephew deposes and imprisons him. Approximately one year later Nasrullah is murdered in his cell.

1919 - 1929

Amanullah Khan

Brother. Became king in 1926.

1919 - 1921

Amanullah Khan notes the weakness of the major political players in the region, Russia and Britain, after the conclusion of the First World War and decides to launch a surprise attack against the British. This leads to the Third Anglo-Afghan War which quickly reaches stalemate. An armistice is agreed in 1921 which allows the Afghan emirate to become an independent nation.

1921 - 1924

The Turkestan Autonomous Republic has gradually lost ground to the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks themselves have been divided into two groups over the region's future, but the idea of a pan-Turkic state is jettisoned in place of several smaller states.

Russian revolution
The Bolshevik revolution plunged the former Russian empire into a civil war which involved several fronts and armies, sometimes almost amounting to several separate wars happening at the same time across the empire's vast territory

In 1924 the Turkestan ASSR is divided into the Uzbek SSR, the Turkmen SSR, the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast (Kyrgyzstan), and the Karakalpak Autonomous Oblast (modern Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic of Uzbekistan). Initially, the Tajik ASSR is also adjoined to the Uzbek state.

1926

The agreement which had elevated Afghan's emirate into a fully independent state in 1921 has changed the Afghan concept of statehood. Amanullah Khan now proclaims himself shah, creating the kingdom of Afghanistan under his restored Barakzai dynasty.

Barakzai Dynasty (Kingdom of Afghanistan)
AD 1926 - 1973

The Hotakis in 1709 began the formation of modern Afghanistan, while an Afghan leader named Ahmad Shah Abdali was able to establish the Durrani empire in Afghan territories in 1747. In 1750 the regional name of Southern Khorasan was officially replaced by the nation state name of Afghanistan.

Constant internal revolts occurred across this new country, however. The last Durrani ruler was overthrown by the Barakzais, before Britain's East India Company decided by 1839 that Afghanistan would be used as a buffer state against Iranian and Russian intrigues.

The First Anglo-Afghan War saw the Barakzai emir replaced with a Durrani restoration ruler who was soon murdered. Dost Mohammad Khan was able to restore his Barakzai dynasty in 1842. In 1926 his successor, Amanullah Khan, proclaimed himself shah in the Persian fashion, the equivalent of a king, and the emirate became a kingdom.

The Barakzai dynasty continued to rule Afghanistan for another half century, initially under Shah Amanullah Khan. Despite an early career in which he contributed to the murder of his father, and the death of his brother who he himself had imprisoned, Amanullah Khan attempted to introduce progressive and fairly liberal social reforms into the country.

This led to opposition from the country's ever-strong conservative forces which in turn seeded unrest. Three years after his proclamation he was forced to flee when the army failed to protect Kabul from an uprising. His eventual replacement was the temporarily popular Habibullah Kalakani.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from the Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, Ludwig W Adamec (Scarecrow Press, 2011), from Afghanistan, Louis Dupree (Princeton University Press, 1973), from Making States Work: State failure and the crisis of governance, Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, & Ramesh Thakur (Eds, United Nations University Press, 2005), and from External Links: Afghanistan Online Biographies (dead link), and The Royal Ark, and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

1926 - 1929

Amanullah Khan

Barakzai emir. Elevated to shah. Abdicated. Exiled. Died 1960.

1929

Amanullah Khan has been attempting to drive through reforms in the country to make it a fully functional modern state. His efforts have not been well received in all quarters, however. Anti-reformist elements now band together to storm the capital, Kabul.

Amanullah Khan in 1928
Shah Amanullah Khan photographed in 1928 and wearing what appears to be full ceremonial dress, along with a full selection of dignitaries and high officials

Much of the standing army deserts rather than resist the uprising. The shah is forced to abdicate and flees to British India. His brother is ordered to relinquish his own claim to the throne. The leader of the rebellion, an ethnic Tajik by the name of Habibullah Kalakani, takes control of the country.

1929

Inayatullah Khan

Brother. Unwilling king who abdicated after a few days.

1929

Habibullah Kalakani (Ghazi)

Anti-reform usurper for 9 months. Killed by Nadir Khan.

1929

In a dramatic year of turmoil and change for Afghanistan, Habibullah Kalakani is executed by the government's former minister of war, Nadir Khan. Nadir Khan himself is a great-grandson of Sultan Mohammad Khan Telayee, the brother of the Barakzai ruler, Dost Mohammad Khan (1842-1863).

He is also the brother-in-law of Amanullah Khan following a visit to India by the latter which had seen Nadir's sister marry the shah and her family being restored from exile there. Nadir Khan had supported Habibullah Kalakani in destabilising the country and now fulfils his own ambitions to be king.

King Habibullah Kalakani of Afghanistan
Habibullah Kalakani is generally seen as an illiterate highway robber who toppled a reformist monarch in 1929 and spent nine despotic months on the throne

1929 - 1933

Mohammed Nadir Khan

Former minister under Amanullah Khan. Assassinated.

1933

Nadir Khan has suppressed rebellions against his rule and has begun a more low-key modernisation of the country. However, he is assassinated during a local visit, although the reason for the assassination seems to be unclear. His son, Zahir Shah, becomes shah in his place and Afghanistan remains a monarchy for the next four decades, albeit largely governed by Zahir Shah's uncles for the first thirty years.

1933 - 1973

Mohammed Zahir Khan

Son. Deposed and exiled until 2002.

1939 - 1945

The Nazi German invasion of Poland on 1 September is the trigger for the Second World War. With both France and Britain, under Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, pledged to support Poland, both countries have no option but to declare war on 3 September.

Allies on all sides are subsequently pulled into the war but Afghanistan, despite its strong links with the Axis forces, remains neutral, one of the very few to do so.

1953

General Mohammed Daud Khan, one of the shah's uncles who are exercising true power from behind the throne, becomes prime minister. He turns to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance, and introduces a number of social reforms, such as the abolition of purdah (the practice of secluding women from public view).

Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin, who was born in Georgia, led the Soviet Union away from its initial idealistic concept of equal citizenship for all and instead instituted a brutal regime of fear

1963 - 1964

Mohammed Daud is forced to resign in 1963, freeing Zahir Khan to lead the country personally. A constitutional monarchy is introduced, but this leads to political polarisation and power struggles. Mohammed Daud is especially antagonistic as the changes will serve to prevent him from making a political comeback.

1973

Mohammed Zahir Khan is in Italy for medical treatment. His uncle and former prime minister, the disgraced Mohammed Daud, has chosen his moment carefully and he seizes power in a surprise coup, declaring a republic of Afghanistan.

Republics of Afghanistan
AD 1973 - 2021
Incorporating Hereditary Kings of Afghanistan, Republican State of Afghanistan (1973-1978), Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (1978), Soviet Afghanistan (1978-1987), Republic of Afghanistan (1987-1992), Islamic State of Afghanistan (1992-1997), Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) (1997-2001), Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (2002-2004), & Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2004-2021)

A new region by the name of Southern Khorasan emerged out of ancient Arachosia during the early Islamic period in eastern Iran. The Hotakis in 1709 formed from that the basis of what would become Afghanistan, while an Afghan leader named Ahmad Shah Abdali was able to establish the Durrani empire in Afghan territories in 1747. In 1750 the name 'Southern Khorasan' was officially replaced by the nation state name of Afghanistan.

The new state endured a troubled time in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The country's leaders were often engaged in battles against the Safavids and Moghuls for power and territory, before they became playthings of the colonial powers prior to independence being restored early in the twentieth century.

The country endured more trouble in 1973. The disgraced prime minister, Mohammed Daud, seized power in a coup in that year and declared the 'Republican State of Afghanistan' (1973-1978), ditching its Barakzai king while he was in Italy for medical treatment ('Hereditary Kings' are shown below with a shaded background).

Daud attempted tried to play off the Soviets against the western powers, but his style quickly alienated left-wing factions who joined forces against him. The short-lived 'Democratic Republic of Afghanistan' of 1978 was swept away when Soviet forces invaded the country in 1979, leading to a decade of guerrilla warfare on the part of Afghan tribal forces. Despite a massive superiority in firepower, the Soviet regime was never able to defeat these canny hill-fighting forces, but by the time they retreated and Soviet Afghanistan (1978-1987) had been terminated, the country was in ruins.

Various factions vied for control after that in what was sometimes a loosely-congealed 'Republic of Afghanistan' (1987-1992). Sometimes they briefly unified the country before the next faction pushed them aside. The 'Islamic State of Afghanistan' (1992-1997) saw a degree of stability emerge, but it was always threatened by insurgent fundamentalist Taliban groups in the east.

The Taliban swept to power in 1997, the most destructive of any ruling group under their 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan' (1997-2001), which employed brutal suppression as its tool of government. They were pushed into the east by the allied invasion of 2001 and the subsequent 'Transitional State of Afghanistan' (2002-2004) and 'Islamic Republic of Afghanistan' (2004-2021).

The titular Barakzai kings of Afghanistan, led by the deposed and exiled Zahir Khan, retained their claim even though Zahir Khan was not even allowed back into the country until the Taliban had positively been removed from governance in 2002. Despite not holding any power at all in the destabilised country, this head of the royal house was available should the country decide to re-establish the monarchy. Regime changes are grouped below into coloured backing bands to differentiate them from one another.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, from the Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, Ludwig W Adamec (Scarecrow Press, 2011), from Afghanistan, Louis Dupree (Princeton University Press, 1973), from Making States Work: State failure and the crisis of governance, Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, & Ramesh Thakur (Eds, United Nations University Press, 2005), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Hamid Karzai's tangled legacy (The Observer), and Worldstatesmen.)

1973 - 1978

Mohammed Daud Khan

Military dictator. Former prime minister. Murdered.

1973 - 2007

Mohammed Zahir Khan

Deposed Barakzai king of Afghanistan. Died 2007.

1978 - 1979

Having ruled the country under his 'Republican State of Afghanistan', Daud is overthrown in 1978 and is killed in a coup - known as the Saur Revolution - by the leftist People's Democratic Party. The party's Khalq and Parcham factions fall out, leading to a purge of most of the Parcham leaders. The short-lived 'Democratic Republic of Afghanistan' now controls the country.

Mohammed Daud Khan
Mohammed Daud Khan was responsible for overthrowing the last king of Afghanistan, and instituting an Afghan republic which was swept away in 1978

At the same time, conservative Islamic and ethnic leaders who object to social changes begin an armed revolt in the countryside. This is not the start of the Taliban, but the same ultra-conservative leanings remain in place to birth them in 1994.

1978 - 1979

Nur Mohammed Taraki

Pro-Soviet leader. Overthrown and murdered.

1979

A power struggle explodes in Kabul between the leftist leaders, Hafizullah Amin and Nur Mohammed Taraki. It is won by Amin. Taraki is removed from power and is murdered on Armin's orders. Revolts in the countryside continue and the Afghan army faces collapse.

The Soviet Union finally sends in troops to help remove Amin, who is executed. The Soviet Afghanistan period lasts until 1987 despite a Soviet presence which lasts until 1989 (backed here in blue).

1979

Hafizullah Amin

Leftist victor in the power struggle. Executed.

1980 - 1986

Babrak Karmal

Parcham faction leader & Soviet puppet ruler. Replaced.

1980 - 1989

Various mujahideen factions ('those who fight a jihad') engage in a guerrilla war against the occupying Soviet army. In 1985, they unite in Pakistan and begin to offer a much more effective fighting force, backed by the USA from 1986. Soviet troops begin to withdraw from 1988, with the evacuation being completed in 1989.

Russian invasion of 1979
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the decade of war which followed left the country devastated, and starkly divided along factional lines

With the formation of a form of 'Republic of Afghanistan' between 1987-1992, the Afghan Civil War (1989-1992) is triggered as the mujahideen fight on to oust Najibullah, the final Soviet puppet ruler.

1986 - 1992

Najibullah Ahmadzai

Soviet puppet ruler. Hanged by the mujahideen.

1992 - 1994

The next phase of the Afghan Civil War (1992-1996) sees the tables turned. The victorious mujahideen forces agree on the formation of a government, the 'Islamic State of Afghanistan' (1992-1997), with an ethnic Tajik, Burhanuddin Rabbani, being proclaimed president.

1992 - 1996

Burhanuddin Rabbani

Mujahideen ruler. Fled Kabul as president-in-exile.

1994 - 1996

In 1994, the Pashtun-dominated Taliban under the leadership of Mohammad Omar emerge as major challenge to the Rabbani government. Within two years they capture Kabul and impose a hardline version of Islam during their self-proclaimed 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan' (1997-2001, backed here in pale green).

Women are banned from working or undertaking a formal education, while fundamentalist Islamic punishments are introduced which include death by stoning and amputations (the removal of a hand for low-level crime, for instance).

Rabbani flees to join the anti-Taliban northern alliance as the still-recognised president in exile, and another phase of the Afghan Civil War (1996-2001) is triggered.

Taliban
Despite a decade of fighting against Nato forces, the Taliban remained strong in eastern Afghanistan, although various attempts to negotiate a peace with them floundered

1996 - 2001

Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund

First supreme Taliban ruler. Died of tuberculosis in 2013.

2001

In March, the Bamiyan Bhuddas, built by the Indo-Greek settlers in the region in the third century, are destroyed by the Taliban. By 2008 a project to rebuild one of them is underway, to be completed in 2009.

The Taliban refuse a US demand to hand over terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who is taking refuge in the country. This gives the US an excuse to take military action of its own and open a fresh phase of the Afghan Civil War (2001-2014).

By November 2001, the Taliban have been pushed out of Kabul and into the eastern fringes of the country by US and British air strikes and a resurgent northern alliance.

A power-sharing 'Transitional State of Afghanistan' (2002-2004) is formed in Kabul, with Hamid Karzai of the traditionally pro-monarchist Popalzai Durrani tribe of Pashtuns in Kandahar province, selected as interim head of state. US and British forces, along with smaller units from other countries, attempt to destroy the remaining Taliban forces without much overall success.

Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai, a former mujahideen leader, was one of the few senior figures to remain standing after the Taliban takeover and retreat, subsequently becoming president of a democratic Afghanistan between 2001-2014 (ratified by a public vote in 2004)

One benefit of these swift changes is the fact that the former king, Mohammed Zahir Khan, is allowed back into the country for the first time since he had been deposed in 1973.

2002 - 2014

Hamid Karzai

President. Ex-mujahideen leader.

2004 - 2005

Presidential elections are undertaken in the country to ratify the western-driven move towards democracy, with Hamid Karzai winning. The formation of the 'Islamic Republic of Afghanistan' (2004-2021) is the result.

The first parliamentary and provincial elections in decades are held in the country in 2005. Some stability has been achieved in the west and north, but the fighting against the Taliban in the east shows no sign of abating.

2007 - 2021

Crown Prince Ahmad Shah

Son of Zahir Shah. Born 1934. Retained claim after 2021.

2014

The last British troops pull out of Helmand province, transferring all defensive duties to Afghan forces as the fight against the Taliban continues. US forces in the country are also being reduced to a minimum by the end of the year, although official combat participation formally ends in line with the British on 26 October.

2014 - 2021

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai

President. Former finance minister. Deposed and fled.

2015

Perhaps due to the election of a fresh president of Afghanistan, the Taliban agree for the first time to take part in peace negotiations, although fighting still takes place in bursts of activity.

Taliban
The Taliban frequently made a front of negotiating for peace while continually fighting militarily to expand out of their strongholds in eastern Afghanistan and north-western Pakistan

2015 - 2016

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour

Second supreme Taliban ruler. Killed by drone strike.

2016 - 2021

Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada

Third supreme Taliban ruler. Refounded Taliban Emirate.

2020 - 2021

The US drawdown of troops has increased massively under the Trump government. The other allies, including Britain, fail to come up with a fresh support programme without the US, so the last allied forces pull out at the start of 2021.

Taliban advances in August 2021 suddenly speed up to an alarming rate. Town after town, city after city, and region after region falls to them, with the apparently powerless Afghan national forces unable to stop them.

By the weekend of 14-15 August the Taliban have all but secured control of the country while President Ashraf Ghani flees by plane, initially to Uzbekistan. The coalition allies evacuate their citizens and staff, while the world waits to see whether the Taliban will re-proclaim their Islamic emirate of Afghanistan.

Modern Afghanistan (Taliban)
AD 2021 - Present Day

The borders of the modern Islamic emirate of Afghanistan is largely a creation of the eighteenth century, formed out of several ancient regions. It is located along the ancient trade routes between modern Iran to its the west and India to the east. To the north it is bordered (from west to east) by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. China borders briefly along the eastern Wakhan Corridor Nature Refuge, while Pakistan occupies the full remainder of the eastern and southern border.

The territory which now forms Afghanistan largely also formed the ancient region of Arachosia. This was added to the Persian empire as the satrapy of Harahuwatish. The Greek empire replaced the Persians, and the Indian Mauryan empire replaced them.

Following that the region suffered from the same uncertainty and shifting rulers as the rest of South Asia, although the Kushanshahs held sway for some time. A new region, Southern Khorasan, emerged during the early Islamic period, of which a greater part was later absorbed into Afghanistan when a native kingship eventually emerged.

From the 1700s native kings were engaged in a near-constant battle for power and territory. A coup in 1973 removed the Barakzai king and replaced him with a republic, the first of several Afghan Republics. The coup leader fell foul of the Soviets, who subsequently invaded the country in 1979, leading to a decade of guerrilla warfare by the Afghan tribal forces.

Various factions vied for control thereafter, with or without outside aid. The most destructive of these was the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which employed brutal suppression as its tool of government.

The Taliban were born out of the mujahideen fighters who opposed the Soviets during their invasion. Founded in 1994 by Mullah Mohammad Omar, a local imam in Kandahar, they were initially formed of a small group of madrassa students who were angry at the depredations of the warlords in the civil war which followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Their influence rapidly spread over the following two years and they even governed a unified state between 1996-2001, before being ousted. They were pushed into the east by the allied invasion of 2001, but came back strongly in 2021 to control the country once again.

By this time, though, the country had changed immensely. Kabul, for example, was a bustling, crowded, polluted metropolis instead of the shattered husk left behind by the Soviet invasion. In August 2021 the world waited to see if initial Taliban promises of clemency and inclusion would remain effective. The gradually-emerging answer was that they would not.

The titular Barakzai kings of Afghanistan, now led by the son of the deposed king, Crown Prince Ahmad Shah, retain their claim. He and any other titular claimants are shown below with a shaded background to differentiate them from the actual holders of power in the country. Ahmad Shah lives largely in the USA, thereby avoiding the panicked flight of several thousand Afghans during the Taliban capture of Kabul.

Balar-Hissar in Afghanistan

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, from Alexander The Great: In the Realm of Evergetǽs, Reza Mehrafarin, and from External Links: The Geography of Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1932), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Livius.org, and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Taliban leaders (The Guardian), and Who are the Taliban (The Guardian), and Taliban's Abdul Ghani Baradar (The Guardian), and The head that wore the crown, Mark Steyn, 2007 (now only available via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine), and Taliban name all-male Afghan cabinet (The Guardian), and Full implementation of sharia law (The Guardian), and Taliban ban Afghan women from university education (The Guardian), and Taliban edict to resume stoning women to death (The Guardian).)

2021 - Present

Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada

Taliban supreme leader since 2016.

2021 - Present

Crown Prince Ahmad Shah

Son of Zahir Shah. Born 1934. Claimant since 2007.

2021

Always the most likely candidate to head the new emirate, the Taliban's supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, is a sixty year-old Islamic legal scholar. A Pashtun, he had grown up in Panjwai, a district just outside Kandahar. A veteran of the anti-Soviet days, he had fought against them as a member of native brigades which had formed the original nucleus of the Taliban.

Taliban leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, in 2016
Believed to have been in his mid-fifties at the time of his election as supreme head of the Taliban in 2016, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada is more of a cleric than a military leader, but his selection was seen as being non-divisive amongst the various groups which form the Taliban

On 7 September 2021, after a week of internal negotiations, what seems to be a compromise all-male caretaker government is announced. The government includes several who are on UN sanctions lists, making international relations more problematic and indicating potential internal splits if they had not been selected.

The notorious ministry for promotion of virtue and prevention of vice is reintroduced, and freedoms for women and girls are gradually rolled back across the year and into the next.

2022

Taliban controls over women's rights gradually tighten, month-by-month, with general education schools already having been re-opened in September 2021 to boys alone, and women effectively being banned from working in the month prior to that.

In November 2022 women are banned from entering parks, funfairs, gyms, and public baths. In December they are banned from involvement in a university education, killing off dreams of future accomplishment.

Afghan women in full Taliban-ordered coverings
Activists reported that the March 2024 announcement by Haibatullah Akhundzada simply condemned Afghan women to return to the darkest days of Taliban rule in the 1990s

2024

The Taliban completes its full re-establishment of draconian anti-women legislation when Haibatullah Akhundzada restores the practice of publicly stoning women to death. The announcement is made on the weekend of 25 March 2024. Public executions have already resumed in stadiums, although filming them is forbdden.

Crown Prince Muhammad Zahir Khan

Son of Ahmad Shah and heir to the title. Born 1962.

 
Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.