Afghanistan (officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) may not be high on everyone’s ‘must visit‘list because of its recent troubledpast. It is, however, a truly historic land which encompasses some breathtaking mountain scenery, beautiful lakes and a wealth of bird and animal life. The majority of its people still live simple lives close to nature and the seasons. Its natural resources have provided its people’s livelihood for centuries, whether farming, livestock grazing, huntingor building with the abundant local stone.

Where Exactly Is It?

Afghanistan is alandlocked mountainous country, with plains in the north and southwest. It straddles Central and South Asia and shares borders with Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. Its area is approximately 652,000 square kilometers which makes it the 41st largest country in the world. With a 32-million person population, it holds a similar positionin the list of the most populous countries (in fact it is 41st). Its capital city, Kabul has a population of about three and a half million people.

An Archaeologist’s Dream

Diggings at some of the archaeological sites in Afghanistan suggest that humans were living in the area at least 50,000 years ago and that farming communities there were amongst the earliest anywhere. Many historians believe that Afghanistan is comparable to Egypt in terms of the importance of its archaeological sites.

A Strategic Crossroads

The country’s checkered history has in fact been molded by its position. It sits in a unique area where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. Its strategic location along the ‘Silk Road’ fostered early connections to Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Asia.

The land which is now called Afghanistan has been home to various civilizations throughout the ages including the ancient Iranian people from whom the dominant Indo-Iranian languages originated. At different points in history the land has been incorporated in a wealth of large regional empires and kingdoms and witnessed many military campaigns notably by Alexander the Great, Muslim Arabs, the Mongols, the British and the Soviet Russians.

Recent Times

The recent political history of the modern state of Afghanistan stems from the time in the late 19th century when it became a buffer state in the “Great Game” between British India and the Russian Empire. After the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1926, it was established as a constitutional monarchy under King Amanullah Khan. In 1933 the crown was inherited by King Mohammed Zahir Shah and he reigned for 39 years. During his reign the kingdom joined the League of Nations (1934) and remained neutral and pursued a diplomatic policy of non-alignment during the World War II.

King Zahir Khan was overthrown by his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan in 1972. Daoud Khan successfully established a republican Afghan Government and became its first president.

Communist Influence

There was more turbulence ahead,however,when Daoud Khan’s centrist government was overthrown by left wing military officers in April 1978. The leader was Nur Mohammed Taraki and power was shared by two Marxist-Leninist political groups which forged close links with the Soviet Union. The new government had little popular support and organized ruthless purges against opponents. They also instigated unpopular land and social reforms which were bitterly resented by the devoutly Muslim and mainly anti-communist population. Armed resistance to the government arose from different Islamic tribal and urban groups – collectively known as the mujahideen (those who engage in jihad).

These insurgencies directly led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late December 1979 with the purpose of supporting the Communist government. Soviet troops remained in the country until February 1989. The withdrawal did not herald the longed for peace however, and more conflict was to besmirch the troubled republic.

History of Afghanistan in a Specific Point of View

Afghanistan was founded in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Durrani, who brought the different Afghan tribes together into a unified nation. Archeologists have placed many historical empires as having lived in this area, such as: the Medes, Persians, and Alexander the Great’s campaign. For many years Afghanistan was caught in a constant cycle of occupation and the ongoing power struggle for land.

In 1978, the communist party influenced a civil war which would last for 15 years, leaving millions dead in its wake. In 1988, Osama bin Laden formed the al-Qaida with the initial agenda of forcing out communist control and reestablishing strict Sharia law. After overthrowing communist control, Bin Laden developed training camps in Afghanistan and enforced strict laws that resulted in mass genocide for those who did not comply. Citizens were forced to comply with a strict curfew, the education and employment of women was completely abolished. Women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male escort at any time. Public mutilations and executions became common practice in this country. While the people of Afghanistan continued to suffer under Osama Bin Laden’s dictatorship, the world looked on in horror as the Twin Towers fell in New York City due to the hijacking of passenger planes. This terrorist attack, claimed by Bin Laden, resulted in thousands of American deaths and the subsequent occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S.

History of Afghanistan in a Specific Point of View

The citizens of the U.S. typically hesitant about war demanded a War with the Taliban. The occupation of Afghanistan began in 2001 when United States troops rolled through the scorching dessert of Afghanistan. This lasted until 2014 when the majority of US forces were pulled out, leaving a residual peace keeping force in this region. The amount of US troop still occupying Afghanistan has led to some controversial discussions about the real purpose behind the United States occupation of this country. The people of Afghanistan, although used to the chaos brought about by the tumultuous reign of Osama Bin Laden, suffered greatly during this time of war. Entire villages were wiped out, due to the unhappy chance that their location fell in between two powers warring for oil and land.

There was no turning back the clocks for these war torn lands, as the damage done was nearly irreversible. When the war came to a close, thousands of refugees lucky enough to escape had been evicted from their homes. Many bodies of those not so lucky still lay unburied among the ruins of what was once their home. Despite the efforts of many different humanitarian projects such as OCHA and the Red Cross, the turmoil and war is still blatantly visible on this country like a gaping scar. Some of the many challenges faced by this country include complete lack of clean water, minimal to non-existent medical care, and a poor education system. This country is in need of peace and humanitarian aid to heal the many years of turmoil and drought faced by this country. Sadly peace has not come to this country yet, as Taliban forces continue to wage war against US trained Afghan troops. This continued fighting has become increasingly brutal, bringing casualty rates up higher than the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. On top of this, the extremist group ISIS has taken up occupation in this region. ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq was founded by a group of extremists in 1999. The ISIS presence has brought genocide and terror to all those who refuse to submit. Their works of terror have reached all the way to France resulting in the recent bombing which killed over a hundred civilians. Although turmoil continues to rage in this country, the people of Afghanistan remain strong and unbroken, an inspiration to people all around the world to rise above their surroundings and persevere.