A Brief History of Afghanistan | Full Timeline of Afghanistan in less than 2000 words.

Afghanistan is an Islamic and landlocked country in the north-west of India, with mostly mountains and desert within the country. And, only 12% of the land is fit for cultivation. Because of its location, Afghanistan has been a center of various cultures. And, one historiographer termed Afghanistan as a ‘roundabout of the ancient world’.

Timeline of Afghanistan History, Historical map of Afghanistan.
Historical Map of Afghanistan

Afghanistan was conquered by many kings in history, and many kings tried to rule it but no king could rule it for long. And many kings and dynasties perished here that’s why Afghanistan is known as the Graveyard of Empires. The history of Afghanistan has been full of ups and downs, and to understand its present condition, we have to understand its history too.

History of Afghanistan in a nutshell:


Humans have been living in the place known as Afghanistan for about 50000 years, but the beginning of settled life started only about 9000 years ago. Remnants of the Indus Valley civilization, which flourished around 3000 BCE, are found in Afghanistan. From about 2200 to 1700 BCE, Afghanistan was part of the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex. In 1500 BCE, Afghanistan came under the Kingdom of Gandhara. Around the same time, Afghanistan was also part of the Kamboja kingdom.

Darius I of Persia conquered Afghanistan and annexed Afghanistan to the Achaemenid Empire. In 330 BCE, Alexander the Great became ruler of Afghanistan after defeating Darius III of Persia in the Battle of Gaugamela. After Alexander’s death, his empire was divided into small pieces, and a Macedonian officer, Seleucus, declared himself the ruler of the Seleucid Empire, which includes today’s Afghanistan.

History of Afghanistan From 250BCE to 565CE

After that, Chandragupta Maurya merged this area into the Mauryan Empire. In around 250BCE, Afghan territory fell under the Greco-Bactrian kingdom. The Greco-Bactria Kingdom lasted until 130 BCE.

After this, it was also ruled by the kings of Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians, Kushan, and Sassanian Empire. Groups such as the Huna, the kidarites, the Alchon Huns, the White Huns and Nezak Huns ruled Afghanistan.

Following the decline of the Kushan Empire, Kabul Shahi dynasties ruled modern-day Afghanistan. In 642 CE, the Arabs had conquered a large part of West Asia, and the same people brought Islam to Afghanistan. Ghazni started the Ghaznavid dynasty in 997 and spread Islam in Afghanistan. In 1148, the Ghurids of Ghor defeated the Ghaznavid dynasty and started the Ghurid dynasty.

Genghis Khan annexed Afghanistan in 1219 in Mongol Empire. After the fall of the Mongols, the Timur started the Timurid Empire in Afghanistan. The power of the Timurids started falling in the second half of the 15th century, and after that, Babur began the Mughal Empire.

From the 16th to the 17th century, Afghanistan was divided into three influential areas. In the 18th century, the Hotak and Durrani dynasties ruled Afghanistan. Subsequently, in the 18th century, a group of Pashtun tribes under Durrani (aka Ahmad Shah Abdali) acquired the Mughals and the Persians and incorporated its own vast but weak empire.

Barakzai dynasty, Britishers and Modern History of Afghanistan

In 1837, Dost Mohammad Khan laid the foundation of the Barakzai dynasty in Afghanistan. In the meantime, the British Empire and the Soviet Union were also growing their power. The Britishers were worried that the Soviet Union would occupy Afghanistan, and Russians feared that the Britishers might annex Afghanistan into British India. This power struggle between the Britishers and the Russians was known as “The Great Game” and Afghanistan was caught in this game. Apart from the British and the Soviet Union, in 1837–1838, the Persians also tried to annex Afghanistan to Persia.

The Great Game

The Great Game has a very big impact on the History of Afghanistan and it is also one of the biggest event in the world history.

The great game between Soviet Union and Britisher, and History of Afghanistan
The great game between Soviet Union and Britisher, and History of Afghanistan

Due to this fear, the British attacked Afghanistan 3 times to merge Afghanistan with British India, also known as Anglo-Afghan War.The 1st Anglo-Afghan War took place from 1839-1842, and Britishers lost that war.

After the 1st Anglo-afghan War, Afghanistan was under the influence of the USSR, and afghan ruler Shir Ali refused a British mission, which led to the British invasion of Afghanistan in 1878 and the beginning of the 2nd Anglo-afghan war. After the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War, Britishers took over the external relations of Afghanistan. In 1893, Amir Abdur Rahman signed an agreement that established the border between modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Abdur Rahman died in 1901, and his son Habibullah Khan became the ruler of Afghanistan. Afghanistan remained neutral in World War I, but after the assassination of Habibullah in 1919, his son, Amanullah Khan, came into power, and the 3rd Anglo-Afghan War began. After the 3rd Anglo-Afghan War, the Treaty of Rawalpindi was signed, and Afghanistan became an independent country.

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Independent Afghanistan and era of Civil War

Afghanistan got independence on August 19, 1919 from Britishers. Habibullah died in 1919, his son Amanullah ruled Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929.

Amanullah Khan attempted to bring many social reforms to Afghanistan and made diplomatic relations with several countries. Amanullah was also in support of Women’s Education and also made Elementary Education Compulsory. And strive to end the tradition of wearing the burqa, but many tribal and religious leaders revolted against it, and the Afghan Civil War started. Amanullah Khan immigrated to British India in 1929 due to the Civil War.

Amanullah’s cousin, Mohammed Nadir Shah, defeated and killed Habibullah Kalakani, who led the Civil War with forces and declared himself king. But in 1933, a 15-year-old Hazara student named Abdul Khaliq killed Nadir Shah.

Zahir Shah

After the death of Mohammed Nadir Shah, his son Zahir Shah became the king of Afghanistan at the age of 19. Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan from 1933 to 1973. But for the first 30 years, power remained with his two paternal uncles, Mohammad Hashim Khan and Shah Mahmoud Khan, both serving as prime ministers.

In 1953 Mohammed Dauod Khan, who was the king’s cousin, brother-in-law, and Pashtun nationalist, became prime minister of Afghanistan. Daoud Khan gave attention to social modernization reforms and also maintained good relations with the Soviet Union.

In 1964, Zahir Shah brought a new constitution to Afghanistan, in which issues like free elections, parliament, civil rights, and women’s rights were added.

After the constitution came into force in 1964, and in 1965 the communist party PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) was formed. But soon, the party split into two parts, Khalq and Parcham led by Nur Mohammad Taraki and Babrak Karmal, respectively.

Republic of Afghanistan

When Zahir Shah went to Italy for eye treatment in 1973, on 17 July 1973, Afghan PM Daoud Khan declared Afghanistan a republic and announced himself as the first president and prime minister. After Daoud’s coup in 1973 and declaring himself president and prime minister, Afghanistan received a lot of revenue from oil and gas. In addition, Daoud had strengthened women’s rights, and universities were starting to open in Kabul.

Saur Revolution and Soviet-Afghan War

In 1978, the PDPA, together with the military, staged a coup, and on 1 May, Nur Mohammad Taraki became the President, Prime Minister, and General Secretary of the PDPA. Mohammad Daoud was killed in this coup along with his family.

Hafizullah Amin became prime minister of Afghanistan in 1979, but Taraki was still president and in control of the army. On September 14, Amin overthrew Taraki and PDPA came to power. The PDPA implemented a liberal and Marxist-Leninist agenda. PDPA promoted Socialist land reforms and State Atheism. The PDPA also took help from the Soviet Union to modernize and improve the economic infrastructure. At the same time, PDPA detained, tortured, and executed thousands of members of the traditional elite, the orthodox establishment, and the intelligentsia.

In December 1978, the PDPA authority signed an agreement with the Soviet Union that authorized military support for the PDPA in Afghanistan if required. However, the Marxist–Leninist and secular view of the administration as well as its massive dependency on the Soviet Union made it unpopular with a majority of the Afghan community. Suppression plunged large parts of the country, particularly the rural areas, into open revolt against the new Marxist–Leninist government. By spring 1979, unrest had spread to 24 out of 28 Afghan provinces, including major urban areas.

Soviet Invasion in Afghanistan 1979-1989

Most of the government policies were going against the traditional Afghan understanding, due to which many tribal and ethnic groups were united. In December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. And in the meantime, Hafizullah Amin was killed, and Babrak Karmal came to power.

In 1979, when the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan, the small Tribal groups of Afghanistan revolted and started fighting for Islam and Afghanistan, and people from Islamic countries started joining this fight. One of them was a boy from Saudi Arabia whose name was OSAMA BIN LADEN.

The people fighting on behalf of Afghanistan are called Mujahideen, and the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia help them with their finances and weapons. Several reports suggest that Soviet forces and their proxies killed 2 million Afghans from 5,62,000.

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Start of Al-Qaeda and end of Soviet-Afghan War

OSAMA BIN LADEN came to Afghanistan in the middle of the Soviet-Afghan War. Osama bin Laden was from a prosperous family in Saudi Arabia, so he used to call fighters from Arab countries to battle against the Soviet Union, and his family bears their expenses from their family’s treasury. In August 1988, Bin Laden started AL-Qaeda along with some other people.

By 1989, international pressure was starting to fall on the Soviet Union, and their forces also faced many casualties, due to which the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in 1989.

Even after the withdrawal of the Soviet Forces in 1989, the Soviet Union placed its puppet, Najibullah, on the throne. The fighters of the Mujahideen continued to fight with Najibullah till 1992. By 1992, the Soviet Union had also stopped supporting the government of Afghanistan, and the Afghan economy was also in great trouble, due to which Najibullah had to resign in early 1992.

Afghan Civil War 1992-1996 and Rise of Taliban

After Najibullah’s registration in 1992, the control went to the Mujahideen party. But, Mujahideen was also an organization of 5-6 groups, and the Pakistan-supported group, Hezb-e-Islami did not agree with other groups, and again, the civil war started in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, in 1994 Mullah Omar started the Taliban with less than 50 students attending the madrasa. And within just a month, 15,000 people had joined the Taliban. And, gradually, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 1996 and implemented Sharia Law in Afghanistan. The Taliban was providing a heaven-like place for Osama bin Laden.

9/11 and War on Terror

On September 11, Al-Qaeda carried out four attacks on America by hijacking the plans in which 3000 people lost their lives. After these attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan, overthrew the Taliban government, and began the Karzai Administration. The US also assisted the Karzai government, and gave security to the Afghan people.

Even after the US and many countries came to Afghanistan, the Taliban continued to carry out attacks in Afghanistan. In 2011, US forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and also killed several terrorists. Pakistan’s Haqqani network conducted many attacks in Afghanistan, and because of this, the United States also warned Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the US and IASF trained the Afghan Army. Ashraf Ghani became president of Afghanistan in 2014.

After the peace agreement between the US and Taliban on 29 Feb 2020, US forces and allies started withdrawing from Afghanistan.

After the withdrawal of the International Forces, the Taliban once again continued to occupy Afghanistan.

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