The Struggle for Independence, Modernization, and Development

During the mid 1700s, Afghanistan became a unified entity with poor and underdeveloped status which was located in a very rough neighborhood. The size, shape, and degree of the country and the centralized power depended on several leaders.

These leaders like the President of Afghanistan Karzai, were mostly from the Durrani confederation of the Southern Pashtuns. These were famous for the martial and rebellious spirit. Their toughest and the biggest rivals were the Ghilzai or the eastern Pashtuns. In the beginning of 1830s, Afghanistan had to witness two consecutive wars over the issue of the feeble attempts of Russia which were aimed at gaining influence and in using Afghanistan against the British India which had the territory of what is know the modern Pakistan. The third Anglo-Afghan War was fought after the era of World War I which was fought for getting independence from the interference of the British with the affairs of Afghanistan. This competition was referred to as the “Great Game”.

The 1st Anglo-Afghan War which was fought between 1839-1842, was with reference to the blocking of the influence of Russia from the borders of India and the extending of the British influence in Central Asia. The First Anglo-Afghan War began with massive invasion from the British and the toppling of the rule named Dost Mohammad and the occupation of Kabul and other cities. After the assassination of the British political agent, the remnants of the 1st British expeditionary force which included as many as 16,000 soldiers, camp followers, and dependents which tried to retreat back to India.

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The forces were nearly all dispersed or killed including thousands of Afghanistan citizens and also the three cities of Afghanistan were destroyed including Kabul. It was then that the British withdrew. Dost Mohammad became the ruler again and was designated the title of “shah or emir (amir)” in different areas and eras. The ruler now spent the rest of his reign in the consolidation of power with a British subsidy.

During the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War which happened during 1878-1880, the disputes which were over the influence of Russia on Kabul again produced or created the British ultimatum which was deemed to be a successful and rapid invasion. As a result, a murdered British envoy, a troubled occupation, and subsequent maneuver warfare continued to follow the regime. Abdur Rahman became the ruler or the emir after getting the Pyrrhic victory for the Greater Britain. In the phrase of Barnett Rubin “a coercion-intensive path to state formation” was pursued by Abdur Rahman who ruled from the center with a strong iron fist until the moment of his death in 1901. It was Rahman who brought the country together and ruled in an appropriate, but harsh manner. He was forced to accept the Durand Line which was drawn by the British envoy named Sir Henry Mortimer Durand. The Durand Line was meant to divide India and Afghanistan. The Durand Line also divided the Pashtuns and left a third of them in Afghanistan and around two-thirds western India which is now the modern Pakistan. As a result of the two wars with British, strong Afghan-British tensions had developed which also lead to the increase of Afghanistan’s xenophobia. As a result, an issue which was not resolved started over the homeland of the Pashtuns and results in the split of the two countries.

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Would you like to read more about this topic? This book might interest you: Afghanistan War.