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  • Writer's pictureDhruti Pattabhi

A Timeline of Afghanistan

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

Current events are often molded by the past. Afghanistan, in recent times, has seen many political issues come to the surface. Despite the temptation to merely examine the most recent conflicts, we must not overlook the events that incited, influenced, and ultimately determined those of today.

Early Afghanistan - 1800-1919

A series of wars lead to turbulence and stability.

During the rule of Dost Mohammad, Afghanistan underwent frequent wars with Britain and Russia. The First Anglo-Afghan war saw an Afghan victory due to a British withdrawal. In the ensuing years, Russia attempted to take northern Afghanistan in a series of minor wars. The British, however, invaded and governed the majority of Afghanistan after the Second Anglo-Afghan war.

Afghanistan later fell into the hands of Abdur Rahman and his son, Habibullah. They both maintained Afghan neutrality in the interest of the Russians and the British — until the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919.

Afghanistan as a Nation - 1919-1930s

The nation progresses while remnants of war linger.

When the Treaty of Rawalpindi was signed, stifling the Third Anglo-Afghan War, Afghanistan observed its independence day. The country’s first constitution was introduced in 1923, which remained during Afghan neutrality in World War II.

Relations with Other Countries - 1940-1960s

International relations lead to internal problems.

Afghan tribes, particularly the Pashtun, developed tensions with the neighboring country, Pakistan. Under the command of Prime Minister Muhammad Daoud, Afghanistan began strengthening ties with the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Daoud was ousted by the king in 1963, economic issues had ensued under the anti-Pakistani government. A new constitution then came about in 1964.

Soviet Control and Withdrawal - 1970s-1989

The Soviets begin to assert power — although it is short-lived.

In 1973, Daoud established a Republic after overthrowing the king. However, Afghanistan spiraled into a plethora of economic and political issues in later years. Taking advantage of a weakened Afghanistan, the Communist regime deposed Daoud in 1978.

A hostile tribal insurgency against the Communist government occurred in 1979. Consequently, 80,000 Soviet troops marched into Afghanistan — commencing a decade of guerilla war. The Anti-Communist parties were supported by the United States and Pakistan. 1988 saw the Soviet creation of a neutral Afghan state, and the last of their troops left the nation in 1989.

From the disarray of events following the Soviet withdrawal emerged an Islamic Fundamentalist group: the Taliban.

Afghanistan Plunges into Civil War - 1992-1999

From the Civil War, the Taliban emerges victorious.

Warring factions clashed as Afghanistan began its Civil War. Through the usage of extremist Islamic ideals, the Taliban towered over the majority of the nation. As a direct result of neglect, the already crumbling economy disintegrated, and the Taliban allowed Al Qaeda — a terrorist organization — to operate in Afghanistan.

Hostility Towards the United States and Response - 2001

The United States and its allies begin to intervene with the Taliban. The War in Afghanistan commences.

An Anti-Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was assassinated by Al Qaeda. On September 11, 2011, the Taliban, particularly Osama Bin-Laden, progressed with the hijacking of five domestic American flights.

Following the September 11 Al Qaeda attacks on the United States, President George Bush declared the “War in Afghanistan,” and the U.S. and its allies entered Afghanistan to repress the Taliban. The Taliban government faltered as a U.S.-led International Security Force took into effect.

In December 2001, Bin-Laden fled to Pakistan. Afghan officials then led an assault that detained the rest of his men. The diminishing Taliban finally collapsed, as the leader, Mullah Omar, left the city. Al Qaeda leaders remained concealed in the mountains.

Reconstruction - 2002

“By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall [Former U.S. Secretary of Defense].” - President George Bush

U.S. President George Bush attempted to emulate the post-World War II Marshall Plan for reconstruction. However, the result was far from what was expected.

Afghanistan in June 2002 designated Hamid Karzai as President of the Traditional Islamic State. He mustered an Anti-Taliban council known as the Northern Alliance.

NATO and Afghanistan - 2003

In May 2003, the U.S. Secretary of Defense declared the resolution of Major Combat in Afghanistan. They asserted a period of “stability” and “reconstruction” as Afghanistan awaited aid and supplies from several countries.

NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) assumed control of the International Security Forces (ISAF) and expanded control. The number of ISAF troops multiplied and involvement concerning combat ensued in southern Afghanistan.

Politics - 2004-2005

A step towards democracy in Afghanistan.

2004 saw Afghan delegates produce a Constitution for the country. This time, with the U.S. and its allies playing an enormous role in the design, the constitution contained rudimentary and fundamental values of democracy. Shortly after, Afghanistan held its first democratic election, and Karzai was declared president.

In late 2004, Osama Bin-Laden released a video consisting of negative remarks on the Bush Administration. He blamed the United States for degrading and ruining his country. Additionally, Bin-Laden admitted to planning and executing the September 2001 attacks.

In response, 2005 witnessed the ties between U.S. President George Bush and Afghanistan President Karzai. The United States provided Afghanistan with aid, supplies, weaponry, and troops for organizational and security purposes.

NATO and War - 2006

Violence spikes in Afghanistan.

Suicide bombings rapidly increased in number. Afghanistan exhibited difficulties in dealing with police forces and national security.

Rifts between the NATO troops emerged as the progress made in Afghanistan slowly slipped away.

Death and Destruction - 2007-2008

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Kaman helps secure an area along the Pech River during a meeting between key leaders in the Kunar province of Afghanistan on February 4, 2007. (The U.S. Army/Flickr)

In 2007, Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah was killed in a planned and coordinated operation executed by NATO, the U.S., and Afghanistan.

In 2008, Afghan civilians were killed in an accidental fire by a U.S. gunship. The number of civilians killed was widely disputed but said to have been 140.

Recommitment and Progress in Afghanistan - 2009-2010

New U.S. President Barack Obama made the decision to send troops and aid to Afghanistan. In an organized fashion, the military was tasked with strategically countering Taliban forces. One sector of the military that attacked the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan was the Marines.

Obama also made plans to link Afghanistan to a more stable Pakistan. In the meantime, NATO countries offered aid, among other non-military assets.

Late 2009 saw Afghanistan’s presidential election, and the addition of U.S. troops to train Afghan soldiers. Following those events, 2010 included the supply of more U.S. troops and extensive military training for the Afghan forces.

Osama Bin-Laden is Killed - 2011

A soldier on patrol on April 8, 2011. (David Axe/Flickr)

Heterozygous opinions arose after the U.S. military secretly assassinated Osama Bin-Laden in Pakistan. The death of the primary reason for the War on Terror brings uncertainty as to whether to continue the war or exit Afghanistan.

U.S. President Obama makes the decision to withdraw troops. A total of $444 billion was spent on the improvement of Afghanistan, including items such as counter-insurgency, operations, medical and food aid, and special pay for troops.

Uncertainty, Tensions, Anger, and Power - 2012-2013

In the midst of chaos, negotiations are neglected.

After U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales shot at and killed 16 Afghan civilians, the Taliban held rallies and protests. The U.S. then removed combat forces from Afghanistan. Power transitioned from NATO to Afghan control. All peace talks made with the Taliban were canceled.

In 2013, Afghanistan completed its takeover of power, although parts of the U.S. military provided defense and training.

The U.S. Withdraws - 2014-2016

In early 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama made the order to withdraw most of the U.S. military from Afghanistan by 2016.

The U.S. Attacks Afghanistan - 2017

“We will fight to win.” - President Donald Trump

In 2017, the United States dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan. President Donald Trump also allocated more troops. Bombing and combat occurred in Kabul.

President Trump made the decision to pressure the military in Afghanistan. The former President said that his original idea was to withdraw troops, but the political settlement in Afghanistan was far away.

The Taliban Responds; Peace Negotiations Are Considered - 2018-2019

The Taliban murdered 115 people in a series of attacks at Kabul. Airstrikes and further combat ensued.

The U.S. and Taliban then considered peace talks in 2019. President Trump made plans to withdraw seven thousand troops from Afghanistan. In late 2019, however, President Trump canceled the peace talks with the Taliban.

Hints of Final Withdrawal - 2020

The U.S. and the Taliban sign a peace treaty, paving the way for the water down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The deal, however, does not immediately lead to a cease-fire. Airstrikes were still prevalent.

Intra-Afghan talks then proceeded, and President Trump announced a troop withdrawal in November 2020.

At a checkpoint recaptured from the Taliban, Afghan National Army soldiers patrol the area on July 8, 2021. (李 季霖/Unsplash)

The Withdrawal of U.S. Troops is Complete - 2021

“It is time to end America’s longest war.” - President Biden

New President Biden decided to follow suit with President Trump’s decision to remove all forms of U.S. military in Afghanistan. Any remaining forces were to be withdrawn regardless of Afghan interventions or Taliban negotiations, and by August 30, 2021, the last of the troops had left the country, putting an end to America’s longest war.

With weak resistance, the Taliban managed to take over Kabul, while the Afghan government collapsed. All throughout the country, Afghan forces surrendered to the Taliban.

President Biden stands by his decision to withdraw all troops but admits to the messy and chaotic execution. Amidst the scramble to leave the country, 13 U.S. soldiers lost their lives, and Afghan civilians desperately attempted to flee the country by any means.

At the end of the two-week withdrawal, over 120,000 people had evacuated. The United States has now shifted its focus on diplomacy to evacuate the thousands of others still remaining in Afghanistan.


Sources and Further Reading


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