A Brief History of Politics and Military Conflict in Afghanistan from 1900 (Parts I & II)

Here’s where the story starts to get good. I believe after reading part II, it should be a bit easier to see some modern-day parallels to this conflict. When I reach the more contemporary history of the country, I’ll begin to explain some other factors that come into play in the ME (oil, opium, minerals, geo-strategic significance, etc.). The last part will contain my sources, data, and recommendations for further research.

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Part I

Afghanistan is a landlocked, hostile, and nearly inhospitable region located at the crossroads of many of the greatest empires in history. Much of its land is arid and dead, and many other regions of the country are split by mountains and other terrestrial formations, hardly making the land any more survivable. Considering the prerequisites of trade and expansion for any civilization to thrive, opposing states often attempted to claim the land in an effort to procure trade or govern its people. Empires from the middle east, the far east, and and the west have often tried to lay claim to Afghanistan, almost all of which have ended in absolute failure. For these reasons, the perilous terrain of Afghanistan has been quite accurately dubbed The Graveyard of Empires. Dominions throughout India, China, and neighboring middle Eastern countries have fiercely battled for claim of the land, but for the sake of contextualizing the West’s current involvement in the region, we’ll begin in the 19th century.

19th Century

Throughout the 19th century, two of the world’s most prolific empires – Russia and Great Britain – made many attempts to claim Afghanistan, and its borders were quite arbitrarily drawn as intermediaries between the two powers. The Russian empire began to engulf the south, and consisted of modern-day Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The British empire, attempting to spread to the north, held the modern-day regions of Iraq, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, as well as Oman, Yemen, and the U.A.E just across from the Gulf of Oman.

1919 & The Third Anglo-Afghan War

In 1919, a small group of Afghan soldiers attempted to invade British India, but took heavy casualties and were easily repelled by the British. Soon afterwards, the British empire captured the southernmost region of Afghanistan, cutting it off from the Arabian Sea, and seizing what would reinforce Great Britain’s naval and trade superiority. This southernmost region, currently under the domain of Pakistan, makes up the border between modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, and serves as a reminder of the armistice to end the Third Anglo-Afghan War.

The Third Anglo-Afghan war ended on August 8th, 1919 and resulted in a strategic victory for the British. After establishing the Durand line, separating Afghanistan from the British Empire, King Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan an independent and sovereign state. Immediately following his declaration, Khan ordered an end to the country’s traditional isolationism. The king also directed the newly formed state to be modernized, leading to women’s education, compulsory elementary schooling, and the abolition of slavery in 1923. However, Khan became ardently opposed by many of the local tribes after abolishing the requirement of the traditional burqa and eliminating restrictions on women’s education. Moderate political turmoil continued and the king’s commands remained largely disregarded.

1933 – 1973

In 1933, King Amanullah Khan was assassinated and shortly thereafter, King Mohammed Zahir Shah took the throne. Shah’s reign would last from the early 1930s to 1973. Throughout his reign, King Zahir Shah modernized the country even further through establishing elections, enforcing political rights, and stressing women’s education.

In 1973, King Mohammed Zahir Shah was replaced by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud Khan, in a bloodless coup. After ascending to office, Daoud Khan abolished the Afghan monarchy, declaring himself the prime minister of Afghanistan. Daoud sought a closer relationship with the USSR, and was sympathetic to the ethnic Pashtun people who’d been displaced by the establishment of the Durand line in 1919. Other ethnic groups in Afghanistan voiced their disfavor over Daoud Khan’s “Pashtun Nationalism,” and in turn, saw the constriction of their personal liberties by Daoud Khan. Massive popular disapproval of Daoud Khan and the state of affairs in Afghanistan culminated in the Saur Revolution of 1978.

Part II

Saur Revolution – 1978

The Saur Revolution, beginning in April of 1978, saw the removal of prime minister Daoud Khan and the installment of the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) led by president Nur Muhammad Taraki and funded by the USSR. With full Soviet support, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan began to push radical economic and cultural Marxist reform. The PDPA itself was not short of internal conflict, and two factions within the party would disagree over the nature of their rule. For the sake of brevity, the two main factions were the Khalq – the more dictatorial or dominant faction; and the Parcham – the more liberal or moderate faction.

It is important to note that Afghanistan is a highly diverse landmass composed of several distinct ethnic groups, many of which practice very traditional forms of Islam. These tribal ethnic groups were often separated by the mountainous terrain of the region, and would typically not interact with one another unless in opposition to an invading or occupying force. None of these ethnic groups are a majority.

The PDPA’s cultural and economic policies saw intense backlash from tribal leaders. Amin – relative to his predecessors – proved to be far less accepting of dissent, and often took to imprisoning or executing his party’s critics.

1979

In March of 1979, riots swept throughout the country in response to the PDPA’s radical policies and their treatment of dissidents.

Nur Muhammad Taraki, seeking to quell the rioting and secure his position from the more radical in his party (namely Hafizullah Amin), turned to the nearby Soviets for military aid and advisory. Nur Muhammad Taraki lost what cohesion was left between himself and the PDPA with his requests to the USSR, and was assassinated by his fellow Khalq member, Hafizullah Amin, who then ascended to the position of president.

Hafizullah Amin’s presidency weakened the government and brought further unrest upon the country, as it was now faced with an increasingly powerful public. The riots quickly grew more violent and more coordinated, and a civil war had begun before the year’s end. Fighting between the PDPA, and their new opponents, the guerrilla mujahideen was intensified.

The U.S.S.R.

The Soviet Union sought control over the situation in Afghanistan for two main reasons: to exert dominance over the region and to prevent the spread of Islam into countries to the north under Soviet control. After witnessing the Iranian Revolution, the USSR understood that, with enough pressure, any middle Eastern country in the area could experience their own Iranian Revolution, thus becoming extremely difficult to control.

The Soviets’ solution to the situation – depose Amin, dominate the region, and get its people under control. This culminated in the Soviet-Afghan War.

The U.S.A

In 1979, the United States (the only other superpower in the world) saw the instability in Afghanistan as an opportunity to waste Soviet time and resources and to halt the spread of communism. Though the exact time frame is contested, the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency became active in Afghanistan during 1979. The US and Saudi Arabia supported both the mujahideen and foreign resistance fighters from Pakistan and supplied them with thousands of FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles and some (contested) billions of dollars.

Soviet-Afghan War – Soviet Invasion

In December of 1979, the USSR launched a surprise invasion of Afghanistan. Critical communications and systems of transport were seized and halted by the Red Army. In the same month, Hafizullah Amin was captured in Kabul and executed by the Soviets, who organized a replacement – Soviet loyalist Babrak Karmal of the Parcham faction.

In January of 1980, both the Islamic Conference as well as the UN General Assembly passed resolutions in protest of the Soviet invasion and demanding swift withdrawal of Soviet forces. The US and Saudi Arabia began to more seriously fund the sale of weapons to the mujahideen, the CIA began covert operations through Pakistan, and the Afghan insurgency received specialized training in Pakistan and China.

Soviet-Afghan War – The Insurgency

The Soviet Red Army operated within Afghanistan’s urban areas, which were less resistant to government control. However, the vast majority of Afghanistan is rural, and the mujahideen used this to their advantage as they operated in small groups, waging guerrilla warfare throughout the countryside.

The different tribes fighting against Soviet occupation, realizing that the Soviets would not soon leave, reinforced their concept of Jihad (“Holy War”) – this is mostly considering that the USSR was a foreign, Atheist union that sought control over the region. The mujahideen’s call for Jihad resonated with much of the Islamic world, and the movement saw foreign fighters and supporters, including Osama Bin Laden, come from abroad.

Though Soviet forces were quite effective in strategic operations, waves of mujahideen continued to pour into Afghanistan, making the war a long, grinding operation for the Soviets until 1985.

Part III

Soviet Withdrawal

As the Cold War took its toll on the USSR, a growing anti-war sentiment led to the election of Mikhail Gorbachev and eventually, a withdrawal of the Red Army. In 1987, after consulting with the Afghan government, Mikhail Gorbachev ordered this withdrawal Рultimately lasting from 1988 to 1989. A small amount of Soviet troops stayed active in the region, but were finally withdrawn in 1992 following the collapse of the USSR.

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An Essay on Charlottesville

Since Saturday the 12th, it has been greatly discouraging to see many of my friends openly engaging in discussions with one another about issues regarding American politics and race relations – yet denying me a word on the subject. So, I’m going to try and explain exactly what the hell is happening as succinctly and as logically as I can. I suspect that we have the same opinion.

Why am I doing this? 

As a person who is typically very open with strangers and friends alike, I often voice my opinion on any and all American political matters. As many of you know, I tend to lean somewhat “to the right” on issues regarding society, ethics, history, and economics. It has been made apparent to me – through the unwavering disregard for political dialogue, and perhaps a fear that my friends will wish to disavow me from their circles – that some would believe that I am a Neo-Nazi, Fascist, Eugenicist, White Supremacist, or any other ideologue who would force his opinions on others. All of these charges are false.

The Charlottesville Problem:

What happened in Charlottesville is no more than a product and representation of the categorization and collectivism that has festered within the lowest rungs of American society since the Second World War. The vast majority of us interact with hundreds if not thousands of other people on a day-to-day, momentary basis. Everything one sees, everything one hears, every tool that has been given to us to supposedly formulate our own opinions has been greatly compromised. The simplest thing to do, and what most of us are guilty of, is steadily and enduringly following narratives. Hold on, I hope I am as clear as can be in reinforcing this fact – I have never, nor have I ever had the resolution to follow my own narrative, to create my own agenda, or to cut out the influence of others entirely. You and I have an established relationship here, and I want you to know that I haven’t, for one second, believed you to be beneath me, or above me. These things are for you to decide. Your position in society is where you, yourself, end up compared to where you envision. I say all of this because it seems there is no longer an emphasis on The Individual.

The way I see things, we now have the competing ideologies:

Collectivism and Individualism.

 

Collectivism in Society:

A society which puts an emphasis on the Collective, and only the Collective, will fail. Every (institutionalized) Collectivist society on planet earth has failed, and every society that continues to follow this agenda in the future will fail. Collectivist ideologies have resulted in the fall of the Roman Empire, the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the destruction of the Third Reich, the slow sink of the Scandinavian economy, and ultimately – the deaths of hundreds of millions. 

It is absolutely crucial to note that I am not talking about this whole notion of “left vs. right”. That notion is absurd. Ideologies exist on both X and  Y axes. The X axis is most often considered to be the degree to which an ideology is socially Liberal, and the Y axis the degree to which an ideology favors State power, economic control, and Authoritarianism.

Why This Matters in Regard to Charlottesville:

Let’s try to (roughly) define a few things.

The “Alt-Right” – A crude and hateful ideology which favors Americans with a European ancestry above all else. This is Collectivism.

The New Left (AntiFa, and associated movements) – A crude and hateful ideology which assumes that the other is the reason for differences between ethnic backgrounds, economic status, and over/under-representation in the workforce. This is Collectivism.

The Belligerents and Their Backgrounds:

Competing Collectivist ideologies have existed throughout human existence. Humans, after all, are a Tribal species, and a scapegoat is absolutely crucial in upholding a Collectivist viewpoint. Having someone to blame for your problems and creating a victim narrative that suits the Collective is what keeps the Collective afloat. Early in human history, other tribes, races, or even Gods were blamed. The scapegoat, however, flows with the Zeitgeist. Without blaming Jews and “subhumans”, would Hitler have been able to maintain his “racially pure” society? Without the Aristocracy, bourgeoisie, or the middle-class to blame for the poverty of the proletariat, would Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks have been able to successfully revolt? No and no; both of these organizations were reactionary. Once one can convince any categorical population that they share a common “enemy”, such a population will use violence as a means to punish such an enemy. The Collective does not exist without a common enemy.

You may not agree with me, but I find that the “Alt-Right” and “AntiFa” are quite easy to compare in this regard. Sure, there are plenty of differences, just as there were between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but they follow the exact same guidelines. Here is the essential difference between National Socialist Germany and The Soviet Union: Nazi Germany used race as a means of separation, and The Soviet Union used economic class as a means of separation. They’re no different! Both of these ideologies were, by their very design, constructed to separate and categorize the population to the point in which debate, reason, and Individualism are nearly impossible. Once the populous can no longer tolerate the other, violence becomes the only option.

The Alt-Right is entirely convinced that there is “an anti-white climate” in The West, which doesn’t make a morsel of sense considering that the philosophy of The West is based entirely on Individualism. While I do believe that our universities, our biased information, and media outlets often foster cultural Marxism, you cannot defeat cultural Marxism by using cultural Marxism. The Alt-Right is nothing but a shadow of “AntiFa”. Nothing institutional has changed in regards to racism recently, so if the Alt-Right would like to combat this ridiculous notion of “anti-white climate”, they should go have children and raise them like a halfway decent person. Lastly, the idea that National Socialism could function in any way in the United States, or would be welcomed by anybody except for the couple thousand of White Nationalists is laughable.

On the other hand, we have “AntiFa” which has declared that its focus is to fight Fascism and state-sponsored racism. To assume that present-day America is Fascist, or to assume that there is somehow institutionalized racism is completely and utterly absurd. America has been at the forefront of social liberties since its founding. For those who believe that there is institutionalized racism or bigotry, I urge you to search for as long as humanly possible for any law, code, or current Supreme Court ruling in which one race is not allowed the liberties of another. This also goes for the Alt-Right – you are not being discriminated against. Regardless of how you feel about it, whether you want it to be true, or not, in America we have equality before the law. I won’t go into detail about how the U.S. is not Fascist because I don’t need to; a Fascist America is so ridiculous it’s incomprehensible.

All of that being said, I see an enormous problem. How do the members of these groups turn around? Can they?

The Only Way to Fix This:

As Americans, we must emphasize a return to Individualism. We must step back from the ledge of State enforced ideologies. We must treat each other as Individuals, and not the other. We must let people speak, even if their ideas are repugnant. We must allow ideas to rise and die without interference. We must always be vigilant of National Socialism, of Fascism, of Communism, of Socialism, all of which aim to squelch human rights, but we can not use violence as a means to an end; you will not achieve that end. I am just as offended by the Hammer and Sickle as I am the Swastika, but if some degenerate wants to wear a shirt, wave a flag, or flail a sign, let them do it – better yet, make sure others are aware of what the symbol means, why it is wrong, and respect the other person’s right to make a fool of themselves in public. Once you take away their right to speak, you have set an extremely dangerous precedent, and your constitutional rights might be next; so if someone is wrong, for God’s sake, let them speak! Once we stop talking, we start killing. We need to question all beliefs, and not be blinded by preference. People’s minds can be changed.

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

– Mark Twain