Afghanistan is always on the news for bomb explosions or Taliban attacks. The country’s political situation is extremely volatile. Interestingly, Afghanistan has been politically unstable from 1978. Let us consider the main events from 1978 briefly.
1978 April – The Saur Revolution
This was a revolution led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) against the rule of self-proclaimed Afghan President Mohammed Daoud Khan on 27–28 April 1978.
Daoud Khan had seized power in 1973 from his cousin King Zahir Shah in 1973 and made Afghanistan a republic. He came increasingly under the influence of the Soviet Union. However, relations between the USSR and Daoud Khan soured as the Afghan President was worried about the involvement of the Soviets. The USSR backed the PDPA, which carried out the Saur Revolution, killing the President.
1979 September – Assassination of Nur Muhammad Taraki
The PDPA had two factions named Kalqi and Parcham. There were many internal disputes. Taraki of Kalqi faction became President following the Saur Revolution. The PDPA initiated sweeping reforms which alienated the countryside, initiating the first armed opposition against the central government. Meanwhile, internal fighting boiled over by September 1979. Hafizullah Amin staged a coup, assassinating Taraki and seizing power.
1979 December – Amin assassinated in Soviet coup
The Afghan government requested for the deployment of Soviet troops throughout 1979 to thwart the rebel forces. Following Taraki’s fall, the Afghan-Soviet relations soured somewhat. On December 27, the Soviet forces staged a coup, assassinating Amin and installing Babrak Karmal as President.
1979 Dec – 1989 Feb – Soviet War in Afghanistan
Afghan Mujahideen rebels backed by the USA, Pakistan and some Arab countries fought the PDPA government and Soviet forces. Mujahideen controlled most of the countryside. After the advent of Mikhail Gorbachev to power in 1985, the USSR changed its policy. It started withdrawing troops in January 1987 and ended the withdrawal by February 1989.
1992 April End of PDPA Government
The PDPA still ruled the country till April 1992. Although it withdrew its troops, the USSR continued to support the Mohammed Najibullah government. The final collapse took place when the USSR had collapsed.
1996 September 27 – Taliban Take Kabul
The Mujahideen factions started fighting amongst each other. The Taliban movement emerged in late 1994, promising to fight against the corrupt Mujahideen and establish an Islamic society. In November 1994, it captured Kandahar. Kabul fell on September 27, 1996.
1996 – 2001 Taliban Period
Taliban controlled about 80 percent of the land in Afganistan during this period. The rest, in the north, was controlled by the United Front, or the Northern Alliance. Meanwhile, Saudi national and leader of the al-Qaeda Osama bin Laden arrived in Taliban controlled Afghanistan.
On September 9, 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, was assassinated by suspected al-Qaeda suicide bombers. On September 11, the infamous 9/11 attack took place.
In the aftermath, the US started bombing Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched officially on October 7. By November 14, the Northern Alliance took Kabul. By December 7, the Taliban retreated from Kandahar.
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established in December 2001. A ‘Loya Jirga’ was convened in 2002 as an interim government of Afghanistan. In 2004, Hamid Karzai was elected President.
However, the Taliban and the al-Qaeda had retreated in late 2001, only to reemerge. The Taliban reorganized and by 2003 were re-launching their insurgency. Meanwhile, Taliban insurgency spread to neighboring Pakistan.
On May 2, 2011, US SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
In late 2015, the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was reported. At the same time, presence of the supporters of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ in Afghanistan was being reported.