Sunday, April 02, 2006

Brief Chronology of Afghanistan's Political Past

I didn't even realize the extent of my ignorance pertaining to Afghanistan's political past until I went to Kabul. Like most Westerners, I had been inundated with images propelled by Western media portraying Taliban and burkas - oppressive symbols that would come to define Afghanistan in much of the Western psyche. But I discovered that the complexity of the Afghan situation and political history goes so much deeper. The Taliban, as oppressive as that regime was, was merely one of the many factors that have caused suffering and unrest in Afghanistan over the past 25 years. Thus, for one to even begin to understand the scope of Afghanistan's wounds, one must look beyond these erroneous, demarcating images of Western media and consider the duration of Afghanistan's political strife......
The following chronology is published in My Forbidden Face - Growing up Under the Taliban: A Young Woman's Story written by a woman using the pen name Latifa written with the collaboration of Shekeba Hachemi:
1919: The Declaration of independence of Afghanistan. 1921: The Treaty of Kabul marks the end of British interference in Afghan affairs. 1933-1973: The reign of Mohammed Zahir Shah. 1959: Women are no longer required to wear the veil. 1964: Women obtain the right to vote. 1965: The first parliamentary elections. 1973: The monarchy is overthrown by Mohammed Daoud, who establishes the first Republic of Afghanistan and serves as its president. 1978: A coup d'etat installs the second republic, a Communist regime, led by President Noor Mohammed Taraki and Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin. Reforms imposed on Afghan society, which remains conservatively traditional, lead to popular uprisings and the rise of Islamic movements, which destabilize the government. 1979: Soviet troops invade. The mujahideen organize their resistance and begin a guerilla war against the Afghan army - which fight under the aegis of the Soviet army - that will last ten years. The successive presidencies of Babrak Karmal (1979-1986) and Dr. Mohammed Najibullah (1986-1992)[Made president by the Soviets, M. Najibullah was an Afghan Communist who remained in power until he was ousted by the mujihadeen.] April 1988: The United States, the U.S.S.R., Pakistan and the government in Kabul sign a UN-sponsored agreement in Geneva setting up a timetable for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. 1989: The last of the Soviet troops are evacuated from Afghanistan. 1989: The beginning of the civil war among mujahideen forces of different ethnic backgrounds; the principle antagonists will be the Pastun Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Tajik Ahmed Shah Massoud. [A notoriously ruthless warlord, Hekmatyar first came to the attention of the West as a student at Kabul University in the 1960's, when he led a militant Islamic student group that threw acid in the faces of unveiled women students. Massoud would later become the leader of the Northern Alliance, a loose coalition of ethnic minority political parties - mostly Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hezaras - that will oppose the Taliban.] March 1992: General Massoud takes control of the northern provinces. April 1992: General Massoud's mujahideen capture Kabul. Sibghatullah Mojadeddi serves as President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan until June, when he is succeeded by Burhanuddin Rabanni. [Rabanni was the nominal head of the Afghan government-in-exile recognized by the United Nations.] Civil war flares up again, this time between forces of General massoud and Islamic extremists supported by Pakistan. The Taliban achieve their first successes in the south with the capture of Kandahar in 1994. September 1995: The Taliban take Herat (the main city in Western Afghanistan.) September 1996: The Taliban take Jalalabad and Kabul. 1997-1998: The Taliban continue their advances north. The city of Mazar-i-Sharif changes hands several times, finally falling into the hands of the Taliban in August 1998. General Massoud retreats to his home territory in the Panshir Valley and remains the sole effective opponent of the Taliban regime.[The Panshir Valley is an impregnable natural fortress that stretches southwest from northern Afghanistan to the Shamali Plain just north of Kabul.] September 9, 2001: Ahmed Shah Massoud is the victim of an assassination plot; his death is officially confirmed on Sept. 13. September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. are attacked by terrorists in hijacked commercial airlines. The hijackers are believed to be members of Osama bin Laden's Al-Queda organization. October 7, 2001: United States and Britain lead bombing offensive against Al-Queda. November 9, 2001: After a month-long American campaign of bombing, the Northern Alliance regains control of Mazar-i-Sharif. November 13, 2001: The Taliban abandon Kabul overnight; forces of the Northern Alliance enter Kabul. December 22, 2001: Hamid Karzai is sworn in as the leader of an interim government, as agreed in talks held in Bonn, Germany earlier that month. The coalition is endorsed by Mohammed Zahir Shah, and its thirty members include representatives of several Afghan factions. Karzai is the first person to take power in Afghanistan peacefully in thirty years.

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