Afghanistan's history spans five thousand years and the Afghan people have contributed to the emergence of many Central Asian empires. The ancient centers of culture and civilization were influenced by diverse outsiders such as Rome, Greece, Arabia, Iran, Central Asia, India, and China. Great conquerors such as Jenghiz Khan and Timurlane swept through Afghanistan during the 13th and 14th century. These rulers brought with them the desire to establish kingdoms, and founded cultural and scholarly communities in Afghanistan. In particular, during the Timurid dynasty, poetry, architecture and miniature painting reached their zenith.
The rise of the great Mughal Empire again lifted Afghanistan to heights of power. The ruler, Babur, had his capital in Kabul in 1512, but as the Mughals extended their power into India, Afghanistan went from being the center of the empire to merely a peripheral part of it. In the 18th and 19th century with European forces eroding the influence of the Mughals on the Indian subcontinent, the kingdom of Afghanistan began to emerge. Ahmad Shah ruled from 1747 and successfully established the concept of a united Afghanistan.
Throughout the 19th century Afghans fought against British forces. In the 1830s, Dost Muhammad skillfully balanced the influence of the Russians, British, Iranians, and Sikhs. However, rising tensions resulted in several wars from 1839 and 1842 and from 1878 to 1880. The twenty-one year reign of Abdur Rahman Khan was an important period for the consolidation of a modern state marked by efforts to modernize and establish control of the kingdom. The borders of Afghanistan were established in 1893 through negotiations with the British and provincial governments emerged, taking the place of clan rule.
In 1919, Afghanistan gained independence from British occupying forces. From 1919-1973 Afghanistan modernized and built extensive infrastructure with the assistance of the international community. This period of relative stability ended in 1973 when King Zahir Shah was overthrown while away in Europe.
In 1978 and 1979, a number of coups brought to power a communist government that drifted increasingly toward the USSR, ending with a Soviet puppet government in Kabul led by Babrak Kamal and an invasion of Soviet forces. Throughout the eighties, an indigenous Afghan resistance movement fought against the invading Soviet forces. With the help of the United States, Afghans successfully resisted the occupation. On February 15, 1989 the last Soviet soldier retreated across Afghanistan’s northern border. As hostilities ceased, more than a million Afghans lay dead and 6.2 million people, over half the world's refugee population, had fled the country.
The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 weakened the communist government of President Najibullah, leading to his ousting in April 1992. An interim president was installed and replaced two months later by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a founder of the country's Islamic political movement, backed by the popular commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
The government remained unstable and unable to form a national consensus amongst its various factions.Thisinstability was exploited by a group of Islamicfighters called the Taliban ('talib' means 'religiousstudent' or'seeker of knowledge'). With the assistance of foreign governments, organizations, and resources, the Talibanseized Kandahar and in September 1998 entered Kabul. Taliban rule became infamous for their repression of women and dissidents as well as their destruction of the country's cultural heritage. Showing little interest in trying to govern and rebuild Afghanistan, they instead played host to the radical Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Following Al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks, the United States and its allies began military operations and quickly overthrew the Taliban. An interim government was installed.
In December of 2001, Afghan and world leaders met in Bonn, Germany under United Nations auspices to design an ambitiousagenda that would guide Afghanistan towards “national reconciliation, a lasting peace, stability, andrespect for human rights,” culminating in the establishment of a fully representative government. Many political and civil institutions were establishedwith the Bonn Agreement such as the Afghan IndependentHuman Rights Commission, the JudicialCommission,Counter- NarcoticsDirectorate,and the Constitutional commission.
Progress on the political front has been rapid, with elections leading to an elected parliament and president as well as a national constitution. With international assistance, the new government of Afghanistan is developing a stable, political infrastructure and security apparatus.
The security situation in Afghanistan necessitates the continued presence of international forces. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was created in accordance with the Bonn Conference, in December 2001, after the ousting of the Taliban regime. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took over command and coordination of ISAF in August 2003. This is the first mission outside the Euro-Atlantic area in NATO’s history. Initially restricted to providing security in and around Kabul, NATO's mission now covers about 50% of the country's territory. ISAF currently numbers about 9,700 troops from 37 NATO and non-NATO troop contributing countries. The Alliance is expanding its presence in Southern Afghanistan.
The London Conference on Afghanistan in January 2006 aimed to launch the Afghanistan Compact, the successor to the Bonn Agreement, to present the interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy, and to ensure the Government of Afghanistan has adequate resources to meet its domestic ambitions. The Afghanistan Compact marks the formal end of the Bonn Process, with completion of the Parliamentary and Provincial elections, and represents a framework for co-operation for five years.
The Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy (I-ANDS) is the product of twelve-months of intensive consultations within the Afghan government and with a wide array of stakeholders including community representatives, the ulama, the private sector, NGOs, and the international community. The document outlines the government’s policy objectives and analyzes the obstacles to their achievement.