Afghanistan can be seen as the prototype of a transit country. Since prehistoric times, the paths of migrations, conquerors, traders and missionaries of the most diverse religions have crossed here like in hardly any other country on earth.
Most of the time, the area of today’s Afghanistan was fought over between two or more domains (e.g. between the Graeco-Bactrians and the Indian Maurya Empire in the 3rd century BC or between the early Islamic caliphate of the Omayyads and the Gök-Turks in the 8th century AD) or even part of a larger empire whose political and cultural focus was outside Afghanistan (e.g. in the ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire or in the Mongolian Empire under Genghis Khan and his successors).
As a country located in southern Asia according to holidaysort, Afghanistan seldom represented the heartland of a great power, apart from the modern Afghan kingdom under Ahmad Shah Durrani, most likely at the time of the Ghaznavids (10th / 11th centuries AD) and the Kushan (approx. 50-250 AD). Chr.).
The Ghaznavid Empire at its greatest extent
There were essentially two factors that determined Afghanistan’s history up to the recent past: on the one hand, its geographical role as a mediator on the Silk Road, the west-east long-distance trade route between the Mediterranean countries and China, and on the other, its location on the southern periphery Central Asia, where with its deserts and mountains it posed an obstacle to conquerors with a view to the riches of India.
The latter aspect led to incursions by Iranian, Turkish or Mongolian nomadic peoples from the Central Asian steppes representing a constant threat to the state structures that arose on Afghan soil for over 2000 years. This only changed with the beginning of modern times, when equestrian nomadism in Central Asia itself was increasingly subject to sedentary statehood and lost its world historical significance.
On the other hand, the (re-) discovery of the sea route around Africa to India and soon afterwards to the New World by the Europeans led to a rapid decline in overland trade with India and China on the old caravan routes. The result was increasing impoverishment in the region – when the Pashtuns under Ahmad Shah Durrani succeeded in establishing an independent Afghan kingdom for the first time in 1747, the economic and cultural decline had long been in full swing.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the global political dualism between the British Empire and Russia, whose spheres of power clashed in Central Asia and the Middle East, led to long periods of political instability and economic and cultural isolation in Afghanistan. The ” Great Game ” about Afghanistan continued after the Second World War as a rivalry between the USA and the Soviet Union and led to the progressive destabilization of Afghanistan, which after the overthrow of King Zahir Shah in 1973 finally culminated in a series of wars and civil wars.
After the events of September 11, 2001 and the defeat of the Taliban regime, the pendulum seems to have swung in favor of the USA for the time being; it remains to be seen whether a “Pax Americana” in Greater Central Asia will be beneficial to Afghanistan’s political, economic and cultural development.
The state and its representatives
The founder of the state
Ahmad Shah Durrani
The founder of the state of Afghanistan is Ahmad Shah Durrani, who is revered by the Afghans as Ahmad Shah Baba (“grandfather”). In 1747, as the leader of the Pashtun Abdali tribal confederation, he succeeded in gaining the independence of the Pashtun settlement areas (“Afghanistan”) from Persia. Under his rule, the Afghan kingdom stretched from the east of what is now Iran to northern India, and from Amu-Darya to the coast of Balochistan. For a time it was the second largest Muslim rulership after the Ottoman Empire.
The “Father of the Nation” (Baba-ye Melli)
Mohammed Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah (1914-2007), who ruled as king from 1933 to 1973, returned to Afghanistan as a citizen in 2002 after 29 years in exile. The 40 years of his reign are considered a period of peace and security. Zahir Shah is revered to this day as a symbol of the country’s unity and understanding between ethnic groups. According to the constitution, he bore the honorary title “Father of the Nation” and was present at important state events. Despite his little political influence, his social and political integrative power should not be underestimated. Zahir Shah died on July 23, 2007 at the age of 92.
The president is Ashraf Ghani, who was sworn in on September 29, 2014 in the presidential palace in Kabul after the Afghan independent electoral commission declared him the winner of the runoff election. He is the successor to Hamid Karzai, who headed the Afghan state for almost 13 years since the fall of the Taliban regime.
The Pashtun Ashraf Ghani was born in 1949 to an influential family in Logar Province. He first studied anthropology at the American University in Beirut, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1973. In 1977 he continued his academic career on a scholarship in the USA and received his doctorate in 1982 from Columbia University. Until 1991 he then had lectureships in anthropology and political science at several American universities. In 1991 he finally moved to the World Bank, for which he worked until 2001, preferably within the framework of country and structural adjustment programs, for example in China, India and Russia. After the fall of the Taliban regime, he returned to Afghanistan in 2001 as a UN special envoy and was finance minister in the transitional government from 2002 to 2004, Incidentally, under which Abdullah Abdullah was Foreign Minister. After the 2004 presidential election, he was no longer available to the Karzai cabinet and instead moved to Kabul University as Chancellor. For the 2009 presidential election it was Ashraf Ghani put up as a candidate, but ended up behind in fourth place. As of 2010, Ashraf Ghani, as the government representative, negotiated with NATO about the modalities of handing over full responsibility for security to the Afghan security forces and the continued presence of international troops in Afghanistan after 2014. He emerged as state president from the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections.