While the territory of Afghanistan has a long history, the first state under that name emerged in 1747. The Durrani dynasty managed to bring under their control areas of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India. But between the 1770s and 1820s civil wars reduced Afghanistan to a relatively small and isolated state.
The British Empire invaded Afghanistan in 1839, initiating the First Anglo-Afghan War. The British were forced to retreat by 1842 due to heavy casualties. With the Russian Empire making territorial gains in Central Asia over the next three decades, the British were anxious to gain control over Afghanistan and stop the Russian advance. They invaded again in 1878.
The Second Anglo-Afghan War lasted to 1880. The British won but only made few territorial gains. Afghanistan would maintain internal sovereignty but ceded control of its foreign relations to the British. A Third Anglo-Afgan War in 1919 was a strategic Afghan victory. Afghanistan "won the right to conduct their own foreign affairs as a fully independent state".
From 1919 to 1973 the monarchs of Afghanistan attempted to modernize it towards European standards, alienating conservative tribal leaders. They maintained strict neutrality in both World War II and the Cold War.
Mohammed Daoud Khan, a minor member of the extended Royal family, overthrew the monarchy in 1973. He declared Afghanistan a Republic with himself as President. He was initially assisted in his efforts by a local communist party but had to suppress a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement.
After a while, Daoud attempted to distance himself from his communist political allies and the Soviet Union. He instead sought better relations with the United States, Iran, Egypt, India and Saudi Arabia. Relations with Pakistan were tense at times. In 1978, he was deposed by a communist coup. He and most of his family members were executed.
Afghanistan was declared a Democratic Republic, a Socialist State. However the new communist government was opposed by a mujaheddin movement, militant Islamists. Soviet Union intervened in the Afghan Civil War by sending its own troops to assist the government (1979). The mujaheddin received funding, equipment and some training by the United States, Pakistan, the Republic of China, the People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and various Western European States.
The Soviets had to withdraw by 1989, largely exhausted financially. The conflict is believed to have hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Afghan Civil War continued to 1992. The communists government collapsed while facing financial struggles and international isolation.
Afghanistan was declared an Islamic State by the victors. However the mujaheddin soon fragmented into rival militias, divided along ethnic, clan and religious lines. Afghanistan was facing anarchy while the warlords fought each other. Meanwhile a new power rose from the rural Pashtun communities, the Taliban.
Essentially Islamic fundamentalists, the Taliban held some of the "strictest interpretation[s] of Sharia law ever seen in the Muslim World". By 1996 they had captured Kabul, the capital, and declared Afghanistan an Islamic Emirate. By 2000, they administered c. 95% of the total areas of the state, only 5% still held by the mujaheddin. Their regime became notorious for extremely harsh treatment of women and minority populations.
By 2001, the United States were openly accusing the Taliban for close ties with the Al-Qaeda (the Base), a terrorist organization with international activities. They led an invasion against the Taliban and allied themselves with the mujaheddin. Afghanistan was declared an Islamic Republic and constitutional reforms started.
While the new government and military of Afghanistan were getting organized, foreign troops were positioned in Afghanistan for security reasons. Besides the American military forces, all members of NATO and several other nation states deployed major or minor forces during the 2000s. The Taliban launched an insurgency during 2003 and their influence has been increasing ever since. By 2009 there were fears that the NATO-led coalition was loosing the war.
Afghanistan borders Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the People's Republic of China, Iran and Pakistan. The Taliban have had ongoing disputes with Iran, recently they have made military movements within Pakistan.
Afghan comic book characters:
Sedara Bakut (Marvel)