When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
|—Rudyard Kipling, "The Young British Soldier"|
Afghanistan (Pashto: افغانستان Afġānistān; Dari: افغانستان Afġānestān), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Pashto: د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوریت Da Afġānistān Islāmī Jumhoryat; Dari: جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان Jomhūrī-ye Eslāmī-ye Afġānestān), is a mountainous country cozily nestled between Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. Many empires have met with failure when trying to add this region to their roster,[note 1] most recently the Soviet Union, although perhaps the United States should be added to this list, purple fingers aside.[note 2]
After asserting its independence from British influence in the Anglo-Afghan Wars (1839 to 1919), Afghanistan faced sweeping reforms by Amanullah Khan (ruled 1919-1929). This ended when a revolt brought reactionary Habibullah Kalakani to power. However, he grew unpopular as well, and after nine months in power, he was ousted by moderate Mohammed Nadir Shah. While he abolished many reforms, he wasn't overly traditionalist either. After his assassination in 1933, his son Zahir Shah came to power, and continued to rule in a similar fashion to his father for nearly forty years.
In 1973 Zahir Shah was deposed by his brother and former PM, Daoud Khan. A more radical reformist, Daoud Khan did improve conditions in Afghanistan, but ruled the country as a one-party republic and soured relations with the Soviet Union. Speaking of which, pro-communist elements carried out the Saur Revolution in 1978. For better and worse, the new regime established several reforms, and a power struggle between the ruling People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (which had just ended an internal power-struggle) and Jihadist insurgents caused the Soviets to invade (December 24, 1979).
After the Soviet-Afghanistan War of 1979-1989 - a brutal Cold War proxy war - destroyed the Afghan economy and infrastructure, the Soviets pulled out as the insurgency continued. The insurgents brought an end to the communist government in 1992. A provisional government nominally succeeded it, but the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban held the real power. This was likely because after twelve years of chaos, people would just take what they can get.
As of 2019 Afghanistan remains under some sort of occupation by the United States and its NATO allies, who overthrew the Taliban (circa December 2001) shortly after 9/11 (September 2001) gave them an excuse, sort of. Since pretty much the entire world hated the Taliban for (among other reasons) destroying ancient Buddhist art-work (March 2001) and making women wear burlap sacks over their heads, there was little protest over this. Even the US's bitter enemy, Iran, supported Western intervention, and has sought to work with the US to keep the Taliban out of power.
Afghanistan is also well known for growing poppy, making for a brisk export balance with the West. Afghanistan has few trucks and fewer roads. But it has a lot of mountain footpaths. That's why poppies are an ideal crop there. It's a hardy perennial, so to speak, which doesn't need much water to grow.[note 3] Farmers can have women and kids walking on goat paths hand carrying bundles of poppies to their buyers and make enough cash for the operation to be worthwhile. The only viable solution would be for the US to simply buy the whole crop every season and destroy it.[note 4] In addition to being number one in opiate production, Afghanistan also ranks as the world's largest producer of cannabis (mostly as hashish).
Some people get confused about the use of the words "Afghani" and "Afghan".
- "Afghani" is…
- an adjective pertaining to the characteristics of Afghanistan and its people;
- the monetary unit of Afghanistan.
- "Afghan" — a noun — is a person of Afghani heritage. (Not to mention a particular variety of sheepskin coat, those blankets and shawls that originated in Afghanistan, those hounds with long blond hair, and those delicacies of New Zealand cuisine.)
- The Timurids are an exception, but ah well.
- Unless... you are the Mongols
- In decades past, Afghanistan's competing cash crop was cotton. But cotton is a very thirsty crop, and climate change has decreased rainfall; Afghanistan's only other viable cash crop is cannabis.
- This worked just beautifully for the Dutch in Indonesia, right?
- See the Wikipedia article on Anglo-Afghan War.
- See the Wikipedia article on Saur Revolution.
- See the Wikipedia article on People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
- See the Wikipedia article on Buddhas of Bamyan.
- "No Operation". Presstv.ir. http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=122108§ionid=351020403. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
- "UN: Afghanistan is leading hashish producer". Fox News. March 31, 2010. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/03/31/afghanistan-leading-hashish-producer/.
- See the Wikipedia article on Afghan biscuit.