Hundred years of independence: cycle of violence & instability in Afghanistan
Ever since King Amanullah’s rule, Afghanistan has undergone through several regime change to consolidate a strong central government but in vain. The country still struggles to bring peace.
Ghulam Sakhi was 12-year-old when he began working on the street of Kabul. Sakhi has been on the street of Kabul for nearly 60 years, working and living under King Zahir Shah’s monarchy, Sardar Daud’s republic, Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, Mujahedeen’s Islamic State of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate and the US-backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
“My life has been the same for years,” said Ghulam Sakhi, now 68-year old. “Working on the street for several years, I finally managed to buy a taxi and make a living, I am just surviving.”
The country marked its 100th independence on Monday, August 19, 2019, amid uncertainty and a likely US-Taliban peace deal. In the latest episodes of violence, Islamic State suicide bomber ripped through a wedding hall in Kabul, killing 63 and wounding 182 others on Saturday night, before the day of celebration of independence.
“The country has sunk in
violence throughout the latest 100 years,” said Ali Amiri, a university
lecturer. “The Afghans have sunk in violence so deep as we cannot find a single
historian who should reflect why the country has sunk in violence.”
Afghanistan has a long bloody history of violence, and to some, out of 100 years of independency, 80 years of the history of the country has been filled with violence and bloodshed. King Amanullah, who ruled the country from 1919 to 1929, declared the country independent in 1919.
“King Amanullah built a
national state,” said Sayed Askar Mousavi, a historian. “At least, King
Amanullah did not borrow money or beg to run his kingdom.”
King Amanullah, who was overthrown by Habibullah Kalakani in 1929, eventually escaped to seek asylum in Italy. Mohammad Nader Shah defeated Kalakani and seized power in November 1929, which marked a new period in the turbulent history of the country.
Nader Shah, who had previously
served as Afghan minister of war and as Afghan ambassador to France, took a
tough stand to rule the country. He imprisoned his opponents and sent renowned
intellectuals to exile.
On November 8, 1933, Abdul
Khaliq Hazara, a 17-year old high school student, shot Nader Shah to death
while he was on a visit in a high school in the capital Kabul. Following his
assassination, his 19-year old son Mohammad Zahir took the lead to rule the country.
King Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan for 40 years.
“We used to go for picnic to
Darul Aman palace’s garden,” said Ghulam Sakhi, who was born and raised during
the rule of Zahir Shah. “I remember that Zahir Shah ordered to pave Kabul-Herat
Mohammad Zahir Shah was
symbolic king. As de facto king, his cousins used to run his kingdom. Four of
his cousins took the chair of prime minister-ship as Mohammad Zahir Shah was
too young to fully exercise authority.
“The leadership of the country after 1929 failed to form a nation-state,” said Mousavi. “They built a pseudo-government and pushed the country toward ethno-tribal conflicts, rather than modernizing the country.”
In 1953, the pro-Soviet Mohammad Daud Khan, who was King Zahir’s cousin, became prime minister. Under Daud, Afghanistan underwent social reforms. With differences increasing between the king and his prime minister, on July 17, 1973, Daud Khan launched a bloodless coup against Zahir Shah while he was in Italy.
1978, Pro-Soviet Afghan army generals launched a coup d’état against Daud Khan.
They killed him along with his family members in the place.
“I was in downtown when the coup happened,” said Ghulam Sakhi. “The battle inside the palace continued for 24 hours. Jets were hitting from air and tanks from the ground.”
Afghan politicians, helped by the army, formed the Democratic Republic of
Afghanistan. Following this development, the anti-Kabul government mujahedeen
leaders, harbored by Pakistan and funded by the West and Saudi Arabia,
mobilized ordinary Afghans to fight against the Soviet-backed Kabul government.
In 1979, The Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR) deployed troops to Afghanistan to defend the Kabul government. With the deployment of USSR troops, the country turned into cockpit of the Cold War.
people subscribed to communist ideology and others subscribed Muslim
brotherhood ideology and Islamic ideologies preached by religious preachers in
Iran and Pakistan,” said Mousavi. “The ideologies were not developed by Afghans,
as the situation was so dire in the country that everyone was just seeking to
situation pushed many Afghans to depend on foreign countries for survival. At
this period of history, the country sank in violence. The Soviet-backed
government forces campaigned to eliminate Islamists, in reverse, the Islamist
group waged insurgency to overthrow the government.
rising to power, the Soviet-backed government suppressed its opponents. It killed
many innocent people who had nothing to do with politics,” said Ghulam Sakhi.
“The geostrategic location of Afghanistan, known as the heart of Asia and gate to India, enticed the foreign powers to interfere in Afghanistan,” said Hafez Mansoor, who is a member of Jamait Islami party, a party that fought against the Soviet occupation.
the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union inked a peace accord in
Geneva to end the conflict in Afghanistan. Following the Geneva peace accord,
the Soviet Union pulled out its troops from the country. The Mujahedeen
continued to fight against Soviet-backed government of Dr. Najib until 1992.
After the debacle of Soviet Union the Kabul government fell apart and the country
plunged into a bloody civil war, which destroyed major parts of the capital,
forced thousands of Kabul residents to flee the country.
“In the eastern part of the city, Pashtun fighters, under the leadership of Gulbudden Hekmatyar, took position, in the north, Tajik leader Ahmad Shah Massud stationed his forces, and in the west, Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari positioned his forces,” recalled Ghulam Sakhi. “The city was burning in flame and bullet was raining everywhere… one day I went to Kot-e-Sangi neighborhood of the city, there were dead bodies everywhere.”
Taliban movement took control over Kabul in 1996 but they faced a strong resistance
in the north, where North Alliance forces fought against them. The Islamist
group imposed a self-style of Islamist government and banned women from working
Following September 11 attack on World Trade Center in New York, the United States, under Bush administration, toppled the Taliban government. The American-led intervention heartened hopes among Afghans. In December 2001, Afghan politicians met in Bonn, Germany, to sign an agreement on future government of the country. The US-led NATO alliance deployed thousands of troops to Afghanistan, installed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and funded the Afghan army and police to restore order and democracy in the country.
government is a pseudo-democratic
government,” said Mousavi. “The government is not able to eliminate insurgents,
and arrest those who speak against it, otherwise it would not wait for a
The presence of US troops in the country, however, did not help to eliminate the Taliban insurgency. In 2014, the US, under Obama administration, pulled out a large of number of US troops from Afghanistan, as a good gesture to bring the Taliban insurgents to negotiating table.
In July 2018, US President Donald Trump ordered American diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban to put an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Many Afghans and Americans, however, fear that a complete US troop withdrawal will mark the beginning of a new phase of violence. Several Afghan security experts and American analysts fear that the country will plunge into another civil war if the US pulls out its troops from the country.