Incremental Peace in Afghanistan
This section sets out a chronology of major political events in contemporary Afghanistan, from 1747 to April 2018.
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Ahmed Shah Durrani unites Pashtun tribes to found the Durrani empire, which will come to be seen as the root of the modern state of Afghanistan. At its peak it covers modern-day Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, India, Iran and Turkmenistan.
Britain invades and restores the deposed Shah Shujah Durrani. He is assassinated in 1842 and British and Indian troops are driven from Kabul.
Britain wins the Second Anglo-Afghan War. It withdraws its troops but retains control of Afghanistan’s foreign affairs.
Abdur Rahman Khan, a despotic and state-building Amir, pursues an ‘Afghanisation’ involving the persecution of non-Sunni Muslims and moving Pashtuns to the north. In 1893 he is forced by Britain to accept the Durand Line, which runs through Pashtun areas of what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Amir Amanullah Khan declares independence from Britain.
Amanullah introduces extensive social reforms but domestic unrest, coupled with a lack of British support, sees him exiled to Europe in 1929.
Zahir Shah is crowned. The last king of Afghanistan, he will reign until 1973.
Mohammed Daud, a cousin of Zahir, becomes prime minister. He introduces social reforms but curtails opposition to the monarchy within parliament.
Daud is forced to resign and a constitutional monarchy is introduced. Country-wide parliamentary elections take place for the first time.
Daud overthrows the monarchy in a bloodless coup and declares a republic.
Daud and his family are killed in a pro-Soviet military coup which its supporters call the Saur (‘April’) Revolution. The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) takes power. Socialist reforms provoke opposition, especially from Islamic conservatives, and mujahidin groups begin to mobilise in exile against the new regime.
With large parts of the country in open rebellion, the Soviet Union invades in support of the communist government in 1979 and installs Babrak Karmal as ruler in 1980. In response, the US, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia provide more support to the mujahidin.
Karmal is replaced as leader by head of the state security agency, Najibullah Ahmadzai. Najibullah attempts a National Reconciliation with mujahidin militias that would lead to a coalition government, but the programme fails.
Afghanistan, USSR, the US and Pakistan sign the Geneva Accords in April 1988, based on principles of non-interference, and the Soviet Union begins pulling out troops. The last troops leave in 1989 but fighting continues as the mujahidin groups try to overthrow the Najibullah government.
Najibullah resigns and the PDPA government collapses in April. Forces led by Jamiat-e Islami’s Ahmed Shah Massoud and Uzbek commander Abdul Rashid Dostum take Kabul. The Peshawar Accord attempts to establish an interim government, installing Sibghatullah Mojadidi as president for three months, followed by Jamiat leader Burhanuddin Rabbani for a further three. The Peshawar Accord also provides for a national shura in 1992 in which an 18-month government would be selected, ahead of planned elections. Hezb-i Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar refuses to sign and his attacks on government forces and incursion into Kabul, alongside Rabbani’s hold on power beyond his assigned three-month period, mark the beginning of a civil war.
The Islamabad Accord temporarily ends the fighting in March as Hekmatyar accepts the role of prime minister, but the conflict soon resumes.
Hekmatyar and Dostum mount attacks on Kabul and Massoud’s territory in the north-east in January. They are fought back. Meanwhile the Taliban emerges in the south.
The Taliban begin shelling Kabul. They are defeated by Massoud but begin a new offensive later in the year with Pakistani and Saudi backing.
The Taliban takes Kabul in September. Massoud retreats to the north from where he leads the Northern Alliance resistance to the Taliban. The Taliban establishes the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with Mullah Mohammed Omar as its leader. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognise Taliban rule.
The US launches strikes against the suspected Afghanistan bases of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader behind bombings of US embassies in East Africa.
In October 1999 the UN imposes sanctions on the Taliban intended to force them to hand over bin Laden, strengthening its sanctions regime again in December 2000.
September: Northern Alliance leader Massoud is assassinated days before al-Qaeda kills thousands in the ‘9/11’ attacks on the US.
October: The US invades Afghanistan. The Taliban loses all its strongholds within approximately six weeks and its leaders flee to Pakistan.
November: Kabul falls to the US-backed Northern Alliance. The Bonn Conference gets under way to plan political transition and post- war reconstruction.
December: Hamid Karzai is appointed to head the Afghan Interim Authority, which is otherwise dominated by Northern Alliance figures.
January: The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) deploys its first troops in order to provide security in and around Kabul.
March: The UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is established.
June: The Emergency Loya Jirga elects Karzai head of state.
August: NATO assumes command of ISAF and control of security in Kabul.
October: The Security Council expands ISAF’s mandate to the whole country.
January: The Constitutional Loya Jirga, having convened in Kabul since December 2003, adopts a new Constitution, a modified version of the 1964 Constitution with a strong presidency.
November: Karzai wins the nation’s first presidential elections with 55 per cent of the vote.
May: Karzai and US President George W. Bush declare a United States–Afghanistan Strategic Partnership.
September: In the first parliamentary elections held in three decades, winners include former warlords, former politicians, teachers, doctors and civil society activists. Parliament opens in December.
July: Fighting intensifies, especially in the south, amid a broader picture of Taliban insurgency against the US-backed Karzai administration.
October: The transfer to NATO of responsibility for security across the whole of Afghanistan is completed.
August: A Joint Declaration is made by Pak-Afghan Joint Peace Jirga condemns terrorism and calls for further dialogue and reconciliation.
August: 58 are killed in a suicide bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the first major terrorist attack on the capital. The Taliban denies responsibility but are widely blamed.
September: President Bush deploys an extra 4,500 US troops in what he calls a ‘quiet surge’.
December: Legislation providing amnesty to all those involved in crimes in previous wars passes into law. Human rights advocates later criticise it for failing international human rights obligations.
October: Presidential elections see Karzai ahead but without the majority needed to claim the presidency outright. Shortly after a visit from US Senator John Kerry, second-placed Abdullah Abdullah pulls out before the runoff and Karzai is declared president for a second term.
December: US President Barack Obama expands US troop numbers to over 100,000 but announces the US will begin withdrawing its forces by July 2011. NATO forces surge to over 40,000.
June: The National Consultative Peace Jirga, attended by 1,600 delegates, sets out a framework for ‘talks with the disaffected’ and recommends the creation of a High Peace Council. The Taliban and Gulbuddin’s Hezb-i faction reject the process and do not attend the Jirga.
September: Parliamentary elections are again marred by Taliban attacks and accusations of fraud. Results take three months to be completely finalised and even then are subject to a Special Court set up by Karzai, which will eventually order the replacement of 62 sitting MPs on the grounds that their campaigns were fraudulent. This is rejected by the IEC but eventually nine MPs are replaced. Disputes between the parliament and president cause months of legislative deadlock and delay.
November: NATO agrees to hand control of security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
December: By the end of the year, coalition forces have suffered over 700 casualties, the most of the campaign.
May: Osama bin Laden is killed by US forces in Pakistan. The Taliban’s spring offensive sees the most civilian casualties since 2001.
June: Stating that US goals have largely been achieved, President Obama announces substantial withdrawals of US troops before the end of 2012.
November: At a Loya Jirga Karzai wins approval to negotiate a 10-year military partnership with the US.
September: Rabbani is assassinated along with four other members of the Afghan High Peace Council.
December: Pakistan boycotts the Bonn II Conference after a NATO airstrike kills Pakistani soldiers.
January: The Taliban agree to open a political office in Dubai as a move towards peace talks. They eventually open one in Doha, Qatar, after reportedly rejecting UAE’s conditions for hosting them.
February: Around 30 people are killed in protests about alleged destruction of copies of the Qur’an at the US airbase in Bagram.
March: The Taliban suspends preliminary talks with the US about opening a political office and conducting a prisoner swap, accusing the US of breaking promises.
May: Arsala Rahmani of the HPC is shot dead in Kabul. The Taliban deny responsibility despite admitting they are targeting HPC members.
NATO announces plans to withdraw by the end of 2014.
June: The Kyoto meeting is the first major international meeting on Afghanistan attended by a high-ranking Taliban member.
July: Pakistan and Afghanistan agree to form a joint peace commission involving HPC members on the Afghan side and tribal leaders on the Pakistan side.
The Tokyo donor conference pledges $16 billion in civilian aid before the end of 2016.
August: The US disciplines six troops for destroying copies of the Qur’an and three for desecrating the bodies of dead Taliban. There are no criminal prosecutions.
December: The Foundation for Strategic Research, a French think tank, organises a Track 2 meeting between the AHPC, members of the Taliban, Hezb-i Islami and civil society groups in Chantilly, France.
February: Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari agree to reach an Afghan peace deal within six months.
June: The Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, is opened. The announcement that the US will hold direct talks with the Taliban angers President Karzai, who suspends security talks with the US. Disputes about the office’s flag and plaque lead to it being closed shortly after its opening.
The Afghan army takes command from military and security operations from NATO forces.
April: The presidential election sees neither frontrunner achieving a majority large enough to win and goes to a second round between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah (in June).
July: Electoral officials order a recount of the runoff vote. A two-month audit of election results begins following a US-mediated deal to break the impasse.
September: After a long dispute over the results is not resolved by the audit, the candidates sign a power-sharing agreement: Ghani becomes president and Abdullah chief executive officer.
October: The US and UK end their combat operations in Afghanistan.
December: NATO formally ends its combat mission in Afghanistan. Violence continues across the country. UNAMA figures show the year is the deadliest for civilians since it began counting in 2009, with over 3,700 civilians killed.
January: NATO begins its non-combat follow-on mission, Resolute Support.
May: Talks are held in Qatar between Taliban representatives and Afghan officials, organised by Pugwash, an international non- governmental network. Another round of talks is held in January 2016.
July: The Taliban admits that Mullah Omar died several years ago. Mullah Mansour is announced as leader.
Meeting between government and Taliban near Islamabad in the Murree process.
September: The Taliban briefly captures the city of Kunduz, signalling its recent resurgence. By the end of the year it controls more territory than any time since 2001.
October: President Obama announces 8,900 US troops will remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2016. Previously, all but 1,000 were due to leave.
November: A Taliban splinter group announces Mullah Mohammed Rasool as its leader.
December: NATO extends its mission by a year to the end of 2016.
May: Taliban leader Mansour is killed by a US drone in Pakistan. Mullah Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada assumes the leadership.
July: US President Barack Obama says 8,400 US troops will remain in the country because of the ‘precarious’ security situation.
September: A deal, years in the making, is reached between government and Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i Islami faction, giving him immunity from prosecution. He returns to Kabul the following May.
June: The ‘Kabul Process’ begins as President Ghani attempts to take back the initiative in trying to engage the Taliban in dialogue.
August: US President Donald Trump announces more troops to fight the Taliban.
January: 103 people are killed in a bomb attack in Kabul. The Taliban claims responsibility.
February: At the latest Kabul Process meeting, Ghani invites the Taliban to peace talks, offering a pact to recognise them as a legitimate party in negotiations, amnesty. The Taliban gives no formal response.
April: Amid continued atrocities, peace protests from victims’ relatives and peace activists in Helmand spread to 16 provinces. The Helmand Peace March demands that all warring parties join the peace process.