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A Thousand Splendid Suns

"A Thousand Splendid Suns"

Hamid Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai attends a shura with hundreds of tribal and religious leaders in Kandahar, the core area of Taliban insurgency. The gathering highlighted the need for support of NATO-led forces in order to stabilize parts of the province.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald/Released, Public Domain Image.

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Political Timeline of Afghanistan


General Mohammed Daud becomes prime minister.  Turns  to Soviet Union for economic and military assistance.  Introduces social reforms, such as abolition of purdah (practice of secluding women from public view).


Mohammed Daud forced to resign as prime minister.


Constitutional monarchy introduced – but leads to political polarization and power struggles.


Mohammed Daud seizes power in a coup and declares a republic.  Tries to play off USSR against Western powers.


General Daud is overthrown and killed in a coup.  Start of armed revolt.

December 1979

Soviet Red Army invades and props up communist government.


Babrak Karmal installed as ruler, backed by Soviet troops.  But anti-regime resistance intensifies with various mujahideen groups fighting Soviet forces.  US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia supply money and arms.


Mujahideen come together in Pakistan to form alliance against Soviet forces.  Half of Afghan population now estimated to be displaced by war, with many fleeing to neighboring Iran or Pakistan.


US begins supplying mujahideen with Stinger missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships.  Babrak Karmal replaced by Najibullah as head of Soviet-backed regime.


Afghanistan, USSR, the US and Pakistan sign peace accords and Soviet Union begins pulling out troops.


Last Soviet troops leave, but civil war continues as mujahideen push to overthrow Najibullah.


Najibullah’s government toppled, but a devastating civil war follows.


Taliban seize control of Kabul and introduce hard-line version of Islam, banning women from work, and introducing Islamic punishments, which include stoning to death and amputations.


Taliban recognized as legitimate rulers by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  They now control about two-thirds of the country.


US launches missile strikes at suspected bases of militant Osama bin Laden, accused of bombing US embassies in Africa.


UN imposes an air embargo and financial sanctions to force Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden for trial.

September 2001

Ahmad Shah Masood, leader of the main opposition to the Taliban – the Northern Alliance – is assassinated.

October 2001

US-led bombing of Afghanistan begins following the September 11 attacks on the United States.  Anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces enter Kabul shortly afterwards.

December 2001

Afghan groups agree to a deal in Bonn, Germany for interim government.

December 2001

Hamid Karzai is sworn in as head of an interim power-sharing government.

January 2002

Deployment of first contingent of foreign peacekeepers – the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – marking the start of a protracted fight against the Taliban.

April 2002

Former king Zahir Shah returns, but makes no claim to the throne and dies in 2007.

June 2002

Loya Jirga, or grand council, elects Hamid Karzai as interim head of state.  Karzai picks members of his administration which is to serve until 2004.

August 2003

NATO takes control of security in Kabul, its first-ever operational commitment outside Europe.

January 2004

Loya Jirga adopts a new constitution which provides for strong presidency.

October-November 2004

Presidential elections are held and Hamid Karzai is declared the winner.

September 2005

Afghans vote in first parliamentary elections in more than 30 years.

December 2005

Parliament opens with warlords and strongmen in most of the seats.

October 2006

NATO assumes responsibility for security across the whole of Afghanistan, taking command in the east from a US-led coalition force.

August 2007

Opium production has soared to a record high, the UN reports.

June 2008

President Karzai warns that Afghanistan will send troops into Pakistan to fight militants if Islamabad fails to take action against them.

July 2008

Suicide bomb attack on Indian embassy in Kabul kills more than 50.

September 2008

US President George Bush sends an extra 4,500 US troops to Afghanistan, in a move he described as a “quiet surge.”

January 2009

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates tells Congress that Afghanistan is new US administration’s “greatest test.”

February 2009

NATO countries pledge to increase military and other commitments in Afghanistan after the US announces dispatch of 17,000 extra troops.

March 2009

US President Barack Obama unveils new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to combat an increasingly “perilous situation.”  An extra 4,000 US personnel will train and bolster the Afghan army and police, and there will also be support for civilian development.

August 2009

Presidential and provincial elections are marred by widespread Taliban attacks, patchy turnout and claims of serious fraud.

October 2009

Karzai declared winner of August presidential election, after second-placed opponent Abdullah Abdullah pulls out before the second round.

December 2009

US President Barack Obama decides to boost US troop numbers in Afghanistan by 30,000, bringing the total to 100,000.  He says US will begin withdrawing forces by 2011.

December 2009

An Al-Qaeda double agent kills seven CIA agents in a suicide attack on a US base in Khost.

February 2010

NATO-led forces launch major offensive, Operation Moshtarak, in bid to secure government control of southern Helmand province.

July 2010

Whistleblowing website Wikileaks publishes thousands of classified US military documents relating to Afghanistan.

July 2010

General David Petraeus takes command of US, ISAF forces.

August 2010

Dutch troops quit.

August 2010

Karzai says private security firms – accused of operating with impunity – must cease operations.  He subsequently waters down the decree.

September 2010

Parliamentary polls marred by Taliban violence, widespread fraud and a long delay in announcing results.

November 2010

NATO – at summit in Lisbon – agrees to a plan to hand control of security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

January 2011

President Karzai makes first official state visit to Russia by an Afghan leader since the end of the Soviet invasion in 1989.

February 2011

Number of civilians killed since the 2001 invasion hit record levels in 2010, Afghanistan Rights Monitor reports.

April 2011

Burning of Koran by a US pastor prompts country-wide protests in which foreign UN workers and several Afghans are killed.

April 2011

Some 500 mostly Taliban prisoners break out of prison in Kandahar.

July 2011

The President’s half-brother and Kandahar governor Ahmad Wali Karzai is killed in Taliban campaign against prominent figures.

September 2011

Ex-president Burhanuddin Rabbani – a go-between in talks with the Taliban – is assassinated.

October 2011

As relations with Pakistan worsen after a series of attacks, Afghanistan and India sign a strategic partnership to expand cooperation in security and development.

November 2011

President Karzai wins the endorsement of tribal elders to negotiate a 10-year military partnership with the US at a Loya Jirga traditional assembly.  The proposed pact will see US troops remain after 2014, when foreign troops are due to leave the country.

December 2011

At least 58 people are killed in twin attacks at a Shia shrine in Kabul and a Shia mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif.

December 2011

Pakistan and the Taliban boycott the scheduled Bonn Conference on Afghanistan.  Pakistan refuses to attend after a NATO air strike killed Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border.

BBC News South Asia:

Classroom Video On Demand:Kabul Women