Courtesy Reuters

Soviet Imperialism in Afghanistan

THE history of Afghanistan has been dominated by the geographical fact that it lies on the route of invasion to India. Cyrus and the Persians, Alexander and the Macedonian phalanxes, the barbarian Scythians, free-booting Turanian knights -- all these passed through the land of the Afghans to reach the fabulous wealth of the Indian peninsula. They plundered freely, for such was the nature of their expeditions. So great were their ravages that when in the seventh century the Arabs conquered the land in the name of Islam there truly was nothing left to despoil. A period of comparative peace and tranquillity followed. The invasions of the Mongol hordes of Jenghiz Khan at the beginning of the thirteenth century marked the beginning of another unfortunate era. Tamarlane, Babur, who was the founder of the Mongol Empire in India, and Nadir Shah, the Persian brigand, ravaged the land through which they passed leaving behind them death and destruction.

In modern times Afghanistan has been a pawn in the contest for empire between the British and the Russians. The British were determined that Afghanistan should remain a buffer state between India and the northern colossus. At times they endeavored to conquer the Afghan kingdom. At other times they were content to support a puppet emir there. In the fifty years prior to 1914, Britain allowed the various emirs to consolidate their realm, introduce western methods, and even to strengthen their armies. But Afghan foreign policy remained a monopoly of the British Government of India. The country had no ambassadors of its own and its attitude towards its neighbors was determined exclusively by Britain. Until the World War it was British rather than Russian influence which was predominant at Kabul.

The situation was reversed in the years following the war. British influence waned and Russian influence increased. In 1919 the Emir of Afghanistan, Habibullah, was murdered, supposedly because of his pro-British sympathies. His son, Amanullah, succeeded to the throne and at once proclaimed the independence of Afghanistan

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