[[caption-width-right:330: [[IDontLikeTheSoundOfThatPlace Graveyard of Empires]]]]

->''"Well that settles it, Chatfield! We must never go into that God-forsaken country again!"''
-->—'''Bremner, Bird, and Fortune''', playing UsefulNotes/BritsWithBattleships, in 1842.[[note]] They did. Twice more.[[/note]]

-> ''When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,''
-> ''and the women come out to cut up what remains,''
-> ''jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,''
-> ''and go to your Gawd like a soldier.''
-->—The Young British Soldier, '''Creator/RudyardKipling'''

'''[[ForbiddenZone Where Empires go to die.]]'''

Afghanistan ('''Persian:''' افغانستان; '''Pashto:''' Afġānistān), also known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan ('''Persian:''' جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان Jomhūrī-ye Eslāmī-ye Afġānestān; '''Pashto:''' د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوریت Da Afġānistān Islāmī Jomhoriyat), is a South Asian country (With some definitions also including it in Central Asia) acting as the crossroad between Western, Central and East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. The name is on everyone’s lips. Everyone knows one of the theaters of TheWarOnTerror, the Taliban and the hijinks of Islamic fundamentalists. However, this is but the tip of the iceberg, the latest chapter of a long history of conflict for a key crossroads region.

Being right where Persia meets the Central Asian Steppes meets the Indian subcontinent, the land has been influenced by all kinds of societies over the millennia. It is most famous in antiquity for being the world's only source of the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli (that crumbly blueish stuff used to make ultramarine dye). Ethnically and religiously heterogenous for all of recorded history, its initial religions were a mix of steppe faiths, Indian Hindu faiths, Zoroastrianism (UsefulNotes/{{Zoroastrianism}} may have originated here and not in Persia), Buddhism, and finally Sunni Islam. Famous empires which conquered the region included that of Alexander of Macedon 'the Great', the Seleucids/Persia, the Indian Maurya, the Timurids, the Mongols, and the Mughals.

Originally a bunch of tribal fiefdoms of several ethnicities later united as an Emirate (controlled by the Pashtun ethnic group) in the 18th century, Afghanistan as it is now only came to being in the early 19th century under the House of Barakzai[[note]] (before this it was the core of the [[TheEmpire Durrani Empire]] and was far larger than it is now – at its height it controlled much of what is now Pakistan as well as all of Kashmir except the Siachen Glacier and the Buddhist outpost of Leh)[[/note]] as a result of the "Great Game" between the Russian Empire's muslim protectorates (the Emirate of Bukkhara and Khanate of Kokkand) and the Indian princely states backed by Great Britain. To prevent Bukkharan-Kokkandi expansion the British made peace with the Afghan Emirs and made them a British protectorate, which lasted from the 1870s until 1919, when Emir Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan's total sovereignty.

In 1893, Afghanistan's current southern border was set up via an agreement with the British called the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durand_Line Durand Line]], creating problems later. The Line cuts right through the middle of the homeland of the Pashtun, an infamously tribal people who are the largest group in Afghanistan. Regardless of what the various governments did, the Pashtuns never gave much of a flip about the border. They still don't.

Amanullah Khan declared himself King (and Afghanistan a kingdom) in the mid-1920's. He was the first Afghan leader to attempt to modernize the country, proposing a number of reforms[[note]] (a written Constitution, adoption of a solar calendar, adopting the Metric System, abolishing slavery, compulsory secular education for both sexes, encouraging European clothing in Kabul, discouraging the burqa and seclusion of women, various tax and economic changes, etc.)[[/note]]. This upset the more religiously conservative tribal factions (including a lot of fundamentalists) who staged multiple uprisings beginning in 1923. Amanullah himself was forced to abdicate in 1929 after losing the loyalty of Pashtun tribes on both sides of the Durand Line and, by extension, the Army. Most of his reform proposals died with him (the abolition of slavery being a major exception).

1929 was a chaotic year for Afghanistan. After Amanullah Khan abdicated following an uprising in Kabul, he was succeeded by his brother Inayatullah, who managed to reign for all of three days before being overthrown by Habibullah Kalakani, a fundamentalist Tajik. Pashtun tribal leaders may not have liked Amanullah's pro-European reforms, but they ''really'' didn't like the idea of being ruled by a Tajik, so Kalakani was overthrown and unceremoniously executed by Mohammed Nadir Khan (later Shah), a distant relative of the previous King who took the throne for himself. Nadir sought to placate the religious conservatives and regain their support by stopping reforms.

Nadir Shah was assassinated in 1933. He was succeeded by his son Mohammed Zahir Shah. Those of you who paid close attention in the early days of the UsefulNotes/WarOnTerror might remember him. Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan for the next four decades, bring an era of relative peace and stability to the fractious kingdom. Incidentally, he (eventually) restarted the kingdom's modernization – understandable since he finished his education in Paris. This led to Kabul becoming a cultural center for the first time since the days of the old Silk Road. He also continued the efforts of his predecessors in reaching out to the rest of the world, establishing relations with several countries, including the United States. Many of his reforms were, however, stymied by conservative tribal opposition and political infighting.

Note that word "relative" in the preceding paragraph. In 1947, "Pakistan" ('''P'''unjab-'''A'''fghan-'''K'''ashmir-'''I'''ndus-'''S'''ind-Baleuchis'''tan''') was created from the former Briitsh Indian Raj and the Afghan government announced they no longer recognized the Durand Line - making claims to Pakistani-Afghan territory ranging from the Indus all the way to Northern Pakistan – though they really just wanted back the Pashtun tribal areas that they had claimed all along. In the 1950s, they tried border attacks. Now, this was not the brightest idea, as Pakistan's Army at the time was a force which had been recently part of UsefulNotes/KiplingsFinest, with troops who had fought and won two world wars in three decades. So it went [[CurbStompBattle about as well as you'd expect]]. In 1962, the Afghans [[WhatAnIdiot tried a much larger effort]] and got absolutely shellacked. Afghans are still a little sore about that (whereas most Pakistanis have no idea the battles ever happened). Afghanistan also lent overt support to the East Turkestan separatist movement in the Xinjiang autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It went considerably less well than the efforts to cross the Durand line.

In 1973, Zahir Shah was overthrown while abroad in a bloodless coup by his cousin Daoud Khan, a former prime minister who had been influenced by Soviet teachings and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as president. Despite his socialist leanings, Daoud eventually attempted to pivot to a more pro-American stance (mostly for easier access to oil – Iran was still a friend of the USA at the time). In response, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev started fomenting a Communist rebellion, which toppled Daoud's government and assassinated him in April 1978, sparking an all-out civil war – the very thing Zahir Shah had abdicated to avoid.

Infighting between various Communist factions led to [[UsefulNotes/SovietInvasionOfAfghanistan the Soviet Union intervening to restore order]] in 1979. The Soviets were not going to let a state in their sphere of influence go capitalist, and they were expecially not going to let it go Islamic-fundamentalist as was happening in Iran. The Soviet prosecution of the War in Afghanistan differed from earlier counter-insurgency efforts in that there was no forcible relocation of populations from areas thought to be supporting the insurgency, as had helped immensely in the immediate post-WWII elimination of Fascist partisans in Belarus and the OUN in western Ukraine. However, perhaps a third of the population fled to Pakistan, facilitating the exchange of personnel and material between the two. The USA provided much of said material through Pakistan, arming and funding the Mujahideen - a hodgepodge of different factions united in fighting the Soviets.

The US provision of MANPADS (man portable air defense systems) to the Mujahideen forced the Soviet Army to abandon the use of helicopters to support light infantry patrols with gunfire and medical evacuation. This caused a spike in deaths and wounds to a level which was politically unsustainable for the Union, to the point that Zbigniew Brzezinski asserts that for the USSR the conflict had become "[[NotSoDifferent its]] UsefulNotes/VietnamWar". The Soviets withdrew in 1989, leaving a coherent and stable Communist state that sustained itself until 1992, but the civil war continued. This time, it was mainly between the Taliban (originally made of religious schools of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, aided by Al-Qaeda and headed by [[TheFaceless Mullah Muhammad Omar]]) and the Northern Alliance and its main man [[CulturedWarrior Ahmad Shah Massoud]], known in the region as the "Afghan who won the Cold War".

By the end of TheNineties, the cultivation and processing of opium into heroin for export had become the second most important sector of the Afghan economy after subsistence agriculture. World demand for heroin had reached an all time high by the end of TheNineties as the 'War on Drugs' raised profits for producers and traders all the way from Afghanistan, then competing with Burma/Myanmar, to north America. Opium taxes and heroin production served as an important source of revenue for the Taliban, especially once it had established control over most of the country and declared the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Emirate instituted Sharia law, [[StayInTheKitchen obligatory use of the burqa for women]], [[MonumentalDamage destroyed the country's non-Islamic monuments and cultural artefacts]], and other pleasant things. Massoud continued to rule a rump state in the north, where he had established democratic institutions and tried to give equal-gender rights, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of refugees that fled the Taliban to areas controlled by Massoud. He tried to obtain help from external powers and, in 2001, [[IgnoredExpert even tried to warn them of a possible large-scale attack on the USA by Al-Qaeda]], to no avail.

Al-Qaeda instituted four plane-based attacks against US targets on the 11th of September 2001, a day after Massoud died in a helicopter crash - possibly by Al-Qaeda’s suicide bombers (which has been seen as the attack’s point of no return). The USA demanded the Taliban hand over the mastermind of the attacks, Osama bin Laden, and disband Al-Qaeda’s forces in the area (by then, Al-Qaeda was already a state within a state). After the predictable refusal, [[UsefulNotes/TheWarOnTerror the USA successfully obtained the UN's permission to invade the country and disband the Taliban]].

After the Taliban were overthrown, the former King Mohammed Zahir Shah returned to his country after 29 years of exile to open the Loya Jirga – a traditional meeting of tribal chieftains – which was to decide the future of Afghanistan. Once it became clear that the chiefs wanted to simply restore the monarchy, the U.S. (in a ''supremely'' shortsighted self-serving move) strong-armed the Loya Jirga into installing the American-educated Pashtun Hamid Karzai as president of an Afghan Republic instead – Zahir Shah was given the ceremonial position "Father of the Country", which died with him in 2007. The [[UsefulNotes/GeorgeWBush Bush administration]] had hoped for a compliant puppet in Karzai, but ended up with a corrupt SpannerInTheWorks instead. A botched presidential election to replace Karzai nearly erupted in yet another war before the two main candidates reached an agreement and power was handed to current president Ashraf Ghani.

Karzai's official Afghan federal government has been superficial and ineffectual, as its inability to engage in the production of Heroin for export means that its opponents have access to an immensely valuable source of revenue which it does not. UN (chiefly US) funding, trainers, personnel, and weapons+equipment for the federal government have been effectively checked. Donations have been forthcoming from wealthy parties within Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring states, training and combat power have been provided by mercenaries hired using Heroin and charity funds, and weapons+equipment have been bought from traders in neighbouring states or even from within the country itself. Perhaps the greatest problem facing the federal government has been the ability of its opponents to corrupt local and regional administrations, creating a number of areas which are not definitively under the control of either party and which can seemingly change hands overnight. The remnants of the Taliban have taken advantage of Pashtuns' traditional disdain of the Durand Line to launch attacks from across the border in Pakistan, and groups affiliated with ISIS seem to have infiltrated through the northern border as well.

The UN may have mostly pulled out of the country at this point, but anyone with a brain can see the civil war is not going to end when they do.

Remember that cryptic line at the very top of this page? [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption Every major power that has ever tried to establish a foothold in Afghanistan or lasting control over it has eventually wrung its hands and given up]]. The country is just too poor, and asserting effective control too difficult, for anyone with half a brain to continue seriously believing that it's worth it once the costs start stacking up - every effort to establish even a foothold has become a massive resource-sink. Even the Soviets – who were never exactly renowned for their sensitivity to public opinion – quit once their inability to use chopper support made the going too tough.

Ethnically, Afghanistan is an incredible mix, of which the Pashtuns form the plurality with 42%, followed by Tajiks at 27%. They are ''[[BerserkButton not]]'' Arabs (there are Arabs, but they make up less than 4% of the population). Similarly, there are all kinds of languages spoken, the main ones being Dari (a dialect of Persian) and Pashto. The breadth of different ethnicities is similar to that of neighboring Iran, except that that country has an outright ethnic majority (Persians).

Despite all the problems, the country is still a marvelous tourist site. You’d be surprised how much SceneryPorn you can get from a bunch of mountains and sand. Monuments are a fair game, too, especially if you're interested in Persian and Turco-Mongol architecture as can be seen in the mosques and shrines, though if you're looking for the Bamyan Buddha Statue, [[SarcasmMode surprise, surprise]], the Taliban already blew that up.

!!Afghanistan in media:


[[folder: Anime & Manga ]]

* ''Webcomic/AfganisuTan'' (it's a Webcomic, to be more precise).
* ''Manga/BlackLagoon'': Balalaika, leader of the local branch of TheMafiya, is a veteran of the Soviet intervention. So are all of her top underlings. It messed them up pretty bad. In spite of the mental and physical scars they endured there, the combat experience they garnered has resulted in them arguably being the deadliest faction in the series.


[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* Sooraya Qadir, a.k.a. Dust from ''Comicbook/XMen'', is Afghan.


[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Afganskiy Izlom''
* ''The Beast''
* ''Film/CharlieWilsonsWar''
* ''Film/TheLivingDaylights''
* ''Film/TheManWhoWouldBeKing''
* ''Film/NinthCompany''
* ''Film/{{Osama}}''
* ''Film/PrinceOfPersiaTheSandsOfTime'': Dastan and Tamina visit the Hindu Kush mountains in the second act.
* ''Film/RamboIII''
* ''Film/SpiesLikeUs''
* ''Film/WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot''


[[folder: Literature ]]

* ''The Cardinal of the Kremlin''
* ''Literature/TheManWhoWouldBeKing''
* ''Literature/TheKiteRunner''
* ''Zinky Boys''


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''Series/BombPatrolAfghanistan''
* ''Series/{{JAG}}''
* ''Series/KaboulKitchen''


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* ''VideoGame/MedalOfHonor'' (2010 reboot)
* ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare 2''


[[folder: The Afghan flag ]]

->The black, red, and green stripes symbolize the colonial period, the revolutions, and independent Afghanistan, respectively. At the center is the coat-of-arms, featuring a mosque with a ''mihrab'' (niche facing Mecca), flanked by two Afghan flags; above the mosque are the worlds "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Great"), and below is the Islamic year 1298 (1919, the year of its independence from Britain); surrounding the mosque is a wreath of wheat, above which is the ''shahada'' (the Islamic creed), and below is a scroll containing the country's name in Pashto).