Afghan president is overthrown and murdered

Afghan president is overthrown and murdered

Afghanistan President Sardar Mohammed Daoud is overthrown and murdered in a coup led by procommunist rebels. The brutal action marked the beginning of political upheaval in Afghanistan that resulted in intervention by Soviet troops less than two years later.

Daoud had ruled Afghanistan since coming to power in a coup in 1973. His relations with the neighboring Soviet Union had grown progressively worse since that time as he pursued a campaign against Afghan communists. The murder of a leading Afghan Communist Party leader in early April 1978 may have encouraged the communists to launch their successful campaign against the Daoud regime later that month. In the political chaos that followed the death of Daoud, Nur Mohammed Taraki, head of the Afghan Communist Party, took over the presidency. In December 1978, Afghanistan signed a 20-year “friendship treaty” with the Soviet Union, by which increasing amounts of Russian military and economic assistance flowed into the country. None of this, however, could stabilize the Taraki government. His dictatorial style and his decision to turn Afghanistan into a one-party state alienated many people. In September 1979, Taraki was himself overthrown and murdered. Three months later, Soviet troops crossed into Afghanistan and installed a government acceptable to the Russians, and a war between Afghan rebels and Soviet troops erupted. The conflict lasted until Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew the Soviet forces in 1988.

In the years following the Soviet intervention, Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefield. The United States responded quickly and harshly to the Soviet action by freezing arms talks, cutting wheat sales to Russia, and boycotting the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow. Tension increased after Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. The United States provided arms and other assistance to what Reagan referred to as the “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan. For the Soviets, the Afghanistan intervention was a disaster, draining both Soviet finances and manpower. In the United States, commentators were quick to label the battle in Afghanistan “Russia’s Vietnam.”


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Najibullah, also known as Mohammad Najibullah, (born 1947, Gardīz, Afghanistan—died September 27, 1996, Kabul), Afghan military official who was president of Afghanistan from 1986 to 1992.

The son of a prominent Pashtun family, Najibullah (who, like many Afghans, had only a single name) began studying medicine at Kabul University in 1964 and received his degree in 1975, but he never practiced medicine. He joined the Banner (“Parcham”) faction of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in 1965, and he was twice imprisoned for political activities. In 1978 the PDPA staged a successful coup, but the People’s (“Khalq”) faction soon gained supremacy over the Banner faction. Najibullah was named ambassador to Iran in 1978 but was fired within months after being accused of plotting to overthrow the regime of Hafizullah Amin. Najibullah went into exile in eastern Europe until the U.S.S.R. intervened in 1979 and supported a Parcham-dominated government.

Najibullah was made head of the secret police and became known for his brutality and ruthlessness. His methods proved invaluable to the regime in view of escalating guerrilla warfare of the Muslim mujahideen, but, as the war grew in intensity, the Soviet Union withdrew. Najibullah, who replaced Babrak Karmal as president in 1986, attempted to gain support by relaxing Karmal’s strict control, but he was widely despised and was finally forced from office by the mujahideen rebels and mutinous groups within his own military in 1992. He took refuge in a United Nations compound, where he was sheltered for the next four years. Factional fighting continued, and, when the Taliban militia took over the capital, Kabul, in 1996, they summarily executed Najibullah.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Noah Tesch, Associate Editor.


With the support and assistance of minority political party People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), Mohammed Daoud Khan had taken power in the 1973 Afghan coup d'état by overthrowing the monarchy of King Zahir Shah, [8] [9] and had established the first Republic of Afghanistan.

President Daoud was convinced that closer ties and military support from the Soviet Union would allow Afghanistan to take control of Pashtun lands in northwest Pakistan. However, Daoud, who was ostensibly committed to a policy of non-alignment, became uneasy over Soviet attempts to dictate Afghanistan's foreign policy, and relations between the two countries deteriorated. [10]

Under the secular government of Daoud, factionalism and rivalry developed in the PDPA, with two main factions being the Parcham and Khalq factions. On 17 April 1978, a prominent member of the Parcham, Mir Akbar Khyber, was murdered. [11] : 771 Although the government issued a statement deploring the assassination, Nur Mohammad Taraki of the PDPA charged that the government itself was responsible, a belief that was shared by much of the Kabul intelligentsia. PDPA leaders apparently feared that Daoud was planning to eliminate them. [11]

During the funeral ceremonies for Khyber a protest against the government occurred, and shortly thereafter most of the leaders of PDPA, including Babrak Karmal, were arrested by the government. Hafizullah Amin, was put under house arrest, which gave him a chance to order an uprising, one that had been slowly coalescing for more than two years. [5] Amin, without having the authority, instructed the Khalqist army officers to overthrow the government.

Preliminary steps for the coup came in April, when a tank commander under Daoud warned of intelligence suggesting an attack on Kabul in the near future, specifically April 27th. On the commander's recommendation, tanks were positioned around the Arg, the national palace. On the 27th, the tanks turned their guns on the palace. The tank commander who made the request had, in secret, defected to Khalq beforehand. [12]

According to an eyewitness, the first signs of the impending coup in Kabul, about noon on 27 April, were reports of a tank column headed toward the city, smoke of unknown origin near the Ministry of Defense, and armed men, some in military uniform, guarding Ariana Circle, a major intersection. The first shots heard were near the Ministry of Interior in the downtown Shahr-e Naw section of Kabul, where a company of policemen apparently confronted an advancing tank column. From there the fighting spread to other areas of the city. Later that afternoon, the first fighter planes, Sukhoi Su-7s, came in low and fired rockets at the national palace in the center of the city. In early evening, an announcement was broadcast on government-owned Radio Afghanistan that the Khalq were overthrowing the Daoud government. The use of the word Khalq, and its traditional association with the communists in Afghanistan, made clear that the PDPA was leading the coup, and also that the rebels had captured the radio station. [13]

The aerial attacks on the palace intensified about midnight as six Su-7s made repeated rocket attacks, lighting up the city. The next morning, 28 April, Kabul was mostly quiet, although the sound of gunfire could still be heard on the southern side of the city. As the people of Kabul ventured out of their homes they realized that the rebels were in complete control of the city and learned that President Daoud Khan and his brother Naim had been killed early that morning. A group of soldiers had surrounded the heavily-damaged palace and demanded their surrender. Instead, Daoud and Naim, pistols in hand, charged out of the palace at the soldiers, and were shot and killed. [13] In addition, the Defense Minister of Daoud's cabinet Ghulam Haidar Rasuli, Interior Minister Abdul Qadir Nuristani, and Vice President Sayyid Abdullah were also killed. [14]

The coup marked the end of power of the Barakzai dynasty after 152 years.

International reaction Edit

In a May 28, 1978 US cable [15] addressed to its embassies and Secretary of State, Chinese ambassador Huang Ming-Ta is quoted characterizing the new regime as "undeniably controlled by pro-soviet communists," [15] and that chairman Taraki and Hafizullah Amin had expressed intentions to be nonaligned. [15] Huang Ming-Ta observed that the Soviet Union had great influence in Afghanistan, and would provide any assistance it might need, but speculated Soviet Union might find it an expensive venture. Huang Ming-Ta expressed "that there might be some changes in Afghanistan within the next years, and that American programs should continue in Afghanistan". [15]

The revolution was initially welcomed by many people in Kabul, who were dissatisfied with the Daoud government. Before the civilian government was established, Afghan National Army Air Corps colonel Abdul Qadir and the PDPA Revolutionary Council led the country for three days, starting from 27 April 1978. Eventually a civilian government under the leadership of Nur Muhammad Taraki of the Khalq faction was formed. In Kabul, the initial cabinet appeared to be carefully constructed to alternate ranking positions between Khalqists and Parchamites. Taraki (a Khalqist) was Prime Minister, Karmal (a Parchamite) was senior Deputy Prime Minister, and Hafizullah Amin (a Khalqist) was foreign minister. The unity, however, between Khalq and Parcham lasted only briefly. Taraki and Amin in early July relieved most of the Parchamites from their government positions. Karmal was sent abroad as Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. In August 1978, Taraki and Amin claimed to have uncovered a plot and executed or imprisoned several cabinet members, even imprisoning General Abdul Qadir, the military leader of the Saur revolution until the Soviet invasion and subsequent change in leadership in late 1979. In September 1979, it was Taraki's turn to become a victim of the Revolution, as Amin overthrew and executed him. [16] [17]

Once in power, the PDPA implemented a socialist agenda. [ clarification needed ] At first they had a moderate approach and reforms were not strongly felt however from late October the PDPA launched drastic reforms that struck the socioeconomic tribal structure of rural Afghanistan. [18] In a "disastrous symbolic move", [18] it changed the national flag from the traditional black, red and Islamic green color to a near-copy of the red flag of the Soviet Union, a provocative affront to the people of this conservative country. [16] It prohibited usury, without having in place any alternative for peasants who relied on the traditional, if exploitative, credit system in the countryside. That led to an agricultural crisis and a fall in agricultural production. [19] [20] Such reforms were abruptly introduced and enforced, without preliminary pilots. [18] Land reform was criticized by one journalist as "confiscating land in a haphazard manner that enraged everyone, benefited no one, and reduced food production," and the "first instance of organized, nationwide repression in Afghanistan's modern history." [21]

Women's rights Edit

The PDPA, an advocate of equal rights for women, declared the equality of the sexes. [22] The PDPA made a number of statements on women's rights, declaring equality of the sexes and introduced women to political life. A prominent example was Anahita Ratebzad, who was a major Marxist-Leninist leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council. Ratebzad wrote the famous May 28, 1978 New Kabul Times editorial, which declared: "Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country . Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention." [23] Women were already guaranteed freedoms under the 1964 Constitution, but the PDPA went further by declaring full equality.

Human rights Edit

The revolution also introduced severe repression of a kind previously unknown in Afghanistan. According to journalist and CNAS member Robert D. Kaplan, while Afghanistan had historically been extremely poor and underdeveloped, it "had never known very much political repression" until 1978. [21]

The soldiers' knock on the door in the middle of the night, so common in many Arab and African countries, was little known in Afghanistan, where a central government simply lacked the power to enforce its will outside of Kabul. Taraki's coup changed all that. Between April 1978 and the Soviet invasion of December 1979, Afghan communists executed 27,000 political prisoners at the sprawling Pul-i-Charki prison six miles east of Kabul. Many of the victims were village mullahs and headmen who were obstructing the modernization and secularization of the intensely religious Afghan countryside. By Western standards, this was a salutary idea in the abstract. But it was carried out in such a violent way that it alarmed even the Soviets.

Kaplan states that it was the Saur Revolution and its harsh land reform program, rather than the December 1979 Soviet invasion "as most people in the West suppose", that "ignited" the mujahidin revolt against the Kabul authorities and prompted the refugee exodus to Pakistan. [21]

The Khalqist regime pushed hard for socialist reforms and was brutal in its repression of opposition, arresting many without charge. The regime alienated a wide variety of people, including tribal and clan leaders, Islamists, Maoists, Western-educated teachers, and traditional religious leaders, all becoming victims of the Khalqists. [24] Discontent fomented amongst the people of Afghanistan, and after several uprisings the following year—March in the town of Herat, June in the Chindawol district of Kabul, August at the fortress of Bala Hissar—troops from the USSR entered Afghanistan in December, citing the Brezhnev Doctrine as basis for their intervention. Insurgent groups fought Soviet troops and the PDPA government for more than nine years until the final withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. Instability continued in Afghanistan, with war still continuing to plague the entire country for more than four decades after the revolution.

In 1991, PDPA member Babrak Karmal from the moderate Parcham faction denounced the revolution, saying:

It was the greatest crime against the people of Afghanistan. Parcham's leaders were against armed actions because the country was not ready for a revolution. I knew that people would not support us if we decided to keep power without such support." [25]


Khan was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, the eldest son of the diplomat Prince Mohammed Aziz Khan [de] (1877–1933) (an older half-brother of King Mohammed Nadir Shah) and his wife, Khurshid Begum. He lost his father to an assassination in Berlin in 1933, while his father was serving as the Afghan Ambassador to Germany. He and his brother Prince Naim Khan (1911–1978) then came under the tutelage of their uncle Prince Hashim Khan (1884–1953). Daoud proved to be an apt student of politics. Educated in France, he served as Governor of the Eastern Province in 1934-35 and in 1938–39, and was Governor of Kandahar Province from 1935 to 1938. His father died when Daoud was 24. [ citation needed ] In 1939, Khan was promoted to Commander of the Central Forces. [10] As commander, he led Afghan forces against the Safi during the Afghan tribal revolts of 1944–1947. [10] From 1946 to 1948, he served as Defense Minister, then Interior Minister from 1949 to 1951. In 1948, he served as Afghan Ambassador to France. In 1951, he was promoted to General and served in that capacity as Commander of the Central Corps of the Afghan Armed Forces [11] in Kabul from 1951 to 1953. [12]

Khan was appointed Prime Minister in September 1953 through an intra-family transfer of power, replacing Shah Mahmud Khan. His ten-year tenure was noted for his foreign policy turn to the Soviet Union, the completion of the Helmand Valley project, which radically improved living conditions in southwestern Afghanistan, as well as tentative steps towards the emancipation of women, giving women a higher public presence [13] [14] which led to significant amounts of freedom and educational opportunities for them. [15]

With the creation of an independent Pakistan in August 1947, Prime Minister Daoud Khan had rejected the Durand Line, which was accepted as international border by successive Afghan governments for over a half a century. [16] Khan supported a nationalistic reunification of the Pakistani Pashtun people with Afghanistan, but this would have involved taking a considerable amount of territory from the new nation of Pakistan and was in direct opposition to an older plan of the 1940s whereby a confederation between the two countries was proposed. The move further worried the non-Pashtun populations of Afghanistan such as the minority Hazara, Tajik, and Uzbek, who suspected his intention was to increase the Pashtuns' disproportionate hold on political power. [5]

Abdul Ghaffar Khan (founder of Khudai Khidmatgar movement), stated "that Daoud Khan only exploited the idea of reunification of Pashtun people to meet his own political ends. The idea of reunification of Pashtun people never helped Pashtuns and it only caused trouble for Pakistan. In fact it was never a reality". [17] Moreover, Daoud Khan policy of reunification of Pashtun people failed to gain any support from Pashtuns in Pakistan. Baloch tribe in Pakistan also wondered why Daoud Khan had included Balochistan as part of his idea without their approval. [5]

In 1960, Khan sent troops across the poorly-marked Durand Line into the Bajaur Agency of Pakistan in an attempt to manipulate events in that area and to press the Pashtunistan issue, but the Afghan forces were defeated by the Pakistani Tribals. During this period, the propaganda war from Afghanistan, carried on by radio, was relentless. [18] In 1961, Daoud Khan made another attempt to invade Bajaur with larger Afghan army this time. However, Pakistan employed F-86 Sabres jets which inflicted heavy casualties against the Afghan army unit and the tribesmen from Kunar province which were supporting the Afghan army. Several Afghan soldiers were also captured and they were paraded in front of international media which in turn caused embarrassment for Daoud Khan. [5]

In 1961, as a result of his policies and support to militias in areas along the Durand Line, Pakistan closed its borders with Afghanistan and the latter severed ties, causing an economic crisis and greater dependence on the USSR. The USSR became Afghanistan's principal trading partner. Within a few months, the USSR sent jet airplanes, tanks, heavy and light artillery, for a heavily discounted price tag of $25 million, to Afghanistan.

As a result of continued resentment against Daoud's autocratic rule, close ties with the USSR and economic downturn because of blockade imposed by Pakistan, Daoud Khan was asked to resign. Instead of resigning, Daoud Khan requested King Zahir Shah to approve new 'one-party constitution' proposed by him which would in turn increase the Daoud Khan already considerable power. Upon rejection, Daoud Khan angrily resigned. [5] The crisis was finally resolved with his forced resignation in March 1963 and the re-opening of the border in May. Pakistan continued to remain suspicious of Afghan intentions and Daoud's policy left a negative impression in the eyes of many Tajiks who felt they were being disenfranchised for the sake of Pashtun nationalism. He was succeeded by Mohammad Yusuf.

In 1964, King Zahir Shah introduced a new constitution, for the first time excluding all members of the Royal Family from the Council of Ministers. Khan had already stepped down. In addition to having been Prime Minister, he had also held the portfolios of Minister of Defense and Minister of Planning until 1963. [ citation needed ]

Khan was unsatisfied with King Zahir Shah's constitutional parliamentary system and lack of progress. He planned rebellion for more than a year [19] before he, on July 17, 1973, seized power from the King in a bloodless coup, backed by a large number of army officers who were loyal to him, facing no resistance. [20] Departing from tradition, and for the first time in Afghan history, he did not proclaim himself Shah, establishing instead a republic with himself as President. The role of pro-communist Parchamite officers in the coup led to him receiving the nickname "Red Prince" by some. [21]

King Zahir Shah's constitution with elected members and the separation of powers was replaced by a now largely nominated loya jirga (meaning "grand assembly"). The parliament was disbanded. [22] Although he was close to the Soviet Union during prime ministership, Khan continued the Afghan policy of non-alignment with the Cold War superpowers, neither did he bring drastic pro-Soviet change to the economic system. [23]

In Khan's new cabinet, many ministers were fresh faced politicians, and only Dr Abdul Majid was a ministerial carryover from Khan's Prime Minister era (1953-1963) Majid was Minister of Education from 1953 to 1957, and from 1973 was appointed Minister of Justice until 1977. Initially about half of the new cabinet were either current members, former members or sympathizers of the PDPA, but over time their influence would be eradicated by Khan. [20] [24]

Daoud cabinet (1973)
Office Incumbent Took office Left office
Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Sharq 2 August 1973
Minister of Education Niamatullah Pazhwak 2 August 1973 December 1974
Minister of Agriculture Ghulam Jalani Bakhtari 2 August 1973 September 1975
Minister of Communications Abdul Hamid Mohtat 2 August 1973 April 1974
Minister of Frontier and Tribal Affairs Pacha Gul Wafadar 2 August 1973 April 1974
Minister of Interior Faiz Mohammad 2 August 1973 September 1975
Minister of Finance Abdulillah 2 August 1973
Minister of Justice Abdul Majid 2 August 1973
Minister of Mines, Industries Abdul Qayyum 2 August 1973
Minister of Information Abdul Rahim Nawin 2 August 1973
Minister of Health Nazar Mohammad Sikandar 2 August 1973

A coup against Khan, which may have been planned before he took power, was repressed shortly after his seizure of power. In October 1973, Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal, a former Prime Minister and a highly respected former diplomat, was arrested in a coup plot and died in prison before his trial set for December 1973. This was at a time when Parchamites controlled the Ministry of Interior under circumstances corroborating the widespread belief that he had been tortured to death by the leftists. On one account, Daoud Khan planned to appoint Maiwandwal as prime minister, leading to the Parchamite Minister of Interior, Faiz Mohammad, along with fellow communists, framing Maiwandwal of a coup plot, then torturing him to death without Daoud Khan's knowledge. Louis Dupree wrote that Maiwandwal, one of few Afghan politicians with an international reputation, could have been a leader in a democratic process and therefore a target for communists. [25] One of the army generals arrested under suspicion of this plot with Maiwandwal was Mohammed Asif Safi, who was later released. Khan personally apologized to him for the arrest.

In 1974 he signed one of two economic packages that aimed to greatly increase the capability of the Afghan military. At this time, there were increasing concerns that Afghanistan lacked a modern army comparable to the militaries of Iran and Pakistan.

In 1975, his government nationalized all banks in Afghanistan, including Da Afghanistan Bank. [26]

Khan wanted to lessen the country's dependence on the Soviet Union and attempted to promote a new foreign policy. In 1975 he visited some countries in the Middle East including Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran for aid, [27] all of which were anti-Soviet states, [28] and also visited India. [24] Regarding the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana, Khan said that Cuba "only pretends to be non-aligned." [28] Surprisingly, he did not renew the Pashtunistan agitation relations with Pakistan improved thanks to interventions from the US and the Shah of Iran. These moves alerted the Soviets.

Constitution of 1977 Edit

In 1977, he established his own political party, the National Revolutionary Party, which became the focus of all political activity. In January 1977, a loya jirga approved a new constitution. It wrote in several new articles and amended others - one of these was the creation of a presidential one-party system of government. He also began to moderate his socialist policies, although the 1977 constitution had a nationalist bend in addition to previous socialism and Islam. [22] In 1978, there was a rift with the PDPA. Internally he attempted to distance himself from the communist elements within the coup. He was concerned about the tenor of many communists in his government and Afghanistan's growing dependency on the Soviet Union. These moves were highly criticized by Moscow, which feared that Afghanistan would soon become closer to the West, especially the United States the Soviets had always feared that the United States could find a way to influence the government in Kabul.

Daoud cabinet (1977)
Office Incumbent Took office Left office
Minister of Planning Ali Ahmad Khurram 13 March 1977
Minister of Defence Ghulam Haidar Rasuli 13 March 1977
Minister of Interior Abdul Qadir Nuristani 13 March 1977
Minister of Education Ibrahim Majid Siraj 13 March 1977
Minister of Finance Sayyid Abdullah 13 March 1977
Minister of Commerce Mohammad Khan Jalalar 13 March 1977
Ministry of Public Works Ghausuddin Fayeq 13 March 1977
Minister of Border Affairs Abdul Qayyum 13 March 1977
Minister of Justice Wafiyullah Sami'i 13 March 1977
Minister of Communications Abdul Karim Atayi 13 March 1977
Minister of Mines, Industries Abdul Tawab Asefi 13 March 1977
Minister of Water, Power Juma Muhammad Muhammadi 13 March 1977
Minister of Higher Education Ghulam Siddiq Muhibi 13 March 1977
Minister of Health Abdullah Omar 13 March 1977
Minister of Agriculture Azizullah Wasefi 13 March 1977
Ministry of Information Abdul Rahim Navin 13 March 1977
Ministry without portfolio Abdul Majid 13 March 1977
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Wahid Abdullah 13 March 1977

During his latter years in charge, his purge of communists in his government strained his relations with them, while his desire for higher authority strained relations with the liberals that were in charge during the monarchy. Also, his persecution of religious conservatives strained relations with those people too. [29]

Relations with Pakistan Edit

As during his time as Prime Minister, Daoud Khan again pressed on the question of Pashtunistan, again leading to sometimes tense relations with Pakistan.

Daoud hosted General Secretary of the National Awami Party Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Juma Khan Sufi, Baluch guerrillas, and others. Khan's government and forces also commenced training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Baluchs to conduct militant action and sabotage in Pakistan. The campaign was significant enough that even one of Bhutto's senior colleagues, minister of interior and head of the provincial branch of Bhutto's party of/in the then-North-West Frontier Province (renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2010), Hayat Sherpao, was killed, ostensibly on the orders of the later-acquitted Awami Party. As a result, Afghanistan's already strained relationship with Pakistan further dipped and Pakistan likewise started similar kinds of cross-border interference.

By 1975, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had begun to engage in promoting a proxy war in Afghanistan.

In 1976, under pressure from the PDPA and to increase domestic Pashtun support, he took a stronger line on the Pashtunistan issue and promoted a proxy war in Pakistan. Trade and transit agreements with Pakistan were subsequently severely affected. Soon after Khan's army and police faced a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement, the Islamic fundamentalist movement's leaders fled to Pakistan. There, they were supported by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and encouraged to continue the fight against Khan. He was successful in suppressing the movement, however. Later in 1978, while promoting his new foreign policy doctrine, he came to a tentative agreement on a solution to the Pashtunistan problem with Ali Bhutto. By August 1976 relations with Pakistan had improved to a high degree. [20]

Diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union Edit

Khan met Leonid Brezhnev on a state visit to Moscow from April 12 to 15, 1977. He had asked for a private meeting with the Soviet leader to discuss with him the increased pattern of Soviet actions in Afghanistan. In particular, he discussed the intensified Soviet attempt to unite the two factions of the Afghan communist parties, Parcham and Khalq. [30] Brezhnev described Afghanistan's non-alignment as important to the USSR and essential to the promotion of peace in Asia, but warned him about the presence of experts from NATO countries stationed in the northern parts of Afghanistan. Daoud bluntly replied that Afghanistan would remain free, and that the Soviet Union would never be allowed to dictate how the country should be governed. [31]

After returning to Afghanistan, he made plans that his government would diminish its relationships with the Soviet Union, and instead forge closer contacts with the West as well as the oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Iran. Afghanistan signed a co-operative military treaty with Egypt and by 1977, the Afghan military and police force were being trained by Egyptian Armed forces. This angered the Soviet Union because Egypt took the same route in 1974 and distanced itself from the Soviet Union. [ citation needed ]

Communist coup and assassination Edit

The April 19, 1978 funeral of Mir Akbar Khyber, the prominent Parchami ideologue who had been murdered, served as a rallying point for the Afghan communists. An estimated 1,000 to 3,000 people gathered to hear speeches by PDPA leaders such as Nur Muhammad Taraki, Hafizullah Amin and Babrak Karmal. [ citation needed ] [32]

Shocked by this demonstration of communist unity, Khan ordered the arrest of the PDPA leaders, but he acted too slowly. It took him a week to arrest Taraki, Karmal managed to escape to the USSR, and Amin was merely placed under house arrest. Khan had misjudged the situation and believed that Karmal's Parcham faction was the main communist threat. In fact, according to PDPA documents, Amin's Khalq faction had extensively infiltrated the military, and they outnumbered Parcham cells by a factor of 2 to 3. Amin sent complete orders for the coup from his home while it was under armed guard, using his family as messengers.

The army had been put on alert on April 26 because of a presumed coup. On April 27, 1978, a coup d'état beginning with troop movements at the military base at Kabul International Airport, gained ground slowly over the next twenty-four hours as rebels battled units loyal to Daoud Khan in and around the capital.

Khan and most of his family were assassinated during a coup by members of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The coup happened in the Arg, the former royal palace, on April 28, 1978, involving heavy fighting and many deaths. [33] Shortly afterwards, the new military leaders announced that Khan was killed for refusing to pledge allegiance. [34]

On June 28, 2008, his body and those of his family were found in two separate mass graves outside the walls of Pul-e-Charkhi prison, District 12 of Kabul city. Initial reports indicate that sixteen corpses were in one grave and twelve others were in the second. [35] On December 4, 2008, the Afghan Health Ministry announced that the body had been identified on the basis of teeth molds and a small golden Quran found near the body. The Quran was a present he had received from the king of Saudi Arabia. [36] On March 17, 2009 Daoud was given a state funeral. [35]

News sources in the 1970s claimed that Daoud Khan said he was happiest when he could "light his American cigarettes with Soviet matches." [37] [27]

Mohammad Daoud Khan was retrospectively described as an "old-fashioned statesman, compassionate yet reserved and authoritarian" by The Guardian's Nushin Arbabzadeh. [21] Then-President Hamid Karzai hailed Khan's courage and patriotism in comments after his 2009 state funeral. [38] Some Afghans fondly consider him to be the best leader their country has had in modern times. [39]

During his time as prime minister and president, Khan was highly unpopular among the non-Pashtun minorities in Afghanistan because of his alleged Pashtun favouritism. [40] During his regime, all controlling position in the government, army and educational institutions were held by Pashtuns. His attempt at the Pashtunisation of Afghanistan reached such an extent that the word 'Afghan' started being referred only to Pashtuns and not to the minority who collectively formed majority in Afghanistan. [41] Afghan armed forces were allied with Daoud Khan and supported his goal of promoting Pashtuns to higher posts in Afghan armed forces. In 1963, Afghan Uzbeks were not allowed to become high-ranking officers in Afghan armed forces. Similarly only few Tajiks were allowed to hold the position of officer in Afghan army, while other ethnicities were prohibited to do so. Daoud Khan viewed Afghan armed forces as crucial vector in the Pashtunisation of Afghan state. [42] The Panjshir uprising in 1975 is also believed to be result of anti-Pashtun frustration which had been building up in Panjshir valley as result of Daoud Khan's policies. [43]

In September 1934 Khan married Princess Zamina Begum (11 January 1917 – 28 April 1978), sister of King Mohammed Zahir Shah (15 October 1914 – 23 July 2007). The couple had four sons and four daughters:

1979 in Afghanistan

The following lists events that happened during 1979 in Afghanistan.

    • until 14 September: Nur Muhammad Taraki
    • 14 September-27 December: Hafizullah Amin
    • starting 27 December: Babrak Karmal
    • until 27 March: Nur Muhammad Taraki
    • 27 March-27 December: Hafizullah Amin
    • starting 27 December: Babrak Karmal

    A mutiny in the Herat garrison by Afghan army officers is crushed.

    In a cabinet reshuffle, Taraki inducts Foreign Minister Amin as prime minister and himself takes over chairmanship of the Supreme Defense Council.

    A rebel force is routed near Kabul in a major battle, and later an offensive is mounted to destroy guerrillas in districts bordering Pakistan.

    Taraki leaves for Havana, Cuba, to represent Afghanistan at the sixth summit conference of nonaligned nations, leaving the government in the hands of Amin. Returning via Moscow, Taraki is advised by Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev to get rid of Amin, whose anti-Islamic policy is considered dangerous. Taraki, however, fails in this as Amin is tipped off about the plot and manages to turn the tide of events to his own favour.

    Taraki is overthrown in a coup, and Amin becomes president of the Revolutionary Council, which is nominally in charge of running the government, together with the Central Committee of the Khalq party and the Council of Ministers. Contradictory reports suggest that Taraki is killed during the takeover, although his death is only announced on 9 October and stated to be the result of "a severe and prolonged illness." On 17 September Amin announces that his rule marks the beginning of a "better Socialist order."

    Afghanistan president overthrown

    TEHRAN, Iran, Dec. 27, 1979 (UPI) - Afghanistan President Hafizullah Amin was overthrown Thursday in a bloodless coup staged by his old-time political foe, Babrak Karmal, Iran's official Pars news agency said, quoting Radio Kabul. The coup followed a Christmas Day airlift of thousands of Soviet troops to Kabul, capital of neighboring Afghanistan. The troop deployment was reported by State Department officials in Washington on Wednesday and strongly criticized as "blatant military interference."

    The new regime immediately imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Kabul and ordered residents to remain indoors.

    The new ruler followed up with a broadcast pledge to grant the impoverished Afghans democratic freedoms and jobs.

    The reported coup came against a background of growing discontent in the aftermath of a year-old armed insurrection by Moslems opposing the Soviet-backed, Marxist rule in effect in Afghanistan since the May 1978 coup which toppled Mohammad Daoud.

    Political analysts in Tehran said any assessment of the change would have to wait until more details of the Soviet military airlift become available.

    Karmal, founder of the Parcham Communist Party, served briefly as prime minister in the regime of assassinated former president Nur Mohammad Taraki. He was removed following ideological differences which led to a violent purge of all Parcham elements within the regime.

    Karmal went on the air soon after seizing power Thursday evening and pledged "democratic freedoms for the Afghan peoples, release of political prisoners, jobs for all the unemployed and good relations with all neighbors (Iran, Pakistan and the Soviet Union)."

    Pars said the first announcement about the change in Kabul was made over the Kabul radio at 7:45 p.m. (11:15 a.m. EST).

    The broadcast said, "The tyrannical, murderous, treacherous, dictatorial and fascist regime of Hafizullah Amin has been overthrown."

    The radio called on the Moslem clergy and all other "strata of people" to support the new regime.

    Then it began broadcasting martial music.

    Karmal said in a radio broadcast that the new regime would guarantee "democratic rights of all classes of society, respect the holy faith of Islam and the clergy."

    The assurance appeared directed at rebellious Moslem insurgents, led by the Afghan Islamic clergy, who have waged a violent campaign to overthrow the two successive Marxist, Soviet-backed regimes in Kabul since former president Mohammad Daoud was overthrown in May 1978.

    A broadcast appeal called for support from "all Moslems irrespective of their sect - the clergy, soldiers and tribesmen, government employees, intellectuals, male and female workers."

    Karmal went on the air to promise democratic freedoms, employment and "real democracy."

    He said he would take measures to encourage prominent Afghans to return home from their self-exile abroad.

    Reports of a coup came after diplomatic sources in New Delhi said the deteriorating position of the old Marxist government in Kabul had precipitated an unprecedented Christmas airlift of thousands of Soviet troops and equipment to Afghanistan.

    The reports said the airlift may have doubled the number of Soviet military personnel in Afghanistan to as many as 10,000 in the land-locked but strategic central Asian nation.

    State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said, "We believe that members of the international community should condemn such blatant military interference into the internal affairs of an independent sovereign state. We are making our views known directly to the Soviets."

    Nicolae Ceaușescu

    Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

    Nicolae Ceaușescu, (born January 26, 1918, Scornicești, Romania—died December 25, 1989, near Bucharest), Communist official who was leader of Romania from 1965 until he was overthrown and killed in a revolution in 1989.

    A member of the Romanian Communist youth movement during the early 1930s, Ceaușescu was imprisoned in 1936 and again in 1940 for his Communist Party activities. In 1939 he married Elena Petrescu, a Communist activist. While in prison, Ceaușescu became a protégé of his cell mate, the Communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, who would become the undisputed Communist leader of Romania beginning in 1952. Escaping prison in August 1944 shortly before the Soviet occupation of Romania, Ceaușescu subsequently served as secretary of the Union of Communist Youth (1944–45). After the Communists’ full accession to power in Romania in 1947, he first headed the ministry of agriculture (1948–50), and from 1950 to 1954 he served as deputy minister of the armed forces with the rank of major general. Under Gheorghiu-Dej, Ceaușescu eventually came to occupy the second highest position in the party hierarchy, holding important posts in the Politburo and Secretariat.

    With the death of Gheorghiu-Dej in March 1965, Ceaușescu succeeded to the leadership of Romania’s Communist Party as first secretary (general secretary from July 1965) and with his assumption of the presidency of the State Council (December 1967), he became head of state as well. He soon won popular support for his independent, nationalistic political course, which openly challenged the dominance of the Soviet Union over Romania. In the 1960s Ceaușescu virtually ended Romania’s active participation in the Warsaw Pact military alliance, and he condemned the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces (1968) and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union (1979). Ceaușescu was elected to the newly created post of president of Romania in 1974.

    While following an independent policy in foreign relations, Ceaușescu adhered ever more closely to the communist orthodoxy of centralized administration at home. His secret police maintained rigid controls over free speech and the media and tolerated no internal dissent or opposition. Hoping to boost Romania’s population, in 1966 Ceaușescu issued Decree 770, a measure that effectively outlawed contraception and abortion. Doctors monitored women of childbearing age to ensure that they were not taking steps to curtail their fertility, but maternal mortality rates skyrocketed as women sought unsafe and outlawed means to terminate their pregnancies. In an effort to pay off the large foreign debt that his government had accumulated through its mismanaged industrial ventures in the 1970s, Ceaușescu in 1982 ordered the export of much of the country’s agricultural and industrial production. The resulting extreme shortages of food, fuel, energy, medicines, and other basic necessities drastically lowered living standards and intensified unrest. Ceaușescu also instituted an extensive personality cult and appointed his wife, Elena, and many members of his extended family to high posts in the government and party. Among his grandiose and impractical schemes was a plan to bulldoze thousands of Romania’s villages and move their residents into so-called agrotechnical centres.

    Ceaușescu’s regime collapsed after he ordered his security forces to fire on antigovernment demonstrators in the city of Timișoara on December 17, 1989. The demonstrations spread to Bucharest, and on December 22 the Romanian army defected to the demonstrators. That same day Ceaușescu and his wife fled the capital in a helicopter but were captured and taken into custody by the armed forces. On December 25 the couple were hurriedly tried and convicted by a special military tribunal on charges of mass murder and other crimes. Ceaușescu and his wife were then shot by a firing squad.

    The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

    US leaving behind a ‘disaster’ in Afghanistan, former President Hamid Karzai says

    KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Afghanistan’s former president said Sunday the United States came to his country to fight extremism and bring stability to his war-tortured nation and is leaving nearly 20 years later having failed at both.

    In an interview with The Associated Press just weeks before the last U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan, ending their ‘forever war,’ Hamid Karzai said extremism is at its “highest point” and the departing troops are leaving behind a disaster.

    “The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear objective of fighting extremism and bringing stability . but extremism is at the highest point today. So they have failed,” he said.

    Their legacy is a war-ravaged nation in “total disgrace and disaster.”

    “We recognize as Afghans all our failures, but what about the bigger forces and powers who came here for exactly that purpose? Where are they leaving us now?” he asked and answered: “In total disgrace and disaster.”

    Still, Karzai, who had a conflicted relationship with the United States during his 13-year rule, wanted the troops to leave, saying Afghans were united behind an overwhelming desire for peace and needed now to take responsibility for their future.

    “We will be better off without their military presence,” he said. “I think we should defend our own country and look after our own lives. . Their presence (has given us) what we have now. . We don’t want to continue with this misery and indignity that we are facing. It is better for Afghanistan that they leave.”

    Karzai’s rule followed the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition that launched its invasion to hunt down and destroy the al-Qaida network and its leader, Osama bin Laden, blamed for the 9/11 attacks on America.

    During Karzai’s rule, women re-emerged, girls again attended school, a vibrant, young civil society emerged, new high-rises went up in the capital Kabul and roads and infrastructure were built. But his rule was also characterized by allegations of widespread corruption, a flourishing drug trade and in the final years relentless quarrels with Washington that continue even until today.

    “The (US/NATO military) campaign was not against extremism or terrorism, the campaign was more against Afghan villages and hopes putting Afghan people in prisons, creating prisons in our own country . and bombing all villages. That was very wrong.”

    In April, when President Joe Biden announced the final withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 troops, he said America was leaving having achieved its goals. Al-Qaida had been greatly diminished and bin Laden was dead. America no longer needed boots on the ground to fight the terrorist threats that might emanate from Afghanistan, he said.

    Still, the U.S.’s attempts to bring about a political end to the decades of war have been elusive. It signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 to withdraw its troops in exchange for a Taliban promise to denounce terrorist groups and keep Afghanistan from again being a staging arena for attacks on America.

    There is little evidence the Taliban are fulfilling their part of the bargain. The United Nations claims the Taliban and al-Qaida are still linked. The architect of the U.S. deal and current U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad says some progress has been made but without offering any details.

    Karzai has had harsh words and uncompromising criticism of U.S. war tactics over the past two decades in Afghanistan. Yet he has become a linchpin of sorts in a joint effort being launched by the United States and Britain to get a quarrelsome Afghan leadership in Kabul united enough to talk peace with the Taliban. The insurgent group has shown little interest in negotiating and instead has stepped up its assaults on government positions.

    The Taliban have made considerable strides since the May 1 start of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal. They have overrun dozens of districts, often negotiating their surrender from Afghan national security forces.

    But in many instances the fighting has been intense. Just last week a brutal assault by the Taliban in northern Faryab province killed 22 of Afghanistan’s elite commandos, led by a local hero Col. Sohrab Azimi, who was also killed and widely mourned.

    “The desire of the Afghan people, overwhelmingly, all over the country is for peace,” said Karzai, who despite being out of power since 2014 has lost little of his political influence and is most often at the center of the country’s political machinations.

    What is the status of peace talks?

    In February 2020, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban that called for all American forces to leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. In return, the Taliban pledged to cut ties with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, reduce violence and negotiate with the American-backed Afghan government.

    But with the Afghan government excluded from the U.S.-Taliban deal, relations with the United States were strained. The Trump administration pressured Mr. Ghani to release 5,500 Taliban prisoners while receiving little in return, further alienating the Afghan government.

    After the deal was signed, the Taliban stopped attacking American troops and refrained from major terrorist bombings in Afghan cities. The United States reduced air support for government forces, generally restricting them to instances in which Afghan troops were in danger of being overrun.

    The primary objectives of the 2020 deal were for Afghan leaders and the Taliban to negotiate a political road map for a new government and constitution, reduce violence and ultimately forge a lasting cease-fire.

    But the government accused the Taliban of assassinating Afghan government officials and security force members, civil society advocates, journalists and human rights workers — including several women shot in broad daylight.

    Because of their strong battlefield position and the imminent U.S. troop withdrawal, the Taliban have maintained the upper hand in talks with the Afghan government, which began in September in Doha, Qatar, but have since stalled. The Pentagon has said the militants have not honored pledges to reduce violence or cut ties with terrorist groups.

    After Mr. Biden announced in April the U.S. withdrawal of American forces, NATO said its 7,000 troops in Afghanistan would coordinate their withdrawal with the United States.

    The Biden administration says it continues to support peace talks, but the Taliban appear in no hurry to negotiate. Nor have they explicitly said they would agree to a power-sharing government, implying instead that they intend to seek a monopoly on power.

    "Afghanistan" This essay is about the history of events that has happened in Afghanistan, and about the past to present leaders.

    The King was overthrown in 1973. Muhammad Daoud took the power as President of the Afghanistan. He established an autocratic, one-party state, later had purged his government of leftists, and in the last years of his rule had sought financial support form Iran, ruled by the Shah, and Saudi Arabia in order to make Afghanistan less dependent on Soviet economic aid.

    On April 28, 1978, the regime of President Mohammad Daoud ended violently. Military units raided the Presidential Palace, in Kabul. Killed the president and most members of his family.

    All happened after the assassination of Mir Akbar Khyber, April 17, a Marxist ideologue a member of the Parcham faction of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. (PDPA) was a Marxist-oriented party. On April 19 the party organized a mass rally and march in the honor of Khyber's funeral. Marched through the streets of Kabul and shouted anti-American slogans in front of the United States embassy.

    President Daoud ordered the arrest of seven top PDPA leaders. The PDPA Central committee member Hafizullah Amin was placed under house arrest shortly. He planed a coup d'etat. PDPA leaders were liberated from a government prison. The plan for the April coup, according to Amin in a press conference that it had occurred two years ahead of the PDPA's schedule for revolution.

    Taraki, Amin, and Karmal were the central player in the leftists' revolution of the Afghanistan. Taraki was born in 1917, was the oldest. His father was a livestock dealer and small-time smuggler. His family's described by Dupree in Nyrop (pg. 218) as semi nomadic, traveling frequently between Ghazini Province and British India. He attended a provincial elementary school and a middle school in Qandahar and was. He began to write short stories. In 1940s his stories refluxing the living condition of Afghan.

    Citation styles:

    "Afghanistan" This essay is about the history of events that has happened in Afghanistan, and about the past to present leaders.. (2003, February 17). In Retrieved 21:41, June 25, 2021, from

    WriteWork contributors. ""Afghanistan" This essay is about the history of events that has happened in Afghanistan, and about the past to present leaders.", 17 February, 2003. Web. 25 Jun. 2021.

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    Reviews of: ""Afghanistan" This essay is about the history of events that has happened in Afghanistan, and about the past to present leaders." :


    I don't know if its a typo error, but you have some grammatical and spelling mistakes. Overall, an average essay.

    11 out of 11 people found this comment useful.

    i think ths essay is detailed in way tht gives a good idea about th recent history of afghanistan for people like me who dont know what happened in that country to be able to reach to what it is now..thank u.

    3 out of 3 people found this comment useful.

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    Afghanistan’s Theorist-in-Chief

    Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan, wakes up before five every morning and reads for two or three hours. He makes his way daily through an inch-thick stack of official documents. He reads proposals by applicants competing for the job of mayor of Herat and chooses the winner. He reads presentations by forty-four city engineers for improvements to Greater Kabul. He has been known to write his own talking points and do his own research on upcoming visitors. Before meeting the Australian foreign minister, he read the Australian government’s white paper on foreign aid. He read four hundred pages of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report on the day of its release, and the next day he apologized to General John Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, for having not quite finished it. He reads books on the transition from socialism to capitalism in Eastern Europe, on the Central Asian enlightenment of a thousand years ago, on modern warfare, on the history of Afghanistan’s rivers. He lives and works in the Arg—a complex of palaces inside a nineteenth-century fortress in central Kabul—where books, marked up in pencil, lie open on desks and tables.

    Two decades ago, Ghani lost most of his stomach to cancer. He has to eat small portions of food, such as packets of dates, half a dozen times a day. He sometimes takes digestive breaks, resting—and reading—on a narrow bed in an alcove behind his office in Gul Khana Palace. Or he sits with a book in his favorite spot, under a chinar tree in the garden of Haram Sarai Palace, where the library of the late King Zahir is preserved. During the Presidency of Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, the library was a dusty pile of antique volumes. After Ghani took office, in September, 2014, he organized the royal collection. Whereas Karzai filled the palace with visitors and received petitioners during meals, Ghani often eats alone. After twelve years in power, Karzai and his family walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars from Afghan and international coffers. Ghani’s net worth, according to his declaration of assets, is about four million dollars. It consists largely of his house, on four acres in western Kabul, and his collection of seven thousand books.

    A trained anthropologist who spent years doing field work for the World Bank, Ghani has been in and out of the Afghan government ever since the overthrow of the Taliban, in 2001. His abiding concern has been how to create viable institutions in poor countries overrun with violence, focussing on states that can’t enforce laws, create fair markets, collect taxes, provide services, or keep citizens safe. In 2006, Ghani and his longtime collaborator, a British human-rights lawyer named Clare Lockhart, started a consultancy, the Institute for State Effectiveness, in Washington, D.C. Two years later, they published “Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World.” It describes the core functions of a state and suggests such measures as tapping the expertise of citizens in building institutions. By then, the theme was no longer a technical subject. The chaos in Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan threatened global security.

    Theorists are rarely given such a dramatic chance to put their ideas into practice. Afghanistan has been at war ever since the Soviet invasion of 1979, when Ghani was a thirty-year-old doctoral candidate at Columbia University. Most of the country, including several provincial capitals, is threatened by the Taliban, even as the insurgency devolves into a network of narco-criminal enterprises. In sixty per cent of Afghanistan’s three hundred and ninety-eight districts, state control doesn’t exist beyond a lonely government building and a market. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have established a presence in the east. Afghanistan can’t police its borders, and its neighbors give sanctuary and assistance to insurgents. (In May, Mullah Mansour, the Taliban leader, was killed by an American drone strike while driving from Zahedan, Iran, where he reportedly consulted with Iranian officials, to his base, in Quetta, Pakistan, with a fraudulent Pakistani passport.) Afghanistan’s finances depend on foreign aid and opium. Corruption is endemic. After the departure of a hundred and twenty-seven thousand foreign troops, in 2014, the economy collapsed, unemployment soared, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans abandoned the country. Ghani is the elected President of a failed state.

    A slight man with a short gray beard and deep-set eyes under a bald dome, Ghani bears a resemblance to Gandhi, except that he does not seem like a man at peace. He hunches over and winces, head tilted, and when he gestures he keeps his elbows pinned to his sides. He laughs at odd moments, and he can’t control his temper. Young loyalists surround him, but he has alienated powerful allies. Isolated in the Arg, Ghani works killingly long hours and buries himself in projects that should be left to subordinates. “Because he’s been an academic for a very long time, he just can’t help a mode of working that requires him to study and analyze every problem,” a senior Afghan official said. “If he asked for a file on garbage collection in Kabul, and he received a binder of five hundred pages, he would finish it that night—and then take copious notes.”

    Whereas Karzai talked warmly with guests for hours, leaving everyone happy, Ghani disdains small talk, and visitors come away feeling intimidated or slighted. Once, in Kabul, the President scheduled fifteen minutes for Ismail Khan, a powerful warlord from western Afghanistan. Jelani Popal, one of Ghani’s closest advisers, told him, “See him for as long as he wants or don’t see him at all—but you can’t spend just fifteen minutes.” Ghani stood firm: the corrupt and brutal emir of Herat was worth exactly a quarter of an hour.

    Ghani is a visionary technocrat who thinks twenty years ahead, with a deep understanding of what has destroyed his country and what might yet save it. “He’s incorruptible,” the senior official said. “He wants to transform the country. And he can do it. But it seems as if everything is arrayed against him.” Ghani is the kind of reformer that the American government desperately needed as a partner during the erratic later years of Karzai’s rule. Yet he has few admirers in the State Department, and in Kabul the élite don’t hide their contempt. They call Ghani an arrogant micromanager and say that he has no close friends, no feel for politics—that he is the leader of a country that exists only in his own mind. Ghani is Afghanistan’s Jimmy Carter.

    Many observers don’t expect Ghani to complete his term, which ends in 2019, and 2016 is described as a year of national survival. “This is the year of living dangerously,” Scott Guggenheim, an American economic adviser to Ghani, said. “He’ll either make it or he won’t.”

    “I identify with shorter lines.”

    The stone walls of the Arg are fortified with concrete blast walls and checkpoints manned by armed guards. Outside, barricades and razor wire divide Kabul’s streets into the private armed encampments where Afghan élites and foreign diplomats live. The public must steer clear, and the city is choked with traffic. When it rains, the rutted streets flood when fighting in the north cuts power lines, the streets go dark. Periodically, a suicide bomber detonates a murderous payload. American officials no longer risk driving—from dawn to dark, helicopters clatter over the U.S. Embassy compound. Smelling weakness, Afghan politicians scheme in lavish compounds built with stolen money, each convinced that he should be inside the Arg. In the mountains around Kabul, the Taliban are just a few miles away.

    “My father’s mother really had a profound influence on me,” Ghani said. “She literally began her day with an hour of reading. But the most fundamental impact was education.” We were seated in facing chairs, in a ceremonial room on the second floor of Gul Khana Palace. The soaring walls and pillars were of green onyx, the doors of inlaid walnut. Ghani, by contrast, looked like a well-off shopkeeper, in a traditional dark-gray shalwar kameez and a black coat, conveying that he is a native son and drawing a firm line between his current life and the decades he spent in American universities and with global institutions.

    In 2011, Ghani and his daughter, Mariam—an artist who lives in Brooklyn—published a pamphlet titled “Afghanistan: A Lexicon,” a mini-encyclopedia that chronicles cycles of reform, reaction, and chaos that have recurred in the country. The opening entry is on Amanullah, Afghanistan’s king from 1919 to 1929. Amanullah was the first great modernizer: he oversaw the writing of a constitution, improved education, encouraged freedoms for women, and planned an expansion of the capital. He also fought to make Afghanistan’s foreign policy independent of Britain. But Amanullah offended key elements of society, including the mullahs, and he was overthrown by tribal leaders. Although Amanullah “accomplished a remarkable amount,” Ashraf and Mariam Ghani wrote, he “did not succeed in permanently changing Afghanistan, since his ultimate failure to forge a broad political consensus for his reforms left him vulnerable to rural rebellion.” Rapid modernization undone by conservative revolt became both template and warning for Afghan progressives, “who have returned again and again to his unfinished project, only to succumb to their own blind spots.”

    Ghani comes from a prominent Pashtun family. His paternal grandfather, a military commander, helped install King Nadir, who assumed power shortly after Amanullah’s overthrow, in 1929. Ghani’s father was a senior transport official under Nadir’s son, King Zahir, who reigned for forty years. Ghani was born in 1949. He grew up in Kabul’s old city, spending weekends and vacations riding horses and hunting on the ancestral farm, forty miles south. He was teased at school—he was undersized, and sometimes bent over like an old man—but he impressed classmates with his seriousness. In 1966, his junior year of high school, he travelled to America as an exchange student. At his new school, in Oregon, Ghani won a student-council seat reserved for a foreigner. “The first council meeting, we made some simple decisions,” he said. “Lo and behold, the next week they were implemented, because the council had access to money.” The experience shaped his thinking about development: “You can get together, you can talk as much as you want, but if there’s not a decision-making process—thats where democracy really matters.”

    In 1973, Ghani received a political-science degree from the American University of Beirut, where he fell in love with Rula Saade, a Lebanese Christian. They got engaged, and in 1974, after Ghani returned to Kabul to teach, his prospective father-in-law paid him a visit. “You’re going to end up in politics and you’re going to ruin my daughter’s life,” Rula’s father said. Ghani replied, not quite truthfully, “I’m totally committed to being an academic.” (The couple married in 1975, and, in addition to Mariam, they have a son, Tarek.)

    In July, 1973, the monarchy was overthrown by the King’s cousin Daoud, who became Afghanistan’s first President. Daoud initially aligned himself with the Communists and, according to the Ghani “Lexicon,” he “reiterated the flawed model of modernization imposed from above.” In 1978, Communist troops shot Daoud to death as he tried to hide behind a pillar in Gul Khana Palace. Assassination followed assassination until the end of 1979, when the Soviets invaded and the jihad began. The Arg is haunted by its murdered occupants.

    In 1977, Ghani and his family left Afghanistan, and he didn’t live there again for a quarter century. At Columbia, he completed a dissertation in cultural anthropology. “Production and Domination: Afghanistan, 1747-1901” analyzes the nation’s difficulty in building a centralized state in terms of its economic backwardness. The writing is almost impenetrable: “By focusing on movements of concomitant structures, I have attempted to isolate the systemic relations among the changing or non-changing elements that combine to form a structure.” The author moves between clouds of abstraction and mounds of data—nineteenth-century irrigation methods in Herat, kinship networks in Pashtun financial systems—without readily discernible priorities.

    In the eighties, Ghani taught at Berkeley and at Johns Hopkins, and in 1991 he became an anthropologist for the World Bank, based in Washington, D.C. Travelling half the year, he became an expert on finance in Russia, China, and India. “He really had a moral purpose—solving poverty for real people,” Clare Lockhart said. “When he arrived in capital cities, he’d go to the markets to see what people were buying and selling, then he’d go out to the provinces and villages. He’d interview groups of miners.” Such field work was unusual for a World Bank official. James Wolfensohn, who became president of the bank in 1995, shifted its emphasis from simply lending money to poor countries to attempting to reduce poverty. He wanted to know why African and Latin American countries that followed the bank’s liberalization policies remained poor. The answer had to do with corruption, weak institutions, and ill-conceived practices by donors. Wolfensohn ordered a review of the bank’s programs, and Ghani submitted many blistering critiques, which made him unpopular with his colleagues.

    Meanwhile, he was preparing for a future in Afghanistan. In 1997, with the Taliban controlling most of the country, a Columbia graduate student interviewed Ghani at the World Bank. “When we get peace in Afghanistan, we’ll go to New Zealand to learn best practices for raising sheep,” Ghani said. “We’ll go to Switzerland and study hydroelectric projects.” Afghanistan—mountains, deserts, ungoverned spaces—has always seemed to offer a blank slate for utopian dreamers: British imperialists, hippie travellers, Communists, Islamists, international do-gooders. Alex Thier, who worked for the U.N. in Afghanistan in the nineties and, later, with Ghani in Kabul, described him as an “N.G.O.-style revolutionary, as if he grew up in a cadre of the World Bank rather than in the Communist Party.” To be a visionary is, in some ways, to be depersonalized, to refuse to see what’s in front of one’s face.

    On September 11, 2001, Ghani was at his desk in Washington, and he knew immediately that everything was about to change for Afghanistan. He drafted a five-step plan for a political transition to a broad-based Afghan government that could be held accountable for rebuilding the country he warned against funding and arming the warlords who had brought Afghanistan to ruin and the Taliban to power. During the American-led war against the Taliban, a small group of experts—including Lockhart, the Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin, and the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, then the U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan—met at Ghani’s house outside Washington. That December, the group’s work influenced the Bonn Agreement, which mapped steps toward representative rule, while leaving unresolved the conflict between Ghani’s vision of a modern state and the interests of regional power brokers.

    Six months later, Karzai became Afghanistan’s leader. Ghani’s first job in the new administration was to coördinate and track foreign aid. He believed that Afghans needed to set their own priorities for development rather than be at the mercy of the conflicting agendas of foreign countries and international agencies. Some Afghans and Westerners saw Ghani, after decades in the U.S., as a foreigner in his own land. But he is a prickly nationalist who would have been an egghead anywhere. He had a particular animus toward Western aid officials who had plenty of money and power but scant knowledge or humility. He once dressed down a contingent from the U.S. Agency for International Development for their incompetence. Ghani was among the first to foresee that a flood of foreign aid could enrich foreign contractors and turn officials corrupt while doing little for ordinary Afghans.

    With Hanif Atmar, the Minister of Rural Development, Ghani created the National Solidarity Program—grants in amounts of twenty thousand to sixty thousand dollars for twenty-three thousand Afghan villages, largely funded by the World Bank. (The idea came from similar World Bank programs that Ghani had studied in Indonesia and India.) Afghan villagers were required to elect a council of men and women, devise their own goals—such as clean water or a new school—and make public their accounting figures. In one case, thirty-seven villages pooled their money to build a maternity hospital. Clare Lockhart met families just returned from exile in Iran, living in animal-skin shelters. One woman, describing the importance of the grant, told her, “It’s not about the money.”

    “Don’t tell her that,” another villager said. “She’ll take the money away.”

    “I don’t have that authority,” Lockhart explained.

    The first woman finished her thought: “It’s that we’re trusted to do this.”

    The N.S.P. was one of Afghanistan’s most successful and least corrupt programs. A new school cost a sixth of one built with a U.S.A.I.D. contract. Paul O’Brien, an Irishman who served as an adviser to Ghani, said Ghani understood that “the key to development is strong domestic institutions that can regulate all the actors around them, including international do-gooders.” When Ghani challenged foreigners to tell him what accountability measures they wanted in return for giving Afghan institutions control of the money and the agenda, “they wouldn’t do it,” O’Brien said. Donors had brought their “development army in all its glory, and that meant outputs and contracts and boxes checked.”

    Instead of sending money to local communities through Afghan channels, donors like U.S.A.I.D. bid out contracts to large international companies, which in turn hired subcontractors and private security companies, none of which had a long-term stake in Afghanistan. In a 2005 ted talk on failed states, Ghani called such programs “the ugly face of the developed world to the developing countries,” adding, “Tens of billions of dollars are supposedly spent on building capacity with people who are paid up to fifteen hundred dollars a day, who are incapable of thinking creatively or organically.”

    The National Solidarity Program didn’t get to write Afghanistan’s future. Some estimate that during the peak years of foreign spending on Afghanistan only ten to twenty cents of every aid dollar reached the intended beneficiaries. Waste on a scale of several hundred billion dollars is the work of many authors, but the U.S. government was among the chief ones.

    In the summer of 2002, Karzai named Ghani Minister of Finance. The Ministries of Interior, Defense, and Foreign Affairs were more obvious bases for building personal power, but Ghani put in twenty-hour days, holding staff meetings at 7 a.m., in a building with shattered windows and no heat. He introduced anti-corruption measures, established a centralized revenue system, and created a new currency, supporting it with the traditional hawala network of money trading. He urged his staff to take on the drug and land mafias that were infiltrating the state, saying, “We need to hit them everywhere, so they won’t have the space to establish networks.” This was the blank-slate phase of post-Taliban Afghanistan, and Ghani became the most effective figure in the new government. “The golden period of the Karzai rule was when Ashraf Ghani was Finance Minister,” Jelani Popal, a deputy in the Finance Ministry, said. “Karzai was a people person and kept the integrity of the state and society, but Ghani was the de-facto Prime Minister and the main engine of reform.”

    Ghani’s temper, perhaps inflamed by the effects of his stomach cancer, became notorious. He shouted at Afghan staff and Western advisers alike. Zalmay Khalilzad, then the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, had known him for decades—they were in college together in Beirut—and he challenged Ghani: “Why do you have such a bad temper?” Ghani denied it, Khalilzad repeated stories he’d heard, and they went back and forth until Ghani slammed his fist on a table and exploded: “I don’t have a temper!

    Ghani’s combination of probity and arrogance antagonized the entire Karzai cabinet. When he discovered that the Minister of Defense, the Tajik warlord Mohammed Fahim, was padding his payroll with tens of thousands of “ghost” troops, Ghani slashed Fahim’s budget. Ghani later heard that Fahim went to the Arg and told Karzai that he wanted to murder Ghani—to which Karzai replied, “There’s a very long line for killing Ashraf.”

    In 2004, after being elected President, Karzai made noises about dismissing Ghani. Lakhdar Brahimi asked Karzai, “Do you have anybody better than him?” Karzai said no. Brahimi encouraged him to try to work with Ghani, even though he knew that nobody in the cabinet supported Ghani, either. Brahimi asked Ghani, “You’ve been here three years and you don’t have a friend in this country?” Ali Jalali, then the Minister of Interior, said that Ghani had clashed with cabinet members from the Northern Alliance, such as Fahim, in his campaign to take power away from the warlords. Several people also told me that Khalilzad had been competing with Ghani since their university days and leveraged American influence over Karzai to undermine Ghani. (Khalilzad said that he had tried to get Karzai to change his mind, but failed.) By 2005, Ghani was gone. He later insisted that he had resigned because the government was descending into narco-corruption.

    The government lost its brightest light. “If he had stayed, Afghanistan would be completely different today,” Popal said. Karzai, a master at keeping his various constituencies in the tent, had no interest in the ideas that consumed Ghani. With the American troop presence too small to secure the country, Karzai used foreign largesse to empower local strongmen, whose behavior led to the return of the Taliban.

    Ghani briefly became chancellor of Kabul University. A former student there remembers that he was always either yelling at groups of undergraduates or promising things that he couldn’t deliver—a state-of-the-art library, for example. Karzai tried repeatedly to bring Ghani back. Once, in 2008, he summoned Ghani and Popal to the Arg. “I made a mistake,” Karzai said. “I’ll give you more power than before.” He offered Ghani the Ministry of Interior. Ghani refused, saying, “You are a very suspicious man. You listened to people and fired me.” Privately, Ghani confided to Popal that he planned to run for President against Karzai the next year. By then, Popal was in charge of the powerful department of local governance. “I know all the districts,” he told Ghani. “You don’t have a chance.” Ghani insisted that he could give speeches that would mobilize millions of Afghans. “It doesn’t work that way,” Popal told him. “You need to establish relationships.”

    “I’m sorry—when you said ‘bad’ cop, I assumed you meant incompetent.”

    I met Ghani in Kabul in the spring of 2009, as the campaign was about to begin. He had given up his American citizenship in order to run. He described a “double failure” in Afghanistan: a failure of imagination by the international community and a failure by Afghan élites “to be the founding fathers—and mothers, because there are some—of a new state.” He received a group of university students in his home, a beautiful post-and-beam structure in traditional Nuristani style. Ghani listened to the students complain about nato firepower killing civilians, about Afghan corruption, about American manipulation of the election in Karzai’s favor. They didn’t know that American officials, disillusioned with Karzai, had encouraged Ghani to run against him. Before I left, Ghani gave me a chapan, the intricately woven coat of northern Afghanistan, and a copy of “Fixing Failed States.” I saw no sign of a volatile character—he was confident of his prospects.

    But Popal was right: Ghani had no following, and he received a humiliating three per cent of the vote. Karzai was reëlected amid charges of rampant voter fraud that embittered his closest challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, and fatally damaged his relationship with the United States. Karzai, who could not run for a third term, withdrew into the Arg and steeped himself in conspiracy theories about the West. A billion-dollar Ponzi scheme was exposed at the country’s largest bank. Karzai’s final years in office were a political death agony.

    During this period, Ghani was in charge of preparing Afghanistan for the withdrawal of nato forces and the handover of military authority to the Afghan Army by the end of 2014. The job, which was pro bono, allowed him to travel around the country, visiting provincial governors, corps commanders, and district police chiefs. It was a kind of listening tour, convincing him of the people’s desire for reform.

    In 2014, he ran again for President. He published a three-hundred-page campaign manifesto, “Continuity and Change.” It was a classic Ghani production. “It is very smart in diagnosing all these problems,” Alex Thier said. “He’s an idea factory with all these proposals—but you don’t read it with a sense that they will all be accomplished.” When you cut through the language, the manifesto is a call for the empowerment of the Afghan people against corrupt élites: “Outstanding individuals, intellectuals, women, young people, producers of culture, workers, and other parts of society wish for change, and we want to respond to this wish.”

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