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In the nineteenth century Afghanistan emerged as a buffer state between the contending British Indian and tsarist Russian colonial empires. This overwhelmingly Muslim (more than ninety-nine percent), landlocked nation covers an area of 251,825 square miles (652,225 square kilometers) consisting primarily of rugged mountains, deep valleys, deserts, and arid plateaus. Situated in the heart of Asia, it has been an important crossroads for diverse peoples and their cultural and religious traditions. Neither the actual size nor the exact ethnic composition of the population is known because no complete national census has ever been taken. A 1979 wartime attempt at enumeration by Najibullahʾs communist regime in Kabul put the countryʾs population at 15.5 million; in 2000 the United Nations Population Fund estimated it at 22.7 million. The CIA's World Factbook estimates the total population as of July 2007 at 31.9 million.

Since the U.S. intervention of October 2001 and the ouster of the Taliban regime from power, more than 3.7 million Afghan refugees (out of a total of 5.7 million) from Pakistan and Iran have repatriated, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) as of July 2005. Both neighboring countries, especially Iran, have recently adopted controversial measures to expedite the return of all Afghan refugees. However, continued fighting by resurgent Taliban and al-Qaʿida forces in eastern and southern parts of the country along the border with Pakistan has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people internally and across the border in Pakistan.

Estimates of the proportions of ethnic groups (based on language and sectarian affiliation) in Afghanistan remain highly contested and have become increasingly politicized. In the early 1970s, Louis Dupree (pp. 58–64), offered the following estimates: Pashtun, 47 percent; Tajik, Farsiwan, and Aimaq, 35 percent; Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kirghiz, 8 percent; Hazāra, 7 percent; Baluch, Brahui, 2.5 percent; and other Muslim and non-Muslim groups, including Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews, 0.5 percent of the population. Based on Dupreeʾs estimates, Sunnīs constitute 88 percent and Shīʿīs (primarily Imāmī and some Ismāʿīlīs) 12 percent of the Muslim population. The July 2007 CIA World Factbook offers the following: Pashtun, 42 percent; Tajik, 27 percent; Hazāra, 9 percent; Uzbek, 9 percent; Aimaq, 4 percent; Turkmen, 3 percent; Baluch, 2 percent; and other 4 percent. It estimates that Sunnīs constitute 80 percent and Shīʿīs 19 percent of Muslims, with 1 percent non-Muslim.

Historically, Muslim Arab armies penetrated the region at the turn of the eighth century C.E. Many Muslim empires rose in the area during the following centuries and expanded the frontiers of Islam into Central and South Asia. Modern Afghanistan is the remnant of one of the last such Muslim empires in the region, the Durrānī empire founded by Aḥmad Shāh Durrānī (r. 1747–1772). The Durrānī empire began to disintegrate at the turn of the nineteenth century because of bloody struggles over succession as well as growing external military and political pressures. The prolonged fratricidal wars (1800–1880) encouraged British and Russian colonial encroachments, resulting in two Anglo-Afghan Wars (1839–1842 and 1879–1880) and considerable territorial losses. These civil wars and colonial interventions left powerful legacies, notably the increasing economic, military, and technological dependence of Afghan governments on European colonial and post-colonial powers.

AmĪr ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Khān.

The effects of foreign assistance and interventions became apparent immediately after the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1879–1880), when Britain installed Amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Khān (1880–1901), a member of the Muḥammadzai branch of the Durrānīs. With substantial annual British subsidies and technical assistance, Amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Khān, the “Iron Amir,” consolidated power over the territory carved out by British India and tsarist Russia as a buffer-state under the official name, the Kingdom of Afghanistan. Unlike his predecessors, Amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmān believed that his power as amir emanated directly from God rather than from the support of the people or tribal khans. He took the title Zia ul-Millati wa al-Dīn (Light of the Nation and the Faith) and claimed that Godʾs purpose in honoring him with his “vice-regency” was to avert the threat of foreign aggression against Afghanistan and to safeguard it from further internal disturbances. He forcibly converted the peoples of Kafiristan, the only remaining indigenous non-Muslims in the country, and renamed their territory Nuristan (Land of Light). In an attempt to pacify the recalcitrant Hazāra Shīʿīs of central Afghanistan, he labeled them “infidels” and declared a brutal ghazawāt or jihād against them.

The Iron Amir justified his cruel policies by systematically dressing the monarchy in an Islamic cloak. As head of an Islamic state, the amir claimed to be the sole interpreter of religious doctrine and proclaimed, “whether just or despotic, the king must be obeyed, provided his commands do not violate the sharīʿah.” Suspected enemies were killed, forced into exile, detained in the capital, or their young sons were held hostage as court page boys (ghulām bachagāni darbār). The amirʾs disingenuous use of Islam in this manner was not without precedent. His policies differed only in the rigorous articulation and effective utilization of the main operative principles of Afghan political culture—ideals of kingship, kinship, and Islam, buttressed by patron-client and patrimonial practices, and by politics of fear and favor (zūr wa zar). He weakened the pervasive role of ʿulamāʿ and mashāyikh (Ṣūfī leaders) in the management of Islamic education and civil society and claimed these tasks for the state. Administration of awqāf (Muslim endowments; sg., waqf) and Muslim education were incorporated into the state apparatus. Sharīʿah courts were set up throughout the country and settlement of disputes outside the state courts forbidden. For the first time in the history of the country, books of sermons and guidelines for preaching were published and widely disseminated; many of these are still used in the great mosques (masājid-i jāiʿ) in Afghanistan today.

During Amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Khānʾs reign, tribal stratification among the Pashtun, as well as sectarian inequalities favoring Sunnīs over Shīʿīs and Pashtun over non-Pashtun, were institutionalized. The peasantry in general and those in non-Pashtun areas in particular suffered oppressive taxation. Villages replaced tribal and ethnic communities as principal units of administration. These policies produced alienation and resignation among large segments of the rural population, giving rise to the development of smaller, village-based, parallel power structures that enabled the villagers to limit costly contact with state authorities.

Amīr Habīb Allāh and King Amānullāh.

Amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmānʾs policies were maintained unchanged during the reign of his son, Amīr Habīb Allāh (r. 1901–1919). Toward the end of Habīb Allāhʾs reign, as a result of the introduction of modern schools and the press, such new political ideals as constitutionalism, nationalism, liberal secularism, reformism, and Islamic modernism entered the political culture of Afghanistan, both to complement and to compete with the traditional ideals of kingship, kinship, and Islam. These ideals found adherents among the nascent intelligentsia, members of the royal family, the court page boys, and some ʿulamāʿ. King Amānullāh (r. 1919–1929), a grandson of Amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmān and a supporter of modernist-nationalist thought, introduced the first constitution of Afghanistan in 1923. He attempted to promote the idea of equality and to develop a national ideology based on traits common to all citizens of Afghanistan, but he failed. His rule was challenged by popular armed rebellions supported by some conservative ʿulamāʿ and ruḥānīs (spiritual or Ṣūfī dignitaries), under the banner of a jihād against an “infidel king,” and he was forced into exile in 1929.

Muḥammad Nādir Shāh.

Muḥammad Nādir Shāh (r. 1929–1933), who succeeded King Amānullāh after a nine-month interregnum, attributed his success to “the exclusive help of the Almighty God” and the “sacrifices of the peoples of Afghanistan.” Nādir Shāh abandoned many of Amānullāhʾs western-inspired reforms, and attempted to legitimize his own dynastic rule by constitutional means. He called a grand assembly (loya jirga) of the tribal elders, religious dignitaries, and local aristocrats to ratify a new constitution (1931). He established a Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ (Supervisory Council of Muslim Scholars), ordered the countryʾs first printing of the Qurʿān, removed restrictions on the role of the mullahs and mawlawīs (Muslim scholars) in education, reaffirmed the absolute primacy of Ḥanafī sharīʿah in the country, closed girls’ schools, and formally sanctioned gender inequalities. Reverting to Amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmānʾs practices, both civil and criminal cases were brought within the domain of sharīʿah courts, making them the most important vehicles of centralization. Southeastern frontier Pashtun tribes that had helped him in his bid for power were granted exemptions from taxes and conscription, and members of the influential Mujaddidī family of ruḥānīs were awarded cabinet posts for their support. Discrimination against non-Pashtuns became rampant in the allocation of economic, educational, and developmental resources. Many rural aristocrats were co-opted by the Musahiban monarchy (Muhammad Nadīr Shāh dynasty) by being either elected to or selected for the newly established rubber-stamp bicameral parliament (Majlis-i Shūrā wa Aʿyān).

Response to Musahiban Rulers.

The Musahiban rulers (1929–1978) pursued ambivalent policies toward Islam, especially in the expanding modern educational system. Islam was presented in the curriculum simply as a body of rituals and legal injunctions rather than as a vibrant religious doctrine compatible with modern living. The educational system had a secularist agenda devoid of any coherent or viable moral and political ideology aside from Pashtun-based nationalism. In the absence of a clearly articulated and commonly held moral purpose to guide state policies and political processes, nation-building and the so-called modernization programs in the form of Demokrasi-i Now (New Democracy) turned out to be nothing more than a few staged “democratic” procedures, such as voting for rubber-stamp parliaments and a “free” press. Therefore, during the crucial decades of the 1960s and 1970s, when economic development programs were failing and development-related corruption was rampant, Afghan leaders became preoccupied with prolonging their rule by employing Western-style governance techniques to appease their foreign patrons, instead of extending social services and equitably meeting the needs of all citizens.

After the promulgation of the “liberal” constitution of 1964 and the onset of New Democracy in Afghanistan, Marxist and Maoist parties were formed. In response, Islamist movements began to emerge, not only to address the potential communist threat but also to challenge the legitimacy of the Musahiban monarchy. The rise of both communist and Islamist parties and movements—each with ideological ties and financial patrons (actual or potential) outside the country—was without precedent in the political history of Afghanistan. The governmentʾs dependence on foreign assistance for economic development programs and the maintainance of its large military and police forces had also reached new heights.

Specifically, the Afghan state depended overwhelmingly on Soviet patronage for its survival. Hence the government strongly opposed the Islamist movements, while the communist groups, especially the pro-Soviet Marxist parties, were given free rein. As a consequence, in July 1973Prince Muḥammad Dāʿūd, a former prime minister (1953–1963), paternal first cousin and brother-in-law of King Zahīr Shāh (r. 1933–1973)—also a long-time royal supporter of the pro-Soviet Marxists—staged a military coup, abolished the monarchy, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Afghanistan (1973–1978). Only five years later Dāʿūd himself fell victim to a coup led by the Peopleʾs Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) that ended Durrānī dynastic rule by establishing a communist government (1978–1992). The Islamist movements, already seriously weakened by the monarchy and Dāʿūdʾs regime, suffered devastating new attacks from the Marxist government. Ironically, however, the usurpation of state power by the PDPA and the direct military intervention of the former Soviet Union (1979–1989) offered the fledgling Islamist movements a new lease on life.

The Islamist Movements.

Islamist revolutionary ideas were brought to Afghanistan from Egypt in the 1950s by a few Afghan scholars studying at al-Azhar University in Cairo and by al-Azhar shaykhs teaching at the Faculty of Sharʿiyāt (Islamic Studies) at Kabul University. The Islamist political movement emerged on the campus of Kabul University, initially with an underground faculty wing and a public student branch, the Nahzat-i Javānān-i Musulm ān (Muslim Youth Movement). Unlike earlier rural-centered jihād movements mobilized exclusively to oppose outside colonial forces or the allegedly un-Islamic policies of a particular ruler, the new Islamist movement was urban-centered, organized and led by educated youth who questioned the legitimacy of the existing political system and called for the positive radical transformation of power relations through the establishment of an Islamic government. The Islamist movement attracted mostly provincial and rural youth who were studying in Kabul and other major towns. Before the Marxist coup they had few active supporters among traditionally educated ʿulamāʿ and mashāyikh, especially in the rural areas. However, following the PDPA coup, elements of the Islamist groups living in exile in Pakistan and elsewhere quickly joined with traditional tribal and religious leaders in rural areas to launch a nationwide popular armed struggle, a jihād, that eventually drove out the invading Soviet army (1989), defeated the Afghan communists, and declared Afghanistan an Islamic state (April 1992).

The military triumph gradually deteriorated into humiliating and bloody interethnic and sectarian warfare. The vastly popular Islamist armed struggle, despite its remarkable military success, did not produce a coherent Islamic ideology, political unity, or a functioning state. The manner in which the Islamist victory by Afghan Mujāhidīn turned into a spectacular political and ideological failure not only raised serious doubts, especially among the educated Muslim youth, about the future viability of militant Islamist political struggles, but created the conditions for the rise of even more regressive and violent movements such as the Taliban.

The tensions which undermined the Mujāhidīn ability to forge a viable political system were deeply rooted in the recent history of Islamist movements in Afghanistan. The jihād struggle was spearheaded and sustained by two major factions of the original Islamist movement: the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī (Islamic Society) headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, an al-Azhar-educated former professor of Islamic studies; and the Ḥizb-i Islāmī (Islamic Party) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former undergraduate engineering student at Kabul Polytechnic University. This factional difference mirrored in part the split in the Ikhwān al-Muslimīn (Muslim Brotherhood) movement in Egypt. Rabbani favored Ḥasan al-Bannāʾs moderate populist approach seeking to effect change from the bottom up. Hekmatyar, by contrast, favored the more radical strategies of Sayyid Quṭb and his more militant followers, the Jamāʿat Hijrat wa al-Takfīr (Society of Emigration and Expiation) faction led by Omar Abdel Rahman (ʿUmar ʿAbd al-Raḥmān), that called for change from above through capturing state power.

Discord among Islamists.

The impact of these differences in Rabbani's and Hekmatyarʾs political outlooks—combined with their distinct ethnic affiliations (Rabbani is Tajik and Hekmatyar Pashtun) and serious interpersonal tensions—became evident when the two leaders took refuge in Pakistan. In the economically and politically volatile environment of the Afghan exile community in Peshawar, animosities and factional conflicts flourished.

Two other developments also played a significant role in the creation and perpetuation of factional divisions within the jihād movements in Afghanistan. First, the Pakistan government created or officially recognized five additional, primarily Pashtun-dominated resistance organizations. These groups included two led by traditional ʿulamāʿ (Mawlawī Yūnus Khāliṣ and Mawlawī Muḥammad Nabī Muḥammadī), two led by ruḥānī families (Ṣibghat Allāh Mujaddidī and Sayyid Aḥmad Gīlānī) with strong ties to the defunct monarchy, and one led by another al-Azhar-educated former Kabul University professor, ʿAbd al-Rabb Rasūl Sayyāf. In addition, at least eight Shīʿī resistance groups were organized in Iran and one in Pakistan. The Iranian groups during the early 1990s formed an alliance called Ḥizb-i Waḥdat-i Islāmī (Islamic Unity Party), led by Muḥammad ʿAlī Mazārī who was brutally murdered by the Taliban (1995). Scores of other nonofficial Mujāhidīn groups active in the resistance complemented these groups.

Second, nearly all these groups were headquartered in neighboring Pakistan and Iran and were completely dependent on outside sources, both Muslim and non-Muslim, for money and arms. Because of direct Soviet intervention, there were no shortages of foreign supporters (covert and overt) to help defeat and destroy the former U.S.S.R., especially during the Reagan era. Mujāhidīn parties and organizations representing many diverse interest groups (ideological, sectarian, ethno-linguistic, tribal, regional, and local) competed with one another for the patronage of numerous international aid organizations.

A significant factor contributing to the political and ideological failure of the Mujāhidīn was the fact that their numerous foreign patrons gradually but systematically subordinated the Islamist and nationalist ideological purpose of jihād to their own anti-communist and anti-Soviet military objectives. Therefore, as soon as Soviet troops withdrew, external sponsors drastically reduced support to the Mujāhidīn and even encouraged factional fighting to undermine their Islamic “fundamentalist” objectives.

Undoubtedly, both Islamʾs role in Afghan politics and the Mujāhidīn commitment to Islamist ideology faced their most serious test at the moment of their military victory. Specifically, when an arrangement between the forces of Aḥmad Shāh Masʿūd, a Tajik Mujāhidīn commander, and ʿAbd al-Rashīd Dūstam, a powerful Uzbek leader of a militia force in northern Afghanistan, brought about the collapse of Najibullahʾs Marxist government in Kabul, the Mujāhidīn had a chance to end the war and establish a credible Islamic government. They failed because of powerful feelings of mistrust, encouraged by their foreign patrons, among the factions.

Military Victory for Islamists.

On the fall of the communist regime, the forces of the Iranian-backed Islamic Unity Party of eight Shīʿī and other predominantly Hazāra groups had occupied significant areas of Kabul. Dūstam, forming and leading the National Islamic Movement of Northern Afghanistan Junbush-i Millī-i Islāmī-i Shimālī Afghānistān (National Islamic Movement of Northern Afghanistan), demanded a role in the new Islamic State of Afghanistan. Similarly, other armed and newly empowered ethnic and sectarian minorities, such as the traditionally oppressed Shīʿī Hazāras, asked for fair representation in the new government.

Pashtun groups, notably those led by Sayyāf and Hekmatyar, responded with armed attacks against Masʿūd, Dūstam, and the Shīʿī coalition forces in and around Kabul. Sayyāf, who enjoyed the support of powerful Saudi patrons and allegedly introduced controversial Wahhābī practices, began armed attacks against the pro-Iranian Shīʿī Islamic Unity Party. Hekmatyar, formerly willing to recruit Pashtun communist officers for his failed military coups against the communist regime, condemned Aḥmad Shāh Masʿūdʾs alliance with Dūstamʾs militia. He opposed the inclusion of members of Dūstamʾs militia in the government while welcoming numerous high-ranking communist Pashtun military officers into his own camp. Hekmatyarʾs devastating rocket attack against Kabul, which ruined much of the city, was apparently motivated by fear that non-Pashtun minorities might dominate the central government, and this was not acceptable to him.

Crisis of the 1990s.

The succession crisis of the 1990s has extensive historical precedents. Many Afghan leaders have employed Islam to manage kingship, kinship, and ethnicity to further two often contradictory state goals. That is, Islam has been utilized both to universalize, homogenize, and integrate the diverse elements of society and also to differentiate and divide groups. Leaders have used Islam as a unifying force most effectively in confrontations with non-Muslim forces—offensively in the Durrānī empireʾs expansionary wars in northern India, and defensively in jihāds against the encroaching Sikhs and the British in the nineteenth century, and more recently against the Afghan communists and their invading Soviet sponsors. From these experiences, a positive and constructive relationship between Islam and the political independence and integrity of the country has emerged, albeit with heightened feelings of xenophobia. At the same time, these conditions have offered ʿulamāʿ and ruḥānīs, as well as local khans, opportunities for political and military leadership. Ultimately, this development has worked against the domestic centralizing aims of the state.

On the other hand, the use of Islam by the rulers to justify violence against real or presumed domestic enemies has been one of the principle causes of the fragmentation of Afghan society and increased politicization of ethnic identities. Indeed, forced subjugation of the so-called minorities and the century-long (1880–1980) policies and practices of internal colonialism pursued by the centralizing Afghan (Pashtun) nation-state, assisted by outside powers (Great Britain, the U.S.S.R., Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and most recently the U.S.), have gradually transformed the ethnic and cultural differences within the multi-ethnic nation-state into articulated forms of social fragmentation. These communal tensions rose to the surface after the collapse of the autocratic monarchy and were further aggravated during the anti-communist resistance, as well as the prolonged proxy wars leading to the creation of the Taliban movement. The rise of the Taliban and the policies and practices of the post-Taliban Karzai regime, therefore, may be best understood within this troubled history of a modern Afghan buffer-state, perpetually indebted to foreign patrons and consistently hostile and suspicious toward its subjects, especially the Turkic- and Tajik/Farsi-speaking peoples of western, northern, and central Afghanistan.

From the perspective of Afghan subjects/citizens, the legitimacy of governments (ḥukūat) and the state (dawlat) has always depended, in the first place, on the claimed responsibility of the state as the defender of Islam and the homeland, and secondarily on the peopleʾs perception of the personal piety and dignity of the rulers and government officials. Periods of popular support coincide with the reigns of kings/rulers who were considered pious and just (such as Aḥmad Shāh Durrānī) or of leaders who were directly engaged in the defense of Islam and the nation, such as King Amānullāh during the initial years of his reign (1919–1929). By contrast, popular opposition arose when the personal integrity and piety of the ruler and his officials were questioned, and when the sincerity and ability of the government to defend Islam were in doubt. The revolts which forced the abdication of King Amānullāh in 1929 and the recent jihād against Khalq-Parcham Marxists and their Soviet protectors are the most obvious examples. The flagrant abuses of Islam by aspiring rulers who justified brutal military conquest of their subjects have consistently led to stiff armed resistance and civil war such as those of the Hazāra against Amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Khān (in the mid-1890s) and resistance of the non-Pashtun led by Aḥmad Shāh Masʿūd (1996–2001) against the Taliban a century later.

The Taliban.

What is remarkable about the rise of Taliban and Talibanism (and distinguishes post-Taliban Karzai regime), are the radically altered political-ecological, and economic conditions following the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is, the availability of an ever larger number of competing foreign sponsors (governmental and non-governmental, Muslim and otherwise, near and far), with their divergent or conflicting strategic, ideological, political and economic agendas, offer ideal conditions for the growth of extremist militia organizations such as the Taliban within the person-centered tribal political culture of Afghanistan. Indeed, these same conditions fueled the wars of resistance against the Taliban hegemony, forcing them to resort to increasingly violent policies and practices against women, Shīʿīs, and the non-Pashtun ethno-linguistic communities. Not surprisingly, the same conditions are also aiding the continuing bloody resurgence of Taliban and al-Qaʿida insurgency in Afghanistan into the early twenty-first century.

The hastily arranged U.N.-brokered Bonn Accord (December 2001) installed the Karzai regime to power and spelled out the so-called “peace process” in post-Taliban Afghanistan. The process consisted of holding a series of elections (for emergency and constitutional loya jirgas, for president, and parliament), drafting and ratifying a new constitution, building a national army and police force, reforming the judiciary, repatriating the refugees, and undertaking the political, social, and economic reconstruction of the country. It has, so far, fallen far short of domestic expectations. The often chaotic and contradictory policies and practices of state-building have, for the most part, recreated the same old dysfunctional sovereignty-based presidential system which remains a person-centered, Kabul-centered, and kin and crony-based system of rule. The U.S. and coalition military intervention in the post-Taliban era has steadily re-empowered the collaborating Pashtun elites and their few “minority” clients, to transform Afghanistan from a failed state to a regional militia-state to fight the US War on Terror and opium production in the country. Despite claims of promoting democracy in post-Taliban Afghanistan, the developments, so far, seem to reaffirm the old legacies of a dysfunctional political culture and tribal-state. A unitary client state with a large military and police force run by the Pashtun to protect their communal/tribal interests as in the past century, and/or protect the interests of their foreign patrons, will be nothing more than a militia-state. Sadly, opportunities in the post-Taliban era to adopt an appropriate governance system for multi-ethnic Afghanistan are fast diminishing.See also DURRāNī DYNASTY; HEKMATYAR, GULBUDDIN; ḤIZB-I ISLāMī AFGHāNISTāN; JAMāʿAT-I ISLāMī; LOYA JIRGA; MUJāHIDīN, subentryonAFGHAN MUJāHIDīN; MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, subentryonMUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN EGYPT; TALIBAN; and TALIBANIZATION.


  • Abd al-Raḥmān Khān. The Life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan. 2 vols. Edited by Sultan Mahomed Khan. Oxford, New York, and Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1980. Alleged autobiography of the amir, informative about his views on Afghan society and polity.
  • Arnold, Anthony. Afghanistanʾs Two-Party Communism: Parcham and Khalq. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1983. Well-researched and documented account of the history and development of pro-Soviet communist parties.
  • Banuazizi, Ali, and Myron Weiner, eds. The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1986. Part 1 of the volume consists of four analytical essays on state-building, ethnicity, and Islam in Afghanistan.
  • Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. New York and London: Penguin, 2004. A superb account of the covert operations of the CIA and Pakistani ISI managing the Afghan Mujāhidīn resistance against the Soviet occupation and its aftermath.
  • Dupree, Louis. Afghanistan, 1980. Hanover, N.H.: American Universities Field Staff, 1980. Valuable reference on the general history and ethnography of the country.
  • Gregorian, Vartan. The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880–1946. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1969. Excellent and thorough analysis of the rise and development of the Afghan state.
  • Kakar, M. Hasan. Government and Society in Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir ʿAbd al-Rahman Khan. London and Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979. Fine documentation of the amirʾs policies, based on vernacular and Western sources.
  • Maley, William, ed. Fundamentalism reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban. London, 1998. An in-depth treatment of the rise of the Taliban movement from a number of different angles and perspectives.
  • Marsden, Peter. The Taliban: War and Religion in Afghanistan. London and New York, Zed Books, 2002. A concise and useful treatment of the Taliban movement.
  • Poullada, Leon B.Reform and Rebellion in Afghanistan, 1919–1929: King Amanullahʾs Failure to Modernize a Tribal Society. London and Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1973. Useful but conventional interpretation of Amānullāhʾs disastrous attempt at political reform.
  • Roy, Olivier. Afghanistan: From Holy War to Civil War. Princeton, N.J.: Darwin Press, 1995. A critical analysis of political failure of the Mujāhidīn groups.
  • Shahrani, M. Nazif. “War, Factionalism, and the State in Afghanistan.” American Anthropologist, 104(3) September 2002:715–722. An assessment of post-jihād developments and the Taliban era within the context of history and political culture of Afghanistan.
  • Shahrani, M. Nazif, and Robert Canfield, eds. Revolutions and Rebellions in Afghanistan: Anthropological Perspectives. Berkeley, Calif.: Institute of International Studies, University of California Berkeley, 1984. Collection of essays examining the social and historical contexts of the local-level armed resistance, in various parts of the country, to Communist coup and Soviet intervention.
  • Tapper, Richard, ed. The Conflict of Tribe and State in Iran and Afghanistan. London and New York: St. Martinʾs Press, 1983. Contains several excellent articles on Afghanistan.
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