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History, Modern Afghanistan

Abdur Rahman Khan, Zahir Shah, Amanullah, devout Muslims, Anglo-Afghan War

Abdur Rahman Khan extended his control throughout the territory within the new boundaries of Afghanistan. His son, Habibullah, who reigned from 1901 until 1919, took the first steps toward the introduction of modern education and industry. Habibullah’s son and successor, Amanullah, initiated a brief war, the Third Anglo-Afghan War, in 1919 to end British control over Afghan foreign affairs. The resulting peace treaty recognized the independence of Afghanistan.

Amanullah was determined to modernize his country. In 1926 he took the title of king. His reforms, including efforts to induce women to give up the burka, or full-length veil, and to make men wear Western clothing in certain public areas, offended religious and ethnic group leaders. Revolts broke out, and in 1929 Amanullah fled the country.

Order was restored in 1930 by four brothers who were relatives of Amanullah. One of them, Muhammad Nadir Shah, became king, but he was assassinated in 1933. His son, Muhammad Zahir Shah, succeeded him. Power remained concentrated in the hands of Zahir and the royal family for the next four decades. In 1946 Afghanistan joined the United Nations (UN).

In 1953 Muhammad Daud, a nephew of Nadir Shah, became prime minister. Daud began to modernize Afghanistan rapidly with the help of economic and especially military aid from the USSR; the modern Afghan army was largely created with Soviet equipment and technical training. The United States declined to assist in this process. Social reform proceeded slowly because the government was afraid to antagonize conservative ethnic group leaders and devout Muslims. Relations with Pakistan deteriorated after Daud called for self-determination for the Pashtun tribes of northwestern Pakistan.

In 1963, hoping to halt the growth of Soviet influence and to improve relations with Pakistan, Zahir Shah removed Daud as prime minister. In 1964 Afghanistan adopted a new constitution, changing the country from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. The armed forces still depended on the Soviet Union for equipment and training. A severe drought in the early 1970s caused economic hardship, and the popularity of the regime declined.



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