London, 19 May-2014, Patrick Holming: From 1933 until 1973, Afghanistan was ruled under a man named Mohammed Zahir Shah. While he was a devout Muslim, he had a Western education in France. His reign marked four decades of peace and stability. With the introduction of a constitution Afghanistan progressively developed into a modern democratic state with free elections and a parliament, as well as a massive push for women’s rights, universal suffrage, education, worker’s rights, and civil rights. So yes, Afghanistan was doing well in the 60’s as this photo suggests. However, the photo doesn’t give you context for what went wrong.
During this period in time, the Soviet Union had a strong influence in Afghanistan. They supported modernization and education in the Afghan state. The United States, not wanting to risk their hegemony in the region, clearly had a major problem with this. They were terrified of the spread of Communism and quickly developed a plan. Afghanistan would become the Cold War’s chessboard. In the late 80’s, the Saudis, Pakistanis, and the Americans brought in radical Islamists from around the world. They armed, trained, and directed them into a militant force, and they were called the mujahideen. They became the US’ main offense against the Soviets. It wasn’t to defend the Afghans against the Soviets who were ready to pull out, but to deliver as much harm against them imaginable. Carter wanted Afghanistan to be the Soviet’s “Vietnam”. And it was. When they finally retreated Afghanistan spun into chaos and a civil war ensued under the militant mujahideen warriors. Within this framework we saw the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and of course Osama bin Laden.