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News and Views

Afghanistan Celebrates Independence Day

President Hamid Karzai joined Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak to observe Afghanistan's Independence Day on August 18 by reviewing an Honor Guard as the country celebrated its 89th year as an independent nation.

Though Afghanistan's history dates back some 5,000 years, the country was subject to European imperial battles through much of its contemporary history. Starting in the early 1800s, the British Empire began to show interest in Afghanistan, signing a treaty with Shuja Shah Durrani in 1809. Unfortunately, Afghanistan became the center of conflicts between the Russian and British empires during a period known as the "Great Game," lasting until 1907. During that time, Afghanistan fought two wars with the British, the First Anglo-Afghan War between 1838 and 1842 and the Second Anglo-Afghan War between 1843 and 1880.

On August 19, 1919 Afghanistan formally gained its independence from the United Kingdom, ending decades of direct British control of Afghan affairs. It was in May of that year that Amir Amanullah Khan led a surprise attack against British forces in India, sparking the Third Anglo-Afghan War. Tied down by its commitments in World War I, the British signed the Treaty of Rawalpindi in early August, agreeing to give Afghanistan full control over its foreign affairs.

From that point on, Afghanistan developed in relative peace. Though not free from periodic political turmoil, the country experimented with democratic rule, developed government institutions and lay the foundations for a functioning economy. In 1958, a journalist wrote of Afghanistan: "After centuries of poverty-ridden isolation, Afghanistan is again becoming the crossroads of Asia." The Soviet invasion in late 1978 led to decades of conflict, though, and the resulting rule of the Taliban isolated Afghanistan internationally and destroyed what was left of its institutions and economy.

Since 2001, the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai and its international partners have attempted to bring peace to the country, kickstart its economy and establish a democratic government of justice and equality. There have been numerous successes, such as a new constitution and elected president and Parliament, dramatic increases in public education, an expanded healthcare network and the renewed participation of women in Afghanistan's political and social development.

And while challenges remain, this week Afghans celebrate a key moment in their country's history. The August 19, 1919 celebration of independence closely mirrors the continued hope that many Afghans continue to have for their country and its future.

Related News: Embassy of Afghanistan Celebrates Independence Day (8/17/2007)

                      Embassy Celebrates Indepedence Day (8/17/2006)


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