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Asia Society
Homeland Afghanistan

Geography and Destiny For centuries, scarce resources and difficult terrain have required people in the Hindu Kush region to develop unique solutions to survive. But while geography has brought challenges, it has also offered opportunities. In Afghanistan, geography is a multi-sided destiny.

Identity and Perception Local, tribal, and religious identities in the Hindu Kush region have always shifted depending on one’s point of view. As Afghanistan decides what it means to be Afghan, it faces a kaleidoscope of moving perspectives.

Tradition and Modernization Afghans have always had to be flexible. At times, this flexibility has brought people together, and at other times it has torn them apart. Reconciling tradition and modernization means making sense of what’s at stake when people change--and when they don’t.

Traces and Narratives History is not always written. Much of what we know about Afghanistan comes from scattered artifacts, symbols, and oral traditions. Understanding these traces means piecing together the narratives that history leaves behind.

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Timeline Timeline

The War of Independence

CIRCA 1919 CE
THEMES:

Geography & Destiny

Identity & Perception

Reveal Source

Burke, John. Group. The Amir Yakub Khan, General Daod Shah, Habeebula Moustafi, with Major Cavagnari C.S.I. & Mr Jenkyns [Gandamak]. 1879. British Library, London.

KES-632-A-1. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-632-A-1. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-802-1-A-171-1. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-804-11-173-11. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-804-12-A-173-12. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-804-13-173-13. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-804-14-173-14_1. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-804-15-173-15. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-804-5-173-5. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-804-6-173-6_1. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-804-A-173. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
 
KES-956-A-325. Khalilullah Enayat Seraj Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.

Producer: Alexis Menten and Kate Harding
Reveal Transcript

The Third Anglo Afghan War is called the War of Independence because from the point of view of Afghans, even though their country had not been formally colonized by the British, they still viewed themselves as under the thumb of the British.

In the treaty that ended the Second Anglo Afghan War, it was stipulated that the Afghans would allow Great Britain to have control over their foreign policy. For them it was a question of demonstrating their own independence, their own autonomy, and their status as a full partner in the community of nations.

In 1919, what’s now usually referred to as the Third Anglo-Afghan War was instigated by the man who was about to become the King of Afghanistan, Amanullah, who at that point was one of the contenders to the throne after the assassination of his father, King Habibullah.

For a long time, Amanullah had been urging the Afghan government to oppose the British. They said the British had too much power over their foreign affairs, too much influence within Afghanistan, and also they resented the fact that the British controlled some of the Pashtun tribes along the border after the imposition of the Durand Line.

[King] Amanullah, in his efforts to consolidate his authority, declared Jihad, declared a holy struggle, a holy war, against the British. And using the idiom of Jihad, using Islamic leaders, he was able to mobilize tribes along the border and other groups in Afghanistan, to rally against the British.

And so while the war didn’t last long, it was largely inconclusive because this was 1919, the British were exhausted from World War I, they didn’t have any interest in a prolonged struggle along the Afghan frontier, so both sides got out of it quickly.

It essentially accomplished what Amanullah wanted it to, which was to rally support for himself and the Jihad, and in the process, to push to the side other potential contenders for the throne of Kabul.

So for them, it was independence, even though the country had never been formally colonized.

For Afghans, it was a war of independence even though they were never formally colonized.

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