Afghanistan - 10 Points for Understanding the Crisis

Updated: Feb 2

Following the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan, the analysts of the AMIStaDeS Study Center produced a ten-point compendium explaining the historical and sociological reasons that led to this situation and what the medium-long term consequences might be.

1. Where, How and When?

(by Eleonora Corsale)

At the crossroads between Iran, the Arabic Sea and India on one side, and between Central and South Asia on the other side, Afghanistan has always been of strategic importance from an international perspective. Since its constitution (1747), the country witnessed violent internal uprisings and its own State integrity has been frequently threatened by external interferences (Great Britain and Russia first, USA and USSR after) in the context of what lately has been defined “The Great Game”. This made Afghanistan a buffer State between the colonial empires and the country was forced to accept the borders drawn by the Britishs and the Russians (1893). During its history, Afghanistan experienced some moments of renaissance: the declaration of its independence (3 April 1919) and the following renounce from the British Empire to control the Afghan foreign policy (Rawalpindi Treaty, 19 August 1919). Moreover, a mention is due to the modernized boost of the ideas shared as of 1940 by Radio Kabul (later Radio Afghanistan). The oil crisis ended this period and put the bases for the coup of 17 July 1973, that transformed the country in a presidential republic first and then led to the constitution of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (30 April 1978), immediately recognized by the USSR. Due to the internal challenges experienced by the communist party, the insurgencies of the population and the indifference from foreign countries, the Afghan government called for the intervention of the Soviet Army (24-27 December 1979). After ten years of war, the Soviet Army had to withdraw in February 1989. Fights continued and became a civil war that ended only with the seizure of power from the Taliban, which lasted till the American intervention in 2001.

2. How many Islams in Afghanistan?

(by F. Adele Casale)

Photo: the Blue Mosque of Mazar-e Sharif

Afghanistan is officially a Sunni-majority Islamic Republic (at the time of writing the Emirate has not been officially announced yet, even if some newspapers talk about Afghanistan as an Emirate), where 70% adhere to the (mostly tolerant) Hanafi school, with influences from the 18th century Deobandi movement (not extreme, but orthodox) from India. In 2020, 25% of the whole population (about 38,928,344) is estimated to follow Imami Shi’a Islam allowing the phenomenon of taqiyya which refers to the “the practice of concealing one's belief and foregoing ordinary religious duties when under threat of death or injury”. 4.5% adhere to Ishmaeli Shi’a Islam, and other religions make up 0.5%, including Hindus, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and Baha'is. Afghan religious life is characterized by its multiple mixed ethnic and cultural identities. They should be considered as related