Kandahar - History - Modern History

Modern History

Further information: Hotaki dynasty and Durrani Empire

Mirwais Hotak, chief of the Ghilzai tribe, revolted in 1709 by killing Gurgin Khan, an ethnic Georgian and governor for the Shia Safavid Persians. After establishing the Hotaki dynasty in Kandahar, Mirwais and his army successfully defeated subsequent expeditions by Kay Khusraw and Rustam Khán. Mirwais resisted attempts by the Persian government who were seeking to convert the Afghans from Sunni to the Shia sect of Islam. He died of a natural death in November 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz, but after being suspected of giving Kandahar's sovereignty back to the Persians he was killed by his nephew Mahmud Hotaki.

In 1722, Mahmud led an army of Afghans to the Safavid capital Isfahan and proclaimed himself King of Persia. The Hotaki dynasty was eventually removed from power by a new ruler, Nader Shah Afshar of Mashad in Khorasan. In 1738, Nader Shah invaded Afghanistan and destroyed the now Old Kandahar, which was held by Hussain Hotaki and his Ghilzai tribes. In the meantime, Nader Shah freed Ahmad Khan (later Ahmad Shah Durrani) and his brother Zulfikar who were held prisoners by the Hotaki ruler. Before leaving southern Afghanistan for Delhi in India, Nader Shah laid out the foundation for a new town to be built next to the destroyed ancient city, naming it "Naderabad". His rule ended in June 1747 after being murdered by his Persian guards.

Ahmad Shah Durrani, chief of the Durrani tribe, gained control of Kandahar and made it the capital of his new Afghan Empire in October 1747. Previously, Ahmad Shah served as a military commander of Nader Shah Afshar. His empire included present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Punjab in India. In October 1772, Ahmad Shah retired and died from a natural cause. A new city was laid out by Ahmad Shah and is dominated by his mausoleum, which is adjacent to the Friday Mosque in the center of the city. By 1776, his eldest son Timur Shah had transferred Afghanistan's main capital from Kandahar to Kabul, where the Durrani legacy continued.

In September 1826, Syed Ahmad Shaheed's followers arrived to Kandahar in search of volunteers to help them wage jihad against the Sikh invaders to what is now Pakistan. Led by Ranjit Singh, the Sikhs had captured several of Afghanistan's territories in the east, including what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Kashmir. More than 400 local Kandahar warriors assembled themselves for the jihad. Sayed Din Mohammad Kandharai was appointed as their leader.

British-led Indian forces from neighboring British India invaded the city in 1839, during the First Anglo-Afghan War, but withdrew in 1842. The British and Indian forces returned in 1878 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. They emerged from the city in July 1880 to confront the forces of Ayub Khan, but were defeated at the Battle of Maiwand. They were again forced to withdraw a few years later, despite winning the Battle of Kandahar.

Kandahar remained peaceful for the next 100 years, except during 1929 when loyalists of Habibullah Kalakani (Bache Saqqaw) placed the fortified city on lock-down and began torturing its population. Nobody was allowed to enter or leave from within the city's tall defensive walls, and as a result of this many people suffered after running out of food supplies. This lasted until October 1929 when Nadir Khan and his Afghan army came to eliminate Kalakani, known as the Tajik bandit from the village of Kalakan in northern Kabul Province.

During Zahir Shah's rule, the city slowly began expanding by adding modern style streets and housing schemes. In the 1960s, during the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, Kandahar International Airport was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers next to the city. The U.S. also completed several other major projects in Kandahar and in other parts of southern Afghanistan. In the meantime, Soviet engineers were busy building major infrastructures in other parts of the country, such as Bagram Airfield and Kabul International Airport.

During the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan, Kandahar was tightly under pro-Communist government control and witnessed heavy fighting. Soviet-backed government troops surrounded the city and subjected it to heavy bombardment in which many civilians lost lives. Kandahar International Airport was used by the Soviet Army during their ten-year troop placement in the country. The city also became a battle ground for the US and Pakistani-backed mujahideen forces who waged a strong guerrilla warfare against the pro-Communist government of Afghanistan. After the Soviet withdrawal and the collapse of Najibullah's government in 1992, Kandahar fell to local mujahideen commander, Gul Agha Sherzai.

In August 1994 the Taliban captured Kandahar and soon after the city was turned into their capital. The Taliban began cleaning the city from warlords and criminals who were sometimes also involved in bacha bazi. In December 1999, a hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 plane by Pakistani militants loyal to Harkat-ul-Mujahideen landed at Kandahar International Airport and kept the passengers hostage as part of a demand to release 3 Pakistani militants from prison in India.

In October 2001, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the United States Navy began hitting targets inside the city by precision-guided cruise missiles that were fired from the Persian Gulf. These targets were the airport and buildings that were occupied by the Taliban, including Arab families who had arrived several years earlier and were residing in the area. About a month later, the Taliban began surrendering in mass numbers to a private militia that had been formed by Gul Agha Sherzai and Hamid Karzai. Kandahar once again fell into the hands of Sherzai, who had control over the area before the rise of the Taliban. He was transferred in 2003 and replaced by Yousef Pashtun until Asadullah Khalid took the post in 2005. The current Governor of the province is Toryalai Wesa. He was appointed by President Hamid Karzai in December 2008 after Rahmatullah Raufi's four-month rule.

As of 2002, Kandahar International Airport is used by members of the United States armed forces and NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). NATO began training the newly-formed Afghan National Police and are now given the security responsibility of the city. The military of Afghanistan, backed by NATO forces, has gradually expanded its authority and presence throughout most of the country. The 205th Corps of the Afghan National Army is based at Kandahar and provides military assistance to the south of the country. The Canadian Forces maintain their military command headquarters at Kandahar, heading the Regional Command South of the NATO led International Security Assistance Force in Kandahar Province. The Taliban also have supporters inside the city reporting on events.

NATO forces expanded the Afghan police force for the prevention of a Taliban comeback in Kandahar, the militants' "spiritual birthplace" and a strategic key to ward off the Taliban insurgency, as a part of a larger effort that also aimed to deliver services such as electricity and clean drinking water that the Taliban could not provide – encouraging support for the government in a city that was once the Taliban's headquarters. The most significant battle between NATO troops and the Taliban lasted throughout the summer of 2006, culminating in Operation Medusa. The Taliban failed to defeat the Western troops in open warfare, which marked a turn in their tactics towards IED emplacement. In June 2008, it was reported that over 1,000 inmates had escaped from Kandahar detention facility (Sarposa Prison). In Spring 2010, the province and the city of Kandahar became a target of American operations following Operation Moshtarak in the neighboring Helmand province. In March 2010, U.S. and NATO commanders released details of plans for the biggest offensive of the war against the Taliban insurgency.

In May 2010 Kandahar International Airport became subject of a combined rocket and ground attack by insurgents, following similar attacks on Kabul and Bagram in the preceding weeks. Although this attack did not lead to many casualties on the side of NATO forces, it did show that the militants are still capable of launching multiple, coordinated operations in Afghanistan. In June 2010, a shura was held by Afghan President Hamid Karzai with tribal and religious leaders of the Kandahar region. The meeting highlighted the need for support of NATO-led forces in order to stabilize parts of the province.

By 2011, Kandahar became known as the assassination city of Afghanistan after witnessing many target killings. In July Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of President Hamid Karzai, was shot by his longtime head of security. Soon after the Quetta Shura of the Taliban claimed responsibility. The next day an Islamic cleric (mulla) of the famous Red Mosque in the Shahr-e Naw area of the city and a number of other people were killed by a Taliban suicide bomber who had hidden explosives inside his turban. On 27 July 2011, the mayor of the city, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, was assassinated by another Taliban militant who had hidden explosives in his turban. Two deputy mayors had been killed in 2010, while many tribal elders and Islamic clerics have also been assassinated in the last several years. NATO commanders often blame Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy network as the masterminds behind the Taliban-led insurgency. This form of terrorism is the idea of ISI to defend its sovereignty. The ISI is using the insurgents in the name of Islamic jihad to counter the growing influence of its rival India in Afghanistan and the Afghan claim regarding the disputed Durand Line border. The overwhelming majority of the victims in the attacks are ordinary Afghan civilians. On 6 June 2012, at least 21 civilians were killed and 50 others injured when two Taliban suicide bombers on motorcycles blew themselves up in a market area near Kandahar International Airport. Referring to them as the "agents of Punjab", ANA provincial police chief, Brig. Gen. Abdul Razaq stated that the Taliban "have once again spilled the blood of innocent civilians."

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