Modern Afghanistan’s history began in the eighteenth century when several Afghan tribes came together during the reign of Ahmed Shah Durrani. Afghanistan, in its modern form, was created with the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1919 and ruled by Emir (King) Amanullah Khan. In 1921, the Emir sent a delegation led by General Mohammed Wali Khan on a tour of Western countries to solicit diplomatic recognition for his newly-formed country. The Emir, opportunistic and ambitious but, most of all, progressive, had spent many years touring around Europe and was fascinated by the social, political and economic developments in the countries that he visited. The delegation returned with a letter of greetings from President Warren G. Harding of the United States. More importantly, the US recognised the sovereign state of Afghanistan in that letter; most probably because Washington recognised Afghanistan’s strategically significant location at the crossroads of Asia. The subsequent exchange of official missions and correspondence led to full diplomatic relations being established between the two countries in 1934. President Roosevelt appointed William Hornibrook as the first US Envoy to Afghanistan in 1935 and, in 1943, King Zahir Shah appointed Abdul Hussein Aziz as the first Afghan Ambassador to the US.

Rapidly-developing ties brought the creation of the Helmand Valley Authority Project, which saw the construction of houses, airports, highways and dams in the country. The US loaned Afghanistan US$20 million to construct the Kandahar-Herat highway in 1945 and, in 1954, extended that amount to US$51.75 million. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s visit to Afghanistan in December 1959 was soon followed by Afghan Prime Minister Dawood’s visit to the US. He became the first Afghan to address the US Congress. In 1963, King Mohammad Zahir, with his wife, Queen Homeira, became the first Afghan Head of State to visit the US.

At that point, the bilateral relationship appeared to be destined to go from strength to strength.

Key points:

  • Afghanistan and the US share a relationship that dates back to the early 1920s.
  • That relationship, however, has been predicated upon providing advantage to the US.
  • The US has used Afghanistan for its own ends time and again.
  • This situation obtains at the present time and is likely to continue in the future.
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