Foreign policy and defense
Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001,
Afghanistan has been firmly attached to the United
States and the rest of the Western world for its
defense. His own army and police have failed to gain
control of the entire country. Cooperation with
neighboring countries in South Asia has become
During the 19th century, Afghanistan was threatened
from the north by the Russian tsar and from the
southeast by British India. The decades around the turn
of the century, the British had a strong influence on
Afghan foreign policy but never gained control of the
country. The British presence helped to reduce the
threat from Russia.
The most important legacy of the British era was the
border line with what became Pakistan in 1947, the
so-called Durand line that cuts straight through
traditional Pashtunian territory. The line has never
been recognized by Afghanistan as an official border.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Afghanistan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
During the 1950s, the United States and the Soviet
Union competed for influence over Afghanistan through a
series of development projects. US interest declined
soon enough, as Afghanistan did not want any military
cooperation, but Soviet contacts persisted. Following
the communist takeover of the country in 1978, Soviet
influence increased rapidly and by the end of 1979
Afghanistan was invaded by Soviet soldiers.
During the 1979-92 war, the Islamic resistance
movement in Afghanistan received extensive support from
Pakistan and the United States. Above all, Islamist
movements favored Pakistani military dictator Mohammad
Zia ul-Haq were favored.
Isolation under the Taliban regime
The guerrillas were also supported by Saudi Arabia,
Iran and other Muslim states. The war against the Soviet
Union placed Afghanistan at the center of the pretended
struggle between Islam and the non-Islamic world and
volunteers from many Muslim countries participated in
the fighting on the guerrilla side.
During the Taliban regime 1996–2001, Afghanistan was
isolated. Only three countries - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates - maintained diplomatic
relations with the Taliban. Pakistan supported them
organizationally and equipped the infrastructure in
Taliban controlled areas. Both Arab states helped
financially and Saudi Arabia also had a great
ideological influence. Through Saudi influence, the
Wahhabitic form of Islam gained some widespread use in
Afghanistan (see Religion).
The United States contributed indirectly to the
emergence of the Taliban through its large and
uncontrolled supply of weapons and money to them through
the Pakistani security service in the 1980s. The United
States hoped that a Taliban regime would create
stability that could benefit US companies' oil and gas
trade from Central Asia. For the United States, the
Sunni extremist Taliban also emerged as a counterweight
to Shiite Iran. The United States only renounced the
Taliban when their human rights violations, in
particular the abuses of women, became too obvious at
the same time as the Taliban gained a stronger
connection with the terrorist Usama bin Laden.
Depending on the outside world
After the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan has
become close to the Western powers. President Hamid
Karzai and his government (2001–2014) depended on their
existence by the NATO-led international force Isaf (see
Modern History). From 2015, Afghanistan has largely been
referred to its own forces, since the international
presence was severely cut. However, the ability of the
Afghan army and the police force to resist Taliban and
other extremist groups has proved to be weak and the
Taliban have gained ground. Economically, Afghanistan
has remained dependent on foreign aid and its dependence
appears to continue for the foreseeable future.
Since the beginning of the 2010s, the United States
has held a series of talks with the Taliban to try to
reach a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. The
host country is Qatar, where the Taliban have also set
up a kind of diplomatic office. The United States calls
for direct talks between the Kabul government and the
Taliban, as the Afghan government does. However, the
Taliban refuse to sit at the same table as the
government, which they call "illegitimate". The Taliban
are only negotiating directly with the "occupying
power", that is, the United States.
In February 2020, success was achieved when the US
and the Taliban signed a treaty in Qatar, which was to
lay the groundwork for regular peace talks. The
agreement means that the US will withdraw its forces
from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban pledging
not to make the country a haven for radical Islamist
groups and terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda and IS.
The government in Kabul was placed outside the
Distrust of Pakistan
Afghanistan has, for historical reasons, always
regarded Pakistan with some suspicion. Pakistan has an
interest in influence in the neighboring country to
prevent India from affecting the Afghans. Former
President Karzai repeatedly accused Pakistan of
supporting the Taliban in order to undermine the Kabul
government, and to shut down how extremist groups moved
freely across the border between the countries.
From 2009, the governments of both countries began to
take steps to create better relations and to cooperate
with terrorist groups, partly as a result of Islamic
extremists having begun to pose a fatal threat to the
Pakistani state as well. In 2011, a trade agreement
entered into force that gives Afghanistan access to the
ports of the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Gwadar, as
well as Pakistan the right to pass through Afghanistan
to trade with the states of Central Asia.
When Pakistan launched a military offensive in the
clan-controlled border areas where the Taliban and other
resistance groups found a refuge in the summer of 2014,
relations improved further as the Taliban's
opportunities to hide there diminished.
From 2015, relations with Pakistan deteriorated
again, after Afghanistan accused the neighboring country
of having contact with the perpetrators behind a series
of attacks in Kabul and Ghazni. In 2017, Pakistan began
to build a barrier along the border to prevent
adversaries from entering the country, and gunfire
between government soldiers on both sides of the border
has repeatedly occurred.
Good relations with India
Relations with India have traditionally been good.
Delhi sees a stable Afghanistan as a prerequisite in the
fight against extremism and terrorism throughout the
region. India also wants peaceful Afghanistan to be a
link between the energy-consuming South Asia and the oil
and gas-rich Central Asia. For Delhi, limiting Pakistani
influence over Afghanistan is also central.
Contacts with India were strengthened following the
fall of the Taliban regime. India supported the Northern
Alliance (see Modern History) prior to the 2001 war as a
counterbalance to Pakistan's influence over the Taliban.
However, India has not contributed soldiers to the
international forces. Afghanistan has received extensive
Indian assistance and the two countries have cooperated
in trade, counter-terrorism and military education.
India has provided financial support to the development
of the port of Chabahar in Iran for Indian trade with
Afghanistan to go through it rather than via ports in
Following Ghani's assumption as president in 2014,
relations with India cooled, which saw Ghani approach
Pakistan. However, other members of the government, such
as senior executive officer Abdullah Abdullah and Dostum
(vice president until 2017), were close to India. Delhi
has reacted negatively to the Ghani government's attempt
to start talks with the Taliban.
Since 2005, Afghanistan has been a member of the
South Asian Cooperation Organization South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).
Tight relationship with Russia
In 2010, almost two decades after the Soviet
withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Russians made a
comeback. Then Russia entered into an agreement with
NATO on Russian assistance in building up the Afghan
army and fighting drug smuggling. However, US sanctions
against Russia following the 2014 annexation of Crimea
put a stop to Russian support for the military.
Russia has also initiated a number of cooperation
projects between Afghanistan and the five Central Asian
republics, especially in energy and infrastructure.
Among other things, a gas pipeline (Tapi) is being built
from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The management is supposed to provide Afghanistan with
much needed revenue in the form of transfer fees.
Since the withdrawal of the NATO-led ISA forces in
Russia, Russia has worked to play a greater role in the
events in Afghanistan. Moscow has since December 2016
invited China and Pakistan to several conferences on how
to resolve the Afghan conflict. In 2017, India, Iran and
the Afghan government also participated - but not the
When the Ghani government took office in 2014,
relations with Russia deteriorated, accused of
approaching both the Taliban and Ghani's political
opponents, President Karzai.
Relations with China and Iran
China's interest in Afghanistan was small before
President Karzai opened for foreign investment in the
country's energy and commodity resources. In the 2000s
and 2010s, China has invested in infrastructure and
energy in Afghanistan, including in the extraction of
copper and oil. From 2015, China has also invested in
transport routes linking Afghanistan to the
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure
project in Pakistan, for example a cross-border railway.
China, which has close relations with Pakistan, has
pushed to get the Pakistani government to in turn push
the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. A stable
Afghanistan is important for Chinese investment in
energy and infrastructure.
Shi'ite Muslim Iran is a major aid donor, trading
partner and investor in Sunni Afghanistan. The US and
NATO have accused Iran of supporting resistance groups
to hamper Western countries' efforts in the country,
which the Tehran government rejects. Iran and
Afghanistan cooperate in the fight against the Sunni
extremist group Islamic State (IS).
In the winter of 2002, work began on creating a new
Afghan defense force following the fall of the Taliban.
In September 2014, it was estimated to have reached the
planned size of a total of 352,000 men, including
195,000 in the Army and Air Force and 157,000 in police.
By 2018, the armed forces had decreased to 174,300 men
(167,000 in the army and 7,300 in the air force) and
148,700 men in the police force. The reasons for the
reduction are large losses and many deserts after the
foreign troop withdrawal.
A few years after Afghanistan took over
responsibility for its own defense, it can be stated
that the level of education and capacity of the Afghan
security forces is low. There are major problems with
desertification. This is particularly bad for the
police. According to a study from Brown University in
the United States in 2018, around 30,000 Afghan soldiers
had been killed in combat since the foreign troop
Since July 2003, a slow UN-backed effort has been
underway to dissolve private militias, which are
estimated to have had a total of 100,000 members.
The foreign troops in Afghanistan totaled around
145,000 soldiers (autumn 2010). The NATO-led ISA force
then consisted of about 130,000 soldiers from some 40
countries. About 90,000 of these came from the United
States, which also had about 15,000 soldiers in the
terrorist-fighting United States-led force Operation
Enduring Freedom (OEF). There were also a few thousand
soldiers from other nations. The OEF's main task was
anti-terrorism missions, air support and training of
Afghan army soldiers. Sweden contributed about 500
people to Isaf.
Less US force left
From 2012, the foreign troops began to withdraw and
at the end of December 2014 NATO formally ended its
efforts in the country. Following an agreement with the
new Afghan government, the United States retained about
10,000 men in Afghanistan and other countries retained a
total of about 3,000 men. It was intended that the
remaining Americans would have advisory and educational
functions, but the situation in the conflict was
considered so serious that they were also given
conflicting tasks. The US also retained the opportunity
to deploy combat aircraft against Taliban and other
insurgency movements. The reason was the doubt that the
Afghan forces would be able to resist the pressure from
the Taliban. At the end of 2019, the American force
(Operation Freedom's Sentinel) amounted to 8,000 men.
A smaller NATO mission (Operation Resolute Support)
was also left to provide training and counseling. At the
end of 2018, it amounted to 13,877 soldiers, including
7,000 from the United States. Larger squad contributions
also came from Germany, Italy and Georgia. Sweden
contributed 50 people.
The conflict in Afghanistan costs the US about $ 45
billion annually. At the end of 2018, US President
Donald Trump announced that a larger number of US
soldiers might be taken home from Afghanistan. According
to an anonymous source within the US State
Administration, this would amount to about 7,000 people.
NATO announced that its support efforts in the country
are not affected by Trump's decision. In the spring of
2020, the United States had not yet taken home any
FACTS - DEFENSE
167 000 men (2017)
The air Force
7,300 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
0.9 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
3.6 percent (2017)
Two Swedes are killed
The first in a long line of suicide attacks by Taliban occurs in Kabul.
Outside of Mazar-i-Sharif, the Swedish Isaf squad is hit by its first losses
when two soldiers are killed in an explosive attack.
Parliamentary elections are held
Parliamentary elections without party lists are carried out. The official
result will not be clear until November after criticism of cheating and
Cooperation agreement with the United States
US and Afghanistan enter into strategic partnership agreement; The United
States gets free hands to continue the "war on terror" on Afghan soil. At the
same time, data on brutal treatment of prisoners in the US detention center are
starting to emerge.