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2000 BCE: Indo-Aryan tribes invade Indian subcontinent through Khyber Pass of contemporary Afghanistan. The region's remote, rugged mountains will become a barrier between the Aryan cultures of India and Persia to the south and the Turkic and Mongol peoples of Central Asia to the north. Afghanistan is peopled by both Aryan tribes (Pashtuns, Heratis, Tajiks) and Turkic tribes (Uzbeks, Turkmen, Khazaks).
600 BCE: Persian Empire brings first centralized rule to region, but fails to pacify tribes in interior.
520 BCE: Prophet Zoroaster proclaims a new religion in city of Bactria (now Balkh).
330 BCE: Alexander the Great passes through, incorporates region into Greek Seleucid Empire; faces constant revolts.
200 BCE: Local Bactrian Empire emerges with decline of the Seleucids.
130 BCE: New Aryan invaders from north establish Kushan empire. More indigenous Gandharan empire south of the Hindu Kush mountain range eventually brought under Kushan rule. At greatest extent, Kushan rule stretches south to Arabian Sea. Caravan routes with China bring prosperity, Greek-Buddhist culture thrives.
400 CE: White Huns invade from north, destroy Buddhist culture.
500: Persian Sassanid Empire reasserts claim to region but still fails to subdue tribal resistance. Persians call region province of Khorasan.
650: Arabs (having already conquered Persia) invade from west, introduce Islam.
900: Arabs lose control, but leave local Islamic dynasties; Ghaznavids succeeded by Ghorids, who build empire and vigorously expand.
1192: Afghan warlord Muhammed of Ghor invades India through Khyber Pass, imposes Muslim rule, establishes Sultanate of Delhi.
1220: Genghis Khan passes through with Mongol hordes, wrecks centralized rule, picks up tribes to help destroy Persian and Arab empires.
1330: Ghorid dynasty re-consolidates rule after chaos of Mongol invasion.
1380: Timur Leng (Uzbek-Mongol chieftain and alleged descendant of Genghis) passes through, wrecks centralized rule, picks up tribes to help destroy Sultanate of Delhi.
1520: Afghanistan incorporated into Mogul Empire, established in India under Timur's successors. Moguls face prolonged resistance in interior mountains.
1550: Resurgent Persian Empire under Safavid dynasty reasserts control in the west.
1620: Khushal Khan unites several tribes in national uprising against Moguls.
1710: Mir Wais revolts against Persia in west; establishes independent state at Kandahar.
1725: Mir Mahmud, Wais' son, drives Persia from Herat, then invades Persia itself, occupies Isfahan.
1735: Persia drives back Mahmud, re-takes Kandahar.
1750-75: Afghans rise under Ahmad Shah Abdali, liberate Kandahar, drive Moguls back into India. Victorious Ahmad Shah establishes Kingdom of Afghanistan and Durrani dynasty. At its height, kingdom stretches from Delhi in the east to the Arabian Sea in the south. New capital established at Kabul.
1820s: "Great Game" begins as Russian empire to the north in Turkestan and British empire to the south in India both plot to annex Afghanistan.
1839-42: First Anglo-Afghan War. Amir Dost Muhammed unites tribes to drive back British invasion, declares himself king. British puppet ruler Shah Shuja overthrown. Dost Muhammed's rule conferred by Loya Jirga, or tribal summit.
1878-1880: Second Anglo-Afghan War. This time Britain succeeds in imposing conditions for peace; Afghanistan forced to cede control over foreign affairs.
1893: Britain imposes Durand Treaty, setting line between Afghanistan and British India (contemporary border with Pakistan). Millions of Pashtuns, the dominant group in Afghanistan's Durrani dynasty, are left outside the country's borders
1919: Amir Habibullah mysteriously assassinated. His son Amanullah becomes king.
1920-1: Third Anglo-Afghan War. King Amanullah throws out the British, re-establishes Afghanistan's full independence-but faces tribal revolts following "modernization efforts" (centralized administrative control).
1929: Amanullah overthrown; Tajik rebel Bacha-e Saqao takes power.
1930: Pashtun revolt dislodges Bacha, puts Nadir Khan on throne, restoring Durrani rule. Nadir Khan reverses modernization program, cuts peace with tribal leaders.
1933: Nadir Khan assassinated by radical student. His son Zahir Shah, 19, takes throne.
1940: Zahir Shah declares Afghanistan neutral in World War II; kingdom retreats into isolation.
1953: Zahir Shah's cousin Muhammed Daoud Khan becomes prime minister and power behind throne; builds army, roads, dams, imposes limited modernization.
1954: Cold War resurrects "Great Game." US launches South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) to block Soviet ambitions in Asia. SEATO invoked to justify US military intervention in Vietnam. Pakistan is key SEATO member. Afghanistan, again caught between hostile powers, pressured to militarize.
1955: Daoud asks US for military aid. US refuses, needing to appease SEATO ally Pakistan, which is at odds with Afghanistan over claims to Pashtun territory. Daoud turns to USSR for military aid.
1961: Crisis with Pakistan over Pashtun territory; war threatens.
1963: Zahir Shah ousts bellicose Daoud. Under "New Democracy" program, king grants limited powers to a parliament.
1960s: Marxist and Islamic fundamentalist opposition to monarchy emerge.
1973: Daoud Khan ousts Zahir Shah in coup d'etat with support of Communist Party. Monarchy abolished, Republic of Afghanistan proclaimed.
1975: New constitution imposes modernization, recognizes women's rights. Daoud puts down Islamic fundamentalist uprising, purges Communists from his government, distances himself from USSR, and seeks peaceful relations with Pakistan.
1978: Daoud and his family killed in bloody Communist-backed coup. Communist Party boss Nur Muhammed Tariki becomes president, signs treaty of "friendship and cooperation" with USSR; mass arrests and torture of opponents. Fundamentalists launch Mujahedeen guerilla movement.
1979: Army massacres of peasants in countryside. US ambassador killed; Tariki and his successor Hafizullah Amin both killed, and the more Moscow-loyal Babrak Karmal installed in power. Year ends with massive Soviet military invasion to put down Mujahedeen and prop up Karmal regime. Covert CIA aid to Mujahedeen begins--through Pakistan's secret police.
1980: Soviets mired in counterinsurgency quagmire. Aerial bombardment of countryside by Soviet forces, crops burned, villages destroyed, thousands perish in massacres, millions flee country for refugee camps in Pakistan.
1980-6: CIA provides $2 billion in military aid to Mujahedeen, including $750 million in Congressionally-approved aid. Mujahedeen also turn to the heroin trade to fund their war. Afghanistan-Pakistan "Golden Crescent" becomes top global heroin source as Mujahedeen warlords establish vast opium plantations in their zones of control. Massive guns-for-opium trade through Khyber Pass, with the crop processed in heroin labs at Peshawar, the northern Pakistan city where Mujahedeen resupply was coordinated. Pakistan secret police agency Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) establishes smuggling network to deliver heroin to global markets. CIA continues to work with ISID to support Mujahedeen.
1985: President Reagan's National Security Decision Directive 166 calls for efforts to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan "by all means available."
1986: Following a bid by CIA Director William Casey before Congress, US provides military advisors and hundreds of Stinger missiles to Mujahedeen. CIA also approves Mujahedeen guerilla attacks into Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Soviets respond by imposing KGB-trained secret police chief Najibullah as president of Afghanistan. Soviet troop presence peaks at 115,000.
1987: Mujahedeen warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar sends troops across border into Tajikistan to launch first attacks on Soviet territory.
1988: UN-mediated accords call for Soviet withdrawal, neutral Afghan state, repatriation of refugees, but Mujahedeen pledge to continue resistance against Moscow's "puppet government."
1989: Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan, having suffered some 15,000 troops KIA. Nearly 2 million Afghans had been killed and 6 million displaced since 1979. Mujahedeen fight on against Najibullah regime.
1992: Najibullah flees as Mujahedeen take Kabul. Islamic state declared; Islamic Jihad Council organized by victorious warlords, elects Tajik Mujahedeen leader Burhanuddin Rabbani president. Secular democrats, now all in exile, charge betrayal and predict further disaster.
1994: Rabbani government in new war against rebel Pashtuns and dissident Mujahedeen factions under Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, as well as Russian-backed Uzbek militias under Abdul Dostum in the north. Rival forces are invited to join coalition government with Rabbani as president and Hekmatyar as prime minister, but this fails to halt the fighting. Kabul is nearly reduced to rubble. Ultra-fundamentalist Taliban militia is born in Pakistan, recruiting from the refugee camps and pledging to restore order. ISID backs Taliban, with some covert CIA support--because Russia backs their Uzbek and Tajik enemies in the north.
1996: Taliban take Kabul. Harsh fundamentalist rule imposed. Rabbani joins Dostum and Tajik warlord Ahmad Shah Masoud in anti-Taliban resistance, later known as Northern Alliance.
1998: February earthquake leaves over 4,000 dead in northeast. August US cruise missiles strike alleged terrorist training camps in retaliation for destruction of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. September crisis with Iran as Tehran sends thousands of troops to Afghan border, threatens invasion to halt Taliban's "ethnic cleansing" of Shiite religious minority.
1999: UN Security Council Resolution 1267 imposes sanctions on Taliban for their support of terrorism.
2000: Taliban gain ground against Northern Alliance, winning control of some 80% of Afghanistan. Only Pakistan and Saudi Arabia recognize it as legitimate government. Rabbani continues to hold UN seat.
2001: Northern Alliance military leader Ahmad Shah Masoud killed by suicide bombers posing as journalists on September 9. Two days later, terrorists attack World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands. President George Bush declares World War III; hundreds of thousands more flee Afghanistan anticipating air strikes. US switches sides, sending arms and Special Forces troops to back up Northern Alliance. Russia opens its military bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to US and British troops in preparation for assault on Taliban. Exiled Afghan dissidents once again protest that the US is backing fundamentalist warlords.

Reprinting permissible with attribution.