Afghanistan: A graveyard of empires?

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Afghanistan is a notoriously difficult country to govern. Empire after empire, nation after nation have failed to pacify what is today the modern territory of Afghanistan, giving the region the nickname “Graveyard of empires.” This is because Afghanistan has had a reputation for destroying ambitious military ventures for centuries.


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It is, historically, a difficult place to conquer and to rule, a country not only of powerful cities but also thousands of isolated villages cut off in severe winters, allowing insurgents to melt away and return. Also, the Afghan population is racially and culturally diverse and accustomed to wars of resistance. Starting from Alexander The Great, the region remained deeply problematic for invaders like Genghis Khan, Taimoor and Babar.

Why is Afghanistan difficult to conquer?

Afghanistan is particularly hard to conquer primarily due to the intersection of three factors. First, Afghanistan because it is located on the mainland route connecting Iran, Central Asia, and India. It has been invaded many times and settled by a plethora of tribes, many mutually hostile to each other and outsiders. Second, because of the frequency of invasion, and the prevalence of tribalism in the area, its lawlessness led to a situation where almost every village or house was built like a fortress or qalat. Third, the physical terrain of Afghanistan makes conquest and rule extremely difficult, exacerbating its terrible tendencies.

Read more: Afghanistan, world’s least peaceful country: Who is responsible?

The British lost a nasty war in 1842 that ended when fierce tribesmen notoriously destroyed an army of thousands which compelled them to retreat from Kabul, and the Soviets, after a decade of war in Afghanistan, had to give in 1989.

The United States and its allies decided to leave Afghanistan, they would only be the latest in a long series of nations to do so. In fact, the signing of the peace agreement with Afghan Taliban by the US earlier this year is proof that the war is unwinnable as more than 2,400 American troops have been killed. Since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, while more than 20,000 have been injured, Washington has pumped $ 975 billion into the war effort.


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