However there was traditionally no state in the

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Unformatted text preview: rs, especially Iran and India. Pashtuns are the majority ethnic group, and it was they who were originally called “Afghans.” The last empire to rule Afghanistan was Iran. However, there was traditionally no state in the region. Tribal leaders ruled at the local level, and they provided law and order to their people. When Afghanistan was ruled by a foreign empire—or even a native king—tribal leaders only accepted an overlord as long as he didn’t interfere in local affairs. In short, Afghanistan never had a state in the European sense: a central government with an administration that administered justice and collected taxes at the local level. Nadir Shah, shah of Iran, was the last foreigner to include Afghanistan in an empire. After his death in 1747, Afghan tribal leaders elected a native Afghan, Ahmad Khan (1747-1773), who had served as a general in the Iranian army. Ahmad Khan expanded his territory to include eastern Iran and northwestern India, but he did not succeed in building a centralized state. In the early 19th century, Russia and Britain competed in the “Great Game” for control of Central Asia. The British moved north into Punjab and Kashmir (in what is now northern India), while the Russians moved south into what is now Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Caught between them was Afghanistan, which both Russia and Britain wanted to control. In 1838, England used bribery and military intimidation to install a puppet ruler, and Russia aided an Iranian attack on Afghanistan. Both Russia and England failed. Afghanistan repulsed the Russian-backed Iranian attack, and the British army was annihilated by hostile Afghan tribes as it withdrew to India in 1842. The British once again was able to defeat the Afghan in 1878 and 1879, but once again they couldn’t impose their rule. British diplomats were assassinated and the army was harassed by guerrilla fighters. In 1881 Britain gave up trying to colonize Afghanistan and allowed it to remain an independent country—a buffer between the Russian Empire and British India—provided it did not follow a foreign policy that went ag...
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