Afghanistan briefing pack: An introduction to working in Afghanistan and/or with Afghans


The purpose of this revised Briefing Pack for Afghanistan is to provide essential background information for newly recruited staff working for humanitarian agencies. It is also aimed at consultants, researchers, journalists and others who need to travel to Afghanistan or whose work requires them to engage with Afghans living in exile. The document provides background information on the recent history of Afghanistan and the organisation of aid and seeks to offer guidance on the inter-relationship between the aid process and the wider context. There is a section on practical matters - Important information for aid workers - covering items such as security, advice on insurance, travel and visa information, dress and behavioural code. Also included is a section on useful resources and contacts. The final section provides information about BAAG, the BAAG Principles and Key Messages for NGOs operating in Afghanistan.



Jul. 1973 King Zahir Shah overthrown by Daoud in a coup, thus bringing the monarchy to an end.

Apr. 1978 People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan seizes power through a coup; Daoud is killed.

New Government seeks to impose reform programme on the rural areas but insensitive and often brutal methods provokes backlash and beginnings of resistance movement.

U.S.A provides covert support to the resistance.

Declaration of Jihad, combined with military activity, provokes beginning of refugee exodus to Pakistan and Iran.

Dec. 1979 Soviet troops invade Afghanistan.

Sep. 1986 The resistance intensifies and expands, supported by massive arms supplies from the West and volunteer fighters from the wider Islamic world.

Apr. 1988 UN-facilitated peace agreement provides that the Soviet Union will withdraw its forces on 15th February 1989.

Feb. 1989 Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

Mar. 1990 Spate of assassinations of Afghan intellectuals in Peshawar.

Sep. 1991 U.S.A. and Soviet Union agree to halt arms supplies to the parties to the Afghan conflict with effect from 1st January 1992.

Apr. 1992 Soviet-backed Government collapses and Mujahidin forces, in alliance with the former government militias, take power in Kabul. However, one of Mujahidin leaders, Hekmatyar takes independent position and starts to launch rockets on Kabul from a base to the south of the city.

Ismail Khan establishes semi-independent fiefdom in Herat and Dostam holds similar position in Mazar.

Period of anarchy in Kabul and Kandahar leads to the departure of professionals, in particular, to other parts of Afghanistan and into exile.

Aug. 1992 Intensive rocketing of Kabul by Hekmatyar leads to 1,800 deaths and exodus of 55,000 people to Mazar and 42,000 to Pakistan.

Jan. 1994 Large-scale exodus of refugees from Kabul to Jalalabad and Pakistan in response to rocketing of Kabul by Hisb-e-Islami and Dostam.

Nov. 1994 Taliban take Kandahar. Bans introduced on female access to education, employment and health care but some flexibility on health care.

Feb. 1995 Taliban reach outskirts of Kabul and oust Hekmatyar from his base at Charasyab to the south of the city.

Mar. 1995 Mujahidin Government captures Charasyab and takes Kabul out of rocket range.

Sep. 1995 Taliban capture Farah and Herat. The ban on female education and employment has a major impact on Herat Province, which has had a relatively high level of female employment and operated a large number of schools.

Oct. 1995 Taliban capture key positions to the south of Kabul, thus bringing the capital again within rocket range. They proceed to launch regular rocket attacks on the city. 74,000 leave Kabul over the following three months.

Jan. 1996 ICRC mounts airlift to Kabul in response to food shortages created by blockade of the city, and extremely severe winter.

Sep. 1996 Taliban gain control of Jalalabad and Kabul. The former Afghan president, Dr Najibullah is executed.

Creation of religious police in Kabul makes it increasingly difficult to ensure female access to health care and to employ women in the health sector.

Jan. 1997 Taliban evacuates Shomali Valley of its population, resulting in displacement of over 100,000 people to Kabul.

May 1997 Taliban take Mazar-i-Sharif, only to lose it almost immediately when attempt to disarm Hazara group results in retaliation in which large number of Taliban soldiers killed.

Law and order situation deteriorates in Mazar and surrounding provinces, making it extremely difficult to deliver aid. Offices of most humanitarian agencies are looted.

Jul. 1997 Opposition forces re-take most of Shomali Valley from Taliban and establish new positions 25km to the north of Kabul.

Aug. 1998 Successful capture of Mazar-i-Sharif by the Taliban. U.S.A launches air strikes on training camps for Islamic militants in eastern Afghanistan, targeting the Saudi radical, Osama bin Laden.

Jul. 1999 Taliban retake Shomali Valley, resulting in another large scale population exodus to Kabul and to the Panjshir Valley to the north-east.

Sep. 1999 UNDCP announces that opium production in Afghanistan has reached 4,600 tonnes, making it responsible for 75% of global production.

Oct. 1999 Musharraf coup in Pakistan; new government seeks to address growing radicalisation of Pakistan and the complex linkages between Pakistan and Afghanistan relating to the black economy and terrorism.

Nov. 1999 UN Security Council imposes sanctions on Afghanistan linked to hospitality accorded by the Taliban to Osama bin Laden.

Feb. 2000 Ariana Afghan Airlines plane hijacked to London Stansted.

Sep. 2000 Taliban capture Taloqan

Dec. 2000 UN Security Council imposes sanctions targeted at the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

Sep. 2001 US government issues threat against Taliban government that it will undertake military action against Afghanistan if Osama bin Laden is not handed over in connection with the terrorist attack of September 11th on the World Trade Centre.

Oct. 2001 US embarks on military campaign against the Taliban, using air power in support of operations by Northern Alliance forces. The Taliban lose power in all the key population centres.

Nov. 2001 The Northern Alliance take control of Kabul and other local power holders, many of whom previously held power prior to the Taliban conquests, seize regional and district centres.

Dec. 2001 The Northern Alliance and elements linked to the former King, Zahir Shah, are brought together in Germany to negotiate the Bonn Agreement of 6th December. This provides that the Afghan Interim Administration will govern until June 2002, at which point a Loya Jirga convened by a special commission will determine the composition of a Transitional Authority. The Bonn Agreement envisages that this will rule for a further eighteen months, leading to national elections to a permanent government.

June 2002 The Loya Jirga is convened, as planned, and Hamid Karzai is elected President. The new cabinet confirmed by the Loya Jirga represents a mix of ministers from the Afghan Interim Administration and new figures.

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