The foreign relations of Afghanistan, like those of any country, have changed along with the political, sociological, and economic state of the various parts of Afghanistan.
After the December 1979 invasion, Afghanistan's foreign policy mirrored that of the Soviet Union. Afghan foreign policymakers attempted, with little success, to increase their regime's low standing in the noncommunist world. With the signing of the Geneva Accords, President Najibullah unsuccessfully sought to end the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan's isolation within the Islamic world and in the Non-Aligned Movement.
Most Western countries, including the United States, maintained small diplomatic missions in the capital city of Kabul during the Soviet occupation. Many countries subsequently closed their missions due to instability and heavy fighting in Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Afghanistan participated in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq.
Many countries initially welcomed the introduction of the Taliban, who they saw as a stabilizing, law-enforcing alternative to the warlords who had ruled the country since the fall of Najibullah's government in 1992. The Taliban soon became alienated of those countries' positive feelings with knowledge of the harsh Sharia law being enforced in Taliban-controlled territories spreading around the world. The brutality towards women who attempted to work, learn, or leave the house without a male escort caused outside aid to the war-torn country to be limited.
Repeated Taliban efforts to occupy Afghanistan's seat at the UN and OIC were unsuccessful. By 2001, only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. All three countries withdrew recognition to the Taliban in the months following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States.
Following the American Invasion and the Bonn Agreement the new government under the leadership of Hamid Karzai started to re-establish diplomatic relationships with many countries who had held close diplomatic relations before the communist coup d'état and the subsequent civil war.
The government of President Hamid Karzai is currently focused on securing continued assistance for rebuilding the economy, infrastructure, and military of the country. It has continued to maintain close ties with the United States, India, Iran,the European Union, and the Islamic world.
Two areas--NWFP and Balochistan--have long complicated Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan. Controversies involving these areas date back to the establishment of the Durand Line in 1893 dividing Pashtun and Baluch tribes living in Afghanistan from those living in what later became Pakistan. Afghanistan vigorously protested the inclusion of Pashtun and Baluch areas within Pakistan without providing the inhabitants with an opportunity for self-determination. Since 1947, this problem has led to incidents along the border, with extensive disruption of normal trade patterns. The most serious crisis lasted from September 1961 to June 1963, when diplomatic, trade, transit, and consular relations between the countries were suspended.
The 1978 Marxist coup further strained relations between the two countries. Pakistan took the lead diplomatically in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in opposing the Soviet occupation. During the war against the Soviet occupation, Pakistan served as the primary logistical conduit for the Afghan resistance. Pakistan, aided by UN agencies, private groups, and many friendly countries, continues to provide refuge to several million Afghans.
Pakistan developed close ties to the Taliban regime, which it believed would offer strategic depth in any future conflict with India, and extended recognition in 1997. Following the 2001 invasion and overthrow of the Taliban, Pakistan recognized the transitional administration led by Hamid Karzai and offered significant amounts of aid and continued relief to Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. As of 2006, Afghan-Pakistani relations continue to fluctuate due to continued controversy over the Durand Line and Afghanistan's close relationship with India.
Much of Afghanistan has long relied on Pakistani links for trade and travel to the outside world, and Pakistan views Afghanistan as eventually becoming its primary route for trade with Central Asia, though these plans will of necessity await establishment of secure conditions.
On the other hand, Pakistan has a two faced policy for Afghanistan. That is because of Durand Line Opposition between these two countries, the situation is becoming worse day by day. Many many Afghans believe that Pakistan is an agent of Western countries, strengthening the diplomatic attempts of them. Others however are more pragmatic and seek to form a confederation with Pakistan. Such a confederation would in essence, re-establish the original Afghanistan minus Nishapur in Iran as created by the founder Ahmed Shah Abdali. Prominent European and North American scholars believe that such a union would bring peace and stability to both countries and in lieu of history would be the natural route to go for the better interest of both these countries, their peoples and the region as a whole.
Afghanistan shares a long history with Iran, as the nation was once a part of ancient Persia. There are also deep ties in language and culture, as an eastern dialect of Persian (Dari Persian) is the dominant language of Afghanistan, especially in terms of education and business. Despite such close ties, Afghanistan's relations with Iran have fluctuated over the years, with periodic disputes over the water rights of the Helmand River as the main issue of contention.
Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which Iran opposed, relations deteriorated. The Iranian consulate in Herat closed, as did the Afghan consulate in Mashad. The Iranians complained of periodic border violations following the Soviet invasion. In 1985, they urged feuding Afghan Shi'a resistance groups to unite to oppose the Soviets. Iran supported the cause of the Afghan resistance and provided limited financial and military assistance to rebel leaders who pledged loyalty to the Iranian vision of Islamic revolution. Iran provides refuge to about 2 million Afghans, though it has refused to accept more in recent years and, indeed, tried to force many to repatriate.
Following the emergence of the Taliban and their harsh treatment of Afghanistan's Shi'a minority, Iran stepped up assistance to the Northern Alliance. Relations with the Taliban deteriorated further in 1998 after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in Mazari Sharif and executed Iranian diplomats, who were accused of being secret spies. Following this incident, Iran almost went to war with the Taliban by massing up troops and tanks on the border with Afghanistan. As a response, the Taliban immediately began gathering and recruiting great number of men along the border with Iran. Many foreign fighters from Pakistan and Arab nations were also arriving. Iranian politicians decided to call it off because Afghans are known to raid cities and loot them, a similar event that occurred in early 1700s when all major Iranian cities were sacked and huge numbers of Iranians killed. This as well as intervention by the United Nations Security Council and the United States prevented an imminent Iranian war with the Taliban.
Since 2001, the new government has engaged in cordial relations with both Iran and the United States, even as relations between the two countries have grown strained due to American objections to Iran's nuclear program. Relations very recently in 2007 and 2008 grew when Iran donated much aid to Afghan infrastructure and Afghan President Hamid Karzai vowed to stand by his ally, Ahmadinejad.
The Soviets began a major economic assistance program in Afghanistan in the 1950s. Between 1954 and 1978, Afghanistan received more than $1 billion in Soviet aid, including substantial military assistance. In 1973, the two countries announced a $200-million assistance agreement on gas and oil development, trade, transport, irrigation, and factory construction. Following the 1979 invasion, the Soviets augmented their large aid commitments to shore up the Afghan economy and rebuild the Afghan military. They provided the Karmal regime an unprecedented $800 million. The Soviet Union supported the Najibullah regime even after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in February 1989. Today, unresolved questions concerning Soviet MIA/POWs in Afghanistan remain an issue between Russia and Afghanistan.
Tajik rebels based in Afghanistan in July 1993 attacked a Russian border outpost in Tajikistan, killing 25 Russians and prompting Russian retaliatory strikes, which caused extensive damage in northern Afghanistan. Reports of Afghan support for the Tajik rebels led to cool relations between the two countries.
Russia became increasingly disenchanted with the Taliban over their support for Chechen rebels and for providing a sanctuary for terrorist groups active in Central Asia and in Russia itself. Russia provided military assistance to the Northern Alliance, who eventually proved a major force in the efforts to overthrow the Taliban regime following U.S. intervention in 2001.
In October 2005, Russian defense officials stated they will be giving helicopters and other military equipment to Afghanistan's army worth $30 million USD.
India has traditionally enjoyed good relations with the Afghan government. Historically, the region was tied to the civilization of South Asia, and the ancient Hindu kingdom of Gandhara may have covered what is now the Kabul province. President Hamid Karzai graduated from a university in India. Despite that, India supported the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. It also supported the Afghan Northern Alliance "unofficially" against the Taliban. Relations deteriorated after the Taliban took power. During the course of the hijack of Indian Airlines Flight 814, the Taliban requested recognition by India in exchange for help in negotiations. The request was not acted upon by the Indian Government. After the fall of the Taliban, India resumed previous ties. India has donated buses, aircraft and has imparted training to its fledgling police force.
During President Hamid Karzai's visit to New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged an additional $50 million in assistance to Afghanistan, bringing the total Indian pledge to $650 million -- of which $200 million has already been spent. India is also reconstructing a road in the remote southwestern Afghan province of Nimroz. The project is being carried out by state-owned Border Roads Organization (BRO), the mission statement of which states that the BRO is India's "most reputed, multifaceted, transnational, modern construction organization committed to meeting the strategic needs of the armed forces." The killing of a BRO employee by the neo-Taliban in November 2005 prompted the Indian authorities to dispatch approximately 200 Indo-Tibetan Border Police commandos to Afghanistan in March 2006 to provide security for Indians working in various construction projects in Afghanistan.
In the 1940s, the United States established its first official embassy in Kabul. The first U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan was Cornelius Van Engert. The first official Afghanistan Ambassador to the United States was Habibullah Khan Tarzi who served from 1948 to 1953.
Since the 1950s the U.S. extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan's physical infrastructure which included roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy. Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Kabul in December 1959, becoming the first U.S. President to travel to Afghanistan. The Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979. During the early 1960s former King of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, visited the United States and met with John F. Kennedy.
After the April 1978 coup, relations deteriorated. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after security forces burst in on his kidnappers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghans in need. U.S. efforts also included helping Afghans living inside Afghanistan. This cross-border humanitarian assistance program aimed at increasing Afghan self-sufficiency and helping Afghans resist Soviet attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated countryside. During the period of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about 3 billion US dollars in military and economic assistance to the Afghan Mujahideens.
Following the September 11 attacks, the United States launched an attack on the Taliban government as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Following the overthrow of the Taliban, the U.S. supported the new government of Afghanistan and continues to station thousands of U.S. troops in the country. Their aim is to help the new government of President Hamid Karzai establish authority all across Afghanistan and hunt down insurgents that are launching attacks.
Afghanistan supported the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
The United States is also the leading nation in the rebuilding or reconstruction of Afghanistan. It has been providing multi-billion US dollars in weapons and aid, as well as infrastructure development. In 2005, the United States and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship. U.S. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on March 1, 2006. Hamid Karzai is hailed as an example of a great leader by most U.S. politicians, universities and media outlets everytime he visits the United States.
Germany remains one of the most significant donors of foreign aid and partners in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
In the aftermath of the Accords and subsequent Soviet withdrawal, the United Nations has assisted in the repatriation of refugees and has provided humanitarian aid such as health care, educational programs, and food and has supported mine-clearing operations. The UNDP and associated agencies have undertaken a limited number of development projects. However, the UN reduced its role in Afghanistan in 1992 in the wake of fierce factional strife in and around Kabul. The UN Secretary General has designated a personal representative to head the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) and the Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA), both based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Throughout the late 1990s, 2000, and 2001, the UN unsuccessfully strived to promote a peaceful settlement between the Afghan factions as well as provide humanitarian aid, this despite increasing Taliban restrictions upon UN personnel and agencies.