The old city was laid out by Ahmad Shah during the 18th cent. and is dominated by his octangular, domed mausoleum. There are also numerous mosques (one said to contain the Prophet Muhammad's cloak) and bazaars. Modern Kandahar adjoins the old city. It has a technical college. Together with Peshawar, Pakistan, Kandahar is the principal city of the Pashto people, and it was the religious headquarters of the Taliban, the austere Islamic fundamentalist movement.
Kandahar was founded by Alexander the Great (4th cent. B.C.). India and Persia long fought over the city, which was strategically located on the trade routes of central Asia. It was conquered by Arabs in the 7th cent. and by the Turkic Ghaznavids in the 10th cent. Jenghiz Khan sacked it in the 12th cent., after which it became a major city of the Karts (Mongol clients) until their defeat by Timur in 1383. Babur, founder of the Mughal empire of India, took Kandahar in the 16th cent. It was later contested by the Persians and by the rulers of emerging Afghanistan, who made it the capital (1748-73) of their newly independent kingdom. British forces occupied Kandahar during the First Afghan War (1839-42) and from 1879 to 1881. During the Soviet military occupation of 1979-89, Kandahar was the site of a Soviet command. A major prize, it changed hands several times until the fall of the Najibullah government in 1992. The Kandahar area has been the scene of significant fighting between Taliban and its allies and U.S. forces and their allies since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.
Kandahar is a major trading center for sheep, wool, cotton, silk, felt, food grains, fresh and dried fruit, and tobacco. The region produces fine fruits, especially pomegranates and grapes, and the city has plants for canning, drying, and packing fruit. Kandahar has an international airport and extensive road links with Farah and Herat to the west, Ghazni and Kabul to the northeast, Tarin Kowt to the north, and Quetta in Pakistan to the south. Kandahar is a Pashto-speaking city, with Pashtuns being the main inhabitants.
Alexander the Great founded Kandahar in the 4th century BC and named it Alexandria. Many empires have long fought over the city, due to its strategic location along the trade routes of Southern and Central Asia. In 1748, Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the Durrani Empire, made Kandahar the capital of Afghanistan.
Kandahar has many dust storms and simoons happen every year. Most of the rainfall occurs in January but August and September are the driest months with almost no rain.
The hottest month is July with average high temperatures of 40ºC
The city has been a frequent target for conquest because of its strategic location in Southern Asia, controlling the main trade route linking the Indian subcontinent with the Middle East, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. It later became part of the Mauryan Empire after the departure of Alexander. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka erected a pillar there with a bilingual inscription in Greek and Aramaic. The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom occupied Kandahar after the Mauryans, but then lost the city to the Indo-Greek Kingdom.
Kandahar was taken by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in the 11th century. In the 13th century it was invaded by Genghis Khan and his Mongol armies. It became part of the Timurid Empire during the 14th century and 15th century, which was founded by Tamerlane. Pir Muhammad, grandson of Tamerlane, held the seat of government in Kandahar from about 1383 until his death in 1407. Following Pir Mohammad's death, the city was ruled by other Timurids. In the late 15th century Kandahar was entrusted to the Arghuns, who eventually achieved independence from the Timurids.
Tamerlane's descendant, Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, annexed Kandahar in the 16th century. Babur's son, Humayun, lost it to the Shah of Persia. Humayun's son, Akbar, regained control of Kandahar but by the early 1700s subsequent Mughal emperors lost the territory once again to the Persians.
In 1722, Mir Mahmud led an army of Afghans to Isfahan (now in Iran), sacked the city and proclaimed himself King of Persia. The Hotaki dynasty was eventually removed from power by a new ruler, Nader Shah Afshar, who conquered Kandahar in 1738 but was assassinated nine years later.
Ahmad Shah Durrani, an ethnic Pashtun and chief of the Abdali clan, gained control of Kandahar in 1747 and made it the capital of his new Afghan Empire. Previously, Ahmad Shah served as a military commander and personal bodyguard of Nader Shah of Persia. His empire included present-day Afghanistan, the souther provinces of the then Soviet Russia, Pakistan, and Kohistan provinces of Iran. In October 1772, Ahmad Shah retired to his home in Maruf, Kandahar, where he died peacefully. The (now) "Old City" was laid out by Ahmad Shah and is dominated by his mausoleum. Between 1773-76, his eldest son Timur Shah Durrani transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul, where the Durrani legacy continued.
Kandahar was in the last 3 decades a center of jihad and Mujahideen activities, as well that of Taliban terrorists and Al-Kaida. On 28th Muharram 1242 Hijri (September 2, 1826) Syed Ahmad Shaheed's forces reached Kandahar en route to Peshawar. Their purpose was to wage jihad against the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh and aid their fellow Pashtuns of the N.W.F.P. Within a few days more than 400 Kandharians presented themselves for the jihad, out of whom 270 were selected. Sayed Deen Muhammad Kandharai was appointed their leader.
British and Indian forces from British India occupied the city in 1839, during the first Anglo-Afghan war. They were forced to withdraw approximately three years later, in 1842. The British and Indian forces returned in 1878 during the second Anglo-Afghan war. They emerged from the city in July 1880 to confront Ayub Khan, but were heavily defeated at the Battle of Maiwand. They were again forced to withdraw a few years later, despite winning a battle near the city (see Battle of Kandahar). Kandahar remained peaceful for the next 100 years.
In the 1960s, Kandahar International Airport was built, with the help of the United States Agency for International Development, 10 miles (16 kilometers) south-east of the city. It was used by the Red Army during their ten-year occupation of the country. As of 2001, the airport is used by the US and NATO forces as a military base.
During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989), Kandahar was under Soviet command and witnessed heavy fighting. Soviet troops surrounded the city, and subjected it to a heavy artillery and air bombardment in which many civilians lost their lives. After the Soviet withdrawal and the fall of Najibullah's government in 1992, Kandahar fell into the hands of a local militia leader (Gul Agha Sherzai).
In August 1994, the Taliban captured Kandahar and turned the city into their capital. Since their removal in late 2001, smaller bands have spread throughout the nearby provinces. Kandahar once again came under the control of Gul Agha Sherzai, who had controlled the province and city before the rise of the Taliban, and was credited with permitting the same corruption that first fueled the growth of the Taliban. Sherzai was transferred in 2003 and replaced by Yusuf Pashtun until the current Asadullah Khalid took the post in 2005.
The military of Afghanistan, which is supported by US-NATO forces, has gradually expanded its authority and presence throughout most of the country. Kandahar is in full control of the new Afghan government, which is led by US-backed President Hamid Karzai. The Canadian Forces maintain their military command headquarters at Kandahar, being the main NATO-led security force in the province.
Commuters of the city use the public bus system (Millie Bus), and yellow taxicabs are common. Private vehicle use is increasing, partially due to road and highway improvements. Large dealerships are importing cars from Dubai, UAE.
A proposed rail link is being studied to establish a rail link to neighboring Pakistan to help facilitate trade and commerce between the two nations. Kandahar is connected by roads to the capital Kabul and to Quetta in neighboring Pakistan where many of the Kandahari Pashtun tribesmen have set up shop and settled. Due to the ongoing war the route to Kabul has become increasingly dangerous as insurgent attacks on convoys and destruction of bridges make it an unreliable link between the two cities.
Besides foreign channels, Afghanistan's local television channels include:
Due to almost 30 years of destruction and no development, Kandahar (along with the rest of the country) is going through a nationwide reconstruction period. As of 2002, large amounts of money have been pouring in for construction purposes. New modern-style buildings are slowly replacing the older ones. Kandahar's major highways were repaired and completed including the highway to Kabul. However, work on smaller roads in some parts around the city is still in progress.
Kandahar's residents have access to clean drinking water and 24 hour electricity. Although not every part of the city may receive it, plans and works are underway to extend these services to every home.
Up to 20,000 single-family homes and associated infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer systems, and community buildings, including schools, are under construction on empty land in Kandahar.
About 6 miles (10km) east of Kandahar, a huge industrial park is under construction with modern facilities. The park will have professional management for the daily maintenance of public roads, internal streets, common areas, parking areas, 24 hours perimeter security, access control for vehicles and persons.
A railroad track from the Pakistani town of Chaman to Kandahar is planned for the near future. The feasibility study was completed in or about early 2006, allowing for the next step to lay-down the rail track. The work on the rail track will take approximately 2 years to complete.
The charming village of Sher Surkh is located southeast of the city, in the suburbs of the old city of Nadirabad. Kandahar Museum is located at the western end of the third block of buildings lining the main road east of Eidgah Durwaza (gate). It has many paintings by the now famous Ghiyassuddin, painted while he was a young teacher in Kandahar. He is acknowledged among Afghanistan’s leading artists.
Just to the north of the city, off its northeast corner at the end of buria (matting) bazaar, there is a charming shrine dedicated to a celebrated saint who lived in Kandahar more than 300 years ago. The grave of Hazratji Baba, long to signify his greatness, but otherwise covered solely by rock chips, is undecorated save for tall pennants at its head. A monument to pious martyrs (Shahidan: those who died in battle defending their land) stands in the center of Kandahar’s main square called Da Shahidanu Chawk, which was built in the 1940s.
The Chilzina is a rock-cut chamber above the plain at the end of the rugged chain of mountains forming the western defence of Kandahar’s Old City. Forty steps, about, lead to the chamber which is guarded by two chained lions, defaced, and inscribed with an account of Moghul conquest. The rugged cliffs from which the Chilzina was hewn form the natural western bastion of the Old City of Kandahar which was destroyed in 1738 by Nadir Shah Afshar of Persia.
A short distance from Chilzina, going west on the main highway, a bright blue dome appears on the right. This is the mausoleum of Mir Wais Khan, the Ghilzai chieftain who declared Kandahar’s independence from the Persians in 1709.
The shrine of Baba Wali, its terraces shaded by pomegranate groves beside the Arghandab River, is also very popular for picnics and afternoon outings.
Kandahar looms as test of Obama's war strategy ; Risks inherent in battle for Taliban seat; an early role for special forces
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