Who invented the line 'Afghanistan is graveyard of empires'?

Aug 2014
996
pakistan
#1
I have extensively read British sources and old Afghan sources, i have never come across any mention of Afghanistan having reputation of being graveyard of empires. Afghans themselves have never made such a claim in the past. I suspect this line was invented by some American during 80s or when the war with Soviet Union was concluded.

Aside from Soviet Union, which invading power actually exhausted itself to death in Afghanistan?. In the near past, British empire not only defeated Kabul kingdom in 1878-81 but also grabbed certain Afghan territories from it through Gandamak agreement. From 1880 to 1919 British empire effectively controlled Afghanistan and defined its borders. In first Anglo-Afghan War, British did suffer a defeat due to successful insurgency and had to evacuate Afghanistan but British empire did not crumble. If we go further into the past, Sikhs under Ranjeet Singh crossed river Indus and invaded Afghanistan/Kabul kingdom. Sikhs conquered trans-Indus districts of Afghanistan proper and thwarted attempts of Kabul to re-take their lost territories by force. Sikh empire met its end at the hands of British rather than Afghanistan. If we go further in the past, a kingdom of Hotak Afghans centered at Kandahar was invaded by Nadir Shah of Iran in 1737. Nadir Shah not only conquered Afghan kingdom of Kandahar but also proceeded in the direction of Ghazni, Kabul and Peshawar (nominally part of Mughal empire at that time) and brought it under his rule. The end of Afsharid empire had nothing to do with his invasion and conquest of Afghanistan.

When Mongols under Ghenghis Khan invaded present-day Afghanistan (region between river Oxus and Durand line), they not only conquered it but also changed the demographics.They ruled Afghanistan from 13th century to 18th century. The cities of present-day Afghanistan were capitals of various dynasties of Turko-Mongols.
 
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Dec 2015
4,185
Brassicaland
#2
I have extensively read British sources and old Afghan sources, i have never come across any mention of Afghanistan having reputation of being graveyard of empires. Afghans themselves have never made such a claim in the past. I suspect this line was invented by some American during 80s or when the war with Soviet Union was concluded.

Aside from Soviet Union, which invading power actually exhausted itself to death in Afghanistan?. In the near past, British empire not only defeated Kabul kingdom in 1878-81 but also grabbed certain Afghan territories from it through Gandamak agreement. From 1880 to 1919 British empire effectively controlled Afghanistan and defined its borders. In first Anglo-Afghan War, British did suffer a defeat due to successful insurgency and had to evacuate Afghanistan but British empire did not crumble. If we go further into the past, Sikhs under Ranjeet Singh crossed river Indus and invaded Afghanistan/Kabul kingdom. Sikhs conquered trans-Indus districts of Afghanistan proper and thwarted attempts of Kabul to re-take their lost territories by force. Sikh empire met its end at the hands of British rather than Afghanistan. If we go further in the past, a kingdom of Hotak Afghans centered at Kandahar was invaded by Nadir Shah of Iran in 1737. Nadir Shah not only conquered Afghan kingdom of Kandahar but also proceeded in the direction of Ghazni, Kabul and Peshawar (nominally part of Mughal empire at that time) and brought it under his rule. The end of Afsharid empire had nothing to do with his invasion and conquest of Afghanistan.

When Mongols under Ghenghis Khan invaded present-day Afghanistan (region between river Oxus and Durand line), they not only conquered it but also changed the demographics.They ruled Afghanistan from 13th century to 18th century. The cities of present-day Afghanistan were capitals of various dynasties of Turko-Mongols.
It must be after the demise of the USSR and the weakening of the British Empire; then, both declined and fell because of issues way more significant than setbacks in Afghanistan.
 
Aug 2011
59
Idaho
#3
Without any evidence, I agree that this phrase was likely an advent of the US military that was picked up by the news media at the time. I further think that for contemporary western civilization this has particular resonance given Alexander the Great's death after campaigning in Afghanistan. In fact, I believe that this is all a bit of an urban legend of sorts. For those who don't understand much of history, or turn an apathetic eye toward it, this phrase fits neatly into an oversimplified understanding of ancient history and the story of western civilization. Specifically;

the Greeks perfect philosophy, discover a lot of math, etc. etc., Alexander unites them proceeds to spread the Greek virtues across the known world. He boldly marches into the Hindu Kush and is checked by the hearty Afghans. Alexander dies. The Greek Empire does not recover from Alexander's death. Some aspirational Italians challenge and ultimately out match the quarreling and lazy Greeks. Rome is founded, yet maintains strong spiritual, educational, and philosophical ties to Greece. Some Roman generals fight for supremacy. Caesar gloriously wins and then is shamefully cut down. A bunch of degenerate Emperors etc., etc. Constantine has his vision, Rome is Christianized. A long time goes by and Rome falls, or did it? Dark ages. Feudal age. Peasants stacking mud. Enlightenment. Western nations recast in ancient Rome's mold. And in modern terms, the whole process is set to repeat, because, if there is one thing we know about history, it is that it repeats.

It must have felt good for whoever coined this phrase to speak of their country as an "empire." Especially in the same context as ancient Greece and, gasp, Alexander The Great.
 
Aug 2011
59
Idaho
#5
To further develop the point I was clumsily trying to make, and avoid any unintended disrespect to Afghanistan and its inhabitants ancient or modern, I believe this "Graveyard of empires" idea was important to the west and especially the US post 9/11. 9/11 was a seminal event for the US; it's military, the political leadership, and especially the people. When it was quickly linked to Saudis I think that information made logical sense to Americans. When it was later discovered that these (mostly) Saudis were living, planning, and training in Afghanistan and that the impending marital retribution was bound for that forgotten and downtrodden nation the collective reaction of America was, "Afghanistan!?" I'm not sure that one can overstate the arrogance and ignorance of the average American in the realm of geopolitics. There was a real belief at the time that the US military would descend upon a feeble Afghanistan, mop up and be home in time for the Super Bowl. Obviously there were astute people in high commands that knew better and hence the, I suppose, propaganda campaign to hedge against a long, and possibly unsuccessful campaign in Afghanistan.
 
Oct 2013
5,424
Planet Nine, Oregon
#6
Sep 2012
3,503
Bulgaria
#8

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Sep 2009
2,624
Sector N after curfew
#9
Seth Jones wrote a book about Afghanistan titled In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan. In it he claims that the sobriquet has been around for a very long time:

. . . Afghanistan's rich history serves as a springboard for understanding the American experience in a country that since antiquity has been called a graveyard of empires.
In my research on this I found other sources which agree with Jones' statement that it's a very old characterization. For instance, in The New York Times (be aware that The New York Times limits free articles available per month, after which a paywall goes up) we find the following:

Afghanistan has long been called the “graveyard of empires” — for so long that it is unclear who coined that disputable term.
 
Sep 2016
561
Georgia
#10
I further think that for contemporary western civilization this has particular resonance given Alexander the Great's death after campaigning in Afghanistan.
What ? After campaigning in Afghanistan ? Alexander died in Babylon and it was after campaigning in India. Alexander managed to successfully subjugate Bactria and Sogdiana, prevailing over guerilla warfare. Then Alexander moved to India. There he had military engagements at Aornos, Massaga, Sangala and famous Battle of Hydaspes. After that Alexander had Mallian campaign as well. He got heavily injured when storming Mallian citadel and was close to death. Alexander then had Gedrosian desert march.

At least educate yourself on the subject matter, before writing whole essays.
 

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