|Full Name||Â||131 Kingdom of Afghanistan|
|Alliance||Â||Neutral or Non-Belligerent|
|Population in 1939||Â||7,000,000|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe monarch of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah, came to power in 1933. He resumed the course of modernization that some of his predecessors planned, and opened diplomatic relations with many of the European powers. Observing the fractured state of China, Afghanistan dispatched a small expeditionary force up the Wakhan Corridor into Xinjiang Province of China to support the Khotanlik Uyghur's Eastern Turkestan separatist movement, hoping that a successful rebellion would weaken its potentially powerful northeastern neighbor; in 1934 the Uyghurs would be defeated by forces aligned with the Nationalist Chinese central government, and most of the troops of the Afghan expeditionary force were killed at the Battle of Kashgar and Battle of Yarkand. While Afghan intentions in western China never amounted more than potentially establishing a friendly buffer state, Afghanistan definitely had wishes to expand its borders southward into British India (now Pakistan), possibly even gaining access to the Arabian Sea. The country was too weak to challenge the British Empire, however. In an attempt to rectify this weakness, Prime Minister Mohammad Hashim Khan successfully invited German industries to build factories and hydroelectric projects, thus beginning a friendly relationship with the Germans as Germany geared for war. Even though Mohammed Zahir Shah repeatedly declared his country's neutrality as the European War broke out in 1939, Afghanistan continued to favor Germany diplomatically. In mid-1940, Minister of National Economy Abdul Majid, probably acting without the Prime Minister's authority, informed the German ambassador that Afghanistan had the capacity to contribute military forces to the Axis cause; in return, Afghanistan would request the Germans to guarantee the current Afghan-Soviet border. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister succeeded in arranging a trade agreement with the Soviet Union in Jul 1940 with similar goals in mind. Around this time, the German Abwehr military intelligence organization established a small station in Kabul, the capital city, and German agents collected information on and conducted sabotage against British India. Small quantities of German weapons were also delivered to the Afghan forces. In Feb 1941, the Afghans helped Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose escape from the British. In mid-1941, two unexpected events forced Afghanistan to remain neutral as it had officialy pledged. First, the German invasion of the Soviet Union suddenly aligned the Soviets with the British, thus Afghanistan found itself surrounded by forces friendly to Britain. Second, the Allied victory in Iraq made Afghanistan realize that the Germans could not effectively project its military power to the Middle East. In Oct 1941, the British and the Soviets demanded Afghanistan to expel German and Italian nationals, and the Afghan leaders complied, allowing only small groups of diplomatic personnel to remain. In 1943, Afghanistan sent its first ambassador, Abdul Hossein Aziz, to the United States; in the following year, senior US statesman Patrick Hurley visited Afghanistan to further cultivate relations. To the end, Mohammed Zahir Shah remained neutral, resisting international pressure to declare war on Germany. After the war, Afghanistan joined the United Nations in 1946. In 1973, the monarch's cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew the kingdom and established a republic.
Bill Stone, "Afghanistan during World War II"
Last Major Update: Mar 2015
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