The Afghanistan Wars, 1979 to the Present

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

This postgraduate module examines the various international and domestic factors that led to and fed the wars in Afghanistan (and standoff between the US and Iran) since 1979.  The module explores the factors that led to these wars, including Soviet intervention in the region, and what the consequences have been both regionally and internationally.  This module will not direct significant attention to the history of Israeli-Palestinian problems, which are the focus of other modules offered at SOAS.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Distinguish what makes a research question historical, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to a problem and of the possibilities and limits of various kinds of sources
  • Produce and refine such a question through the identification of, engagement with, and critique of existing historiography, using the conceptual tools of the module to reframe prior learning
  • Integrate material from a variety of sources, both primary and secondary, in order to explore a research question and hypothesis
  • Present the findings of the research in a way that demonstrates a capacity to think conceptually, while developing competency as a historian

Scope and syllabus

  • Meeting 1 : The Legacies of Empire, the Great Game and British Adventures in Afghanistan and Iran
  • Meeting 2 : Cold War and the Making of the Modern Middle East
  • Meeting 3 : The Islamic Revolution in Iran
  • Meeting 4 : The Soviet Union in Afghanistan
  • Meeting 5 : The Saudi Alliance
  • Meeting 6 : Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and 9/11
  • Meeitng 7: Fighting the Taliban, 2001-2003
  • Meeting 8 : US Counter-Insurgency Operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Meeting 9 : Mission Accomplished? Britain Withdraws from Afghanistan
  • Meeting 10:'We must decide on a New War Strategy' The Trump Administration and Continuing Conflicts in Afghanistan

Method of assessment

  • One essay of (AS1) 3,000 words (worth 20%)
  • One essay of (AS2) 3,000 words (worth 80%)

Suggested reading

  • Michael Axworthy, Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic (New York: Oxford University Press. 2013)
  • Rodric Braithwaite, Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-1989. London : Profile. 2012
  • Anthony H. Cordesman, The Iraqui Insurgency and Risk of Civil War: Who Are the Players? (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies. 2006)
  • Larry P. Goodson, Afghanistan's Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 2001
  • Ali Ahmad Jali, The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War. 1995
  • Nojumi, Neamatollah, The Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan: Mass Mobilization, Civil War, and the Future of the Region (New York: Palgrave. 2002)
  • Deepa Ollapally, Unfinished business in Afghanistan: warlordism, reconstruction, and ethnic harmony. United States Institute of Peace. 2003
  • Ahmed Rashid, Taiban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2000
  • Barnett R. Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2002


James Caron


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