Afghanistan: the Geopolitics of a Buffer State
Afghanistan is land-locked. It is topographically a divide both north and south and east and west by virtue of the mountain knot of the Hindu Kush. Afghanistan has politically acted as a buffer zone1 between Russia or the USSR in the north and the contiguous power/powers of the Indian subcontinent, Iran and the Persian Gulf. This paper will examine the background to the nature of Afghanistan as a land-locked state and its role as a buffer in the so-called ‘great game’ of international geopolitics. The hypothesis under review is that Afghanistan represents a mountain fortress, virtually a residue of tribal territories and geographical fastnesses, which the Russians, Persians and British in India were never able to control. The country may also be looked upon as an exclusion zone from which rival great powers sought to exclude each other. Afghanistan was therefore in many ways a classic buffer-state throughout much of the nineteenth century and possibly until 1947 when the British withdrew from India. The persistence of Soviet-American rivalry in Afghanistan between 1960 and 1973 gave an illusion of a continuing buffer role for Afghanistan in that period.