Fractured by internal conflict and foreign intervention for centuries, Afghanistan made several tentative steps toward modernization in the mid-20th century. In the 1950s and 1960s, some of the biggest strides were made toward a more liberal and westernized lifestyle, while trying to maintain a respect for more conservative factions. Though officially a neutral nation, Afghanistan was courted and influenced by the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War, accepting Soviet machinery and weapons, and U.S. financial aid. This time was a brief, relatively peaceful era, when modern buildings were constructed in Kabul alongside older traditional mud structures, when burqas became optional for a time, and the country appeared to be on a path toward a more open, prosperous society.
Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. It is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the north, and Tajikistan and China to the northeast. Occupying 652,864 square kilometers (252,072 sq mi) of land, the country is predominately mountainous with plains in the north and the southwest that are separated by the Hindu Kush mountain range. As of 2021, its population is 40.2 million, composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. Kabul is the country’s largest city and serves as its capital.
Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic era, and the country’s strategic location along the historic Silk Road connected it to the cultures of other parts of Asia as well as Europe, leaving behind a mosaic of ethnolinguistic and religious groups that has influenced the modern Afghan nation. The land has historically been home to various peoples and has witnessed numerous military campaigns, including those by Alexander the Great, the Maurya Empire, Muslim Arabs, the Mongols, the British, the Soviet Union, and most recently by an American-led coalition. Afghanistan also served as the source from which the Greco-Bactrians and the Mughals, among others, rose to form major empires. The various conquests and periods in both the Indian and Persian cultural spheres made the area a center for Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and later Islam throughout history.
The modern state of Afghanistan began with the Durrani dynasty in the 18th century, the empire at its peak ruling an area from eastern Iran to northern India. Following its decline, and the death of Timur Shah, it was divided into the smaller independent kingdoms of Herat, Kandahar and Kabul, before being reunited in the 19th century after wars of unification led by Dost Mohammad Khan. During this time, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the “Great Game” between British India and the Russian Empire; the British in India attempted to subjugate the country but were repelled in the First Anglo-Afghan War; in the second war it successfully established a British protected state over Afghanistan. Following a third war in 1919, the country became free of foreign dominance, and eventually emerged as the independent Kingdom of Afghanistan in June 1926 under Amanullah Khan. This kingdom lasted almost 50 years, until Zahir Shah was overthrown in 1973, following which a republic was established. Afghanistan’s history since the late 1970s has been dominated by coups, revolutions, invasions, insurgencies and civil wars. The country is currently under the control of the Taliban, which came back to power after a 20-year long war.
The country has high levels of terrorism, poverty, and child malnutrition. Afghanistan’s economy is the world’s 96th-largest, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $72.9 billion by purchasing power parity; the country fares much worse in terms of per-capita GDP (PPP), ranking 169th out of 186 countries as of 2018. (Wikipedia)
Keep in mind, when looking at these images, that the average life expectancy for Afghans born in 1960 was 31, so the vast majority of those pictured have likely passed on since.