History of the U.S. and Afghanistan

The United States recognized Afghanistan, then under the rule of King Amanullah, in 1921, and established diplomatic relations in 1935.

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the United States supported both the Afghan resistance fighters and diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawl. As the Taliban rose to national authority in the post-Soviet power vacuum they provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden. Following the Taliban’s repeated refusal to expel bin Laden and his associates and end its support for international terrorism, the United States and its coalition partners began a military campaign on October 7, 2001, that targeted terrorist facilities and Taliban military and political assets. Kabul fell on November 13, 2001.


U.S. Recognition of Afghanistan, 1921.

The United States recognized Afghanistan on July 26, 1921, when President Warren G. Harding received a mission of the Afghan Government at the White House. The Department of State had been notified by British authorities on August 9, 1919, that Afghanistan was “officially free and independent in its affairs.”

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, 1935.

Diplomatic relations were established on May 4, 1935, when William H. Hornibrook presented his credentials to the Afghan government. Hornibrook also was accredited to Persia and was resident at Tehran.

Establishment of American Legation in Afghanistan, 1942.

The American Legation at Kabul was established on June 6, 1942, with Charles W. Thayer as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

Elevation of American Legation to Embassy Status, 1948.

The American Legation was elevated to Embassy status on June 5, 1948, when Ely E. Palmer presented his credentials to the Afghan government.

Assassination of the American Ambassador, 1979.

The American Ambassador at Kabul, Adolph Dubs, was assassinated at post on February 14, 1979. Following the death of Ambassador Dubs, the American Mission at Kabul was headed by a Chargé d’Affaires ad interim or Chargé d’Affaires.

Closure of the American Embassy in Afghanistan, 1989.

The American Embassy at Kabul was closed on January 30, 1989, due to concerns that the new regime would not be able to maintain security and protect diplomats following the final departure of Soviet forces from the country.

Establishment of the American Liaison Office in Kabul, 2001.

The U.S. Liaison Office in Kabul opened on December 17, 2001, with AmbassadorJames Dobbins serving as Director. The United States recognized the Interim Authority in Afghanistan on December 22, 2001, when it assumed the authority to represent Afghanistan in its external relations.

Re-opening of the American Embassy in Afghanistan, 2002.

The American Embassy at Kabul was re-opened on January 17, 2002, when the U.S. Liaison Office was re-designated as an embassy, with Ryan Crocker as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

Source: Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State