At the beginning of the last century Afghanistan, at that time known as Khurasan (a Persian word signifying the East or the Levant of the Persians) was divided pretty equally between the Mughal and the Persian Empires, - that is to say, Kabul and Ghazni pertained to the former, and Herat and Kandahar to the latter, Both empires had for long striven for the possession of the other half, and Kandahar had repeatedly passed from the grasp of one to that of the other. Both Herat and Kandahar hated the Persian rule, as much on account of the existing differences of race, language, and religion, the one being Sunni and the other Shia, as on account of proximity and the dread of strict rule, whilst towards the Mughal Empire they looked with feelings of attachment, partly on account of lace affinities partly on account of trade interests, and partly on account of religious unity, and to some extent also on account of distance and the hope of a mild and protective government.
The glory of each empire, however, had long been on the wane; the stability of each was undermined, and each went at its own pace - rapid in the one case, and slower in the other - to final destruction. At the time we commence from, the Ghilzais of Kandahar began to show some impatience of Persian rule, and successive armies were sent to bring them to obedience. The severity of the Persian general and his troops? however, only exasperated the people to more combined resistance, and, in 1707, the Ghilzais rose in open revolt under their chief Mir Wais, who killed the Persian governor and drove his troops from Kandahar, and himself assumed the government as an independent ruler. This act was the match that fired the long prepared train.
Within a short decade, the Afghans of Herat (there commonly called Abdali) followed the example of Kandahar, and rose in revolt under their chief Asadulla Khan, Saddozai, who ousted the Persian governor, and himself became independent ruler of the province.
And so matters stood in Western Afghanistan till the close of the first quarter of the century.
About this time there appeared on the scene, as General of the Persian army, Nadir, the celebrated Turkman freebooter, who very soon acquired a world-wide notoriety as the ruthless conqueror of both the Persian and Mughal Empires. He ejected the Ghilzais and Afghans, who had in the interim overrun Persia, recovered Herat, drove back the Russians, and then, deposing his sovereign, assumed the crown himself in 1732. Five years later, Nadir Shah took Kandahar after a protracted siege, razed the grand old city to the ground, ploughed up its interior, and built a mean substitute, which he called Nadirabad, on a low swampy site on the plain a mile or so to the eastward Whilst engaged in the siege of Kandahar, he enlisted a strong force of Ghilzais and Afghans, ravaged the country around, reduced the people to subjection, and finally, on the fall of the city, he advanced to the conquest of Kabul and Northern India Ten years later again, 1747, the conqueror of the Panjab and the author of the massacre of Delhi was assassinated just as he reached the Persian border laden with untold spoil, renowned as the conqueror of the age, and execrated as the rival of those ruthless scourges - Changhiz and Tymur.
And now we come to the role of the Afghan. On his march to India, Nadir had raised under his standard a strong contingent of Afghans. His plan was this. He ordered a census by households to be taken of every tribe in the country, and then ordered a certain percentage from each to join his standard at appointed places, fully equipped for the field The enumeration then made is the only existing authority for the population of this country, and is still quoted by the people as the index of the strength of their several tribes.
Among the Afghan troops so raised was an Abdali noble, chief of the Saddozai tribe. His name was Ahmad Khan, and he joined the conqueror's standard with a contingent of 10,000 horse On the return march from India, Ahmad Khan himself with a weak detachment of his men was in attendance in the royal camp, the bulk of his contingent being in rear in charge of the treasure convoy. As soon as he heard of the death of Nadir, and knowing the hatred in which the Persians held all Afghans, he at once fled the camp with his men and hastened to Kandahar On arrival there he came upon the treasure convoy which was in charge of the rest of his contingent, and at once seized it.
With the wealth thus fortuitously acquired he bought over all the principal chiefs of both Afghanistan and Balochistan, and by their unanimous consent was crowned king at Kandahar, on an eminence overlooking the plain on which the present city stands He immediately dismantled Nadirabad, and founded the modern city, which he named Ahmad Shahr, or Ahmad Shahi, and made his capital and royal residence. It is more generally known by the name of the original capital Kandahar, and is said to occupy the very spot on which the adventurous Afghan seized the treasure convoy - the accidental means of his elevation to royalty. It is a better town than the wretched production of Nadir, and stands on the high road across an open plain, about two miles to the north of it. At best it is but a poor collection of mud-built houses crowded together within fortified walls, and contains but a single building of any architectural merit - namely, the mausoleum of its founder himself.