Role in WW II
The Kingdom of Afghanistan maintained its neutrality. It was neither invaded nor sent an invasion force from or to a foreign nation and was relatively unaffected during the war.
Population: 7 000 000 (in 1938).
Borders with (during WWII) British India, China, Soviet Union, and Iran.
Area: 650 000 squared kilometers.
Capital City: Kabul
Overview: On 07/09/1939 Afghanistan declared total neutrality. During the German aggressions in the Balkans and against Soviet Union, Nazi Germany aggrandized the activities of its agents on Afghan territory, and inspired numerous acts of diversion and sabotage on Afghanistan's borders with Soviet Union and British India. As a consequence of sharp diplomatic protests of Soviet Union and U.K. (on 09/10/1941 and 11/10/1941 respectively) coupled with a military intervention by both of these countries in nearby Iran, the Afghan government was compelled (on 19/10/1941) to expell all Axis agents operating within its borders (over 200 of them), and simultaneously it gave official backing to the Anti-Axis Coalition; nevertheless, it confirmed its complete neutrality on 5-6/11/1941. In July of 1942 an American mission began operating in Kabul. On 19/11/1946 Afghanistan was admitted to U.N.
Armed Forces: In the 1930's the kingdom's armed forces underwent a process of considerable military reforms. With the assistance of Turkish and German military advisers / instructors, new and improved training techniques were introduced and incorporated into the military exercises.
In 1932 a military academy was opened in Kabul, with the aim of educating and training of the army officers of the lesser ranks (the commanders of the highest ranks underwent training in Turkey). In spite of the foreign assistance provided to the Afghan military, it was poorly equipped and lacked modern weaponry. In part this was the result of the British efforts to keep the country's armed forces as backward as possible. These efforts were mainly motivated by the fear that the Afghanis might some day attempt to regain the so called North-West Frontier Province (in present-day Pakistan), which the British unjustly incorporated to their Indian possessions in 1893. Prior to WWII Afghanistan conducted much of its limited foreign trade with Germany, Italy, and Japan, and once the war broke-out there were not many other countries left to buy military equipment from.
A new organization of the armed forces was consolidated by late 1937 and the army consisted of two corps (each corps was composed of three mixed divisions). Each mixed division included three to five infantry regiments, one to two cavalry regiments, and a single regiment of artillery.
In 1938 the standing regular army numbered 90 000 troops.
In 1939 the air force was only in the embryonic phase of development, while the total personnel of the armed forces stood at 103 000; these numbers were maintained / supplemented during the war years by conscription of manpower in agreement with a decree dating back to 1917 that all males capable of bearing arms, between 22 and 42 years of age, were obligated to spend two years in active service.
In event of war, aside from the regular armed forces, the kingdom was also able to furnish 300 000 to 400 000 warlike tribal levies. By 1942 the Afghan army was composed of two corps (each of two mixed divisions), seven mixed provincial divisions, one mixed brigade of royal household bodyguards, and one independent mixed brigade. At the same time, the tiny air force was only suitable for recon and communications duties and it contained some 300 personnel (some of which had previously underwent training in India or Europe).
The Supreme Commander-in-Chief was the King, while the main executive organ of the armed forces was the Ministry of the Military. The armed forces of Afghanistan did not participate in the Second World War.