The written history of Afghanistan, can be traced back to around 500 BCE when the area was under the Achaemenid Empire, although evidence indicates that an advanced degree of urbanized culture has existed in the land since between 3000 and 2000 BCE. The Indus Valley Civilization stretched up to large parts of Afghanistan in the north, with several sites being known. Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to what is now Afghanistan in 330 BCE after conquering Persia during the Battle of Gaugamela. Since then, many empires have established capitals inside Afghanistan, including the Greco-Bactrians, Mauryas, Kushans, Hindu Shahi, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Timurids, Mughals, Hotakis, Khalsa Empire and Durranis.
Afghanistan (meaning “land of the Afghans”) has been a strategically important location throughout history. The land served as “a gateway to India, impinging on the ancient Silk Road, which carried trade from the Mediterranean to China”. Sitting on many trade and migration routes, Afghanistan may be called the ‘Central Asian roundabout' since routes converge from the Middle East, from the Indus Valley through the passes over the Hindu Kush, from the Far East via the Tarim Basin, and from the adjacent Eurasian Steppe.
The Aryans arrived to Afghanistan from the north after the 20th century BCE, who left their languages that survived in the form of Pashto and Dari. The Arab invasions influenced the culture of Afghanistan, as its pre-Islamic period of Zoroastrian, Hindu and Buddhist past had long vanished. Turkic empire-builders such as the Ghaznavids, Ghurids and Timurids made the region now called Afghanistan of major importance.
Mirwais Hotak followed by Ahmad Shah Durrani unified Afghan tribes and founded the last Afghan Empire in the early 18th century CE. Afghanistan’s sovereignty has been held during the Anglo-Afghan Wars, the 1980s Soviet war, and the 2001-present war by the country’s many and diverse people: the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Aimak, Baloch and others. The Pashtuns form the largest group, claiming to be descendants of ancient Israelites or Qais Abdur Rashid but scholars believe that they are a confederation of various peoples from the past who united under Pashtunwali.