Afghanistan Table of Contents

The July 1973 coup d'etat ended 226 years of royal rule controlled by the Durrani tribal confederacy. The coup was uncontested, apparently popular, and almost benignly bloodless. Popular acceptance was partially tied to the continuity which Daud's leadership appeared to offer even though he had become politically associated with Marxists. He was seen by many as a forceful leader and a known factor after a decade of dashed hopes for a viable constitutional monarchy.

Daud was compelled to concentrate much of his energy on getting rid of his Marxist allies who had made the coup possible by penetrating the military officer corps. These erstwhile allies were members of the Parcham faction of the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). They had expected to share power and then get rid of Daud. They also had scores to settle with the Islamic militants they had fought against at the national university and the politicians who had served in Zahir Shah's constitutional government. Hundreds of members of the Ikwani Musalamin (Muslim Brotherhood, also known in Afghanistan as the Muslim Youth), were arrested--many were later executed. Former Prime Minister Muhammad Hashim Maiwandwal was murdered by Parchami henchmen while in police custody for alleged involvement in a coup attempt.

By 1975 Daud had moved carefully to purge the Marxists from his cabinet. In 1977 he attempted to consolidate his position by promulgating a new constitution which concentrated power in his presidency and channeled popular support through a single party system. Under some Soviet and Indian communist pressure, the Afghan Marxists interrupted their factional feuding long enough to unite in an attempt to overthrow Daud's government. Incensed by Daud's foreign policy shift away from them, the Soviets made clear to the Afghan Marxists their willingness to see Daud removed. He had moved close to Iran, Pakistan and Egypt (after Sadat had reconciled with Israel).

Having isolated himself from the liberals who had served the king and the Islamic militants he had persecuted, Daud had to rely heavily on his security and military forces to stay in power. The Marxists effectively penetrated them. As a result his efforts to prevent a coup were bungled. While most of the armed forces stood aside, Marxist collaborators in the army and the air force launched an assault on Daud's palace that overwhelmed his Republican Guards.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress