Kandahar or Qandahar [key], city (1989 est. pop. 203,000), capital of Kandahar prov., S Afghanistan. The country's second largest city and chief trade center, Kandahar is a market for sheep, wool, cotton, food grains, fresh and dried fruit, and tobacco. It has an international airport and is linked by road with Kabul, Herat, Quetta, and the nations of Central Asia. Woolen cloth, felt, and silk are manufactured. The surrounding irrigated region produces fine fruits, especially grapes, and the city has plants for canning, drying, and packing fruit.
The old city was laid out by Ahmad Shah during the 18th cent. and is dominated by his octangular, domed mausoleum. There are also numerous mosques (one said to contain the Prophet Muhammad's cloak) and bazaars. Modern Kandahar adjoins the old city. It has a technical college. Together with Peshawar, Pakistan, Kandahar is the principal city of the Pashto people, and it was the religious headquarters of the Taliban, the austere Islamic fundamentalist movement.
Kandahar was founded by Alexander the Great (4th cent. b.c.). India and Persia long fought over the city, which was strategically located on the trade routes of central Asia. It was conquered by Arabs in the 7th cent. and by the Turkic Ghaznavids in the 10th cent. Jenghiz Khan sacked it in the 12th cent., after which it became a major city of the Karts (Mongol clients) until their defeat by Timur in 1383. Babur, founder of the Mughal empire of India, took Kandahar in the 16th cent. It was later contested by the Persians and by the rulers of emerging Afghanistan, who made it the capital (1748–73) of their newly independent kingdom. British forces occupied Kandahar during the First Afghan War (1839–42) and from 1879 to 1881. During the Soviet military occupation of 1979–89, Kandahar was the site of a Soviet command. A major prize, it changed hands several times until the fall of the Najibullah government in 1992. The Kandahar area has been the scene of significant fighting between Taliban and its allies and U.S. forces and their allies since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.
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