From the death of Nadir Shah in 1747 until the communist coup of April 1978, Afghanistan was governed by Pashtun rulers of the Abdali tribe. Indeed, it was under the leadership of the first Pashtun ruler, Ahmad Shah, that the nation of Afghanistan began to take shape after centuries of fragmentation and rule by invaders. Even before the death of Nadir Shah, the tribes of the Hindu Kush area had been growing stronger and were beginning to take advantage of the waning power of their distant rulers.
The Ghilzai Pashtuns had risen in rebellion against Iranian rule early in the eighteenth century, but they had been subdued and relocated by Nadir Shah. Although tribal independence would remain a threat to rulers of Afghanistan, the Abdali Pashtun established political dominance, starting in the middle of the eighteenth century with the rise of Ahmad Shah. Two lineage groups within the Abdali ruled Afghanistan from 1747 until the downfall of the monarchy in the 1970s-the Sadozai of the Popalzai tribe and the Muhammadzai of the Barakzai tribe.
Although the names of Timur, Genghis Khan, and Mahmud Ghaznawi are well-known for the destruction they wrought in South and Central Asia, the name of the founder of the Afghan nation-state is relatively unknown to Westerners, though Ahmad Shah created an Afghan empire that, at its largest in the 176Os, extended from Central Asia to Delhi and from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea. There have been greater conquerers in the region before and since Ahmad Shah, but never before his reign and rarely since has there been a ruler of this fragmented area capable not only of subduing the truculent Afghan tribes but also of pulling them together into a nation.