Note: This section has been mostly compiled from information written in the 2003 Wakhan Mission Report by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).

Quoting Marco Polo (1254-1324) from 'The Travels - The Road to Cathay': "When the traveler leaves Badakhshan, he goes twelve days' journey east-north-east up a river valley belonging to the brother of the lord of Badakhshan, where there are towns and homesteads in plenty, peopled by a warlike race of Moslems. After these twelve days he reaches a country called Wakhan of no great size, for it is three days' journey across in every way. The people, who are Moslems, speak a language of their own and are doughty warriors. They have no ruler except one, whom they call 'nona', that is 'count' in our language, and are subject to the lord of Badakhshan. They have wild beasts in plenty and game of all sorts for the chase.

When the traveler leaves this place, he goes three days' journey towards the north-east, through mountains all the time, climbing so high that this is said to be the highest place in the world. And when he is in this high place, he finds a plain between the mountains, with a lake from which flows a very fine river. Here is the best pasturage in the world; for a lean beast grows fat in ten days. Wild game of every sort abounds. There are great quantities of wild sheep of huge size. Their horns grow to as much as six palms in length and are never less than three or four. From these horns the shepherds make bowls from which they feed, and also fences to keep in their flocks. There are also innumerable wolves, which devour many of the wild rams. The horns and bones of the sheep are found in such numbers that men build cairns of them beside the tracks to serve as landmarks to travelers in the snowy season."

The Wakhan Corridor came into being as an integral part of Afghan territory only as the result of frontier wrangling between Imperial Russia and Imperial Britain in the 1880s and 1890s, a period during which Czarist Russian forces consolidated their control over the Central Asian Khanates and Emirates. Imperial Britain, in response, moved up from the Indian plains into the mountain principalities now incorporated in Chitral and the Northern Areas of Pakistan.

Quoting Louis Dupree in his book Afghanistan (1980):

"By 1891 the scene shifted to the northeastern boundary as the Russians attempted to explore and annex the Wakhan area. This would in effect outflank the northwestern boundary (of Afghan territory under the control of Amir Abdur Rahman) and give Russia a common boundary with British India. Considering themselves seriously threatened, the British reacted vigorously, and forced Russia to negotiate. Amir Abdur Rahman, with the British still in control of his foreign policy, resumed his role as bystander. Britain and Russia agreed to give Russia all the land north of the Amu Darya and Afghanistan all the land south of the Amu Darya. Also the British forced Afghanistan to accept control of the Wakhan, a rugged area still incompletely mapped. Abdur Rahman objected to the 'gift' exclaiming he had enough problems with his own people and did not wish to be held responsible for the Kirghiz bandits in the Wakhan and the Pamir."

Nonetheless, the territory and its boundaries were reluctantly accepted and have remained an integral part of Afghan territory, meaning that at no point did British India touch Tsarist Central Asia. Another Joint Boundary Commission fixed the extreme northeast frontiers in 1895-96. This included its easternmost point where the frontier crossed a rough jumble of mountains and glaciers to form a frontier with China. This remained somewhat undefined until as late as 1964, when it was finally settled between Afghanistan and China. Wakhan and what became known as the Big and Little Afghan Pamir were incorporated into the Afghan Province of Badakhshan, which the Afghan ruler and father of the present state of Afghanistan, Amir Abdur Rahman, had brought under his control in 1888. These frontiers established in the late 19th century remain the frontiers today between Afghanistan and the modern states of Pakistan, Tajikistan, and China.