د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوریت
(Da Afġānistān Islāmī Jomhoriyat)
جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان
(Jumhūrī-yi Islāmī-yi Afġānistān)

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Flag of Afghanistan
Flag Emblem
Anthem: Surūd-i Millī
Capital Kabul
Largest city Kabul
Official language Pashto
Persian (Darī)[1]
Government Islamic Republic
 - President Hamid Karzai
 - Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud
 - Vice President Karim Khalili
Independence from the United Kingdom 
 - Declared August 8 1919 
 - Recognized August 19 1919 
 - Total 652,090 km² (41st)
251,772 sq mi 
 - Water (%) n/a
 - 2005 estimate 29,863,000 (38th)
 - 1979 census 13,051,358
 - Density 46/km² (150th)
119/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
 - Total $31.9 billion (91st)
 - Per capita $1,310 (162nd)
HDI  (1993) 0.229 (n/a) (unranked)
Currency Afghani (Af) (AFN)
Time zone (UTC+4:30)
 - Summer (DST) (UTC+4:30)
Internet TLD .af
Calling code +93

Afghānistān, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Pashto: د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوریت, Persian: جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان), is a landlocked country located in the heart of Asia and is variously designated within Central and/or South Asia as well as the Middle East.[2][3][4] It has religious, ethno-linguistic, and geographic links with most of its neighbours. It is largely bordered by Pakistan in the south and east,[5] Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and the People's Republic of China in the far northeast. The name Afghanistan means the "Land of Afghans".

Afghanistan is a mosaic of ethnic groups, and a crossroads between the East and the West. It has been an ancient focal-point of trade and migration. The region of modern Afghanistan has seen many invaders and conquerors come and go, including the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great, Muslim Arabs, Turkic and Mongol nomads, the British Empire and the Soviets.

Ahmad Shah Durrani created Afghanistan in the middle of the 18th century as a large state, with its capital at Kandahar.[6] Subsequently, most of its territories were ceded to former neighboring countries by the early 20th century, due to regional conflicts. On August 19, 1919, following the third Anglo-Afghan war, the country regained full independence from Great Britain over its foreign affairs.

Since 1979, Afghanistan has suffered almost continuous conflict, beginning with the Soviet invasion followed by a civil war and finally by the 2001 US intervention in which the ruling Taliban government was toppled. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This force, composed of NATO troops, has been involved in assisting the government of President Hamid Karzai in establishing authority across the nation. In 2005, the United States and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship. In the meantime, over 18 billion US dollars have also been provided by the international community for the reconstruction of the country.




The name Afghānistān translates to the "Land of Afghans". Its modern usage derives from the word Afghan.


Origin of the word "Afghan"

The Pashtuns began using the term Afghan as a name for themselves from at least the Islamic period and onwards. According to W. K. Frazier Tyler, M. C. Gillet and several other scholars, "The word Afghan first appears in history in the Hudud-al-Alam in 982 AD." In this regard, the Encyclopædia Iranica states:[7]

From a more limited, ethnological point of view, "Afghān" is the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan (and the non-Paštō-speaking ethnic groups generally) designate the Paštūn. The equation [of] Afghan [and] Paštūn has been propagated all the more, both in and beyond Afghanistan, because the Paštūn tribal confederation is by far the most important in the country, numerically and politically.

It further explains:

The term "Afghān" has probably designated the Paštūn since ancient times. Under the form Avagānā, this ethnic group is first mentioned by the Indian astronomer Varāha Mihira in the beginning of the 6th century A.D. in his Brihat-samhita.

This information is supported by traditional Pashto literature, for example in the writings of the seventeenth century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak:[8]

Pull out your sword and slay any one, that says Pashton and Afghan are not one! Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are Pashtons, Pashtons are Afghans!

Meaning and origin of the name "Afghanistan"

The last part of the name, -stān, is an Indo-Iranian suffix for "place", prominent in many languages of the region. The term "Afghanistan", meaning the "Land of Afghans", was mentioned by the sixteenth century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs, referring to the territories south of Kabul that were inhabited by Pashtuns (called "Afghans" by Babur).[9] Regarding the modern nation "Afghanistan", the Encyclopædia Of Islam[10] states:

Afghānistān has borne that name only since the middle of the 18th century, when the supremacy of the Afghan race (Pashtuns) became assured: previously various districts bore distinct appellations, but the country was not a definite political unit, and its component parts were not bound together by any identity of race or language. The earlier meaning of the word was simply “the land of the Afghans”, a limited territory which did not include many parts of the present state but did comprise large districts now either independent or within the boundary of Pakistan.

Until the 19th century, the name was only used for the traditional lands of the Pashtuns, while the kingdom as a whole was known as the Kingdom of Kabul, as mentioned by the British statesman and historian Mountstuart Elphinstone[11]. Other parts of the country were at certain periods recognized as independent kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Balkh in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.[12]

With the expansion and centralization of the country, Afghan authorities adopted and extended the name "Afghanistan" to the entire kingdom, after its English translation, "Afghanland", had already appeared in various treaties between British Raj and Qajarid Persia, referring to the lands that were subject to the Pashtun Barakzai Dynasty of Kabul[13]. "Afghanistan" as the name for the entire kingdom was mentioned in 1857 by Frederick Engels[14]. It became the official name when the country was recognized by the world community in 1919, after regaining its full independence from the British[15], and was confirmed as such in the nation's 1923 constitution.[16]




Afghanistan is a land-locked and mountainous country in central Asia, with plains in the north and southwest. The highest point is Nowshak, at 7485 m (24,557 ft) above sea level. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. Afghanistan has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The country is frequently subject to minor earthquakes, mainly in the northeast of Hindu Kush mountain areas.

At 249,984 mi² (647,500 km²), Afghanistan is the world's 41st-largest country (after Burma). It is comparable in size to Somalia, and is slightly smaller than the US state of Texas.

The country's natural resources include gold, silver, copper, zinc and iron ore in southeastern areas; precious and semi-precious stones such as lapis, emerald and azure in the north-east; and potentially significant petroleum and natural gas reserves in the north. The country also has coal, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, and salt. However, these significant mineral and energy resources remain largely untapped due to the effects of the Soviet invasion and the subsequent civil war. Plans are underway to begin extracting them in the near future.[17][18][19][20][21]



Excavation of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree, the University of Pennsylvania, the Smithsonian Institute and others suggests that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities of the area were among the earliest in the world.[22][23]

Afghanistan is a country at a unique nexus point where numerous Eurasian civilizations have interacted and often fought, and was an important site of early historical activity. Through the ages, the region has been home to various people, among them the Aryan (Indo-Iranian) tribes, such as Bactrians, Sogdians, Parthians, etc.

Buddhas of Bamyan were the largest Buddha statues in the world, dating back to the first century AD.
Buddhas of Bamyan were the largest Buddha statues in the world, dating back to the first century AD.

It also has been invaded or conquered by a host of people, including the Median and Persian Empires, Greeks and Macedonians, Mauryans, Kushans, Hepthalites, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, British, Soviets, and most recently by the Americans and their allies. On other occasions, native entities have invaded or conquered surrounding regions to form empires of their own.

Between 2000 and 1200 BC, waves of Indo-European-speaking Aryans from the north of Amu Darya are thought to have flooded into northern Afghanistan and then spreading south towards India and west towards Persia, setting up a nation that during the rule of Medes and Achaemenid Persians became known as Aryānām Xšaθra or Airyānem Vāejah. Later, during the rule of Ashkanian, Sasanian and after, it was called Erānshahr (Persian: ايرانشهر ‎ ​ (Īrānšahr)) meaning "Dominion of the Aryans", which included large parts of Mesopotamia, the Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran and modern-day Central Asia (Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, the western part of Pakistan, etc., depending on differing interpretations).

It has been speculated that Zoroastrianism might have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 to 800 BC. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages, such as Avestan, may have been spoken in this region around a similar time-line with the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the sixth century BC, the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids supplanted the Median Empire and incorporated what was known as Persia to the Greeks within its boundaries; and by 330 BC, Alexander the Great had invaded Afghanistan and conquered the surrounding regions. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the Hellenistic successor states of the Seleucids and Greco-Bactrians controlled the area, while the Mauryas from India annexed the southeast for a time and introduced Buddhism to the region until the area returned to the Bactrian rule.

During the first century CE, the Tocharian Kushans created a vast empire centered in modern Afghanistan and were patrons of Buddhist culture. The Kushans were then defeated by the Sassanids in the 3rd century. The Sassanids ruled up to the seventh century, when Muslim Arab armies conquered the Sassanid Empire following the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah. The Arab Abbasids conquered the northwest section of Afghanistan by the ninth century and administered that region as part of Khorasan.

In the Middle Ages, up to the 18th century, the region was known as Khorasan.[24][25] Several important centers of Khorāsān are thus located in modern Afghanistan, such as Balkh, Herat, Ghazni and Kabul.

The region became the center of various important empires, including that of the Samanids (875-999), Ghaznavids (977-1187), Seljukids (1037-1194), Ghurids (1149-1212), and Timurids (1370-1506). Among them, the periods of Ghaznavids[26] of Ghazni, and Timurids[27] of Herat are considered as some of the most brilliant eras of Afghanistan's history.

In 1219, the region was overrun by the Mongols under Genghis Khan, who devastated the land. Their rule continued with the Ilkhanates, and was extended further following the invasion of Timur Lang, a ruler from Central Asia. In 1504, Babur, a descendant of both Timur Lang and Genghis Khan, established the Mughal Empire with its capital at Kabul. By the early 1700s, Afghanistan was controlled by several ruling groups: Uzbeks to the north, Safavids to the west and the remaining larger area by the Mughals or self ruled by local Afghan tribes.

In 1709, Mirwais Khan Hotak, a local Afghan (Pashtun) from the Ghilzai clan, overthrew and killed Gurgin Khan, the Safavid governor of Kandahar. Mirwais Khan successfully defeated the Persians, who were attempting to convert the local population of Kandahar from Sunni to Shia sect of Islam. As a result, over 30,000 Persian soldiers were killed, including the important generals Khusraw Khān and Rustam Khān.[28] Mirwais held the region of Kandahar until his death in 1715 and was succeeded by his son Mir Mahmud Hotaki. In 1722, Mir Mahmud led an Afghan army to Isfahan (now in Iran), sacked the city and proclaimed himself King of Persia. However, the great majority still rejected the Afghan regime as usurping, and after the massacre of thousends of civilians in Isfahan by the Afghans – including more than three thousand religious scholars, nobles, and members of the Safavid family – the Hotaki dynasty was eventually removed from power by a new ruler, Nadir Shah of Persia.[29][30]

In 1738, Nadir Shah and his army, which included four thousand Pashtuns of the Abdali clan[31], conquered the region of Kandahar; in the same year he occupied Ghazni, Kabul and Lahore. On June 19, 1747, Nadir Shah was assassinated, possibly planned by his nephew Ali Qoli. In the same year, one of Nadir's military commanders and personal bodyguard, Ahmad Shah Abdali, a Pashtun from the Abdali clan, called for a loya jirga following Nadir's death. The Afghans gathered at Kandahar and chose Ahmad Shah as their King. Since then, he is regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan.[17][32][33] After the inauguration, he changed his title or clans' name to "Durrani", which derives from the Persian word Durr, meaning "Pearl".[34]

By 1751, Ahmad Shah Durrani and his Afghan army conquered the entire present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India.[14] In October 1772, Ahmad Shah retired to his home in Maruf, Kandahar, where he died peacefully. He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah Durrani, who transferred the capital from Kandahar to Kabul. Timur died in 1793 and was finally succeeded by his son Zaman Shah Durrani.

During the nineteenth century, following the Anglo-Afghan wars (fought 1839-42, 1878-80, and lastly in 1919) and the ascension of the Barakzai dynasty, Afghanistan saw much of its territory and autonomy ceded to the United Kingdom. The UK exercised a great deal of influence, and it was not until King Amanullah Khan acceded to the throne in 1919 that Afghanistan re-gained complete independence over its foreign affairs (see "The Great Game"). During the period of British intervention in Afghanistan, ethnic Pashtun territories were divided by the Durand Line. This would lead to strained relations between Afghanistan and British India – and later the new state of Pakistan – over what came to be known as the Pashtunistan debate.

The longest period of stability in Afghanistan was between 1933 and 1973, when the country was under the rule of King Zahir Shah. However, in 1973, Zahir Shah's brother-in-law, Sardar Daoud Khan launched a bloodless coup. Daoud Khan and his entire family were later murdered in 1978, when the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan launched a coup known as the Great Saur Revolution and took over the government.

Opposition against, and conflict within, the series of communist governments that followed, was considerable. As part of a Cold War strategy, in 1979 the United States government under President Jimmy Carter and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski began to covertly fund and train anti-government Mujahideen forces through the Pakistani secret service agency known as Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), who were derived from discontented Muslims in the country that opposed the official atheism of the Marxist regime. In order to bolster the local Communist forces, the Soviet Union—citing the 1978 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness that had been signed between the two countries —intervened on December 24, 1979. According to media and official government sources, between 110,000 to 150,000 Soviet troops, assisted by another 100,000 or so pro-communist Afghan troops, were present in Afghanistan. The Soviet occupation resulted in a mass exodus of over 5 million Afghans that moved into refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan, Iran and other countries. More than 3 million settled in Pakistan, over a million in Iran and many others in different countries of the world. Faced with mounting international pressure and the loss of over 15,000 Soviet soldiers as a result of Mujahideen opposition forces trained by the United States, Pakistan, and other foreign governments, the Soviets withdrew ten years later, in 1989.

Further information: Soviet war in Afghanistan

The Soviet withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was seen as an ideological victory in the US, which had backed the Mujahideen through three US presidential administrations in order to counter Soviet influence in the vicinity of the oil-rich Persian Gulf. Following the removal of the Soviet forces in 1989, the US and its allies lost interest in Afghanistan and did little to help rebuild the war-ravaged country or influence events there. The USSR continued to support President Najibullah (formerly the head of the secret service, KHAD) until his downfall in 1992. However, the absence of the Soviet forces resulted in the downfall of the pro-communist government as it steadily lost ground to the guerrilla forces.[35]

Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988.
Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988.

The result of the fighting was that the vast majority of the elites and intellectuals had escaped to take refuge abroad, a dangerous leadership vacuum thereby coming into existence. Fighting continued among the various Mujahideen factions, eventually giving rise to a state of warlordism. The most serious fighting during this growing civil conflict occurred in 1994, when over 10,000 people were killed in Kabul. The chaos and corruption that dominated post-Soviet Afghanistan in turn spawned the rise of the Taliban, who were mostly Pashtuns from the Helmand and Kandahar region.

The Taliban developed as a politico-religious force, and eventually seized Kabul in 1996. By the end of 2000, the Taliban were able to capture 95% of the country, aside from the opposition (Afghan Northern Alliance) strongholds primarily found in the northeast corner of Badakhshan Province. The Taliban sought to impose an outragous interpretation of Islamic Sharia law and were later implicated as supporters of terrorists, most notably by harbouring Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

During the Taliban's seven-year rule, much of the population experienced restrictions on their freedom and violations of their human rights. Women were banned from jobs, girls forbidden to attend schools or universities. Those who resisted were punished instantly. Communists were systematically eradicated and thieves were punished by amputating one of their hands or feet. On the positive side, the Taliban managed to nearly eradicate the majority of the opium production by 2001.[36]

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom, a military campaign to destroy the Al-Qaeda terrorist network operating in Afghanistan and overthrow their host (the Taliban government). The US made common cause with the Afghan Northern Alliance to achieve its ends.

In December 2001, major leaders from the Afghan opposition groups and diaspora met in Bonn, Germany, and agreed on a plan for the formulation of a new democratic government that resulted in the inauguration of Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun from the southern city of Kandahar, as Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority.

After a nationwide Loya Jirga in 2002, Karzai was chosen by the representatives to assume the title as Interim-President of Afghanistan. In 2003, the country convened a Constitutional Loya Jirga (Council of Elders) and ratified a new constitution the following year. Hamid Karzai was elected President in a nation-wide election in October 2004. Legislative elections were held in September 2005. The National Assembly – the first freely elected legislature in Afghanistan since 1973 – sat in December 2005, and was noteworthy for the inclusion of women as voters, candidates, and elected members.

Hamid Karzai became the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in 2004, following a modern-style legitimate vote that was held in the country for the first time in history.
Hamid Karzai became the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in 2004, following a modern-style legitimate vote that was held in the country for the first time in history.

As the country continues to rebuild and recover, it is still struggling against poverty, poor infrastructure, large concentration of land mines and other unexploded ordinance on earth, as well as a huge illegal poppy cultivation and opium trade. Afghanistan also remains subject to occasionally violent political jockeying. The country continues to grapple with the Taliban insurgency, the threat of attacks from a few remaining al-Qaeda, and instability, particularly in the north, caused by the remaining few semi-independent warlords.


Latest on Afghanistan

The start of 2007 saw the situation in Afghanistan steadily worsening. Taliban's growing strength led the US to consider longer tours and even an increase in troop numbers. According to news reports "U.S. military officials cited new evidence that the Pakistani military, which has long-standing ties to the Taliban movement, has turned a blind eye to the incursions." Also "The number of insurgent attacks is up by 300 percent since September [2006], when the Pakistani government put into effect a peace arrangement with tribal leaders in the north Waziristan area, along Afghanistan's eastern border, a U.S. military intelligence officer told reporters." [2] Opium production has also steadily increased, accounting for one-third to two-third of the country's GDP [3].


Government and politics

Politics in Afghanistan has historically consisted of power struggles, bloody coups and unstable transfers of power. With the exception of a military junta, the country has been governed by nearly every system of government over the past century, including a monarchy, republic, theocracy and communist state. The constitution ratified by the 2003 Loya jirga restructured the government as an Islamic republic consisting of three branches, (executive, legislature and judiciary).

Afghanistan is currently led by President Hamid Karzai, who was elected in October 2004. While supporters have praised Karzai's efforts to promote national reconciliation and a growing economy, critics charge him with failing to rein in the country's warlords, inability to stem corruption and the growing drug trade, and the slow pace of reconstruction. The current parliament was elected in 2005. Among the elected officials were former mujahadeen, Taliban members, communists, reformists, and Islamic fundamentalists. 28% of the delegates elected were women, 3% more than the 25% minimum guaranteed under the constitution. This made Afghanistan, long known under the Taliban for its oppression of women, one of the leading countries in terms of female representation.

The Supreme Court of Afghanistan is currently led by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, a former university professor who had been legal advisor to the president.[37] The previous court, appointed during the time of the interim government, had been dominated by fundamentalist religious figures, including Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari. The court had issued numerous questionable rulings, such as banning cable television, seeking to ban a candidate in the 2004 presidential election and limiting the rights of women, as well as overstepping its constitutional authority by issuing rulings on subjects not yet brought before the court. The current court is seen as more moderate and led by more technocrats than the previous court, although it has yet to issue any rulings.


Administrative divisions

Afghanistan is administratively divided into thirty-four provinces (welayats), which are further subdivided into districts.

Map showing the provinces of Afghanistan.
  1. Badakhshan
  2. Badghis
  3. Baghlan
  4. Balkh
  5. Bamyan
  6. Daykundi
  7. Farah
  8. Faryab
  9. Ghazni
  10. Ghor
  11. Helmand
  12. Herat
  13. Jowzjan
  14. Kabul
  15. Kandahar
  16. Kapisa
  17. Khost
  18. Konar
  19. Kunduz
  20. Laghman
  21. Lowgar
  22. Nangarhar
  23. Nimruz
  24. Nurestan
  25. Oruzgan
  26. Paktia
  27. Paktika
  28. Panjshir
  29. Parvan
  30. Samangan
  31. Sare Pol
  32. Takhar
  33. Wardak
  34. Zabol


Afghanistan is an extremely impoverished country, one of the world's poorest and least developed nations. Two-thirds of the population lives on less than US 2 dollars a day. The economy has suffered greatly from the recent political and military unrest since the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent conflicts, while severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998-2001.[38][39]

The economically active population in 2002 was about 11 million (out of a total of an estimated 29 million). While there are no official unemployment rate estimates available, it is evident that it is high. The number of non-skilled young people is estimated at 3 million, which is likely to increase by some 300,000 per annum.[40]

As much as one-third of Afghanistan's GDP comes from growing poppy and illicit drugs including opium and its two derivatives, morphine and heroin, as well as hashish production.[17]

On a positive note, international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan led to the formation of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) as a result of the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, and later addressed at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan Reconstruction in 2002, where 4.5 billion US dollars were committed in a trust fund to be administered by the World Bank Group. Another 4 billion US dollars were committed in 2004 followed by 10.5 billion in early 2006 at the London Conference.[41] Priority areas for reconstruction include the rebuilding of the educational system, health, and sanitation facilities, enhancement of administrative capacity, the development of the agricultural sector, and the rebuilding of road, energy, and telecommunication links.

According to a 2004 report by the Asian Development Bank, the present reconstruction effort is two-pronged: first it focuses on rebuilding critical physical infrastructure, and second, on building modern public sector institutions from the remnants of Soviet style planning to ones that promote market-led development.[40] In 2006, two US companies, Black & Veatch and the Louis Berger Group, have won a US 1.4 billion dollar contract to rebuild roads, power lines and water supply systems of Afghanistan.[42]

One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over 4 million refugees from neighbouring countries and the West, who brought with them fresh energy, entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed funds to start up businesses. What is also helping is the estimated US 2-3 billion dollars in international assistance every year, the partial recovery of the agricultural sector, and the reestablishment of market institutions. Private developments are also beginning to get underway. In 2006, a Dubai-based Afghan family opened a $25 million Coca Cola bottling plant in Afghanistan.[43]

While the country's current account deficit is largely financed with the donor money, only a small portion – about 15% – is provided directly to the government budget. The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations. The government had a central budget of only $350 million in 2003 and an estimated $550 million in 2004. The country's foreign exchange reserves totals about $500 million. Revenue is mostly generated through customs, as income and corporate tax bases are negligible.

Inflation had been a major problem until 2002. However, the depreciation of the Afghani in 2002 after the introduction of the new notes (which replaced 1,000 old Afghani by 1 new Afghani) coupled with the relative stability compared to previous periods has helped prices to stabilize and even decrease between December 2002 and February 2003, reflecting the turnaround appreciation of the new Afghani currency. Since then, the index has indicated stability, with a moderate increase toward late 2003.[40]

The Afghan government and international donors seem to remain committed to improving access to basic necessities, infrastructure development, education, housing and economic reform. The central government is also focusing on improved revenue collection and public sector expenditure discipline. The rebuilding of the financial sector seems to have been so far successful. Money can now be transferred in and out of the country via official banking channels. Since 2003, over fourteen new banks have opened in the country, including Da Afghanistan Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Afghanistan International Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, First MicroFinanceBank, and others. A new law on private investment provides three to seven-year tax holidays to eligible companies and a four-year exemption from exports tariffs and duties.

The plan for Kabul's nine billion dollar future modern urban development project, the City of Light Development.
The plan for Kabul's nine billion dollar future modern urban development project, the City of Light Development.

Some private investment projects, backed with national support, are also beginning to pick up steam in Afghanistan. An initial concept design called the City of Light Development, envisioned by Dr. Hisham N. Ashkouri, Prinicpal of ARCADD, Inc. for the development and the implementation of a privately based investment enterprise has been proposed for multi-function commercial, historic and cultural development within the limits of the Old City of Kabul along the Southern side of the Kabul River and along Jade Meywand Avenue,[44] revitalizing some of the most commercial and historic districts in the City of Kabul, which contains numerous historic mosques and shrines as well as viable commercial activities among war damaged buildings. Also incorporated in the design is a new complex for the Afghan National Museum.

While these improvements will help rebuild a strong basis for the nation in the future, for now, half the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and other problems exacerbated by military operations and political uncertainties. The government is not strong enough to collect customs duties from all the provinces due to the power of the warlords. Fraud is widespread and "corruption is rife within many Afghan government organs.[45]

The overall good news is the country has potential to quickly come out of poverty and become an economically stable country. This is due to many reports showing that the country has possession of mass amounts of high demand natural resources and minerals. According to the US Geological Survey and the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Industry, Afghanistan may be possessing up to 36 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 3.6 billion barrels of petroleum and up to 1,325 million barrels of natural gas liquids. This could mark the turning point in Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts. Energy exports could generate the revenue that Afghan officials need to modernize the country’s infrastructure and expand economic opportunities for the beleaguered and fractious population.[19] Other reports suggest that the country has huge amounts of gold, copper, coal, iron ore and other rich minerals.[18][20]





The CIA factbook on languages spoken in Afghanistan is as follows: Persian (officially known as Dari, but known more widely as Farsi) 50% and Pashto 35%; both are Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family. Pashto and Dari are the official languages of the country. Other languages spoken include Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 9%, as well as 30 minor languages 4% (primarily Balochi, Nuristani, Pashai, Brahui, Pamiri languages, Hindko, Hindi/Urdu, etc.). Bilingualism is common.

Languages of Afghanistan         ██�50% Dari dialect of Persian         ██�35% Pashto   ██�8% Uzbeki  ██�3% Turkmeni       ██�2% Balochi ������2% other (Nuristani, Pashai, Brahui, Pamiri languages, Hindko, Urdu, Hindi, etc.)
Languages of Afghanistan ██ 50% Dari dialect of Persian ██ 35% Pashto ██ 8% Uzbeki ██ 3% Turkmeni ██ 2% Balochi       2% other (Nuristani, Pashai, Brahui, Pamiri languages, Hindko, Urdu, Hindi, etc.)

According to the Encyclopædia Iranica,[46] the Persian language is the mother tongue of roughly one-third of Afghanistan's population, while it is also the most widely used language of the country, spoken by around 90% of the population. It further states that Pashto is spoken by around 50% of the population.


Ethnic Groups

The population of Afghanistan is divided into a wide variety of ethnic groups. Because a systematic census has not been held in the country in decades, exact figures about the size and composition of the various ethnic groups are not available.[47] Therefore most figures are approximations only. Based on the latest 2006 information gathered by the BBC News agency, from the CIA and the United Nations reports, Afghanistan's ethnic group distribution is indicated on the Pie chart below:

According to the CIA World Factbook,[17] an approximate ethnic group distribution is as follows:

Ethnic groups of Afghanistan         ██�42% Pashtun         ██�27% Tajik       ██�9% Hazara   ██�9% Uzbek ������4% Aimak  ██�3% Turkmen       ██�2% Baloch ������4% other (Pashai, Nuristani, Brahui, Hindkowans, Hindustani, etc.)
Ethnic groups of Afghanistan ██ 42% Pashtun ██ 27% Tajik ██ 9% Hazara ██ 9% Uzbek       4% Aimak ██ 3% Turkmen ██ 2% Baloch       4% other (Pashai, Nuristani, Brahui, Hindkowans, Hindustani, etc.)

The Encyclopædia Britannica gives a slightly different list for various ethnolinguistic groups in Afghanistan:[48]

Based on official census numbers from the 1960s to the 1980s, as well as information found in mainly scholarly sources,[49] the Encyclopædia Iranica gives the following list:[49]



Religiously, Afghans are over 99% Muslims: approximately 74-89% Sunni and 9-25% Shi'a[48][17][50] (estimates vary). There are about 30,000 to 150,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in different cities but mostly in Jalalabad, Kabul, and Kandahar.[51][52] Also, there was a small Jewish community in Afghanistan (See Bukharan Jews) who fled the country after the 1979 Soviet invasion, and only one individual, Zablon Simintov, remains today.[53]


Largest cities

The only city in Afghanistan with over one million residents is its capital, Kabul. The other major cities in the country are, in order of population size, Kandahar, Herat, Mazari Sharif, Jalalabad, Ghazni and Kunduz.



Afghans display pride in their religion, country, ancestry, and above all, their independence. Like other highlanders, Afghans are regarded with mingled apprehension and condescension, for their high regard for personal honor, for their clan loyalty and for their readiness to carry and use arms to settle disputes.[54] As clan warfare and internecine feuding has been one of their chief occupations since time immemorial, this individualistic trait has made it difficult for foreign invaders to hold the region.

Afghanistan has a complex history that has survived either in its current cultures or in the form of various languages and monuments. However, many of the country's historic monuments have been damaged in recent wars. The two famous statues of Buddha in the Bamyan Province were destroyed by the Taliban, who regarded them as idolatrous. Other famous sites include the very cities of Kandahar, Herat, Ghazni and Balkh. The Minaret of Jam, in the Hari Rud valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cloak worn by Prophet Mohammad is stored inside the famouse Khalka Sharifa in Kandahar City.

The people of Afghanistan are prominent horsemen as the national sport is Buzkashi, similar to polo, but instead which a goat carcass is used instead of a ball. Afghan hounds (a type of running dog) also originated from Afghanistan.

Although literacy levels are very low, classic Persian poetry plays a very important role in Afghan culture. Poetry has always been one of the major educational pillars in Iran and Afghanistan, to the level that it has integrated itself into culture. Persian culture has, and continues to, exert a great influence over Afghan culture. Private poetry competition events known as “musha’era” are quite common even among ordinary people. Almost every home owns one or more poetry collection of some sort, even if it is not read often.

The eastern dialects of the Persian language are popularly known as "Dari". The name itself derives from "Pārsī-e Darbārī", meaning Persian of the royal courts. The ancient term Darī – one of the original names of the Persian language – was revived in the Afghan constitution of 1964, and was intended "to signify that Afghans consider their country the cradle of the language. Hence, the name Fārsī, the language of Fārs, is strictly avoided. With this point in mind, we can consider the development of Dari or Persian literature in the political entity known as Afghanistan."[55]

Many of the famous Persian poets of the tenth to fifteenth centuries stem from Khorasan where is now known as Afghanistan. They were mostly also scholars in many disciplines like languages, natural sciences, medicine, religion and astronomy.

Most of these individuals were of Persian (Tājīk) ethnicity who still form the second-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Also, some of the contemporary Persian language poets and writers, who are relatively well-known in Persian-speaking world, include Ustad Betab, Qari Abdullah, Khalilullah Khalili,[56] Sufi Ghulam Nabi Ashqari,[57] Qahar Asey, Parwin Pazwak and others. In 2003, Khaled Hosseini published The Kiterunner which though fiction, captured much of the history, politics and culture experienced in Afghanistan from the 1930s to present day.

In addition to poets and authors, numerous Persian scientists have had their origins lie in where it's now called Afghanistan. Most notable was Avicenna (Abu Alī Hussein ibn Sīnā) whose father hailed from Balkh. Ibn Sīnā, who travelled to Isfahan later in life to establish a medical school there, is known by some scholars as "the father of modern medicine". George Sarton called ibn Sīnā "the most famous scientist of Islam and one of the most famous of all races, places, and times." His most famous works are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, also known as the Qanun. Ibn Sīnā's story even found way to the contemporary English literature through Noah Gordon's The Physician, now published in many languages.

Before the Taliban gained power, the city of Kabul was home to many musicians who were masters of both traditional and modern Afghan music, especially during the Nauroz-celebration. Kabul in the middle part of the twentieth century has been likened to Vienna during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The tribal system, which orders the life of most people outside metropolitan areas, is potent in political terms. Men feel a fierce loyalty to their own tribe, such that, if called upon, they would assemble in arms under the tribal chiefs and local clan leaders (Khans). In theory, under Islamic law, every believer has an obligation to bear arms at the ruler's call (Ulul-Amr).

Heathcote considers the tribal system to be the best way of organizing large groups of people in a country that is geographically difficult, and in a society that, from a materialistic point of view, has an uncomplicated lifestyle.[54]




Communications and technology

Afghanistan has rapidly increased in communication technology, and has embarked on wireless companies, internet, radio stations and television channels. Afghan telecommunication companies, Afghan Wireless, Roshan and Areeba, have boasted increase in rapid cellular phone usage. In 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications has signed a US 64.5 million dollar agreement with a company (ZTE Corporation) on the establishment of a countrywide fibre optical cable network. This will improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services throughout the country.[58]

Afghanistan's local television channels include:



Afghanistan's commercial airlines, Ariana Afghan Airlines, now serves flights to London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Madrid, Rome, Dubai and Istanbul to and from Kabul and Herat. Afghanistan has also improved in vehicle conditions with Toyota, Land Rover, BMW and Hyundai dealerships all over Kabul, and a huge import of fine second-hand vehicles from UAE on display in Kandahar. Afghanistan, however, still is a long way from major modern technological advancements, but is on the fast road to that goal.



In the spring of 2003, it was estimated that 30% of Afghanistan's 7,000 schools had been very seriously damaged during more than two decades of civil war. Only half of the schools were reported to have clean water, while fewer than an estimated 40% had adequate sanitation. Education for boys was not a priority during the Taliban regime, and girls were banished from schools outright.

As regards the poverty and violence of their surroundings, a study in 2002 by the Save the Children Fund said Afghan children were resilient and courageous. The study credited the strong institutions of family and community.

As of 2006, more than four million male and female students are enrolled in schools throughout the country. Primary education is totally free and available for all boys and girls.

Literacy of the entire population is estimated at 36%, the male literacy rate is 51% and female literacy is 21%. Up to now there are 9,000 schools in the country.

Another aspect of education that is rapidly changing in Afghanistan is the face of higher education. Following the fall of the Taliban, Kabul University was reopened to both male and female students. In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan also opened its doors, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan. The university accepts students from Afghanistan and the neighboring countries. Construction work will soon start at the new site selected for Balkh University in Mazari Sharif. The new building for the university, including the building for the Engineering Department, would be constructed at 600 acres of land at the cost of US 250 million dollars.[59]


Views of Afghanistan


See also




References and footnotes

  1. Afghanistan, in Encyclopædia Britannica, Online Edition, 2006, (LINK)
  2. National Geographic - Afghanistan ProfileLINK (accessed 20 January, 2006)
  3. CIA Factbook - AfghanistanLINK (accessed 20 January, 2006)
  4. Middle East Institute - AfghanistanLINK (accessed 20 January, 2006)
  5. Part of the region bordering Pakistan falls in the disputed Kashmir region which is claimed by India
  6. Britannica Concise - Ahmad Shah Durrani...Link
  7. Ch.M. Kieffer, "Afghan" (with ref. to "Afghanistan: iv. Ethnography"), in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition 2006, (LINK)
  8. extract from "Passion of the Afghan" by Khushal Khan Khattak; translated by C. Biddulph in "Afghan Poetry Of The 17th Century: Selections from the Poems of Khushal Khan Khattak", London, 1890
  9. Zāhir ud-Dīn Mohammad Bābur in Bāburnāma, "Transactions of the year 908", translated by John Leyden, Oxford University Press 1921 (LINK)
  10. M. Longworth Dames/G. Morgenstierne/R. Ghirshman, "Afghānistān", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Online Edition
  11. Elphinstone, M., "Account of the Kingdom of Cabul and its Dependencies in Persia and India", London 1815; published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown
  12. E. Bowen, "A New & Accurate Map of Persia" in A Complete System Of Geography, Printed for W. Innys, R. Ware [etc.], London 1747
  13. E. Huntington, "The Anglo-Russian Agreement as to Tibet, Afghanistan, and Persia", Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol. 39, No. 11 (1907)
  14. 14.0 14.1 MECW Volume 18, p. 40; The New American Cyclopaedia - Vol. I, 1858;...Link
  15. M. Ali, "Afghanistan: The War of Independence, 1919", Kabul [s.n.], 1960
  16. Afghanistan's Constitution of 1923, under King Amanullah Khan, English translation...Link
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 CIA World Factbook - Afghanistan...Link
  18. 18.0 18.1 Minerals in Afghanistan - gold and copper discovered in Afghanistan...Link
  19. 19.0 19.1 - Eurasia Insight - Afghanistan’s Energy Future and its Potential Implications... Link
  20. 20.0 20.1 Pajhwok Afghan News - Govt plans to lease out Ainak copper mine...Link
  21. Pajhwok Afghan News - 16 detained for smuggling chromites...Link
  22. Nancy Hatch Dupree - An Historical Guide To Afghanistan - Sites in Perspective (Chapter 3)...Link
  23. John Ford Shroder, B.S., M.S., Ph.D. Regents Professor of Geography and Geology, University of Nebraska. Editor, Himalaya to the Sea: Geology, Geomorphology, and the Quaternary and other books. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006 - Afghanistan...Link
  24. Ghubar, Mir Ghulam Mohammad, Khorasan, 1937 Kabul Printing House, Kabul)
  25. Tajikistan Development Gateway from The Development Gateway Foundation - History of Afghanistan LINK
  26. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Online Edition - Ghaznavid Dynasty LINK
  27. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Online Edition - Timurid Dynasty LINK
  28. Packard Humanities Institute - Persian Literature in Translation - Chapter IV: An Outline Of The History Of Persia During The Last Two Centuries (A.D. 1722-1922)...Link
  29. Prof. D. Balland, "Ašraf Ghilzai", in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition 2006, (LINK)
  30. Encyclopaedia Britannica - The Hotakis (from Afghanistan)...Link
  31. Encyclopaedia Britannica - The Durrani dynasty (from Afghanistan)...Link
  32. Encyclopaedia Britannica - Ahmad Shah Durrani...Link
  33. Nancy Hatch Dupree - An Historical Guide To Afghanistan - The South (Chapter 16)...Link
  34. Encyclopaedia Britannica - The Durrani dynasty (from Afghanistan)...Link
  35. Columbia Encyclopedia - Afghanistan: History...Link
  36. Afghanistan, Opium and the Taliban [1]
  37. - New Supreme Court Could Mark Genuine Departure - August 13, 2006
  38. Morales, Victor (2005-03-28). Poor Afghanistan. Voice of America. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.
  39. North, Andrew (2004-03-30). Why Afghanistan wants $27.6bn. BBC News. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 Fujimura, Manabu (2004) "Afghan Economy After the Election", Asian Development Bank Institute
  41. Irin - Afghanistan: Government to have greater control over aid pledged in London...Link
  42. The Kansas City Star - Midday Business Report: Black & Veatch unit gains piece of Afghan contract...Link
  43. Contra Costa Times - Coca-Cola opens plant in
  44. Kabul - City of Light
  45. The Economist magazine, UK, October 2005
  46. L. Dupree, "Afghānistān: (v.) languages", in Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition 2006, (LINK)
  47. BBC News - Afghan poll's ethnic battleground - October 6, 2004
  48. 48.0 48.1 Encyclopædia Britannica - Afghanistan...Link (PDF)
  49. 49.0 49.1 L. Dupree, "Afghānistān: (iv.) ethnocgraphy", in Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition 2006, (LINK)
  50. Goring, R. (ed) "Larousse Dictionary of Beliefs & Religions" (Larousse: 1994); pg. 581-58;: Table: "Population Distribution of Major Beliefs", ISBN 0-7523-0000-8, Note: "... Figures have been compiled from the most accurate recent available information and are in most cases correct to the nearest 1% ..."
  51. Hinduism Today: Hindus Abandon Afghanistan
  52. BBC South Asia: Sikhs struggle in Afghanistan
  53. - Afghan Jew Becomes Country's One and Only - N.C. Aizenman
  54. 54.0 54.1 Heathcote, Tony (1980, 2003) "The Afghan Wars 1839 - 1919", Sellmount Staplehurst
  55. R. Farhādī, "Modern literature of Afghanistan", Encyclopaedia Iranica, xii, Online Edition, (LINK)
  56. - Ustad Khalilullah Khalili - 1997
  57. - Kharaabat - by Yousef Kohzad - 2000
  58. Pajhwok Afghan News - Ministry signs contract with Chinese company...Link
  59. Pajhwok Afghan News - Pakistan grants $10m for Balkh University...Link

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