Afghanistan Wikipedia

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان

    Jomhūrī-ye Eslāmī-ye Afġānestān  (Dari)
  • د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوریت

    Da Afġānistān Islāmī Jomhoriyat  (Pashto)
Anthem: "Afghan National Anthem"

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and largest city

34°32′N 69°08′E / 34.533°N 69.133°E / 34.533; 69.133
Official languages
  • Pashto
  • Dari
GovernmentUnitary presidential republic
 - PresidentHamid Karzai
 - Vice Presidents
  • Yunus Qanuni
  • Karim Khalili
 - Chief JusticeAbdul Salam Azimi
LegislatureNational Assembly
 - Upper houseHouse of Elders
 - Lower houseHouse of the People
Independence from Persia
 - First Afghan stateApril 1709 
 - Afghan EmpireOctober 1747 
 - Recognized19 August 1919 
 - Total652,864 km2 (41st)

251,827 sq mi
 - Water (%)negligible
 - 2013 estimate31,108,077 (40)
 - 1979 census15.5 million
 - Density43.5/km2 (150th)

111.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP)2014 estimate
 - Total$36.838 billion
 - Per capita$1,177
GDP (nominal)2014 estimate
 - Total$21.747 billion
 - Per capita$695
Gini (2008)29

HDI (2011)0.398

low · 172nd
CurrencyAfghani (AFN)
Time zoneD† (UTC+4:30)
Drives on theright
Calling code+93
ISO 3166 codeAF
Afghanistan Listeni/æfˈɡænɨstæn/ (Pashto/Dari: افغانستان, Afġānistān), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in Central Asia and South Asia. It has a population of around 31 million people making it the 42nd most populous country. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and the east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast and its territory covers 652,000 km2 (252,000 sq mi) making it the 41st largest country in the world.

Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic Era and the country's geostrategic location along the Silk Road connected it to the cultures of the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. Through the ages the land has been home to various peoples and witnessed many military campaigns, notably by Alexander the Great, Arab Muslims, Genghis Khan, and in the modern-era by Western powers. The land also served as a source from which the Kushans, Hephthalites, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Mughals, Durranis and others have risen to form major empires.

The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan began with the Hotaki and Durrani dynasties in the 18th Century. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between British India and the Russian Empire. Following the 1919 Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah and King Mohammed Zahir Shah attempted modernization of the country. A series of coups in 1973, 1978 and again in 1979 was followed by a Soviet invasion and a series of civil wars which have since devastated much of the country.



              Main article: Name of Afghanistan
              The name Afghānistān (Persian: افغانستان‎, [avɣɒnestɒn]) is believed to be as old as the ethnonym Afghan, which is documented in a 10th-century geography book called Hudud ul-'alam. The root name "Afghan" has been used historically in reference to the Pashtun people and the ending suffix "-stan" means "place of" in Sanskrit. Therefore, Afghanistan translates to the "place of Afghans" or "land of the Afghans". As per another interpretation, the name "Afghanistan" comes from "Upa-Gana-stan" which means in Sanskrit "The place inhabited by allied tribes".


              This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles or condensing it. (June 2014)
              Main article: History of Afghanistan
              "Interior of the palace of Shauh Shujah Ool Moolk, Late King of Cabul"
              History of Afghanistan
              • Wikipedia book Book
              • Category Category
              • Portal Portal
              Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites.

              The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. It has been home to various peoples through the ages, among them the ancient Iranian peoples who established the dominant role of Indo-Iranian languages in the region. At multiple points, the land has been incorporated within large regional empires, among them the Achaemenid Empire, the Macedonian Empire, the Indian Maurya Empire and the Islamic Empire.

              Many kingdoms have also risen to power in what is now Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Kabul Shahis, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Kartids, Timurids, Mughals, and finally the Hotaki and Durrani dynasties that marked the political origins of the modern state.

              Pre-Islamic period

              Main article: Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan

              Bilingual (Greek and Aramaic) edict by Emperor Ashoka from the 3rd century BCE was discovered in the southern city of Kandahar.
              Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with its neighbors to the east, west and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan. Urban civilization is believed to have begun as early as 3000 BCE, and the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar in the south of the country) may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization.

              One of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, Buddhism was widespread in the region before the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan
              After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan; among them were many Indo-European-speaking Indo-Iranians. These tribes later migrated further south to India, west to what is now Iran, and towards Europe via the area north of the Caspian. The region as a whole was called Ariana.

              The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 and 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenid Persians overthrew the Medes and incorporated what is now Afghanistan (Arachosia, Aria and Bactria) within its eastern boundaries. An inscription on the tombstone of King Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries that he had conquered.

              Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to the area of Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier in the Battle of Gaugamela. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area as one of their eastern most territories until 305 BCE when they gave much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty.

              The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush until about 185 BCE when they were overthrown. Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic reconquest of the region by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.

              During the first century BCE, the Parthian Empire subjugated the region, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid-to-late first century CE the vast Kushan Empire, centered in modern Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture, making Buddhism flourish in what is now Afghanistan. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanid Persians in the 3rd century CE. Although various rulers calling themselves Kushanshas (generally known as the Indo-Sassanids) continued to rule at least parts of the region, they were probably more or less subject to the Sassanids.

              The late Kushans were followed by the Kidarite Huns who, in turn, were replaced by the short-lived but powerful Hephthalites, as rulers. The Hephthalites were defeated by Khosrau I in 557 CE. However, in the 6th century CE, the successors to the Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty in Kabulistan called Kabul Shahi.

              Islamization and Mongol invasion

              Main articles: Islamic conquest of Afghanistan and Mongol invasion of Central Asia

              Built during the Ghurids era, the Friday Mosque of Herat or Masjid Jami is one of the oldest mosques in Afghanistan.
              Between the 4th and 19th centuries the northwestern area of modern Afghanistan was referred to by the regional name as Khorasan. Two of the four capitals of Khorasan (Herat and Balkh) are now located in Afghanistan, while the regions of Kandahar, Zabulistan, Ghazni, Kabulistan and Afghanistan formed the frontier between Khorasan and Hindustan. Arab Muslims brought the message of Islam to Herat and Zaranj in 642 AD and began spreading eastward, some of the native inhabitants they encountered accepted it while others revolted. The people of what is now Afghanistan were multi-religious, which included Buddhists, Zoroastrians, worshippers of the sun, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and others. The Zunbil and Kabul Shahi were defeated in 870 AD by the Saffarid Muslims of Zaranj. Later, the Samanids extended their Islamic influence into south of the Hindu Kush. It is reported that Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the Ghaznavids rose to power.

              What is now Afghanistan became one of the main centers in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. By the 11th century Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni had finally Islamized all of the remaining non-Muslim areas, with the exception of the Kafiristan region. The Ghaznavids were replaced by the Ghurids who expanded and advanced the already powerful empire. In 1219 AD, Genghis Khan and his Mongol army overran the region. His troops are said to have annihilated the Khorasanian cities of Herat and Balkh as well as Bamyan.

              The destruction caused by the Mongols depopulated major cities and forced many of the locals to revert to an agrarian rural society. Mongol rule continued with the Ilkhanate in the northwest while the Khilji dynasty controlled the Afghan tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush, until the invasion of Timur who established the Timurid dynasty in 1370. During the Ghaznavid, Ghurid, and Timurid eras, the region of what is now Afghanistan produced many fine Islamic architectural monuments as well as numerous scientific and literary works.

              Babur, a descendant of both Timur and Genghis Khan, arrived from Fergana and captured Kabul from the Arghun dynasty, and from there he began to seize control of the central and eastern territories of Afghanistan. He remained in Kabulistan until 1526 when he and his army invaded Delhi in India to replace the Afghan Lodi dynasty with the Mughal Empire. From the 16th century to the early 18th century, the region of nowadays Afghanistan was contested between three kingdoms: the Khanate of Bukhara in the north, the Iranian Safavid dynasty in the west, and the remaining area to the east was ruled by the Mughal Empire. With the Uzbeks decisively defeated by the Safavids, the area was later on only contested between them and the Mughals, in which the powerful Safavids kept clear domination in most of the territory.

              Hotaki dynasty and Durrani Empire

              Main articles: Hotaki dynasty and Durrani Empire

              Mir Wais Hotak, considered as Grandfather of the Nation
              Mir Wais Hotak, seen as Afghanistan's George Washington, successfully rebelled against the declining Persian Safavids in 1709. He overthrew and killed the Iranian Georgian governor over the region, Gurgin Khan, and made the Afghan region independent from Persia. By 1713, Mir Wais had decisively defeated two larger Persian armies, one was led by Khusraw Khán (nephew of Gurgin) and the other by Rustam Khán. The armies were sent by Sultan Husayn, the Shah in Isfahan, to re-take control of their eastern most territories, in the Kandahar region. Mir Wais died of a natural cause in 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz, who became a suspect of treason and then killed by Mir Wais' son Mahmud. Knowing that the Safavids were heavily declining, ridden by civil strife, foreign interests and attacks by their arch enemy the Ottomans, Mahmud led his Afghan army in 1722 to the Persian capital of Isfahan, captured the city after the Battle of Gulnabad and proclaimed himself briefly king of Persia. The Persians rejected the Afghan invaders from the very start, and after the massacre of thousands of religious scholars, nobles, and members of the Safavid family, the Hotaki dynasty was ousted and banished from Persia by Nader Shah after the 1729 Battle of Damghan.

              Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the last Afghan empire and viewed as Father of the Nation.
              In 1738, the Iranian military genius Nader Shah and his Afsharid forces captured and destroyed Kandahar, the last Hotaki stronghold, from Shah Hussain Hotaki at which point the incarcerated 16-year-old Ahmad Shah Durrani was freed and made the commander of Nader Shah's four thousand Abdali Afghans, joining him in his invasion of India. After the death of Nader Shah in 1747, the Afghans chose Ahmad Shah Durrani as their head of state. Regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan, At their brief peak, Durrani and his Afghan army conquered present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India. He defeated the Indian Maratha Empire, one of his biggest victories was the 1761 Battle of Panipat.

              In October 1772, Ahmad Shah Durrani died of a natural cause and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak in Kandahar. He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah, who transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776. After Timur Shah's death in 1793, the Durrani throne passed down to his son Zaman Shah followed by Mahmud Shah, Shuja Shah and others.

              The Afghan Empire was under threat in the early 19th century by the Persians in the west and the British-backed Sikhs in the east. Fateh Khan, leader of the Barakzai tribe, had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the empire. After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves. During this turbulent period, Afghanistan had many temporary rulers until Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir in 1826. The Punjab region was lost to Ranjit Singh, who invaded Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in 1834 captured the city of Peshawar. In 1837, during the Battle of Jamrud near the Khyber Pass, Akbar Khan and the Afghan army killed Sikh Commander Hari Singh Nalwa. By this time the British were advancing from the east and the first major conflict during the Great Game was initiated.

              Western influence

              Further information: European influence in Afghanistan and Reforms of Amānullāh Khān and civil war

              British and allied forces at Kandahar after the 1880 Battle of Kandahar, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The large defensive wall around the city was removed in the early 1930s by the order of King Nadir.
              Following the 1842 defeat of the British-Indian forces and victory of the Afghans, the British established diplomatic relations with the Afghan government but withdrew all forces from the country. They returned during the Second Anglo-Afghan War in the late 1870s for about two-year military operations, which was to assist Abdur Rahman Khan defeat Ayub Khan. The United Kingdom began to exercise a great deal of influence after this and even controlled the state's foreign policy. In 1893, Mortimer Durand made Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign a controversial agreement in which the ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories were divided by the Durand Line. This was a standard divide and rule policy of the British and would lead to strained relations, especially with the later new state of Pakistan.

              Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, who reigned from 1933 to 1973.
              After the Third Anglo-Afghan War and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, King Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan a sovereign and fully independent state. He moved to end his country's traditional isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with the international community and, following a 1927–28 tour of Europe and Turkey, introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women. He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's 1923 constitution, which made elementary education compulsory. The institution of slavery was abolished in 1923.

              Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional burqa for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah Khan was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to rebel forces led by Habibullah Kalakani. Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Kalakani in November 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernisation but was assassinated in 1933 by Abdul Khaliq, a Hazara school student.

              Mohammed Zahir Shah, Nadir Shah's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. Another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister in 1946 and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. He was replaced in 1953 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law. Daoud Khan sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan. Afghanistan remained neutral and was neither a participant in World War II, nor aligned with either power bloc in the Cold War. However, it was a beneficiary of the latter rivalry as both the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence by building Afghanistan's main highways, airports and other vital infrastructure. In 1973, while King Zahir Shah was on an official overseas visit, Daoud Khan launched a bloodless coup and became the first President of Afghanistan.

              Marxist revolution and Soviet war

              Main articles: Saur Revolution, Soviet war in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and History of Afghanistan (1978–1992)

              Outside the Arg Presidential Palace in Kabul, a day after the April 1978 Marxist revolution in which President Daoud Khan was assassinated along with his entire family.
              In April 1978, the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution. Within months, opponents of the communist government launched an uprising in eastern Afghanistan that quickly expanded into a civil war waged by guerrilla mujahideen against government forces countrywide. The Pakistani government provided these rebels with covert training centers, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA government. Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA — the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham — resulted in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers under the pretext of a Parchami coup.

              In September 1979, Khalqist President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency. Distrusted by the Soviets, Amin was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December 1979. A Soviet-organized government, led by Parcham's Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions, filled the vacuum. Soviet troops were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal in more substantial numbers, although the Soviet government did not expect to do most of the fighting in Afghanistan. As a result, however, the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan.

              The PDPA prohibited usury, made statements on women's rights by declaring equality of the sexes and introducing women to political life.

              The Carter and Reagan administrations supporting of the anti-Soviet forces (mujahideen) as early as mid-1979 and estimates of between $6 and $40 billion worth of cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, were provided by the United States and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan.

              The 10-year Soviet war in Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Afghans, mostly civilians, and the creation of about 6 million refugees who fled Afghanistan, mainly to Pakistan and Iran. Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties, the Soviets withdrew in 1989 but continued to support Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah until 1992.

              Foreign interference and war

              Main articles: Civil war in Afghanistan (1989–1992) and Civil war in Afghanistan (1992–1996)
              From 1989 until 1992 Najibullah's government tried to solve the ongoing civil war without Soviet troops on the ground but with economic and military aid. Najibullah tried to build support for his government and tried to portray his government as Islamic, and in the 1990 constitution the country officially became an Islamic state and all references of communism were removed. Nevertheless the Najibullah did not win any significant support and with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Najibullah was left without foreign aid. This, coupled with the internal collapse of his government, led to his ousting from power in April 1992.

              After the fall of Najibullah's government in 1992, the post-communist Islamic State of Afghanistan was established by the Peshawar Accord, a peace and power-sharing agreement under which all the Afghan parties were united in April 1992, except for the Pakistani supported Hezb-e Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar started a bombardment campaign against the capital city Kabul which marked the beginning of a new phase in the war.

              Saudi Arabia and Iran supported different Afghan militias and instability quickly developed. and conflict between the two militias soon escalated into a full-scale war.

              A section of Kabul during the civil war in 1993.
              Due to the sudden initiation of the war, working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability for the newly created Islamic State of Afghanistan did not have time to form. Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different armed factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos. Because of the chaos, some leaders increasingly had only nominal control over their (sub-)commanders. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion. An estimated 25,000 people died during the most intense period of bombardment by Hekmatyar's Hezb-i Islami and the Junbish-i Milli forces of Abdul Rashid Dostum, who had created an alliance with Hekmatyar in 1994. Half a million people fled Afghanistan.

              Southern and eastern Afghanistan was under the control of local commanders such as Gul Agha Sherzai and others. In 1994, the Taliban (a movement originating from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-run religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan) also developed in Afghanistan as a political-religious force. The Taliban took control of Kabul and several provinces in southern and central Afghanistan in 1994 and they forced the surrender of dozens of local Pashtun leaders.

              In late 1994, most of the militia factions (Hezb-i Islami, Junbish-i Milli and Hezb-i Wahdat) which had been fighting in the battle for control of Kabul were defeated militarily by forces of the Islamic State's Minister of Defense Ahmad Shah Massoud. Bombardment of the capital came to a halt. The Islamic State government took steps to open courts, restore law and order and initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections. Massoud invited the Taliban to join the process but they refused and rejected the idea of a democratic system.

              Taliban Emirate and the United Front

              Main articles: Civil war in Afghanistan (1996–2001) and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

              Map of the situation in Afghanistan in late 1996; Massoud (red), Dostum (green) and Taliban (yellow) territories.
              The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses which led analysts to believe the Taliban movement had run its course. The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud.

              On 26 September 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul. The Taliban seized Kabul on 27 September 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts especially targeting women. According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), "no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment."

              After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 27 September 1996, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two former enemies, created the United Front (Northern Alliance). The United Front included Massoud's predominantly Tajik forces Dostum's Uzbek forces, Hazara and Pashtun factions under leaders such as Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Haq and Abdul Qadir. The Taliban defeated Dostum's Junbish forces militarily by seizing Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998. Dostum subsequently went into exile.

              The Taliban committed systematic massacres against civilians in northern and western Afghanistan (e.g. the Mazar-i-Sharif Massacre

              Taliban religious police beating an Afghan woman for removing her burqa in public.
              President Pervez Musharraf – then as Chief of Army Staff – was responsible for sending tens of thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and bin Laden against the forces of Massoud. In 2001 alone, there were believed to be 28,000 Pakistani nationals fighting inside Afghanistan.

              From 1996 to 2001 the al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were harbored by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Bin Laden sent thousands of Arab recruits to fight against the United Front.

              Ahmad Shah Massoud remained the only leader of the United Front in Afghanistan. In the areas under his control Massoud set up democratic institutions and signed the Women's Rights Declaration. The fighting also caused around 1 million people to flee Taliban controlled areas.

              On 9 September 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by two Al-Qaeda Arab suicide attackers inside Afghanistan and two days the September 11 attacks were carried out by the Al-Qaeda organization. The US government identified Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda organization as the perpetrators of the attacks and demanded that the Taliban to hand over Bin Laden. The Taliban refused to comply with the U.S. demand to hand over Bin Laden and in October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched as a new phase of the war in Afghanistan. During the initial invasion American and British forces bombed Afghanistan and worked with ground forces of the United Front (Northern Alliance) to remove the Taliban from power and dispel Al-Qaeda.

              From 1990 to September 2001 400,000 Afghan civilians died in the wars in Afghanistan.

              Recent history (2002–present)

              Further information: War in Afghanistan (2001–present), Taliban insurgency and Civilian casualties in the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

              Recent history (2003–2008), including US President's jet
              In December 2001, after the Taliban government was toppled and the new Afghan government under Hamid Karzai was formed and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to help assist the Karzai administration and provide basic security to the Afghan people. The Taliban's forces also began regrouping inside Pakistan, more coalition troops entered Afghanistan and rebuilding of war-torn began.

              Shortly after their fall from power the Taliban began the Taliban insurgency to take back control over Afghanistan. Over the next decade ISAF and Afghan troops led many offensives against the Taliban but failed to fully defeat them and Afghanistan remained one of the poorest countries in the world due to a lack of foreign investment, government corruption and the Taliban insurgency.

              Meanwhile Afghan government was able to build some democratic structures and on December 7, 2004 the country changed its name to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Attempts were made, often with the support of foreign donor countries, to improve the war-torn country's economy, healthcare, education, transport, and agriculture. ISAF forces also began to train the Afghan armed forces and police. In the decade following 2002 over five million Afghan refugees were repatriated to the country in the last decade, including many who were forcefully deported from Western countries.

              By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form in many parts of the country and US President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would deploy another 30,000 U.S. soldiers to the country during in 2010 for a period of two years.In 2010 Afghan President Hamid Karzai attempted to hold peace negotiations with the Taliban and other groups but these groups refused to attend and bombings, assassinations and ambushes intensified.

              After the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, many prominent Afghan figures were assassinated and the Afghanistan–Pakistan border skirmishes intensified and many large scale attacks by the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network took place across Afghanistan. The United States warned the Pakistani government of possible military within Pakistan if the government refused to attack these forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as the United States blamed rouge elements within the Pakistani government for the increased attacks. and the Pakistani Army began to intensify their attacks against these groups as part of the War in North-West Pakistan.

              In anticipation of the 2014 NATO withdrawal and a subsequent expected push to regain power by the Taliban, the anti-Taliban United Front (Northern Alliance) groups have started to regroup under the umbrella of the National Coalition of Afghanistan (political arm) and the National Front of Afghanistan (military arm).


              Main article: Geography of Afghanistan

              A landlocked mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is described as being located within Central Asia or South Asia. It is part of the US coined Greater Middle East Muslim world, which lies between latitudes 29° N and 39° N, and longitudes 60° E and 75° E. The country's highest point is Noshaq, at 7,492 m (24,580 ft) above sea level. It has a continental climate with very harsh winters in the central highlands, the glaciated northeast (around Nuristan) and the Wakhan Corridor, where the average temperature in January is below −15 °C (5 °F), and hot summers in the low-lying areas of the Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin in the east, and the Turkestan plains along the Amu River in the north, where temperatures average over 35 °C (95 °F) in July.[citation needed]

              Landscapes of Afghanistan, from left to right: 1. Band-e Amir National Park; 2. Salang Pass in Parwan Province; 3. Korangal Valley in Kunar Province; and 4. Kajaki Dam in Helmand Province
              Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry. The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world. Aside from the usual rain falls, Afghanistan receives snow during winter in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains, and the melting snow in the spring season enters the rivers, lakes, and streams. However, two-thirds of the country's water flows into neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan. The state needs more than US$2 billion to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed.

              The northeastern Hindu Kush mountain range, in and around the Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan, is in a geologically active area where earthquakes may occur almost every year. They can be deadly and destructive sometimes, causing landslides in some parts or avalanche during winter. The last strong earthquakes were in 1998, which killed about 6,000 people in Badakhshan near Tajikistan. This was followed by the 2002 Hindu Kush earthquakes in which over 150 people of various regional countries were killed and over 1,000 injured. The 2010 earthquake left 11 Afghans dead, over 70 injured and more than 2,000 houses destroyed.

              The country's natural resources include: coal, copper, iron ore, lithium, uranium, rare earth elements, chromite, gold, zinc, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, marble, precious and semi-precious stones, natural gas, and petroleum among other things. In 2010, US and Afghan government officials estimated that untapped mineral deposits located in 2007 by the US Geological Survey are worth between $900 bn and $3 trillion.

              At 652,230 km2 (251,830 sq mi), Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country, slightly bigger than France and smaller than Burma, about the size of Texas in the United States. It borders Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east.


              Main articles: Demography of Afghanistan and Afghan diaspora
              As of 2012, the population of Afghanistan is around 31,108,077, which includes the roughly 2.7 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan and Iran. In 1979, the population was reported to be about 15.5 million. The only city with over a million residents is its capital, Kabul. The other largest cities in the country are, in order of population size, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Lashkar Gah, Taloqan, Khost, Sheberghan, Ghazni, and so on. Urban areas are experiencing rapid population growth following the return of over 5 million expats. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the Afghan population is estimated to increase to 82 million by 2050.
              Largest cities or towns of Afghanistan

              2010-11 estimate


              1KabulKabul Province3,071,400Herat


              2KandaharKandahar Province512,000
              3HeratHerat Province397,456
              4Mazar-i-SharifBalkh Province375,000
              5JalalabadNangarhar Province205,423
              6Lashkar GarHelmand Province201,546
              7TaloqanTakhar Province196,400
              8KhostKhost Province160,214
              9SheberghanJowzjan Province148,329
              10GhazniGhazni Province141,000

              Ethnic groups

              Main article: Ethnic groups in Afghanistan

              Ethnolinguistic groups of Afghanistan
              Afghanistan is a multiethnic society, and its historical status as a crossroads has contributed significantly to its diverse ethnic makeup. The population of the country is divided into a wide variety of ethnolinguistic groups. Because a systematic census has not been held in the nation in decades, exact figures about the size and composition of the various ethnic groups are unvailable. An approximate distribution of the ethnic groups is shown in the chart below:

              Ethnic groups in Afghanistan
              Ethnic groupPhotoWorld Factbook / Library of Congress Country Studies estimate (2004–present)World Factbook / Library of Congress Country Studies estimate (pre-2004)
              PashtunPashtun children in Khost42%38–50%
              TajikTajik children in Khowahan district of Badakhshan27%26% (of this 1% are Qizilbash)
              HazaraHazaras in Daykundi Province9%10–19%
              UzbekUzbek looking boy in northern Afghanistan9%6–8%
              Aimaq4%500,000 to 800,000
              BalochCamera focusing on Baloch2%100,000
              Others (Pashayi, Nuristani, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri, Gurjar, etc.)Young Pashai man4%6.9%
              The 2004–present suggested estimations in the above chart are supported by recent national opinion polls, which were aimed at knowing how a group of about 804 to 7,760 local residents in Afghanistan felt about the current war, political situation, as well as the economic and social issues affecting their daily lives. Seven of the surveys were conducted between 2004 to 2012 by the Asia Foundation and one between 2004 to 2009 by a combined effort of the broadcasting companies NBC News, BBC, and ARD.

              National opinion polls (ethnicity)
              Ethnic group"Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (2004–2009)"A survey of the Afghan people" (2006)"A survey of the Afghan people" (2007)"A survey of the Afghan people" (2008)"A survey of the Afghan people" (2009)"A survey of the Afghan people" (2010)"A survey of the Afghan people" (2011)"A survey of the Afghan people" (2012)
              Pashtun38–46%40.9%40%Not reportedNot reported42%41%40%
              Others (Pashayi, Nuristani, Arab, etc.)0–4%1.4%2%""3%3%5%
              No opinion0–2%0%0%""0%0%0%


              Main article: Languages of Afghanistan
              Pashto and Dari (Persian) are the official languages of Afghanistan; bilingualism is very common. Both are Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family. Persian has always been the prestige language and a lingua franca for inter-ethnic communication. It is the native tongue of the Tajiks, Hazaras, Aimaks and Kizilbash. Pashto is the native tongue of the Pashtuns, although many Pashtuns often use Persian and some non-Pashtuns are fluent in Pashto.

              Other languages, including Uzbek, Arabic, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi and Nuristani languages (Ashkunu, Kamkata-viri, Vasi-vari, Tregami and Kalasha-ala), are the native tongues of minority groups across the country and have official status in the regions where they are widely spoken. Minor languages also include Pamiri (Shughni, Munji, Ishkashimi and Wakhi), Brahui, Hindko, and Kyrgyz. A small percentage of Afghans are also fluent in Urdu, English, and other languages.
              LanguageWorld Factbook / Library of Congress Country Studies estimate
              Dari (Persian)50%
              Uzbek and Turkmen11%
              30 minor languages4%


              Main article: Religion in Afghanistan
              Over 99% of the Afghan population is Muslim: approximately 80–85% are from the Sunni branch, 15–19% are Shi'a, and roughly 3% are non-denominational Muslims. Until the 1890s, the region around Nuristan was known as Kafiristan (land of the kafirs (unbelievers)) because of its non-Muslim inhabitants, the Nuristanis, an ethnically distinct people whose religious practices included animism, polytheism and shamanism. There are small minorities of Christians, Buddhist, Parsi, Sikhs and Hindus. There was a small Jewish community in Afghanistan who had emigrated to Israel and the United States by the end of the twentieth century; only one Jew, Zablon Simintov, remained by 2005.


              Main articles: Politics of Afghanistan, Presidency of Hamid Karzai and Constitution of Afghanistan

              National Assembly of Afghanistan in 2006.
              Afghanistan is an Islamic republic consisting of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The nation is currently led by Hamid Karzai as the President and leader since late 2001. The National Assembly is the legislature, a bicameral body having two chambers, the House of the People and the House of Elders.

              The Supreme Court is led by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, a former university professor who had been a legal advisor to the president. The current court is seen as more moderate and led by more technocrats than the previous one, which was dominated by fundamentalist religious figures such as Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari who issued several controversial rulings, including seeking to place a limit on the rights of women.

              According to Transparency International's corruption perceptions index 2010 results, Afghanistan was ranked as the third most-corrupt country in the world. A January 2010 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that bribery consumes an amount equal to 23% of the GDP of the nation. A number of government ministries are believed to be rife with corruption, and while President Karzai vowed to tackle the problem in late 2009 by stating that "individuals who are involved in corruption will have no place in the government", top government officials were stealing and misusing hundreds of millions of dollars through the Kabul Bank. Although the nation's institutions are newly formed and steps have been taken to arrest some, the United States warned that aid to Afghanistan would be reduced to very little if the corruption is not stopped.

              Elections and parties

              Main articles: Elections in Afghanistan and List of political parties in Afghanistan

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