The Islamic State of Afghanistan (افغانستان in Persian and Pashto) is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It is bordered by Iran in the west, Pakistan in the south and east, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the easternmost part of the country.

Until the nation has its first general election (projected for June 2004), it continues to be referred to by the West as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan.

دولت اسلامی افغانستان
Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
coat of arms in center of flag
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: None
Official languagesPashtu, Dari
PresidentHamid Karzai
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 40th
647,500 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 38th
 - Date
From UK suzerainity
August 19, 1919
Currency Afghani
Time zone UTC+4:30
National anthem Sououd-e-Melli
Calling Code93

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Education
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External links


Main article: History of Afghanistan

Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent history. Through the ages, Afghanistan has been occupied by many forces. A separate Afghan nation came into existence in 1746 as the Durrani Empire, but control was ceded to the United Kingdom until King Amanullah acceded to throne in 1919. Since then, the country has known many governments and several civil wars.

The ruler of Afghanistan belonged to the Abdali tribal group, whose name was changed to Dorrani on the accession of Ahmad Shah. They belonged either to the Saddozay segment of the Popalzay clan or to the Mohammadzay segment of the Barakzay clan. The Mohammadzay furnished the Saddozay kings frequently with top counselors, who served occasionally as regents, identified with the epithet Mohammadzay.

The last period of stability in Afghanistan lay between 1933 and 1973, when the country was under the rule of King Zahir Shah. However, in 1973, Zahir's brother-in-law, Sardar Mohammed Daoud launched a bloodless coup. Daoud and his entire family was murdered in 1978 when the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan lauched a coup and took over the government.

Opposition against the new Communist government was immense, and with the government in danger of collapse, the Soviet Union invaded on December 24, 1979. Faced with mounting international pressure and losses of approximately 15,000 Soviet soldiers as a result of mujahadeen opposition trained by the United States, Pakistan, and other foreign governments, the Soviets withdrew ten years later in 1989.

Fighting subsequently continued among the various mujahidin factions, giving rise to a state of warlordism that eventually spawned the Taliban. Backed by Pakistan, the Taliban developed as a political force and eventually seized power. The Taliban were able to capture 90% of the country, aside from Northern Alliance strongholds primarily in the northeast. The Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam--based in part upon rural Pashtun tradition. The Pakistan-Taliban alliance gave safe haven and assistance to Islamic terrorists (Especially Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda) and was the epicenter of Islamic terrorism.

United States and allied military action in support of the opposition following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks forced the group's downfall. In late 2001, major leaders from the Afghan opposition groups and diaspora met in Bonn and agreed on a plan for the formulation of a new government structure that resulted in the inauguration of Hamid Karzai as Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) on December 2001. After a nationwide Loya Jirga in 2002, and Karzai was elected President.

In addition to occasionally violent political jockeying and ongoing military action to root out remaining al-Qaida and Taliban elements, the country suffers from enormous poverty, rampant warlordism, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread land mines.

See also: Afghanistan timeline


Main article: Politics of Afghanistan

Currently, an interim government is in place, led by president Hamid Karzai, with many elements from the Northern Alliance, and a mix from other regional and ethnic groups formed from the transition government by the Loya jirga. Former monarch Zahir Shah returned to the country, but was not re-instated as king and only exercises limited ceremonial powers.

Under the Bonn Agreement the Afghan Constitution Commission was established to consult with the public and formulate a draft constitution. Scheduled to release a draft on September 1, 2003, the commission has asked for a delay in order to undertake further consultations. The meeting of a constitutional loya jirga (grand council) was held in December 2003 when a new constution was adopted creating a presendential form of govornment.

Troops and intelligence agencies from the United States and a number of other countries are present, some to keep the peace, others assigned to hunt for remnants the Taliban and al Qaeda. A United Nations peacekeeping force operates in Kabul. Most of the country is under the control of warlords.

On March 27, 2003, Afghan deputy defense minister and powerful warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum created an office for the North Zone of Afghanistan and appointed officials to it, defying interim president Hamid Karzai's orders that there be no zones in Afghanistan.

see also: List of leaders of Afghanistan


Main article: Provinces of Afghanistan

Afghanistan consists of 32 provinces, or velayat:

  • Badakhshan province
  • Badghis province
  • Baghlan province
  • Balkh province
  • Bamiyan province
  • Farah province
  • Faryab province
  • Ghazni province
  • Ghowr province
  • Helmand province
  • Herat province
  • Jowzjan province
  • Kabul province
  • Kandahar province
  • Kapisa province
  • Khost province
  • Konar province
  • Kondoz province
  • Laghman province
  • Lowgar province
  • Nangarhar province
  • Nimruz province
  • Nurestan province
  • Oruzgan province
  • Paktia province
  • Paktika province
  • Parvan province
  • Samangan province
  • Sar-e Pol province
  • Takhar province
  • Vardak province
  • Zabol province


Main article: Geography of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a mountainous country, although there are plains in the north and southwest. The highest point in Afghanistan, Nowshak, is 7485 m above sea level. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. Afghanistan has a land climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The country is frequently subject to earthquakes.

Besides the capital city Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar are the nation's major cities. See also Cities of Afghanistan.


Main article: Economy of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is an extremely poor country, highly dependent on farming and livestock raising. The economy has suffered greatly from the recent political and military unrest, severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998-2001. The majority of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care, problems exacerbated by military operations and political uncertainties. Inflation remains a serious problem. Following the US-led coalition war that led to the defeat of the Taliban in November 2001 and the formulation of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) resulting from the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, International efforts to rebuild Afghanistan were addressed at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan Reconstruction in January 2002, when $4.5 billion was collected for a trust fund to be administered by the World Bank. Priority areas for reconstruction include the construction of education, health, and sanitation facilities, enhancement of administrative capacity, the development of the agricultural sector, and the rebuilding of road, energy, and telecommunication links.


Main article: Demographics of Afghanistan

The population of Afghanistan is divided in a large number of ethnic groups, which adds to the political unrest. Pashtun form the largest group, with about 44%, followed by Tajik (25%) and Hazara (10%). Minor groups include small tribes as the Aimak, Turkmen, and Baloch make up 13% and Uzbeks (8%). The spoken language differs accordingly, with Pashtu (35%) and Dari (50%) being the main tongues. Others include Uzbek and Turkmen (11%). The remaining 4% is made up of over 30 minor languages, primarily Balochi and Pashai. Billingualism is common in Afghanistan.

Almost all Afghans are muslims.The majority are Sunni (84%), Shi'a Muslim (15%) and 1% other.


Main article: Culture of Afghanistan

Many of the country's historic monuments have been damaged in the wars in recent years. The two famous statues of Buddha in the Bamiyan province were destroyed by the Taliban as symbols of another religion.

Being renowned horsemen, Buzkashi is a popular sport in Afghanistan. Afghan hounds, running dogs, originate from Afghanistan.

Before the Taliban gained power, the city of Kabul was home to many musicians who were masters of both traditional and modern Afghan music. Kabul in the middle part of the 20th century has been likened to Vienna during the 18th and 19th centuries.

See also: Radio Kabul, music of Afghanistan


Main article: Education in Afghanistan

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

In regards to the poverty and violence of their surroundings, a study in 2002 by the Save the Children aid group said Afghan children were resilient and courageous. The study credited the strong family and sense of community.

Up to four million Afghan children, possibly the largest number ever, are believed to have enrolled for class for the school year which began in March of 2003.

Literacy of the entire population is estimated at 36%.

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Countries of the world  |  Asia