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Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS AFGHANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Islamic State of Afghanistan

Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan

CAPITAL: Kabul

FLAG: The national flag has three equal vertical bands of black, red, and green, with a gold emblem centered on the red band; the emblem features a temple-like structure encircled by a wreath on the left and right and by a bold Islamic inscription above.

ANTHEM: Esllahte Arzi (Land Reform), beginning "So long as there is the earth and the heavens."

MONETARY UNIT: The afghani (af) is a paper currency of 100 puls. There are coins of 25 and 50 puls and 1, 2, and 5 afghanis, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 afghanis. af1 = $0.02000 (or $1 = af50) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, although some local units are still in use.

HOLIDAYS: Now Rooz (New Year's Day), 21 March; May Day, 1 May; Independence Day, 18 August. Movable religious holidays include First Day of Ramadan, 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', 'Ashura, and Milad an-Nabi. The Afghan calendar year begins on 21 March; the Afghan year 1376 began on 21 March 1997.

TIME: 4:30 pm = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Afghanistan is a landlocked country in South Asia with a long, narrow strip in the northeast (the Wakhan corridor). Afghanistan is slightly smaller than the state of Texas, with a total area of 647,500 sq km (250,001 sq mi), extending 1,240 km (770 mi) nesw and 560 km (350 mi) senw. Afghanistan is bounded on the n by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, on the extreme ne by China, on the e and s by Pakistan, and on the w by Iran, with a total boundary length of 5,529 km (3,436 mi). Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, is located in the east central part of the country.

TOPOGRAPHY

Although the average altitude of Afghanistan is about 1,200 m (4,000 ft), the Hindu Kush mountain range rises to more than 6,100 m (20,000 ft) in the northern corner of the Wakhan pan handle in the northeast and continues in a southwesterly direction for about 970 km (600 mi), dividing the northern provinces from the rest of the country. Central Afghanistan, a plateau with an average elevation of 1,800 m (6,000 ft), contains many small fertile valleys and provides excellent grazing for sheep, goats, and camels. To the north of the Hindu Kush and the central mountain range, the altitude drops to about 460 m (1,500 ft), permitting the growth of cotton, fruits, grains, ground nuts, and other crops. Southwestern Afghanistan is a desert, hot in summer and cold in winter. The four major river systems are the Amu Darya (Oxus) in the north, flowing into the Aral Sea; the Harirūd and Morghāb in the west; the Helmand in the southwest; and the Kabul in the east, flowing into the Indus. There are few lakes.

Afghanistan has recorded more than 10 earthquakes since 2000. In March 2002, the most disastrous struck Baghlān near the Hindu Kush. The earthquake left nearly than 2,000 dead and 7,000 homeless. On 8 October 2005, Afghanistan was impacted by an earthquake centered in Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided by India and Pakistan. The earthquake measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, and recorded more than 140 aftershocks, one of which measured at a magnitude of 5.9. Over 50,000 people were killed in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Another earthquake struck the Shinkai district of Zabul province on 23 October 2005. There were five Afghan deaths and six injuries.

CLIMATE

The ranges in altitude produce a climate with both temperate and semitropical characteristics, and the seasons are clearly marked throughout the country. Wide temperature variations are usual from season to season and from day to night. Summer temperatures in Kabul may range from 16°c (61°f) at sunrise to 38°c (100°f) by noon. The mean January temperature in Kabul is 0°c (32°f); the maximum summer temperature in Jalālābād is about 46°c (115°f). There is much sunshine, and the air is usually clear and dry. Rainfall averages about 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 in); precipitation occurs in winter and spring, most of it in the form of snow. Wind velocity is high, especially in the west.

FLORA AND FAUNA

There are over 4,000 plant species, including hundreds of varieties of trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, and fungi. The country is particularly rich in such medicinal plants as rue, wormwood, and asafetida; fruit and nut trees are found in many areas. Native fauna include the fox, lynx, wild dog, bear, mongoose, shrew, hedgehog, hyena, jerboa, hare, and wild varieties of cats, asses, mountain goats, and mountain sheep. Trout is the most common fish.

ENVIRONMENT

Afghanistan's most significant ecological problems are deforestation, drought, soil degradation, and overgrazing. Neglect, scorched earth tactics, and the damage caused by extensive bombardments have destroyed previously productive agricultural areas, and more are threatened by tons of unexploded ordnance. Afghanistan has responded to the fuel needs of its growing population by cutting down many of its already sparse forests. Consequently, by late 2002, between 1 and 2% of Afghanistan's land area was forest land. That represented a 33% decrease from 1979. Only about 0.3% of the total land area is nationally protected.

Another environmental threat is posed by returning refugees to Afghanistan, of which there were over 4 million in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries in 2002, who have migrated to Kabul and other larger cities instead of returning to destroyed villages and fields. This migration has placed stress on the infrastructure of those cities, causing increased pollution and worsening sanitation conditions.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), 12 species of mammals, 17 species of birds, 1 species of reptile, and 1 plant species were threatened. Endangered species in Afghanistan included the snow leopard, long-billed curlew, Argali sheep, musk deer, tiger, white-headed duck, Afghani brook salamander, Kabul markhor, and the Siberian white crane. There were thought to be fewer than 100 snow leopards by 2002. The country's Caspian tigers have virtually disappeared.

POPULATION

The population of Afghanistan in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 29,929,000, which placed it at number 38 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 2% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 45% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 107 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.6%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 50,252,000. The population density was 46 per sq km (119 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 22% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 5.92%. The capital city, Kabul, had a population of 2,956,000 in that year. Other major population centers and their estimated populations include Qandahār, 349,300; Mazār-e Sharif, 246,900; and Herāt, 171,500. These figures are unreliable, however, because many city dwellers have left their urban homes for refuge in rural areas. Approximately 20% of the population is nomadic.

Two decades of near-constant warfare make Afghanistan's populationnever certain in any caseeven more difficult to assess. As many as three million Afghans are estimated to have died, and an additional six million sought refuge in Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere in the world. The last official census was taken in 1988. As of 2006, the Afghanistan Central Statistical Office was preparing to undertake a new full census of the population.

MIGRATION

Due to the US-led bombing campaign in 200102 carried out against the Taliban regime, a large Afghan refugee population was created in surrounding countries. The Afghan refugee population in Pakistan in 2002 was approximately 3.7 million, and, in Iran and the west, an additional 1.6 million. Since early 2002, there were many spontaneous returnees, but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began assisting refugees to repatriate in February 2002. As of October, more than 1.5 million had returned to their homes. In 2003, there were an estimated 184,000300,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country.

In mid-2002, there was a daily influx of homeless migrants into Kabul, numbering approximately 300400 families a day. Seventy percent of Kabul's population was living in illegal structures.

In the summer of 2001, the majority of the over one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan had been driven off their land and into refugee camps by ongoing conflict and four years of drought. After 11 September 2001, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) began to deliver shelter and nonfood supplies to help the IDPs survive the Afghan winter. It dispatched road convoys from Iran, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan to destinations in Afghanistan, carrying blankets, winter clothing, tents, and other essential items. Following the winter, with the defeat of the Taliban and the beginning of the spring planting season, the IOM worked to return the IDPs to their villages from the refugee camps. The IDP families were offered wheat, seeds, blankets, soap, agricultural tools, and other items. In addition to the IOM and the UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross and UNICEF were heavily involved in repatriating refugees. Despite their efforts, by the end of 2004 the number of repatriated Afghan refugees dropped by only 2% during the year. The Return of Qualified Afghans program, designed to bring back Afghan professionals living abroad, facilitated the return of 150 Afghans (14 female and 136 male) to take up assignments in Afghanistan consistent with their professional backgrounds by June 2005.

By the end of 2004, some 2.1 million Afghan refugees were reported by 78 asylum countries. Of the world's total refugee population in 2004, Afghans constituted 23%, continuing to be the largest country of origin of refugees under UNHCR care. Tajikistan closed its border with Afghanistan in 2004.

According to Human Rights Watch, as of September 2005 one million Afghanis were displaced within their own country, and 3.7 million refugees were in neighboring countries1.5 million in Iran and more than 2 million in Pakistan. All neighboring countries closed their borders with Afghanistan by September 2005. By mid-September 2005, the Pakistani government ordered the forcible expulsion of millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan's tribal areas. In the rush to meet the forced expulsion deadline dozens of children died. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated 21.43 migrants per 1,000 population.

ETHNIC GROUPS

About the middle of the second millennium bc, Indo-Aryans began to move into and through the present area of Afghanistan. Much later came other tribal groups from Central AsiaPactyes (from whom the present-day name "Pashtuns" derives), Sakas, Kushans, Hephthalites, and othersand a procession of Iranians and Greeks. In the 7th century ad, Arabs arrived from the south, spreading the new faith of Islam. In the same century, Turks moved in from the north, followed in the 13th century by Mongols, and, finally, in the 15th century by Turko-Mongols. This multiplicity of movements made Afghanistan a loose conglomeration of racial and linguistic groups.

All citizens are called Afghans, but the Pashtuns (the name may also be written as "Pashtoon", "Pushtun", or "Pukhtun," and in Pakistan as "Pathan") are often referred to as the "true Afghans." Numbering about 42% of the population in 2005, they are known to have centered in the Sulaiman range to the east; it is only in recent centuries that they moved into eastern and southern Afghanistan, where they now predominate. They have long been divided into two major divisions, the Durranis and the Ghilzais, each with its own tribes and subtribes.

The Tajiks, of Iranian stock, comprise nearly 27% of the population and are mainly concentrated in the north and northeast. In the central ranges are found the Hazaras (about 9%), who are said to have descended from the Mongols. To the north of the Hindu Kush, Turkic and Turko-Mongol groups were in the majority until 1940. Each of these groups is related to groups north of the Amu Darya; among them are the Uzbeks, who number about 9% of the population. Other groups include the Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, Farsiwans (Persians), and Brahiu. In the northeast are the Kafirs, or infidels. After their conversion to Islam at the end of the 19th century, they were given the name of Nuristanis, or people of the light.

LANGUAGES

Both Pashtu (or Pushtu) and Dari (Afghan Persian) are the official languages of the country. Pashtu is spoken by about 35% of the population while approximately 50% speak Dari. Although Pashtu has a literature of its own, Dari, the language spoken in Kabul, has been the principal language of cultural expression, of the government, and of business. Both Pashtu and Dari are written primarily with the Arabic alphabet, however, there are some modifications. The Hazaras speak their own dialect of Dari. The Turkic languages, spoken by 11% of the population, include Uzbek and Turkmen, and the Nuristanis speak some seven different dialects belonging to the Dardic linguistic group. There are about 30 minor languages, primarily Balochi and Pashai, spoken by some 4% of the population. Bilingualism is common.

RELIGIONS

Almost all Afghans are Muslims. Approximately 84% are Sunnis; 15% are Shias; others comprise only 1%. The Pashtuns, most of the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, and the Turkmen are Sunnis, while the Hazaras are Shias. Most of the Sunnis adhere to Hanafi Sunnism, but a fairly sizable minority of Sunnis adhere to a more mystical version known as Sufism. The country's small Hindu and Sikh population is estimated at less than 3,000.

In 1994 the Islamic militants who called themselves the Talibanliterally "the Seekers," a term used to describe religious studentsbegan to impose their strict form of Islam observance in the areas that they controlled. The Taliban, composed mostly of Pashtuns, were puritanical zealots. Women were ordered to dress in strict Islamic garb and were banned from working or from going out of their houses unless accompanied by a male relative. Some men were forced to pray five times a day and grow full beards as a condition of employment in the government. Under the Taliban, repression of the Hazara ethnic group, who were predominantly Shias, was severe.

With the fall of the Taliban and the adoption of a new constitution in January 2004, Islam remains the state religion; however, the new constitution does allow for religious freedom. The constitution does not indicate a preference for Sunnism and there are no references made in the document to the use of Shariah law in the legal code. The document does state that both the president and vice president must be Muslim. The Shia minority still faces some discrimination from the Sunni majority.

TRANSPORTATION

Many roads were built in the years prior to 1979 to connect the principal cities and to open up formerly isolated areas. As of 2003, Afghanistan had an estimated 34,789 km (21,604 mi) of roads, of which 8,231 km (5,111 mi) were paved. Roads connect Kabul with most provincial capitals and with Peshāwar in Pakistan through the Khyber Pass. The road from Herāt to Mashhad in Iran was completed in 1971. The Salang Tunnel through the Hindu Kush, completed with Soviet assistance in 1964, considerably shortened the travel time between Kabul and northern Afghanistan. The tunnel was modernized in the mid-1980s. However, in May 1997 the Tajik leader, Ahmad Shah Masud, blew up the southern entrance of the tunnel in an effort to trap the invading Taliban forces. It was reopened in January 2002. The Qandahār-Torghundi highway in the south was completed in 1965. In 2003 there were 29,300 passenger cars and 22,500 commercial vehicles in use.

The Khyber Pass in Pakistan is the best known of the passes providing land access to Afghanistan. Transit arrangements with Iran provide an alternative route for its commercial traffic. However, the great bulk of the country's trade moves through the former USSR. At the same time, Afghanistan's highways are badly damaged from years of warfare and neglect. Land mines are buried on the sides of many roads. Over $1.2 billion in international aid was pledged to rebuilding Afghanistan's highways in 2002.

The only railways in the country in 2001 were a 9.6-km (6-mi) spur from Gushgy, Turkmenistan, to Towrghondi; a 15-km (9.3-mi) line from Termez, Uzbekistan, to the Kheyrabad transshipment point on the south bank of the Amu Darya; and a short span into Spin Baldak in the southeast. There are no navigable rivers except for the Amu Darya, on Turkmenistan's border, which can carry steamers up to about 500 tons. In 2004, there were an estimated 47 airports, 10 of which had paved runways, and 9 heliports (as of 2005). Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national carrier. Most of Ariana Airlines planes were destroyed during the civil war in Afghanistan. Ariana lost six of its eight planes in US-led air strikes against the Taliban. Kabul's international airport reopened to international humanitarian and military flights in late January 2002 after the UN's Security Council lifted the ban early that month, and it began international flight service to Delhi, India, soon after.

HISTORY

Afghanistan has existed as a distinct polity for less than three centuries. Previously, the area was made up of various principalities, usually hostile to each other and occasionally ruled by one or another conqueror from Persia and the area to the west or from central Asia to the north, usually on his way to India. These included the Persian Darius I in the 6th century bc, and 300 years later, Alexander the Great. As the power of his Seleucid successors waned, an independent Greek kingdom of Bactria arose with its capital at Balkh west of Mazār-e Sharif, but after about a century it fell to invading tribes (notably the Sakas, who gave their name to Sakastan, or Sistan). Toward the middle of the 3rd century bc, Buddhism spread to Afghanistan from India, and for centuries prior to the beginning of the 9th century bc, at least half the population of eastern Afghanistan was Buddhist.

Beginning in the 7th century, Muslim invaders brought Islam to the region, and it eventually became the dominant cultural influence. For almost 200 years, Ghaznī was the capital of a powerful Islamic kingdom, the greatest of whose rulers, Mahmud of Ghaznī (r.9971030), conquered most of the area from the Caspian to the Ganges. The Ghaznavids were displaced by the Seljuk Turks, who mastered Persia and Anatolia (eastern Turkey), and by the Ghorids, who, rising from Ghor, southeast of Herāt, established an empire stretching from Herāt to Ajmir in India. They were displaced in turn by the Turko-Persian rulers of the Khiva oasis in Transoxiana, who, by 1217, had created a state that included the whole of Afghanistan until it disintegrated under attack by Genghis Khan in 1219. His grandson Timur, also called "Timur the Lame" or Tamerlane, occupied all of what is now Afghanistan from 1365 to 1384, establishing a court of intellectual and artistic brilliance at Herāt. The Timurids came under challenge from the Uzbeks, who finally drove the them out of Herāt in 1507. The great Babur, one of the Uzbek princes, occupied Kabul in 1504 and Delhi in 1526, establishing the Mughal Empire in which eastern Afghanistan was ruled from Delhi, Agra, Lahore, or Srinagar, while Herāt and Sistan were governed as provinces of Persia.

In the 18th century, Persians under Nadir Shah conquered the area, and after his death in 1747, one of his military commanders, Ahmad Shah Abdali, was elected emir of Afghanistan. The formation of a unified Afghanistan under his emirate marks Afghanistan's beginning as a political entity. Among his descendants was Dost Muhammad who established himself in Kabul in 1826 and gained the emirate in 1835. Although the British defeated Dost in the first Afghan War (183842), they restored him to power, but his attempts and those of his successors to play off Czarist Russian interests against the British concerns about the security of their Indian Empire led to more conflict. In the second Afghan War (187779), the forces of Sher Ali, Dost's son, were defeated by the British, and his entire party, ousted. Abdur Rahman Khan, recognized as emir by the British in 1880, established a central administration, and supported the British interest in a neutral Afghanistan as a buffer against the expansion of Russian influence.

Intermittent fighting between the British and Pushtun tribes from eastern Afghanistan continued even after the establishment, in 1893, of a boundary (the Durand line) between Afghanistan and British India. An Anglo-Russian agreement concluded in 1907 guaranteed the independence of Afghanistan (and Tibet) under British influence, and Afghanistan remained neutral in both World Wars. Afghan forces under Amanullah Khan, who had become emir in 1919, briefly intruded across the Durand Line in 1919. At the end of brief fightingthe third Afghan Warthe Treaty of Rāwalpindi (1919) accorded the government of Afghanistan the freedom to conduct its own foreign affairs.

Internally, Amanullah's Westernization program was strongly opposed, forcing him to abdicate in 1929. After a brief civil war, a tribal assembly chose Muhammad Nadir Shah as king. In his brief four years in power, he restored peace while continuing Amanullah's modernization efforts at a more moderate pace. Assassinated in 1933, he was succeeded by his son, Muhammad Zahir Shah, who continued his modernization efforts, governing for 40 years, even though sharing effective power with his uncles and a first cousin, who served as his prime ministers.

In the 1960s, there was considerable tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a result of Afghanistan's effort to assert influence among, and ultimately responsibility for, Pashtu-speaking Pathan tribes living on both sides of the Durand Line under a policy calling for the establishment of an entity to be called "Pashtunistan." The border was closed several times during the following years, and relations with Pakistan remained generally poor until 1977.

In 1964, a new constitution was introduced, converting Afghanistan into a constitutional monarchy, and a year later the country's first general election was held. In July 1973, Muhammad Daoud Khan, the king's first cousin and brother-in-law, who had served as prime minister from 1953 until early 1963, seized power in a near-bloodless coup, establishing a republic and appointing himself president, and prime minister of the Republic of Afghanistan. He exiled Zahir Shah and his immediate family, abolished the monarchy, dissolved the legislature, and suspended the constitution. Daoud ruled as a dictator until 1977, when a republican constitution calling for a one-party state was adopted by the newly convened Loya Jirga (Grand National Assembly), which then elected Daoud president for a six-year term.

Afghanistan Under Communist Rule

On 27 April 1978, Daoud was deposed and executed in a bloody coup (the "Saur Revolution" because it took place during the Afghan month of Saur), and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan emerged. Heading the new Revolutionary Council was Nur Muhammad Taraki, secretary-general of the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), assisted by Babrak Karmal and Hafizullah Amin, both named deputy prime ministers. The Soviet Union (which later broke apart in 1991) immediately established ties with the new regime, and in December 1978, the two nations concluded a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Soon after the coup, rural Afghan groups took up arms against the regime, which increasingly relied on Soviet arms for support against what came to be known as mujahedeen, or holy warriors.

Meanwhile, the Khalq (masses) and Parcham (flag) factions of the PDPA, which had united for the April takeover, became embroiled in a bitter power struggle within the party and the government. In September 1979, Taraki was ousted and executed by Amin, who had beat out Karmal to become prime minister the previous March and who now assumed Taraki's posts as president and party leader. Amin was himself replaced on 27 December by Karmal, the Parcham faction leader. This last change was announced not by Radio Kabul but by Radio Moscow and was preceded by the airlift of 4,000 to 5,000 Soviet troops into Kabul on 2526 December, purportedly at the request of an Afghan government whose president, Hafizullah Amin, was killed during the takeover.

The Soviet presence increased to about 85,000 troops in late January 1980, and by spring, the first clashes between Soviet troops and the mujahedeen had occurred. Throughout the early and mid-1980s, the mujahedeen resistance continued to build, aided by Afghan army deserters and arms from the United States, Pakistan, and the nations of the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO). Much of the countryside remained under mujahedeen control as the insurgency waged on year by year, while in Kabul, Soviet advisers assumed control of most Afghan government agencies.

By late 1987, more than a million Afghans had lost their lives in the struggle, while the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that some 5 million others had sought refuge in Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere. Soviet sources at the time acknowledged Soviet losses of 12,00030,000 dead and 76,000 wounded. Soviet troop strength in Afghanistan at the end of 1987 was about 120,000, while according to Western sources, Afghan resistance forces numbered nearly 130,000.

In early 1987, Babrak Karmal fled to Moscow after being replaced as the head of the PDPA in May 1986 by Najibullah, former head of the Afghan secret police. Najibullah offered the mujahedeen a cease-fire and introduced a much-publicized national reconciliation policy; he also released some political prisoners, offered to deal with the resistance leaders, and promised new land reform. The mujahedeen rejected these overtures, declining to negotiate for anything short of Soviet withdrawal and Najibullah's removal.

International efforts to bring about a political solution to the warincluding nearly unanimous UN General Assembly condemnations of the Soviet presence in Afghanistanwere pursued within the UN framework from 1982 onward. Among these efforts were "proximity talks" between Afghanistan and Pakistan conducted by Under Secretary-General Diego Cordovez, a special representative of the UN Secretary General. After a desultory beginning, these talks began to look promising in late 1987 and early 1988, when Soviet policymakers repeatedly stated, in a major policy shift, that the removal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan was not contingent on the creation of a transitional regime acceptable to the former USSR. On 14 April 1988, documents were signed and exchanged in which the USSR agreed to pull its troops out of Afghanistan within nine months, the United States reserved the right to continue military aid to Afghan guerrillas as long as the USSR continued to aid the government in Kabul, and Pakistan and Afghanistan pledged not to interfere in each other's internal affairs.

The Russians completed the evacuation of their forces on schedule 15 February 1989, but in spite of continuing pressure by the well-armed mujahedeen, the Najibullah government remained in power until April 1992, when Najibullah sought refuge at the UN office in Kabul as mujahedeen forces closed in on the city.

Afghanistan after the Soviet Withdrawal

With the fall of the Najibullah government, the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) of the Islamic groups based in Pakistan moved to consolidate its "victory" by announcing plans to set up an Interim Afghan Government (AIG) charged with preparing the way for elections. Meanwhile, they moved to assert their control of Afghanistan, but their efforts to establish the AIG in Kabul failed when within ten days of Najibullah's departure from office, well-armed forces of the Hezbe Islami and Jamiat-i-Islamitwo of the seven SPA partiesclashed in fighting for the control of the capital. In July, Jamiat leader Burhanuddin Rabbani replaced Sibghatullah Mojaddedi as president of the AIG, as previously agreed by all the SPA parties but the Hezbe Islami.

Continued fighting between Jamiat and Hezbe Islami militias halted further progress. Rabbani's forces, under Commander Ahmad Shah Masoud, dug in to block those under the control of interim "Prime Minister" Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezbe Islami and his ally, General Rashid Dostum (a former PDPA militia leader turned warlord from northern Afghanistan) from taking control of Kabul. In a 24-hour rocket exchange in August 1992 in Kabul, an estimated 3,000 Afghans died; before the end of the year, upwards of 700,000 Afghans had fled the city. Deep differences among the SPA/AIG leadership, embittered by decades of bad blood, ethnic distrust, and personal enmity, prevented any further progress toward creating a genuine interim government capable of honoring the 1992 SPA pledge to write a constitution, organize elections, and create a new Afghan polity. Despite UN attempts to broker a peace and bring the warring groups into a coalition government, Afghanistan remained at war.

Rise of the Taliban

By the summer of 1994 Rabbani and his defense minister, Ahmed Shah Masoud, were in control of the government in Kabul, but internal turmoil caused by the warring factions had brought the economy to a standstill. It was reported that on the road north of Qandahār a convoy owned by influential Pakistani businessmen was stopped by bandits demanding money. The businessmen appealed to the Pakistani government, which responded by encouraging Afghan students from the fundamentalist religious schools on the Pakistan-Afghan boarder to intervene. The students freed the convoy and went on to capture Qandahār, Afghanistan's second-largest city. Pakistan's leaders supported the Taliban with ammunition, fuel, and food. The students, ultra-fundamentalist Sunni Muslims who called themselves the Taliban (the Arabic word for religious students, literally "the Seekers") shared Pashtoon ancestry with their Pakistani neighbors to the south. The Taliban also found widespread support among Afghan Pashtoons hostile to local warlords and tired of war and economic instability. By late 1996, the Taliban had captured Kabul, the capital, and were in control of 21 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces. When Rabbani fled the capital, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia officially recognized the Taliban government in Kabul. In areas under Taliban control, order was restored, roads opened, and trade resumed. However, the Taliban's reactionary social practices, justified as being Islamic, did not appeal to Afghanistan's non-Pashtun minorities in the north and west of the country, nor to the educated population generally. The opposition, dominated by the Uzbek, Tajik, Hazara, and Turkoman ethnic groups, retreated to the northeastern provinces.

In May 1997 the Taliban entered Mazār-e Sharif, Afghanistan's largest town north of the Hindu Kush and stronghold of Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum. In the political intrigue that followed, Dostum was ousted by his second in command, Malik Pahlawan, who initially supported the Taliban. Dostum reportedly fled to Turkey. Once the Taliban were in the city, however, Pahlawan abruptly switched sides. In the subsequent fighting, the Taliban were forced to retreat with heavy casualties. The forces of Ahmad Shah Masoud, Tajik warlord and former defense minister in ousted President Rabbani's government, were also instrumental in the defeat of the Taliban in Mazār. Masoud controlled the high passes of the Panjshir Valley in the east of the country. The opposition alliance was supported by Iran, Russia, and the Central Asian republics, who feared that the Taliban might destabilize the region.

By early 1998, the Taliban militia controlled about two-thirds of Afghanistan. Opposition forces under Ahmad Shah Masoud controlled the northeast of the country. Taliban forces mounted another offensive against their opponents in AugustSeptember 1998 and nearly sparked a war with neighboring Iran after a series of Shiite villages were pillaged and Iranian diplomats killed. Iran, which supplied Masoud's forces, countered by massing troops along its border with Afghanistan. Although the crisis subsided, tensions between the Taliban and Iran remained high. Masoud's opposition forces became known as the United Front or Northern Alliance in late 1999.

Despite attempts to broker a peace settlement, fighting between the Taliban and opposition factions continued through 1999 and into 2000 with the Taliban controlling 90% of the country. In March 1999, the warring factions agreed to enter a coalition government, but by July these UN-sponsored peace talks broke down and the Taliban renewed its offensive against opposition forces. By October, the Taliban captured the key northern city of Taloqan and a series of northeastern towns, advancing to the border with Tajikistan. Fighting between the Taliban and Northern Alliance forces was fierce in early 2001.

In April 2001, Masoud stated that he did not rule out a peace dialogue with the Taliban, or even of setting up a provisional government jointly with the Taliban, but that Pakistan would have to stop interfering in the conflict first. He stated that elections would have to be held under the aegis of the UN and the "six plus two" countries, including Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, as well as Russia and the United States. The Northern Alliance was receiving financial and military assistance from its old enemy Russia as well as from Iran. In addition to Pakistan, the Taliban was recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Masoud was assassinated on 9 September 2001 by two men claiming to be Moroccan journalists. His killers were thought to have been agents of the al-Qaeda terrorist group acting in concert with the plotters of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States.

Post-11 September 2001

The 11 September 2001 attacks carried out against the United States by members of al-Qaeda marked the beginning of a war on terrorism first directed against the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden and his forces. On 7 October 2001, US-led forces launched the bombing campaign Operation Enduring Freedom against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. On 13 November the Taliban were removed from power in Kabul, and an interim government under the leadership of Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun leader from Qandahār, was installed on 22 December. In June 2002, a Loya JirgaGrand Assembly of tribal leaderswas held, and Karzai was elected head of state of a transitional government that would be in place for 18 months until elections could be held. More than 60% of the cabinet posts in the government went to Ahmed Shah Masoud's Northern Alliance. Masoud was officially proclaimed the national hero of Afghanistan on 25 April 2002, and he was mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. On 5 September 2002, Karzai survived an assassination attempt, and another plot against him was thwarted on 22 November. In September 2004, a rocket fired at a helicopter carrying Karzai narrowly missed its target: it was the most serious attack on his life since 2002.

In December 2002, Karzai and Pakistani and Turkmen leaders signed an agreement paving the way for the construction of a gas pipeline through Afghanistan, which would carry Turkmen gas to Pakistan.

In January 2004, a Loya Jirga adopted a new constitution providing for a strong presidency and defining Afghanistan as an Islamic republic where men and women enjoy equal status before the law. In October and November 2004, the first direct presidential election was held; Karzai was the winner with 55.4% of the vote. He was sworn in as president in December, amid tight security.

On 18 September 2005, Afghans went to the polls to elect a lower house of parliament and councils in each of the country's 34 provinces. The elections, which had been twice postponed, were part of the process of establishing a fully representative government. Some 12 million of an estimated 2528 million Afghans were registered to vote. There were about 5,800 candidates standing for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (House of Assembly) and for seats in the provincial councils. There were more than 26,000 men-only or women-only polling stations in 5,000 locations. There were 69 different types of ballot papers, all including the names, pictures, and symbols of the candidates, to enable voters who could not read to vote. Several candidates and election workers were killed in Taliban attacks. In advance of the elections, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) sent an extra 2,000 troops and a number of fighter jets to boost the 8,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) protecting the country. Nearly 3,000 observers and media representatives registered to monitor the election. Final results for the elections were delayed due to accusations of fraud, and were announced in November.

The results of the elections showed that women, who were guaranteed 25% of seats in parliament, won 28%. Most of the candidates for parliament ran as independents, and a clear majority was predicted to support Karzai. However, many of the winners were former warlords, mujahedeen fighters, ex-Taliban figures, and opium dealers. Centrist, reformist figures did less well, making the parliament predominantly socially conservative and religious.

In 200506, several thousand troops from the US-led coalition in Afghanistan (most of them American) were engaged in battles with Taliban fighters in the eastern regions of the country bordering on Pakistani tribal areas. The coalition forces also targeted members of the Hezb-e Islami group, whose leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has similar aims as the Talibanto fight a jihad (holy war) to remove the Americans from Afghanistan and unseat Hamid Karzai's government.

GOVERNMENT

Between 1964 and 1973, Afghanistan was a constitutional monarchy for the first and only time in its history. The head of government was the prime minister, appointed by the king and responsible to the bicameral legislature. This system gave way to a more traditional authoritarian system on 17 July 1973, when Afghanistan became a republic, headed by Muhammad Daoud Khan, who became both president and prime minister. A new constitution in 1977 created a one-party state with a strong executive and a weak bicameral legislature. The communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) abrogated this constitution after they seized power in April 1978.

Between 1978 and 1980, a communist-style 167-member Revolutionary Council exercised legislative powers. The chief of state (president) headed the presidium of that council, to which the 20-member cabinet was formally responsible. A provisional constitution, introduced in April 1980, guaranteed respect for Islam and national traditions; condemned colonialism, imperialism, Zionism, and fascism; and proclaimed the PDPA as "the guiding and mobilizing force of society and state." Seven years later, a new constitution providing for a very strong presidency was introduced as part of the PDPA's propaganda campaign of "national reconciliation." Najibullah remained as president until April 1992 when he sought refuge at the UN office in Kabul as mujahedeen forces closed in on the city.

With the fall of the Najibullah government a Seven Party Alliance (SPA) of the Islamic groups announced plans to set up an Interim Afghan Government (AIG) charged with preparing the way for elections. However, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani co-opted the process by forming a leadership council that elected him president. Subsequent fighting among warring factions plunged the country into anarchy and set the stage for the emergence of the ultraconservative Islamic movement, Taliban, which ousted the Rabbani government and controlled all but the northern most provinces of the country.

The Taliban, led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, formed a six-member ruling council in Kabul which ruled by edict. Ultimate authority for Taliban rule rested in the Taliban's inner Shura (Assembly) located in the southern city of Qandahār, and in Mullah Omar.

With the fall of the Taliban in December 2001, an interim government was created under the leadership of Hamid Karzai by an agreement held in Bonn, Germany. In June 2002 Karzai was elected head of state of the Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan (ITGA) by the Loya Jirga convened that month. He named an executive cabinet, dividing key ministries between ethnic Tajiks and Pashtuns. He also appointed three deputy presidents and a chief justice to the country's highest court.

In January 2004, a Loya Jirga adopted a new constitution providing for a strong presidency and defining Afghanistan as an Islamic republic where men and women enjoy equal status before the law. Former King Zahir Shah held the honorific Father of the Country, and presided symbolically over certain occasions, lacking any governing authority. The honorific is not hereditary. The president is both chief of state and head of government. The president's cabinet is made up of 27 ministers, appointed by the president and approved by the national assembly. The president and two vice presidents are elected by a direct vote for a five-year term; a president can only be elected for two terms.

The legislative branch is composed of a bicameral national assembly. The lower house is the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga, directly elected by each of Afghanistan's 34 provinces according to its population. Members serve a five-year term. Kabul province has the most seats with 33. Women have 68 seats guaranteed in the Wolesi Jirga, and two on each provincial council. The 102-member House of Elders (Meshrano Jirga) is indirectly elected; one-third elected by the 34 provincial councils for a four-year term, one-third appointed by the president for a five-year term, and one-third elected by local district councils for a three-year term.

On rare occasions the government may convene the Loya Jirga on issues of independence, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity; it can also amend the provisions of the constitution and prosecute the president. It is made up of members of the national assembly and chairpersons of the provincial and district councils.

In October and November 2004, the first direct presidential elections were held; Hamid Karzai was the winner with 55.4% of the vote. In September 2005, elections for the Wolesi Jirga and provincial councils were held; although a majority of the members of parliament who won would support Karzai, many warlords, former mujahedeen fighters, ex-Taliban figures, and opium dealers also won.

POLITICAL PARTIES

The 1964 constitution provided for the formation of political parties. However, since the framers of the constitution decided that political parties should be permitted only after the first elections, and since the parliament never adopted a law governing the parties' operation, all candidates for the parliamentary elections of August and September 1965 stood as independents. Because a law on political parties was not on the books four years later, the 1969 elections were also contested on a nonparty basis. Throughout the 19641973 period, however, the de facto existence of parties was widely recognized. Subsequently, the framers reversed their plan to allow political parties. Under the 1977 constitution, only the National Revolutionary Party (NRP), the ruler's chosen instrument, was allowed.

The 1978 coup was engineered by the illegal People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which had been founded in 1965. During its brief history, this Marxist party had been riven by a bloody struggle between its pro-Soviet Parcham (flag) faction and its larger Khalq (masses) faction. Babrak Karmal was the leader of the Parcham group, while the Khalq faction was headed until 1979 by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. The factional struggle continued after the 1978 coup, prompting the Soviet intervention of 1979. Factional bloodletting continued thereafter also, with repeated purges and assassinations of Khalq adherents as well as bitter infighting within Parcham, this last leading to Babrak Karmal's replacement as PDPA secretary-general in May 1986 by Najibullah.

The Islamic resistance forces opposing the PDPA government and its Soviet backers in Afghanistan represented conservative, ethnically based Islamic groups which themselves have had a long history of partisan infighting (and repression by successive Kabul governments). They came together in the early 1980s to fight the common enemy, the communist PDPA and the Soviet invaders and, in 1985, under pressure from Pakistan and the United States, they were loosely united into a Seven Party Alliance (SPA), head-quartered in Peshāwar, Pakistan. By 1987, commando groups affiliated with one or more of these seven parties controlled more than 80% of the land area of Afghanistan.

With arms flowing in from outside the countrya flow not halted until the end of 1991the fighting continued, but with the final withdrawal of Soviet troops in February 1989, the SPA stepped up its military and political pressure on the communist PDPA government. However, President Najibullah proved to have more staying power than previously estimated, using Soviet arms supplies, which continued until the end of 1991 to buttress his position, while playing upon divisions among the resistance, embracing nationalism and renouncing communism, and even changing the name of the PDPA to the Wattan (Homeland) Party. It was only in April 1992, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, his army defecting from beneath him, and the mujahedeen closing on Kabul, that he sought refuge at the UN office in the capital, leaving the city in the hands of the rival ethnic and regional mujahedeen militias.

The leaders of the mujahedeen groups agreed to establish a leadership council. This council quickly came under the control of a professor, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was subsequently elected president by the council. Fighting broke out in August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions. A new war for the control of Afghanistan had begun.

On 2627 September 1996, the Pashtun-dominated ultraconservative Islamic Taliban movement captured the capital of Kabul and expanded its control to over 90% of the country by 2000. The Taliban was led by Mullah Mohammed Omar. Ousted President Rabbani, a Tajik, and his defense minister, Ahmad Shah Masoud, relocated to Takhar in the north. Rabbani claimed that he remained the head of the government. His delegation retained Afghanistan's UN seat after the General Assembly deferred a decision on Afghanistan's credentials. Meanwhile, the Taliban removed the ousted PDPA leader Najibullah from the UN office in Kabul, tortured and shot him, and hung his body prominently in the city. General Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, controlled several north-central provinces until he was ousted on 25 May 1997 by his second in command Malik Pahlawan. Dostum fled to Turkey, but he returned that October. The Shia Hazara community, led by Abdul Karim Khalili, retained control of a small portion of the center of the country.

After the fall of the Taliban, various warlords, leaders, and political factions emerged in Afghanistan. Dostum, as head of Jumbish-e Melli Islami (National Islamic Movement), consolidated his power in Mazār-e Sharif. He was named interim deputy defense minister for the transitional government in 2002. Rabbani, as nominal head of the Northern Alliance, was also the leader of Jamiat-e-Islami, the largest political party in the alliance. Ismail Khan, a Shiite warlord of Tajik origin, earned a power base in the western city of Herāt by liberating it from Soviet control, and for a time in the 1990s kept it from Taliban control. Khan was thought to be receiving backing from Iran. Abdul Karim Khalili was the leader of the Hezb-e-Wahdat (Unity Party) and the top figure in the Shia Hazara minority. Hezb-e-Wahdat was the main benefactor of Iranian support, and the second most-powerful opposition military party. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the most notorious of the warlords who emerged from the fight against Soviet occupation, led the party Hezb-e Islami. Pir Syed Ahmed Gailani was a moderate Pashtun leader and wealthy businessman who was also the spiritual leader of a minority Sufi Muslim group. Gailani was supported by pro-royalist Pashtuns and Western-educated elites of the old regime. Former King Zahir Shah, a Pashtun, said he had no intention of returning to power, but volunteered to help build a power-sharing administration for the country. Younis Qanooni, an ethnic Tajik who was named interior minister for the interim government, had also been the interior minister in the country's previous interim administration in 1996, before the Taliban came to power; he opposed the presence of UN peacekeepers in Afghanistan. Abdullah Abdullah, of the Northern Alliance, was a close friend of Ahmad Shah Masoud.

The 18 September 2005 elections for the National Assembly were contested by candidates representing scores of political parties, pressure groups, and small monarchist, communist, and democratic groups. However, most of the candidates ran as independents.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Afghanistan was traditionally divided into provinces governed by centrally appointed governors with considerable autonomy in local affairs. As of 2006, there were 34 provinces. During the Soviet occupation and the development of country-wide resistance, local areas came increasingly under the control of mujahedeen groups that were largely independent of any higher authority; local commanders, in some instances, asserted a measure of independence also from the mujahedeen leadership in Pakistan, establishing their own systems of local government, collecting revenues, running educational and other facilities, and even engaging in local negotiations. Mujahedeen groups retained links with the Peshāwar parties to ensure access to weapons that were doled out to the parties by the government of Pakistan for distribution to fighters inside Afghanistan.

The Taliban set up a shura (assembly), made up of senior Taliban members and important tribal figures from the area. Each shura made laws and collected taxes locally. The Taliban set up a provisional government for the whole of Afghanistan, but it did not exercise central control over the local shuras.

The process of setting up the transitional government in June 2002 by the Loya Jirga took many steps involving local government. First, at the district and municipal level, traditional shura councils met to pick electorspersons who cast ballots for Loya Jirga delegates. Each district or municipality chose a predetermined number of electors, based on the size of its population. The electors then traveled to regional centers and cast ballots, choosing from among themselves a smaller number of Loya Jirga delegates, according to allotted numbers assigned to each district. The delegates then took part in the Loya Jirga.

The transitional government attempted to integrate local governing authorities with the central government, but it lacked the loyalty of warlords necessary to its governing authority. More traditional elements of political authoritysuch as Sufi networks, royal lineage, clan strength, age-based wisdom, and the likestill exist and play a role in Afghan society. Karzai relied on these traditional sources of authority in his challenge to the warlords and older Islamist leaders. The deep ethnic, linguistic, sectarian, tribal, racial, and regional cleavages present in the country create what is called Qawm identity, which emphasizes the local over higher-order formations. Qawm refers to the group to which the individual considers himself to belong, whether a subtribe, village, valley, or neighborhood. Local governing authority relies upon these forms of identity and loyalty.

The constitution established in 2004 provided for directly elected provincial councils, which have 929 members depending on population. District and village councils are directly elected for a period of three years. Municipalities administer city affairs.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

Under the Taliban, there was no rule of law or independent judiciary. Ad hoc rudimentary judicial systems were established based on Taliban interpretation of Islamic law. Murderers were subjected to public executions and thieves had a limb or two (one hand, one foot) severed. Adulterers were stoned to death in public. Taliban courts were said to have heard cases in sessions that lasted only a few minutes. Prison conditions were poor and prisoners were not given food. Normally, this was the responsibility of the prisoners' relatives, who were allowed to visit to provide food once or twice a week. Those who had no relatives had to petition the local council or rely on other inmates.

In non-Taliban controlled areas, many municipal and provincial authorities relied on some form of Islamic law and traditional tribal codes of justice. The administration and implementation of justice varied from area to area and depended on the whims of local commanders or other authorities, who could summarily execute, torture, and mete out punishments without reference to any other authority.

After the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's judicial system was fragmented, with conflicts between such core institutions as the Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court, and attorney general's office. In addition, the judicial system's infrastructure was destroyed; the absence of adequate court or ministry facilities, basic office furniture, and minimal supplies made substantive progress difficult. There were also tensions between religious and secular legal training with regard to appointments of new judicial personnel. Until Afghanistan's new constitution was adopted in 2004, the country's basic legal framework consisted of its 1964 constitution and existing laws and regulations to the extent that they were in accordance with the Bonn Agreement of 2001 and with international treaties to which Afghanistan was a party. The Ministry of Justice was charged with compiling Afghan laws and assessing their compatibility with international standards, but even it did not have texts of Afghan laws, which were largely unavailable, even among attorneys, judges, law faculty, and government agencies. While in power, the Taliban burned law books. There was no adequate law library in the country as of 2002.

The 2004 constitution established an independent judiciary under the Islamic state. The judicial branch consists of a Supreme Court (Stera Mahkama), High Courts, Appeals Courts, and local and district courts. The Supreme Court is composed of nine members who are appointed by the president for a period of ten years (nonrenewable) with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga. The Supreme Court has the power of judicial review. Lower courts apply Shia law in cases dealing with personal matters for Shia followers.

ARMED FORCES

As of 2005, the national army/security services had an estimated 27,000 active personnel. Headquartered in Kabul, the force is intended to encompass all of the country's tribal and ethnic groups. However progress by the new Afghan National Army (ANA) had been hindered by high desertion levels and low enlistment rates, thought in part to be caused by the growing intensity of combat missions. Another factor was the growth of private security companies, which may offer a less stressful and more lucrative alternative to the ANA. In terms of equipment, most of the army's infrastructure, barracks, and depots were destroyed along with the Taliban. What equipment that has managed to survive years of war and the overthrow of the Taliban, was entirely of Soviet design and likely to be in a poor state of repair. In 2002, Afghanistan requested $235 million from the UN, for a 60,000-troop land army, an 8,000-member airforce, and a 12,000-guard border force. US foreign military assistance to Afghanistan in 2005 totaled $396 million.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Afghanistan has been a member of the United Nations since 19 November 1946. Within the United Nations, Afghanistan is part of several specialized agencies, such as UNESCO, FAO, and IAEA. The country also participates in WHO, IFAD, UNIDO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and IFC, and the ILO. Afghanistan is an observer in the WTO. Afghanistan is part of the Asian Development Bank, the Colombo Plan, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), G-77, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Economic Cooperation Organization, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CEMA), and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Other groups include WFTU and Interpol. Afghanistan is also a part of the Nonaligned Movement, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Nuclear Test Ban. In cooperation on environmental issues, the country is part of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the London Convention, and the UN Conventions on Desertification and Climate Change.

ECONOMY

Afghanistan's economy has been devastated by over over three decades of war. Hampered by an unintegrated economy until relatively late in the post-World War II period, only in the 1950s did the building of new roads begin to link the country's commercial centers with the wool-and fruit-producing areas. Largely agricultural and pastoral, the country is highly dependent on farming and livestock raising (sheep and goats). Approximately 85% of the people are engaged in agriculture. Industrial activity includes small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement, and hand-woven carpets. The country has valuable mineral resources, including large reserves of iron ore at Hajigak discovered before the 30-year-old war, but only coal, salt, lapis lazuli, barite, and chrome are available to be exploited. The discovery of large quantities of natural gas in the north, for which a pipeline to the USSR was completed in 1967, increased the country's export earnings, at least until escalation of civil strife in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Since the outbreak of war in the late 1970s, economic data have been contradictory and of doubtful reliability. In September 1987, the Afghan foreign minister asserted that 350 bridges and 258 factories had been destroyed since the fighting began in 1979. By the early 1990s, two-thirds of all paved roads were unusable, and the countryside appeared severely depopulated, with more than 25% of the populationtwice the prewar levelresiding in urban areas. What little is left of the country's infrastructure has been largely destroyed due first to the war, and then to the US-led bombing campaign. Severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 19982001. The majority of the population continued to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care as of 2006; these problems were exacerbated by military operations and political uncertainties. The presence of an estimated 10 million land mines also hinders the ability of Afghans to engage in agriculture or other forms of economic activity. Inflation, at 16% in 2005, remained a serious problem.

Opium poppy cultivation is the mainstay of the economy. Major political factions in the country profit from the drug trade. In 1999, encouraged by good weather and high prices, poppy producers increased the area under cultivation by 43% and harvested a bumper cropa record 4,600 tonscompared with 2,100 tons the year before. A ban on poppy production cut cultivation in 2001 by 97% to 1695 hectares (4188 acres), with a potential production of 74 tons of opium. Afghanistan is a major source of hashish, and there are many heroin-processing laboratories throughout the country.

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 included 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.

The Afghan economic base is so disjointed that it was almost futile for the government to undertake economic development. Nonetheless, the country's GDP grew from a meager $2.7 billion in 2000, to almost $6 billion in 2004; and, it was expected to grow further, to $7.1 billion, in 2005. Consequently, the GDP growth rates appear spectacular: 28.6% in 2002, 15.7% in 2003, and a more modest 7.5% in 2004. Apart from outside aid, the recent economic expansion was also helped by a good agricultural year in 2003.

The unemployment rate was estimated at 40% in 2005. Inflation dropped from 52.3% in 2002 to 10.2% in 2003, but rose again to 16.3% in 2004. In 2005, the inflation rate was expected to be around 10%. Despite the progress it registered in previous years, Afghanistan remains a very poor country, landlocked, dependent on foreign aid, and with a heterogeneous economic base (mostly agriculture).

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Afghanistan's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $21.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 8%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 16.3%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 38% of GDP, industry 24%, and services 38%. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $1,533 million.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Afghanistan totaled $4.31 billion based on a GDP of $4.6 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that in 2003 about 53% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.

LABOR

As of 2004, Afghanistan's labor force was estimated at 15 million, with an estimated 80% of the labor force engaged in agriculture, followed by industry and services at 10%, each. However, it was estimated that 40% of the country's work force was unemployed, as of 2005. The textile industry is the largest employer of industrial labor; weaving of cloth and carpets is the most important home industry.

As of 2005, Afghan law offered wide protection to workers, but little is known about the enforcement of labor statutes. Workers are unaware of their rights and there is no central authority to enforce those rights. There is no legal right to strike, nor does the country have a history of real labor-management bargaining. There are no courts or mechnisms for settling labor disputes. Wages are entirely subject to market forces, except for government employees, whose wages are set by the government. Although child and forced or compulsory labor are prohibited, little is known about enforcement. By law, children under the age of 15 cannot work more than 30 hours per week, but there is no evidence this is enforced. According to UNICEF, it is estimated that there are one million children under the age of 14 in the workforce. Children as young as six years old are reportedly working to help sustain their families. The vast majority of Afghan workers are in the informal economy.

AGRICULTURE

About 12% of the land is arable and less than 6% currently is cultivated. During peiords when external forces are not influencing the ability of farmers to grow crops, Afghan farmers grow enough rice, potatoes, pulses, nuts, and seeds to meet the country's needs; Afghanistan depends on imports for some wheat, sugar, and edible fats and oils. Fruit, both fresh and preserved (with bread), is a staple food for many Afghans. Agricultural production is a fraction of its potential. Agricultural production is constrained by dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water; irrigation is primitive. Relatively little use is made of machines, chemical fertilizer, or pesticides.

The variety of the country's crops corresponds to its topography. The areas around Qandahār, Herāt, and the broad Kabul plain yield fruits of many kinds. The northern regions from Takhar to Badghis and Herāt and Helmand provinces produce cotton. Corn is grown extensively in Paktia and Nangarhar provinces, and rice mainly in Kunduz, Baghlān, and Laghman provinces. Wheat is common to several regions, and makes up 70% of all grain production. Aggregate wheat production in 2005 was estimated at 4 million tons, up from 1.6 million tons in 2001. Following wheat, the most important crops in 2004 were barley (400,000 tons), corn (250,000 tons), rice (145,000 tons), and cotton (18,507 tons). Nuts and fruit, including pistachios, almonds, grapes, melons, apricots, cherries, figs, mulberries, and pomegranates, are among Afghanistan's most important horticultural crops. Byproducts of orchard fruits, such as pomegranate rind and walnut husks, were traditionally used to dye carpets, as was the madder root, valued for the deep red hue it produces.

In some regions, agricultural production had all but ceased due to destruction caused by the war and the migration of Afghans out of those areas. The average farm size is 12 hectares (2.55 acres). Absentee landlords are common and sharecropping is expanding in most provinces. Opium and hashish are also widely grown for the drug trade. Opium is easy to cultivate and transport and offers a quick source of income for impoverished Afghans. Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of raw opium in 2003. In 2001, following the ban by the Taliban regime, an abrupt decline of poppy cultivation interrupted a 20-year increase. In 2003, there were 80,000 hectares (198,000 acres) of opium poppies under cultivation, with potential opium production amounting to 3,600 tons, the second-highest amount achieved in Afghanistan and accounting for over two-thirds of world production that year. Much of Afghanistan's opium production is refined into heroin and is either consumed by a growing South Asian addict population or exported, primarily to Europe. Replacing the poppy industry was a goal of the Karzai administration.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

The availability of land suitable for grazing has made animal husbandry an important part of the economy. There are two main types of animal husbandry: sedentary, practiced by farmers who raise both animals and crops; and nomadic, practiced by animal herders known as Kuchis. Natural pastures cover some 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) but are being overgrazed. The northern regions around Mazār-e Sharif and Maymanah were the home range for about six million karakul sheep in the late 1990s. Most flocks move to the highlands in the summer to pastures in the north. Oxen are the primary draft power and farmers often share animals for plowing. Poultry are traditionally kept in most households.

Much of Afghanistan's livestock was removed from the country by early waves of refugees who fled to Pakistan and Iran. In 2001, the livestock population in Afghanistan had declined by about 40% since 1998. In 2002, this figure was estimated to have declined further to 60%. An FAO survey done in the northern regions in spring 2002 showed that in four provinces (Balkh, Juzjan, Sare Pol, and Faryab), there was a loss of about 84% of cattle from 1997 to 2002 (1997: 224,296 head; 2002: 36,471 head) and around 80% of sheep and goats (1997: 1,721,021 head; 2002: 359,953 head).

FISHING

Some fishing takes place in the lakes and rivers, but fish does not constitute a significant part of the Afghan diet. Using explosives for fishing, called dynamite fishing, became popular in the 1980s and is common practice. The annual catch was about 900 tons in 2003.

FORESTRY

Afghanistan's timber has been greatly depleted, and since the mid-1980s, only about 3% of the land area has been forested, mainly in the east. Significant stands of trees have been destroyed by the ravages of the war. Exploitation has been hampered by lack of power and access roads. Moreover, the distribution of the forest is uneven, and most of the remaining woodland is presently found only in mountainous regions in the southeast and south. The natural forests in Afghanistan are mainly of two types: (1) dense forests of oak, walnut, and other species of nuts that grow in the southeast, and on the northern and northeastern slopes of the Sulaiman ranges; and (2) sparsely distributed short trees and shrubs on all other slopes of the Hindu Kush. The dense forests of the southeast cover only 2.7% of the country. Roundwood production in 2003 was 3,148,000 cu m, with 44% used for fuel. The destruction of the forests to create agricultural land, logging, forest fires, plant diseases, and insect pests are all causes of the reduction in forest coverage. Illegal logging and clear-cutting by timber smugglers have exacerbated this destructive process.

MINING

Afghanistan has valuable deposits of barite, beryl, chrome, coal, copper, iron, lapis lazuli, lead, mica, natural gas, petroleum, salt, silver, sulfur, and zinc. Reserves of high-grade iron ore, discovered years ago at the Hajigak hills in Bamyan Province, are estimated to total 2 billion tons.

On average, some 114,000 tons of coal were mined each year during 197884. It is estimated that the country has 73 million tons of coal reserves, most of which are located in the region between Herāt and Badashkan in the northern part of the country. Production in 2003 amounted to 185,000 metric tons. In 2003, Afghanistan produced 13,000 metric tons of rock salt, 3,000 metric tons of gypsum, 5,000 metric tons of mined copper, and 120,000 metric tons of cement. Deposits of lapis lazuli in Badakhshan are mined in small quantities. Like other aspects of Afghanistan's economy, exploitation of natural resources has been disrupted by war. The remote and rugged terrain, and an inadequate transportation network usually have made mining these resources difficult.

ENERGY AND POWER

Two decades of warfare have left Afghanistan's power grid badly damaged. As of June 2004, less than 10% of the population had access to electricity. In 2002, electricity generation was 0.745 billion kWh, of which 25.5% came from fossil fuel, 74.5% from hydropower, and none from other sources. Imports of electricity totaled 0.150 kWh in 2002. In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 0.843 billion kWh. Total electrical generating capacity in 2002 stood at 0.385 million kW. Three hydroelectric plants were opened between 1965 and 1970, at Jalālābād, Naghlu, and Mahipar, near Kabul; another, at Kajaki, in the upper Helmand River Valley, was opened in the mid-1970s. In addition to the Naghlu, Mahi Par, and Kajaki plants, other hydroelectric facilities that were operational as of 2002 included plants at Sarobi, west of Kabul; Pole Khomri; Darunta, in Nangarhar province; Dahla, in Qandahār province (restored to operation in 2001); and Mazār-e Sharif. In 1991, a new 72-collector solar installation was completed in Kabul at a cost of $364 million. The installation heated 40,000 liters (10,400 gallons) of water to an average temperature of 60°c (140°f) around the clock. Construction of two more power stations, with a combined capacity of 600 kW, was planned in Charikar City.

The drought of 19982001 negatively affected Afghanistan's hydroelectric power production, which resulted in blackouts in Kabul and other cities. Another generating turbine is being added to the Kajaki Dam in Helmand province near Qandahār, with the assistance of the Chinese Dongfeng Agricultural Machinery Company. This will add 16.5 MW to its generating capacity when completed. Also in operation was the BreshnaKot Dam in Nangarhar province, which had a generating capacity of 11.5 MW.

Natural gas was Afghanistan's only economically significant export in 1995, going mainly to Uzbekistan via pipeline. Natural gas reserves were once estimated at 140 billion cu m. Production started in 1967 with 342 million cu m but had risen to 2.6 billion cu m by 1995. In 1991, a new gas field was discovered in Chekhcha, Jowzjan province. Natural gas was also produced at Sheberghān and Sare Pol. As of 2002, other operational gas fields were located at Djarquduk, Khowaja Gogerdak, and Yatimtaq, all in Jowzjan province. In 2002, natural gas production was 1.77 billion cu ft.

In August 1996, a multinational consortium agreed to construct a 1,430 km (890 mi) pipeline through Afghanistan to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, at a cost of about $2 billion. However US air strikes led to cancellation of the project in 1998, and financing of such a project has remained an issue because of high political risk and security concerns. As of 2002 the leaders of the three countries had signed an agreement to build the pipeline, but as of 2006, construction had not begun.

A very small amount of crude oil is produced at the Angot field in the northern Sare Pol province. Another small oilfield at Zomrad Sai near Sheberghān was reportedly undergoing repairs in mid-2001. Petroleum products such as diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel are imported, mainly from Pakistan and Turkmenistan. A small storage and distribution facility exists in Jalālābād on the highway between Kabul and Peshāwar, Pakistan. Afghanistan is also reported to have oil reserves totaling 95 million barrels and coal reserves totaling 73 million tons.

INDUSTRY

As with other sectors of the economy, Afghanistan's already-be-leaguered industries have been devastated by civil strife and war that began in the 1970s and left most of the country's factories and even much of the cottage industry sector inoperative. Still in an early stage of growth before the outbreak of war, industry's development has been stunted since; those few industries that have continued production remain limited to processing of local materials. The principal modern industry is cotton textile production, with factories at Pol e Khomri, Golbahar, Begram, Balkh, and Jabal as Saraj, just north of Charikar. Important industries in 2000 included textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement, hand-woven carpets, natural gas, coal, and copper.

Carpet-making is the most important handicraft industry, but it has suffered with the flight of rug makers during the civil war and since the 2001 US-led bombing campaign. Carpet-making is centered around the north and northwest regions of the country. Afghan carpets are made of pure wool and are hand-knotted, and women do much of the work. Production has fluctuated widely from year to year, increasing somewhat during the early 1990s with the establishment of selected "zones of tranquility" targeted for UN reconstruction assistance. Other handicrafts include felt-making and the weaving of cotton, woolen, and silk cloth. Wood and stone carving have been concentrated in the northeastern provinces, while jewelrymaking has been done in the Kabul area. The making of leather goods has also been a handicraft industry.

In 2004, industry was estimated to contribute 24.4% to the overall GDP (up from 20% in 1990) and to employ 10% of the working population; agriculture was considered to make up 37.2% of the GDP, and occupy 80% of the labor force; services provided work for 10% of the working population, and was represented with 38.3% in the GDP.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

The Afghanistan Academy of Sciences, founded in 1979, is the principal scientific institution. As of 2002, it had about 180 members. Prospective members of the Academy must take a written exam, present samples of their work, and pass a proficiency exam in one of the official languages of the UN. Many Afghan scientists migrated to Europe, the United States, and Pakistan during 19702006. Under the Taliban, professors who did not teach Islamic studies were relieved of their duties.

The Department of Geology and Mineral Survey within the Ministry of Mines and Industries conducts geological and mineralogical research, mapping, prospecting and exploration.

The Institute of Public Health, founded in 1962, conducts public health training and research and study of indigenous diseases, has a Government reference laboratory, and compiles statistical data.

Kabul University, founded in 1932, has faculties of science, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and geosciences. Its faculty numbers close to 200. The University of Balkh has about 100 faculty members. Bayazid Roshan University of Nangarhar, founded in 1962, has faculties of medicine and engineering, its faculty numbers close to 100. The Institute of Agriculture, founded in 1924, offers courses in veterinary medicine. Kabul Polytechnic College, founded in 1951, offers postgraduate engineering courses. Kabul Polytechnic was the site of the June 2002 Loya Jirga, and the international community spent over $7 million to refurbish part of the campus for the assembly. Buildings on campus had suffered heavy bomb damage. During the 1990s, the campus was shelled and looted by mujahedeen groups, who fought amongst themselves for control of the capital. Boarding students studying under the rule of the Taliban lived in makeshift dormitories.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Kabul, Qandahār, Mazā-e-Sharif, and Herāt are the principal commercial cities of eastern, southern, northern, and western Afghanistan, respectively. The first two are the main distribution centers for imports arriving from the direction of Pakistan; the latter two, for materials arriving from Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Hours of business vary. The destruction of paved roads has severely constrained normal domestic trade in most rural parts of the country. Heavy fighting in Kabul completely destroyed the city's infrastructure.

FOREIGN TRADE

Although the Taliban had brought a repressive order to the 90% of the country under its rule, it was unable to gain international recognition nor did it attract foreign investment. Hyperinflation had increased the number of Afghanis (the country's currency) needed to equal one US dollar, from 50 in the early 1990s to a virtually worthless 42,000 in 1999. On 7 October 2002, the first anniversary of the start of the US-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan, a new Afghan currency came into use. Also called the Afghani, the new notes were worth 1000 of the old notes, which

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 68.2 1,695.8 -1,627.6
Pakistan 45.6 35.3 10.3
Finland 7.1 7.1
Germany 5.7 7.2 -1.5
Saudi Arabia 4.3 14.4 -10.1
Belgium 2.1 0.5 1.6
Russian Federation 0.9 103.3 -102.4
United Arab Emirates 0.6 44.4 -43.8
India 0.5 25.4 -24.9
Yemen 0.5 0.5
Denmark 0.5 0.5
() data not available or not significant.

were phased out. The government will exchange the dostumi currency, which is used in northern Afghanistan and named after the region's warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, into new Afghanis at half the value of old Afghanis. Around 1,800 tons of old Afghanis were due to be burned or recycled.

The value of exports, including fruits and nuts, carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, and gems totaled an estimated $471 million in 2005 (not including illegal exports). Imports, including food, petroleum products, and most commodity items totaled an estimated $3.87 billion in 2005.

In 2004, exports (not including illicit exports or re-exports) amounted to $446 million; by 2005, the number had increased slightly, to $471 million. Imports almost tripled in the period 200105, to $3.87 billion. Carpets (47.5%), dried fruits (40.6%), fresh fruit (5.6%), medicinal plants (2.6%), and animal skins (1.2%) represented the bulk of exports, and they mainly went to Pakistan (which received 24% of the total), India (21.3%), the United States (12.4%), and Germany (5.5%). Imports primarily came from Pakistan (25.5%), the United States (8.7%), India (8.5%), Germany (6.5%), Turkmenistan (5.3%), Kenya (4.7%), South Korea (4.2%), and Russia (4.2%). Imports were machinery and equipment; household requisites and medicine; fabrics, clothing and footwear; food; and, chemical materials.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Between 1951 and 1973, Afghanistan's year-end international reserves were never lower than $38 million nor higher than $65 million. Development of the natural gas industry and favorable prices for some of the country's agricultural exports led to increases in international reserves, to $67.5 million in 1974 and to $115.4 million as of 31 December 1975. Exploitation of natural gas also freed Afghanistan from extreme dependence on petroleum imports and from the rapid increases in import costs that most countries experienced in 1973 and 1974. Increased trade in the late 1970s and 1980s resulted in a reduction of foreign exchange earnings, since trade surpluses are counted as a credit against future imports. Foreign exchange reserves declined from $411.1 million at the close of 1979 to $262 million as of 30 May 1987. Foreign exchange reserves were estimated at $1.3 billion in 2004, up from $426 million in 2002, and $815 million in 2003. The public foreign debt in 1997 stood at $5.49 billion. Reliable statistics are not available for the ensuing years However, the current account balance was estimated to have gone from -$2.3 billion in 2003, to -$2.7 billion in 2004.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The government central bank, the Bank of Afghanistan, was founded in 1939. In 1999, the UN Security Council passed a resolution placing the Bank of Afghanistan on a consolidated list of persons and entities whose funds and financial resources should be frozen, due to the fact that the bank was controlled by the Taliban regime. The Security Council agreed to remove the bank from the list upon a request from the Interim Administration of Afghanistan in January 2002..

All banks in Afghanistan were nationalized in 1975. In the early 1980s there were seven banks in the country, including the Agricultural Development Bank, the Export Promotion Bank, the Industrial Development Bank, and the Mortgage and Construction Bank. There is no organized domestic securities market.

INSURANCE

The fate of the Afghan National Insurance Co., which covered fire, transport, and accident insurance, is unknown as of 2006.

PUBLIC FINANCE

The fiscal year ends 20 March. Budget breakdowns have not been available since 1979/80, when revenues totaled Af15,788 million and expenditures Af16,782 million. In 2002, the Interim and Transitional governing authorities were working with donor aid agencies to finance the rebuilding of Afghanistan's infrastructure and society. The Interim Administration was supported by the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, UNDP, and the World Bank. An Implementation Group was established to operate an Operational Costs Trust Fund for Afghanistan, to be effective when the UNDP Start-up Fund ceased, to cover expenditures normally financed by domestic revenue. The Operational Costs Trust Fund was scheduled to cease to operate when the situation in Afghanistan reached fiscal normality, when the government would be able to finance most or all of its own costs.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in the fiscal year 2004/05 Afghanistan's central government took in revenues of approximately $269 million and had expenditures of $561 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately - $292 million. Total external debt was $8 billion.

TAXATION

In the early 1980s, direct taxes accounted for about 15% of government revenues. The share provided by indirect taxes declined from 42% to 30%, as revenues from natural gas and state enterprises played an increasing role in government finance. Tax collection, never an effective source of revenue in rural areas, was essentially disabled by the disruption caused by fighting and mass flight. Under the Taliban, arbitrary taxes, including those on humanitarian goods, were imposed.

In 2005 the government introduced an income (or wage) tax. Employers with two or more employees were required to pay 10% on annual income over about $3,500 and 20% on income over about $27,000.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Before the turmoil of the late 1970s, customs duties, levied as a source of revenue rather than as a protective measure, constituted more than one-fourth of total government revenue. Both specific and ad valorem duties of 2035% were levied on imports. Other costs included service and Red Crescent charges; monopoly and luxury taxes; authorization and privilege charges, and a commission-type duty.

After the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's warlords collected customs duties for themselves rather than transferring the funds to the Interim and Transitional authorities in Kabul. In May 2002, it was estimated that $67 million in customs duties were paid each month at Afghanistan's borders with Pakistan, Iran, and Uzbekistan, very little of which went into the government treasury.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

A 1967 law encouraged investment of private foreign capital in Afghanistan, but under the PDPA government, Western investment virtually ceased. Between 1979 and 1987, the USSR provided technical and financial assistance on more than 200 projects, including various industrial plants, irrigation dams, agricultural stations, and a new terminal at the Kabul airport. After 1990, reconstruction investments from Russia, Japan, and the United States were channeled through the United Nations. The Taliban called for Western support to help reconstruct Afghanistan, but Western donorsalready reluctant to support UN programs in the countrydid not respond. After the fall of the Taliban, head-of-state Hamid Karzai invited foreign direct investment (FDI) in Afghanistan, first to reach the people in the provinces who required salaries and owed taxes, and then to invest in businesses that would lead to industrial and technological development.

One of the main policies of the government as of 2006 was to create a business-friendly environment and to attract foreign, as well as domestic, investments. Both national and international observers realized that the economy of Afghanistan could not be sustained long-term on the benefits of donor-led reconstruction, and the trickle down effects of the opium economy. At the opening of the Hyatt Hotel in Kabul in April 2004, President Hamid Karzai declared that "Afghanistan is open for business."

The Afghan ministry of commerce calculated that between November 2003 and November 2004, $351 million in FDI made its way into the country. The investment amount was relatively small, but was a positive sign that the economy was orienting itself in the right direction. Most of the investments came from Pakistan, Iran, China, the UAE, EU countries, and the United States.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

As of 2002, the World Bank was managing an Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) to assist the Interim Administration in funding physical reconstruction projects, including in the health sector, as well as managing expenses such as salaries for state employees. The ARTF began in May 2002, as a joint proposal of the World Bank, the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Asian Development Bank, and the Islamic Development Bank. It was set up to streamline international support to Afghanistan by organizing aid pledges within a single mechanism. Contributions to the ARTF totaled more than $60 million in the first year and were expected to exceed $380 million over the four subsequent years. As of November 2002, pledges of funding for Afghanistan reached more than $4.5 billion for the first 30 months.

The main growth engines of the Afghan economy are donor-led reconstruction, the opium business, agriculture, and carpeting. The first two cannot sustain the economy long-term, and Afghan policymakers faced a challenge to develop a strategy to grow other sectors of the economy. As of 2006, the country remained poor, landlocked, and dependent on farming, foreign aid, and trade with neighboring countries. Much of the population continued to live in abject conditions (without access to housing, clean water, energy, or medical care), and the labor market was far from dynamic. Its attractive 28-million person market was offset by the lack of good infrastructure, and by security problems that still loom outside Kabul. Policymakers were hopeful however, that political stability would enable the economy thrive and grow.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Social welfare in Afghanistan has traditionally relied on family and tribal organization. In the villages and small towns, a tax to benefit the poor is levied on each man. Social welfare centers in the provincial capitals exist to care for disabled people, but these are able to assist only a small number of those in need. Most other welfare activities are still unorganized and in private hands. In the early 1990s, a social insurance system provided old age, disability, and survivors' pensions; sickness and maternity benefits; and workers' compensation.

Traditionally, women had few rights in Afghanistan, with their role limited largely to the home and the fields. Advances in women's rights were made from 1920 onward, and by the 1970s, women were attending school in large numbers, were voting, and held government jobsincluding posts as cabinet ministers, and were active in the professions. The victory of the extremely conservative Taliban in 1996 reversed this trend. Strict limits on the freedoms of women were put in place. Under the constitution of 2004, the government provided for freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; however, serious problems remained in the area of human rights. Although the rule of law applied throughout the country, in practice its recognition was limited.

Violence, including rape and kidnapping, and societal discrimination against women and minorities persisted. Terrorist attacks and extreme violence continued. Extrajudicial and unlawful killings by the government or its agents and police still occurred. Civilians were killed as rebel forces battled. Torture and excessive use of force were reported. Detention conditions were inadequate.

With the end of the Taliban, women and girls were permitted to attend schools and universities, and the enforced wearing of the burka was ended. Men were allowed to shave, music and television were permitted, and a host of Taliban-imposed restrictions on society ended. Many women continued to wear the burka, or chadri, out of tradition, but also due to fear of harassment or violence. Reports claimed that trafficking in women and children for forced labor, prostitution, and sexual exploitation was increasing. The country was both a source and transit point for trafficking. Trafficking victims faced societal discrimination, especially with regard to sexual exploitation. There are no child labor laws or other legislation to protect child abuse victims. The law criminalizes homosexual activity.

Women in urban areas regained some measure of rights to public life, however lack of education under Taliban rule restricted employment possibilities. On the other hand, in 2004 regulations changed to allow married women to attend high school classes. Certain other restrictions on women were lifted in 1998. Women were allowed to work as doctors and nurses (as long as they treated only women) and were able to attend medical schools. Yet, women were denied adequate medical care due to the societal barriers discouraging them from seeking care from male health workers. Widows with no means of support were allowed to seek employment.

HEALTH

Starvation, disease, death, war, and migration had devastating effects on Afghanistan's health infrastructure in the 1990s. According to the World Health Organization, medication was scarce. Even before the war disrupted medical services, health conditions in Afghanistan were inadequate by western standards

In 2004, there were an estimated 18 physicians per 100,000 people. In addition, there were fewer than 3 pharmacists, 3 dentists, and 22 nurses per 100,000 population that year. Approximately only 29% of the population had access to health services. Few people had access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

In 2005, estimated life expectancy was 42.9 yearsone of the lowest in the worldand infant mortality was estimated at 163.07 per 1,000 live births, which gives the country the world's second-highest mortality rate for infants. The maternal mortality rate in 2002 was one of the highest in Central Asia, with 1,600 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The death rate in 2002 was 17 per 1,000 people. In 2002, some 80,000 children a year were dying of diarrheal disease. From 1978 to 1991, there were over 1.5 million war-related deaths. It is estimated that 3,767 civilians died because of US bombs in Afghanistan in the period 7 October7 December 2001. Approximately 300400 civilians were killed in the period October 2001July 2002.

As of 2002, Afghanistan had an average of four hospital beds for every 10,000 people. Most of the country's facilities are in Kabul, and those needing treatment must traverse the countryside to get there. Health care was being provided primarily by the international community. Some military field hospitals were set up as a result of the US-led coalition war. There are some medical facilities supported by the Red Cross operating in the country. In 24 of 31 provinces there are no hospitals or medical staff.

HOUSING

According to an official report, there were 200,000 dwellings in Kabul in the mid-1980s. The latest available figures for 198088 show a total housing stock of 3,500,000 with 4.4 people per dwelling. However, years of conflict have caused severe damage to the housing stock. In 2003, UN-Habitat reported that about 26% of all housing had been destroyed or seriously damaged. About 2025% of the population did not have access to piped supplies of safe water and about 84% of the population had no sanitary toilets.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been the leader in providing homes and shelter for returning Afghan refugees, internally displaced persons, and the extremely poor. From 200204, over 100,000 rural homes were built through the collaboration of UNHCR and the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation. Others funding housing development included the UN Development Program, the International Organization for Migration, and CARE International, while the agencies implementing the programs are the Ministry for Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) in Afghanistan, the United Nations Human Settlement Program (HABITAT), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and an assortment of international and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Houses in farming communities are built largely of mud brick and frequently grouped within a fortified enclosure, to provide protection from marauders. The roofs are flat, with a coating of mixed straw and mud rolled hard above a ceiling of horizontal poles, although in areas where timber is scarce, separate mud brick domes crown each room. Cement and other modern building materials are widely used in cities and towns. Every town has at least one wide thoroughfare, but other streets are narrow lanes between houses of mud brick, taller than those in the villages and featuring decorative wooden balconies.

EDUCATION

At the last estimates, the adult literacy rate was about 36% for the total population51% for males and 21% for females. Education is free at all levels. The primary education program covers six years. The secondary education (middle school and high school) includes another six-year program. About 29% of school-aged children are enrolled at the primary level. About 14% of all appropriately aged children are enrolled in secondary programs. Vocational training is provided in secondary schools and senior high schools, and approximately 6% of students are enrolled in the vocational system. Theoretically, education is compulsory for six years. The new constitution proposed to change the standard to nine years of compulsory education.

Boys and girls are schooled separately. In 2003, the average pupil to teacher ratio for primary school was 61:1. Children are taught in their mother tongue, Dari (Persian) or Pashtu (Pashto), during the first three grades; the second official language is introduced in the fourth grade. Children are also taught Arabic so that they may be able to read the Koran (Quran). The school year extends from early March to November in the cold areas and from September to June in the warmer regions.

In addition to the secular public education system, the traditional Islamic madrassa school system is functioning. At the madrassas, children study the Koran, the Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), and popular religious texts.

All teachers have civil service status. The educational system is totally centralized by the state.

The University of Kabul, which is now coeducational, was founded in 1932. In 1962, a faculty of medicine was established at Jalālābād in Nangarhar Province; this faculty subsequently became the University of Nangarhar. In January 2006, there were at least eight universities and three other institutes of higher education. An estimated 1,000 women throughout Afghanistan participated in university entrance examinations in 2002.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

For centuries, manuscript collections were in the hands of the rulers, local feudal lords, and renowned religious families. Printing came fairly late to Afghanistan, but with the shift from the handwritten manuscript to the printed book, various collections were formed. Kabul Central Library is a public library (1920) with 60,000 volumes. The Khairkhona Library is the only other public library in Kabul. The library of the University of Kabul has about 250,000 volumes. There is a library at Kabul Polytechnic University with 6,000 volumes. A government library, at the ministry of education also in Kabul, houses 30,000 volumes. As of 2005, there were six provincial libraries, but in various stages of repair and reconstruction.

Prior to the devastating civil war, the Kabul Museum (founded in 1922) possessed an unrivaled collection of stone heads, bas-reliefs, ivory plaques and statuettes, bronzes, mural paintings, and Buddhist material from excavations at Hadda, Bamian, Bagram, and other sites. It also contained an extensive collection of coins and a unique collection of Islamic bronzes, marble reliefs, Kusham art, and ceramics from Ghaznī. During several decades of warfare, however, the museum was plundered by various armed bands, with much of its collection sold on the black market or systematically destroyed. In March 2001, the Taliban dynamited the Bamiyan Buddhas and sold the debris and the remains of the original sculpture. Small statues of the Buddhas in Foladi and Kakrak were destroyed. Most of the statues and other non-Islamic art works in the collections of the Kabul Museum were destroyed, including those stored for security reasons in the ministry of information and culture.

UNESCO has undertaken a plan to conserve the archaeological remains and the minaret at Jam, and to make it a World Heritage site. The minaret was built at the end of the 12th century and, at 65 m (215 ft) is the second-tallest in the world after the Qutub Minaret in New Delhi, India.

The National Archives of Afghanistan in Kabul was established in 1973. Holdings include government documents and ancient books, the most important being a 500-year-old Koran. Also in Kabul is the Kabul University Science Museum, with an extensive zoological collection and a museum of pathology. There are provincial museums at Bamyan, Ghaznī, Herāt, Mazār-e Sharif, Maimana, and Qandahār. Major religious shrines have collections of valuable objects.

MEDIA

Limited telephone service to principal cities and some smaller towns and villages is provided by the government. In 2003, there were an estimated 2 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 10 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. In 2004, the CIA reported that there were 50,000 main phone lines and 600,000 cellular mobile phone lines in use (about 3 out of every 10 Afghans had a cellular phone). In 2005, four wireless telephone service providers were licensed.

The media in Afghanistan was severely restricted by the Taliban. Since the fall of that regime, freedom of expression has been provided for in the constitution. However, a 2002 press law contained an injunction against information that would be considered insulting to Islam and, while an independent media is beginning to grow, as of 2004, the state owned at least 35 publications and a majority of the electronic media.

The first television broadcast took place in 1978. There are at least 10 television stations, with the main central station in Kabul being operated by the government. In 2004, there were at least 40 radio broadcast stations (approximately equal numbers of AM and FM), with programming available in Pashtu, Afghan Persian (Dari), Urdu, and English. In 2003, there were an estimated 114 radios and 14 television sets for every 1,000 people. On 12 September 2004 the first independent radio station established entirely by private sector funds was inaugurated in Ghaznī province.

In 2004, there were approximately 300 publications in the country. Mazār-e Sharif alone had an estimated 50 publications. Major newspapers, all headquartered in Kabul, (with estimated 1999 circulations) are Anis (25,000), published in Dari and Pashto; Hewad (12,200), and New Kabul Times (5,000), in English. In January 2002, the independent newspaper Kabul Weekly began publishing again, after having disappeared during the period when the Taliban was in power. The first issue carried news in Dari, Pashto, English, and French.

News agencies include the state-operated Bakhtar News Agency and the privately owned Pajhwok Afghan News, Hindokosh, and Afghan Islamic Press.

In 2005, there were 25,000 people with Internet access.

ORGANIZATIONS

Afghanistan has over 2,300 registered nongovernmental organizations and approximately 300 registered social organizations. Organizations to advance public aims and goals are of recent origin and most are sponsored and directed by the government.

The National Fatherland Front, consisting of tribal and political groups that support the government, was founded in June 1981 to bolster the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) regime and to promote full and equal participation of Afghan nationals in state affairs. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), established in Kabul in 1977, is an independent political organization of Afghan women focusing on human rights and social justice.

With political changes in the country throughout the past decade, a number of new women's groups have developed. The Women's Welfare Society carries on educational enterprises, provides training in handicrafts, and dispenses charitable aid, while the Maristun, a social service center, looks after children, men, and women while teaching them crafts and trades. These include the Afghan Women Social and Cultural Organization (AWSCO, est. 1994), the Afghan Women's Educational Center (AWEC, est. 1991), the Afghan Women's Network (AWN, est. 1995), the Educational Training Center for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan (ECW, est. 1997), the New Afghanistan Women Association (est. 2002 as a merger of the Afghan Women Journalist Association and the Afghan Feminine Association), and the World Organization for Mutual Afghan Network (WOMAN, est. 2002).

The Union of Afghanistan Youth is a national nongovernment organization representing the concerns of the nation's youth and young adults in the midst of transition and reconstruction. The organization serves as a multiparty offshoot of the Democratic Youth Organization of Afghanistan (DYOA), which has worked closely with the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Though the Scouting Movement of Afghanistan was disbanded in 1978, the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) began conducting seminars in July 2003 to encourage and support the rebirth of scouting programs. There are a number of sports organizations throughout the country, including those for football (soccer), tennis, cricket, and track and field; many of these are linked to international organizations.

The Red Crescent, the equivalent of the Red Cross, is active in every province, with a national chapter of Red Crescent Youth also active. Afghanistan also hosts chapters of Habitat for Humanity and HOPE Worldwide.

An institute, the Pashto Tolanah, promotes knowledge of Pashto literature, and the Historical Society (Anjuman-i-Tarikh) amasses information on Afghan history. The Afghan Carpet Exporters' Guild, founded in 1987, promotes foreign trade of Afghan carpets and works for the improvement of the carpet industry.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

The tourism industry, developed with government help in the early 1970s, has been negligible since 1979 due to internal political instability. A passport and visa are required for entrance into Afghanistan. In 1999, the UN estimated the daily cost of staying in Kabul at $70. Approximately 61% of these costs were estimated to be the price of a room in a guesthouse. Travel was highly restricted in the country due to the US-led campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

FAMOUS AFGHANS

The most renowned ruler of medieval Afghanistan, Mahmud of Ghaznī (971?1030), was the Turkish creator of an empire stretching from Ray and Isfahan in Iran to Lahore in India (now in Pakistan) and from the Amu Darya (Oxus) River to the Arabian Sea. Zahir ud-Din Babur (14831530), a Timurid prince of Ferghana (now in the former USSR), established his base at Kabul and from there waged campaigns leading to the expulsion of an Afghan ruling dynasty, the Lodis, from Delhi and the foundation of the Mughal Empire in India.

Many eminent figures of Arab and Persian intellectual history were born or spent their careers in what is now Afghanistan. Al-Biruni (9731048), the great Arab encyclopedist, was born in Khiva but settled in Ghaznī, where he died. Abdul Majid Majdud Sana'i (10701140), the first major Persian poet to employ verse for mystical and philosophical expression, was a native of Ghaznī. Jalal ud-Din Rumi (120773), who stands at the summit of Persian poetry, was born in Balkh but migrated to Konya (Iconium) in Turkey. The last of the celebrated Persian classical poets, Abdur Rahman Jami (141492), was born in Khorasan but spent most of his life in Herāt. So did Behzad (1450?1520), the greatest master of Persian painting.

The founder of the state of Afghanistan was Ahmad Shah Abdali (172473), who changed his dynastic name to Durrani. He conquered Kashmir and Delhi and, with his capital at Qandahār, ruled over an empire that also stretched from the Amu Darya to the Arabian Sea. Dost Muhammad (17891863) was the founder of the Muhammadzai (Barakzai) dynasty. In a turbulent career, he both fought and made peace with the British in India, and unified the country. His grandson, Abdur Rahman Khan (18441901), established order after protracted civil strife. Amanullah Khan (18921960), who reigned from 1919 to 1929, tried social reforms aimed at Westernizing the country but was forced to abdicate. Muhammad Nadir Shah (d.1933), who was elected king by a tribal assembly in 1929, continued Amanullah's Westernization program. His son, Muhammad Zahir Shah (b.1914), was king until he was deposed by a coup in July 1973. Lieut. Gen. Sardar Muhammad Daoud Khan (190978), cousin and brother-in-law of King Zahir, was the leader of the coup and the founder and first president of the Republic of Afghanistan. Leaders in the violent years after the 1978 "Saur Revolution" were Nur Muhammad Taraki (191779), founder of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA); Hafizullah Amin (192979), Taraki's successor as president of the Revolutionary Council and secretary-general of the PDPA; Babrak Karmal (192996), leader of the pro-Soviet Parcham group of the PDPA and chief of state from December 1979 until May 1986; and Dr. Mohammad Najibullah (194796), former head of the Afghan secret police who was brutally executed by the Taliban militia after they seized control of Kabul. Ahmed Shah Massoud (1953?2001) played a leading role in driving the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan; after the rise of the Taliban, he became the military leader of the Northern Alliance. Massoud was the victim of a suicide attack two days before the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States; some speculate Osama bin Laden had a hand in his assassination, to ensure the protection and cooperation of the Taliban. Hamid Karzai (b.1957) is the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan. Karzai worked to overthrow the Taliban. After the regime's demise in 2001, Karzai became the chairman of the transnational administration and interim president until his election in the first direct election in the country, held in 2004.

DEPENDENCIES

Afghanistan has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adamec, Ludwig W. Historical Dictionary of Afghan Wars, Revolutions, and Insurgencies. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Barry, Michael. History of Modern Afghanistan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Chayes, Sarah. Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan after the Taliban. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.

Misdaq, Nabi. Afghanistan: Political Frailty and Foreign Interference. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Rumer, Boris. Central Asia at the End of the Transition. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2005.

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Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN

Islamic State of Afghanistan

Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan

Imports:

US$150 million (1996 est.).

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Afghanistan is located in southern Asia and shares a border with 6 countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Landlocked, with an area of 652,000 square kilometers (251,737 square miles), Afghanistan is a mountainous country dominated by the Hindu Kush and the Himalayan mountain ranges to the north and arid desert to the south. Afghanistan endures the most extreme temperatures on earth. Comparatively, the area occupied by Afghanistan is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. The capital city, Kabul, is located in the northeastern part of the country.

POPULATION.

The 1976 census estimated the Afghan population at 16.6 million, but 4 years later, similar research put the population at 15.5 million. In 1999, a United Nations (UN) sponsored census, carried out by the Taliban (originally, a group of Afghans trained in religious schools in Pakistan) put the population at 23 million, indicating an annual population growth of 2.8 percent. Finally, the CIA World Factbook estimates the population in July 2000 at 25,838,797. Doubts about the true figures stem from the war that began as a result of the invasion of the country by the Soviet Union in 1979. Not only did this war result in the loss of approximately 1 million lives but an estimated 5 million Afghans went into exile abroad, to countries such as Pakistan and Iran, thus creating the world's largest refugee population. Mass migration from the rural areas to the urban centers occurred and the population of the capital city of Kabul more than doubled after 1979. Over one-third of Afghan families have migrated to Kabul since 1995 and the share of the urban population increased from 10 percent in the 1970s to over 30 percent in 1995. The return of the Afghan refugees began in April 1992, following the victory of the mujahideen (anti-Soviet freedom fighters; from the Persian word for "warrior"), and by the middle of 1996 over half of the refugees had been repatriated . However, when the United States began military strikes against Afghanistan for harboring terrorist Osama bin Laden in 2001, another wave of refugees fled the country.

The principal linguistic and ethnic group in Afghanistan are the Pashtun. These people represent just over half of the population and live mostly in the south or in the east. Persian-speaking Tajiks, who live in the eastern valleys, make up 20 percent of the population; another 10 percent of the population is of Turkmen and Uzbek origin, and they live on the northern plains. There are an additional 20 other different ethnic groups of which the Baluch, the Hazaras, and the Nuristanis are the most well known, and these groups speak over 30 different languages. The vast majority84 percentof Aghanis follow the Sunni Muslim faith, while a significant minority15 percentare Shi'a Muslims.

Following the collapse of the communist regime in 1992, a civil war has been fought largely along ethnic lines between the Pashtuns, the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, and the Hazaras.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Following the end of 40 years of peaceful monarchical rule in July 1973, Afghanistan was plunged into a war that continued into the 21st century. The end of the monarchy was followed by the setting up of a communist-style regime that collapsed when 100,000 Soviet troops invaded the country in December 1979. For 10 years Soviet forces occupied the country and dictated its governance, but local rebel forces, known as the mujahideen, drove the Soviets out in 1989. The victory by the mujahideen brought no peace to the troubled country, however. For the next several years fighting continued between rival mujahideen factions. By 1996 the sitting government had collapsed, and effective control of the country was seized by the radical Islamic Taliban faction. The Taliban remained in power until 2001 when U.S. attacks toppled the faction from power.

In economic terms, Afghanistan is among the world's poorest countries due to the incessant fighting that has placed the economy on the verge of collapse and taken hundreds of thousands of lives. Two decades of war and political strife left the country's infrastructure in ruins and its people almost entirely dependent on foreign aid. The majority of administrative, economical, and social institutions were wiped out due to the Soviet invasion, mass migration, and continued fighting.

The principal source of revenue in Afghanistan traditionally came from the agricultural sector, and under normal circumstances the country is capable of producing not only enough food to feed its entire population but surplus food to export abroad. But as of 2001 the country was able to produce enough food no longer. Given that the country is heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture, the decline in income levels and the increased lack of food security (a country's ability to feed its own people) increased poverty and caused other economic difficulties. Much of the land that was previously devoted to wheat farming began to be used to cultivate opium poppies, which are used in the production of heroin. The country's transport system was almost entirely broken down, as well as most industry and the agricultural infrastructure. These sectors were so seriously damaged that only sustained massive investment could salvage them.

Before the Soviet invasion in 1979, the economy was almost entirely controlled by the government of Afghanistan, with most investments taking place within the public sector . The private sector extended only to agriculture and trade. The past 2 decades have seen the dismantling of centralized governance and an increase in private sector participation. In 2000 the private sector played a major role in the country's traditional economic activities, and there was still much room for private sector investment in small-scale industries, provided that political stability was achieved. The Taliban emerged in the mid-1990s and swept through the country, taking control in a remarkably short period of time. Political stability was then entirely dependent on the future course the Taliban chose to follow and the economic policies they chose to pursue. The Taliban movement established nominal government in most parts of the country, but it was only recognized by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Afghan economy is famously dependent upon the decisions made by its neighbors' governments. In the past, the country was heavily dependent on economic relations with the former Soviet Union, and in 2001 it was sensitive to economic decisions made by the Pakistani government. An example of this dependency can be seen within the markets. An increase in the prices of essential commodities (basic foodstuffs such as bread and rice) in Pakistan led to an increase in prices of the same commodities in Afghanistan. In addition, when Pakistan de-valued its currency in 1998, the value of the Afghan currency was also reduced. Because of the lack of a governmental infrastructure, there were no reliable economic indicators available for such data as GDP, foreign trade, or national income.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Due to its strategic geographical position, Afghanistan has been invaded throughout history and conquered by the Persians, the Macedonians, the Parthians, the Kushan Empire, the Huns, and the Arabs. The only peaceful period in the country's recent past was between 1933 and 1973 when it was ruled by King Zahir Shah. However, following the dissolution of the monarchy in 1973, a communist-style regime was established. The watershed event in the modern era was the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union, which was launched in order to keep Afghanistan from becoming too independent. After a long, entrenched war which many have called "the Soviets' Vietnam," the USSR finally withdrew from the country in 1989. After that, the Taliban took control of most of the country, but a protracted war still continued with opponents of the Taliban, who practiced the same kind of guerilla warfare against the Taliban that they carried out against the Soviet Union.

Afghanistan has not had an effective central government capable of exerting its authority across the entire country because the population is structured by tribes. When the communist administration in Kabul crumbled in 1992, the religious, linguistic, and ethnic differences within the country deepened, leading to the fragmentation of Afghanistan into a series of fiefdoms controlled by warlords. The Taliban originated in the refugee camps on the Pakistani border towns and was initially comprised of religious students who blamed the failure of the previous government on its unwillingness to impose the tenets of fundamentalist Islam (the religion of the world's Muslims and the chief religion in the Middle East; Islam literally means "submission to the will of God"). The Taliban played cleverly on the deep divisions within the country, and in 2000 only 10 percent of the entire country was controlled by non-Taliban groups. This student militia ran the country in accordance with the strict Islamic principles laid out in Sharia Law (Sharia is the law of Islam, based upon the Qur-an, the Sunna, and the work of Muslim scholars in the first two centuries of Islam). Their rigid and often brutal interpretation of Islam caused the Afghan people tremendous suffering, especially among women who were entirely deprived of their rights. The Taliban's successful rise to power was attributed to the substantial help that it received from the Pakistani government combined with the inability of the opposing parties to organize themselves and join together to form an effective opposition. The main political figures within Afghanistan prior to the downfall of the Taliban were Mohammad Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, and Colonel Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the remaining opposition forces.

Afghanistan under the Taliban regime essentially had no central governmentno executive branch, no legislature, and no independent and impartial judicial system. Many critics of the regime charged that there was no rule of law, no constitution, no civil society, and no system in place to monitor human rights abuses or address grievances. The Taliban's distaste for the standards of international human rights was made clear to the international community. The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the Taliban in November 1999 under Security Council Resolution 1267. (Sanctions are imposed unilaterally or multilaterally by states onto countries that violate international norms of behavior and can take many forms, from denying government aid or other benefits to banning any form of trade.) The UN demanded that the Taliban hand over the terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is suspected of being involved in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the September 2001 attacks on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the World Trade Center in New York City. When the Taliban refused to comply, the UN declared that UN member states may not operate commercial aircraft in Afghanistan, and all known funds and other financial resources controlled by the Taliban outside of the country were frozen. With the downfall of the Taliban regime in 2001, an interim government composed of tribal and Northern Alliance leaders was formed to restore stability to the country. However, fighting amongst the different leaders threatened the effectiveness of this new government. It is possible that lasting peace and stability will only come to Afghanistan under the watchful eye of an international peacekeeping force stationed in the country.

There has never really been a formal tax system in this essentially tribal country. Local tribal leaders often used to levy arbitrary taxes on commercial goods passing through their territory, but this revenue never reached Kabul. The Taliban tried to gain popularity by removing checkpoints erected for the collection of taxes, and local traders rewarded them with large donations.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Before the Soviet invasion in 1979, considerable investment from the United States and development agencies had been channeled into the reconstruction of the Afghan road networks. Over 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of roads were built linking the principal cities, giving the country a distinctly modern feel. The long war has undone much of the work carried out by development agencies in the 1970s. In 1993, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimated that 60 percent of the 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) of paved roads needed to be totally rebuilt and that minor roads linking rural areas were in very poor condition. The country has just 21,000 kilometers (12,050 miles) of total roadways. Since 1993 the condition of the roads in Afghanistan has further deteriorated and hundreds of bridges have been destroyed, cutting off many remote mountain areas.

The telecommunications infrastructure has improved since 1999, and in 2001 it was possible to phone between 2 of Afghanistan's major urban centers, Kabul and Kandahar. Telephone calls were also possible to 13 foreign countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. All calls made to Afghanistan have to go through an operator, and calls out of Afghanistan must be made on satellite telephones. In 2000, the Taliban signed a contact with a company based in the United Arab Emirates to increase the number of telephone lines in the country to 1 million by September 2001. This project also aims to put the country in touch with over 99 other countries instead of just 13 within the same time frame.

The aviation infrastructure was almost completely destroyed by the war. Most of the national fleet of aircraft is now unusable or too dangerous to fly commercially. When the first round of sanctions were imposed by the United Nations in 1999, Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana, was hit badly because its airplanes were no longer allowed to fly abroad. The country has only 14 airports with paved runways and another 32 dirt landing strips.

Communications
Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Afghanistan 29,000 (1996) N/A AM 7; FM 1; shortwave 1 (1999) 167,000 (1999) 10 100,000 (1999) 1 N/A
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
India 27.7 M (2000) 2.93 M (2000) AM 153; FM 91; shortwave 68 116 M 562 63 M 43 4.5 M
Pakistan 2.861 M (1999) 158,000 (1998) AM 27; FM 1; shortwave 21 13.5 M 22 3.1 M 30 1.2 M
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

Before the Soviet invasion in 1979, energy consumption per capita was among the world's lowest. However, as a result of war and the Soviets' development of the country's gas reserves, consumption levels increased. In 1992 the authorities stated that Kabul's winter requirement was 300 megawatts even though the installed capacity was only 150 megawatts. Between 1992 and 1996, much of the capital had no power. In 1993 the UNDP estimated that over 60 percent of the gas transmission lines were not functioning. In July 2000, the Taliban initiated a project to build an electrical grid from Afghanistan to Turkmenistan; however, the project has not progressed due to a lack of funds. Reports coming out of the country in 2001 indicated that the severe winter had claimed hundreds of Afghan lives.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

The economy of Afghanistan, one of the world's least developed, has never been properly documented. Prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979 the very few economic data were often wholly unreliable. Official statistics almost entirely ground to a halt in 1979 and have not been produced since the communist government fell in 1992. Nevertheless, the CIA World Factbook estimated that in 1990 the agricultural sector produced 53 percent of GDP while industry contributed 28.5 percent and services 18.5 percent. In 1980 it was estimated the 68 percent of the workforce worked in agriculture, 16 percent in industry, and 16 percent in services.

Over 2 decades of war have either destroyed or seriously damaged the infrastructures of the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector is still the largest employer. Its output is largely dependant on changing political conditions and, to a lesser extent, the weather.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture has traditionally driven the Afghan economy, accounting for approximately 50 percent of GDP before the Soviet invasion in 1979. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector has never produced at full capacity. Before the invasion, only 30 percent of the total arable land of 15 million hectares was cultivated. At that time the main exports were sugarcane, sugar beets, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and wool. However, the continuing war reduced production significantly. Soviet troops planted land mines all over the country, rendering large areas of land useless and forcing large sections of the population to become refugees. The resulting cut in production caused massive food shortages. Kabul University produced a report in 1988 which found that agricultural output was 45 percent less than the 1978 level. The UNDP estimated that in 1992 only 3.2 million hectares of land were cultivated of which only 1.5 million hectares were irrigated. In 2001, the principal food crops were corn, rice, barley, wheat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. In Afghanistan, industry is also based on agriculture, along with raw materials. The major industrial crops are cotton, tobacco, castor beans, and sugar beets. Sheep farming is also extremely valuable. The major sheep product exports are wool and sheep skins.

In 2000, Afghanistan experienced its worst food crisis ever recorded because of a very severe drought. Such low levels of recorded rainfall had not been seen in the country since the 1950s. The water used to irrigate the lands comes from melting snow, and in 2000 the country experienced very little snowfall. The southern parts of the country were badly affected, and farmlands produced 40 percent of their expected yields. Half of the wells in the country dried up during the drought, and the lake feeding the Arghandab dam dried up for the first time since 1952. The barley crops were destroyed and the wheat crops were almost wiped out. In the middle of 2000, the drought's consequences were felt in Kabul, when more and more displaced people were migrating to the capital.

The prices of staple foods have also increased in different parts of the country because demand is much higher than supply. For instance, in Kabul, a family of 7 can earn US$1.14 a day if the head of the family is lucky enough to find employment, whereas a loaf of bread costs US$0.63, roughly half an individual's income per day. A large segment of the Afghan population depends on food imported from abroad or distributed by aid organizations. The civil strife and drought increased the country's food import requirements to a record 2.3 million metric tons in 2000/2001, according to the UN World Food Programme. Much of the needed imports come from the international community and the rest from Pakistan. The disruption to the flow of this international aid caused by the 2001 war between U.S.-led forces on the Taliban has threatened widespread famine and starvation to much of the Afghan population.

The number of livestock was greatly reduced during the years of war. In 1970, the total livestock population was estimated at 22 million sheep, 3.7 million cattle, 3.2 million goats, and 500,000 horses. According to a survey carried out in 1988, the number of cattle had declined by 55 percent, sheep and goats by 65 percent, and the number of oxen used to plow the fields was down by 30 percent. Much of the livestock is malnourished and diseased.

Afghanistan in 2000 was the world's largest producer of opium, used to produce the drug heroin. The total opium production for 1998 was estimated at 2,102 metric tons against a total of 2,804 metric tons in 1997. This reduction in the level of poppy production was due to heavy and continuous rains and hailstorms in some of the major poppy producing provinces. However, in 1999, the country produced a staggering 4,600 metric tons. The rotting economy forced farmers to grow the opium poppies as a cash crop , and this practice was supported by the Taliban until 2001, because it provided farmers with money that they would otherwise not be able to earn. However, in 2001, the Taliban ordered the country's farmers to stop growing poppies following an edict by Mullah Omar, the supreme religious leader, that opium cultivation is not permitted under Islam. While analysts contend that the reason had more to do with convincing the United Nations and the international community to lift sanctions, officials from various countries argued that this was done in order to boost the market price for heroin. Heroin still flowed from Afghanistan, only at a much higher priceafter the Taliban's ban on opium growing, the price shot from $44 to $700 per kilo. This caused speculation that the Taliban had stockpiled a large supply of the drug, and the higher proceeds allowed them further funding for military and government operations. With the September 2001 attacks on the United States, opium production was believed to be resumed.

INDUSTRY

Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes the proposed multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines to be built in Afghanistan by UNOCAL, an American oil company, and Bridas, an Argentinean firm. However, political instability has thrown these plans into serious question, and it is unlikely that construction will be approved until the fighting in the country stops.

GAS.

Afghanistan's proven and probable natural gas reserves are estimated to be around 150 billion cubic feet. Afghan gas production reached 275 million cubic feet per day (mcf/d) in the mid-1970s. However, due to declining reserves from producing fields, output gradually fell to about 220 mcf/d by 1980. At that time, the largest field, Djarquduq, was tapped and was expected to boost Afghan gas output to 385 mcf/d by the early 1980s. However, sabotage of infrastructure by the anti-Soviet mujahideen fighters limited the country's total production to 290 mcf/d. During the 1980s, the sale of gas accounted for up to 50 percent of export revenues. After the Soviet pull-out and subsequent Afghan civil war, roughly 31 producing wells were closed, pending the restart of gas sales to the former Soviet Union. In 1998, Afghan gas production was only around 22 mcf/d, all of which was used domestically. In February 1998, the Taliban announced plans to revive the Afghan National Oil Company, which was abolished by the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The company is expected to play an important role in the resumption of both gas and oil exploration in Afghanistan.

OIL.

Soviet estimates from the late 1970s placed Afghanistan's proven and probable oil reserves at 100 million barrels. Despite plans to start commercial oil production in Afghanistan, all oil exploration and development work, as well as plans to build a 10,000 barrel per day (bbl/d) refinery, were halted after the 1979 Soviet invasion. In September 1999, Afghanistan signed a deal with Consolidated Construction Company of Greece to explore for oil and gas in the area of Herat in southwestern Afghanistan near the Iranian border. This area is believed to be potentially rich in hydrocarbons (any of a variety of organic compoundsincluding oil and coal that can be harnessed to produce energy). In the meantime, Afghanistan reportedly receives some of its oil imports from Saudi Arabia as foreign aid. There have also been reports that Pakistan has offered to assist Afghanistan in constructing an oil refinery, as well as in repairing damaged roads in order to facilitate transport of oil products from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

COAL.

Besides gas and oil, Afghanistan is also estimated to have significant coal reserves (probable reserves of 400 million tons), most of which are located in the northern part of the country. Although Afghanistan produced over 100,000 tons of coal annually as late as the early 1990s, the country was producing only around 4,000 tons as of 1998.

MANUFACTURING.

Almost all manufacturing businesses have shut down or are producing at well below capacity because of the damage caused during the war and the lack of raw materials available in the country. Before this sector collapsed, it was mainly processing local agricultural raw materials. However, the country's cotton mills, woolen textiles, and cement plants were still not producing at full capacity. In 2000, the Taliban announced the startup of 26 production and servicing projects that would create 1,500 jobs, including the production of alcohol-free beverages, printing, syringe-making, and chemical products.

SERVICES

Like the other sectors of the economy, the services sector has been devastated by years of war. There are no reliable figures for retail trade in Afghanistan, and the current economy cannot support anything approaching a vigorous retail trade sector. There is no tourism sector in Afghanistan because the country remains unstable, extremely volatile, and dangerous for foreigners.

FINANCIAL SERVICES.

In 1932, Afghanistan's banking system was founded by Abdul Majid Zabuli, who developed the economy and imported the necessary goods to start up plants and factories. His bank eventually developed into the Afghan National Bank, which has served roles as both the country's central and commercial bank. Until the beginning of the 1990s, the Afghan National bank had 7 branches in Kabul and 10 other branches in other major cities. It also had offices in Hamburg, Paris, London, and New York. However, like all institutions in 2001, the banking system has been severely affected by the war, and it virtually collapsed when the mujahideen seized power in 1992. The other important banks in Afghanistan are the Construction Bank, the Industrial Credit Fund, the Industrial Development Bank, the Agriculture Bank, and the Export Promotion Bank. The sanctions imposed on Afghanistan in 1999 forced the smaller banks to close, and by 2001, the resources of the remaining banks were very limited, allowing them to engage only in trade-related work.

Those who provide financial services to the average Afghan are not the banks, but money changers who operate in the streets. This situation has meant that opium has become vitally important for Afghanistan's poor, who otherwise would not be able to afford basic foodstuffs. These moneylenders give out informal loans in exchange for a fixed amount of crop. Clearly, opium production or its being banned affects income levels for the poor. These effects remain difficult to determine.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

The Soviet invasion in 1979 damaged Afghanistan's industrial and agricultural sectors significantly, and as a result the country's exports, of which gas was very important, diminished. This shift naturally meant that the import bill had to rise to provide the Afghan people with basic commodities such as food and petroleum products and most consumer goods . Rising imports during the 1980s resulted in a serious trade deficit , although accurate figures are impossible to estimate, since official statistics exclude most illegal trade. From 1985 to 1986 and from 1989 to 1990 the value of exports fell almost 50 percent from US$566.8 million to US$235.9 million, with declining natural gas exports accounting for much of the difference. Other crucial earners of foreign exchange included the sale of nuts and vegetables to Pakistan and India and sheepskins to Europe. Imports declined somewhat during the 1980s as Afghanistan and the Soviet Union became more and more integrated. Between 1989 and 1991, the USSR was consuming 72 percent of Afghanistan's exports and supplying it with 57 percent of its imports. Despite the difficulties in determining trade figures, the CIA World Factbook estimated imports of

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Afghanistan
Exports Imports
1975 .217 .350
1975 .217 .350
1975 .217 .350
1980 .670 .841
1985 .567 1.194
1990 .235 .936
1995 .026 .050
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

US$150 million in 1996 and exports of US$80 million, not including opium.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the communist government simultaneously fell in Kabul, most imports started to flood in from Pakistan. Under the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) agreement, signed in 1965, Pakistan allows Afghanistan to have access to the sea and to engage in commerce with the international community to the extent required by Afghanistan's economy. Most of the goods imported under the ATT are reportedly electronics and other consumer items, which cross Pakistan's territory free of duty .

Since the Taliban's rise to power, trade has increased significantly with Pakistan, but most of it is not officially recorded. Trade between these 2 countries involves the importation of fuel, wheat, and cement and had included the export of opium. There has been an increase in the volume of trade between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan since 1998. In September 1998, the Taliban authorities signed an agreement with the government of Turkmenistan to begin importing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. This action has, to some extent, reduced Afghanistan's dependency on fuel imports from Iran. According to a World Bank report, the total trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan was estimated to be US$2.5 billion in 1996-97, of which US$1.96 billion was estimated to be the value of re-exported goods from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

MONEY

In 1993, the official inflation rate was more than 150 percent. While there has been no official figure since then, one estimate put the figure at a whopping 240 percent for Kabul in 1996. This kind of skyrocketing price increase in a society is often called "hyperinflation." Thus, a loaf of bread in the capital city may have cost US$1 in 1995 and risen to US$2.50 in 1996. The value of the afghani has also plummeted against the U.S. dollar, going from 36,000 afghanis to the dollar in October,

Exchange rates: Afghanistan
afghanis (Af) per US$1
Jan 2000 4,700
Feb 1999 4,750
Dec 1996 17,000
Jan 1995 7,000
Jan 1994 1,900
Mar 1993 1,019
Note: These rates reflect the free market exchange rates rather than theofficial exchange rate, which was fixed at 50.600 afghanis to the dollar until1996, when it rose to 2,262.65 per dollar, and finally became fixed again at3,000.00 per dollar in April 1996.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

1998, to 45,000 afghanis to the dollar 6 months later. Weaker currency values can lead to higher prices and inflation . Until Afghanistan establishes normal relations with the rest of the world, there is little hope that its currency will have any stability or value.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

At meeting of the World Health Organization in Copenhagen in March 1995, its director, Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, stated that "There can be no social development or sustained economic growth without health. . . . Poverty remains the main obstacle to health development." These remarks clearly describe the situation concerning poverty in Afghanistan in 2001.

In 1996, a report published by the United Nations ranked Afghanistan as the third poorest country in the world. Very few Afghans have access to drinkable water, health care, or education. In Kabul, safe drinking water is enjoyed by only 1 out of every 8 families because the reservoirs have been polluted by the waste accumulated through war. Of all infant deaths, 42 percent are related to diarrhea and dehydration, which are caused by unsafe drinking water and unclean conditions. Unlike in the United States, children are not immunized against infant diseases such as polio or tuberculosis. There are very few polio-endemic countries left in the world today; Afghanistan is one of them.

Afghanistan has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world (185 per 1,000 live births), following Niger and Angola. It has a maternal mortality rate (number of mothers dying in child birth) of 1,700 per 100,000 live births, according to the UN. Life expectancy in 2001 was just 45 years for men and 46 years for women.

In 1997, UNICEF carried out a study in Kabul which concluded that the children of Afghanistan suffer from severe psychological trauma. Seventy-two percent of children interviewed had experienced the death of one or more family members between 1992 and 1996, and 40 percent of them had lost one parent. Almost all the children

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Afghanistan 800 800 800 800 800
United States 28,600 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
India 1,600 1,600 1,720 1,800 2,200
Pakistan 2,300 2,600 2,000 2,000 2,000
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th,18th, 19th and 20theditions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

had witnessed acts of extreme violence, and all the children had seen dead bodies in the streets. Ninety percent of the children interviewed believed that they would die in the conflict. Unsurprisingly, all the children interviewed suffered from nightmares and anxiety attacks.

The Taliban forbade women to work or enter any workplace, decreeing that they should stay confined to their homes. But due to the country's critical shortage of doctors, the Taliban decided to allow some female doctors to work in public hospitals in 1997. These women doctors were allowed to treat only female patients. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard a report in 1998 about the mistreatment of female doctors. The report indicated that these doctors were often beaten by hospital guards in an attempt to uphold the policy of the Department of Commanding Good and Forbidding Evil. Male doctors were not allowed to treat female patients except members of their own family and female patients who actively sought medical advice were often attacked and beaten and ordered not to appear again in the street. According to Amnesty International, in 1994 a pregnant woman delivered her baby in a street in Kabul, while her husband was being beaten by the guards for trying to take her to the hospital.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Most of the Afghan labor force in 2001 was employed in agriculture, domestic trade, and, increasingly, cross-border trade. There are no exact figures, but it is estimated that many Afghans work as casual laborers in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. While income derived from remittances is not known, it is estimated to be increasing by the year. Unemployment has risen significantly in services, industries, and other formal institutions since the civil war began. Afghanistan's total workforce was estimated in 1997 as 8 million. The unemployment rate in 1995 was estimated at 8 percent, according to the CIA.

The Taliban's harshly discriminatory policies against women have affected the Afghan economy in a devastating way by cutting the labor force by almost three-quarters. The UN estimates that 60 to 75 percent of the Afghan population is composed of women, and there are hundreds of thousands of widows in Afghanistan, of whom 50,000 live in Kabul alone. Over 150,000 women in Kabul were not allowed to work under the Taliban.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1893. The Durand Line, created by the British and Russia, creates the border between India and the kingdom of Afghanistan.

1894. Tarzi Amanollah seizes power, becomes king, and launches a successful war against British domination.

1923. Amanollah initiates constitutional reforms, bringing Afghanistan closer to the USSR.

1933. Zahir Shah is crowned king and remains in power for 40 years.

1973. President Mohammed Daoud assumes the presidency of Afghanistan after a military coup and abolishes the monarchy. King Zahir Shah is sent into exile.

1977. A new constitution is drawn up establishing a one-party parliamentary system with additional powers given to the president.

1978. The president and his family are murdered in a military coup, and Nur Mohammed Taraki becomes president of a new communist-style regime.

1979. Soviet troops invade Afghanistan and install a government.

1980. Armed tribal groups begin a jihad (holy war) against the Soviet-installed government; the Afghan refugee population in Pakistan reaches 1.5 million.

1980s. Armed mujahideen groups fight Soviet and government forces; hundreds of thousands of Afghans die in the struggle, and millions more become refugees.

1986. President Mohammed Najibullah takes office.

1989. Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

1989-1992. Conflicts increase between government and opposition forces.

1992. In April, President Najibullah is replaced by a 4-member council under a United Nations plan; later, an interim government led by Professor Sebghatollah Mojadedi, takes over. Refugees begin to return to Afghanistan.

1992-1995. Intertribal fighting spreads to all major cities.

1994. The Taliban emerge as a major force in the ongoing internal conflict.

1996. The Taliban gain control of Kabul.

1998. Taliban forces capture key Northern Alliance stronghold of Mazar-e Sharif.

1998. U.S. cruise missiles strike alleged terrorist bases in Afghanistan in response to attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities by groups led by Osama bin Laden.

1999. The Taliban rule out Osama bin Laden's extra-dition, leading the UN Security Council to impose sanctions restricting flights and the sales of arms.

2000. UN Security Council imposes further sanctions on the Taliban. The destruction of Buddha statues in the Bamian province by the Taliban sparks worldwide condemnation, further isolating Afghanistan.

2001. Following a devastating terrorist attack on the U.S. World Trade Center and the Pentagon by al-Qaeda terrorists in September, U.S.-led military action against the Taliban and the al-Qaeda terrorist group begins. The Taliban is forced to surrender all of its territory after attacks by U.S. and British forces, in conjunction with the Northern Alliance, a rebel group of tribal chieftains.

FUTURE TRENDS

After the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S. military action initiated on Afghanistan resulted in the Taliban being stripped of their territory and power, but Afghanistan's future remains in serious disarray. Negotiations to set up an interim government began in Germany in November 2001, and while the participants claimed a desire for peace and a new beginning, Afghanistan's legacy of war and destruction certainly leaves the success of such platitudes open to doubt. Once the U.S.-led military action ends, an international peacekeeping presence will certainly be required to prevent further bloodshed. Given the volatile nature of the country and region, the international community will be called upon to help rebuild Afghanistan and protect the fledgling government that comes out of this latest conflict. Any sort of normalized economic relations are likely several years away.

The United Nations has recognized the need for massive humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan in order to prevent famine in the drought-stricken parts of the country in which 8 to 12 million people live. Of these people, 1.6 million faced starvation in January 2001. The UN made arrangements for weekly humanitarian flights to Kandahar with supplies and there was a project underway to fly extremely sick children to Germany for treatment. Many non-governmental organizations are calling for increased awareness and urgent action on the part of the international community.

DEPENDENCIES

Afghanistan has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Afghan Children Experience Severe Trauma." UNICEF Information Newsline. <http://www.unicef.org/newsline/97pr43.htm>. Accessed December 2000.

Afghan Info Center. Structure of Economy in Afghanistan. <http:// www.afghan-info.com/Economy.html>. Accessed December 2000.

Asian Development Bank. Key Indicators of Developing Asian and Pacific Countries. Manila: Asian Development Bank, 2000.

Dupree, L. Afghanistan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Afghanistan. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Update Afghanistan, 2001. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Human Rights and Gender in Afghanistan." Amnesty International. <http://www.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/index/ASA110021998>. Accessed December 2000.

International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 1999.

Newby, Eric. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. London: Lonely Planet Publications, 1981.

Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan. "The State of the Afghan Economy." Afghanistan Online. <http://www.afghan-web.com/economy/econstate.html>. Accessed December 2000.

UNICEF. "UNICEF Humanitarian Action Update: Afghanistan, 7 December 2000." UNICEF in Action. <http://www.unicef.org/emerg/Afghan7Dec.pdf>. Accessed December 2000.

United Nations. "World Food Programme: Field Operations." World Food Programme. <http://www.wfp.org/afghanistan/default.htm>. Accessed May 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed April 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Human Rights Practices for 1998 Report: Afghanistan Country Report. <http://www.usis.usemb.se/human/human1998/afghanis.html>. Accessed December 2000.

Urban, Mark. War in Afghanistan. London: Macmillan, 1988.

"Women in Afghanistan: A Human Rights Catastrophe." Amnesty International. <http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/intcam/afgan/afg6.htm>. Accessed December 2000.

"Women's Health and Human Rights in Afghanistan." Women's Health Information Center. <http://www.ama-assn.org/special/womh/library/readroom/vol_280/jsc80298.htm>. Accessed December 2000.

World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2000.

Salamander Davoudi

CAPITAL:

Kabul.

MONETARY UNIT:

Afghani (Af). One afghani equals 100 puls. There are coins of 1, 2, and 5 afghanis and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 afghanis.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Opium, fruits and nuts, hand woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Capital goods, food and petroleum products, and most consumer goods.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$21 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$80 million (1996 est.; does not include opium).

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Islamic State of Afghanistan
Region: East & South Asia
Population: 25,838,797
Language(s): Pashtu, Afghan Persian (Dari), Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashai
Literacy Rate: 31.5%
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,312,197
  Secondary: 497,762
  Higher: 24,333
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 49%
  Secondary: 22%
Teachers: Secondary: 17,548
  Higher: 1,342
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 58:1
  Secondary: 28:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 32%
  Secondary: 12%



History & Background

The Islamic State of Afghanistan is located in South Central Asia. Afghanistan's population was estimated at 26.7 million in 2000, making it South Central Asia's fifth largest populated country, as well as its fifth largest land area (251,772 square miles).

Afghanistan is a land-locked country surrounded by Pakistan and India to the east, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the north, and Tajikistan and China to the northeast. The Hindu Kush mountain range, with its world-famous Khyber Pass, peaks at about 24,000 feet (7,315 meters). The country's land-locked status played significant roles throughout centuries of historical and social development when invading forces sought control over Asian trading routes and populations.

The people of Afghanistan are called Afghans, although the term originally referred to the country's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, who comprised about 38 percent of the 2000 population. The remaining ethnic groups were Tajik (25 percent), Hazara (19 percent) and Uzbek (6 percent). Other ethnic groups, such as Aimaks, Turkmen, and Balochs, comprised the remaining 12 percent. While many Afghans were bilingual, about 50 percent of the population primarily spoke Pashtu, 35 percent spoke Afghan Persian (Dari), and another 11 percent spoke Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen).

The Islamic religion was the tie that bound Afghanistan's ethnically and linguistically diverse population. About 99 percent of Afghans were Muslim, with Sunni Muslim being the dominant sect (84 percent) and Shi'a Muslim being the second largest (15 percent). Since about 80 percent of Afghanistan's population lived outside its cities, religion and kinship formed the basis of most social circles in the male-dominated society.

Political, social, and economic chaos overwhelmed Afghanistan at the close of the twentieth century and continued to plague the war-beleaguered nation into 2001. About one-third of the population fled the country when Russia invaded in 1979occupying it until anticommunist Islamic Afghan ethnic groups joined forces to expel Russian forces in 1989. During Russian occupation more than 2.5 million people fled to Pakistan, another 1.9 million to Iran, and some 150,000 fled to the United States and other countries. According to the United Nations, at the end of the twentieth century, Afghans were the largest refugee population in the world.

Due to the combination of more than twenty years of civil strife and severe drought conditions, Afghanistan had one of the lowest living standards in the world by 1999 with per person gross national product estimated at US$800. In addition, the country's infant mortality rate (149.7) was the world's third highest, and its overall life expectancy (46 years) was the sixteenth lowest in 2000. Significantly, Afghan women suffered the greatest personal loss of freedom during the latter decades of the twentieth century after the controlling Taliban government placed strict prohibitions on their roles, forbidding them from working or attending schools outside their homes or from interacting with unrelated males.

Prior to the onset of civil war, slightly more than two-thirds of Afghanistan's labor force was employed in agriculture, and about one-half of its gross domestic product was agricultural. In 1996 the country exported $80 million worth of fruit, nut, hand woven carpet, wood, cotton, hides, and pelts as well as precious and semiprecious gem products. Afghanistan's largest export product however, was opium. In fact, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of illicit opium in 1999. The major political factions accumulated profits from the illegal drug trade.

Although Afghanistan experienced invasions by other civilizationsmost notably Alexander the Great (328 B.C.), Genghis Khan (1219 B.C.), Tamerlane (late fourteenth century), and Babur (early sisteenth century)none of them transformed Afghan society to the extent of the Arabic invasion that brought the Islamic religion to the region in the mid-seventh century. By the end of the ninth century, most Afghans converted to Sunni Islam replacing Buddhism, Hinduism, Zorastrianism, and other religions of previous empires, invaders, and indigenous groups. Even with the wholesale adoption of the Islamic faith, however, Afghanistan remained a loosely organized tribal society until a tribal council elected Ahmad Shah Durrani, a Pashtun, as king in 1747, formally establishing the country and its monarchy.

From 1747 until 1978, all of Afghanistan's rulers were from Durrani's Pashtun extended tribe and, after 1818, all were members of that tribe's Mohammadzai clan. The last member of the Pashtun tribal royal family to rule Afghanistan was Sardar Mohammad Daud, former prime minister and a cousin of King Zahir Shah (who reigned from 1933 to 1973). Daud seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1973. Daud abolished the monarchy, abrogated King Zahir's 1964 constitution, and declared himself the first president and prime minister of the Afghanistan "republic."

In April 1978 members of the communist-inspired People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) overthrew Daud, killing him and most of his family. The PDPA attempted to institute broad communist-inspired social reforms that contradicted many deeply held Islamic traditions. Many of PDPA's changes were brutally imposed. Thousands of traditional, religious, and intellectual leaders were tortured, imprisoned, or murdered during the PDPA reign.

In September 1979, Hafizullah Amin seized power, thus igniting further rebellion. Amin refused to heed Soviet advice on how to stabilize the country and its government so, in December 1979, Russia invaded (killing Amin) and installed Babrak Karmal as prime minister. Even with substantial Russian support, however, the Karmal regime was only able to establish limited control in the area surrounding the capital city of Kabul.


Constitutional & Legal Foundations


In 2000 Afghanistan did not have a constitution, legislative branch, or legal system. The loosely organized political factions tacitly agreed that they would follow Islamic law through local Shari'a (Islamic) courts. The country's 29 provincial governments bore the brunt of responsibility for maintaining and delivering the limited governmental services intermittently available during war years. Afghanistan's lack of central government and related infrastructure at the beginning of 2001 could be traced to the Taliban's keenly agile response to Russia's folly.

To begin with, Russia's ten-year attempt (1979-1989) at dominating Afghanistan was trouble-filled not only because most Afghans opposed any foreign nonIslamic control but also because Afghanistan society was so loosely knit. Centralized governments are easier to topple than scattered governing councils who are able to put forth new leaders almost at will. Afghan freedom fighterswith weapons and training supplied by the United States and other countrieswere able to rally the country's many political parties into an allied resistance against the Russian supported Karmal. In 1986 Muhammad Najibullah, the former head of the Afghan secret police, replaced Karmal. But, Najibullah's administration also depended upon Russian support and could not broaden its base of support into Afghanistan society. By 1988 the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the United States and the Soviet Union serving as guarantors, signed an agreement that settled disagreements between the neighboring countries. The agreement also included the full withdrawal of Russian troops by February 1989 and noninterference in Afghanistan's internal affairs by either Russia or the United States.

The Afghan freedom fighters were not parties to the international agreement, so they refused to accept its terms. War between Afghan factions escalated but Najibullah remained in control until March 1992 when his general, Abdul Rashid Dostman, and Uzbek militia defected. Subsequently, Afghan freedom fighter groups agreed to establish an "Islamic Interim Government" to assume power under the leadership of Professor Sibghatullah Mojaddedi of the Afghanistan National Liberation Front political party for three months. Then, a ten-member leadership council was to be formed under the Islamic Society political party's leader, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, for another three months after which time a grand council of Afghan elders and leaders was to convene to designate an interim administration to hold power for up to one year pending elections. When Rabbani prematurely formed his leadership council, Mojaddedi surrendered. Rabbani was elected president of the new leadership council, but fighting between the various political factions continued. In 1993 two accords, the Islamabad naming Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as prime minister and the Jalalabad calling for disarmament, were signed but both failed to bring lasting peace.

In 1994 an unknown fundamentalist Islamic group, the Taliban (Religious Students Movement), most of whom had been exiled, educated and trained in Pakistan, appeared in the southeastern city of Kandahar. The Taliban movement spread rapidly throughout southern Afghanistan and gathered steam when oppositional groups surrendered their arms. In fact, entire provinces surrendered to the movement with very little resistance. By 1995 the majority of the country, including the capital city of Kabul were under Taliban control. In 1996 the Taliban declared itself the legitimate government. At that time the Taliban renamed the country the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."

According to a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report, Afghans supported the Taliban because they appeared to offer freedom from the war-ravaged years of fighting between the various freedom fighter power factions. But, apparent disillusionment with the Taliban set in as their severe interpretation of Islamic law; strict enforcement of keeping women in seclusion and restrictions on female education and employment became more widely apparent. Consequently, the Taliban were unable to firmly establish centralized government controlling all provincial areas of the country. The UN continued to recognize Burhanuddin Rabbani as president and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as prime minister of Afghanistan in 2000. Also, the Organization of the Islamic Conference left Afghanistan's seat vacant until the legitimacy of its government could be resolved through negotiations among the warring parties.

Educational SystemOverview

Unfortunately, Afghanistan's system of formal education, like that of its central government, was in complete disarray by the year 2000. Without a national authority overseeing the distribution of educational funds and program implementation, the level of schooling varied greatly across the country. Any sort of national philosophy ensuring pupil participation, in even the most basic schooling, was virtually nonexistent by the end of the twentieth century. For example, even though Afghanistan's policy of free education was compulsory for children aged 7 to 13, only 22 percent of the country's "school-aged" children were actually attending schools in 1996.

While it is certainly true that the long term effects of Afghanistan's civil war depleted nearly all community resources that might have been available for the critically important function of education, Afghanistan had one of the lowest standards of education in the modern worldeven prior to the Russian invasion. Indeed, according to research conducted by the World Education Forum (WEF), by 1980 only 11 percent of the country's population over the age of 25 had any formal schooling and less than one percent had completed primary school.

Even though, as the result of two war decades, Afghanistan's centralized educational infrastructure was nonexistent in 2000, sporadic educational services were provided at local levels whenever and wherever war conditions permitted. Due to the sporadic nature of Afghanistan's provincial education services, consistent and reliable enrollment data was difficult to obtain. The reliability of enrollment data was complicated by the fact that the last official census was conducted in the pre-war years so that all population numbers were estimated. Furthermore, enrollment figures were based on percentage estimates provided by local groups, not upon actual counts. UNESCO collected the most reliable sets of data as part of the WEF program. UNESCO data was collected using "International Standard Classifications of Education" (ISCED). The ISCED terminology replaced older educational terms such as "first," "second," and "third" levels with primary, secondary, and tertiary, respectively.

UNESCO reported there were two types of education providers in Afghanistan in 1999: provincial directorates and nongovernmental organizations, particularly international humanitarian relief agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Talibaninduced law and order did return some degree of stability to the country in the late 1990s, and the number of schools increased dramatically from 2,633 in 1990 to 3,084 in 1999. In 1990 agencies operated 2,044 (77.6 percent) of Afghanistan's schools and provincial directorates operated 589 (22.4 percent). In 1999 provincial directorates operated 2,015 schools (65.3 percent) and agencies operated 1,069 (34.7 percent).

The main reason agencies operated far fewer schools in Afghanistan in 1999 than they did in 1990 was because UNICEF suspended its assistance to formal education programs in areas under Taliban control after the Taliban issued its 1995 edict prohibiting the education of females. UNICEF did continue supporting schools where equal access was available and in the informal network of home-based schools. In fact, in 1999 agencies were the main provider of education for girls operating 407 (91 percent) of the 446 girls schools. Provincial directorates operated 1,959 (74.7 percent) of the 2,621 boys schools operating in 1999. The ratio of boys' to girls' schools operated by the government's provincial directorates was 50:1 in 1999. The ratio of boys' to girls' schools operated by agencies in 1999 was 1.6:1.

Access to education was severely limited by the availability of schools and the distribution of Afghanistan's population. UNICEF recorded the number of schools operating in five Afghanistan regions: northern, eastern, southern, western, and central in 1990 and in 1999. During the 1990 to 1999 period, the distribution of schools in Afghanistan changed considerably with the number of schools increasing in every region but the northern region. In 1990 there were 739 schools operating in the northern region, 445 operating in the eastern region, 234 in the southern region, 198 in the western region, and 586 in the central region. In 1999 the number of schools operating in the northern region declined to 547, but the number of schools operating in the eastern region increased to 828, to 652 in the southern region, to 449 in the western region, and to 608 in the central region. In 1999 UNICEF estimated that 53 percent of the population lived in central and northern regions, which only had 38 percent of the total number of schools.

Student/teacher ratios were also based on estimates. In schools operated by the provincial directorates, estimates were that class sizes ranged from 13 to 104 students, with an average of 50 students per teacher. In schools operated by humanitarian relief agencies, class sizes ranged from 12 to 51 students, with an average of 30 students per teacher.


Preprimary & Primary Education


Preprimary education programs were implemented in Afghanistan in 1980. By 1990 the country had 195 centers providing such childcare services. The programs covered children between the ages of three to five. But, by 1999 only one remained open. In effect the 1980's decade of gains in early childhood development program halted and it essentially collapsed.

In spite of the uneven distribution of schools, UNESCO reported that primary schools did operate in all provinces in 1990. Afghanistan's compulsory primary education program generally began at age seven and included six years of schooling. The primary education program took six years (ages seven to twelve).

UNESCO reported that only 35 percent of school-aged boys and 19 percent of school-aged girls were attending primary schools in 1990. The percentage of school-aged boys increased to 46 percent in 1993 and 63 percent in 1995 but declined again to 53 percent in 1999. The percentage of school-aged girls declined in 1993 to 16 percent but increased in 1995 to 32 percent. However, reflecting Taliban prohibitions, by 1999 the percentage of females attending primary schools dramatically declined to only five percent.

Since both the provision of primary educational programs and actual attendance varied so greatly across the country and because supplies and textbooks were in extremely short supply, UNESCO reported that primary educational training focused on literacy and "knowledge about life" during the war years. Teachers provided lessons verbally; students memorized the lessons and recited them back.

In the early war-years, an American University study found that elementary education textbooks in the 1980s were available in all the major languages because the government's stated policy was that all children should be able to learn in their native language.

Secondary Education

Secondary level education (ages 13 to 18) was not compulsory and appeared to be less widely available (if at all) than primary education and nonformal education programs. Although elementary schools were located throughout the country, secondary schools were generally located only in larger cities.


Higher Education

Prior to the war years, Afghanistan had two universities, Kabul University and the University of Nangarhar in Jalabad. Kabul University had been a respected learning center, and its medical faculty was largely responsible for the opening of the University of Nangarhar in 1962. In addition to the two universities, in 1983 there were also seven professional and technical universities.


Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Given that Afghanistan did not have a centralized educational authority in 2000, no information was available about educational administration or educational research. It appeared that those schools operating in 2000 were organized by local efforts without general, much less financial, support of the Taliban government. The only available information about Afghanistan's educational funding indicated that 87.6 percent of funds were allocated to primary education in 1990. The remaining 12.4 percent was allocated to tertiary education. However, no actual dollar amounts were reported.

Based upon UNESCO definitions of educational programs, it must be assumed that secondary educational programs were not funded in 1990. Further, tertiary education programs probably included nonformal education programs such as vocational training (including teacher training).


Nonformal Education

Only 3 of the 29 provincial directorates (Kabul, Paktya, and Logar) operated nonformal education programs for the out-of-school population. Twelve of the twenty-five nongovernmental relief agencies operated informal education centers. In combination, the provincial directorates and the relief agencies operated informal education centers in 12 of the 29 provinces in 1999.

Both agency and provincial directorates offered gender segregated as well as gender mixed training facilities. Some of the programs only accepted children under the age of 15 who had dropped out of school. Others enrolled persons over the age of 15.

Nonformal education programs were generally of two types, literacy and skill development. The literacy program usually lasted six months. Upon completing the literacy program, students could progress to trade apprenticeships lasting from 6 to 18 months. Apprenticeship training programs included bicycle repair, carpentry, shoe making, radio repair, candle making, baking, tailoring, embroidery, welding, watch repair, soap making, vehicle painting, and radio and television repair.


Teaching Profession

According to the World Education Forum (WEF) the teaching profession was considered a low status occupation in Afghanistan society. An appalling fact of the Afghanistan wars was that thousands of teachers were assassinated and even more assaulted by the warring factions. Accordingly, teacher recruitment was extremely difficult, salaries were very low, and teachers were often not paid for their work. The number of Afghanistan teachers dropped 10.7 percentfrom 30,502 in 1979 to 27,230 in 1999. Further, the percentage of female teachers dropped from 59.2 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 1999.

When UNESCO conducted its study of Afghanistan education, published documents pertaining to the qualifications of Afghanistan's teaching profession could not be located. However, UNESCO did collect its own data that indicated while a national system of teachers colleges existed prior to the Russian invasion, no formal teacher training programs were in existence by 2000. Under the defunct program, teachers received 2 years of preparation in addition to the 12 years of primary and secondary education in order to become academically qualified to teach. In effect, "academically qualified to teach" in the Afghanistan context equated to two years of postsecondary classes (college or university) in the U.S. context. In 1999 only 18.8 percent of Afghanistan's male teachers were academically qualified (according to Afghanistan standards) and only 13.8 percent of the female teachers were academically qualified.

UNESCO also found that only 28 percent of teachers had completed 12 years of schooling. Effectively, more than 50 percent of Afghanistan's teachers had not completed the U.S. equivalent of high school (postsecondary school). To fill the void in teacher training programs, humanitarian relief agencies were providing some training courses targeting teachers who had completed less than 12 years of schooling. Agency training courses, ranging from one day to one month, provided training in elementary school teaching methods.


Summary

Even though Afghanistan's policy of free education was compulsory for children aged 7 to 13, only 22 percent of the country's "school-aged" children were actually attending schools in 1996. In 1997 UNESCO estimated that 50.8 percent of males and 80.6 percent of females over the age of 15 were illiterate.

The effects of war upon a society are unimaginable to those who have not lived through one. The fact that any educational training took place in Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s is testament to the courage and indomitable human spirit of the families and teachers of the provincial directorates and humanitarian relief agencies who were courageous enough to continue teaching and learning. When political, economic, and social stability are returned to Afghanistanno matter the leadership directing the countryit will take the efforts of all Afghans, men and women, girls and boys, for generations to come, to raise the country out of illiteracy and into a higher standard of living.


Bibliography

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.

Giustozzi, Antonio. War, Politics, and Society in Afghanistan 1978-1992. London: Hurst & Company, 2000.

Matinuddin, Kamal. The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan 1994-1997. Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Nyrop, Richard F., and Donald M. Seekins, eds. Afghanistan: A Country Study. The American University, 1986.

Population Reference Bureau. "World Population Data Sheet." Washington, DC, 2000.

United Nations Children's Fund. The Progress of Nations 2000, New York: Division of Communication, Division of Evaluation, Policy and Planning, 2000.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. World Education Report 2000: The Right to Education (Towards education for all throughout life). New York: UNESCO Publishing, 2000.

World Education Forum. The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports, Afghanistan. New York: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 2000.


Sandra J. Callaghan

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan


Afghanistan lies in Central Asia between Iran on the west, Pakistan on the east and south, and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan on the north side. The Afghani population in the early twenty-first century is estimated at about 22 million people living in Afghanistan and as refugees in Iran and Pakistan. There are more than forty ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Pushtuns are the largest ethnic group, about 40 percent of the population, living in the south and southeast parts of the country. Tajiks make up about 35 percent and live in central and eastern parts of the country. The next two groups are Hazarahs, minority Shiite Muslims who represent about 8 percent, and Uzbeks, who represent about 9 percent of the population, respectively. The dominant religion is Sunni Islam, and most Afghanis are bilingual in Duri and Pushtu. The mountainous terrain of Afghanistan has created a sociogeography of isolation, ethnic conflict, and tribal alliances. To discuss any aspect of family life in Afghanistan requires a brief recount of modern history of the country.

Historical Background

In 1919, Afghanistan gained independence from Britain and adopted a constitution in 1964. Tribalism and a pastoral economy dominated Afghanistan's socioeconomic structure until the 1970s. In 1978, a series of upheavals called the Saour Revolution led to a leftist government in Kabul. Legal measures such as land reform and family laws were introduced to modernize and unify the country. However, factional conflicts in the ruling party and tribal disputes with the central government led to Soviet intervention in 1979. In response to the Soviet intervention, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan joined to help the opposition, which consisted of a loose federation of resistance groups called the Mujahidins. In 1989, the Soviet army left Afghanistan, and the American aid stopped. In 1992, several Mujahidin factions entered Kabul and removed President Najibullah. Between 1992 and 1994, power changed hands in violent clashes between Mujahidin factions with an estimated fifty thousands civilians killed. A less known faction of the Mujahidin, called the Taliban—meaning students of Islamic seminaries— took control of 90 percent of Afghanistan in 1994. Between 1994 until September 2001, the Taliban established order, although at great cost to many segments of the population. Meanwhile, they battled an opposition group called the Northern Alliance. Civil war, refugee status, and extreme economic conditions have changed the family structure in Afghanistan.

Continuity and Change in Traditional Afghani Family

Family and tribal identity have encompassed Afghan women's lives. Marriages were endogamous based on family considerations, tribal lineage, and geographical location. Nancy Tapper (1991) writes about Pushtuns' tribal system in pre-1970 Afghanistan as patrilineal and endogamous. Property inheritance was patrilineal (through the male line), and women did not inherit property except their trousseau given by their birth family. The Hazarahs and some of the Tajiks followed the inheritance requirements of the Islamic law of Shari'at, in which daughters inherit half and wives one-fourth of the property. Divorce was rare, and polygamous marriages were common.

As in many North African and Middle Eastern societies, an Afghan man's honor is closely linked to the behavior of his female relatives. A woman's indiscretion could directly affect a man's social standing. Consequently, men controlled women's behavior in public and monitored their interaction in private. This control was rarely complete, and women could subvert men's control and exert influence in family relationships.

Marriages, until legal reforms in family law, were arranged in three forms: among equals for the bride-price given to the father of the bride, as an exchange of brides between families for the bride-price, and as the giving of the bride for blood money (i.e., the victim's family would agree to receive a girl from the accused's family instead of avenging their member's blood by killing the accused) or as compensation for stolen or destroyed property (Tapper 1991). These forms of marriages are less common today, and giving women for blood money has been banned completely. As in many Muslim countries, family is still the locus of social relationships, ethnic identity is strong, and for the most part marriages take place within the same tribal lineage.

Many aspects of family relations changed after the leftist government of Mohammad Saoud came to power in 1973. Women were allowed into the National Assembly; forced marriages were banned; a minimum age for marriage was established; and women gained the right to employment. The socialist government established a national educational system for all children; schools were co-ed, and 70 percent of teachers and 50 percent of civil service employees were women. These changes were voluntary, and many urban families supported a gradual change of gender roles. After the Soviet army left and the Mujahidin took power, many of these rights were canceled, although haphazardly.

In 1994, when the Taliban came to power, they officially rescinded all previous reforms and launched a campaign of terror against ethnic minorities, especially Shiite Hazarahs and some Tajiks. They imposed a strict gender code based on their interpretation of Islamic law of Shari'at. Immediately after takeover, on September 26, they issued an edict that banned women from working, closed girls' schools, and required women to wear Borqa—a full body covering with a meshed section for the eyes—and to be accompanied outside home by a male guardian. Women's access to health care was restricted and female health care workers and aid workers were either purged or had their activities constrained. As a result, women's health has suffered. In a 1998 survey, Zohra Rasekh and colleagues reported that women living in camps in Pakistan had a high rate of depression, displacement hardship, and other health-related problems.

Initially, Afghani women's oppression received world attention that condemned Taliban policies. Simplistically, these policies were attributed to the extreme Islamic fundamentalism that disregarded Pushtuns' ideals regarding family honor and tribal identity. The Taliban forces consisted of Pushtun boys trained by conservative mullahs in madrasses, or Islamic seminaries, in Pakistan. They had minimum contact with any women, including female family members. In the seminaries, they were taught a potent revolutionary ideology constructed of Pushtun notions of shame and honor based on men's control of women's sexuality, combined with Pushtuns' perception of their ethnic superiority. In madrasses, this ethnic and gender supremacy was cast into conservative Islamic theology to create the Taliban's notion of pure society and women's place in it.

The fate of women received world attention, but at the same time, all family members suffered. Men paid heavily for the war and Taliban domination. The few who were employed were mindful of their family's security, faced harassment by morality police, and looked to protect their sons from a military draft that had no age limit or required consent. Those unemployed tried to support their family without the safety net of the extended family. In rural areas, drought limited pastures for herders and made farming less predictable. The only income left was from smuggling and poppy cultivation. If they moved their families, men went back and forth to care for elderly parents or other relatives. They faced capture or bandits, and in the host countries performed the most undesirable manual work. For urban families, women's confinement meant closure of schools and loss of women's income. Many families, including some Taliban officials, who did not support school closure moved their families out of the country to secure education of their children, both boys and girls, and keep them away from the clashes.


The Afghani Family in the Early Twenty-First Century

The status of contemporary Afghani families is a patchwork of displacement, poverty, war, unemployment, and lack of basic necessities. As of spring 2002, the United Nations and aid agencies report 5.3 million very vulnerable people at risk of severe malnutrition. Families struggle to survive in an agricultural economy dependent on opium cultivation ravaged by war and drought. Approximately 350,000 internally displaced individuals and an estimated five million refugees in Iran and Pakistan suggest profound structural changes for Afghani families. The majority of refugees in Pakistan are Pushtuns, and most refugees in Iran are Tajiks and Hazarahs.

In Iran, only a small fraction of refugees live in camps. The early refugee families are intact and, despite economic difficulties, are living together. Some are second generation and have never been to Afghanistan. The majority are integrated in three areas in central and eastern cities. This group benefits from the national health care, and their children attend public schools. The government and aid agencies provide health screening and vaccination for children and free reproductive health services for women. Distrustful of madrasses, the Iranian government frowns upon private Afghani schools and provides public education as much as possible.

The refugees arriving after 1995 face more problems. They came in small groups and have had trouble joining other family members. Accordingly, female-headed households are more common among the later refugees. Another incoming group consists of unmarried young men attracted to the booming construction industry.

The Pakistani government has taken a different approach to Afghan refugees. Pakistan helped the Taliban faction and was one of the three countries recognizing them as a legitimate government (the other two being Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). Although some of the early refugees to Pakistan became integrated into society, many live in about 300 refugee villages set up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The early refugees in Pakistan, like those in Iran, consist of more intact families. Unlike Iran, the Pakistani government encouraged madrasses and military camps to train Taliban fighters. There they absorbed a potent revolutionary ideology constructed of Pushtun ethnic supremacy, Sunni Islam, and traditional patriarchy.

On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States led to massive destruction and fatalities in New York City and Washington, DC. The group responsible was perceived to be hiding in Afghanistan. The U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan caused the massive movement of people at borders to enter Iran or Pakistan. As of spring 2002, the Taliban had been removed, the U.S. forces were in the country, and a new interim government had taken office. Two women serve as cabinet members of this new government. A voluntary repatriation program arranged by the UNHCR and the Iranian and Pakistani governments is underway. About half million refugees from Pakistan and approximately 80,000 from Iran have returned.

The picture of Afghani family is one of individuals holding to extended family and lineage when possible, but less than half of the Afghani population can do so. The UNHCR is involved in the largest human assistance program, started on September 24, 2001. Life expectancy is forty-four years, and one out of four children dies before reaching the age of five. Afghanistan has the highest density of landmines of any country in the world. Both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance recruited, sometimes by force, young boys into their armed forces.

The unintended consequence of the war has been the broadening of women's views about their roles. By various accounts, there are close to one million widows or separated women who are the heads of households. Afghani women refugees, witnessing Iranian and Pakistani women's educational and occupational achievements, have acquired new expectations for their daughters and themselves. In Iran, Afghani girls attending primary school outnumber Afghani boys. The aid agencies' policies are a factor in this: For example, under the Oil for Girls program, a family receives a gallon of cooking oil for every month that a girl stays in school. Afghani women have acquired a sense of autonomy by dealing on their own with aid agencies or government bureaucracies of the host nations.

Intratribal or bicultural marriages have increased. Nevertheless, this is particularly problematic when Afghani men marry Iranian or Pakistani women. Because a woman carries her husband's legal status, these men do not become citizens of their wives' respective countries, though their children are registered to both parents. This creates problems for Iranian families when women unfamiliar with the law marry Afghani men. In contrast, Afghani women marrying Iranian or Pakistani men do not face such a problem. The latter is less common.


Conclusion

For Afghanis, family life continues to function as a paramount social institution. However, in the face of war and the refugee situation, families have experienced change and disruption. Afghani refugee women in Iran deeply regret the loss of family support, but governments and aid agencies have replaced some of this support. Refugee girls born or raised outside Afghanistan may not return, and some of those who have remained in the country are traumatized by chronic problems of displacement and famine. Further, there is a generation of young men and boys raised on the streets or in training camps and madrasses away from extended family's support and removed from its code of responsibility and rights. Despite the historic resilience of the people, this combination does not bode well for the future of Afghan family.


See also:Islam; War/Political Violence


Bibliography

benjamin, j. (2000) "afghanistan: women survivors of war under the taliban." in war's offensive on women:the humanitarian challenge in bosnia, kosvo, and afghanistan, ed. j. a mertus. bloomfield. ct: kumarian press.

gerami, s. (1996). women and fundamentalism: islam and christianity. new york: garland.

gregorian, v. (1969). the emergence of modernafghanistan: politics of reform and modernization 1880–1946. stanford, ca: stanford university press.

hatch dupree, n. (1998). "afghan women under the taliban." in fundamentalism reborn? afghanistan and taliban, ed. william maley. new york: new york university press.

rasekh, z., et al. (1998). "women's health and humanrights in afghanistan." journal of the american medical association 5:449–455.

rubin, b. r. (1995). the fragmentation of afghanistan:state formation and collapse of the international system. new haven, ct: yale university press.

squire, c. (2000). "education of afghan refugees in the islamic republic of iran." tehran: unhcr and unicef.

tapper, n. (1991). bartered brides: politics, gender andmarriage in an afghan tribal society. cambridge: cambridge university press.

united nations high commissioner for refugees (2001a).background paper on refugees and asylum seekers from afghanistan. geneva: center for documentation and research.


other resources

united nations high commissioner for refugees (2001)."un prepares for massive humanitarian crisis in afghanistan." available from http://www.unhcr.ch/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home.

SHAHIN GERAMI

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Islamic State of Afghanistan
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 26,813,057
Language(s): Pashtu, Afghan Persian (Dari)
Literacy rate: 31.5%
Area: 647,500 sq km
Number of Television Stations: 10
Number of Television Sets: 100,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 3.7
Number of Radio Stations: 9
Number of Radio Receivers: 167,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 6.2

Background & General Characteristics

When the Taliban took control of the capital Kabulon September 26, 1996, the Islamic State of Afghanistan began a period of regulation regarded by many as the most restricted in the world. Five years later, shortly after September 11, 2001, when terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon destroyed the former and severely damaged the latter, these restrictions began to ease, largely as a result of U.S. "war" strikes against the Afghani-based Al Qaeda (The Base) terrorist group held responsible for the attack.

Afghanistan has a population of around 25 million people composed of two major ethnic groups, Pashtun (38 percent) and Tajik (25 percent); however, additional ethnic groups include Aimaq, Balulchis, Brahui, Hazaras, Nuristanis, Turkmens, and Uzbeks. Most people are Muslim (Sunni: 84 percent, Shi'a: 15 percent). Many speak one of the official state languages (Dari: 50 percent, Pashtu: 35 percent), although there are some 30 viable dialects, and the official language of the religious leadership is Arabic. Between 1996 and 2002, religious police enforced codes of conduct that imposed comprehensive constraints on females.

A paternalistic background dominates the role communications has played in the country. Up to the time of this publication, the industry may be characterized as small, state-controlled, and subject to heavy censorship by religious fundamentalists. In 2001 newspaper circulation rates were estimated by objective data-gathering sources to be operating at the 1-percent mark. The Taliban Ministry of Information and Culture maintained that more than a dozen daily newspapers existed under their regime. These state-owned organs featured Taliban official announcements, news of military victories, and criticism of any opposition. Because there were no newsstands, the papers were distributed largely to political/religious institutions.

Low readership, in addition to low circulation, characterizes this country's journalism. The potential newspaper audience is small because Afghanistan has a literacy rate thought to be among the lowest in Asia (around 31 percent, according to UNESCO estimates), although education is officially compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 13. Few matriculate to any form of higher education.

Restricted press life and low readership levels extend backward well beyond the Taliban. In fact, only one period may have permitted the operation of truly independent journalismthe supposed decade of democracy (1963-73) under the rule of King Zahir Shah, Pakistan's last monarch who reigned from 1933 to 1973. With his overthrow, media restrictions increased geometrically under President Mohammad Daud (1973-78), the Communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (1978-92), the provincial Mujahidin (fighters in a holy war) (1992-96), and the Taliban (1996-2002).

The first regularly published Afghani newspaper was the Saraj-al-Akhbar ("Lamp of the News") debuting in 1911 and published in Afghani Persian (Dari), eight years before Afghanistan gained independence on August 19, 1919, from Great Britain. Founder Mahmud Tarzi was outspoken and opposed, among other things, the official position of friendship between Great Britain and Afghanistan. After King Shir Ali Khan died, the "Lamp" was replaced by Aman-i-Afghan ("Afghan Peace"). From that initial period of attempted enlightenment until the 1950s through 1970s, when professional journalists facilitated a brief period of growth, Afghani journalism remained limited and mostly a vehicle for resonance with ruling thought.

By 2001 the two most influential dailies were Anis ("Companion" or "Friendship"), founded in 1927 with a circulation estimated at 25,000 and published in Dari but including articles written in Pashtu and Uzbek, and Hewad ("Homeland"), founded in 1959 with a circulation estimated at 12,000 and published in Pashtu. Both are based in Kabul and controlled by the Ministry of Information and Culture. These four-page "dailies" came out only several times a week, however, and reached only 11 per 1,000. Nevertheless, such a distribution rate represents a marginal increase from the 1982 rate of 4 per 1,000.

Other principal dailies, estimated at no more than 14, were headquartered in Kabul and in such provincial centers as Baghlan, Faizabad, Farah, Gardiz, Herat, Jalabad, Mazar-i-Sharif, Shiberghan, and Qandahar. These provincial papers mostly relied on the Kabul dailies for news, and averaged around 1,500 in circulation.

An independent Afghani press, then, has not existed in Afghanistan since 1973. The nearest relative to such an entity would be an Afghan-owned daily that began operations in Peshawar, Pakistan, in the late 1990s. With formal news channels so restricted and unidimensional, informal news networks have flourished in the bazaars of Kabul and other cities. A mixture of fact and fantasy, this news has circulated orally and through shahnamahs (night letters).

Economic Framework

Afghanistan has had a modern history of oppression, war, and poverty. A mountainous, landlocked country in southwest Asia, with dry climate and temperature extremes, its arable land is only around 12 percent. Nevertheless, almost 70 percent of its labor force is engaged in agrarian activity. In general, the population has a small per capita income (around U.S. $170) and a life expectancy that is the lowest in Asia (around 47 years-of-age).

The Hindu Kush Mountains separate the country into northeast and southwest sections, roughly speaking, a division that has impeded commercial and political relations between these areas. The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist militia, ruled approximately 80 percent of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2002. The Northern Alliance, their last remaining opponents with a stronghold in the northeast corner, laid claim to the remaining 20 percent.

Modern printing machines began operating in Afghanistan in 1927, although the printing standards remain behind the times. Much of the type continues to be set by hand.

Questions relevant to journalism in technologically advanced countriescompetition, advertisers' influence, reporter power, and the likesimply are not relevant to Afghanistan. As a country entrenched in the beginning stages of progress, in fact, Afghanistan has substantial barriers to media development. These obstacles include inhospitable terrain, mixed ethnic groups with historic conflicts, language differences, low literacy and income levels, underdeveloped educational and other social welfare institutions, and a governmental structure dominated by religious intolerance.

Press Laws

The 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan and the Press Law of July 1965 provided for freedom of the press subject to comprehensive articles of proper behavior. According to the Press Law, the press was free (i.e., independent of government ownership) but must safeguard the interests of the state and constitutional monarchy, Islam, and public order. When the government was overthrown in July of 1973, 19 newspapers were shut down. Western-style freedom of the press has systematically eroded during the regimes of dictatorship, communism, Mujahidin factions, and the Taliban.

Censorship

By 2002 it appeared that traditional forms of press freedom were simply nonexistent in Afghanistan. Because the ruling movement strictly interpreted Muslim Sharia law and banned representation of people and animals, for example, newspapers were picture-free censorship in which Afghanistan stands alone in the world. Had newspapers been allowed to print photographs, women would have appeared only in full veil and men in full beard. This suppression of freedom of expression extended to a complete ban on music and films.

Self-censorship also has been a problem because of the threats received by journalists after writing articles critical of the Taliban. Afghan journalists, working both locally and in exile, have been subject to warnings as well as fatwas (death threats) for writing unpopular reports. These threats have sometimes materialized into murder.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

The Taliban enforced heavy restrictions on foreign journalists who were provided with a list of 21 rules. The principal positive rule required journalists to give a "faithful" account of Afghani life. The succeeding rules represented a series of restrictions, the umbrella of which was a prohibition on journalists traveling unaccompanied by Taliban "minders." These watchdogs were there to ensure that journalists abided by the limitations, which included bans on entering private houses, interviewing women, and the like.

Foreign journalists, as well as Afghani journalists, often have been harassed. A number of examples exist of reporters who have been wounded, kidnapped, or murderedgrim reminders of the dangers journalists face while trying to perform their job in an unstable country.

The only foreign broadcaster permitted entry to Afghanistan has been Al Jazeera, an independent satellite television station home-based in Qatar and seemingly owned, at least indirectly, by the Qatari government. Although the channel may not always promote "Arab brotherhood," as defined by the Arab States Broadcasting Union's code of honor, it also has been willing to air anti-American views and statements by Osama bin Laden, even after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Labeled a maverick, and regarded as the most popular television channel in the Arab culture, Al Jazeera may come closest to uncensored programming among Arab media.

News Agencies

The Bakhtar News Agency, responsible for domestic news collation and distribution to all domestic media, reports to the Ministry of Information and Culture. Leaders in both these units traditionally have been appointed based on their loyalty to the ruling government.

Two Pakistani-based news agencies have been launched by Afghani refugeesthe Afghan Islamic Press and the Sahaar News Agency. They manage to produce bulletins with varying degrees of accuracy for mostly Western wire services.

Because of the dangers to journalists based in Afghanistan, foreign news bureaus have shrunk. By 2001 only three countries were represented by news agencies in Kabul: Czechoslovakia, Russia, and Yugoslavia.

Broadcast Media

Color television broadcasting began in 1978. The Taliban banned television and closed the station in 1996. Taliban religious police smashed privately owned television sets and strung up videocassettes in trees in a form of symbolic execution by hanging. Anyone found harboring a television set was subject to punishments of flogging and a six-month incarceration.

In the northeast, however, Badakhshan Television broadcast news and old movies for three hours every evening. Financed by the Northern Alliance, the station's audience was limited to around 5,000 viewers (among 100,000 residents in Faizabad without electricity) who could muster some kind of home-generation power source. Although a marginally effective news channel, it became a symbol of light in a more freely communicating society in direct opposition to the darkness imposed by the Taliban.

Radio is the broadcast medium of choice in Afghanistan, an option well suited to a low-literate society, although most people do not have a radio (radio ownership is around 74 per 1,000). The Radio Voice of Sharia (Islamic law), founded in 1927 as Radio Kabul and controlled by the Ministry of Information and Culture, was programmed by the Taliban to provide domestic service up to 10 hours daily in Dari and Pashtu; daily domestic service of 50 minutes in Nurestani, Pashai, Turkmen, and Uzbek; and 30 minutes of foreign service in English and Urdu. Broadcast topics were mainly of religious orientation, unrelieved by music.

Summary

The history of mass media in Afghanistan, especially recent history, is dominated by such adjectives as restricted, censored, under-developed, and nonexistent. Its future undoubtedly relies on the establishment of peace, prosperity, and a philosophy of communication that promotes civil government. Because country development and modern communications technology are correlated, Afghans would do well to create a society that offers freedom of information and human respect, regardless of demographic label, to all.

Significant Dates

  • 1996: Taliban capture Kabul and Jalalabad, effectively assuming control of Afghanistan. Ban television. Impose heavy restrictions on radio and print media.
  • 2001: Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon in the United States. Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization headquartered in Afghanistan, held responsible. United States responds with air and ground strikes aimed at destroying the Taliban, who refuse to surrender Al Qaeda.
  • 2002: Taliban overwhelmed. A measure of freedom returns to Afghanistan as freer press, music, and television begin a resurgence.

Bibliography

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Clay Warren

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Official name: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Area: 647,500 square kilometers (250,001 square miles)

Highest point on mainland : Mount Nowshak (7,485 meters/24,558 feet)

Lowest point on land: Amu Darya River (258 meters/846 feet)

Hemispheres : Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 4:30 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,240 kilometers (770 miles) from northeast to southwest; 560 kilometers (350 miles) from northwest to southeast

Land boundaries : 5,529 kilometers (3,436 miles) total boundary length; China, 76 kilometers (47 miles); Iran, 936 kilometers (582 miles); Pakistan, 2,430 kilometers (1,511 miles); Tajikistan, 1,206 kilometers (750 miles); Turkmenistan, 744 kilometers (463 miles); Uzbekistan, 137 kilometers (85 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits : None

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Afghanistan is a landlocked nation (does not have access to the sea) in south-central Asia. At the crossroads of north-south and east-west trade routes, the country has been invaded many times, by Alexander the Great in the fourth century b.c., and by the Soviet Union in the twentieth century a.d. Almost as large as the state of Texas, Afghanistan is bounded by six different countries. Afghanistan's longest borderaccounting for its entire southern boundary and most of its eastern oneis with Pakistan. The shortest one, bordering China's Xinjiang province, is only 76 kilometers (47 miles), at the end of the Wakhan corridor.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Afghanistan has no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

The climate of Afghanistan ranges from semi-arid (light annual rainfall) to arid (almost no annual rainfall), with wide variations in temperature, both between seasons and between different times of day. Its summers are hot and dry, but its winters are bitterly cold. Recorded temperatures have ranged as high as 53°C (128°F) and as low as -26°C (-15°F) in the central highlands, which have a subarctic climate. (Subarctic climate features long, very cold winters with short, cool summers, and little rainfall.) Summertime temperatures in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, can vary from 16°C (61°F) at sunrise to 38°C (100°F) by noon. Summer highs in Jalalabad average 46°C (115°F). The mean January temperature in Kabul is 0°C (32°F). Strong winds that blow between June and September (called the "Winds of 120 Days") can have a velocity of up to 180 kilometers per hour (108 miles per hour).

In much of the country, rainfall is sparse and irregular, averaging 25 to 30 centimeters (10 to 12 inches) and mostly occurring between October and April. Rainfall is generally heavier in the eastern part of the country than in the western regions. Afghan summers are generally dry, cloudless, and hot. Humid air from the Persian Gulf (body of water lying west of Afghanistan between Saudi Arabia and Iran) sometimes produces summer showers and thunderstorms in the southwest. Most of the precipitation in the mountains falls in the form of snowand sometimes as hail. During the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Afghan resistance fighters called mujahideen referred to the heavy hail that fell in the mountains as "Allah's minesweepers" because its force was sometimes strong enough to set off land mines.

Season Months Average Temperature
Summer June to September 16 to 33°C (61 to 91°F)
Winter November to March -8 to 2°C (18 to 36°F)

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

From northeast to southwest, the Hindu Kush Mountains divide Afghanistan into three major regions: 1) the central highlands, which form part of the Himalaya Mountains and comprise roughly two-thirds of the country's area; 2) the southwestern plateau, which accounts for one-fourth of the land; and 3) the smaller northern plains area, which contains the country's most fertile soil. The Wakhan corridor, lying between Tajikistan and Pakistan, is a narrow panhandle in the northeast Hindu Kush.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Afghanistan is landlocked. The nearest seacoast is roughly 483 kilometers (300 miles) south in Pakistan on the shores of the Arabian Sea.

6 INLAND LAKES

There are few lakes in Afghanistan, and the largest of them are along the country's southwestern border. The Daryacheh-e Namakzar and the Hamun-e Sāberī (also called Lake Helmand) have most of their surface area in Iran. Lake Zorkul is located in the Wakhan corridor near the border with Tajikistan. Abi-Istada, about 193 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of Qandahar, is a salt lake. Five small lakes in the central highlands, collectively called Band-e Amir, are known for their unusual colors, which range from a filmy white to a deep green.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

Afghanistan's drainage system is landlocked. Most of its rivers and streams end in shallow desert lakes or oases (plural of oasis; any fertile tract in the midst of a wasteland) inside or outside the country's boundaries. A few rivers in the eastern part of the country, however, eventually reach the Arabian Sea after first emptying into the Indus River in Pakistan. In the western part of the northern plains many rivers disappear underground before emptying into the Amu Darya River (also called the Oxus River). In the west, the sandy deserts along the Iranian frontier (border) have no watercourses (natural flowing water).

The Amu Darya River, at 2,661 kilometers (1,654 miles) long, is the country's longest river. About 965 kilometers (600 miles) of its upper course separates Afghanistan from its neighbors Turkmenistan, Uzbeki-stan, and Tajikistan. The Helmand is the principal river in the southwest, bisecting (crossing through) the entire region. The Helmand is approximately 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) long. The Kabul River, 515 kilometers (320 miles) long, is a vital source of water in the Kuh-e Baba Mountains.

8 DESERTS

The Rigestan Desert, along the country's southern border, occupies roughly one-quarter of the southwestern plateau. Sand ridges and dunes alternate with wide desert plains devoid of vegetation. West of the Rigestan Desert lies the Dasht-e Margo, a desolate region with salt flats. A flat strip of desert and grassy steppe (treeless flat land) extends along the banks of the Amu Darya River. Desert areas are also found along the foothills of the central Hindu Kush and west of Mazar-e Sharif.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

North of the mountainous central highlands are the northern plains, Afghanistan's smallest natural region, with an area of approximately 103,600 square kilometers (40,000 square miles). They stretch from the Iranian border in the west to the foothills of the Pamir mountains in the east. The eastern half of this region, which forms a part of the Central Asia steppe, is bounded by the Amu Darya River. The northern plains have an average elevation of 609 meters (2,000 feet), except for the Amu Darya valley floor, which drops to as low as 183 meters (600 feet).

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

The mountainous central highlands formed by the Hindu Kush and its subsidiary ranges (the ranges that branch from the Hindu Kush) are extensions of the Himalayas. Crossing the country for 965 kilometers (600 miles) from east to west and covering an area of approximately 414,400 square kilometers (160,000 square miles), this area contains towering peaks alternating with steep gorges and barren slopes.

This mountain systemAfghanistan's dominant physical featureis composed of three high ridges. The main ridge begins in China and runs southwestward as the eastern Hindu Kush, with summits over 6,400 meters (21,000 feet) high. The highest mountains are in the Wakhan corridor, including the country's highest peak, Mount Nowshak. At the Anjuman Pass, the eastern Hindu Kush becomes the central Hindu Kush. The Kuh-e Baba range runs parallel to and south of the central Hindu Kush. Other important mountain ranges include the Kuh-e Hisar, the Firoz Kuh, and the Paropamisus.

DID YOU KNOW?

The city of Mazar-e Sharif is famous throughout the Islamic world as the place where Ali, the son-in-law of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, is buried.

A similar series of ranges runs parallel to the Paropamisus and Hindu Kush at lower altitudes along the southern rim of the northern plains. In addition, several mountain chains fan out to the southwest. In the southeast, several lower ridges enclose long valleys that run parallel to the boundary with Pakistan. The valley region that is home to the capital city of Kabul is bounded by this range system.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

The caves that have been used for military purposes since the 1970s are largely man-made (see below). Afghanistan has few natural caves; limestone, from which most natural caves are formed, is found only in isolated areas of the country. Afghanistan's largest natural cave is the 1,120-meter-long (1,120-foot-long) Ab Bar Amada northwest of Kabul.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

The southwestern plateau southwest of the central highlands is an arid region of desert and semidesert extending into Pakistan to the south and into Iran to the west. From an altitude of about 914 meters (3,000 feet) at its highest point, it slopes gently to the southwest. A few large rivers traverse this plateau, including the Helmand and its major tributary the Arghandab. The southwestern plateau region covers approximately 129,500 square kilometers (50,000 square miles) and includes the Rigestan Desert.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

Afghanistan's so-called "caves" are actually man-made dugouts built into the mountains by mujahideen rebels fighting the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s. Al Qaeda Muslim extremists also used the caves for military purposes in 2001 and 2002. The dugouts are between 3 and 9 meters (10 to 30 feet) deep.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Elliot, Jason. An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan. London: Picador, 1999.

Ellis, Deborah. Women of the Afghan War. Westport, CT.: Praeger, 2000.

Ewans, Martin. Afghanistan: A New History. Richmond: Curzon, 2001.

Periodicals

"The Most Dangerous Place on Earth: A Look Inside Afghanistan." Special report. Current Events. Nov. 30, 2001, pp.S1-5.

Web Sites

Afghanistan Online. http://www.afghan-web.com/ (accessed February 14, 2003).

National Geographic. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/popups/popunder.html (accessed June 21, 2003).

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Kabul

Kabul (kä´bŏŏl, kəbōōl´), city (1997 est. pop. 1,500,000), capital of Afghanistan and of Kabul prov. and its largest city and economic and cultural center, E Afghanistan, on the Kabul River. It is strategically located in a high narrow valley, wedged between mountain ranges that command the main approaches to the Khyber Pass. A tunnel under the Hindu Kush mountains links Kabul with the Tajikistan border. The city's chief products are woolen and cotton cloth, beet sugar, ordnance, and furniture, but a continuing state of war between 1979 and 1996 limited production, and the city's industry, infrastructure, and economy are still recovering.

Kabul's old section, with its narrow, crooked streets, contains extensive bazaars; the modern section has administrative and commercial buildings. An educational center, Kabul has a university (est. 1931), colleges, and a fine museum. Also in the city are Babur's tomb and gardens; the mausoleum of Nadir Shah; the Minar-i-Istiklal (column of independence), built in 1919 after the Third Afghan War; the tomb of Timur Shah (reigned 1773–93); the fort of Bala Hissar, destroyed by the British in 1879 to avenge the death of their envoy in Kabul; and several important mosques. The royal palace and an ancient citadel stand outside the present city.

Kabul's history dates back more than 3,000 years, although the city has been destroyed and rebuilt on several different sites. Conquered by Arabs in the 7th cent., it was overshadowed by Ghazni and Herat until Babur made it his capital (1504–26). It remained under Mughal rule until its capture (1738) by Nadir Shah of Persia. It succeeded Kandahar as Afghanistan's capital in 1773. During the Afghan Wars a British army took (1839) Kabul. In 1842 the withdrawing British troops were ambushed and almost annihilated after the Afghans had promised them safe conduct; in retaliation another British force partly burned Kabul. The British again occupied the city in 1879, after their resident and his staff were massacred there.

On Dec. 23, 1979, Soviet armed forces landed at Kabul airport to help bolster a Communist government. Kabul became the Soviet command center, but was little damaged by the ten-year conflict. In Feb., 1989, Soviet forces withdrew from the city. In spring of 1992 the government of Mohammad Najibullah collapsed, and Kabul fell to guerrilla armies. Destruction of the city increased as the coalition of guerrilla forces broke into rival warring factions, and much of Kabul was damaged by fighting. The capital has undergone considerable reconstruction since 2002, but many building remain in ruins.

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Kabul

KABUL

Afghan city and province.

Kabul is both Afghanistan's largest city and national capital and the name of the province that surrounds the city. Kabul is at nearly 1828 meters (6,000 feet) above sea level and situated near the Khyber Pass, a major route between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Strategically located on north-south and east-west trade routes, Kabul has been a major city for thousands of years; the oldest reference to it is found in the Rig Veda, an ancient Sanskrit text (1500 b.c.e.). The city now holds more than 2 million people; an accurate census has not been taken.

Since 1980 Kabul has suffered considerable physical, social, and economic damage. Bombs or artillery have destroyed many of the main buildings, particularly during the civil war of the early 1990s, and many of the educated elite have fled Kabul. Since the Taliban fell in December 2001, the city has been crowded with returning refugees and Afghans who are internally displaced because of fighting, the drought, or the general collapse of the rural economy. In 2003, Kabul was controlled by the Afghan interim government of Hamid Karzai, but remained without basic services. Security remained problematic and an international peacekeeping force policed Kabul.

Bibliography


Adamec, Ludwig. Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, 2d edition. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997.

grant farr

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Culture Name

Afghanistani, Afghan

Orientation

Identification. The word "Afghan" historically has been used to designate the members of an ethnic group also called the Pashtuns, but Afghanistan is multicultural and multiethnic. The state was formed by the political expansion of Pashtun tribes in the middle of the eighteenth century but was not unified until the end of the nineteenth century. Persian-speaking (Tajiks, Hazaras, and Aymaqs) and Turkic-speaking (Uzbeks and Turkmens) populations have been incorporated in the state. Since the Communist coup of 1978 and the ensuing civil war, those groups have sought for greater political recognition, but the existence of the state has not been seriously questioned. The experience of exile shared by millions of refugees may have given rise to a new national feeling.

Location and Geography. Afghanistan is a land-locked Asian country of 251,825 square miles (652,225 square kilometers) bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. The topography is a mix of central highlands and peripheral foothills and plains. The country has an arid continental climate. Summers are dry and hot, while winters are cold with heavy snowfall in the highlands. Precipitation is low, although some areas in the east are affected by the monsoon. Most of the country is covered by steppes, with desert areas and some patches of cultivated land. Pastoral nomadism, subsistence mountain agriculture, and irrigation are practiced. At the end of the eighteenth century, Kabul became the capital. It is located in a wide basin on the road linking India with Central Asia.

Demography. There are no reliable census figures, but in 1997, the population was estimated to be 23,738,000. The great majority of people are rural (80 percent). The population of Kabul peaked at more than one million in the 1980s but dropped after the fall of the Communist regime in 1992. Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, and Kandahar (Qandahar) are the major cities, with populations of about 200,000 each. Important towns include Jalalabad, Kunduz, Baghlan, and Ghazni.

The demographic importance of the Pashtuns has decreased since 1978, because they have formed the majority of the refugee population in Pakistan. It is estimated that Pashtuns represent 38 percent of the population, principally in the southeast, south, and west, with some pockets in the north; they are divided between the Durrani and Ghilzay confederacies and among many tribes along the Pakistani border. The Tajiks (25 percent) live primarily in the northeast, the northwest, and the urban centers. The Hazaras (19 percent) are found in the center, Kabul, and Mazar-e Sharif. The Uzbeks (6 percent) occupy the north. The remaining 12 percent of the population is made up of Aymaks (Sunni Persian-speaking groups in the northwest), Turkmens (along the border with Turkmenistan), Baluchis (in the southwest), and Nuristanis and Pashays (northeast of Kabul).

Except for a few Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish minorities that have left the country, all the inhabitants are Muslims, divided between Sunnis (estimated at 84 percent), and Shiites (15 percent, most of whom are Hazaras); there are Ismaeli pockets in the east of Hazarajat and in Badakhshan. There has been a huge refugee population outside the country since 1978, numbering over six million in 1990it constituted the largest refugee population in the world. Although many returned after the fall of the Communist regime in April 1992, several million Afghan refugees are still in Pakistan, Iran, and the Arabian peninsula. Some middle-class persons and intellectuals have settled in the West.

Linguistic Affiliation. Many inhabitants are bilingual or trilingual, and all the major languages are spoken in the neighboring countries. The official languages are Persian (officially called Dari) and Pashto; both belong to the Iranian group of the Indo-European linguistic family. The Persian spoken by the Tajiks, Hazaras, and Aymaks is not very different from the Persian of Iran. Pashto, which is divided into two major dialects, is also spoken in large areas of Pakistan. Despite government initiatives to promote Pashto, Persian is the preferred means of expression among educated and urban people. The Iranian group is also represented by Baluchi and some residual languages. The Nuristani languages are intermediate between Iranian and Indian groups, while Pashay is a conservative Indian language. Turkic languages, represented by Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kirghiz, are spoken widely in the north. Moghol and Arabic enclaves are disappearing.

Symbolism. Afghanistan has never had a strongly unified national culture, and war has led to further fragmentation. The old flag of green, white, and black horizontal strips has been abandoned, and there is no national anthem. The national currency (the Afghani) is printed in two separate locations, with a locally varying exchange rate.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The territory of modern Afghanistan was the center of several empires, including Greco-Buddhist kingdoms and the Kushans (third century b.c.e. to the second century c.e.) and the Muslim Ghaznavid and Ghurid dynasties (tenth to the twelfth centuries). It was a base of action for many rulers of India, notably the Mughals.

The modern nation emerged during the eighteenth century by Pashtun tribes in reaction to the decline of the Persian and Indian empires. During the nineteenth century, Afghanistan struggled successfully against the colonial powers and served as a buffer state between Russia and British India. The three Anglo-Afghan wars (18391842; 18781880; 1919) could have forged a national feeling, but the country's history has been dominated by internal conflicts. The first half of the nineteenth century was marked by a feud between two branches of the Durrani Pashtuns, with the Mohammadzay eventually succeeding and ruling until 1978. Abdur Rahman (Abdorrahman Khan, r. 18801901) extended his authority over the whole country by overcoming resistance from his fellow tribesmen and defeating the Ghilzay Pashtuns, the Hazaras, and the Kafirs (Nuristanis). Although political unity was forged during his reign, his harsh tactics created enmities between Sunnis and Shiites, between Pashtuns and other ethnic groups, and among Pashtuns, as well as between rural and urban people.

King Amanullah (Amanollah Khan, r. 19191929) tried to implement various reforms which failed. An attempt to set up a parliamentary government after 1963 resulted in serious social troublesleading to the seizure of power by the Communists in 1978, many of whom were young, recently urbanized, detribalized people seeking social advancement. Within a few months the country was rebelling, and in 1979 the Soviet Union intervened militarily. A bitter guerrilla war ensued over the next ten years between the Red Army and the Afghan resistance fighters (mujâhedin) , during which about 1.5 million Afghans died and millions left the country. The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and the fall of the Communist regime in 1992 led to an explosion of tensions and dissatisfactions. In response to this situation, the Taliban (religious students from refugee camps in Pakistan), seized the south in the winter of 19941995 and restored security. Since that time they have conquered most of the country, but have been unable to incorporate other groups or obtain international recognition.

National Identity. Until 1978, Afghanistan avoided fragmentation through a shared religion and the relative autonomy of local communities even though the government favored Pashtun culture and folklore. Most inhabitants felt they belonged primarily to a local community and secondarily to the supranational Islamic community. National identity was weak, but the state was not considered disruptive. This fragile equilibrium was destroyed after the coup of 1978. The symbols on which the legitimacy of the government was based (political independence, historical continuity, and respect of Islam) vanished.

Ethnic Relations. Before 1978, ethnic relations were competitive and tense. The pro-Soviet government attempted to promote the rights, culture, and languages of non-Pashtun groups. Although this endeavor failed, it led to an erosion of the Pashtun political hegemony. In the 1990s, political claims evolved progressively from an Islamic to an ethnic discourse. Islam-inspired resistance to the Soviets failed to provide a common ground for building peace and uniting people. Since 1992, the civil war has been marked by ethnic claims that have led to polarization between Pashtuns (who dominate the Taliban movement) and the other ethnic groups (who form the bulk of the opposing Northern Alliance).

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

There are several historical cities, such as Balkh, Ghazni, and Herat, but after twenty years of war, the preservation of historical monuments is not a priority. The Kabul Museum was looted repeatedly, nothing is left of the covered bazaar of Tashqurghan (Tash Kurghan) in the north, and the Buddha statues of Bamyan (Bamian) have been damaged. Most cities and towns are in ruins, and little reconstruction is occurring.

In the south and the center, the most common form of housing is the multi-story fortified farm with high walls built from a mixture of mud and straw. They are scattered in the fields, sometimes forming loose hamlets. In the north and the west, smaller compounds with vaulted houses of mud brick are prevalent. In the eastern highlands, settlements are grouped; stone and timber are common building materials. In both urban and rural settings, bazaars are not residential areas.

Domestic architecture is based on the separation between the public and private parts of the house so that women do not interact with strangers. Furnishings are generally rudimentary. Many families sleep in one room on mattresses that are unfolded for the night, and no places are assigned. In the morning, the room is tidied, with the mattresses and quilts piled in a corner. Rich families may have a separate guest house, but Afghans do not like to sleep alone and generally do not provide guests with separate rooms.

There is a large semi-nomadic and nomadic population. Two types of tents are used: the Middle Eastern black goat's hair tent and the round Central Asian yurt. Temporary shelters range from reed and straw huts to caves.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Everyday food consists of flat bread cooked on an iron plate in the fire or on the inner wall of a clay oven. Bread often is dipped in a light meat stock. Yogurt and other dairy products (butter, cream, and dried buttermilk) are an important element of the diet, as are onions, peas and beans, dried fruits, and nuts. Rice is eaten in some areas and in urban settlements. Scrambled eggs prepared with tomatoes and onions is a common meal. Food is cooked with various types of oils, including the fat of a sheep's tail. Tea is drunk all day. Sugar is used in the first cup of the day, and then sweets are eaten and kept in the mouth while sipping tea. Other common beverages are water and buttermilk. Afghans use the right hand to eat from a common bowl on the floor. At home, when there are no guests, men and women share meals. Along the roads and in the bazaars, there are many small restaurants that also function as teahouses and inns.

The common Islamic food prohibitions are respected in Afghanistan. For example, meat is only eaten from animals that are slaughtered according to Islamic law; alcohol, pork, and wild boar are not consumed, although some people secretly make wine for consumption at home. The Shiites avoid rabbit and hare.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. On special occasions, pilau rice is served with meat, carrots, raisin, pistachios, or peas. The preferred meat is mutton, but chicken, beef, and camel also are consumed. Kebabs, fried crepes filled with leeks, ravioli, and noodle soup also are prepared. Vegetables include spinach, zucchini, turnip, eggplant, peas and beans, cucumber, and tomatoes. Fresh fruits are eaten during the day or as a dessert. In formal gatherings, men and women are separated. Dinners start by drinking tea and nibbling on pistachios or chickpeas; food is served late in the evening on dishes that are placed on a cloth on the floor. Eating abundantly demonstrates one's enjoyment.

Basic Economy. The traditional economy combines cultivation and animal husbandry. Irrigated agriculture dominates, but the products of pluvial agriculture are considered to be of better quality. Wheat is the principal crop, followed by rice, barley, and corn. The main cash crops are almonds and fruits. Cotton was a major export until the civil war. Today, large zones of agricultural land have been converted to poppy cultivation for the heroin trade. Stock breeding is practiced by both nomadic and sedentary peoples. Nomads spend the summer in the highlands and the winter in the lowlands. Many of them, especially in the east, also trade.

Virtually all manufactured goods are imported; they are financed by remittances from refugees and emigrants.

Land Tenure and Property. Most grazing land is held communally, but agricultural land is privately owned. Irrigation canals are shared, following a pre-established schedule. The bulk of the population consists of small landholders who supplement their income by sending a family member to work in the city or abroad. Poor farmers who do not own land often become tenants or hire themselves out on a daily base. Often in debt, they are economically and politically dependent on local headmen and landlords.

Commercial Activities. Afghanistan produces few commercial goods. The Taliban have opened commercial routes between Pakistan and Turkmenistan, but no official trade can develop until the government is recognized by the international community.

Trade. Hides, wool, dried and fresh fruits, and pistachios are exported, but narcotics account for the bulk of export receipts. The country imports tax-free goods through Pakistan, including cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions, radios, and stereo equipment. These consumer products are then smuggled to neighboring countries.

Major Industries. After more than twenty years of war, there is no industrial activity.

Division of Labor. Most of the Afghan workers present in Iran and the Gulf countries are young, unmarried males. In Afghanistan, people work as long as they are fit.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Some groups are egalitarian, but others have a hierarchical social organization. There are great differences in wealth and social status. Society also is stratified along religious and ethnic lines. During most of the twentieth century, members of the king's family played a major role in politics as ministers and ambassadors. Most civil servants and technocrats were Persian-speaking urban residents. Ismaelis and Shiites (especially the Hazaras) had the lowest status. In the provinces, most administrative posts were held by Pashtuns who had no connection to the population. Local communities were dominated by the richest landlords, assisted by village headmen. The Sayyeds, supposed to be the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, played an important role as mediators, relying on prestige rather than personal wealth. Family elders were consulted on local matters, and many disputes were settled by local assemblies. Although Communist land reform was rejected by the population, important changes have occurred. Traditional leaders have lost their preeminence to military commanders and young religious militants. Some smugglers have become immensely rich.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Social stratification is expressed primarily through marriage patterns. The general tendency is for lower social groups to give their daughters in marriage to higher social groups. The lavishness of a wedding is an indicator of status and wealth. Following Taliban decree, men must wear a hat or turban and be bearded. Western dress and fashion, which once distinguished urban from rural people, have almost disappeared.

Political Life

Government. The Taliban control most of the country. Their government is recognized only by Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. The Taliban rule without a constitution, relying on the Koran. There is an informal assembly around their leader in Kandahar. Ministries exist in Kabul, and lower-level civil servants have often remained in place, but there is no real administration. At the local level, the military commanders rule groups of villages, a situation the Taliban have tried to end.

Leadership and Political Officials. Afghanistan does not have a unified government. Political parties linked to the resistance, including Sunni and Shiite, and Islamic fundamentalist, have developed during the war, but now they have imperfectly merged in the two remaining factionsthe Taliban and the Northern Alliance. Military commanders have the real leadership.

Social Problems and Control. In their drive to "purify" society, the Taliban emphasize moral values. No distinction is made between religious and civil laws, and the religious police are omnipotent. Judges apply a tribal-based conception of Islam. Those who commit adultery and consume drugs and alcohol are severely punished. Beatings, amputations, and public executions (beheading, stoning, and shooting) are commonly practiced. Tens of thousands of persons are jailed without trial by the various factions.

Military Activity. The Taliban are backed by Pakistan, while the Northern Alliance is supported by Iran and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Military activity is intense, particularly in the spring and summer.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

No political leader has attempted to develop welfare programs.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

United Nations agencies and the Red Cross are active, but fighting often interrupts their projects. Hundreds of local and foreign nongovernmental organizations have programs for land mine removal, education, health care, road building, irrigation, and agriculture. Their role is often ambiguous, and they have contributed to social stratification because their actions often are limited to major urban centers and areas near the Pakistani border. By providing nearly all welfare programs, they have made it easier for political leaders to ignore social issues.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Male and female roles are strongly differentiated. The public sphere is the domain of men, and the domestic one is the realm of women. Women take care of young children, cook for the household, and clean the house. They may have a small garden and a few chickens. They weave and sew and in some areas make rugs and felt. Among nomads, women make tents and have more freedom of movement. In a peasant family, men look after the sheep and goats, and plow, harvest, thresh, and winnow the crops. Among both rural and urban people, a man must not stay at home during the day. During war, women take over many male duties; men who work abroad must learn to cook, sew, and do laundry.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Between 1919 and 1929, King Amanullah tried to promote female empowerment. Under the Communist government, many women were able to study in universities. This trend was reversed by the Taliban. Women now must be completely covered by a long veil and accompanied by a male relative when they leave the house. Women face overwhelming obstacles if they seek to work or study or obtain access to basic health care. However, the Taliban have improved security in many rural areas, allowing women to carry out their everyday duties.

Women have never participated publicly in decision making processes. They are admonished to be modest and obey the orders of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. Nevertheless, as guardians of family honor, women have more power. Nomadic and peasant women play an important role in the domestic economy and are not secluded in the same way as many urban women. Shiite leaders stress the right of a woman to participate in the political process, engage in independent economic activity, and freely choose a husband.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage is considered an obligation, and divorce is rare and stigmatized. Polygamy is allowed if all the wives are treated equally. However, it is uncommon and occurs primarily when a man feels obligated to marry the widow of his dead brother. The general pattern is to marry kin, although families try to diversify their social assets through marriage. The incidence of unions between cousins is high.

The first contacts often are made discreetly by women in order to avoid a public refusal. Then the two families negotiate the financial aspects of the union and decide on the trousseau, the brideprice, and the dowry. The next step is the official engagement, during which female relatives of the groom bring gifts to the home of the bride and sweets are consumed. The wedding is a three-day party paid for by the groom's family during which the marriage contract is signed and the couple is brought together. The bride is then brought to her new home in a lavish procession.

Domestic Unit. Traditionally, the basic household consists of a man, his wife, his sons with their spouses and children, and his unmarried daughters. When he dies, the sons can decide to stay united or divide the family assets. Authority among brothers is based on ability, economic skill, and personal prestige more than age. Sometimes a brother asks for his share of the family wealth and leaves the domestic group while the father is still alive. Residential unity does not imply shared domestic expenses. Domestic units are larger among tribal people than among urban dwellers.

Inheritance. In theory all brothers are equal, but to avoid splitting up family property, brothers may decide to own it jointly or to be compensated financially. Contrary to Islamic law, women do not inherit land, real estate, or livestock.

Kin Groups. All groups trace descent through the male line. Each tribal group claims a common male ancestor and is divided into subtribes, clans, lineages, and families. Genealogy establishes inheritance, mutual obligations, and a feeling of solidarity. Disputes over women, land, and money may result in blood feuds. The tribal system is particularly developed among the Pashtuns. The main values of their tribal code are hospitality and revenge. Many inhabitants of Afghanistan do not belong to a tribe or have only a loose affiliation. Neighborhood and other social links, often reinforced by marriage, can be stronger than extended kinship.

Socialization

Infant Care. Babies are bound tightly in wooden cradles with a drain for urine or carried by the mother in a shawl. They may be breast-fed for more than two years, but weaning is very sudden. Children are cared for by a large group of female relatives. Although surrounded by affection, children learn early that no one will intervene when they cry or are hurt. Adults do not interfere with children's games, which can be tough. Physical punishment is administered, although parents tend to be indulgent with young children. Children move freely from the female part of the house to the public one and learn to live in a group setting.

Child Rearing and Education. Respect and obedience to elderly persons are important values, but independence, individual initiative, and self-confidence also are praised. The most important rite of passage for a boy is circumcision, usually at age seven. Boys learn early the duties of hospitality and caring for guests as well as looking after the livestock or a shop, while girls begin helping their mothers as soon as they can stand. Both are taught the values of honor and shame and must learn when to show pride and when to remain modest.

Higher Education. Literacy is extremely low, and in 1980, 88 percent of the adult population had no formal schooling. Only 5 percent of children get a primary education, with a huge discrepancy between males and females. People from Afghanistan must travel abroad to further their education. Although education is valued, there is no professional future for educated people other than working for an international agency or a nongovernmental organization.

Etiquette

Young people address elders not by name but by a title. A husband will not call his wife by her name but will call her "mother of my son." Family surnames are unusual, but nicknames are very common. Kinship terms often are used to express friendship or respect. Hospitality is a strong cultural value. When food is served, the host waits until the guests have started eating. As soon as the dishes are cleared, guests ask permission to leave unless they are spending the night.

When meeting, two men shake hands and then place the right hand on the heart. Direct physical contact is avoided between men and women. If they have not seen each other for a long time, friends and relatives hug, kiss, and speak polite phrases. When someone enters a room, people stand and greet him at length. When they sit down, more greetings are exchanged. It is considered rude to ask a factual question or inquire about anything specific early in the conversation. To express affection, it is customary to complain, sometimes bitterly, about not having received any news.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Despite their different affiliations, Sunnis and Shiites recognize the authority of the Koran and respect the five pillars of Islam. Nevertheless, relationships between members of different religious sects are distant and tense. Sufism is an important expression of religiosity. It represents the mystical trend of Islam and stresses emotion and personal commitment over a codified conception of faith. It is viewed with suspicion by some Islamic scholars. An extreme form of Sufism is represented by wandering beggars. Supernatural creatures such as angels, genies, ghosts, and spirits, are believed to exist. Exorcism and magic protect people from the evil eye. Although condemned by orthodox religious authorities, these practices may be reinforced by the village mullah.

Religious Practitioners. There are two kinds of religious practitioners: scholars, whose power is based on knowledge, and saints, whose authority comes from their ability to transmit God's blessing. Among Sunnis, there is no formal clergy, while Shiites have a religious hierarchy. Village mullahs receive a religious education that allows them to teach children and lead the Friday prayers. Many saints and Sufi leaders claim descent from the Prophet. Their followers visit them to ask for advice and blessing. During the war, a new kind of religious leader emerged: the young Islamic militant who challenges the authority of traditional practitioners and proposes a more political conception of religion.

Rituals and Holy Places. Throughout the year, people gather at noon on Fridays in the mosque. Most villages have a place to pray, which also is used to accommodate travelers. The tombs of famous religious guides often become shrines visited by local people. They play an important role in the social life of village community and the local identity. Pilgrimages allow women to get out of the home in groups to chat and socialize.

There are two main religious festivals. The Id al-Kabir or Id-e Qorban (the Great Feast or Feast of the Victim) commemorates the sacrifice of Abraham at the end of the annual period of pilgrimage to Mecca. Most families slay a sheep and distribute some of the meat to the poor. The Id al-Fitr or Id-e Ramazan (the Small Feast or Feast of the Ramazan) marks the end of the fasting month and is a period of cheer during which relatives and friends visit each other. The fasting month of Ramadan is an important religious and social event. During Muharram (the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar), Shiites commemorate the death of the grandson of Muhammad. It is a period of mourning and sorrow. People gather to listen to an account of the martyrdom, weeping and hitting their breasts. The anniversary of the death of Husain is the climax. Processions are organized, and some young men wound themselves with chains or sharp knives. Other important social ceremonies with a religious dimension include births, weddings, funerals, circumcisions of young boys, and charity meals offered by wealthy people.

Death and the Afterlife. The dead are buried rapidly in a shroud. In the countryside, most graves are simple heaps of stones without a name. Wealthier persons may erect a tombstone with a written prayer. For three days, the close relatives of the deceased open their house to receive condolences. Forty days after the death, relatives and close friends meet again, visit the grave, and pray. After one year, a ceremony takes place to mark the end of the mourning period. Many people believe that if a funeral is not carried out properly, the ghost of the dead will return to torment the living.

Medicine and Health Care

Since modern medical facilities are limited, people rely on traditional practices that employ herbs and animal products. Every physical ailment is classified as warm or cold, and its cure depends on restoring the body's equilibrium by ingesting foods with the opposite properties. Another way to cure disease is to undertake a pilgrimage to a shrine. Sometimes, pilgrims put a pinch of sand collected from the holy place into their tea or keep a scrap from the banners on a tomb. Certain springs are considered holy, and their water is believed to have a curative effect. Talismans (Koranic verse in a cloth folder) are sewed onto clothing or hats to protect against the evil eye or treat an illness.

Secular Celebrations

The Jashn, the National Independence Holidays (celebrating complete independence from the British in 1919) used to be an occasion for the government to promote reforms. Parades and sporting events were organized. The New Year on 21 March dates back to the pre-Islamic period. In the old Persian calendar, it was a fertility festival celebrating the spring. It is still a time for celebration when relatives and friends visit each other and bring gifts for the children.

The Arts and Humanities

The Taliban have banned artistic expression. High culture is kept alive in Pakistan and in the West, refugees have set up cultural circles that organize concerts, exhibitions (paintings, photographs), poetry contests, and courses in calligraphy, painting, music, and poetry. Some also have modest libraries and film archives and promote theater.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

All scholars have left the country, and no higher education or scientific research is available.

Bibliography

Adamec, Ludwig W. Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan , 1985.

Balland, D., L. Dupree, N. H. Dupree, N. H.; et al. "Afghanistan." Encyclopaedia Iranica , 1985.

Canfield, Robert L. "The Ecology of Rural Ethnic Groups and the Spatial Dimensions of Power." American Anthropologist 75: 15111528, 1973.

Centlivres, Pierre. Un bazar d'Asie Centrale: forme et organisation du bazar de Tâshqurghân (Afghanistan) , 1970.

. "Exil, Relations Interethniques et Identité dans la Crise Afghane." La Revue du Monde Musulman et de la Méditerranée 5960: 7082, 1991.

Micheline Centlivres-Demont. Et si on Parlait de l'Afghanistan? Terrains et Textes 19641980 , 1988.

. "The Afghan Refugee in Pakistan: An Ambiguous Identity." Journal of Refugee Studies 1 (2): 141152, 1988.

Digard, Jean-Pierre, ed. Le Fait Ethnique en Iran et en Afghanistan , 1988.

Dorronsoro, Glles. La Révolution Afghane: Des Communistes aux Tâlibân, 2000.

Dupree, Louis. Afghanistan , 1973.

Edwards, David B. "Marginality and Migration: Cultural Dimensions of the Afghan Refugee Problem." International Migration Review 2 (2): 313325, 1986.

. Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier , 1996.

Ferdinand, Klaus. "Nomad Expansion and Commerce in Central Afghânistân: A Sketch of Some Modern Trends." Folk 4: 123159, 1962.

Folk, 24: 4177, 1982 (special issue on marriage in Afghan society).

Groetzbach, Erwin. Afghanistan: Eine Geographische Landskunde , 1990.

Kakar, Hasan K. Government and Society in Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir 'Abd al Rahman Khan , 1979.

Maley, William, ed. Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban , 1998.

Mousavi, Sayed Askar. The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic and Political Study , 1998.

Orywal, Erwin. Die Ethnischen Gruppen Afghanistan: Fallstudien zu Gruppenidentität und Intergruppenbeziehungen , 1986.

Poullada, Leon B. Reform and Rebellion in Afghanistan, 19191929: King Amanullah's Failure to Modernize a Tribal Society , 1973.

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Rubin, Barnett R. The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System , 1995.

Shahrani, M. Nazif and Robert L. Canfield, eds. Revolution and Rebellions in Afghanistan: Anthropological Perspectives , 1984.

Szabo, Albert and Thomas J. Barfield, Afghanistan: An Atlas of Domestic Architecture , 1991.

Tapper, Nancy. Bartered Brides: Politics, Gender and Marriage in an Afghan Tribal Society , 1991.

Tapper, Richard, ed. The Conflict of Tribe and State in Iran and Afghanistan , 1983.

UNHCR. "Afghanistan: The Unending Crisis." Refugees , vol. 108, 1997.

Alessandro Monsutti

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Kabul

Kabul Capital of Afghanistan, on the River Kabul, in the e part of the country. It is strategically located in a high mountain valley in the Hindu Kush. It was taken by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Later it became part of the Mogul Empire (1526–1738). The capital of Afghanistan since 1776, it was occupied by the British during the Afghan Wars in the 19th century. Following the Soviet invasion in 1979, Kabul was the scene of bitter fighting. Unrest continued into the mid-1990s as rival Muslim groups fought for control. Industries: textiles, leather goods, furniture, glass. Pop. (2002 est.) 2,454,000.

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

AFGHANIS 3
HAZARAS 10
PASHTUN 13

The people of Afghanistan are called Afghanis. The Pashtun make up about 43 percent of the population and are often referred to as "true Afghans." The Tajiks comprise nearly 25 percent of the population, the Uzbeks, 6 percent, and the Hazaras, about 5 percent. For more information on the Tajiks, see the chapter on Tajikistan in Volume 9; for more information on the Uzbeks, see the chapter on Uzbekistan, also in Volume 9.

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Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN

This entry consists of the following articles:

Afghanistan: Overview

Afghanistan: Islamic Movements in

Afghanistan: Political Parties in

Afghanistan: Soviet Intervention in

Afghanistan: U.S. Intervention in

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Afghanistan

AfghanistanAbadan, Abidjan, Amman, Antoine, Arne, Aswan, Avon, Azerbaijan, Baltistan, Baluchistan, Bantustan, barn, Bhutan, Dagestan, darn, dewan, Farne, guan, Hahn, Hanuman, Hindustan, Huascarán, Iban, Iran, Isfahan, Juan, Kazakhstan, khan, Koran, Kurdistan, Kurgan, Kyrgyzstan, macédoine, Mahon, maidan, Marne, Michoacán, Oman, Pakistan, pan, Pathan, Qumran, Rajasthan, Shan, Siân, Sichuan, skarn, soutane, Sudan, Tai'an, t'ai chi ch'uan, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Taklimakan, tarn, Tatarstan, Tehran, Tenochtitlán, Turkestan, Turkmenistan, tzigane, Uzbekistan, Vientiane, yarn, Yinchuan, yuan, Yucatán •Autobahn • Lindisfarne •Bildungsroman • Nisan • Khoisan •Afghanistan • bhagwan • Karajan

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Kabul

Kabulbull, full, Istanbul, pull, push-pull, wool •Kabul • bagful •manful, panful •capful, lapful •hatful • carful • armful • artful •wilful (US willful) • sinful • fitful •eyeful • boxful • potful •awful, lawful •woeful • joyful • rueful • useful •tubful •jugful, mugful •cupful • earful • ring pull • lambswool •schedule • residual

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Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN

AFGHANISTAN , Muslim state in central Asia (Khorasan or Khurasan in medieval Muslim and Hebrew sources).

History

Early Karaite and Rabbanite biblical commentators regarded Khorasan as a location of the lost *Ten Tribes. Afghanistan annals also trace the Hebrew origin of some of the Afghan tribes, in particular the Durrani, the Yussafzai, and the Afridi, to King *Saul (Talut). This belief appears in the 17th-century Afghan chronicle Makhzan-i-Afghān, and some British travelers in the 19th century spread the tradition. Because of its remoteness from the Jewish center in Babylonia, persons unwanted by the Jewish leadership, such as counter-candidates for the exilarchate (see *Exilarch), often went to live in or were exiled to Afghanistan.

Medieval sources mention several Jewish centers in Afghanistan, of which *Balkh was the most important. A Jewish community in Ghazni is recorded in Muslim sources, indicating that Jews were living there in the tenth and eleventh centuries. A Jew named Isaac, an agent of Sultan Mahmud (ruled 998–1030), was assigned to administer the sultan's lead mines and to melt ore for him. According to Hebrew sources, vast numbers of Jews lived in Ghazni but while their figures are not reliable, Moses *Ibn Ezra (1080) mentions over 40,000 Jews paying tribute in Ghazni and *Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1170) describes "Ghazni the great city on the River Gozan, where there are about 80,000 [8,000 in a variant manuscript] Jews…." In Hebrew literature the River Gozan was identified with Ghazni in Khorasan from the assertion of Judah *Ibn Bal'am that "the River of Gozan is that river flowing through the city of Ghazni which is today the capital of Khorasan."

A Jewish community in Firoz Koh, capital of the medieval rulers of Ghūr or Ghuristan, situated halfway between Herat and Kabul, is mentioned in Tabaqāt-i-Nāṣirī, a chronicle written in Persian (completed around 1260) by al-Jūzjānī. This is the first literary reference to Jews in the capital of the Ghūrids. About 20 recently discovered stone tablets, with Persian and Hebrew inscriptions dating from 1115 to 1215, confirm the existence of a Jewish community there. The Mongol invasion in 1222 annihilated Firoz Koh and its Jewish community.

Arab geographers of the tenth century (Ibn Ḥawqal, Iṣṭakhrī) also refer to Kabul and Kandahar as Jewish settlements. An inscription on a tombstone from the vicinity of Kabul dated 1365, erected in memory of a Moses b. Ephraim

Bezalel, apparently a high official, indicates the continuous existence of a Jewish settlement there.

The Mongol invasion, epidemics, and continuous warfare made inroads into Jewish communities in Afghanistan throughout the centuries, and little is known about them until the 19th century when they are mentioned in connection with the flight of the *anusim of Meshed after the forced conversions in 1839. Many of the refugees fled to Afghanistan, Turkestan, and Bokhara, settling in Herat, Maimana, Kabul, and other places with Jewish communities, where they helped to enrich the stagnating cultural life. Nineteenth-century travelers (*Wolff, *Vámbery, *Neumark, and others) state that the Jewish communities of Afghanistan were largely composed of these Meshed Jews. Mattathias Garji of Herat confirmed: "Our forefathers used to live in Meshed under Persian rule but in consequence of the persecutions to which they were subjected came to Herat to live under Afghan rule." The language spoken by Afghan Jews is not the Pushtu of their surroundings but a *Judeo-Persian dialect in which they have produced fine liturgical and religious poetry. Their literary merit was recognized when Afghan Jews moved to Ereẓ Israel toward the end of the 19th century. Scholars of Afghanistan families such as Garji and Shaul of Herat published Judeo-Persian commentaries on the Bible, Psalms, piyyutim, and other works, at the Judeo-Persian printing press established in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th century. The Jews of Afghanistan did not benefit from the activities of European Jewish organizations. Economically, their situation in the last century was not unfavorable; they traded in skins, carpets, and antiquities.

[Walter Joseph Fischel]

Recent Years

Approximately 5,000 Jews were living in Afghanistan in 1948. Of these, about 300 remained in 1969. They were concentrated in Kabul, Balkh, and mainly Herat. (See Map: Jews in Afghanistan.) Jews were banished from other towns after the assassination of King Nādir Shāh in 1933. Though not forced to live in separate quarters, Jews did so and in Balkh they even closed the ghetto gates at night. A campaign against Jews began in 1933. They were forbidden to leave a town without a permit. They had to pay a yearly poll tax and from 1952, when the Military Service Law ceased to apply to Jews, they had to pay ransoms for exemptions from the service (called ḥarbiyya). Government service and government schools were closed to Jews, and certain livelihoods forbidden to them. Consequently, most Jews only received a ḥeder education. There were only a few wealthy families, the rest being poverty-stricken and mostly employed as tailors and shoemakers. Until 1950 Afghan Jews were forbidden to leave the country. However, between June 1948 and June 1950, 459 Afghan Jews went to Israel. Most of them had fled the country in 1944, and lived in Iran or India until the establishment of the State of Israel. Jews were only allowed to emigrate from Afghanistan from the end of 1951. By 1967, 4,000 had gone to Israel. No Zionist activity was permitted, and no emissaries from Israel could reach Afghanistan. There was a ḥevrah ("community council") in each of the three towns in which Jews lived. The ḥevrah was composed of the heads of families; it cared for the needy, and dealt with burials. The ḥevrah sometimes meted out punishments, including excommunication. The head of the community (called kalāntar) represented the community in dealings with the authorities, and was responsible for the payment of taxes.

According to the New York Times, one Jew remained in Afghanistan in 2005.

[Haim J. Cohen]

Folklore

A survey of local Jewish-Afghan folk tales and customs reveals the influence of both Meshed (Jewish-Persian) and local non-Jewish traditions. This is especially true of customs relating to the year cycle and life cycle. The existence of several unique customs, such as the presence of "Elijah's rod" at childbirth, and several folk cures and charms are to be similarly explained. Jewish-Afghan folk tales have been collected from local narrators in Israel and are preserved in the Israel Folk Tale Archives. A sample selection of 12 tales from the repertoire of an outstanding narrator, Raphael Yehoshua, was published in 1969, accompanied by extensive notes and a rich bibliography.

[Dov Noy]

bibliography:

Nimat Allah, History of the Afghans (London, 1829), tr. by B. Dorn; Holdich, in: Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 45 (1917), 191–205; H.W. Bellew, Races of Afghanistan (1880); I. Ben-Zvi, The Exiled and the Redeemed (1961), index; Fischel, in: hj, 7 (1945), 29–50; idem, in: jaos, 85, no. 2 (1965), 148–53; idem, in: jc, Supplement (March 26, 1937); idem, in: L. Finkelstein (ed.), Jews, their History, Culture and Religion, 2 (19603), 1149–90; G. Gnoli, Le iscrizioni giudeo-Persiane del Gur (Afghanistan) (1964), includes bibliography; E.L. Rapp, Die Juedisch-Persisch Hebraeischen Inschriften aus Afghanistan (1965); Brauer, in: jsos, 4 (1942), 121–38; R. Klass, Land of the High Flags (1965); N. Robinson, in: J. Freid (ed.), Jews in Modern World, 1 (1962), 50–90. add. bibliography: B. Yehoshua-Raz, Mi-Nidḥei Yisrael be-Afganistan le-Anusei Mashhad be-Iran (1992); Peʿamim, 79 (1999); A. Netzer, "Yehudei Afganistan," in: G. Allon (ed.), Ha-Tziyyonut le-Ezoreiha (2005).

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Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Major City:
Kabul

Other Cities:
Bāghlān, Ghazni, Herāt, Jalālābād, Kandahār, Mazār-i-Sharīf

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report for Afghanistan. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

AFGHANISTAN , the landlocked country whose borders are touched by Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China, Pakistan, and Iran, often has been called the crossroads of central Asia. It once formed part of the empires of Persia and of Alexander the Great. Throughout the centuries, it has been a base for forays into India, and has bowed to a succession of princes and petty chieftains struggling for control of its strategic trade and invasion routes.

Modern Afghanistan did not evolve until 1747, when principalities and fragmented provinces were consolidated into one kingdom by Ahmad Shah Durrani. All of the country's successive rulers, until a Marxist coup in 1978, were from Durrani's tribe. Soviet military assistance to the new government eventually led to large-scale invasion of Afghanistan's capital city, but the regime failed to validate either Soviet conquest or authority in other parts of the nation. Soviet military occupation ended in February 1989 and Afghanistan endured a bloody civil war between the Afghan government and various factions of the fundamentalist Muslim guerrillas between 1992 and 1996. During the civil war, over 50,000 people lost their lives during the mujahidin infightings on Kabul's streets.

In 1995 and 1996, students from religious schools in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan--the Taliban--spread throughout the country, proclaiming hostility to the West and establishing a reordering of society based upon a strict interpretation of Shari'a, or Islamic law.

After the September 11 attacks on the United States, carried out by members of Osama bin Laden's al-Quaeda forces who were sheltered by the Taliban, the U.S.-U.K.-led coalition launched a military offensive on Kabul and major Afghan cities, toppling the Taliban regime. Afghan society and infrastructure, already decimated after two decades of war, must be rebuilt.

MAJOR CITY

Kabul

Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, is situated on a high, barren plateau some 5,800 feet above sea level, and surrounded by rugged, treeless mountains. Commanding the main approach to the historic Khyber Pass between Afghanistan and what is now Pakistan, the city lies in the eastern section of the country, 140 miles from the Pakistan border. The Kabul River which winds through the city is, except for an interval in early spring, little more than a partially dry, but always polluted, stream.

The climate of the city is varied. During winter, temperatures sometimes fall below 0°F and, in January and February, snowfalls can be heavy. In summer, daytime temperatures often soar to 100°F, but fall rapidly after sunset.

Kabul is in a low-rainfall area, and almost all precipitation occurs between November and May. The remaining months are virtually dry. Strong afternoon winds, accompanied by dust storms, occur frequently in summer. Severe earthquakes are rare, but tremors are common. In March 2002, however, an earthquake in the northern Baghlan province (about 100 miles north of Kabul), killed thousands and was felt as far east as Pakistan.

Kabul's history can be traced to the seventh century, although its importance was long obscured by the ancient cities of Ghazni and Herāt. It came to prominence early in the 16th century as the capital of the Mogul kingdom. The tomb of Babur the Great, founder of the Mogul empire in India (1482-1530), is in Kabul, in a beautiful garden near Noon Gun Hill.

There are old city walls in Kabul, the mausoleum of Timor Shah, the son of Ahmad Shah Durrani who moved the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul, and the Arg or palace built to operate the Bala Hissar citadel, or seat of the rulers of Afghanistan.

Great Britain's desire to control the routes to India precipitated the first of the Anglo-Afghan Wars, and it was at Kabul that British forces were ambushed and nearly annihilated. The city was occupied again in 1879 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, a struggle that established Afghanistan's borders with British India and Russia. After 1940, Kabul grew as an industrial center.

Afghanistan's capital city is the site of Kabul University (founded in 1932), which was closed in 1992 due to war. The Taliban reopened it in 1995, but women were banned. The medical school was the only institution to make an exception to the ban on women: only female doctors could treat female patients. With the defeat of the Taliban, 4,000 students have taken entrance exams for a new semester, and 500 of them are women. There have been donations of books from abroad.

There are several other schools in the city, including Kabul Polytechnic Institute, which has been in operation since 1951. The Institute of Arabic and Religious Studies has headquarters here, and maintains satellite centers in other cities throughout the country. The Afghanistan Academy of Sciences (1979) also is located in Kabul, as are several research institutes and a museum. As of June 2002, it is unknown to what extent these institutions are operational.

As a result of war with the Soviet Union, civil war, the destruction wrought by the Taliban, and the 2001-2002 bombing campaign, the infrastructure of Kabul largely has been destroyed, including roads, the telephone system, electricity, and water sanitation. However, international relief organizations are engaged in reconstruction efforts.

The people of Kabul have begun to sift through the rubble of destroyed buildings, selecting usable bricks and building materials for the construction of new schools and other facilities. It is estimated that as many as 60 percent of Kabul's buildings are damaged or destroyed. Gravel from them is being used to patch roads.

Signs of a rejuvenated Kabul were beginning to emerge in 2002. Stylish haircuts are now available for around $3.50, men are wearing hats instead of turbans, and men are shaving, forbidden under the Taliban. New restaurants have opened, and there are stalls selling such varied items as fruit, snacks, balloons, and laptop computers.

Rents are high, and items on the black market are very expensive--scotch whiskey sells for around $100 a bottle, British soccer jerseys sell for $50 each, and pornography is both available and expensive.

However, the increase in market activity has also brought theft, assaults, and murder, which are now more prevalent than under the Taliban.

Recreation and Entertainment

Buzkashi (like rugby on horseback), is the national sport. In buzkashi, riders struggle for possession of a goat, calf, or sheep carcass, and scores are counted when one of the teams is able to fling the animal's body into a designated circle on the field. At the end of March 2002, the first movie made in Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power was shown in Mazari-i-Sharif: Chapandaz is an Afghan production, shot, edited, and released in the country, featuring the sport of buzkashi. Indian movies are also popular.

Other pastimes that have returned in 2002 are dog fighting, camel fighting, motorcycle stunts, and karaoke. Soccer began to be played in Kabul's sports stadium in December 2001, a venue that had previously been used for executions.

Such western novelties and food items as bubble-gum, soda, cookies, and juices have been arriving from Iran, Uzbekistan, China, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, and India.

OTHER CITIES

BĀGHLĀN is located in northern Afghanistan, about 125 miles north of the capital. The city, capital of Bāghlān Province, was a producer of cotton and beet sugar. The population for Bāghlān was estimated at 117,700 in 2002.

In December 2001, the Northern Alliance forced Sayed Jaffar, a local warlord, from power in Baghlan province.

In March 2002, an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale struck Baghlan, killing at least 1,800 and injuring thousands. Baghlan's rich agricultural region was also the victim of a plague of locusts in the spring of 2002.

Located 92 miles southwest of Kabul, GHAZNI is the capital of the province with the same name. It was a center for trading wool, fruit, and corn, and was famous for its embroidered sheepskin coats. The city's most famous ruler was Mahmud of Ghazni who conquered regions in the area and made Ghazni the capital of a kingdom extending from the Tigris to the Ganges rivers. The kingdom was overthrown in 1173 by Mohammed of Ghor. Two impressive ancient minarets jut into the sky in Ghazni. The population was estimated at 39,000 in 2002.

In March 2002, Taliban and al-Qaeda rebels remained in Ghazni province. Dueling factions of Tajiks, Hazaras and Pashtuns are refusing to surrender their weapons.

In May 2002, a radio station went into operation in Ghazni, broadcasting from 6 to 8 pm at night. Two women have been hired to read the news and announcements, and listeners leave messages at the station requesting songs to be played. However, as of June 2002, there were no telephones and no electricity in the city.

A commercial center, best known for carpets, HERĀT is the capital of Herāt Province. The city is situated in the western part of Afghanistan, over 450 miles west of Kabul. It is known for magnificent huge earth-works and defense walls. There are also tombs, palaces, and mosques here. Herāt was once on the trade route from India to Persia, Mesopotamia, and Europe. It was severely damaged by the Mongols in 1221 and 1383; rebuilt, it prospered as an independent Afghan kingdom. Its population was estimated at 166,600 in 2002.

Thirty percent of the population left Herat during the 2001-2002 military campaign. Since it began to subside, one local warlord who seized a great deal of power in Herat is Ismail Khan, who courted hard-line conservatives in Iran. Iran is reconstructing the road from Herat to its border, while the United States is cleaning out the area's canals. Khan has appointed mullahs and archconservatives to high positions, and has opened an office for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice. His army numbers 50,000 to 60,000.

JALĀLĀBĀD (also spelled Jelalabad) is the capital of Nangarhār Province in eastern Afghanistan. It is situated 70 miles east of Kabul, on the route from Kabul via the Khyber Pass to Peshawar, Pakistan. The city, with a population that was estimated at 158,800 in 2002, was a trade center with sugar processing facilities and handicraft shops. There were large gardens and tree-lined avenues, as it served as a winter capital. Two festivals that were held were the Mushaira or Poet's festival devoted to Jalalabad's orange blossoms, and Waisak, a religious festival.

Jalalabad has been in existence as a city since the second century BC, and Akbar, regarded as the greatest Mughal ruler of India, started the town in its modern form in the 1560s. It came under Afghan rule in 1834, and was later occupied by the British in the Anglo-Afghan wars.

Eleven km south of the city is Hada, a sacred spot of the Buddhist world, where pilgrims have come to worship at its many temples. These were maintained by monks and priests in large monasteries. It is said that the Buddha visited Hada.

Jalalabad is also a military center, with an airfield. The University of Nangarhar was opened here in 1963.

As of January 2002, the road from Kabul to Jalalabad was unsafe, as there have been robberies, car-jacking, thefts, and murders.

The capital of Kandahār province, KANDAHĀR is situated 300 miles southwest of Kabul, halfway between Kabul and Herat. It is the second largest city in the country with a population that was estimated at 339,200 in 2002. Kandahār was the site of the successful Afghan uprising against Persia between 1706 and 1708, and was the first capital of modern Afghanistan, founded by Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747. The most sacred shrine in Afghanistan is the Kaherqa Sharif shrine in Kandahar, which contains the cloak of the prophet Mohammad. Also, the Chel Zina monument is noted for its 40 stairs leading to a chamber carved into rock, which was built by Babur, the founder of the Moghul empire. Other shrines in the city include Haratji Baba, Baba Wali, and the bazar Charsuq, which is composed of four arcades.

Kandahar was the site of fierce fighting in 2001, and the Taliban only surrendered the city in December. It is estimated that 80 percent of the population of southern Kandahar left in 2001.

Music, which had been banned under the rule of the Taliban, returned to Kandahar after the military campaign, as singers returned from exile in Pakistan. In the marketplace, cassette tapes are played at high volume, which are sold alongside radios, televisions, and video players. Pet birds, which were also banned under the Taliban, are now sold in the marketplace. During the rule of the Taliban, there were seven schools in Kandahar that enrolled 5,000 boys. As of March 2002, 137 co-ed schools have opened in the Kandahar district, and more than 30,000 children are enrolled, one-fourth of them girls.

Because Kandahar is almost entirely Pashtun, it does not suffer from the ethnic fighting in northern Afghanistan that has emerged in 2002.

Kandahar International Airport was established as the American base in the war. It is surrounded by mine fields and and barbed wire. Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects are kept there in a high-security area. There are 3,500 military personnel based at the airport.

Located in northern Afghanistan, MAZĀR-I-SHARĪF is the capital of Balth Province, 190 miles northwest of Kabul. The population here was estimated at 239,800 in 2002. The city was named for the shrine of the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Mohammad, Hazarate Ali, who was assassinated in 661 and buried near Baghdad. Legend has it that his followers feared that his body would be desecrated, so they put his remains on the back of a white camel which wandered until it fell and died. The body was buried on this spot, and knowledge of its existence remained unknown until 1136, when Seljuk Sultan Sanjar ordered a shrine to be built upon the spot. Genghis Khan destroyed the building, and the grave remained unmarked until 1481. None of the 15th-century decoration remains, but efforts have been made to restore the building's beauty. Mazar-i-Sharif means "The Noble Grave."

In March 2002, Mazar-i-Sharif was one of the sites of New Year celebrations at the beginning of spring (Nowroz), the most elaborately celebrated festival in Afghanistan. The city was a major trading center famous for Turkman carpets, high-quality cotton, and lambskins.

Since the Taliban fled the city, the airport has opened, and its runway has been repaired. Girls are attending classes. Medical equipment has been flown in for a new hospital run by Jordanian soldiers, which has been treating thousands of patients. A new police force of 600 members was drawn up.

However, a wave of revenge attacks by ethnic Hazara and Uzbek soldiers was taking place in early 2002, targeting Pashtuns. The attacks included robbery, rape, and murder. The Taliban, who were dominated by Pashtuns, persecuted Hazara civilians and their Shi'a religion. As of April 2002, there were 104 illegal checkpoints in Mazar-i-Sharif, manned by soldiers who were supposed to be replaced by civilian police. The two dominant warlords in Mazar-i-Sharif who are struggling for control of the city are General Abduraashid Dostum, an Uzbek commander, and Attah Mohammad, a Tajik veteran of the Northern Alliance.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Afghanistan, a landlocked country of about 260,000 square miles in area (about the size of Texas), is bounded on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan of the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.); on the east and south by Pakistan; on the west by Iran; and on the extreme northeast by China. Its topography consists of irrigated land, small but fertile river valleys, deep gorges, deserts, high plateaus, and snow-covered mountains. The eastern portion of the country is divided by the towering mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush and Pamirs, with peaks rising above 24,000 feet.

The principal rivers drain to the southwest into the Helmand and Arghandab valleys and then into a desolate, marshy area, called Seistan, on the Afghan-Iranian border. Other rivers, including the Kabul, flow southeast into the Indus River. The Amu Darya (or Oxus of ancient times) forms a large part of the northern boundary with the C.I.S.

Afghanistan's climate comprises a cold, snowy winter and hot, dry summer. Extreme temperature changes occur from night to day, season to season, and place to place. During summer in Kabul (altitude 5,800 feet), the temperature may be 50°F at sunrise, but reach 100°F by noon. In the Jalālābād plains (90 miles from the capital and at an elevation of 1,800 feet) and in southwestern parts of the country, summer temperatures can reach 115°F.

The chief characteristic of Afghanistan's climate is a blue, cloudless sky, with over 300 days of sunshine yearly. Even during winter, skies usually remain clear between snowfalls. Since rainfall is scarce from May to November, this period can be extremely dry and dusty.

Population

The 2002 population was estimated at 24,405,000. Many Afghans have fled the country because of the continuing strifeAfghan refugee population in Pakistan is approximately 3.7 million and, in Iran and the west, an additional 1.6 million. There have been many spontaneous returnees, but the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees began assisting refugees to repatriate in February 2002. As of April, more than 350,000 had returned to their homes. There are still approximately 400,000 internally displaced persons within the country. Also, many Afghans are still fleeing the country due to a lack of relief aid, banditry, and insecurity in remote areas.

Afghanistan's varied culture reflects its strategic location astride the historic trade and invasion routes that lead from the Middle East into central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The largest ethnic group is the Pashtun (Pathan), comprising about half of the total population. Other sizable groups are the Tajik, Uzbek, Turkoman, and Hazara.

Dari (Afghan Persian) and Pushtu are the principal languages, but Turkic dialects are used extensively in the north. English is the most widely spoken foreign language; many educated Afghans speak Russian, German, or French as well.

Islam is the official religion and Muslims comprise 99 percent of the population of which 84 percent are Sunni Muslims and 15 percent are Shi'a Muslims. The Hazara, Kizilbash, and mountain Tajiks generally belong to the minority Shi'a sect. The Taliban attempted to destroy the presence of other religions in society; eight foreign aid workers were placed on trial for the crime of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, a capital offense.

Since the fall of the Taliban, conditions for women have improved. Some have stopped wearing the head-to-toe cornflower-blue burka, however, many still shroud themselves in it, especially in rural areas. Some women are now wearing the hejab, or ankle-length black coat and chiffon veil, in deference to Islamic tradition and modesty. Under the Taliban, men and women were not permitted to mingle, and women could not venture outside of the home without being accompanied by a male relative. Women were prevented from obtaining education and from practicing most professions. In 2001-2002, that situation was in the process of being reversed.

Being devout Muslims, most Afghans do not drink alcoholic beverages or eat pork.

History

Afghanistan has had a turbulent, interesting history and has withstood countless invasions. In 328 B.C., Alexander the Great entered what is today Afghanistanbut was then a part of the Persian Empireand captured several cities, including Herāt, Kandahār, Kabul, and Balkh. The 300-year rule of his Greek successors was followed by that of Turkic Kushanis and various Buddhist groups. A lively Greco-Buddhist culture flourished around Bámián. In the year 652, Afghanistan fell to conquering Arabs, who brought with them Islam.

Arab hegemony gave way to renewed Persian predominance which continued until 998, when Mahmud of Ghazni, a Turkic ruler, assumed control. Ghazni became the capital. After Mahmud's death, Afghanistan was controlled by various princes until the invasion of the great Mongol leader, Genghis Khan, in the early 13th century. This resulted in the destruction of Herāt, Ghazni, Balkh, and other Afghan cities. Marco Polo passed through Afghanistan later in that century.

About 1400, the area came under the control of Tamerlane, the Mongol emperor. During the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Afghanistan was ruled by Babur the Great, founder of the Mogul dynasty in India; Babul's grave is in Kabul.

Afghanistan, as an independent kingdom, was founded by Ahmad Shah Durrani, a Pushtun prince, who was crowned in 1747. From that date until the coup in 1978, the country was governed by his direct or collateral descendants.

The history of Afghanistan was influenced by several European countries during the 19th century. To counter Russian dominance in both Persia and central Asia, Great Britain fought the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-42), occupying much of Afghanistan in the process. In the face of Afghan resistance, the British were forced to withdraw in 1842, suffering a massacre. The Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80) brought Abdur Rahman Khan to the throne as emir. He created a central government in Afghanistan and introduced many modern elements into the country; the borders with Pakistan (then British India) and Russia were established during the emir's reign.

Several 20th-century Afghan leaders, such as King Amanullah (who ruled from 1919 to 1929), supported modernization programs. The Noor Mohammad Taraki and successive regimes announced numerous reforms which called for sweeping changes, but which were rejected by traditional Afghan society.

Government

On April 27, 1978, the government of former President Mohammad Daoud was overthrown in a quick, violent, and bloody coup. Daoud and many of his family members were killed in the fighting or murdered in its aftermath. A Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (D.R.A.) was proclaimed by the new leftist-oriented leadership under Noor Mohammad Taraki. He, in turn, was overthrown and murdered by his rival within the fledgling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDPA), Hafizullah Amin. The Soviets installed a regime when it became clear that they could no longer control Amin, and when the countrywide opposition to the brutal Taraki/Amin regimes threatened to overwhelm the government in power. In December 1979, the U.S.S.R. introduced more than 80,000 troops, unseating Amin, who died in unclear circumstances. The Soviets found themselves in a long, ongoing civil war between the Afghan government and fundamentalist Muslim guerrillas or mujahidin. In 1988, a United Nations mediated agreement provided for the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the establishment of a neutral state, and the repatriation of refugees. The U.S. and the Soviets pledged to serve as guarantors of the agreement but the Afghan rebels rejected it. After the Soviets left the country, the rebels and the government began a civil war and the rebels elected a government in exile. In 1990, the U.N. announced the existence of "zones of tranquility" in order to begin the voluntary repatriation of refugees, however, the rebel government opposed this plan as giving tacit approval of the Kabul government.

President Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai, who took office in 1987, faced several attempted coups. The survival of what was a Soviet-supported government surprised many people. Relations with the West had improved and the population seemed weary of the more than a decade of civil war that left two million dead and much of the country in ruins.

In April 1992, the rebels captured Kabul and ousted Najibullah, along with his communist government. A coalition of Islamic rebels assumed power and installed guerrilla leader Sibghatullah Mojaddidi as president on an interim basis for two months. In June, Islamic religious and ethnic leaders chose Burhanuddin Rabbani as interim president for several months. Rabbani was reelected in December 1992 to an 18-month term. Rabbani's election was met with violence by rebel Islamic factions.

Once the rebels took charge and established the new Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the sale and consumption of alcohol was banned and women were ordered to wear head scarves. Most of the fundamentalist rebels also believed women should not hold government office.

In 1995-96, students from religious schools in the western region of Afghanistan, the Taliban, asserted their control over Afghan society, imposing adherence to a severe reading of Islamic law. They destroyed vestiges of other forms of worship, including two 1500-year-old Buddhist statues that were blown up in Bamiyan.

Until 2001, the Taliban sought diplomatic recognition and better relations with the West. To do so, they destroyed the country's opium crop, which cut the production of heroin worldwide in half. The United States demanded the surrender of Osama bin Laden, whom it wanted for the attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, if it was to grant diplomatic status to the Taliban. The Taliban refused. The United States was able to negotiate harsh U.N. sanctions against the Taliban in December 2000, and from that time on, the Taliban further isolated themselves from the rest of the world by being increasingly hostile to the West.

Resistance fighters in Afghanistan, otherwise known as the Northern Alliance, were forced into a northeast section of the country. Two weeks prior to the September 11 attacks on the United States, the Northern Alliance's military leader, Ahmad Shah Masoud, was assassinated.

After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S.-U.K.-led coalition waged a full-scale air war against the Taliban, later followed up by the presence and fighting of special forces on the ground.

Mullah Muhammad Omar, the reclusive leader of the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden, have not been found as of June 2002.

In November 2001, delegates from four Afghan factions met in Bonn, Germany, to sign an agreement on a transitional government. A power-sharing interim cabinet led by Pashtun tribal commander Hamid Karzai was set up (which included two women), and Karzai took office on December 22.

King Muhammad Zahir Shah, who was king from 1933 until 1973, has claimed that he does not wish to restore the monarchy. However, he returned to Afghanistan from exile in Italy to preside over a Loya Jirga, or traditional gathering of tribal elders and other leaders, to be held in June 2002. Every village in Afghanistan will be consulted to put forth one or more representatives to go to regional gatherings, which will then select the 1,500 people to attend the Loya Jirga. The transitional government established by the Loya Jirga will be entrusted with the job of creating a constitution and setting the schedule for free and fair elections to be held within two years.

As the military campaign of 2001-2002 subsided, looting, rape, and ethnic killings have taken place, especially in Pashtun villages in northern Afghanistan, driving thousands of civilians from their homes.

Tribal warlords or jihadi have asserted their authority in the cities and villages of Afghanistan, establishing quasi-fiefdoms, killing many civilians and engaging in other crimes. Attempts to reassert regulation of virtues and vices have returned in some locales. One reason given for the few numbers of casualties resulting from the intense bombing of the Tora Bora mountains in December 2001, was that the U.S.-U.K.-led coalition's local "allies" at the timethe war-lordsmay have alerted al-Qaeda and former Taliban fighters in the region, giving them time to flee their caves. One warlord, taking pay from the coalition, called in U.S. fighter pilots to attack rival tribal leaders, under the guise of the convoy being that of al-Qaeda. There is widespread fear that regional fighting could become the mark of the post-Taliban era. The major cities of Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-i-Sharif are all bases for rival warlords and their militias.

Landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO), left over from the civil war of the 1990s, are more of a danger after the bombing campaign. There are approximately 50-100 victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance every week.

Arts, Science, Education

Many of Afghanistan's artistic activities are concentrated in handicrafts. The National Museum in Kabul is rich in Greek and Buddhist history. Archaeological research teams from France, Italy, Germany, the former Soviet Union, Japan, and the United States have made a number of new discoveries, but are no longer active.

In 1999, the estimated literacy rate was 31.5% of the total population--47.2% for males, and 15% for females.

Prior to the rule of the Taliban, officially compulsory education began at seven years of age, continued for eight years and was free at staterun schools. Secondary education was available at age 15 and lasted four years. Under the Taliban, girls over the age of 8 were forbidden from attending school. The type of schooling given to boys under the Taliban was based on a strict reading of Islam.

The country's main institutions of higher learning are Kabul University and the Polytechnic College, also located in the capital; the latter was built jointly with Afghan and Soviet funds. There are universities in the provinces of Nangarhar, Balkh, and Herat.

Commerce and Industry

Afghanistan is primarily an agricultural country, with about 80 percent of the population engaged in this sector of the economy. Only about 15 to 20 percent of the total land is economically useful. Some of the country's principal cash crops were wheat, rice, barley, cotton, sugar beets, sugarcane, oil seeds, and a wide variety of vegetables. Raisins, nuts, and many kinds of fruits also were produced. During the 1990s, Afghanistan's poppy production accounted for the world's largest production of opium. A program to prevent the resurgence of opium production is being financed by the United States and other Western countries.

Mineral resources consist of natural gas, coal, copper, talc, barite, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron, and salt, as well as some precious and semi-precious stones, notably marble and lapis lazuli. None of these extensive resources has been fully developed except natural gas. Other leading export commodities have been dried fruits and nuts, cotton, carpets and rugs, fresh fruits, and karakul (Persian lamb) skins. Most of Afghanistan's exports were previously sent to C.I.S., India, Germany, United Kingdom, and Belgium/Luxembourg. Imported are food, petroleum, fertilizers, basic manufactured goods, and vehicles. C.I.S. and Eastern Europe provided most of the imports.

After the Soviet military invasion, all western countries cut off development aid. Almost all aid was then provided by the Soviets and the Moscow-based Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Even after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, the West did not resume foreign aid. The United Nations-sponsored "Operation Salaam" was established to provide for relief, rehabilitation, and resettlement of Afghan refugees.

Oxfam International, which was well-established in the country prior to the 2001-2002 military campaign, has been active since then in the economic rebuilding of Afghanistan. It has urged the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to cancel their $33 million debt to the country. Afghanistan also owes $8.8 million to the International Monetary Fund. The United States and the world's other wealthiest nations are beginning a $4.5 billion aid program to rebuild Afghanistan.

The International Committee for the Red Cross, the Afghan Red Crescent Society, and various U.N. agencies are actively involved in rebuilding Afghanistan, beginning with securing emergency relief, food, potable water and sanitation, health care, and education. In addition, funds have been appropriated for orthopedic centers in Afghanistan, as there are thousands of amputees and other disabled persons, many of whom have been the victims of landmines.

Transportation

Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national carrier. Commercial flights have not yet resumed to Afghanistan. Afghanistan has no railroads. The country also has no navigable rivers.

Ninety-five percent of Afghanistan's 30,000 miles of highways have either been destroyed or badly damaged by years of warfare and neglect. Land mines are buried on the sides of many roads. The roads are hard to police: in November, four journalists were shot and killed on the road from Sarobi to Kabul. Bandits have control over traffic on the roads. The largest piece of the $4.5 billion in international aid that has been pledged to Afghanistan over the next two years, $1.2 billion, has been dedicated to rebuilding highways.

One of the world's highest tunnels is found in Afghanistan, at Salang, which links the north to the south of the country. It is a 11,000-foot-high and 1.6-mile pass through the Hindu Kush mountains, built by the Soviets in 1964. It was reopened in January 2002, after not having been open since 1997.

Communications

International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks are not operating reliably. International organizations and other entities rely on satellite telephone communications even to make local calls. There is no commercial satellite telephone service available locally. Those who wish to make domestic or international calls need to bring their own satellite telephone. Injured or distressed foreigners might face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to colleagues or family outside Afghanistan. Internet is not available through local service providers.

In January 2002, the first independent newspaper in post-Taliban Afghanistan issued its first edition. The Kabul Weekly featured articles in English, French, Dari, and Pashtun.

Health

Medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are generally unavailable, and there is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan and India are available. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country. An emergency hospital in Kabul with some Italian staff can provide limited services. There are also some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. No commercial medical evacuation capability from within Afghanistan exists.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hot-line for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov

Clothing and Services

An adequate wardrobe for hot, dry summers and cold, dry winters (as well as for brief spring and fall rainy seasons) should be brought to cover the duration of a stay here.

Winter-weight apparel is needed for December through February. Snowfalls are frequent; boots are a necessity for snow and mud conditions, and warm clothing is called for, especially wool sweaters. Excellent imported woolen materials are sold here, but the quality of tailoring varies widely.

For women, washable summer clothing is useful. Long cotton skirts, or those made from other washable fabrics, are popular in Kabul. Long wool skirts and sweaters are popular winter evening wear. Boots and warm outerwear are needed in the cold months. Coats of karakul and poshteen (suede lined in either sheared lamb or fur) can be purchased in Kabul. A good supply of shoes for all occasions should be brought into the country.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Special Note : The U.S. Department of State strongly warns against all travel to Afghanistan . The security threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan remains high.

A passport is required. The Interim Authority of Afghanistan requires American citizens to obtain a visa for entry into the country. The government has not been able to reopen all of the country's former diplomatic missions. In the interim, the government is allowing the issuance of a single entry visa to persons entering on sanctioned international relief flights at Kabul International Airport. Commercial flights have not yet resumed to Afghanistan. Information on entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Afghanistan located at 2000 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone 202-416-1620, fax 202-416-1630.

Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C. or one of Afghanistan's other diplomatic missions for specific information regarding customs requirements.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. Consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited. U.S. Embassy officials in Kabul likely will not be able to obtain official information or assistance from Afghan authorities for Americans who face difficulties in Afghanistan nor will American officials be able to travel to provide personal assistance to Americans who face problems outside of the capital.

Although the Embassy is located at Bebe Mahro (Airport) Road, Kabul, it can provide no passport or visa services. Emergency consular services to U.S. citizens who travel or remain in Afghanistan are severely limited. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, will provide most consular services to American citizens. Americans who travel to or reside in Afghanistan are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, or the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, and obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. These missions can be contacted as follows:

U.S. Embassy Islamabad, Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5, Islamabad, telephone (92-51) 2080-0000, Consular Section telephone (92-51) 2080-2700, fax (92-51) 282-2632;

U.S. Consulate Peshawar, 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar, telephone (92-91) 279-801 through 803, fax (92-91) 276-712.

Islam is the official religion of this country, and most Afghans are of the Sunni Muslim sect. Under the Taliban, Christian missionary work was considered a capital offense. As of December 2001, there were a total of two Jews in Afghanistan, Ishak Levin, and Zebulon Simentov, who have been in a feud with one another for years. They both share the only surviving synagogue in Kabul. In the late 19th century, as many as 40,000 Jews lived in Afghanistan, many of whom had fled from Persia, now Iran. By the middle of the 20th century, about 5,000 remained, but most emigrated after the creation of Israel in 1948. The Soviet invasion of 1979 drove out almost all the rest.

The time in Afghanistan is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus four.

Afghanistan's monetary unit is the afghani, comprised of 100 puls. Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is extremely limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not operable. International bank transfers are not available. No ATM machines exist.

The metric system is officially in force, but traditional methods of weights and measures also are used. The pau (15 ounces) is the unit of measure for most foods; a seer is 15.7 pounds, a kharwar 80 seers, or about 1,254 pounds; and a jerib is. 482 acres.

The U.S. Embassy was closed in January 1989, and reopened in January 2002. The Embassy is located at Bebe Mahro (Airport) Road, Kabul.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

March 8 Women's Day

March 21 Nau-roz (New Year's)

April 27 Revolution Day

*Ramadan

May 1 Workers' Day

*Id ul Fitr (end of Ramadan)

August 19 Independence Day

*Id ul Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)

*Tenth of Moharram (Death of Prophet's Grandson)

*Birth of the Prophet

August 31 Pushtoonistan Day

*Variable

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Adamec, Ludwig W. Afghanistan Foreign Affairs to the Mid-Twentieth Century: Relations with the USSR, Germany, and Britain. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974.

Area Handbook for Afghanistan. Washington, DC: American University.

Arnold, Anthony. Afghanistan, the Soviet Invasion in Perspective. Revised and enlarged edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1985.

. Afghanistan's Two Party CommunismParcham and Khalq. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1983.

Azoy, G. Whitney. Buzkashi, Game and Power in Afghanistan. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.

Bradsher, Henry S. Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1985.

Caroe, Sir Olaf. The Pathans. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1958; London: Macmillan and Company, Ltd., 1962.

Chaliand, Gerard. Report from Afghanistan. New York: Viking Press and Penguin Books, 1982.

Dupree, Louis. Afghanistan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974.

Elphinstone, Mountstuart. An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul. London: Longman, Hurst, and John Murray, 1815.

Fullerton, John. The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan. London: Methuen Press, 1984.

Gall, Sandy. Afghanistan: Agony of a Nation. London: Bodley Head, 1988.

Gregorian, Vartan. The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1969.

Kakar, H. Afghanistan: A Study in International Political Development, 1880-1896. Kabul, 1971.

Klass, Rosanne. Afghanistan: The Great Game Revisited. Rev. ed. New York: Freedom House, 1990.

Macrory, Patrick. Signal Catastrophe. London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1966. Published in the U.S. as The Fierce Pawns. Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1966.

Martin, Mike. Afghanistan, Inside a Rebel Stronghold: Journeys with the Mujahiddin. New York: Sterling Publishing Company, 1984.

Murkherjee, Sadhan. Afghanistan, from Tragedy to Triumph. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1984. (A sympathetic treatment of the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and events surrounding the 1978 coup and 1979 invasion; reflects the Soviet interpretation.)

Newby, Eric. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.

Newell, Nancy Peabody, and Richard S. Newell. The Struggle for Afghanistan. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981.

Poullada, Leon B. Reform and Rebellion in Afghanistan, 1919-29: King Amanullah's Failure to Modernize a Tribal Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973.

Urban, Mark. War in Afghanistan. London: Macmillan Press, 1988.

Van Dyk, Jere. In Afghanistan: An American Odyssey. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983.

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Country statistics

area:

652,090sq km (251,773sq mi) 24,405,000

capital (population):

Kabul (2,454,000)

government:

Interim administration

ethnic groups:

Pathan (Pushtun) 52%, Tajik 20%, Uzbek 9%, Hazara 9%, Chahar 3%, Turkmen 2%, Baluchi 1%

languages:

Pashto, Dari (Persian) – both official

religions:

Islam (Sunni Muslim 85%, Shiite Muslim 15%)

currency:

Afghani = 100 puls

Landlocked republic in s central Asia.

Afghanistan is bordered by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, Pakistan, and Iran. The central highlands make up nearly 75% of total land area and, in the e, reach a height of more than 7600m (25,000ft). The capital, Kabul, lies in the foothills of the main range, the Hindu Kush. The River Kabul flows e to the Khyber Pass border with Pakistan. Southern Afghanistan is mainly lowland, with vast stretches of desert in the sw.

Climate and Vegetation

Afghanistan's altitude and remote position have a great effect on its climate. In winter, northerly winds bring extremely cold weather to the highlands. Summers are hot and dry. Southern Afghanistan has lower rainfall and higher average temperatures. Grassland covers much of the n, while the vegetation in the dry s is sparse. Forests of conifers grow on the mountain slopes.

History

Afghanistan's location on the overland routes between Iran, the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia has invited numerous invasions. Its rugged terrain, however, helped to repulse many of these attacks. In ancient times, Afghanistan was invaded successively by Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, and warrior armies from central Asia. Buddhism was introduced in the 2nd century bc, while Arab armies brought Islam in the late 7th century. Shah Nadir extended Persian rule to encompass most of Afghanistan. His successor, Ahmad Durrani, founded the Durrani dynasty and established the first unified state in 1747. In 1818 the dynasty died, and Russia and Britain competed for control. Russia wanted an outlet to the Indian Ocean, while Britain sought to protect its Indian territories. The first Afghan War (1838–42) was inconclusive. The second Afghan War (1878–80) ended with the accession of Abd ar-Rahman as Emir. The Anglo-Russian Agreement (1907) recognized the dominance of British interests.

In 1919, after the Third Afghan War, Afghanistan regained its independence under Amanullah. In 1933 Muhammad Zahir became shah. In 1964 Zahir introduced a constitutional monarchy. The status of Pathans in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan caused conflict between the two states. In 1973 an army coup overthrew Zahir and established a republic. In 1978 a Marxist coup, backed by the Soviet Union, deposed the military regime. Government-backed Soviet troops and Mujaheddin guerrillas, supplied by the USA, fought the costly Afghanistan War (1979–89). In 1988–89 Soviet forces withdrew, but the civil war raged on and 2.6 million Afghanis remained in exile, mainly in Iran and Pakistan. In 1992 Mujaheddin forces captured Kabul and Burhanuddin Rabbani became president. In 1996 the fundamentalist Taliban seized Kabul and overthrew Rabbani. By 1998, Taliban forces controlled 90% of Afghanistan. The United Nations (UN) called for an end to the Taliban's systematic violations of human rights, such as its discrimination against women. In 1998, the USA launched missile strikes against suspected bases of Osama bin Laden, head of al-Qaeda. In March 2001, the Taliban destroyed giant Buddha statues at Bamiyan. In October 2001, the USA and Britain launched air strikes against Afghanistan after the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden, who was held responsible for the terrorist attacks on the USA on September 11, 2001. In December 2001, opposition forces captured Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold, and Hamid Karzai formed an interim government. In 2002, more than 1000 people died in an earthquake in n Afghanistan.

Economy

Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries (2000 GDP per capita US$800). Agriculture employs c.60% of the workforce. Most highland farming is semi-nomadic herding. Wheat is the chief crop of the sedentary farming in the valleys. Afghanistan has many mineral deposits, but most are undeveloped. Natural gas is produced, together with coal, copper, gold, and salt. Main exports are karakul skins, cotton, fruit, and nuts.

Political map

Physical map


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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the December 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 647,500 sq. km. (249,935 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.

Cities: Capital—Kabul (1,780,000; 1999/2000 UN est.). Other cities (1988 UN est.; current figures are probably significantly higher)—Kandahar (226,000); Herat (177,000); Mazar-e-Sharif (131,000); Jalalabad (58,000); Konduz (57,000).

Terrain: Landlocked; mostly mountains and desert.

Climate: Dry, with cold winters and hot summers.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Afghan(s).

Population: 31,056,997 (June 2006 est.). More than 3.5 million Afghans live outside the country, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, although over 5 million have returned since the removal of the Taliban.

Annual population growth rate: (2006 est.) 2.67%. Main ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Aimaq, Baluch,Nuristani, Kizilbash.

Religions: Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi’a Muslim 19%, other 1%.

Languages: Dari (Afghan Persian), Pashto.

Education: Approximately 6 million children, of whom some 40% are girls, enrolled in school during 2007. Literacy (2001 est.)—36% (male 51%, female 21%), but real figures may be lower given breakdown of education system and flight of educated Afghans during three decades of war and instability.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2004 est.)—165.96 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2004 est.)— 42.27 yrs. (male); 42.66 yrs. (female).

Government

Type: Islamic Republic.

Independence: August 19, 1919.

Constitution: January 4, 2004.

Government branches: Executive—president (chief of state). Legislative—bicameral National Assembly (House of the People—249 seats, House of the Elders—102 seats). Judicial—Supreme Court, High Courts, and Appeals Courts.

Political subdivisions: 34 provinces.

Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.

Economy

GDP: (2007 est.) $8.4 billion.

GDP growth: (2007 est.) 13%.

GDP per capita: (2007 est.) $300.

Natural resources: Natural gas, oil, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.

Agriculture: (estimated 52% of GDP) Products—wheat, corn, barley, rice, cotton, fruit, nuts, karakul pelts, wool, and mutton.

Industry: (estimated 26% of GDP) Types—small-scale production for domestic use of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; hand-woven carpets for export; natural gas, precious and semiprecious gemstones.

Services: (estimated 22% of GDP) Transport, retail, and telecommunications.

Trade: (2002-03 est.) Exports—$100 million (does not include opium) fruits and nuts, hand-woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semiprecious gems. Major markets—Central Asian republics, United States, Pakistan, India. Imports—$2.3 billion: food, petroleum products, machinery, and consumer goods. Major suppliers—Central Asian republics, Pakistan, United States, India.

Currency: The currency is the afghani, which was reintroduced as Afghanistan's new currency in January 2003. At present, $1 U.S. equals approximately 50 afghanis.

PEOPLE

Afghanistan's ethnically and linguistically mixed population reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South and Southwest Asia. While population data is somewhat unreliable for Afghanistan, Pashtuns make up the largest ethnic group at 38-44% of the population, followed by Tajiks (25%), Hazaras (10%), Uzbek (6-8%), Aimaq, Turkmen, Baluch, and other small groups. Dari (Afghan Farsi) and Pashto are official languages. Dari is spoken by more than one-third of the population as a first language and serves as a lingua franca for most Afghans, though Pashto is spoken throughout the Pashtun areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan. Tajik and Turkic languages are spoken widely in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. An estimated 80% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; the remainder of the population—and primarily the Haz-ara ethnic group— predominantly Shi’a. Despite attempts during the years of communist rule to secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In fact, Islam served as a principal basis for expressing opposition to communism and the Soviet invasion. Islamic religious tradition and codes, together with traditional tribal and ethnic practices, have an important role in personal conduct and dispute settlement. Afghan society is largely based on kinship groups, which follow traditional customs and religious practices, though somewhat less so in urban areas.

HISTORY

Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent history. In 328 BC, Alexander the Great entered the territory of present-day Afghanistan, then part of the Persian Empire, and established a Hellenistic state in Bactria (present-day Balkh). Invasions by the Scythians, White Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries. In AD 642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced Islam. Arab rule gave way to the Persians, who controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998. Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) consolidated the conquests of his predecessors and turned Ghazni into a great cultural center as well as a base for frequent forays into India. Following Mahmud's short-lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule sections of the country until the destructive Mongol invasion of 1219 led by Genghis Khan.

Following Genghis Khan's death in 1227, a succession of petty chiefs and princes struggled for supremacy until late in the 14th century, when one of his descendants, Tamerlane, incorporated Afghanistan into his own vast Asian empire. Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane and the founder of India's Moghul dynasty at the beginning of the 16th century, made Kabul the capital of an Afghan principality.

In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of what is known today as Afghanistan, established his rule. A Pashtun, Durrani was elected king by a tribal council after the assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir Shah at Khabushan in the same year. Throughout his reign, Durrani consolidated chieftainships, petty principalities, and fragmented provinces into one country. His rule extended from Mashad in the west to Kashmir and Delhi in the east, and from the Amu Darya (Oxus) River in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.

European Influence

During the 19th century, collision between the expanding British Empire in the subcontinent and czarist Russia significantly influenced Afghanistan in what was termed “The Great Game.” British concern over Russian advances in Central Asia and growing influence in Persia precipitated two Anglo-Afghan wars. The first (1839-42) resulted not only in the destruction of a British army, but is remembered today as an example of the ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule. The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-80) was sparked by Amir Sher Ali's refusal to accept a British mission in Kabul. This conflict brought Amir Abdur Rahman to the Afghan throne. During his reign (1880-1901), the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan through the demarcation of the Durand Line. The British retained effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs.

Afghanistan remained neutral during World War I, despite German encouragement of anti-British feelings and Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India. The Afghan king's policy of neutrality was not universally popular within the country, however.

Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son and successor, was assassinated in 1919, possibly by family members opposed to British influence. His third son, Amanullah, regained control of Afghanistan's foreign policy after launching the third Anglo-Afghan war with an attack on India in the same year. During the ensuing conflict, the war-weary British relinquished their control over Afghan foreign affairs by signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1919. In commemoration of this event, Afghans celebrate August 19 as their Independence Day.

Reform and Reaction

King Amanullah (1919-29) moved to end his country's traditional isolation in the years following the third Anglo-Afghan war. He established diplomatic relations with most major countries and—following a 1927 tour of Europe and Turkey during which he noted the modernization and secularization advanced by Ataturk—introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. Some of these, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil 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 was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to forces led by Bacha-i-Saqao, a Tajik brigand. Prince Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah's, in turn

defeated Bacha-i-Saqao in October of the same year and, with considerable Pashtun tribal support, was declared King Nadir Shah. Four years later, however, he was assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.

Mohammad Zahir Shah, Nadir Khan's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal constitution providing for a two-chamber legislature to which the king appointed one-third of the deputies. The people elected another third, and the remainder were selected indirectly by provincial assemblies. Although Zahir's “experiment in democracy” produced few lasting reforms, it permitted the growth of unofficial extremist parties on both the left and the right. These included the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which had close ideological ties to the Soviet Union. In 1967, the PDPA split into two major rival factions: the Khalq (Masses) faction headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and supported by elements within the military, and the Parcham (Banner) faction led by Babrak Karmal. The split reflected ethnic, class, and ideological divisions within Afghan society. Zahir's cousin, Sardar Mohammad Daoud, served as his Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Daoud solicited military and economic assistance from both Washington and Moscow and introduced controversial social policies of a reformist nature. Daoud's alleged support for the creation of a Pashtun state in the Pakistan-Afghan border area heightened tensions with Pakistan and eventually resulted in Daoud's dismissal in March 1963.

Daoud's Republic (1973-78) and the April 1978 Coup

Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and poor economic conditions created by the severe 1971-72 drought, former Prime Minister Daoud seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973. Zahir Shah fled the country, eventually finding refuge in Italy. Daoud abolished the monarchy, abrogated the 1964 constitution, and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as its first President and Prime Minister. His attempts to carry out badly needed economic and social reforms met with little success, and the new constitution promulgated in February 1977 failed to quell chronic political instability. Seeking to exploit more effectively mounting popular disaffection, the PDPA reunified with Moscow's support. On April 27, 1978, the PDPA initiated a bloody coup, which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Daoud and most of his family. Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Opposition to the Marxist government emerged almost immediately. During its first 18 months of rule, the PDPA brutally imposed a Marxist-style “reform” program, which ran counter to deeply rooted Afghan traditions. Decrees forcing changes in marriage customs and pushing through an ill-conceived land reform were resisted by virtually all Afghans. In addition, thousands of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the intelligentsia were imprisoned, tortured, or murdered. Conflicts within the PDPA also surfaced early and resulted in exiles, purges, imprisonments, and executions.

By the summer of 1978, a revolt began in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan and quickly spread into a countrywide insurgency. In September 1979, Hafizullah Amin, who had earlier been Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, seized power from Taraki after a palace shootout. Over the next 2 months, instability plagued Amin's regime as he moved against perceived enemies in the PDPA. By December, party morale was crumbling, and the insurgency was growing.

The Soviet Invasion

The Soviet Union moved quickly to take advantage of the April 1978 coup. In December 1978, Moscow signed a new bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan, and the Soviet military assistance program increased significantly. The regime's survival increasingly was dependent upon Soviet military equipment and advisers as the insurgency spread and the Afghan army began to collapse.

By October 1979, however, relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union were tense as Hafizullah Amin refused to take Soviet advice on how to stabilize and consolidate his government. Faced with a deteriorating security situation, on December 24, 1979, large numbers of Soviet airborne forces, joining thousands of Soviet troops already on the ground, began to land in Kabul under the pretext of a field exercise. On December 26, these invasion forces killed Hafizullah Amin and installed Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction, bringing him back from Czechoslovakia and making him Prime Minister. Massive Soviet ground forces invaded from the north on December 27.

Following the invasion, the Karmal regime, although backed by an expeditionary force that grew as large as 120,000 Soviet troops, was unable to establish authority outside Kabul. As much as 80% of the countryside, including parts of Herat and Kanda-har, eluded effective government control. An overwhelming majority of Afghans opposed the communist regime, either actively or passively. Afghan freedom fighters (mujahidin) made it almost impossible for the regime to maintain a system of local government outside major urban centers. Poorly armed at first, in 1984 the mujahidin began receiving substantial assistance in the form of weapons and training from the U.S. and other outside powers.

In May 1985, the seven principal Peshawar-based guerrilla organizations formed an alliance to coordinate their political and military operations against the Soviet occupation. Late in 1985, the mujahidin were active in and around Kabul, launching rocket attacks and conducting operations against the communist government. The failure of the Soviet Union to win over a significant number of Afghan collaborators or to rebuild a viable Afghan army forced it to bear an increasing responsibility for fighting the resistance and for civilian administration.

Soviet and popular displeasure with the Karmal regime led to its demise in May 1986. Karmal was replaced by Muhammad Najibullah, former chief of the Afghan secret police (KHAD). Najibullah had established a reputation for brutal efficiency during his tenure as KHAD chief. As Prime Minister, Najibullah was ineffective and highly dependent on Soviet support. Undercut by deep-seated divisions within the PDPA, regime efforts to broaden its base of support proved futile.

The Geneva Accords and Their Aftermath

By the mid-1980s, the tenacious Afghan resistance movement—aided by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others—was exacting a high price from the Soviets, both militarily within Afghanistan and by souring the U.S.S.R.'s relations with much of the Western and Islamic world. Informal negotiations for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had been underway since 1982. In 1988, the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the United States and Soviet Union serving as guarantors, signed an agreement settling the major differences between them. The agreement, known as the Geneva accords, included five major documents, which, among other things, called for U.S. and Soviet noninterference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the right of refugees to return to Afghanistan without fear of persecution or harassment, and, most importantly, a timetable that ensured full Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. About 14,500 Soviet and an estimated one million Afghan lives were lost between 1979 and the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Significantly, the mujahidin were party neither to the negotiations nor to the 1988 agreement and, consequently, refused to accept the terms of the accords. As a result, the civil war continued after the Soviet withdrawal, which was completed in February 1989.

Najibullah's regime, though failing to win popular support, territory, or international recognition, was able to remain in power until 1992 but collapsed after the defection of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostam and his Uzbek militia in March. However, when the victorious mujahidin entered Kabul to assume control over the city and the central government, a new round of internecine fighting began between the various militias, which had coexisted only uneasily during the Soviet occupation. With the demise of their common enemy, the militias’ ethnic, clan, religious, and personality differences surfaced, and the civil war continued.

Seeking to resolve these differences, the leaders of the Peshawar-based mujahidin groups established an interim Islamic Jihad Council in mid-April 1992 to assume power in Kabul. Moderate leader Prof. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was to chair the council for 2 months, after which a 10-member leadership council composed of mujahidin leaders and presided over by the head of the Jamiat-i-Islami, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, was to be set up for 4 months. During this 6-month period, a Loya Jirga, or grand council of Afghan elders and notables, would convene and designate an interim administration which would hold power up to a year, pending elections.

But in May 1992, Rabbani prematurely formed the leadership council, undermining Mojaddedi's fragile authority. In June, Mojaddedi surrendered power to the Leadership Council, which then elected Rabbani as President. Nonetheless, heavy fighting broke out in August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions, particularly those who supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami. After Rabbani extended his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the capital flared up in January and February 1993. The Islamabad Accord, signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar as Prime Minister, failed to have a lasting effect. A follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad Accord, called for the militias to be disarmed but was never fully implemented. Through 1993, Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces, allied with the Shi’a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed intermittently with Rabbani and Masood's Jamiat forces. Cooperating with Jamiat were militants of Sayyaf's Ittehad-i-Islami and, periodically, troops loyal to ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam. On January 1, 1994, Dostam switched sides, precipitating large-scale fighting in Kabul and in northern provinces, which caused thousands of civilian casualties in Kabul and elsewhere and created a new wave of displaced persons and refugees. The country sank even further into anarchy, forces loyal to Rabbani and Masood, both ethnic Tajiks, controlled Kabul and much of the northeast, while local warlords exerted power over the rest of the country.

Rise and Fall of the Taliban

The Taliban had risen to power in the mid 90's in reaction to the anarchy and warlordism that arose after the withdrawal of Soviet forces. Many Taliban had been educated in madrassas in Pakistan and were largely from rural southern Pashtun backgrounds. In 1994, the Taliban developed enough strength to capture the city of Kandahar from a local warlord and proceeded to expand its control throughout Afghanistan, occupying Kabul in September 1996. By the end of 1998, the Taliban occupied about 90% of the country, limiting the opposition largely to a small mostly Tajik corner in the northeast and the Panjshir valley.

The Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam—based upon the rural Pashtun tribal code—on the entire country and committed massive human rights violations, particularly directed against women and girls. The Taliban also committed serious atrocities against minority populations, particularly the Shi’a Hazara ethnic group, and killed noncombatants in several well-documented instances. In 2001, as part of a drive against relics of Afghanistan's pre-Islamic past, the Taliban destroyed two huge Buddha statues carved into a cliff face outside of the city of Bamiyan.

From the mid-1990s the Taliban provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national who had fought with the mujahideen resistance against the Soviets, and provided a base for his and other terrorist organizations. Bin Laden provided both financial and political support to the Taliban. Bin Laden and his Al-Qaida group were charged with the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, and in August 1998 the United States launched a cruise missile attack against bin Laden's terrorist camp in southeastern Afghanistan. Bin Laden and Al-Qaida have acknowledged their responsibility for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Following the Taliban's repeated refusal to expel bin Laden and his group and end its support for international terrorism, the U.S. and its partners in the anti-terrorist coalition began a military campaign on October 7, 2001, targeting terrorist facilities and various Taliban military and political assets within Afghanistan. Under pressure from U.S. military and anti-Taliban forces, the Taliban disintegrated rapidly, and Kabul fell on November 13, 2001.

Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban met at a United Nations-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany in December 2001 and agreed to restore stability and governance to Afghanistan—creating an interim government and establishing a process to move toward a permanent government. Under the “Bonn Agreement,” an Afghan Interim Authority was formed and took office in Kabul on December 22, 2001 with Hamid Karzai as Chairman. The Interim Authority held power for approximately 6 months while preparing for a nationwide “Loya Jirga” (Grand Council) in mid-June 2002 that decided on the structure of a Transitional Authority. The Transitional Authority, headed by President Hamid Karzai, renamed the government as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). One of the TISA's primary achievements was the drafting of a constitution that was ratified by a Constitutional Loya Jirga on January 4, 2004.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On October 9, 2004, Afghanistan held its first national democratic presidential election. More than 8 million Afghans voted, 41% of whom were women. Hamid Karzai was announced as the official winner on November 3 and inaugurated on December 7 for a five-year term as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president. On December 23, 2004, President Karzai announced new cabinet appointments, naming three women as ministers.

An election was held on September 18, 2005 for the “Wolesi Jirga” (lower house) of Afghanistan's new bicameral National Assembly and for the country's 34 provincial councils. Turnout for the election was about 53% of the 12.5 million registered voters. The Afghan constitution provides for indirect election of the National Assembly's “Meshrano Jirga” (upper house) by the provincial councils and by reserved presidential appointments. The first democratically elected National Assembly since 1969 was inaugurated on December 19, 2005. Younus Qanooni and Sigbatullah Mojadeddi were elected Speakers of the Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga, respectively.

The government's authority is growing, although its ability to deliver necessary social services remains largely dependent on funds from the international donor community. Between 2001-2006, the United States committed over $12 billion to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. At an international donors’ conference in Berlin in April 2004, donors pledged a total of $8.2 billion for Afghan reconstruction over the three-year period 2004-2007. At the end of January 2006, the international community gathered in London and renewed its political and reconstruction support for Afghanistan in the form of the Afghanistan Compact.

With international community support, including more than 40 countries participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the government's capacity to secure Afghanistan's borders to maintain internal order is increasing. Responsibility for security for all of Afghanistan was transferred to ISAF in October 2006. As of November 2007, some 70,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers had been trained along with some 79,000 police, including border and highway police. Reform of the army and police, to include training, is an extensive and ongoing process, and the U.S. is working with NATO and international partners to further develop Afghanistan's National Security Forces.

Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) has also helped to further establish the authority of the Afghan central government. The DDR program, after receiving 63,000 military personnel, stopped accepting additional candidates in June 2005. Disarmament and demobilization of all of these candidates were completed at the end of June 2006. A follow-on program targeting illegal militias, the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG), was begun in 2005, under the joint auspices of Japan and the United Nations. The DIAG program is still ongoing.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Hamid KARZAI

Vice Pres.: Ahmad Zia MASOOD

Vice Pres.: Abdul Karim KHALILI

Min. of Agriculture: Obaidullah RAMIN

Min. of Border & Tribal Affairs: Mohammad Karim BRAHAWI

Min. of Commerce & Industry: Mohammad Amin FARHANG

Min. of Communications: Amirzai SANGIN

Min. of Counternarcotics (Acting): KHODAIDAD, Gen.

Min. of Defense: Abdul Rahim WARDAK

Min. of Economy: Mohammad Jalil SHAMS

Min. of Education: Mohammad Hanif ATMAR

Min. of Energy & Water: Ismail KHAN

Min. of Finance: Anwar Ul-Haq AHADY

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Rangin Dadfar SPANTA

Min. of Hajj & Islamic Affairs: Niamatullah SHAHRANI

Min. of Health: Sayed Mohammad Amin FATEMI

Min. of Higher Education: Mohammad Azam DADFAR

Min. of Interior: Ahmad Moqbel ZARAR

Min. of Justice: Mohammad SarwaDANESH

Min. of Martyrs, Disabled, & Social Affairs: Nur Mohammad QARQIN

Min. of Mines & Industries: Ibrahim ADEL

Min. of Public Works: Surab Ali SAFARI

Min. of Refugees & Repatriation: Sher Mohammad ETEBARI

Min. of Rural Development: Ehsan ZIA

Min. of Transportation: Niamatullah Ehsan JAWID

Min. of Urban Development: Yousef PASHTUN

Min. of Women's Affairs: Hasan Bano GHAZANFAR

Min. of Youth & Culture: Abdul Karim KHURAM

National Security Adviser: Zalmay RASSOUL, Dr.

Governor, Central Bank: Abdul Qadir FITRAT

Ambassador to the US: Said Tayeb JAWAD

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Zahir TANIN

Afghanistan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-483-6410; email: [email protected]).

ECONOMY

In the 1930s, Afghanistan embarked on a modest economic development program. The government founded banks; introduced paper money; established a university; expanded primary, secondary, and technical schools; and sent students abroad for education.

Historically, there has been a dearth of information and reliable statistics about Afghanistan's economy. The 1979 Soviet invasion and ensuing civil war destroyed much of the country's limited infrastructure and disrupted normal patterns of economic activity. Gross domestic product had fallen substantially because of loss of labor and capital and disruption of trade and transport. Continuing internal strife hampered both domestic efforts at reconstruction as well as international aid efforts. However, Afghanistan's economy has grown at a fast pace since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, albeit from a low base. In 2004, Afghanistan's GDP grew 17%, and in 2005 Afghanistan's GDP grew 14%. A 2006 drought dropped growth to 5.3%. In 2007, growth is expected to be 13%. In June 2006, Afghanistan and the International Monetary Fund agreed on a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program for 2006-2009 that focuses on maintaining macroeconomic stability, boosting growth, and reducing poverty. Afghanistan is also rebuilding its banking infrastructure through the Da Afghanistan National Bank. Several government-owned banks are also in the process of being privatized.

Agriculture

The main source of income in the country is agriculture, and in the past, Afghanistan produced enough food and food products to provide for the people, as well as to create a surplus for export. The major food crops produced are: corn, rice, barley, wheat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. In Afghanistan, industry is also based on agriculture, and pastoral raw materials. The major industrial crops are: cotton, tobacco, madder, castor beans, and sugar beets. The Afghan economy continues to be overwhelmingly agricultural, despite the fact that only 12% of its total land area is arable and less than 6% currently is cultivated. Agricultural production is constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water; irrigation is primitive. Relatively little use is made of machines, chemical fertilizer, or pesticides. Overall agricultural production dramatically declined following severe drought as well as sustained fighting, instability in rural areas, and deteriorated infrastructure. The easing of the drought and the end of civil war produced the largest wheat harvest in 25 years during 2003. Wheat production was an estimated 58% higher than in 2002. However, the country still needs to import an estimated one million tons of wheat to meet its requirements. Millions of Afghans, particularly in rural areas, remain dependent on food aid.

Opium has become a ready source of cash for many Afghans, especially following the breakdown in central authority after the Soviet withdrawal, and opium-derived revenues probably constituted a major source of income for the two main factions during the civil war in the 1990s. Opium is easy to cultivate and transport. Afghanistan produced a record opium poppy crop in 2007, supplying 93% of the world's opium. Much of Afghanistan's opium production is refined into heroin and is either consumed by a growing regional addict population or exported, primarily to Western Europe.

Afghanistan has begun counter-narcotics programs, including the promotion of alternative livelihoods, public information campaigns, targeted eradication policies, interdiction of drug shipments, as well as law enforcement and justice reform programs. These programs were first implemented in late 2005. In August 2007, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that the Afghan Government eradicated over 19,000 hectares of opium poppy, representing only 9.9% of the area under poppy cultivation.

Trade and Industry

Afghanistan is endowed with natural resources, including extensive deposits of natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, and precious and semiprecious stones. Unfortunately, ongoing instability in certain areas of the country, remote and rugged terrain, and an inadequate infrastructure and transportation network have made mining these resources difficult, and there have been few serious attempts to further explore or exploit them. The first significant investment in the mining sector is expected to commence in 2008, for the development of the Aynak cooper deposit in east-central Afghanistan. This project tender, awarded to a Chinese firm and valued at over $2.5 billion, is the largest international investment in Afghanistan to date. The Ministry of Mines also plans to move forward with oil, gas, and possibly iron ore tenders in 2008.

The most important resource has been natural gas, first tapped in 1967. At their peak during the 1980s, natural gas sales accounted for $300 million a year in export revenues (56% of the total). Ninety percent of these exports went to the Soviet Union to pay for imports and debts. However, during the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, Afghanistan's natural gas fields were capped to prevent sabotage by the mujahidin.

Restoration of gas production has been hampered by internal strife and the disruption of traditional trading relationships following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The government expects to pass a hydrocarbons law, developed with donor assistance, to regulate future exploration and development of Afghanistan's oil and gas fields.

With the law in place, Afghanistan hopes to begin using natural gas to produce electricity. Trade in smuggled goods into Pakistan once constituted a major source of revenue for Afghan regimes, including the Taliban, and still figures as an important element in the Afghan economy, although efforts are underway to formalize this trade and remove non-tariff barriers limiting its expansion.

Transportation

In the 1960s, the United States helped build a highway connecting Afghanistan's two largest cities. It began in Kabul and wound its way through five of the country's core provinces—skirting scores of isolated and otherwise inaccessible villages; passing through the ancient market city of Ghazni; descending through Qalat; and eventually reaching Kandahar, founded by Alexander the Great. More than 35% of the country's population lives within 50 kilometers of this highway, called, appropriately, modern Afghanistan's lifeline.

In 1978, the Soviet Union invaded and, after more than two decades of war, the Kabul-Kandahar highway was devastated, like much of the country's infrastructure. Little could move along the lifeline that had provided so many Afghans with their means of livelihood and their access to healthcare, education, markets, and places of worship.

Restoration of the highway has been an overriding priority of President Hamid Karzai. It is crucial to extending the influence of the new government. Without the highway link, Afghanistan's civil society and economy would remain moribund and prey to divisive forces. The economic development that the highway makes possible will help guarantee the unity and long-term security of the Afghan people. The restored highway is a visually impressive achievement whose symbolic importance should not be underestimated. It marks a palpable transition from the recent past and represents an important building block for the future. An official in Herat likened the ring road to veins and arteries that nourish and bring life to the “heart” of Kabul and the body of the country. The highway will not end in Kandahar: there are plans to complete the circuit, extending it to Herat and then arcing it back through Mazar-e-Sharif to Kabul. The route is sometimes referred to as the Ring Road. As of December 2006, 100% of the Ring Road had been funded, with plans for completion in 2009.

Landlocked Afghanistan has no functioning railways, but the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, which forms part of Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, has barge traffic. During their occupation of the country, the Soviets completed a bridge across the Amu Darya. The bridge, reconstructed with U.S. assistance, reopened in 2007 and has opened vital trade routes between Afghanistan and its neighbors.

Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana, operates domestic and international routes, including flights to New Delhi, Islamabad, Dubai, Moscow, Istanbul, and Tehran. Civil aviation has been expanding rapidly and several private airlines now offer an alternative to Ariana and operate a domestic and international route network. The first, Kam Air, commenced domestic operations in November 2003. Many sections of Afghanistan's highway and regional road system are undergoing significant reconstruction, many with substantial U.S. assistance. The Asian Development Bank is also active in road development projects, mainly in the border areas with Pakistan.

Humanitarian Relief

Many nations have assisted in a great variety of humanitarian and development projects all across Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other international agencies have also given aid. Schools, clinics, water systems, agriculture, sanitation, government buildings and roads are being repaired or built.

De-mining

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world; an estimated 200,000 Afghans have been disabled by the explosive remnants of war (ERW). Between March 2006 and March 2007 an average 62 civilians were injured each month. As of March 2007 the United Nations Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA), responsible for demining in Afghanistan, employed approximately 8,500 Afghan personnel through funding and oversight of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deployed throughout the country. With Afghanistan Government support, and in line with its Ottawa Convention commitments, MAPA has destroyed Afghanistan's known stockpile of landmines and strives to make Afghanistan mine-free by 2013. Since 1989, MAPA has cleared about 1.2 billion square meters of land and destroyed millions of ERW, including over 300,000 antipersonnel landmines. Training programs are also provided to educate the public about the threat and dangers of ERW. These combined efforts have reduced ERW victims by over 50% in the past six years. The United States remains the leading single donor for Afghanistan's humanitarian demining efforts.

Refugees and Internally Displaced People

Afghanistan has had the largest refugee repatriation in the world in the last 30 years. The return of refugees is guided by the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MORR) and supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization of Migration (IOM), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and a number of other national and international NGOs and donors. As of December 2007, approximately 3.5 million Afghans remained in neighboring countries. The U.S. provided more than $447.5 million in support to Afghan refugees, returnees, and other conflict victims between September 2001 and December 2007.

Health

In response to a strategy outlined by the Ministry of Health, the international community is supporting the government in rebuilding the primary health-care system. Tuberculosis remains a serious public health problem in Afghanistan. Since this strategy was outlined, the Afghan Government with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) has established 162 health facilities in 141 districts across the country. The treatment success rate in 2002 was 86%. WHO is also assisting the Ministry of Health and local health authorities to combat malaria where the disease is widespread. Through this project, 600,000 individuals are receiving full treatment for malaria every year. In addition 750,000 individuals are protected from malaria by sleeping under special nets provided under the project.

Education

There were 45,000 children enrolled in school in 1993; 19% were girls. The latest official statistics show there are now approximately 6 million children in school, 40% are girls. In addition 29% of the teachers in the provinces are women, compared with 15% in 1993. The total enrollment rate for Afghan children between 7 and 13 years of age has increased to 54% (67% for boys and 37% for girls). A number of factors such as distance to schools, poor facilities and lack of traditionally-preferred separate schooling for boys and girls continue to be challenges to higher enrollment.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan pursued a policy of neutrality and nonalignment in its foreign relations. After the December 1979 invasion, Afghanistan's foreign policy mirrored that of the Soviet Union. Most Western countries, including the United States, maintained small diplomatic missions in Kabul during the Soviet occupation. Repeated Taliban efforts to occupy Afghanistan's seat at the UN and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were unsuccessful.

The fall of the Taliban in October 2001 opened a new chapter in Afghanistan's foreign relations. Afghanistan is now an active member of the international community, and has diplomatic relations with countries from around the world. In December 2002, the six nations that border Afghanistan signed a 'Good Neighbor’ Declaration, in which they pledged to respect Afghanistan's independence and territorial integrity. In 2005 Afghanistan and its South Asia neighbors held the first annual Regional Economic Cooperation Conference (RECC) promoting intra-regional relations and economic cooperation.

Pakistan

The 1978 Marxist coup strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan took the lead diplomatically in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in opposing the Soviet occupation. During the war against the Soviet occupation, Pakistan served as the primary logistical conduit for the Afghan resistance. Pakistan initially developed close ties to the Taliban regime, and extended recognition in 1997. Pakistan dramatically altered its policy in support of coalition efforts to remove the Taliban after September 11, 2001. Afghanistan and Pakistan are engaged in dialogue to resolve bilateral friction. Pakistan is also seeking to repatriate its Afghan refugee population, which is concentrated mostly in the Northwestern Frontier Province.

Iran

Afghanistan's relations with Iran have fluctuated over the years, with periodic disputes over the water rights of the Helmand River as the main issue of contention. Following the Soviet invasion, which Iran opposed, relations deteriorated. Iran supported the cause of the Afghan resistance and provided financial and military assistance to rebel leaders who pledged loyalty to the Iranian vision of Islamic revolution. Following the emergence of the Taliban and their harsh treatment of Afghanistan's Shi'a minority, Iran stepped up assistance to the Northern Alliance. Relations with the Taliban deteriorated further in 1998 after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif and executed Iranian diplomats. Since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's relations with Iran have improved, but they suffered a setback in spring 2007 with the mass deportations of undocumented Afghans from Iran. Iran has been active in Afghan reconstruction efforts, particularly in the western portion of the country.

Russia

During the reign of the Taliban, Russia became increasingly disenchanted over the Taliban's support for Chechen rebels and its provision of sanctuary to terrorist groups active in Central Asia and in Russia itself. Moscow provided military assistance to the Northern Alliance. Since the fall of the Taliban, the Karzai government has improved relations with Russia, but Afghanistan's outstanding foreign debt to Russia still continues to be a source of contention.

Tajikistan

Afghanistan's relations with Tajikistan have been complicated by political upheaval and civil war in Tajikistan, which spurred some 100,000 Tajiks to seek refuge in Afghanistan in late 1992 and early 1993. Also disenchanted by the Taliban's harsh treatment of Afghanistan's Tajik minority, Tajikistan facilitated assistance to the Northern Alliance. The Karzai government has sought to establish closer ties with its northern neighbor in order to capitalize on the potential economic benefits of increased trade. The 2007 opening of a U.S.-funded bridge across the Amu Darya river has facilitated bilateral trade flows between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

UN Efforts

The United Nations was instrumental in obtaining a negotiated Soviet withdrawal under the terms of the 1988 Geneva Accords. In the aftermath of the Accords, the United Nations assisted in the repatriation of refugees and provided humanitarian aid such as food, shelter, health care, educational programs, and support for mine-clearing operations. From 1990-2001, the UN worked to promote a peaceful settlement between the Afghan factions as well as provide humanitarian aid. Since October 2001, the UN has played a key role in Afghanistan through the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), including spearheading efforts to organize the Afghan presidential elections held in October 2004 and National Assembly elections held in 2005.

U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONS

The first extensive American contact with Afghanistan was made by Josiah Harlan, an adventurer from Pennsylvania who was an adviser in Afghan politics in the 1830s and reputedly inspired Rudyard Kipling's story "The Man Who Would be King."After the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1934, the U.S. policy of helping developing nations raise their standard of living was an important factor in maintaining and improving U.S.-Afghan ties. From 1950 to 1979, U.S. foreign assistance provided Afghanistan with more than $500 million in loans, grants, and surplus agricultural commodities to develop transportation facilities, increase agricultural production, expand the educational system, stimulate industry, and improve government administration.

In the 1950s, the U.S. declined Afghanistan's request for defense cooperation but extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan's physical infrastructure—roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy. The Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979.

After the April 1978 coup, relations deteriorated. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnapers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the December 1979 Soviet invasion.

Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghans in need. This cross-border humanitarian assistance program aimed to increase Afghan self-sufficiency and help Afghans resist Soviet attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated countryside. During the period of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion in military and economic assistance to Afghans and the resistance movement.

The U.S. supported the emergence of a broad-based government, representative of all Afghans, and actively encouraged a UN role in the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Today, the U.S. is assisting the Afghan people as they rebuild their country and establish a representative government that contributes to regional stability, is market friendly, and respects human rights. In May 2005, President Bush and President Karzai concluded a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

KABUL (E) Great Massoud Road, APO/FPO APO/AE 09806, (VoIP, US-based) 301-490-1042, Fax No working Fax, INMARSAT Tel 011-873-761-837-725, Workweek: Saturday-Thursday 0800-1630, Website: http://kabul.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Debbie Ash
AMB OMS:(Vacant)
DHS/ICE:Renander, Sonya
ECO:Fritz Maerkle
FM:Stephen Tuntland
HRO:Anne Louise Hanson
MGT:John Olson
AMB:William B. Wood
CON:Mai-Thao Nguyenn
DCM:Christopher Dell
PAO:Tom Niblock
GSO:Valeria Kayatin
RSO:Bruce Mills
AFSA:C. John Long
AID:Robin Phillips
CLO:Monica Ewing
DAO:Thomas
DEA:Vince Balbo
EEO:Tara Bell
FAA:Chuck Friesenhahn
FMO:Trent Dabney
ICASS:Chair Kirk Meyer
IMO:David Rowles
IPO:Jim Fox
ISO:Matt Michaud
ISSO:Matt Michaud
LEGATT:Brian McCauley
POL:Sara Rosenberry

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

October 23, 2007

Country Description: Afghanistan has made significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, but it still faces daunting challenges, including defeating terrorists and insurgents, dealing with years of severe drought, recovering from over two decades of civil strife, and rebuilding a shattered physical, economic and political infrastructure. Coalition and NATO forces under ISAF work in partnership with Afghan security forces to combat Taliban and al-Qaida elements who continue to seek to terrorize the population and challenge the government. The ISAF Coalition-Afghan partnership contained the spring offensive planned by insurgent forces, who have turned instead to isolated terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings and kidnappings. President Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on December 7, 2004. He and his ministers work with the parliament, which first convened in late 2005, to establish policies and procedures to deal with the array of issues any government must address, as well as Afghanistan's unique challenges. The government is in the process of developing a more effective police force, a more robust legal system, and sub-national institutions that work in partnership with traditional and local leaders to meet the needs of the population. The U.S. works closely with the international community to provide coordinated support for these efforts. The recent Afghanistan-hosted Peace Jirga with Pakistan resulted in a commitment to cooperate in combating terrorism, facilitate the return of Afghan refugees, and support regional economic activity.

Entry Requirements: A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports are not stamped to show that they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will depart the country on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan web site at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org for the most current visa information. The Consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone number 202-298-9125.

Safety and Security: The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan states clearly that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. There are remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qaida network in various parts of Afghanistan, as well as narcotraf-fickers and other groups that oppose the strengthening of a democratic government. Those groups aim to weaken or bring down the new Government of Afghanistan, and often, to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their aims. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings—including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices—assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. Since the beginning of 2007, more than three dozen foreigners have been kidnapped and held for extended periods of time, and six foreigners have been kidnapped and murdered; foreigners and Afghan nationals have been killed or injured in improvised explosive device attacks. In the past few months, Kabul has seen an increase in suicide bombers attacking Afghan government personnel. Riots—sometimes violent—have occurred in response to various political or other issues.

Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. Official Americans’ use of the Kabul-Jala-labad road and other roads throughout the country is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. In addition, there is also a real danger from the presence of millions of unexploded land mines and other ordnance. Terrorists continue to use roadside or vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Private Americans should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns.

The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property, or Americans coming to the country to engage in business, have become involved in complicated real estat disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death.

Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated, with few roads, mostly in poor condition, irregular cell phone signals, and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or the larger cities. Americans traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may not even have a way to communicate their difficulties to the outside world.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries as well as kidnappings and assault. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-sseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. Several western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), Acomet Family Hospital (www. afghancomet.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. American travelers may seek emergency medical services at the Czech Military Hospital, adjacent to Kabul International Airport.

Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages.

For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is limited and could take days to arrange. Even medevac companies that claim to service the world may not agree to come to Afghanistan. Those with medevac insurance should confirm with the insurance provider that it will be able to provide medevac assistance to this country.

There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in Afghanistan, to include the areas of Nangahar, Laghman, and Wardak provinces, and in the city of Kabul. There have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans, however. Updates on the Avian Influenza situation in Afghanistan are published on the Embassy's web site at http://kabul.usembassy.gov. For additional information on Avian Influenza, please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet available at http://travel.state.gov/travel

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

All drivers face the potential danger of encountering land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of unexploded ordnance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and crime are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads.

Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded, and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved.

Aviation Safety Oversight: Asthere is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

U.S. Government personnel are not authorized to travel on Ariana Afghan Airlines or any other airline falling under the oversight of the Government of Afghanistan's Civil Aviation Authority, owing to safety concerns; however, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel on international flights operated by airlines from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.

Special Circumstances: Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is extremely limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a “cash-only” basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are very limited, as the banking system is just becoming operational. Some ATM machines exist at Standard Charter Bank and Afghan International Bank (AIB) in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using them. International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited.

In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page for our dual nationality flyer. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited.

Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors—men and women—are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; American women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose. Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Afghanistan's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Another potentially-sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing may be viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Proselytizing may lead to arrest and/or deportation. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located in Kabul on Great Massoud Road, local phone number 0700-108-001 or 0700-108-002, and for emergencies after hours 0700-201-908. The web site is http://kabul.usembassy.gov.

Travel Warning

April 4, 2007

This Travel Warning provides updated information on the security situation in Afghanistan. The security threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan remains critical. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued June 22, 2006.

The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap and assassinate U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. The ability of Afghan authorities to maintain order and ensure the security of citizens and visitors is limited. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qaida network, and other groups hostile to the Afghan and U.S. governments, remain active. NATO-led military operations continue, with the heavy involvement of U.S. forces. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including the capital, Kabul, is unsafe due to military operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry among political and tribal groups, and the possibility of terrorist attacks, including attacks using vehicular or other improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The security environment remains volatile and unpredictable. No part of Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against American and other western nationals at any time.

Attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests have continued since June 2006. The number of attacks in the south and southwestern areas of the country continues to increase as a result of insurgent and drug-related activity. There were more than 130 suicide bomber and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) attacks throughout the country in 2006. Kabul was particularly hard hit by militant attacks, such as several detonations of a remote-controlled IED and VBIED on Jalalabad Road, a suicide bomber attack upon a U.S. military convoy near Massoud Circle and the U.S. Embassy compound, a body-borne IED detonation against an ISAF convoy traveling to Kabul International Airport, and a magnetic bomb explosion in the vicinity of the Intercontinental Hotel in western Kabul. These incidents resulted in many deaths and injuries of U.S. and coalition personnel and local civilians.

Incidents have occurred with higher frequency on the Kabul-Jalalabad Road (commonly called Jalalabad Road) since June 2006. Because of an increase in information over the past several months about potential attacks on this road, its use is highly restricted for Embassy employees and, if the security situation warrants, sometimes is curtailed completely.

Since mid-2006 foreigners throughout the country continued to be targeted for violent attacks and kidnappings, whether motivated by terrorism or criminality. A Pakistani construction contractor in Zabul province was kidnapped and a Colombian NGO employee in Wardak province disappeared; neither has been found. Two German journalists were kidnapped and killed while traveling between Baghlan and Bamiyan provinces. An Italian journalist was abducted from a public bus traveling between Lashkar Gah and Kandahar and held by gunmen for three weeks. Two Pakistani journalists were kid-nappnapped in Helmand province and held for six days. Two French citizens traveling in a taxi on the main highway between Kandahar and Kabul were victims of an attempted abduction.

Riots and incidents of civil disturbance also have occurred several times since the beginning of 2006, and the risk remains that such episodes may happen at any time with no warning. American citizens should avoid rallies and demonstrations; even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.

Carjackings, robberies, and violent crime remain a problem. In December, several armed men dressed as Afghan National Police officers set up illegal checkpoints within the district of Surobi, in eastern Kabul on Jalala-bad Road. The perpetrators robbed several drivers and shot and killed a truck driver. American citizens involved in property disputes—a common legal problem—have reported that their adversaries in the disputes have threatened their lives. Americans who find themselves in such situations cannot assume that either local law enforcement or the U.S. Embassy will be able to assist them.

Official Americans assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are not permitted to have family members reside in Afghanistan. In addition, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State. From time to time depending on current security conditions, the U.S. Embassy places areas frequented by foreigners off limits to its personnel. Potential target areas include key national or international government establishments, international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel, and public areas popular with the expatriate community. Private U.S. citizens are strongly urged to heed these restrictions as well and may obtain the latest information by calling the U.S. Embassy in Kabul or consulting the embassy website below. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings, assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings. Possible threats include conventional weapons such as explosive devises or non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents.

The United States Embassy's ability to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited, particularly for those persons outside the capital. Afghan authorities also can provide only limited assistance to U.S. citizens facing difficulties. U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Afghanistan despite this Travel Warning are urged to pay close attention to their personal safety, security and health needs and are expected to assume primary responsibility for such. They are also encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. Registering makes it easier for the Embassy to contact Americans in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Great Masood Road between Radio Afghanistan and the Ministry of Public Health (the road is also known as Bebe Mahro (Airport) Road), Kabul.

The phone number is +93-70-108-001 or +93-70-108-002; the Consular Section can be reached in emergencies at +93-70-201-908. The Embassy website is http://afghanistan.usembassy.gov.

Updated information on travel and security in Afghanistan may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Afghanistan and the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.

International Adoption

August 2007

The Department of State has occasionally received inquiries from American citizens concerned about the plight of the children of Afghanistan and wondering about the possibility of adopting them.

In general, intercountry adoptions are private civil legal matters governed by the laws of the children's home country, which has the primary responsibility and jurisdiction for deciding what would be in the children's best interests. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has confirmed that Afghan law, which is based on Islamic Shari'a law, does not currently permit full adoptions as they are generally understood in the United States.

Afghanistan does grant a more limited arrangement akin to guardianship; however, even if an Afghan court or other Afghan authority were to grant a U.S. citizen guardianship rights for an Afghan child, the child would likely be unable to immigrate to the United States, unless the citizen could establish both that the child qualifies as an “orphan” as defined in section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and, under Afghan law, the “guardianship” order gave the citizen authority not only to care for the child but to bring the United States for the specific purpose of the child's adoption in the United States. Since Afghan law does not permit adoption, it is not clear that an Afghan guardianship order could give this authority.

The U.S. and international media have occasionally reported on the difficult situation faced by Afghanistan's children, and it is completely understandable that some American citizens want to respond to such stories by offering to open their homes and adopt these children in need. However, it is a generally agreed international principle that uprooting children during a war, natural disaster or other crisis may in fact exacerbate the children's situation. It can be extremely difficult in such circumstances to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are. It is also not uncommon in a hostile situation for parents to send their children out of the area, or for families to become separated during an evacuation. Even when it can be demonstrated that children are indeed orphaned or abandoned, they are often taken in by other relatives. Staying with relatives in extended family units is generally a better solution than uprooting a child completely.

There are still ways in which U.S. citizens can help the children of Afghanistan . Many American nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in Afghanistan say that what is needed most at this time are financial contributions. Individuals who wish to assist can do the most good by making a financial contribution to an established NGO that will be well placed to respond to Afghanistan's most urgent needs, including those related to the country's children.

The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan, which remains very dangerous.

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Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN

Compiled from the December 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

647,500 sq. km. (249,935 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.

Cities:

Capital—Kabul (1,780,000; 1999/2000 UN est.). Other cities (1988 UN est.; current figures are probably significantly higher)—Kandahar (226,000); Herat (177,000); Mazar-e-Sharif (131,000); Jalalabad (58,000); Konduz (57,000).

Terrain:

Landlocked; mostly mountains and desert.

Climate:

Dry, with cold winters and hot summers.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Afghan(s).

Population:

28,513,677 (July 2004 est.). More than 4 million Afghans live outside the country, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, although over two and a half million have returned since the removal of the Taliban.

Annual population growth rate (2004 est.):

4.92%. This rate does not take into consideration the recent war and its continuing impact. Main ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Aimaq, Baluch, Nuristani, Kizilbash.

Religion:

Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi'a Muslim 19%, other 1%.

Main Language:

Dari (Afghan Persian), Pashto.

Education:

Approximately 4 million children, of whom some 30% are girls, enrolled in school during 2003. Literacy (2001 est.)—36% (male 51%, female 21%), but real figures may be lower given breakdown of education system and flight of educated Afghans.

Health:

Infant mortality rate (2004 est.)—165.96 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2004 est.)—42.27 yrs. (male); 42.66 yrs. (female).

Government

Type:

Islamic Republic.

Independence:

August 19, 1919.

Constitution:

January 4, 2004.

Branches:

Executive—president (chief of state). Legislative—bicameral National Assembly (House of the People—249 seats, House of the Elders—102 seats). Judicial—Supreme Court, High Courts, and Appeals Courts.

Political subdivisions:

34 provinces.

Suffrage:

Universal at 18 years.

Economy

GDP (2004 est.):

$4.7 billion.

GDP growth (2004 est.):

7.5%.

GDP per capita (2004 est.):

$164.83.

Natural resources:

Natural gas, oil, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.

Agriculture (estimated 52% of GDP):

Products—wheat, corn, barley, rice, cotton, fruit, nuts, karakul pelts, wool, and mutton.

Industry (estimated 26% of GDP):

Types—small-scale production for domestic use of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; hand-woven carpets for export; natural gas, precious and semiprecious gemstones.

Services (estimated 22% of GDP):

Transport, retail, and telecommunications.

Trade (2002-03 est.):

Exports—$100 million (does not include opium): fruits and nuts, hand-woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semiprecious gems. Major markets—Central Asian republics, Pakistan, Iran, EU, India. Imports—$2.3 billion: food, petroleum products, machinery, and consumer goods. Major suppliers—Central Asian republics, Pakistan, Iran.

Currency:

The currency is the afghani, which was reintroduced as Afghanistan's new currency in January 2003. At present, $1 U.S. equals approximately 45 afghanis.


PEOPLE

Afghanistan's ethnically and linguistically mixed population reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South and Southwest Asia. Pashtuns are the dominant ethnic group, accounting for about 38-44% of the population. Tajik (25%), Hazara (10-19%), Uzbek (6-8%), Aimaq, Turkmen, Baluch, and other small groups also are represented. Dari (Afghan Persian) and Pashto are official languages. Dari is spoken by more than one-third of the population as a first language and serves as a lingua franca for most Afghans, though Pashto is spoken throughout the Pashtun areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan. Tajik and Turkic languages are spoken widely in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. An estimated 80% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; the remainder of the population—and primarily the Hazara ethnic group—predominantly Shi'a. Despite attempts during the years of communist rule to secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In fact, Islam served as a principal basis for expressing opposition to communism and the Soviet invasion. Islamic religious tradition and codes, together with traditional tribal and ethnic practices, have an important role in personal conduct and dispute settlement. Excluding urban populations in the principal cities, most Afghans are divided into tribal and other kin-ship-based groups, which follow traditional customs and religious practices.


HISTORY

Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent history. In 328 BC, Alexander the Great entered the territory of present-day Afghanistan, then part of the Persian Empire, to capture Bactria (present-day Balkh). Invasions by the Scythians, White Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries. In AD 642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced Islam.

Arab rule gave way to the Persians, who controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998. Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) consolidated the conquests of his predecessors and turned Ghazni into a great cultural center as well as a base for frequent forays into India. Following Mahmud's short-lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule sections of the country until the destructive Mongol invasion of 1219 led by Genghis Khan.

Following Genghis Khan's death in 1227, a succession of petty chiefs and princes struggled for supremacy until late in the 14th century, when one of his descendants, Tamerlane, incorporated Afghanistan into his own vast Asian empire. Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane and the founder of India's Moghul dynasty at the beginning of the 16th century, made Kabul the capital of an Afghan principality.

In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of what is known today as Afghanistan, established his rule. A Pashtun, Durrani was elected king by a tribal council after the assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir Shah at Khabushan in the same year. Throughout his reign, Durrani consolidated chieftainships, petty principalities, and fragmented provinces into one country. His rule extended from Mashad in the west to Kashmir and Delhi in the east, and from the Amu Darya (Oxus) River in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.

European Influence

During the 19th century, collision between the expanding British Empire in the subcontinent and czarist Russia significantly influenced Afghanistan in what was termed "The Great Game." British concern over Russian advances in Central Asia and growing influence in Persia culminated in two Anglo-Afghan wars. The first (1839-42) resulted not only in the destruction of a British army, but is remembered today as an example of the ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule. The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-80) was sparked by Amir Sher Ali's refusal to accept a British mission in Kabul. This conflict brought Amir Abdur Rahman to the Afghan throne. During his reign (1880-1901), the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan through the demarcation of the Durand Line. The British retained effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs.

Afghanistan remained neutral during World War I, despite German encouragement of anti-British feelings and Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India. The Afghan king's policy of neutrality was not universally popular within the country, however.

Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son and successor, was assassinated in 1919, possibly by family members opposed to British influence. His third son, Amanullah, regained control of Afghanistan's foreign policy after launching the third Anglo-Afghan war with an attack on India in the same year. During the ensuing conflict, the war-weary British relinquished their control over Afghan foreign affairs by signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1919. In commemoration of this event, Afghans celebrate August 19 as their Independence Day.

Reform and Reaction

King Amanullah (1919-29) moved to end his country's traditional isolation in the years following the third Anglo-Afghan war. He established diplomatic relations with most major countries and, following a 1927 tour of Europe and Turkey—during which he noted the modernization and secularization advanced by Ataturk—introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. Some of these, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil 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 was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul

fell to forces led by Bacha-i-Saqao, a Tajik brigand. Prince Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah's, in turn defeated Bacha-i-Saqao in October of the same year and, with considerable Pashtun tribal support, was declared King Nadir Shah. Four years later, however, he was assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.

Mohammad Zahir Shah, Nadir Khan's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal constitution providing for a two-chamber legislature to which the king appointed one-third of the deputies. The people elected another third, and the remainder were selected indirectly by provincial assemblies. Although Zahir's "experiment in democracy" produced few lasting reforms, it permitted the growth of unofficial extremist parties on both the left and the right. These included the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which had close ideological ties to the Soviet Union. In 1967, the PDPA split into two major rival factions: the Khalq (Masses) faction headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and supported by elements within the military, and the Parcham (Banner) faction led by Babrak Karmal. The split reflected ethnic, class, and ideological divisions within Afghan society.

Zahir's cousin, Sardar Mohammad Daoud, served as his Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Daoud solicited military and economic assistance from both Washington and Moscow and introduced controversial social policies of a reformist nature. Daoud's alleged support for the creation of a Pashtun state in the Pakistan-Afghan border area heightened tensions with Pakistan and eventually resulted in Daoud's dismissal in March 1963.

Daoud's Republic (1973-78) and the April 1978 Coup

Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and poor economic conditions created by the severe 1971-72 drought, former Prime Minister Daoud seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973. Zahir Shah fled the country, eventually finding refuge in Italy. Daoud abolished the monarchy, abrogated the 1964 constitution, and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as its first President and Prime Minister. His attempts to carry out badly needed economic and social reforms met with little success, and the new constitution promulgated in February 1977 failed to quell chronic political instability.

Seeking to exploit more effectively mounting popular disaffection, the PDPA reunified with Moscow's support. On April 27, 1978, the PDPA initiated a bloody coup, which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Daoud and most of his family. Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Opposition to the Marxist government emerged almost immediately. During its first 18 months of rule, the PDPA brutally imposed a Marxist-style "reform" program, which ran counter to deeply rooted Afghan traditions. Decrees forcing changes in marriage customs and pushing through an ill-conceived land reform were particularly misunderstood by virtually all Afghans. In addition, thousands of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the intelligentsia were imprisoned, tortured, or murdered. Conflicts within the PDPA also surfaced early and resulted in exiles, purges, imprisonments, and executions.

By the summer of 1978, a revolt began in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan and quickly spread into a countrywide insurgency. In September 1979, Hafizullah Amin, who had earlier been Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, seized power from Taraki after a palace shootout. Over the next 2 months, instability plagued Amin's regime as he moved against perceived enemies in the PDPA. By December, party morale was crumbling, and the insurgency was growing.

The Soviet Invasion

The Soviet Union moved quickly to take advantage of the April 1978 coup. In December 1978, Moscow signed a new bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan, and the Soviet military assistance program increased significantly. The regime's survival increasingly was dependent upon Soviet military equipment and advisers as the insurgency spread and the Afghan army began to collapse.

By October 1979, however, relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union were tense as Hafizullah Amin refused to take Soviet advice on how to stabilize and consolidate his government. Faced with a deteriorating security situation, on December 24, 1979, large numbers of Soviet airborne forces, joining thousands of Soviet troops already on the ground, began to land in Kabul under the pretext of a field exercise. On December 26, these invasion forces killed Hafizullah Amin and installed Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction, bringing him back from Czechoslovakia and making him Prime Minister. Massive Soviet ground forces invaded from the north on December 27.

Following the invasion, the Karmal regime, although backed by an expeditionary force that grew as large as 120,000 Soviet troops, was unable to establish authority outside Kabul. As much as 80% of the countryside, including parts of Herat and Kandahar, eluded effective government control. An overwhelming majority of Afghans opposed the communist regime, either actively or passively. Afghan freedom fighters (mujahidin) made it almost impossible for the regime to maintain a system of local government outside major urban centers. Poorly armed at first, in 1984 the mujahidin began receiving substantial assistance in the form of weapons and training from the U.S. and other outside powers.

In May 1985, the seven principal Peshawar-based guerrilla organizations formed an alliance to coordinate their political and military operations against the Soviet occupation. Late in 1985, the mujahidin were active in and around Kabul, launching rocket attacks and conducting operations against the communist government. The failure of the Soviet Union to win over a significant number of Afghan collaborators or to rebuild a viable Afghan army forced it to bear an increasing responsibility for fighting the resistance and for civilian administration.

Soviet and popular displeasure with the Karmal regime led to its demise in May 1986. Karmal was replaced by Muhammad Najibullah, former chief of the Afghan secret police (KHAD). Najibullah had established a reputation for brutal efficiency during his tenure as KHAD chief. As Prime Minister, Najibullah was ineffective and highly dependent on Soviet support. Undercut by deep-seated divisions within the PDPA, regime efforts to broaden its base of support proved futile.

The Geneva Accords and Their Aftermath

By the mid-1980s, the tenacious Afghan resistance movement—aided by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others—was exacting a high price from the Soviets, both militarily within Afghanistan and by souring the U.S.S.R.'s relations with much of the Western and Islamic world. Informal negotiations for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had been underway since 1982. In 1988, the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the United States and Soviet Union serving as guarantors, signed an agreement settling the major differences between them. The agreement, known as the Geneva accords, included five major documents, which, among other things, called for U.S. and Soviet non-interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the right of refugees to return to Afghanistan without fear of persecution or harassment, and, most importantly, a timetable that ensured full Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. About 14,500 Soviet and an estimated one million Afghan lives were lost between 1979 and the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Significantly, the mujahidin were party neither to the negotiations nor to the 1988 agreement and, consequently, refused to accept the terms of the accords. As a result, the civil war continued after the Soviet withdrawal, which was completed in February 1989. Najibullah's regime, though failing to win popular support, territory, or international recognition, was able to remain in power until 1992 but collapsed after the defection of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostam and his Uzbek militia in March. However, when the victorious mujahidin entered Kabul to assume control over the city and the central government, a new round of internecine fighting began between the various militias, which had coexisted only uneasily during the Soviet occupation. With the demise of their common enemy, the militias' ethnic, clan, religious, and personality differences surfaced, and the civil war continued.

Seeking to resolve these differences, the leaders of the Peshawar-based mujahidin groups established an interim Islamic Jihad Council in mid-April 1992 to assume power in Kabul. Moderate leader Prof. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was to chair the council for 2 months, after which a 10-member leadership council composed of mujahidin leaders and presided over by the head of the Jamiat-i-Islami, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, was to be set up for 4 months. During this 6-month period, a Loya Jirga, or grand council of Afghan elders and notables, would convene and designate an interim administration which would hold power up to a year, pending elections.

But in May 1992, Rabbani prematurely formed the leadership council, undermining Mojaddedi's fragile authority. In June, Mojaddedi surrendered power to the Leadership Council, which then elected Rabbani as President. Nonetheless, heavy fighting broke out in August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions, particularly those who supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami. After Rabbani extended his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the capital flared up in January and February 1993. The Islamabad Accord, signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar as Prime Minister, failed to have a lasting effect. A follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad Accord, called for the militias to be disarmed but was never fully implemented. Through 1993, Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces, allied with the Shi'a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed intermittently with Rabbani and Masood's Jamiat forces. Cooperating with Jamiat were militants of Sayyaf's Ittehad-i-Islami and, periodically, troops loyal to ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam. On January 1, 1994, Dostam switched sides, precipitating large-scale fighting in Kabul and in northern provinces, which caused thousands of civilian casualties in Kabul and elsewhere and created a new wave of displaced persons and refugees. The country sank even further into anarchy, forces loyal to Rabbani and Masood, both ethnic Tajiks, controlled Kabul and much of the northeast, while local warlords exerted power over the rest of the country.

Rise and Fall of the Taliban

The Taliban had risen to power in the mid 90's in reaction to the anarchy and warlordism that arose after the withdrawal of Soviet forces. Many Taliban had been educated in madrassas in Pakistan and were largely from rural southern Pashtun backgrounds. In 1994, the Taliban developed enough strength to capture the city of Kandahar from a local war-lord and proceeded to expand its control throughout Afghanistan, occupying Kabul in September 1996. By the end of 1998, the Taliban occupied about 90% of the country, limiting the opposition largely to a small mostly Tajik corner in the northeast and the Panjshir valley.

The Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam—based upon the rural Pashtun tribal code—on the entire country and committed massive human rights violations, particularly directed against women and girls. The Taliban also committed serious atrocities against minority populations, particularly the Shi'a Hazara ethnic group, and killed noncombatants in several well-documented instances. In 2001, as part of a drive against relics of Afghanistan's pre-Islamic past, the Taliban destroyed two Buddha statues carved into cliff faces outside of the city of Bamiyan.

From the mid-1990s the Taliban provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national who had fought with the mujahideen resistance against the Soviets, and provide a base for his and other terrorist organizations. Bin Laden provided both financial and political support to the Taliban. Bin Laden and his Al-Qaida group were charged with the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, and in August 1998 the United States launched a cruise missile attack against bin Laden's terrorist camp in southeastern Afghanistan. Bin Laden and Al-Qaida have acknowledged their responsibility for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Following the Taliban's repeated refusal to expel bin Laden and his group and end its support for international terrorism, the U.S. and its partners in the anti-terrorist coalition began a military campaign on October 7, 2001, targeting terrorist facilities and various Taliban military and political assets within Afghanistan. Under pressure from U.S. military and anti-Taliban forces, the Taliban disintegrated rapidly, and Kabul fell on November 13, 2001.

Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban met at a United Nations-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany in December 2001 and agreed to restore stability and governance to Afghanistan—creating an interim government and establishing a process to move toward a permanent government. Under the "Bonn Agreement," an Afghan Interim Authority was formed and took office in Kabul on December 22, 2001 with Hamid Karzai as Chairman. The Interim Authority held power for approximately 6 months while preparing for a nationwide "Loya Jirga" (Grand Council) in mid-June 2002 that decided on the structure of a Transitional Authority. The Transitional Authority, headed by President Hamid Karzai, renamed the government as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). One of the TISA's primary achievements was the drafting of a constitution that was ratified by a Constitutional Loya Jirga on January 4, 2004.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On October 9, 2004, Afghanistan held its first national democratic presidential election. More than 8 million Afghans voted, 41% of who were women. Hamid Karzai was announced as the official winner on November 3 and inaugurated on December 7 for a five-year term as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president. On December 23, 2004, President Karzai announced new cabinet appointments, naming three women as ministers.

An election was held on September 18, 2005 for the "Wolesi Jirga" (lower house) of Afghanistan's new bicameral National Assembly and for the country's 34 provincial councils. Turnout for the election was about 53% of the 12.5 million registered voters. The Afghan constitution provides for indirect election of the National Assembly's "Meshrano Jirga" (upper house) by the provincial councils and by reserved presidential appointments. The first democratically elected National Assembly since 1969 was inaugurated on December 19, 2005. Younus Qanooni and Sigbatullah Mojadeddi were elected Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga, respectively.

The government's authority is growing, although its ability to deliver necessary social services remains largely dependent on funds from the international donor community. Between 2001-2005, the United States committed over $9 billion to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. At an international donors' conference in Berlin in April 2004, donors pledged a total of $8.2 billion for Afghan reconstruction over the three-year period 2004-2007. The international community will gather in London in early 2006 to renew its political and reconstruction support for Afghanistan.

With international community support, including more than 40 countries participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the government's capacity to secure Afghanistan's borders to maintain internal order is increasing. The government continues to work closely with Coalition Forces in rooting out remnants of Al-Qaida and the Taliban in the south and southeast. ISAF has provided security assistance in Kabul and northern Afghanistan and plans to move into the West. As of December 2005, some 26,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers had been trained, along with 56,000 police, including border and highway police.

Progress on the Disarmament, Demo-bilization and Reintegration (DDR) program of private militia forces has also helped establish the authority of the Afghan central government. At the end of 2005, more than 63,000 Afghan militia members had taken part in the program led by Japan and the United Nations.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/28/2005

President: Hamid KARZAI
Vice President: Ahmad Zia MASOOD
Vice President: Abdul Karim KHALILI
Min. of Agriculture & Food: Obaidullah RAMIN
Min. of Border & Tribal Affairs: Abdul Karim BARAWI
Min. of Commerce: Hedayat Amin ARSALA
Min. of Communications: Amirzai SANGIN
Min. of Counternarcotics: Habibullah QADERI
Min. of Defense: Abdul Rahim WARDAK
Min. of Economy: Mir Mohammad Amin FARHANG
Min. of Education: Nur Mohammad QARQIN
Min. of Energy, Water, & Power: Ismail KHAN
Min. of Finance: Anwar Ul-Haq AHADY
Min. of Foreign Affairs: ABDULLAH, Dr.
Min. of Hajj & Islamic Affairs: Nematollah SHAHRANI
Min. of Health: Sayed Mohammad Amin FATEMI
Min. of Higher Education: Sayed Amir Shah HASANYAR
Min. of Housing & Urban Development: Yusof PASHTUN
Min. of Information & Culture: Sayed Makhdum RAHIN, Dr.
Min. of Interior (Acting): Ahmad Moqbel ZARAR
Min. of Justice: Sarwar DANESH
Min. of Labor & Social Affairs: Sayed Ekramoddin Masumi AGHA
Min. of Martyrs & Disabled: Sediqa BALKHI
Min. of Mines & Industries: Mir Mohammad SEDIQ
Min. of Public Works: Sohrab Ali SAFARI
Min. of Refugees: Azam DADFAR
Min. of Rural Development: Mohammad Hanif ATMAR
Min. of Transportation: Enayatollah QASEMI
Min. of Women's Affairs: Massouda JALAL
Min. of Youth: Amina AFZALI
Chair, Human Rights Commission: Sima SAMAR
Chief Justice, Supreme Court: Faisal Ahmad SHINWARI
National Security Adviser: Zalmai RASSOUL
Governor, Central Bank: Nurollah DELAWARI
Ambassador to the US: Said Tayeb JAWAD
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Ravan A.G. FARHADI

Afghanistan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-483-6410; email: [email protected]).


ECONOMY

In the 1930s, Afghanistan embarked on a modest economic development program. The government founded banks; introduced paper money; established a university; expanded primary, secondary, and technical schools; and sent students abroad for education.

Historically, there has been a dearth of information and reliable statistics about Afghanistan's economy. The 1979 Soviet invasion and ensuing civil war destroyed much of the country's limited infrastructure and disrupted normal patterns of economic activity. Gross domestic product had fallen substantially because of loss of labor and capital and disruption of trade and transport. Continuing internal strife hampered both domestic efforts at reconstruction as well as international aid efforts. However, Afghanistan's economy has grown at a fast pace since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, albeit from a low base. In 2003, growth was estimated at close to 30%, and the estimated growth rate for 2004 was 7.5%.

Agriculture

The main source of income in the country is agriculture, and during its good years, Afghanistan produces enough food and food products to provide for the people, as well as to create a surplus for export. The major food crops produced are: corn, rice, barley, wheat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. In Afghanistan, industry is also based on agriculture, and pastoral raw materials. The major industrial crops are: cotton, tobacco, madder, castor beans, and sugar beets. The Afghan economy continues to be over-whelmingly agricultural, despite the fact that only 12% of its total land area is arable and less than 6% currently is cultivated. Agricultural production is constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water; irrigation is primitive. Relatively little use is made of machines, chemical fertilizer, or pesticides.

Overall agricultural production dramatically declined following severe drought as well as sustained fighting, instability in rural areas, and deteriorated infrastructure. The easing of the drought and the end of civil war produced the largest wheat harvest in 25 years during 2003. Wheat production was an estimated 58% higher than in 2002. However, the country still needed to import an estimated one million tons of wheat to meet its requirements for the 2003 year. Millions of Afghans, particularly in rural areas, remained dependent on food aid.

Opium has become a source of cash for many Afghans, especially following the breakdown in central authority after the Soviet withdrawal, and opium-derived revenues probably constituted a major source of income for the two main factions during the civil war in the 1990s. Opium is easy to cultivate and transport and offers a quick source of income for impoverished Afghans. Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of raw opium in 2004. Much of Afghanistan's opium production is refined into heroin and is either consumed by a growing regional addict population or exported, primarily to Western Europe.

Trade and Industry

Afghanistan is endowed with natural resources, including extensive deposits of natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, and precious and semiprecious stones. Unfortunately, ongoing instability in certain areas of the country, remote and rugged terrain, and inadequate infrastructure and transportation network have made mining these resources difficult, and there have been few serious attempts to further explore or exploit them.

The most important resource has been natural gas, first tapped in 1967. At their peak during the 1980s, natural gas sales accounted for $300 million a year in export revenues (56% of the total). Ninety percent of these exports went to the Soviet Union to pay for imports and debts. However, during the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, Afghanistan's natural gas fields were capped to prevent sabotage by the mujahidin. Restoration of gas production has been hampered by internal strife and the disruption of traditional trading relationships following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Trade in smuggled goods into Pakistan once constituted a major source of revenue for Afghan regimes, including the Taliban, and still figures as an important element in the Afghan economy, although efforts are underway to formalize this trade.


TRANSPORTATION

In the 1960s, the United States helped build a highway connecting Afghanistan's two largest cities. It began in Kabul and wound its way through five of the country's core provinces—skirting scores of isolated and otherwise inaccessible villages; passing through the ancient market city of Ghazni; descending through Qalat; and eventually reaching Kandahar, founded by Alexander the Great. More than 35% of the country's population lives within 50 kilometers of this highway, called, appropriately, modern Afghanistan's lifeline. In 1978, the Soviet Union invaded. By the time its forces withdrew more than a decade later, more than 1 million Afghans had been killed and 5 million had fled. Civil war followed. The Taliban emerged, controlling all but the remote, northern regions. Afghanistan was terrorized by this group, which was dogmatically opposed to progress and democracy. More than two decades of war had left the Kabul-Kandahar highway devastated, like much of the country's infrastructure. Little could move along the lifeline that had provided so many Afghans with their means of livelihood and their access to healthcare, education, markets, and places of worship.

Reviving the Road: Restoration of the highway has been an overriding priority of President Hamid Karzai. It is crucial to extending the influence of the new government. Without the highway link, Afghanistan's civil society and economy would remain moribund and prey to divisive forces. The economic development that the highway makes possible will help guarantee the unity and long-term security of the Afghan people. The restored highway is a visually impressive achievement whose symbolic importance should not be underestimated. It marks a palpable transition from the recent past and represents an important building block for the future. Recently, an official in Heart likened the ring road to veins and arteries that nourish and bring life to the "heart" of Kabul and the body of the country. The highway will not end in Kandahar: there are plans to complete the circuit, extending it to Herat and then arcing it back through Mazar-e Sharif to Kabul. The route is sometimes referred to as the Ring Road.

Landlocked Afghanistan has no functioning railways, but the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, which forms part of Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, has barge traffic. During their occupation of the country, the Soviets completed a bridge across the Amu Darya. The United States, in partnership with Norway, has agreed to reconstruct this bridge, which will stretch more than 650 meters over the Amu Darya/Pyandzh River between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, near Pyanji Poyon (Tajikistan) and Shir Khan Bandar (Afghanistan). The bridge is set for completion in 2007.

Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana, operates domestic and international routes, including flights to New Delhi, Islamabad, Dubai, Moscow, Istanbul, Tehran, and Frankfurt. A private carrier, Kam Air, commenced domestic operations in November 2003. Many sections of Afghanistan's highway and regional road system are undergoing significant reconstruction. The U.S. (with assistance from Japan) completed building a highway linking Kabul to the southern regional capital, Kandahar. Construction is soon to begin on the next phase of highway reconstruction between Kandahar and the western city of Herat. The Asian Development Bank is nearing completion on a road reconstruction project between Kandahar and Spin Boldak, located at the southeastern border with Pakistan.


HUMANITARIAN RELIEF

Many nations have assisted in a great variety of humanitarian and development projects all across Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other international agencies have also given aid. Schools, clinics, water systems, agriculture, sanitation, government buildings and roads are being repaired or built.

De-mining

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world; mine-related injuries number up to 100 per month, and an estimated 200,000 Afghans have been disabled by landmine/unexploded ordinances (UXO) accidents. As of March 2005 the United Nations Mine Action Program for Afghanistan had approximately 8,000 Afghan personnel, 700 demobilized soldiers, 22 international staff, and several NGOs deployed in Afghanistan. The goal of the program is to remove the impact of mines from all high-impact areas by 2007 and to make Afghanistan mine-free by 2012. Between January 2003 and March 2005 a total of 2,354,244 mines and pieces of UXOs were destroyed. Training programs are also being used to educate the public about the threat and dangers of land mines. The number of mine victims was reduced from approximately 150 a month in 2002 to less than 100 a month in 2004.

Refugees and Internally Displaced People

Afghanistan has had the largest refugee repatriation in the world in the last 30 years. The return of refugees is guided by the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MORR) and supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization of Migration (IOM), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the World Food Program (WFP); the World Health Organization (WHO) and a number of other national and international NGOs. Approximately 3.5 million Afghans remain in neighboring countries. Between January and October 2004, 740,000 individuals returned to Afghanistan under a program supported by the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Of these, 45% came from Pakistan, 53% from Iran and the rest from other countries. The U.S. provided more than $300 million to support Afghan refugees, returnees, and other conflict victims between September 2001 and March 2005.

Health

In response to a strategy outlined by the Ministry of Health, the international community is supporting the government in rebuilding the primary health-care system. Tuberculosis remains a serious public health problem in Afghanistan. Since this strategy was outlined, the Afghan Government with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) has established 162 health facilities in 141 districts across the country. The treatment success rate in 2002 was 86%. WHO is also assisting the Ministry of Health and local health authorities to combat malaria where the disease is widespread. Through this project, 600,000 individuals are receiving full treatment for malaria every year. In addition 750,000 individuals are protected from malaria by sleeping under special nets provided under the project.

Education

There were 45,000 children enrolled in school in 1993, 19% were girls. The latest official statistics show there are now 64,000 children in school, one third are girls. In addition 29% of the teachers in the province are women, compared with 15% in 1993. Effort is being made to ensure that teachers receive salaries on time and increasing the attendance of girls in school. The total enrolment rate for Afghan children between 7 and 13 years of age has increased to 54% (67% for boys and 37% for girls). A number of factors such as distance to schools, poor facilities and lack of separate schooling for boys and girls continue to be challenges to higher enrollment.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan pursued a policy of neutrality and nonalignment in its foreign relations. After the December 1979 invasion, Afghanistan's foreign policy mirrored that of the Soviet Union. Most Western countries, including the United States, maintained small diplomatic missions in Kabul during the Soviet occupation. Repeated Taliban efforts to occupy Afghanistan's seat at the UN and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were unsuccessful.

The fall of the Taliban in October 2001 opened a new chapter in Afghanistan's foreign relations. Afghanistan is now an active member of the international community, and has diplomatic relations with countries from around the world. In December 2002, the six nations that border Afghanistan signed a 'Good Neighbor' Declaration, in which they pledged to respect Afghanistan's independence and territorial integrity.

Pakistan

The 1978 Marxist coup strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan took the lead diplomatically in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in opposing the Soviet occupation. During the war against the Soviet occupation, Pakistan served as the primary logistical conduit for the Afghan resistance. Pakistan initially developed close ties to the Taliban regime, and extended recognition in 1997. Pakistan dramatically altered its policy after September 11, 2001 by closing its border and downgrading its ties. Afghanistan and Pakistan are engaged in dialogue to resolve these bilateral issues.

Iran

Afghanistan's relations with Iran have fluctuated over the years, with periodic disputes over the water rights of the Helmand River as the main issue of contention. Following the Soviet invasion, which Iran opposed, relations deteriorated. Iran supported the cause of the Afghan resistance and provided financial and military assistance to rebel leaders who pledged loyalty to the Iranian vision of Islamic revolution. Iran still provides refuge to Afghan ex-patriots. Following the emergence of the Taliban and their harsh treatment of Afghanistan's Shi'a minority, Iran stepped up assistance to the Northern Alliance. Relations with the Taliban deteriorated further in 1998 after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif and executed Iranian diplomats. Since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's relations with Iran have improved. Iran has been active in Afghan reconstruction efforts, particularly in the western portion of the country.

Russia

During the reign of the Taliban, Russia became increasingly disenchanted over Taliban support for Chechen rebels and for providing a sanctuary for terrorist groups active in Central Asia and in Russia itself, and therefore provided military assistance to the Northern Alliance. Since the fall of the Taliban, the Karzai government has improved relations with Russia, but Afghanistan's outstanding foreign debt to Russia still continues to be a source of contention.

Tajikistan

Afghanistan's relations with Tajikistan have been complicated by political upheaval and civil war in Tajikistan, which spurred some 100,000 Tajiks to seek refuge in Afghanistan in late 1992 and early 1993. Also disenchanted by the Taliban's harsh treatment of Afghanistan's Tajik minority, Tajikistan facilitated assistance to the Northern Alliance. The Karzai government has sought to establish closer ties with its northern neighbor in order to capitalize on the potential economic benefits of increased trade.

UN Efforts

The United Nations was instrumental in obtaining a negotiated Soviet withdrawal under the terms of the 1988 Geneva Accords. In the aftermath of the Accords, the United Nations assisted in the repatriation of refugees and provided humanitarian aid such as food, health care, educational programs, and support for mine-clearing operations. From 1990-2001, the UN worked to promote a peaceful settlement between the Afghan factions as well as provide humanitarian aid. Since October 2001, the UN has played a key role in Afghanistan through the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), including spearheading efforts to organize the Afghan presidential elections held in October 2004 and National Assembly elections held in 2005.


U.S.–AFGHAN RELATIONS

The first extensive American contact with Afghanistan was made by Josiah Harlan, an adventurer from Pennsylvania who was an adviser in Afghan politics in the 1830s and reputedly inspired Rudyard Kipling's story "The Man Who Would be King." After the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1934, the U.S. policy of helping developing nations raise their standard of living was an important factor in maintaining and improving U.S.-Afghan ties. From 1950 to 1979, U.S. foreign assistance provided Afghanistan with more than $500 million in loans, grants, and surplus agricultural commodities to develop transportation facilities, increase agricultural production, expand the educational system, stimulate industry, and improve government administration.

In the 1950s, the U.S. declined Afghanistan's request for defense cooperation but extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan's physical infrastructure—roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy. The Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979.

After the April 1978 coup, relations deteriorated. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnapers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the December 1979 Soviet invasion.

Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghans in need. This cross-border humanitarian assistance program aimed to increase Afghan self-sufficiency and help Afghans resist Soviet attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated countryside. During the period of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion in military and economic assistance to Afghans and the resistance movement.

The U.S. supports the emergence of a broad-based government, representative of all Afghans and actively encourages a UN role in the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Today, the U.S. is assisting the Afghan people as they rebuild their country and establish a representative government that contributes to regional stability, is market friendly, and respects human rights. In May 2005, President Bush and President Karzai concluded a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

AMB:Ronald E. Neumann
AMB OMS:Alene A. Richards
DCM:Richard B. Norland
DCM OMS:Dolores V. Appel
POL:Angus T. Simmons
CON:Andrienne Harchik
MGT:Rosemary E. Hansen
AFSA:Michael Kidwell
AID:Alonzo Fulghum
DAO:Michael Norton
DEA:Joseph Remenar
ECO:Douglas P. Climan
FAA:James A. Richmond
FIN:Gwendolyn A. Sawyer
FMO:Craig Flanagan
GSO:Jan Sittel
IMO:R. Vance Blakely
IPO:Bradley Gabler
ISSO:Ron Yonashiro
PAO:Anne O'Leary
RSO:Scott J. Moretti
State ICASS:Douglas P. Climan
Last Updated: 12/29/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

December 13, 2005

Country Description:

Despite significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, Afghanistan still faces daunting challenges—recovering from over two decades of civil strife, dealing with years of severe drought, and rebuilding a shattered infrastructure. Operation Enduring Freedom continues to combat remaining Taliban and al-Qaida elements. Following successful presidential elections in October 2004, President Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on December 7, 2004. Successful Parliamentary elections were held on September 18, 2005. These political developments bode well for Afghanistan's future. Nonetheless, government ministries and institutions are in their infancy. They are still in the process of establishing policies and procedures to deal with the array of issues any government must address, as well as the extraordinary security, legal, commercial, and other infrastructure problems this country faces.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports do not receive stamps showing they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will end up departing on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan, located at 2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, phone no. 202-483-6410, fax no. 202-483-6488, website: www.embassyofAfghanistan.org. Also, for the most current visa information, please contact the Consular office located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone no. 202-298-9125.

Safety and Security:

The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan states clearly that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. There are remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qaida network in various parts of Afghanistan. Those groups aim to drive all Westerners out of Afghanistan and they do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their aims. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings—including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices—assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. On April 10, 2005, a U.S. citizen was abducted in Kabul and managed to successfully escape after a brief captivity. On August 31, 2005, a British citizen was kidnapped and killed. Official Americans' use of the Kabul-Jalalabad road is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. In addition, there is also a real danger from the presence of millions of unexploded land mines and other ordnance.

Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property have become involved in complicated disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement and other Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings, including the Travel Warning for Afghanistan, can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds can be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. A couple of western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul in recent months: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. American travelers may seek emergency medical services at the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) medical facilities in the Kabul area, but routine care is not available. The ISAF German Hospital, located about 10 kilometers from Kabul on Jalalabad road (a road often off-limits to official Americans because of security concerns), and the combined forces ISAF clinic, adjacent to Kabul International Airport, may provide medical care to American citizens who can show a passport and request emergency care. Shino Zada Private Hospital located in Microrayon 4, opposite the central heating center, provides general surgery, maternity care, ambulance and pharmacy facilities 24 hours a day. Imran Clinic, across from the Ministry of Interior, has limited laboratory and x-ray facilities.

Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is limited.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

All drivers face the potential danger of encountering land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million land-mines and large quantities of unexploded ordnance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and crime are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads. Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Several commercial airlines serve Afghanistan out of Kabul International Airport. Pakistan International Airlines has three weekly flights to and from Islamabad. Azerbaijan Airways has three weekly flights to and from Baku. Indian Airlines has two weekly flights to and from Delhi.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul strongly recommends against flying Ariana Afghan Airlines. In January 2004, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reviewed an aviation safety assessment report prepared by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The FAA's review of the ICAO findings and interviews with Ariana Afghan Airlines officials identified significant safety deficiencies. Based on these findings, the U.S. Government does not authorize official personnel to fly Ariana Afghan Airlines because existing civil aviation regulations in Afghanistan do not meet international aviation standards. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul also does not authorize official personnel the use of other Afghan-certificated airlines, including Kam Air flights to and from destinations other than Dubai.

Special Circumstances:

Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is extremely limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are very limited, as the banking system is just becoming operational. One ATM machine exists at Standard Charter Bank in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using it.

International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited.

Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take your firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States.

In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited.

Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors—men and women—are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, haltertops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public and American women visitors may want to carry scarves for this purpose.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Afghanistan's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Another potentially sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the new Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing may be viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society.

Children's Issues:

Afghan law does not allow for adoption of children by foreigners. For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction see the Office of Children's Issues website.

Registration/Embassy Location:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul through the State Department's travel registration website, http://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. U.S. citizens may also register with the consular section online through the Embassy's web site at http://usembassy.state.gov/afghanistan/. Americans without Internet access may register in person at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The Embassy provides no visa services, but does perform emergency and routine passport and citizen's services. The U.S. Embassy is located on Great Masood (Airport) Road near Masood Circle in Kabul, telephone number: 93-70-108-001 or 002.

Travel Warning

January 09, 2006

This Travel Warning provides updated information on the security situation in Afghanistan. The security threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan remains critical. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued June 09, 2005.

The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap and assassinate U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. The ability of Afghan authorities to maintain order and ensure the security of citizens and visitors is limited. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qaida network, and other groups hostile to the government, remain active. U.S.-led military operations continue. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, is unsafe due to military operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry among political and tribal groups, and the possibility of terrorist attacks, including attacks using vehicular or other Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and kidnapping. The security environment remains volatile and unpredictable.

Attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests have continued throughout the year. Foreigners in Kabul and elsewhere throughout the country were targeted for violent attacks and kidnappings. In late August, a British security guard in Farah was kidnapped and executed. In November, an Indian engineer in Nimroz was kidnapped and killed. Attacks on Afghan workers affiliated with international organizations occurred throughout the country, sometimes resulting in fatalities. There have been several rocket attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan, including multiple attacks early on October 12 that targeted a Canadian ISAF camp (Camp Julian), an area near the Canadian Ambassador's house (close to the U.S. Embassy), and the Afghan National Department of Security headquarters, as well as an October 25 rocket-propelled grenade attack on a NGO in Faisabad.

Improvised explosive device (IED) and particularly, vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks are on the rise. Several U.S. Embassy employees were injured in an IED attack in Kabul on August 21. Dozens of Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were wounded or killed September 28 in a VBIED attack on an Afghan National Army convoy traveling on the Kabul-Jalalabad Road (commonly called the Jalalabad Road). On November 14, multiple bombings occurred in Kabul on this road, also killing and injuring several ISAF and Afghan individuals. Because the Embassy has also received other information over the past several months about potential threat of other attacks on Jalalabad Road, use of this road generally is restricted for Embassy employees and, if the security situation warrants, sometimes is curtailed completely.

Family members of official Americans assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are not allowed to reside in Afghanistan. In addition, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State. From time to time, the U.S. Embassy places areas frequented by foreigners off limits to its personnel depending on current security conditions. Potential target areas include key national or international government establishments, international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel, and public areas popular with the expatriate community. Private U.S. citizens are strongly urged to heed these restrictions as well and may obtain the latest information by calling the U.S. Embassy in Kabul or consulting the embassy website below. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings, assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings. Possible threats include conventional weapons such as explosive devises or non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents.

The United States Embassy cannot provide visa services, and its ability to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited. Afghan authorities also can provide only limited assistance to U.S. citizens facing difficulties. U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Afghanistan despite this Travel Warning are urged to pay close attention to their personal security, and avoid rallies and demonstrations. They are also encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website, http://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. Registering makes it easier for the Embassy to contact Americans in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Great Masood Road between Radio Afghanistan and the Ministry of Public Health (the road is also known as Bebe Mahro (Airport) Road), Kabul. The phone number is +93-70-108-001 or +93-70-108-002. The Embassy website is http://afghanistan.usembassy.gov.

Updated information on travel and security in Afghanistan may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Afghans

35 Bibliography

Islamic State of Afghanistan
Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan

CAPITAL: Kabul

FLAG: The national flag has three equal vertical bands of black, red, and green, with a gold emblem centered on the red band; the emblem features a temple-like structure encircled by a wreath on the left and right and by a bold Islamic inscription above.

ANTHEM: Esllahte Arzi (Land Reform), beginning “So long as there is the earth and the heavens.”

MONETARY UNIT: The afghani (af) is a paper currency of 100 puls. There are coins of 25 and 50 puls and 1, 2, and 5 afghanis, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 afghanis. af1 = $0.02000 (or $1 = af50) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, although some local units are still in use.

HOLIDAYS: Now Rooz (New Year’s Day), 21 March; May Day, 1 May; Independence Day, 18 August. Movable religious holidays include First Day of Ramadan, ‘Id al-Fitr, ‘Id al-’Adha’, ‘Ashura, and Milad an-Nabi. The Afghan calendar year begins on 21 March; the Afghan year 1376 began on 21 March 1997.

TIME: 4:30 pm = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

Afghanistan is a landlocked country in South Asia. Afghanistan is slightly smaller than the state of Texas, with a total area of 647,500 square kilometers (250,001 square miles). Afghanistan shares boundaries with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, Pakistan, and Iran, with a total boundary length of 5,529 kilometers (3,436 miles). Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, is located in the east central part of the country.

2 Topography

The average altitude of Afghanistan is about 1,200 meters (4,000 feet). The Hindu Kush mountain range, where Afghanistan’s highest mountain peaks are found, rises to more than 6,100 meters (20,000 feet) in the northern corner of the Wakhan panhandle in the northeast and continues in a southwesterly direction, dividing the northern provinces from the rest of the country. The highest point is Mount Nowshak (7,485

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 647,500 sq km (250,000 sq mi)

Size ranking: 40 of 194

Highest elevation: 7,485 meters (24,557 feet) at Nowshak

Lowest elevation: 258 meters (846 feet) at the Amu Darya

Land Use*

Arable land: 12%

Permanent crops: 0%

Other: 88%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 37.2 centimeters (14.6 inches)

Average temperature in January: -2.3°c (27.9°f)

Average temperature in July: 24.8°c (76.6°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

meters/24,557 feet). Central Afghanistan, a plateau with an average elevation of 1,800 meters (6,000 feet), contains many small fertile valleys and provides excellent grazing for sheep, goats, and camels. To the north of the Hindu Kush and the central mountain range, the altitude drops to about 460 meters (1,500 feet), permitting the growth of cotton, fruits, grains, groundnuts, and other crops. Southwestern Afghanistan is a desert, hot in summer and cold in winter. The four major river systems are the Amu Darya (the longest river at 2,661 kilometers/1,654 miles) in the north, flowing into the Aral Sea; the Harirud and Morghab in the west; the Helmand in the southwest; and the Kabul in the east, flowing into the Indus. The lowest point in the country is along the Amu Darya River (258 meters/846 feet). There are few lakes.

Afghanistan has recorded more than 10 major earthquakes since 2000.

3 Climate

Wide temperature variations are usual from season to season and from day to night. Summer temperatures in Kabul may range from 16°c (61°f) at sunrise to 38°c (100°f) by noon, while the average January temperature is 0°c (32°f). The maximum summer temperature in Jalalabad is about 46°c (115°f). Rainfall averages about 25 to 30 centimeters (10 to 12 inches).

4 Plants and Animals

There are over 4,000 plant species, including hundreds of varieties of trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, and fungi. The country is particularly rich in such medicinal plants as rue and wormwood; fruit and nut trees are found in many areas. Native fauna (animals) include the fox, lynx, wild dog, bear, mongoose, shrew, hedgehog, hyena, jerboa, hare, and wild varieties of cats, asses, mountain goats, and mountain sheep. Trout is the most common fish.

5 Environment

Afghanistan’s most significant ecological problems are deforestation, drought, soil degradation, and overgrazing. Neglect and the damage caused by extensive bombardments have destroyed previously productive agricultural areas. The people of Afghanistan use wood primarily for fuel. The country has responded to the fuel needs of its growing population by cutting down many of its already sparse forests. Consequently, by late 2002, only between 1% and 2% of Afghanistan’s land area was forest land.

In 2006, threatened species included 12 species of mammal, 17 species of birds, 1 species of reptile, and 1 plant species. Endangered species in Afghanistan included the snow leopard, long-billed curlew, Argali sheep, musk deer, tiger, white-headed duck, Afghani brook salamander, Kabul markhor, and the Siberian white crane. There were thought to be fewer than 100 snow leopards in 2002. The country’s Caspian tigers have virtually disappeared.

6 Population

Two decades of civil war killed as many as 3 million Afghans and made the country’s population size hard to assess. As of 2005, the population was estimated at 29.9 million. The projected population for 2025 is 50.2 million. Afghanistan’s estimated population density (excluding nomads) was 46 persons per square kilometer (119 persons per square mile) in 2005. Kabul, the capital, had a population of 2.9 million in 2005.

7 Migration

In 2001 and 2002, the United States and its allies bombed Afghanistan in conflicts against the government, known as the Taliban. During that time, many Afghans fled to surrounding countries as refugees. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began helping refugees to return to the country in February 2002. In 2005, there were an estimated 1 million internally displaced persons (who lost their homes because of the war) and 3.7 million Afghan refugees living in neighboring countries. By September 2005, all neighboring countries had closed their borders to Afghanistan.

In addition to the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and UNICEF were helping refugees return to their homes. The Return of Qualified Afghans program was launched to bring back Afghan professionals who had left the country to participate in rebuilding the country. The program had returned 227 people by mid-2002. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated 21.43 migrants per 1,000 population.

8 Ethnic Groups

All citizens are called Afghans, but the Pashtuns are sometime referred to as “true Afghans.” The Pashtuns accounted for 42% of the population as of 2005. The Pashtuns have long been divided into two major divisions, the Durranis and the Ghilzais, each with its own tribes and subtribes.

The Tajiks, of Iranian stock, comprise nearly 27% of the population and are mainly concentrated in the north and northeast. The Hazaras (about 9% of the total population) are found in the central mountain ranges. The Uzbeks account for about 9% of the population. Other groups include the Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, Farsiwans (Persians), and Brahiu. In the northeast are the Kafirs. After their conversion to Islam at the end of the 19th century, they were given the name of Nuristanis, or “people of the light.”

9 Languages

Both Pashtu (or Pushtu) and Dari (Afghan Persian) are the official languages of the country. Pashtu is spoken by about 35% of the population,

while approximately 50% speak Dari. Dari has been the principal language of cultural expression, of the government, and of business. Both Pashtu and Dari are written primarily with the Arabic alphabet, with some modifications. The Hazaras speak their own dialect of Dari. The Turkic languages, including Uzbek and Turkmen, are spoken by 11% of the population. The Nuristanis speak some seven different dialects belonging to the Dardic linguistic group. There are about 30 minor languages, primarily Balochi and Pashai, spoken by some 4% of the population. It is common for Afghans to speak two languages.

10 Religions

Islam is the official religion of state. Almost all Afghans are Muslims. About 84% are Sunni Muslims and 15% are Shias. There are less than 3,000 Hindus and Sikhs.

In 1994, an Islamic militant group known as the Taliban (“the Seekers”) began to impose a strict form of Islamic observance in areas under their control. The Taliban fell from power in 2001. After that, the country returned to the 1964 constitution for the definition of religious freedom and practices. The 1964 constitution proclaims Islam to be the sacred religion of Afghanistan but tolerates the practice of non-Muslim religions.

11 Transportation

As of 2003, Afghanistan had an estimated 34,789 kilometers (21,604 miles) of roads, of which 8,213 kilometers (5,111 miles) were paved. In 2003, there were 29,300 passenger cars and 22,500 commercial vehicles in use.

The Khyber Pass in Pakistan is the best known of the passes providing land access to Afghanistan. There were only three short railway lines in the country in 2001. The only navigable river is the Amu Darya on the border with Turkmenistan. In 2004, there were 47 airports, 10 of which had paved runways in 2005. Kabul’s airport reopened to international flight service in early 2002.

12 History

Afghanistan has existed as a nation for less than three centuries. Previously, the area was made up of various kingdoms, going as far back as the Persian rule of Darius I in the sixth century bc and, 300 years later, Alexander the Great. Toward the middle of the third century bc, Buddhism spread to Afghanistan from India.

Beginning in the seventh century ad, Muslim invaders brought Islam to the region, and it eventually became the main cultural influence. The region came under the control of a series of Arab and Turkic kingdoms until it was invaded by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1219. It was then ruled by Mongols and Uzbeks for several centuries.

The formation of a unified Afghanistan under the Persian commander Ahmad Shah Abdali in the 18th century marks Afghanistan’s beginning as a distinct nation. His descendant, Dost Muhammad, was defeated by the British in the two Afghan Wars (1838–42 and 1877– 79). Abdur Rahman Khan, recognized as emir (ruler) by the British in 1880, established a central administration and supported the British interest in a neutral Afghanistan to help prevent the expansion of Russian influence.

In 1907, an agreement between the British and Russians guaranteed the independence of Afghanistan. Afghanistan remained neutral in both World Wars (1914–18 and 1939–45). The Treaty of Rawalpindi (1919) gave the government of Afghanistan the freedom to conduct its own foreign affairs.

Muhammad Zahir Shah, who ascended the throne in 1933, continued the modernization efforts begun by his father, Muhammad Nadir Shah. He governed for the next forty years. In 1964, a new constitution was introduced, converting Afghanistan into a constitutional monarchy. In 1965 the country’s first general election was held.

In July 1973, Muhammad Daoud Khan, the king’s first cousin, seized power, establishing a republic and appointing himself president and prime minister. He abolished the monarchy, dissolved the legislature, and suspended the constitution. Daoud ruled as a dictator until 1977, when the new Loya Jirga (Grand Council) elected him president for a six-year term.

Afghanistan Under PDPA Rule On 27 April 1978, Daoud was removed from office and executed in a bloody coup d’état (military takeover). The country became known as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, with members of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in charge. Soon after the takeover, rural Afghan groups took up arms against the new government. These groups came to be known as the mujahideen guerrillas.

Meanwhile, two groups within the ruling PDPA became involved in a bitter power struggle. By the end of 1979, two prime ministers had been forcibly removed from power. Thousands of troops from Russia arrived in the capital, Kabul, to maintain order. Throughout the early and mid-1980s, the mujahideen resistance continued to build and violence continued.

The United Nations tried to find a political solution to the war. In April 1988, Russia agreed to pull its troops out of Afghanistan within nine months, but the Afghan leader they supported remained in power until April 1992, when mujahideen forces closed in on the city.

With the fall of the government, the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) of Islamic groups announced plans to set up an Afghan Interim Government (AIG) in charge of preparing the way for elections. Differences within the SPA/AIG leadership prevented the creation of a genuine interim government, and the country remained in a state of civil war.

Rise of the Taliban By 1994, internal turmoil and fighting between factions brought the economy to a halt. The Pakistani government encouraged Afghan students from the fundamentalist Islamic religious schools along the border to protect Pakistani businessmen in Afghanistan from bandits. Pakistan’s government supplied the students with ammunition, fuel, and food. The students freed a convoy from bandits and went on to capture Qandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city. They called themselves the Taliban (the Arabic word for religious students, literally “the Seekers”). By late 1996 the Taliban had captured the capital, Kabul, and controlled 21 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. In areas under Taliban control, order was restored.

However, the Taliban enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun minorities in the north and west part of the country did not accept the Taliban’s rules. In May 1997, the Taliban suffered heavy casualties in fighting for the northern town of Mazare-Sharif, Afghanistan’s largest town north of the Hindu Kush. The Taliban’s opposition was supported by Iran, Russia, and Afghanistan’s other neighbors. They feared that the Taliban might bring instability to the region. Fighting between the Taliban and the opposition continued, and in 2000, the Taliban controlled 90% of the country. From 1973 to 2000, more than 3 million Afghans lost their lives in the struggle.

An opposition group called the Northern Alliance led by Ahmad Shah Masoud controlled the northeast part of the country. On 9 September 2001, Masoud was assassinated. On 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks carried out against the United States by members of the al-Qaeda organization caused the United States to begin a war on terrorism. The war on terrorism was first directed against the Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his forces. U.S.-led forces began a bombing campaign in Afghanistan in October 2001. By November, the Taliban were removed from power in Kabul.

In December 2001, an interim government under the leadership of Hamid Karzai was established. In June 2002, a Loya Jirga (Grand Council) was held, and Karzai was elected

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Hamid Karzai

Position: President

Took Office: Named chairman of the Afghan Interim Government in December 2001; named president of the Afghan Transitional Authority in June 2002; elected by direct vote in October 2004

Birthplace: Karz, a village near Qandahar, Afghanistan

Birthdate: 24 December 1957

Religion: Islam

Education: Studied political science at Himachal Pradesh University in Simla, India; studied journalism at the École Supérieure de Journalisme de Lille, in Lille, France; received an honorary doctorate in literature from Himachal Pradesh University in 2003

Spouse: Zinat Karzai, a medical doctor

Of interest: Karzai is fluent in six languages: Pashtu, Dari, Urdu, English, French, and Hindi

head of state of the transitional government. The Loya Jirga adopted a new constitution in January 2004 to establish a strong presidential role in government. In October and November 2004, the first direct presidential elections were held with Karzai winning the race. In September 2005, elections were held to fill the 102 seats of the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders, the upper house of parliament) and the 249 seats of the new lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga (House of the People). Most of the new parliament members were independents in support of Karzai; however, several members were former warlords, mujahideen fighters, and ex-Taliban figures.

Despite the advances of the new government, Taliban fighters remained active, particularly in the eastern regions of the country bordering on Pakistan. In 2005–06, several thousand troops from the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan (most of them American) were engaged in battles with Taliban fighters. The fighting was centered in the eastern regions of the country near Pakistan. The coalition forces also targeted those groups that pledged to fight a jihad (holy war) to remove Americans from Afghanistan.

13 Government

The Loya Jirga (Grand Council) is made up of members of the national assembly and chairpersons from the provincial and district councils, including tribal leaders. The Loya Jirga may be convened to consider issues of independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and amendments to the constitution. In January 2004, a Loya Jirga adopted a new constitution that defined the country as an Islamic republic and set a strong presidential role in government. The president is both the chief of state and the head of government. The president and two vice presidents are elected for five-year terms, with the president limited to two terms. The president appoints a cabinet of 27 ministers. The Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders) is the upper house of the national assembly and consists of 102 members who are appointed or elected by provincial councils, district councils, and the president. The Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) has 249 members with seat allocations proportional to the population of the provinces. Wolesi Jirga members are directly elected by the residents of the province they represent.

There are 34 provinces in Afghanistan, each of which has a provincial council of 9–29 members depending on the population. Districts and villages also have their own councils to address local affairs.

14 Political Parties

After the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, various warlords, leaders, and political factions emerged in the country. The main political group is the Northern Alliance, which fought alongside U.S. forces against the Taliban. Prominent warlords include Rashid Dostum, who leads the National Islamic Movement, and Abdul Karim Khalili, who is leader of the Unity Party. In the 2005 elections, most of the candidates ran as independents.

15 Judicial System

In areas under Taliban control, justice was based on the interpretation of Islamic law. Murderers were executed in public and thieves had a limb or two (such as one hand, one foot) severed. Adulterers were stoned to death in public.

The 2004 constitution established an independent judiciary consisting of a nine-member supreme court (Stera Mahkama), high courts, appeals courts, and local and district courts. The supreme court has the power of judicial review. Lower courts may apply Shia religious law in cases dealing with personal matters of Shia followers.

16 Armed Forces

In 2005, the national army had about 27,000 active members. Headquartered in Kabul, the force is intended to include all of the country’s tribal and ethnic groups. In 2005, military assistance from the United States amounted to $396 million.

17 Economy

Afghanistan’s economy was devastated by more than 30 years of war. Lack of resources impeded the reconstruction of irrigation systems, repairing of roads, and replanting of orchards.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, particularly in the form of opium poppy cultivation. The country remains a large producer of hashish and there are several heroin processing plants in the country. Many political factions profit from the drug trade. There are small-scale

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

industries, such as textiles, furniture, and fertilizer production. The country also has some valuable mineral resources.

In 2002, $4.5 billion was raised for a trust fund to rebuild Afghanistan. Planned projects included improving education, health, and sanitation facilities; developing agriculture; and rebuilding roads, energy, and telecommunication links.

18 Income

In 2005, the gross domestic product (GDP) was reported to be $21.5 billion. Per person GDP was estimated at $800. The annual growth rate of GDP was about 8%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 16.3%. Foreign aid receipts in 2005 amounted to $1.5 billion dollars.

19 Industry

The few industries within the country are generally limited to processing local materials. The main modern industry is cotton textile production. Other important industries include soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement, natural gas, and copper.

Carpet making is the most important handicraft industry. Other handicrafts include felt-making and the weaving of cotton, wool, and silk cloth; wood and stone carving; jewelry making; and the making of leather goods. Industry accounted for about 24.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

20 Labor

Afghanistan’s labor force was estimated at 15 million in 2004, with about 80% engaged in agriculture, 10% in industry, and 10% in services. The textile industry was the largest employer of industrial labor. Children under the age of 15 are legally prohibited from working more than 30 hours per week, but this law has not been enforced. Children as young as six years old work to help sustain their families.

21 Agriculture

About 12% of the land is arable but less than 6% is cultivated. Agriculture contributes about 38% to the overall economy. Wheat is grown in several regions and makes up 70% of all grain production. Wheat production in 2005 was estimated at 4 million tons. Following wheat, the most important crops in 2004 were barley (400,000 tons), corn (250,000 tons), rice (145,000 tons), and cotton (18,507 tons). Nuts and fruit, including pistachios, almonds, grapes, melons, apricots, cherries, figs, mulberries, and pomegranates, are among Afghanistan’s most important exports.

Opium and hashish (derived from poppy cultivation) are also widely grown for the drug

trade. Opium is easy to grow and transport and offers a quick source of income for impoverished Afghans. Even though growing poppies is illegal, many Afghans still grow them because opium from poppies can be sold for high prices. Afghanistan was the world’s largest producer of raw opium in 2003. Much of Afghanistan’s opium production is refined into heroin and is either consumed by a growing South Asian addict population or exported, primarily to Europe.

22 Domesticated Animals

Much of Afghanistan’s livestock was removed by the early waves of refugees who took their flocks with them to Pakistan and Iran. In 2002, there were about 36,471 head of cattle and 359,953 sheep and goats. These figures represent an 84% drop from the number of livestock present in 1997.

23 Fishing

Some fishing takes place in the lakes and rivers, but fish is not a significant part of the Afghan diet. Using explosives for fishing, called dynamite fishing, became popular in the 1980s and is acommon practice in the country. The annual catch was about 900 tons in 2003.

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

24 Forestry

The natural forests in Afghanistan are mainly of two types. There are dense forests, mainly of oak, walnut, and other species of nuts, which grow in the southeast and on the northern and northeastern slopes of the Sulaiman ranges. There are also sparsely distributed short trees and shrubs on all other slopes of the Hindu Kush. The dense forests of the southeast cover only 2.7% of the country. Significant stands of trees have been destroyed by the ravages of the war. Logging, forest fires, plant disease, insects, and the destruction of the forests to create agricultural land are all causes of the reduction in forest coverage. However, the most important factor in this destructive process is illegal logging and clear-cutting by timber smugglers. In 2003, roundwood production was estimated at 3.1 million cubic meters (109 million cubic feet), with 44% used for fuel.

25 Mining

Afghanistan has valuable deposits of barite, beryl, chromite, coal, copper, iron, lapis lazuli, lead, mica, natural gas, petroleum, salt, silver, sulfur, and zinc. Reserves of high-grade iron ore are estimated to total 2 billion tons. It is estimated that the country has 73 million tons of coal reserves. Coal production in 2003 amounted to 203,927 tons. Also in 2003, Afghanistan produced 14,330 tons of rock salt, 3,306 tons of gypsum, 5,511 tons of copper, and 132,277 tons of cement.

26 Foreign Trade

Trade with other countries began to increase during the late 1980s; however, the Taliban was unable to attract foreign investment because it was unable to gain international recognition. Exports, including fruits and nuts, carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, and gems, amounted to an estimated $471 million in 2005 (not including illegal exports). Imports, including food, petroleum products, and most commodity items, totaled an estimated $3.87 billion the same year.

The primary trade partners are Pakistan, India, the United States, and Germany.

27 Energy and Power

In 2002, production of electricity totaled 745 million kilowatt hours. Natural gas production in 2002 was at about 50.1 million cubic meters (1.77 billion cubic feet). Petroleum products such as diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel are imported, mainly from Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorAfghanistan Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$800 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate2.7% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land46 803032
Life expectancy in years: male43 587675
female44 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people0.2 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)65 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)28.1% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people14 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people1 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)n.a. 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)0.03 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

28 Social Development

Social welfare in Afghanistan has traditionally relied on family and tribal organization. Disabled people are cared for in social welfare centers in the provincial capitals. Most other welfare activities are unorganized and in private hands.

In 1996, the Taliban imposed limits on women’s participation in society. Women were allowed to go out in public only if they wore a burqa, a long black garment with a veil covering the face. The Taliban also banned girls from attending school, and prohibited women from working outside the home. Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, women and girls were permitted to attend school and universities. Women are no longer forced to wear the burqa, although many still do.

While the 2004 constitution reinstated many of the basic rights taken away by the Taliban (such as freedom of speech, religion, and assembly), human rights violations continue to be reported in various areas of the country.

29 Health

Most of the country’s health care facilities are in Kabul. There are some medical facilities supported by the Red Cross. In 2004, there were an estimated 18 physicians, 3 pharmacists, 3 dentists, and 22 nurses for every 100,000 people. Only about 29% of the population had access to health services.

In 2005, estimated life expectancy was 43 years for men and 44 years for women. Infant mortality was estimated at 163 per 1,000 live births. From 1978–91, there were over 1.5 million war-related deaths. In 2002, it was estimated that 80,000 people per year were dying from diarrheal diseases.

The war severely damaged or destroyed countless houses. According to an official report, there were 200,000 dwellings in Kabul in the mid-1980s. In 2003, it was estimated that 26% of all houses have been destroyed or severely damaged.

In 2002–04, an estimated 100,000 rural homes were built. Houses in farming communities are primarily built with mud bricks and roofs of straw and mud. Cement and other modern building materials are used in constructing city homes.

31 Education

Education is free at all levels. Primary education is required and lasts for six years. In reality, only about 29% of age-eligible students were enrolled in primary school at last estimates. Only about 14% of all eligible students were enrolled in secondary school. Boys and girls are schooled separately. Children are taught in their native language—Dari (Persian) or Pashtu (Pashto)— during the first three grades. Both are official languages of the country. The second official language is introduced to students in the fourth grade. Children are also taught Arabic so that they may be able to read the Koran. The school year extends from early March to November in the cold areas and from September to June in the warmer regions.

In addition to the secular public education system, there are traditional Islamic madrassa schools. At the madrassas, children study the Koran, the Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), and popular religious texts.

The University of Kabul, which is now coeducational, was founded in 1932. By 2006, there were at least eight universities and three other institutes of higher education. The literacy rate for people age 15 and older has been estimated at 28.1%. About twice as many men as women are literate.

32 Media

In 2003, there were two mainline telephones and ten mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. The first television broadcast took place in 1978. There were at least 10 television and 40 radio stations in the country as of 2004. In 2003, there were 114 radios and 14 television sets per 1,000 people. In 2005, about 25,000 people had access to the Internet.

The major newspapers, all headquartered in Kabul (with estimated 1999 circulations) are: Anis (25,000), published in Dari and Pashtu; Hewad (12,200); and New Kabul Times (5,000), in English. In January 2002, the independent newspaper Kabul Weekly was published after having disappeared when the Taliban seized power. The first issue carried news in Dari, Pashtu, English, and French.

33 Tourism and Recreation

The tourist industry, developed with government help in the early 1970s, has been negligible since 1979 due to internal political instability. Travel within the country was highly restricted during the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda beginning in 2001.

34 Famous Afghans

The most renowned ruler of medieval Afghanistan was Mahmud of Ghazni (971?–1030). Many important figures of Arab and Persian intellectual history were born or spent their careers in what is now Afghanistan. Al-Biruni (973–1048) was a great Arab encyclopedist. Abdul Majid Majdud Sana’i (1070–1140) was a major Persian poet of mystical verse. Jalal ud-Din Rumi (1207–1273) and Abdur Rahman Jami (1414–1492) were also major Persian poets. Behzad (c.1450–1520) was the greatest master of Persian painting.

The founder of the state of Afghanistan was Ahmad Shah Abdali (1724–1773), who changed his dynastic name to Durrani. Dost Muhammad (1789–1863) was the founder of the Muhammadzai (Barakzai) dynasty. Amanullah Khan (1892–1960), who reigned from 1919 to 1929, tried social reforms aimed at Westernizing the country but was forced to abdicate. Muhammad Nadir Shah (d.1933), who was elected king by a tribal assembly in 1929, continued Amanullah’s Westernization program. Leaders in the violent years since 1978 have been Nur Muhammad Taraki (1917–1979), founder of the PDPA; Hafizullah Amin (1929– 1979), Babrak Karmal (1929–1996), and Dr. Mohammad Najibullah (1947–1996), former head of the Afghan secret police who was brutally executed by the Taliban militia after they seized control of Kabul. Hamid Karzai (1957– ) became the head of the government in 2001.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Banting, Erinn. Afghanistan. New York: Crabtree, 2003.

Behnke, Alison. Afghanistan in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, 2003.

Corona, Laurel. Afghanistan. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 2002.

Englar, Mary. Afghanistan. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2003.

Greenblatt, Miriam. Afghanistan. New York: Children’s Press, 2003.

Gritzner, Jeffrey A. Afghanistan. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 2003.

Kazem, Halima. Afghanistan. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens, 2003.

Rall, Ted. To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue. New York: Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine, 2002.

WEB SITES

Aquastat. www.fao.org/ag/Agl/AGLW/aquastat/countries/afghanistan/index.stm. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Analysis Briefs. www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Afghanistan/Background.html. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/sca/ci/af/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

World Heritage List. whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/af. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Compiled from the December 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

HUMANITARIAN RELIEF

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 647,500 sq. km. (249,935 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.

Cities: Capital—Kabul (1,780,000; 1999/2000 UN est.). Other cities (1988 UN est.; current figures are probably significantly higher)—Kandahar (226,000); Herat (177,000); Mazar-e-Sharif (131,000); Jalalabad (58,000); Konduz (57,000).

Terrain: Landlocked; mostly mountains and desert.

Climate: Dry, with cold winters and hot summers.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Afghan(s).

Population: 31,056,997 (June 2006 est.). More than 3 million Afghans live outside the country, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, although over three and a half million have returned since the removal of the Taliban.

Annual population growth rate: (2006 est.) 2.67%. This rate does not take into consideration the recent war and its continuing impact.

Ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Aimaq, Baluch, Nuristani, Kizilbash.

Religions: Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi’a Muslim 19%, other 1%.

Languages: Dari (Afghan Persian), Pashto.

Education: Approximately 5 million children, of whom some 40% are girls, enrolled in school during 2005. Literacy (2001 est.) 36% (male 51%, female 21%), but real figures may be lower given breakdown of education system and flight of educated Afghans.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2004 est.)—165.96 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2004 est.)—42.27 yrs. (male); 42.66 yrs. (female).

Government

Type: Islamic Republic.

Independence: August 19, 1919.

Constitution: January 4, 2004.

Government branches: Executive—president (chief of state). Legislative—bicameral National Assembly (House of the People—249 seats, House of the Elders—102 seats). Judicial—Supreme Court, High Courts, and Appeals Courts.

Political subdivisions: 34 provinces.

Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.

Economy

GDP: (2006 est.) $7.2 billion.

GDP growth rate: (2006 est.) 13.8%.

GDP per capita: (2006 est.) $231.83.

Natural resources: Natural gas, oil, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.

Agriculture: (estimated 52% of GDP) Products—wheat, corn, barley, rice, cotton, fruit, nuts, karakul pelts, wool, and mutton.

Industry: (estimated 26% of GDP) Types—small-scale production for domestic use of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; hand-woven carpets for export; natural gas, precious and semiprecious gemstones.

Services: (estimated 22% of GDP) Transport, retail, and telecommunications.

Trade: (2002-03 est.) Exports—$100 million (does not include opium) fruits and nuts, hand-woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semiprecious gems. Major markets—Central Asian republics, United States, Pakistan, India. Imports—$2.3 billion: food, petroleum products, machinery, and consumer goods. Major suppliers—Central Asian republics, Pakistan, United States, India.

Currency: The currency is the afghani, which was reintroduced as Afghanistan’s new currency in January 2003. At present, $1 U.S. equals approximately 49 afghanis.

PEOPLE

Afghanistan’s ethnically and linguistically mixed population reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South and Southwest Asia. While population data is somewhat unreliable for Afghanistan, Pashtuns make up the largest ethnic group at 38-44% of the population, followed by Tajiks (25%), Hazaras (10%), Uzbek (6-8%), Aimaq, Turkmen, Baluch, and other small groups. Dari (Afghan Farsi) and Pashto are official languages. Dari is spoken by more than one-third of the population as a first language and serves as a lingua franca for most Afghans, though Pashto is spoken throughout the Pashtun areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan. Tajik and Turkic languages are spoken widely in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. An estimated 80% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; the remainder of the population—and primarily the Hazara ethnic group—predominantly Shi’a. Despite attempts during the years of communist rule to secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In fact, Islam served as a principal basis for expressing opposition to communism and the Soviet invasion. Islamic religious tradition and codes, together with traditional tribal and ethnic practices, have an important role in personal conduct and dispute settlement. Afghan society is largely based on kinship groups, which follow traditional customs and religious practices, though somewhat less so in urban areas.

HISTORY

Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent history. In 328 BC, Alexander the Great entered the territory of present-day Afghanistan, then part of the Persian Empire, to capture Bactria (present-day Balkh). Invasions by the Scythians, White Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries. In AD 642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced Islam.

Arab rule gave way to the Persians, who controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998. Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) consolidated the conquests of his predecessors and turned Ghazni into a great cultural center as well as a base for frequent forays into India. Following Mahmud’s short-lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule sections of the country until the destructive Mongol invasion of 1219 led by Genghis Khan.

Following Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, a succession of petty chiefs and princes struggled for supremacy until late in the 14th century, when one of his descendants, Tamerlane, incorporated Afghanistan into his own vast Asian empire. Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane and the founder of India’s Moghul dynasty at the beginning of the 16th century, made Kabul the capital of an Afghan principality.

In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of what is known today as Afghanistan, established his rule. A Pashtun, Durrani was elected king by a tribal council after the assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir Shah at Khabushan in the same year. Throughout his reign, Durrani consolidated chieftainships, petty principalities, and fragmented provinces into one country. His rule extended from Mashad in the west to Kashmir and Delhi in the east, and from the Amu Darya (Oxus) River in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.

European Influence

During the 19th century, collision between the expanding British Empire in the subcontinent and czar-ist Russia significantly influenced Afghanistan in what was termed “The Great Game.” British concern over Russian advances in Central Asia and growing influence in Persia culminated in two Anglo-Afghan wars. The first (1839-42) resulted not only in the destruction of a British army, but is remembered today as an example of the ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule. The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-80) was sparked by Amir Sher Ali’s refusal to accept a British mission in Kabul. This conflict brought Amir Abdur Rahman to the Afghan throne. During his reign (1880-1901), the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan through the demarcation of the Durand Line. The British retained effective control over Kabul’s foreign affairs.

Afghanistan remained neutral during World War I, despite German encouragement of anti-British feelings and Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India. The Afghan king’s policy of neutrality was not universally popular within the country, however.

Habibullah, Abdur Rahman’s son and successor, was assassinated in 1919, possibly by family members opposed to British influence. His third son, Amanullah, regained control of Afghanistan’s foreign policy after launching the third Anglo-Afghan war with an attack on India in the same year. During the ensuing conflict, the war-weary British relinquished their control over Afghan foreign affairs by signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1919. In commemoration of this event, Afghans celebrate August 19 as their Independence Day.

Reform and Reaction

King Amanullah (1919-29) moved to end his country’s traditional isolation in the years following the third Anglo-Afghan war. He established diplomatic relations with most major countries and, following a 1927 tour of Europe and Turkey—during which he noted the modernization and secularization advanced by Ataturk—introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. Some of these, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil 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 was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to forces led by Bacha-i-Saqao, a Tajik brigand. Prince Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah’s, in turn defeated Bacha-i-Saqao in October of the same year and, with considerable Pashtun tribal support, was declared King Nadir Shah. Four years later, however, he was assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.

Mohammad Zahir Shah, Nadir Khan’s 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal constitution providing for a two-chamber legislature to which the king appointed one-third of the deputies. The people elected another third, and the remainder were selected indirectly by provincial assemblies. Although Zahir’s “experiment in democracy” produced few lasting reforms, it permitted the growth of unofficial extremist parties on both the left and the right. These included the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which had close ideological ties to the Soviet Union. In 1967, the PDPA split into two major rival factions: the Khalq (Masses) faction headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and supported by elements within the military, and the Parcham (Banner) faction led by Babrak Karmal. The split reflected ethnic, class, and ideological divisions within Afghan society.

Zahir’s cousin, Sardar Mohammad Daoud, served as his Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Daoud solicited military and economic assistance from both Washington and Moscow and introduced controversial social policies of a reformist nature. Daoud’s alleged support for the creation of a Pashtun state in the Pakistan-Afghan border area heightened tensions with Pakistan and eventually resulted in Daoud’s dismissal in March 1963.

Daoud’s Republic (1973-78) and the April 1978 Coup

Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and poor economic conditions created by the severe 1971-72 drought, former Prime Minister Daoud seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973. Zahir Shah fled the country, eventually finding refuge in Italy. Daoud abolished the monarchy, abrogated the 1964 constitution, and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as its first President and Prime Minister. His attempts to carry out badly needed economic and social reforms met with little success, and the new constitution promulgated in February 1977 failed to quell chronic political instability.

Seeking to exploit more effectively mounting popular disaffection, the PDPA reunified with Moscow’s support. On April 27, 1978, the PDPA initiated a bloody coup, which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Daoud and most of his family. Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Opposition to the Marxist government emerged almost immediately. During its first 18 months of rule, the PDPA brutally imposed a Marxist-style “reform” program, which ran counter to deeply rooted Afghan traditions. Decrees forcing changes in marriage customs and pushing through an ill-conceived land reform were particularly misunderstood by virtually all Afghans. In addition, thousands of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the intelligentsia were imprisoned, tortured, or murdered. Conflicts within the PDPA also surfaced early and resulted in exiles, purges, imprisonments, and executions.

By the summer of 1978, a revolt began in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan and quickly spread into a countrywide insurgency. In September 1979, Hafizullah Amin, who had earlier been Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, seized power from Taraki after a palace shootout. Over the next 2 months, instability plagued Amin’s regime as he moved against perceived enemies in the PDPA. By December, party morale was crumbling, and the insurgency was growing.

The Soviet Invasion

The Soviet Union moved quickly to take advantage of the April 1978 coup. In December 1978, Moscow signed a new bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan, and the Soviet military assistance program increased significantly. The regime’s survival increasingly was dependent upon Soviet military equipment and advisers as the insurgency spread and the Afghan army began to collapse.

By October 1979, however, relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union were tense as Hafizullah Amin refused to take Soviet advice on how to stabilize and consolidate his government. Faced with a deteriorating security situation, on December 24, 1979, large numbers of Soviet airborne forces, joining thousands of Soviet troops already on the ground, began to land in Kabul under the pretext of a field exercise. On December 26, these invasion forces killed Hafizullah Amin and installed Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction, bringing him back from Czechoslovakia and making him Prime Minister. Massive Soviet ground forces invaded from the north on December 27.

Following the invasion, the Karmal regime, although backed by an expeditionary force that grew as large as 120,000 Soviet troops, was unable to establish authority outside Kabul. As much as 80% of the countryside, including parts of Herat and Kandahar, eluded effective government control. An overwhelming majority of Afghans opposed the communist regime, either actively or passively. Afghan freedom fighters (mujahidin) made it almost impossible for the regime to maintain a system of local government outside major urban centers. Poorly armed at first, in 1984 the mujahidin began receiving substantial assistance in the form of weapons and training from the U.S. and other outside powers.

In May 1985, the seven principal Peshawar-based guerrilla organizations formed an alliance to coordinate their political and military operations against the Soviet occupation. Late in 1985, the mujahidin were active in and around Kabul, launching rocket attacks and conducting operations against the communist government. The failure of the Soviet Union to win over a significant number of Afghan collaborators or to rebuild a viable Afghan army forced it to bear an increasing responsibility for fighting the resistance and for civilian administration.

Soviet and popular displeasure with the Karmal regime led to its demise in May 1986. Karmal was replaced by Muhammad Najibullah, former chief of the Afghan secret police (KHAD). Najibullah had established a reputation for brutal efficiency during his tenure as KHAD chief. As Prime Minister, Najibullah was ineffective and highly dependent on Soviet support. Undercut by deep-seated divisions within the PDPA, regime efforts to broaden its base of support proved futile.

The Geneva Accords and Their Aftermath

By the mid-1980s, the tenacious Afghan resistance movement—aided by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others—was exacting a high price from the Soviets, both militarily within Afghanistan and by souring the U.S.S.R.’s relations with much of the Western and Islamic world. Informal negotiations for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had been underway since 1982. In 1988, the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the United States and Soviet Union serving as guarantors, signed an agreement settling the major differences between them. The agreement, known as the Geneva accords, included five major documents, which, among other things, called for U.S. and Soviet noninterference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the right of refugees to return to Afghanistan without fear of persecution or harassment, and, most importantly, a timetable that ensured full Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. About 14,500 Soviet and an estimated one million Afghan lives were lost between 1979 and the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Significantly, the mujahidin were party neither to the negotiations nor to the 1988 agreement and, consequently, refused to accept the terms of the accords. As a result, the civil war continued after the Soviet withdrawal, which was completed in February 1989. Najibullah’s regime, though failing to win popular support, territory, or international recognition, was able to remain in power until 1992 but collapsed after the defection of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostam and his Uzbek militia in March. However, when the victorious mujahidin entered Kabul to assume control over the city and the central government, a new round of internecine fighting began between the various militias, which had coexisted only uneasily during the Soviet occupation. With the demise of their common enemy, the militias’ ethnic, clan, religious, and personality differences surfaced, and the civil war continued.

Seeking to resolve these differences, the leaders of the Peshawar-based mujahidin groups established an interim Islamic Jihad Council in mid-April 1992 to assume power in Kabul. Moderate leader Prof. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was to chair the council for 2 months, after which a 10-member leadership council composed of mujahidin leaders and presided over by the head of the Jamiat-i-Islami, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, was to be set up for 4 months. During this 6-month period, a Loya Jirga, or grand council of Afghan elders and notables, would convene and designate an interim administration which would hold power up to a year, pending elections.

But in May 1992, Rabbani prematurely formed the leadership council, undermining Mojaddedi’s fragile authority. In June, Mojaddedi surrendered power to the Leadership Council, which then elected Rabbani as President. Nonetheless, heavy fighting broke out in August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions, particularly those who supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami. After Rabbani extended his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the capital flared up in January and February 1993. The Islamabad Accord, signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar as Prime Minister, failed to have a lasting effect. A follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad Accord, called for the militias to be disarmed but was never fully implemented. Through 1993, Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami forces, allied with the Shi’a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed intermittently with Rabbani and Masood’s Jamiat forces. Cooperating with Jamiat were militants of Sayyaf’s Ittehad-i-Islami and, periodically, troops loyal to ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam. On January 1, 1994, Dostam switched sides, precipitating large-scale fighting in Kabul and in northern provinces, which caused thousands of civilian casualties in Kabul and elsewhere and created a new wave of displaced persons and refugees. The country sank even further into anarchy, forces loyal to Rabbani and Masood, both ethnic Tajiks, controlled Kabul and much of the northeast, while local warlords exerted power over the rest of the country.

Rise and Fall of the Taliban

The Taliban had risen to power in the mid 90’s in reaction to the anarchy and warlordism that arose after the withdrawal of Soviet forces. Many Taliban had been educated in madrassas in Pakistan and were largely from rural southern Pashtun backgrounds. In 1994, the Taliban developed enough strength to capture the city of Kandahar from a local warlord and proceeded to expand its control throughout Afghanistan, occupying Kabul in September 1996. By the end of 1998, the Taliban occupied about 90% of the country, limiting the opposition largely to a small mostly Tajik corner in the northeast and the Panjshir valley.

The Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam—based upon the rural Pashtun tribal code—on the entire country and committed massive human rights violations, particularly directed against women and girls. The Taliban also committed serious atrocities against minority populations, particularly the Shi’a Hazara ethnic group, and killed noncombatants in several well-documented instances. In 2001, as part of a drive against relics of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic past, the Taliban destroyed two Buddha statues carved into cliff faces outside of the city of Bamiyan.

From the mid-1990s the Taliban provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national who had fought with the mujahideen resistance against the Soviets, and provide a base for his and other terrorist organizations. Bin Laden provided both financial and political support to the Taliban. Bin Laden and his Al-Qaida group were charged with the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, and in August 1998 the United States launched a cruise missile attack against bin Laden’s terrorist camp in southeastern Afghanistan. Bin Laden and Al-Qaida have acknowledged their responsibility for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Following the Taliban’s repeated refusal to expel bin Laden and his group and end its support for international terrorism, the U.S. and its partners in the anti-terrorist coalition began a military campaign on October 7, 2001, targeting terrorist facilities and various Taliban military and political assets within Afghanistan. Under pressure from U.S. military and anti-Taliban forces, the Taliban disintegrated rapidly, and Kabul fell on November 13, 2001.

Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban met at a United Nations-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany in December 2001 and agreed to restore stability and governance to Afghanistan—creating an interim government and establishing a process to move toward a permanent government. Under the “Bonn Agreement,” an Afghan Interim Authority was formed and took office in Kabul on December 22, 2001 with Hamid Karzai as Chairman. The Interim Authority held power for approximately 6 months while preparing for a nationwide “Loya Jirga” (Grand Council) in mid-June 2002 that decided on the structure of a Transitional Authority. The Transitional Authority, headed by President Hamid Karzai, renamed the government as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). One of the TISA’s primary achievements was the drafting of a constitution that was ratified by a Constitutional Loya Jirga on January 4, 2004.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

On October 9, 2004, Afghanistan held its first national democratic presidential election. More than 8 million Afghans voted, 41% of whom were women. Hamid Karzai was announced as the official winner on November 3 and inaugurated on December 7 for a five-year term as Afghanistan’s first democratically elected president. On December 23, 2004, President Karzai announced new cabinet appointments, naming three women as ministers.

An election was held on September 18, 2005 for the “Wolesi Jirga” (lower house) of Afghanistan’s new bicameral National Assembly and for the country’s 34 provincial councils. Turnout for the election was about 53% of the 12.5 million registered voters. The Afghan constitution provides for indirect election of the National Assembly’s “Meshrano Jirga” (upper house) by the provincial councils and by reserved presidential appointments. The first democratically elected National Assembly since 1969 was inaugurated on December 19, 2005. Younus Qanooni and Sigbatullah Mojadeddi were elected Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga, respectively.

The government’s authority is growing, although its ability to deliver necessary social services remains largely dependent on funds from the international donor community. Between 2001-2006, the United States committed over $12 billion to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. At an international donors’ conference in Berlin in April 2004, donors pledged a total of $8.2 billion for Afghan reconstruction over the three-year period 2004-2007. At the end of January 2006, the international community gathered in London and renewed its political and reconstruction support for Afghanistan in the form of the Afghanistan Compact.

With international community support, including more than 40 countries participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the government’s capacity to secure Afghanistan’s borders to maintain internal order is increasing. Responsibility for security for all of Afghanistan was transferred to ISAF in October 2006. As of November 2006, some 40,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers had been trained along with some 60,000 police, including border and highway police.

Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) has also helped to further establish the authority of the Afghan central government. The DDR program, after receiving 63,000 military personnel, stopped accepting additional candidates in June 2005. Disarmament and demobilization of all of these candidates were completed at the end of June 2006. A follow-on program targeting illegal militias, the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG), was begun in 2005, under the joint auspices of Japan and the United Nations. The DIAG program is still ongoing.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/5/2007

President: Hamid KARZAI

Vice President: Ahmad Zia MASOOD

Vice President: Abdul Karim KHALILI

Min. of Agriculture: Obaidullah RAMIN

Min. of Border & Tribal Affairs: Mohammad Karim BRAHAWI

Min. of Commerce: Mohammad Amin FARHANG

Min. of Communications: Amirzai SANGIN

Min. of Counternarcotics: Habibullah QADERI

Min. of Defense: Abdul Rahim WARDAK

Min. of Economy: Mohammad Jalil SHAMS

Min. of Education: Mohammad Hanif ATMAR

Min. of Energy, Water, & Power: Ismail KHAN

Min. of Finance: Anwar Ul-Haq AHADY

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Rangin Dadfar SPANTA

Min. of Hajj & Islamic Affairs: Niamatullah SHAHRANI

Min. of Health: Sayed Mohammad Amin FATEMI

Min. of Higher Education: Mohammad Azam DADFAR

Min. of Interior: Moqbal ZARAR

Min. of Justice: Mohammad Sarwar DANESH

Min. of Martyrs, Disabled, & Social Affairs: Nur Mohammad QARQIN

Min. of Mines & Industries: Ibrahim ADEL

Min. of Public Works: Surab Ali SAFARI

Min. of Refugees: Akbar AKBAR

Min. of Rural Development: Ehsan ZIA

Min. of Transportation: Niamatullah Ehsan JAWID

Min. of Urban Development: Yousef PASHTUN

Min. of Women’s Affairs: Hasan Bano GHAZANFAR

Min. of Youth & Culture: Abdul Karim KHURAM

Chair, Human Rights Commission: Sima SAMAR

Chief Justice, Supreme Court: Abdul AZIMI

National Security Adviser: Zalmay RASSOUL

Governor, Central Bank: Nurollah DELAWARI

Ambassador to the US: Said Tayeb JAWAD

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Zahir TANIN

Afghanistan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-483-6410; email: [email protected]).

ECONOMY

In the 1930s, Afghanistan embarked on a modest economic development program. The government founded banks; introduced paper money; established a university; expanded primary, secondary, and technical schools; and sent students abroad for education.

Historically, there has been a dearth of information and reliable statistics about Afghanistan’s economy. The 1979 Soviet invasion and ensuing civil war destroyed much of the country’s limited infrastructure and disrupted normal patterns of economic activity. Gross domestic product had fallen substantially because of loss of labor and capital and disruption of trade and transport. Continuing internal strife hampered both domestic efforts at reconstruction as well as international aid efforts. However, Afghanistan’s economy has grown at a fast pace since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, albeit from a low base. In 2004, Afghanistan’s GDP grew 17%, and in 2005 Afghanistan’s GDP grew approximately 10%.

In June 2006, Afghanistan and the International Monetary Fund agreed on a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program for 2006-2009 that focuses on maintaining macroeconomic stability, boosting growth, and reducing poverty. Afghanistan is also rebuilding its banking infrastructure, through the Da Afghanistan National Bank. Several government-owned banks are also in the process of being privatized.

Agriculture

The main source of income in the country is agriculture, and during its good years, Afghanistan produces enough food and food products to provide for the people, as well as to create a surplus for export. The major food crops produced are: corn, rice, barley, wheat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. In Afghanistan, industry is also based on agriculture, and pastoral raw materials. The major industrial crops are: cotton, tobacco, madder, castor beans, and sugar beets. The Afghan economy continues to be overwhelmingly agricultural, despite the fact that only 12% of its total land area is arable and less than 6% currently is cultivated. Agricultural production is constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water; irrigation is primitive. Relatively little use is made of machines, chemical fertilizer, or pesticides.

Overall agricultural production dramatically declined following severe drought as well as sustained fighting, instability in rural areas, and deteriorated infrastructure. The easing of the drought and the end of civil war produced the largest wheat harvest in 25 years during 2003. Wheat production was an estimated 58% higher than in 2002. However, the country still needed to import an estimated one million tons of wheat to meet its requirements for the 2003 year. Millions of Afghans, particularly in rural areas, remained dependent on food aid.

Opium has become a source of cash for many Afghans, especially following the breakdown in central authority after the Soviet withdrawal, and opium-derived revenues probably constituted a major source of income for the two main factions during the civil war in the 1990s. Opium is easy to cultivate and transport and offers a quick source of income for impoverished Afghans. Afghanistan produced a record opium poppy crop in 2006, supplying 91% of the world’s opium. Much of Afghanistan’s opium production is refined into heroin and is either consumed by a growing regional addict population or exported, primarily to Western Europe.

Afghanistan has begun counter-narcotics programs, including the promotion of alternative livelihoods, public information campaigns, targeted eradication policies, interdiction of drug shipments, as well as law enforcement and justice reform programs. These programs were first implemented in late 2005. In June 2006, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that the Afghan Government eradicated over 15,000 hectares of opium poppy.

Trade and Industry

Afghanistan is endowed with natural resources, including extensive deposits of natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, and precious and semiprecious stones. Unfortunately, ongoing instability in certain areas of the country, remote and rugged terrain, and inadequate infrastructure and transportation network have made mining these resources difficult, and there have been few serious attempts to further explore or exploit them.

The most important resource has been natural gas, first tapped in 1967. At their peak during the 1980s, natural gas sales accounted for $300 million a year in export revenues (56% of the total). Ninety percent of these exports went to the Soviet Union to pay for imports and debts. However, during the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, Afghanistan’s natural gas fields were capped to prevent sabotage by the mujahidin. Restoration of gas production has been hampered by internal strife and the disruption of traditional trading relationships following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Trade in smuggled goods into Pakistan once constituted a major source of revenue for Afghan regimes, including the Taliban, and still figures as an important element in the Afghan economy, although efforts are underway to formalize this trade.

Transportation

In the 1960s, the United States helped build a highway connecting Afghanistan’s two largest cities. It began in Kabul and wound its way through five of the country’s core provinces—skirting scores of isolated and otherwise inaccessible villages; passing through the ancient market city of Ghazni; descending through Qalat; and eventually reaching Kandahar, founded by Alexander the Great. More than 35% of the country’s population lives within 50 kilometers of this highway, called, appropriately, modern Afghanistan’s lifeline. In 1978, the Soviet Union invaded. By the time its forces withdrew more than a decade later, more than 1 million Afghans had been killed and 5 million had fled. Civil war followed. The Taliban emerged, controlling all but the remote, northern regions. Afghanistan was terrorized by this group, which was dogmatically opposed to progress and democracy. More than two decades of war had left the Kabul-Kandahar highway devastated, like much of the country’s infrastructure. Little could move along the lifeline that had provided so many Afghans with their means of livelihood and their access to healthcare, education, markets, and places of worship.

Restoration of the highway has been an overriding priority of President Hamid Karzai. It is crucial to extending the influence of the new government. Without the highway link, Afghanistan’s civil society and economy would remain moribund and prey to divisive forces. The economic development that the highway makes possible will help guarantee the unity and long-term security of the Afghan people. The restored highway is a visually impressive achievement whose symbolic importance should not be underestimated. It marks a palpable transition from the recent past and represents an important building block for the future. Recently, an official in Herat likened the ring road to veins and arteries that nourish and bring life to the “heart” of Kabul and the body of the country. The highway will not end in Kandahar: there are plans to complete the circuit, extending it to Herat and then arcing it back through Mazar-e Sharif to Kabul. The route is sometimes referred to as the Ring Road. As of December 2006, three-quarters of the Ring Road has been funded, with plans to be completed in 2007.

Landlocked Afghanistan has no functioning railways, but the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, which forms part of Afghanistan’s border with Turkmeni-stan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, has barge traffic. During their occupation of the country, the Soviets completed a bridge across the Amu Darya. The United States, in partnership with Norway, has agreed to reconstruct this bridge, which will stretch more than 650 meters over the Amu Darya/Pyandzh River between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, near Pyanji Poyon (Tajikistan) and Shir Khan Bandar (Afghanistan). The bridge is set for completion in 2007.

Afghanistan’s national airline, Ariana, operates domestic and international routes, including flights to New Delhi, Islamabad, Dubai, Moscow, Istanbul, Tehran, and Frankfurt. A private carrier, Kam Air, commenced domestic operations in November 2003. Many sections of Afghanistan’s highway and regional road system are undergoing significant reconstruction. The U.S. (with assistance from Japan) completed building a highway linking Kabul to the southern regional capital, Kandahar. Construction is soon to begin on the next phase of highway reconstruction between Kandahar and the western city of Herat. The Asian Development Bank is also active in road development projects, mainly in the border areas with Pakistan.

HUMANITARIAN RELIEF

Many nations have assisted in a great variety of humanitarian and development projects all across Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other international agencies have also given aid. Schools, clinics, water systems, agriculture, sanitation, government buildings and roads are being repaired or built.

De-mining

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world; mine-related injuries number up to 100 per month, and an estimated 200,000 Afghans have been disabled by landmine/unexploded ordinances (UXO) accidents. As of March 2005 the United Nations Mine Action Program for Afghanistan had approximately 8,000 Afghan personnel, 700 demobilized soldiers, 22 international staff, and several NGOs deployed in Afghanistan. The goal of the program is to remove the impact of mines from all high-impact areas by 2007 and to make Afghanistan mine-free by 2012. Between January 2003 and March 2005 a total of 2,354,244 mines and pieces of UXOs were destroyed. Training programs are also being used to educate the public about the threat and dangers of land mines. The number of mine victims was reduced from approximately 150 a month in 2002 to less than 100 a month in 2004.

Refugees and Internally Displaced People

Afghanistan has had the largest refugee repatriation in the world in the last 30 years. The return of refugees is guided by the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MORR) and supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization of Migration (IOM), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and a number of other national and international NGOs. As of December 2006, approximately 3 million Afghans remain in neighboring countries. The U.S. provided more than $350 million to support Afghan refugees, returnees, and other conflict victims between September 2001 and March 2006.

Health

In response to a strategy outlined by the Ministry of Health, the international community is supporting the government in rebuilding the primary health-care system. Tuberculosis remains a serious public health problem in Afghanistan. Since this strategy was outlined, the Afghan Government with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) has established 162 health facilities in 141 districts across the country. The treatment success rate in 2002 was 86%. WHO is also assisting the Ministry of Health and local health authorities to combat malaria where the disease is widespread. Through this project, 600,000 individuals are receiving full treatment for malaria every year. In addition 750,000 individuals are protected from malaria by sleeping under special nets provided under the project.

Education

There were 45,000 children enrolled in school in 1993, 19% were girls. The latest official statistics show there are now 64,000 children in school, one third are girls. In addition 29% of the teachers in the province are women, compared with 15% in 1993. Effort is being made to ensure that teachers receive salaries on time and increasing the attendance of girls in school. The total enrollment rate for Afghan children between 7 and 13 years of age has increased to 54% (67% for boys and 37% for girls). A number of factors such as distance to schools, poor facilities and lack of separate schooling for boys and girls continue to be challenges to higher enrollment.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan pursued a policy of neutrality and nonalignment in its foreign relations. After the December 1979 invasion, Afghanistan’s foreign policy mirrored that of the Soviet Union. Most Western countries, including the United States, maintained small diplomatic missions in Kabul during the Soviet occupation. Repeated Taliban efforts to occupy Afghanistan’s seat at the UN and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were unsuccessful.

The fall of the Taliban in October 2001 opened a new chapter in Afghanistan’s foreign relations. Afghanistan is now an active member of the international community, and has diplomatic relations with countries from around the world. In December 2002, the six nations that border Afghanistan signed a ‘Good Neighbor’ Declaration, in which they pledged to respect Afghanistan’s independence and territorial integrity. In 2005 Afghanistan and its South Asia neighbors held the first annual Regional Economic Cooperation Conference (RECC) promoting intra-regional relations and economic cooperation.

Pakistan

The 1978 Marxist coup strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan took the lead diplomatically in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in opposing the Soviet occupation. During the war against the Soviet occupation, Pakistan served as the primary logistical conduit for the Afghan resistance. Pakistan initially developed close ties to the Taliban regime, and extended recognition in 1997. Pakistan dramatically altered its policy after September 11, 2001 by closing its border and downgrading its ties. Afghanistan and Pakistan are engaged in dialogue to resolve these bilateral issues.

Iran

Afghanistan’s relations with Iran have fluctuated over the years, with periodic disputes over the water rights of the Helmand River as the main issue of contention. Following the Soviet invasion, which Iran opposed, relations deteriorated. Iran supported the cause of the Afghan resistance and provided financial and military assistance to rebel leaders who pledged loyalty to the Iranian vision of Islamic revolution. Iran still provides refuge to Afghan ex-patriots. Following the emergence of the Taliban and their harsh treatment of Afghanistan’s Shi’a minority, Iran stepped up assistance to the Northern Alliance. Relations with the Taliban deteriorated further in 1998 after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif and executed Iranian diplomats. Since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s relations with Iran have improved. Iran has been active in Afghan reconstruction efforts, particularly in the western portion of the country.

Russia

During the reign of the Taliban, Russia became increasingly disenchanted over Taliban support for Chechen rebels and for providing a sanctuary for terrorist groups active in Central Asia and in Russia itself, and therefore provided military assistance to the Northern Alliance. Since the fall of the Taliban, the Karzai government has improved relations with Russia, but Afghanistan’s outstanding foreign debt to Russia still continues to be a source of contention.

Tajikistan

Afghanistan’s relations with Tajikistan have been complicated by political upheaval and civil war in Tajikistan, which spurred some 100,000 Tajiks to seek refuge in Afghanistan in late 1992 and early 1993. Also disenchanted by the Taliban’s harsh treatment of Afghanistan’s Tajik minority, Tajikistan facilitated assistance to the Northern Alliance. The Karzai government has sought to establish closer ties with its northern neighbor in order to capitalize on the potential economic benefits of increased trade.

UN Efforts

The United Nations was instrumental in obtaining a negotiated Soviet withdrawal under the terms of the 1988 Geneva Accords. In the aftermath of the Accords, the United Nations assisted in the repatriation of refugees and provided humanitarian aid such as food, health care, educational programs, and support for mine-clearing operations. From 1990-2001, the UN worked to promote a peaceful settlement between the Afghan factions as well as provide humanitarian aid. Since October 2001, the UN has played a key role in Afghanistan through the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), including spearheading efforts to organize the Afghan presidential elections held in October 2004 and National Assembly elections held in 2005.

U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONS

The first extensive American contact with Afghanistan was made by Josiah Harlan, an adventurer from Pennsylvania who was an adviser in Afghan politics in the 1830s and reputedly inspired Rudyard Kipling’s story “The Man Who Would be King.” After the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1934, the U.S. policy of helping developing nations raise their standard of living was an important factor in maintaining and improving U.S.-Afghan ties. From 1950 to 1979, U.S. foreign assistance provided Afghanistan with more than $500 million in loans, grants, and surplus agricultural commodities to develop transportation facilities, increase agricultural production, expand the educational system, stimulate industry, and improve government administration.

In the 1950s, the U.S. declined Afghanistan’s request for defense cooperation but extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan’s physical infrastructure—roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy. The Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979.

After the April 1978 coup, relations deteriorated. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph “Spike” Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnapers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the December 1979 Soviet invasion.

Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghans in need. This cross-border humanitarian assistance program aimed to increase Afghan self-sufficiency and help Afghans resist Soviet attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated countryside. During the period of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion in military and economic assistance to Afghans and the resistance movement.

The U.S. supports the emergence of a broad-based government, representative of all Afghans and actively encourages a UN role in the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Today, the U.S. is assisting the Afghan people as they rebuild their country and establish a representative government that contributes to regional stability, is market friendly, and respects human rights. In May 2005, President Bush and President Karzai concluded a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

KABUL (E) Address: Great Masoud Road, Kabul; APO/FPO: APO AE 09806; Phone: (93)(20)230-0436; Fax: No working Fax; INMARSAT Tel: 00-873-761-837-725; Workweek: Saturday–Thursday 0800-1630; Website: http://kabul.state.gov/hr/hr.htm.

AMB:Ronald E. Neumann
AMB OMS:Alene A. Richards
DCM:Richard B. Norland
DCM OMS:Roland Elliott
POL:Sara Rosenberry
CON:Ed Birsner
MGT:David Newell
AFSA:Tom Moran
AID:Leon Waskin
CUS:Renander, Sonya
DAO:Michael Norton
DEA:Edward Follis
ECO:John Spilsbury
EEO:Carolyn Smith
FAA:Chuck Friesenhahn
FIN:William Lauritsen
FMO:William Barnhart
GSO:Carolyn A. Smith
IMO:Kirk Ingvoldstad
IPO:David Aliprandi
ISO:Darrell Chapman
ISSO:Darrell Chapman
LEGATT:Brian McCauley
PAO:Linda Cheatham
RSO:Martin Kraus

Last Updated: 12/7/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : September 15, 2006

Country Description: Despite significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, Afghanistan still faces daunting challenges—defeating an active insurgency, recovering from over two decades of civil strife, dealing with years of severe drought, and rebuilding a shattered infrastructure. Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO forces continue to combat Taliban and al-Qaida elements. Following successful presidential elections in October 2004, President Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on December 7, 2004. Successful national Parliamentary elections were held on September 18, 2005, and the Parliament convened in late 2005. These political developments bode well for Afghanistan’s future. Nonetheless, government ministries and institutions are in their infancy and the ability of the government to project law and order throughout the country is extremely limited. These institutions are still in the process of establishing policies and procedures to deal with the array of issues any government must address, as well as the extraordinary security, legal, commercial, and other infrastructure problems this country faces.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports do not receive stamps showing they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will depart the country on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan web site at www.embassyofAfghanistan.org for the most current visa information. The Consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone number 202-298-9125.

Safety and Security: The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan states clearly that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. There are remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qaida network in various parts of Afghanistan, as well as narcotraffickers and other groups that oppose the strengthening of a democratic government. Those groups aim to weaken or bring down the new Government of Afghanistan, and often to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their aims. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombing—including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices—assassinations, carjacking, rocket attacks, assault or kidnapping. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. Since the beginning of 2006, five foreigners have been kidnapped and murdered; one American civilian (and several foreigners, besides dozens of Afghan nationals) has been killed in an improvised explosive device attack. Riots—sometimes violent—have occurred in response to various political or other issues. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. Official Americans’ use of the Kabul-Jalalabad road is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. In addition, there is also a real danger from the presence of millions of unexploded land mines and other ordnance. The last several months have seen an increase by terrorists in the use of roadside or vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Private Americans should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns.

The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes, and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property, or Americans coming to the country to engage in business, have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death.

Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated, with few roads, no cell phone signals, and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or the larger cities. Americans traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may not even have a way to communicate their difficulties to the outside world.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. A couple of western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul in recent months: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. American travelers may seek emergency medical services at the Greek Military Hospital, adjacent to Kabul International Airport.

Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is extremely limited and could take days to arrange. Even medevac companies that claim to service the world may not agree to come to Afghanistan. Those with medevac insurance should confirm with the insurance provider that it will be able to provide medevac assistance to this country.

There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in Afghanistan, to include the areas of Nangahar, Laghman, and Wardak provinces, and in the city of Kabul. There have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans, however. Updates on the Avian Influenza situation in Afghanistan are published on the Embassy’s website at: http://kabul.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Afghanistanis provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. All drivers face the potential danger of encountering land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of unexploded ordnance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and crime are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads. Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded, and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

U.S. Government personnel are not authorized to travel on Ariana Afghan Airlines or any other airline falling under the oversight of the Government of Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, owing to safety concerns; however, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel on international flights operated by airlines from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) program.

Several commercial airlines serve Afghanistan out of Kabul International Airport, including Pakistan International Airlines (flights to and from Islamabad and Peshawar, Pakistan), KamAir (flights to Dubai, U.A.E. and Almaty, Kazakhstan), Indian Airlines (flights to and from New Delhi, India), and Air Arabia (flights to and from Sharjah, UAE).

Special Circumstances: Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is extremely limited and unreliable. Afghanistan’s economy operates on a “cash-only” basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are very limited, as the banking system is just becoming operational. One ATM machine exists at Standard Charter Bank in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using it.

International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited.

In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited.

Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan’s customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors—men and women—are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; American women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose.

Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country’s embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Afghanistan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Another potentially sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the new Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing may be viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Proselytizing may lead to arrest and/or deportation. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: The U.S. and international media have occasionally reported on the difficult situation faced by Afghanistan’s children, and it is completely understandable that some American citizens want to respond to such stories by offering to open their homes and adopt these children in need. However, it is a generally agreed international principle that uprooting children during a war, natural disaster or other crisis may in fact exacerbate the children’s situation since it can be extremely difficult in such circumstances to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are. Therefore, it is not possible to adopt Afghan children, at this time.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located in Kabul on Great Massoud Road, local phone number 070-108-001 or 070-108-002, and for emergencies after hours 070-201-908. The website is http://kabul.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption : June 2006

The Department of State has occasionally received inquiries from American citizens concerned about the plight of the children of Afghanistan and wondering about the possibility of adopting them. At this time, it is not possible to adopt Afghan children, for several reasons.

In general, intercountry adoptions are private civil legal matters governed by the laws of the children’s home country, which has the primary responsibility and jurisdiction for deciding what would be in the children’s best interests. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has confirmed that Afghan law, which is based on Islamic Shari’a law, does not currently permit full adoptions as they are generally understood in the United States.

Afghanistan does grant a more limited arrangement akin to guardianship; however, even if an Afghan court or other Afghan authority were to grant a U.S. citizen guardianship rights for an Afghan child, the child would likely be unable to immigrate to the United States, unless the citizen could establish both that the child qualifies as an “orphan” as defined in section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and, under Afghan law, the “guardianship” order gave the citizen authority not only to care for the child but to bring the United States for the specific purpose of the child’s adoption in the United States. Since Afghan law does not permit adoption, it is not clear that an Afghan guardianship order could give this authority.

The U.S. and international media have occasionally reported on the difficult situation faced by Afghanistan’s children, and it is completely understandable that some American citizens want to respond to such stories by offering to open their homes and adopt these children in need. However, it is a generally agreed international principle that uprooting children during a war, natural disaster or other crisis may in fact exacerbate the children’s situation. It can be extremely difficult in such circumstances to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are. It is also not uncommon in a hostile situation for parents to send their children out of the area, or for families to become separated during an evacuation. Even when it can be demonstrated that children are indeed orphaned or abandoned, they are often taken in by other relatives. Staying with relatives in extended family units is generally a better solution than uprooting a child completely.

There are still ways in which U.S. citizens can help the children of Afghanistan. Many American nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in Afghanistan say that what is needed most at this time are financial contributions. Individuals who wish to assist can do the most good by making a financial contribution to an established NGO that will be well placed to respond to Afghanistan’s most urgent needs, including those related to the country’s children.

Travel Warning : June 22, 2006

This Travel Warning provides updated information on the security situation in Afghanistan. The security threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan remains critical. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued January 9, 2006.

The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap and assassinate U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. The ability of Afghan authorities to maintain order and ensure the security of citizens and visitors is limited. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qaida network, and other groups hostile to the government, remain active. U.S.-led military operations continue. Narcotrafficking elements opposed to poppy eradication efforts are also responsible for attacks against Westerners. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including the capital, Kabul, is unsafe due to military operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry among political and tribal groups, and the possibility of terrorist attacks, including attacks using vehicular or other improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The security environment remains volatile and unpredictable.

Attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests have continued over the past six months. There has been a significant increase in attacks in the south and southwestern areas of the country as a result of, among other things, drug eradication efforts, and a seasonal surge in insurgent activity. There has also been an increase in the use of suicide bombers and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) throughout the country. As an example, a suicide bomber detonated a VBIED in Kandahar in January, killing a Canadian diplomat. In March, in Helmand Province, a remote-controlled IED killed four employees of a security company employed by a U.S. Government contractor. In April, a rocket impacted inside the Kabul TV station building in Wazir Akbar Khan, behind the U.S. Embassy, and injured one person. Also in May, a VBIED killed an American working for a U.S. Government contractor in Herat. On May 30, two Americans working for a USAID contractor were injured in an IED attack in Badakshan that killed two of their Afghan colleagues. Incidents sometimes occur on the Kabul-Jalalabad Road (commonly called Jalalabad Road). Because the Embassy also has received information over the past several months about potential attacks on this road, its use generally is highly restricted for Embassy employees and, if the security situation warrants, sometimes is curtailed completely.

Foreigners in Kabul and elsewhere throughout the country were targeted for violent attacks and kidnappings. On February 11, two Nepalese guards employed by the British Embassy were kidnapped. One was killed; the other was found beaten. On March 10, four Albanian workers were kidnapped in Kandahar. They were killed, and their bodies were later found.

Riots and incidents of civil disturbance also have occurred several times since the beginning of 2006. During February 6-8, both peaceful and violent demonstrations occurred throughout Afghanistan in response to cartoons about Islam in a Danish newspaper. Seven protestors were killed and scores of protestors and police were injured in the clashes. On March 26, large anti-American protests occurred in Mazar-i-Sharif after the Government of Afghanistan released from police custody an Afghan who had converted to Christianity; the U.S. Government, along with several others, had condemned the initial arrest. On May 29, sparked by a U.S. military convoy accident that killed seven Afghans near Bagram Air Field, violent demonstrations and lootings occurred in various parts of Kabul.

Carjackings, robberies, and violent crime remain a problem. In February, two armed bank heists occurred in Kabul; two Afghan National Police were killed in the second robbery. In April, an American citizen reported to the Embassy that the Taliban had held him at gunpoint near Herat, and had stolen his car. American citizens involved in property disputes—a common legal problem—have reported that their adversaries in the disputes have threatened their lives.

Official Americans assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are not allowed to have family members reside in Afghanistan. In addition, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State. From time to time, the U.S. Embassy places areas frequented by foreigners off limits to its personnel depending on current security conditions. Potential target areas include key national or international government establishments, international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel, and public areas popular with the expatriate community. Private U.S. citizens are strongly urged to heed these restrictions as well and may obtain the latest information by calling the U.S. Embassy in Kabul or consulting the embassy website below. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings, assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings. Possible threats include conventional weapons such as explosive devises or non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents.

The United States Embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited, particularly for those persons outside the capital. Afghan authorities also can provide only limited assistance to U.S. citizens facing difficulties. U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Afghanistan despite this Travel Warning are urged to pay close attention to their personal security, and avoid rallies and demonstrations. They are also encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. Registering makes it easier for the Embassy to contact Americans in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Great Masood Road between Radio Afghanistan and the Ministry of Public Health (the road is also known as Bebe Mahro (Airport) Road), Kabul. The phone number is +93-70-108-001 or +93-70-108-002. The Embassy website is http://afghanistan.usembassy.gov.

Updated information on travel and security in Afghanistan may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Type of Government

Afghanistan has been in political turmoil since 1973, when the ruling monarchy was overthrown. Since then Afghanistan has been a communist state, a theocracy, and most recently an Islamic republic under a new constitution ratified in 2004. The Afghani constitution defines the state religion as Islam, the principles of which guide the government.

Background

Afghanistan is a landlocked country in South Asia, at the crossroads of trade between East and West. Slightly smaller than Texas (250,001 square miles), it has a long and complex history with the interwoven timelines of many other countries. As a result, Afghanistan is a culturally mixed country defined in many ways by kinship groups and tribes rather than by national patriotism.

Archeological evidence of human presence in the region dates back at least fifty thousand years and includes some of the earliest indications of farming communities in history. The importance of the region along historic trade and invasion routes indicates why Afghanistan has long been the site of turbulent struggles between civilizations. Waves of invaders and conquerors attempted to make the region part of their vast empires. Aryan tribes flooded the area as early as 2000 BC, followed by the Medes and Persians, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols. Within the last century, outside forces from Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States have asserted national interests in the region.

By the first century AD, Afghanistan was part of the Kushan Empire, and Buddhist culture thrived in the region. In 642 Arabs invaded and introduced Islam. According to estimates, 99 percent of the population today is Muslim, and Islam pervades all aspects of life in Afghanistan. The laws of government are guided by the laws of Islam.

By the early 1700s the region was ruled by several groups competing for power. By 1747 much of it was consolidated under the rule of King Aḥmad Shāh Durrāni (1722?–1773). Durrāni consolidated chieftainships, petty principalities, and fragmented provinces into one country. He is recognized as the founder of modern Afghanistan, though his rule extended beyond its current borders.

During the nineteenth century the expansion of British and Russian interests collided in Afghanistan. The determined Afghani people fought three wars (1839–1842, 1878–1880, 1919) to preserve their independence from both countries. Following the wars, Afghanistan was ruled by a succession of monarchies. The most stable was during the years 1933 to 1973, which brought a liberal constitution written in 1964. Since 1973, bloody coups, foreign invasions, and brutally imposed governments have plagued the region. The government now in power has maintained control since 2001 only with considerable assistance from outside forces. The United States and forty other countries through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are working with the Afghani government to establish a unified and stable country.

Government Structure

Afghanistan embraces Islam as its national religion, so laws must be in accordance with the laws and beliefs of Islam. The executive branch of government is headed by a president who is elected to a five-year term. A candidate must be at least forty years old, a citizen of Afghanistan (with no citizenship in another country), a child of Afghani parents, and a Muslim. If no candidate wins that majority in the first round of voting, the two candidates with the most votes have a run-off election two weeks later. The president has two vice presidents, who are elected as part of the president’s candidacy. The first vice president is responsible for taking over presidential responsibilities if the president is no longer able to serve. Presidents and vice presidents are limited to serving two terms.

As head of the executive branch, the president has many responsibilities, a number of which are overseen by the National Assembly, Afghanistan’s legislature. The president works with the National Assembly to determine the fundamental policies of the state. The president signs laws, establishes and oversees commissions for improving the administrative condition of Afghanistan, and makes appointments to important posts. Among other appointments, the president names ministers, the attorney general, and the head and members of the Supreme Court with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga, which is one chamber of the National Assembly. The president oversees the conduct of ministers, who handle administration of various aspects of government. The president also serves as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Legislative duties are the responsibility of a bicameral parliament, the National Assembly. It consists of two houses: Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) and Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders). Representation in the Wolesi Jirga is proportionate to the population of each region and is limited to two hundred fifty members. Members are elected directly by the people for terms of five years. Representatives of the Meshrano Jirga either are elected indirectly by provincial and district councils or are appointed by the president. There are two hundred fifty members of the Meshrano Jirga, where terms are three to five years. All members of the National Assembly must be citizens of Afghanistan. They must be at least twenty-five years old to be a member of the Wolesi Jirga and thirty-five years old in the Meshrano Jirga.

The National Assembly is responsible for establishing the laws, approving the budget and plans for state development, and ratifying treaties and international agreements. Proposals for laws originate in the Wolesi Jirga and are then sent for approval to the Meshrano Jirga. Proposals that have passed both houses are sent to the president for approval. A proposal becomes law with the signature of the president or, if he rejects it, by an overriding two-thirds vote by the Wolesi Jirga.

The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court, High Courts, and Appeal Courts. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial court. It is composed of nine members, each appointed for single ten-year terms by the president with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga. Members of the Supreme Court must be at least forty years old, citizens of Afghanistan, and properly educated in civil or Islamic law. They may not belong to a political party during service. The courts in Afghanistan are public, and the Islamic laws of the Shia sect apply in certain instances.

Local governance is provided by the division of Afghanistan into thirty-four provinces, each with a capital, a governor appointed by the Ministry of Interior, and a directly elected provincial council. Provinces are further divided into districts and villages that have local administration through councils directly elected by the people. Unofficially, the tribal climate of Afghanistan provides another level of local governance that has survived into modernity. Fierce loyalty to tribal tradition and religious codes are important elements of social order throughout much of the country.

The constitution was created by a special council called the Loya Jirga. It convenes only in certain situations and consists of members of the National Assembly and the chairpersons of the provincial and district councils. The Loya Jirga handles matters of independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and other important national concerns. It has an important role in amending the constitution and in the process of dismissing the president.

Political Parties and Factions

The political system of Afghanistan is based on principles of democracy, including the freedom of multiple political parties to exist. There are important restrictions, however, on the creation of parties. Every party must embrace the religion of Islam and the values of the constitution. Military and paramilitary aims are prohibited, as are affiliations with foreign political parties or sources. Political parties based solely on ethnicity, language, Islamic thought, or region are not allowed. All political parties must register with the Ministry of Justice.

Dozens of political parties operate legally in Afghanistan, representing all aspects of the political spectrum. Elected members of the government include representatives of various viewpoints, including communists, reformists, Islamic fundamentalists, the Taliban, and mujahideen (paramilitary groups that formed initially during the 1980s to defend Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion). Since the political party system is a recent development in Afghani history, no parties have established a dominant influence on politics.

Major Events

The past few decades in Afghanistan have been characterized by efforts to establish firm control over an unstable region. Since 1973, when the last monarchy was deposed, several governments have been installed only to be overthrown by opposing interests. The current government began its ascent to power after the overthrow of Taliban leadership in 2001.

The Taliban is a group devoted to Islamic fundamentalism. Under its leadership, Afghanistan was a country under strict Islamic law. The Taliban established control during a time of chaos and corruption following the end of Soviet presence in 1989. By 2000 the Taliban gained effective control over 95 percent of the country. Although it attained a degree of stability and control, it also was responsible for human rights violations and restrictions on basic freedoms.

In September 2001 the terrorist attacks in the United States focused the world’s attention on the threat of Islamic terrorism. A group of Muslim extremists, al Qaeda, was blamed for the event, and their training camps were traced to Afghanistan. Soon afterward the United States sought military retaliation against the group, undertaking Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. The Taliban government, which provided support to al Qaeda, crumbled as a result of the U.S.-led invasion.

In December 2001 political parties in opposition to the Taliban gathered in Germany to plan a new democratic government. The Afghan Interim Authority was established with international support. In 2002 the Loya Jirga established an interim president, and in 2003 a Constitutional Loya Jirga of five hundred delegates convened to establish a constitution. The Afghani Constitution was ratified in January 2004. The president was elected in October 2004, and the first freely elected legislature was established in the elections of September 2005. In a great change from Taliban rule, women were included as voters as well as candidates and even earned seats as representatives.

Twenty-First Century

Despite the presence of more than forty countries providing international support for the establishment of a secure and viable government, Afghanistan is a country struggling to establish itself. The remaining presence of semi-independent warlords and al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents constantly threatens the country with instability and violence. The profitable, though illegal, poppy cultivation for opium production further complicates Afghanistan’s efforts for stability. Years of neglect have left the region without a dependable infrastructure for transportation and communication.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest and least developed countries. International donors, NATO, and the United States government are currently committed to helping the Afghani government. Efforts to improve access to basic necessities, education, and housing are well under way. Great potential for economic reform and prosperity exist with a return to stability in Afghanistan. Natural resources, including precious metals, natural gas, and precious stones, remain untapped and will provide the country with a viable economic base when its administration becomes stable.

Caroe, Olaf. Pathans, 550 BC–A.D. 1957 . New York: Kegan Paul International, 2000.

Dorronsoro, Gilles. Revolution Unending: Afghanistan 1979 to the Present . New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Einfeld, Jan. Afghanistan . Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2005.

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

  • Area: 250,001 sq mi (647,500 sq km) / World Rank: 42
  • Location: Eastern and Northern Hemispheres, Southern Asia; bordering Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; China to the east; Pakistan to the east and south; and Iran to the west
  • Coordinates: 33°N, 65°E
  • Borders: 3,428 mi (5,529 km) total boundary length / China, 47 mi (76 km); Iran, 582 mi (936 km); Pakistan, 1,511 mi (2,430 km); Tajikistan, 750 mi (1,206 km); Turkmenistan, 463 mi (744 km); Uzbekistan, 85 mi (137 km)
  • Coastline: None
  • Territorial Seas: None
  • Highest Point: Mt. Nowshak, 24,558 ft (7,485 m)
  • Lowest Point: Amu Dar'ya River, 846 ft (258 m)
  • Longest Distances: 770 mi (1,240 km) NE-SW / 350 mi (560 km) SE-NW
  • Longest River: Amu Dar'ya, 1,654 mi (2,661 km)
  • Natural Hazards: Flooding, droughts, earthquakes
  • Population: 26,813,057 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 39
  • Capital City: Kabul, east-central Afghanistan
  • Largest City: Kabul, 1,780,000 (2000 est.)

OVERVIEW

Afghanistan is a landlocked nation in south-central Asia. Strategically located at the crossroads of major north-south and east-west trade routes, it has attracted a succession of invaders ranging from Alexander the Great, in the fourth century B.C., to the Soviet Union in the twentieth century A.D.

Almost as large as the state of Texas, Afghanistan is bounded by six different countries. Afghanistan's longest border—accounting for its entire southern boundary and most of its eastern one—is with Pakistan. The shortest one, bordering China's Xinjiang province, is a mere 47 mi (76 km) at the end of the Vakhan corridor, a narrow sliver of land 150 mi (241 km) long that extends eastward between Tajikistan and Pakistan. At its narrowest point it is only 7 mi (11 km) wide.

The Hindu Kush mountains, running northeast to southwest across the country, divide it into three major regions: 1) the Central Highlands, which form part of the Himalayan Mountains and account for roughly twothirds of the country's area; 2) the Southwestern Plateau, which accounts for one-fourth of the land; and 3) the smaller Northern Plains area, which contains the country's most fertile soil.

Land elevations generally slope from northeast to southwest, following the general shape of the Hindu Kush massif, from its highest point in the Pamir Mountains near the Chinese border to the lower elevations near the border with Iran. To the north, west, and southwest there are no mountain barriers to neighboring countries. The northern plains pass almost imperceptibly into the plains of Turkistan. In the west and southwest, the plateaus and deserts merge into those of Iran.

The greater part of the northern border and a small section of the border with Pakistan are marked by rivers; the remaining boundary lines are political rather than natural. The northern frontier extends approximately 1,050 mi (1,689 km) southwestward, from the Pamir Mountains in the northeast to a region of hills and deserts in the west, at the border with Iran. The border with Iran runs generally southward from the Harirud River across swamp and desert regions before reaching the northwestern tip of Pakistan. Its southern section crosses the Helmand River.

The border with Pakistan runs eastward from Iran through the Chagai Hills and the southern end of the Rjgestan Desert, then northward through mountainous country. It then follows an irregular northeasterly course some 281 km (175 mi) before reaching the Durand Line, established in 1893 by agreement with British authorities. This line, which defines the border from this point on, continues on through mountainous regions to the Khyber Pass area. Beyond this point it rises to the crest of the Hindu Kush, which it follows eastward to the Pamir Mountains. The Durand Line divides the Pashtun tribes of the region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its creation has caused much dissatisfaction among Afghans and has given rise to political tensions between the two countries.

Afghanistan is located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate. The Vakhan corridor and the rest of northeastern Afghanistan, including Kabul, are situated in a geologically active area. Over a dozen earthquakes occurred there during the twentieth century.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Mountains

The mountainous Central Highlands formed by the Hindu Kush and its subsidiary ranges—extensions of Himalayan mountain chain—are Afghanistan's dominant physical feature. Traversing the country for 600 mi (965 km) from east to west and covering an area of approximately 160,000 sq mi (414,400 sq km), the towering peaks alternate with steep gorges and barren slopes. This mountain system is composed of three high ridges with altitudes descending toward Iran.

The main ridge begins in China and runs southwestward some 300 mi (482 km) as the Pamir Mountains and the Eastern Hindu Kush, with peaks over 21,000 ft (6,400 m) high and mountain passes at altitudes between 12,000 and 15,000 ft (3,657 m and 4,572 m). The very highest peaks are in the Vakhan corridor, including the country's highest peak, Mt. Nowshak (24,558 ft / 7,485 m).

West of the approximately 12,000 ft (3,681 m) high Salang Pass, connecting the Kabul area with the northern plains, the Eastern Hindu Kush becomes the Central Hindu Kush. Although not as high and desolate as the Eastern Hindu Kush, terrain is still very rugged and there are many high mountains, including Mt. Fsladj (16,843 ft / 5,134 m). The Central Hindu Kush continues southeast roughly to the center of the country.

The Baba Range, with peaks at 15,000 ft (4,572 m), runs parallel to and south of the western end of the Central Hindu Kush, to which it is connected by two ridges. Other important ranges include the Hesar—extending northward from the upper reaches of the Morghab River in the northwest—and the Safid mountains situated north of the broad Harirud Valley and south of the Morghab. The Torkestan Mountains run parallel to the Safid, north of the Morghab River. They are broken by deep river valleys that start in the Baba Range or in the western part of the Central Hindu Kush.

Several mountain chains fan out southwestward from the Baba Range, Bayan Mountains, and Kasa Murgh Ranges. These decrease in altitude as they approach the Southwestern Plateau region, where they yield to gently undulating deserts. Southeast of the Central Hindu Kush, a series of lower ridges enclose long valleys that run parallel to the boundary with Pakistan. The valley region that is home to the capital city of Kabul is bounded by this range system. The Khyber Pass (approximately 3518 ft / 1070 m high) gives access across the border into Pakistan through these ridges.

Plateaus

The Southwestern Plateau, situated southwest of the Central Highlands, is an arid region of deserts and semi-desert extending into Pakistan in the south and into Iran in the west. With an average altitude of about 3,000 ft (914 m), it slopes gently to the southwest. It is crossed by a few large rivers, among which the Helmand and its major tributary the Arghandab are the most important. The region covers approximately 129,500 sq km (50,000 sq mi) and includes the Rjgestan Desert.

INLAND WATERWAYS

Lakes

There are few lakes in Afghanistan. The major ones are Lake Puzak and Lake Saberj (Lake Helmand), situated on the southwestern border. Lake Saberj has most of its surface area in Iran. Lake Zorkul is located in the Vakhan corridor near the border with Tajikistan. Abi-Istada, situated on a plateau about 120 mi (193 km) northeast of Qandahar, is a salt lake. The Band-e Amir is a group of five small lakes in the Central Highlands that owe their unique coloration—ranging from a filmy white to a deep green—to the bedrock beneath them.

Rivers

Afghanistan's drainage system is essentially land-locked. Most of the rivers and streams end in shallow desert lakes or oases inside or outside the country's boundaries. Nearly half of the country's total area is drained by watercourses south of the Hindu Kush–Safid ridge line, and half of this area is drained by the Helmand and its tributaries alone. The Amu Dar'ya on the northern border, the country's other major river, has the next-largest drainage area.

The 1,654 mi (2,661 km) long Amu Dar'ya originates in the glaciers of the Pamir Mountains in the northeast. Some 600 mi (965 km) of its upper course constitutes Afghanistan's border with the former Soviet states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Flowing in rapid torrents in its upper course, the Amu Dar'ya becomes calmer below the mouth of the Kowkcheh, 60 mi (96 km) west of Fey abad. The Qondsz River is another major tributary. During its flood period the upper course of the Amu Dar'ya, swollen by snow and melting ice, carries along much gravel and large boulders.

The Helmand is the principal river in the southwest, bisecting the entire region. Starting some 50 mi (80 km) west of Kabul in the Baba Mountains, the Helmand is approximately 870 mi (1,400 km) long, making it the longest river situated entirely within Afghanistan. With its many tributaries, the most important of which is the Arghandab, it drains more than 100,000 sq mi (258,998 sq km).

The Kabul River, 320 mi (515 km) long, is a vital source of water in the Baba Mountains and for Kabul itself, which it flows through. The Kabul and its tributaries are among the few in Afghanistan that eventually reach the sea, as it flows east into the Indus River in Pakistan.

In the west the sandy deserts along most of the Iranian frontier have no watercourses. However, in the northwest, the Harj and Morghab Rivers flow into Iran and Turkmenistan.

THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN

Afghanistan is landlocked, with the closest seacoast roughly 300 mi (483 km) away in Pakistan, on the shores of the Arabian Sea.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

Afghanistan has a semiarid to arid climate with wide variations in temperature, both between seasons and

Population Centers – Afghanistan
(2002 POPULATION ESTIMATES)
Name Population Name Population
Kabul (capital) 2,142,300 Herat 166,600
Qandahar 339,200 Jalalabad 158,800
Mazar-e Sharif 239,800 Baghlan 117,700
Charikar 196,700 Kondsz 114,600
SOURCE : Data based on United Nations and other international organization estimates; as of 2002, relief organizations estimate that 25–65% of urban dwellers have left the cities for rural areas, or are refugees in neighboring nations. There were no accurate population figures available for Afghanistan in 2002; the last census was undertaken in 1988.

between different times of day. Its summers are hot and dry, but its winters are bitterly cold. Recorded temperatures have ranged as high as 128°F (53°C) in the deserts, and as low as -15°F (-26°C) in the central highlands, which have a subarctic climate. Summertime temperatures in the capital city of Kabul can vary from 61°F (16°C) at sunrise to 100°F (38°C) by noon. The mean January temperature in Kabul is 32°F (0°C).

Rainfall

In much of the country, rainfall is sparse and irregular, averaging 10 to 12 in (25 to 30 cm) and mostly falling between October and April. However, a record 53 in (135 cm) annually has been recorded in the Hindu Kush mountains, and rainfall is generally heavier in the eastern part of the country than in the west. Indian summer monsoons can bring heavy rains in the southeastern mountains in July and August. Otherwise, Afghan summers are generally dry, cloudless, and hot. Humid air from the Persian Gulf sometimes produces summer showers and thunderstorms in the southwest.

Northern Plains

North of the mountainous Central Highlands are the Northern Plains. Afghanistan's smallest natural region, they stretch from the Iranian border in the west to the foothills of the Pamir Mountains in the east. The eastern half of this area, which forms a part of the Central Asia steppe, is bounded by the Amu Dar'ya River in the north; in the west it extends into Turkmenistan. Covering an area of approximately 40,000 sq mi (103,600 sq km), the Northern Plains are situated at an average elevation of 2,000 ft (609 m), except for the Amu Dar'ya valley floor, where it drops to as low as 600 ft (183 m). A considerable portion of the area consists of fertile, loess-covered plains with rich natural gas resources.

Deserts

The Rjgestan Desert at the country's southern border occupies roughly one-quarter of the Southwestern Plateau. It is bounded by the Helmand and Arghandab Rivers to the north and continues into Pakistan to the south

Administrative Divisions – Afghanistan
2002 POPULATION ESTIMATES
Name Population Area (sq mi) Area (sq km) Capital
Badakhshan 965,000 17,589 45,556 Fayzabad
Badghis 645,000 8,547 22,136 Qala-i-Naw
Baghlan 828,000 7,005 18,144 Baghlan
Balkh 1,473,000 4,756 12,319 Mazar-e Sharif
Bamian 458,000 6,963 18,033 Bamian
Farah 434,000 22,741 58,900 Farah
Faryab 893,000 7,850 20,331 Maymana
Ghazni 1,053,000 8,517 22,059 Ghazni
Ghowr 609,300 15,539 40,247 Chaghcharan
Helmand 876,600 23,591 61,420 Lashkargah
Herat 1,309,500 16,645 43,334 Herat
Jowzjan 695,300 4,016 10,456 Shibirghan
Kabul (Kabol) 2,846,000 1,800 4,685 Kabul
Kandahar 1,406,700 18,679 48,630 Qandahar
Kapisa 442,000 2,077 5,407 Mahmud Raqi
Kunar (Konar) 523,000 3,900 10,153 Asadabad
Kunduz (Kondoz) 736,100 3,294 8,576 Kondsz
Laghman 610,000 2,745 7,147 Mihtarlam
Lowgar 315,000 1,864 4,853 Puli Alam
Nangarhar 1,410,000 2,938 7,650 Jalalabad
Nimruz 210,000 15,710 40,902 Zaranj
Nurestan (Nuristan) 135,000 3,256 8,477 - -
Paktia (Paktiya) 500,000 2,461 6,408 Gardez
Paktika 443,000 7,337 19,101 Sharan
Parvan 770,000 2,445 6,365 Charikhar
Samangan 535,300 4,956 12,902 Aybak
Sar-e Pul (Sar-e Pol or Saripul) 644,000 9,404 24,484 Sar-e Pul
Takhar 757,100 4,970 12,939 Taluqan
Urruzgan 289,000 10,955 28,522 Tirin Kot
Vardak 357,000 3,750 9,762 Maidanshar
Zabul (Zabol) 389,500 6,723 17,503 Qalat
SOURCE : Compiled and projected from United Nations and United States Agency for International Development statistics; these figures should be considered very rough estimates only. International organizations projected that up to 65% of the population was displaced as of 2002.

and east. Sand ridges and dunes alternate with wide desert plains, devoid of vegetation and covered with windblown sand changing here and there into barren gravel and clay areas. West of the Rjgestan Desert lies the Margow Desert, a desolate steppe with salt flats.

A flat strip of desert and steppe extends along the banks of the Amu Dar'ya. Desert and desert-like steppe areas are also found west of Badakhshan along the foothills of the Central Hindu Kush, and also west of Mazar-e Sharif. The southernmost fringe of the area passes gradually into elevated plains.

Forests and Jungles

A light forest cover of oak, pine, cedar, walnut, and other species grows in the Central Hindu Kush and the Safjd range. Willows and poplars are found in the mountain valleys.

HUMAN POPULATION

Since much of the country is covered by deserts and receives little precipitation, water has been a dominant factor in determining the location and distribution of human settlement. Many of the historically important towns are located near rivers and streams. Kabul, the country's capital and a crossroads of trade routes from east, west, north, and south, lies on the well-watered plains of the river with the same name. At least 80 percent of Afghanistan's population is rural, and about 20 percent are nomadic.

Afghanistan has seen almost constant war since the 1980s, including a long civil war and an invasion by the Soviet Union. This has resulted in enormous population shifts, with as many as six million Afghans thought to have sought refuge in Pakistan and Iran.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Afghanistan's major mineral resource that has been exploited so far is its natural gas reserves in the Northern Plains. Large deposits of high-grade iron ore remain unmined due to difficulty of access. Other mineral resources include coal, copper, petroleum, sulfur, lead, zinc, chromite, talc, barites, salt, and precious and semi-precious stones.

FURTHER READINGS

Edwards, David B. Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on theAfghan Frontier. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Elliot, Jason. An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan. London: Picador, 1999.

Ellis, Deborah. Women of the Afghan War. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2000.

Ewans, Martin. Afghanistan: A New History. Richmond: Curzon, 2001.

Giustozzi, Antonio. War, Politics, and Society in Afghanistan,1978-1992. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2000.

"The Most Dangerous Place on Earth: A Look Inside Afghanistan." Special report. Current Events. Nov. 30, 2001, pp.S1-5.

QUAZICO. Afghanistan Online. http://www.afghan-web.com (accessed February 14, 2002).

GEO-FACT

A fghanistan is a country of extreme weather conditions. Besides the great heat experienced in the summers and the icy cold of its high mountains, there is the effect known as the "Winds of 120 Days," so-called because of strong winds that blow between June and September with a velocity of up to 108 mph (180 kmph). Another example of extreme weather is "Allah's minesweepers," a term Afghan resistance fighters gave to hailstorms so heavy that they would set off some of the thousands of landmines planted in the country during its long wars.

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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

At a Glance

Official Name: Islamic State of Afghanistan

Continent: Asia

Area: 250,000 sq mi. (647,500 sq km)

Population: 26,813,057

Capital City: Kabul

Largest City: Kabul

Unit of Money: Afghani

Major Languages: Afghan Persian, Pashtu

Natural Resources: Natural gas, crude oil, coal, salt, copper, talc

The Place

Afghanistan is a landlocked country in south central Asia. The Hindu Kush is a very large mountain chain that divides Afghanistan into three regions. The Central Highlands are located in the middle of the country and have an area of about 160,000 square miles (414,400 sq km). They consist mainly of deep valleys and tall mountains.

The Northern Plains extend from the northwestern border of Iran to the beginning of the Pamir Mountains near Tajikistan. This region has very rich soil and produces many of the country's crops. Valuable natural gas and mineral deposits are also located there.

The Southwestern Plateau in the lower section of Afghanistan is made up mostly of deserts, high plateaus, and semidesert regions.

The Rigestan Desert accounts for about one-quarter of the land.

Some important rivers also run through the country. The Amu River makes up the border between Afghanistan and two of its eastern neighbors—Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Hari River irrigates the fertile Northern Plains and later forms part of the border between Afghanistan and Iran.

The People

The population and way of life have changed greatly for Afghanis over the last three decades. Because of an ongoing civil war, many people have fled the country or relocated to safer areas. Afghanis are also very young—almost half are under 15 years old. The average life span in the country is 45 years.

There are many different ethnic groups living throughout Afghanistan. The Pashtuns are the largest group and inhabit the southern and eastern areas. The Tajiks—who are mostly farmers and craftspeople—live in the northeast and west. The Uzbek farmers and the Turkmen herdsmen live north of the Hindu Kush mountains.

Much of Afghanistan's population lives in rural areas. The majority of these residents are farmers with fairly small plots of land. Afghanis that live in urban areas consist of craftsmen, merchants, and government workers. The country's capital houses about one half of the urban population.

Education

Although elementary education is free and officially required wherever it is offered in Afghanistan, the ongoing civil war disrupts most schooling. Despite these services, however, only about one quarter of the country's children attend school. Because of this, only about one third of the Afghanistan population is literate. As a result of the civil war, women are no longer given educational opportunities.

Popular Culture/Daily Life

In rural areas, Afghanis live in social groups that are similar to tribes. Family structure is very important in the community. People socialize within their community and help each other with chores.

Religion is also very important in Afghanistan. About 99% of the population is Muslim. Afghanis celebrate many religious holidays and national feasts with dancing. The country's national attan dance is well known. Another pastime is the singing of folk music.

Government

Type: Transitional government (warring factions)

Structure: None

Leader: Military leaders

Defense

40,000 army personnel

870 tanks

0 major ships

233 combat aircraft

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Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN

Compiled from the January 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.




Official Name:
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

(The Taliban referred to the country as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.)




PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
UN EFFORTS
U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 652,100 sq. km. (252,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas. Cities: Capital (1999/2000 UN est.) Kabul—1,780,000. Other cities (1988 UN est.; current figures are probably significantly higher)—Kandahar (226,000); Herat (177,000); Mazar-e-Sharif (131,000); Jalalabad (58,000); Konduz (57,000).

Terrain: Landlocked; mostly mountains and desert.

Climate: Dry, with cold winters and hot summers.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Afghan(s).

Population: Estimates range from 22 million to 28.7 million. More than 4 million Afghans live outside the country, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, although over two and a half million have returned since the removal of the Taliban.

Annual population growth rate: (2002 est.) 2.6%.

Main ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Aimaq, Baluch, Nuristani, Kizilbash.

Religions: Sunni Muslim 84%, Shi'a Muslim 15%, other 1%.

Main languages: Dari (Afghan Persian), Pashto.

Education: Approximately 4 million children, of whom some 30% are girls, enrolled in school during 2003. Literacy (2001 est.)—36% (male 51%, female 21%), but real figures may be lower given breakdown of education system and flight of educated Afghans.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2003)—165/1,000. Life expectancy (2001 est.)—41.1yrs. (male); 43.7 yrs. (female).

Work force: Mostly in rural agriculture; number cannot be estimated due to conflict.


Government

Type: Afghanistan identifies itself as an "Islamic Republic."

Independence: August 19, 1919 (from U.K. control over Afghan foreign affairs).

Constitution: Adopted on January 4, 2004, paving the way for nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for June 2004.


Economy

GDP: $4 billion (2002-03 est.).

Per capita GDP: $180-$190 (based on 22 million population estimate).

Purchasing parity power: $21 billion (1999 est.).

GDP growth: 28.6% (2002-03 est.)

Natural resources: Natural gas, oil, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.

Agriculture: (estimated 52% of GDP) Products—wheat, corn, barley, rice, cotton, fruit, nuts, karakul pelts, wool, and mutton.

Industry: (estimated 26% of GDP) Types—small-scale production for domestic use of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; hand-woven carpets for export; natural gas, precious and semiprecious gemstones.

Services: (estimated 22% of GDP) transport, retail, and telecommunications.

Trade: (2002-03 est.) Exports—$100 million (does not include opium) opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semiprecious gems. Major markets—Central Asian republics, Pakistan, Iran, EU, India. Estimates show that the figure for 2001 was much lower, except for opium. Imports—$2.3 billion: food, petroleum products, machinery, and consumer goods. Estimates show that imports were severely reduced in 2001. Major suppliers—Central Asian republics, Pakistan, Iran.

Currency: The currency is the afghani, which was reintroduced as Afghanistan's new currency in January 2003. The exchange rate of the new currency has remained broadly stable since the completion of the conversion process from the country's old afghani currency. At present,us$1 equals approximately 48 afghanis. Since its inception the new afghani has gained gradual acceptance throughout the country, but other foreign currencies are also still frequently accepted as legal tender.





PEOPLE

Afghanistan's ethnically and linguistically mixed population reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South and Southwest Asia. Pashtuns are the dominant ethnic group, accounting for about 38% of the population. Tajik (25%), Hazara (19%), Uzbek (6%), Aimaq, Turkmen, Baluch, and other small groups also are represented. Dari (Afghan Persian) and Pashto are official languages. Dari is spoken by more than one-third of the population as a first language and serves as a lingua franca for most Afghans, though the Taliban use Pashto. Tajik, Uzbek, and Turkmen are spoken widely in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. An estimated 84% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; the remainder is predominantly Shi'a, mainly Hazara. Despite attempts during the years of communist rule to secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In fact, Islam served as the principal basis for expressing opposition to the communists and the Soviet invasion. Likewise, Islamic religious tradition and codes, together with traditional practices, provide the principal means of controlling personal conduct and settling legal disputes. Excluding urban populations in the principal cities, most Afghans are divided into tribal and other kinship-based groups, which follow traditional customs and religious practices.


HISTORY

Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent history. In 328 BC, Alexander the Great entered the territory of present-day Afghanistan, then part of the Persian Empire, to capture Bactria (present-day Balkh). Invasions by the Scythians, White Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries. In AD 642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced Islam.

Arab rule gave way to the Persians, who controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998. Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) consolidated the conquests of his predecessors and turned Ghazni into a great cultural center as well as a base for frequent forays into India. Following Mahmud's short-lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule sections of the country until the Mongol invasion of 1219. The Mongol invasion, led by Genghis Khan, resulted in massive slaughter of the population, destruction of many cities, including Herat, Ghazni, and Balkh, and the despoliation of fertile agricultural areas.

Following Genghis Khan's death in 1227, a succession of petty chiefs and princes struggled for supremacy until late in the 14th century, when one of his descendants, Tamerlane, incorporated Afghanistan into his own vast Asian empire. Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane and the founder of India's Moghul dynasty at the beginning of the 16th century, made Kabul the capital of an Afghan principality.

In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of what is known today as Afghanistan, established his rule. A Pashtun, Durrani was elected king by a tribal council after the assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir Shah at Khabushan in the same year. Throughout his reign, Durrani consolidated chieftainships, petty principalities, and fragmented provinces into one country. His rule extended from Mashad in the west to Kashmir and Delhi in the east, and from the Amu Darya (Oxus) River in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south. With the exception of a 9-month period in 1929, all of Afghanistan's rulers until the 1978 Marxist coup were from Durrani's Pashtun tribal confederation, and all were members of that tribe's Mohammadzai clan after 1818.


European Influence

During the 19th century, collision between the expanding British Empire in the subcontinent and czarist Russia significantly influenced Afghanistan in what was termed "The Great Game." British concern over Russian advances in Central Asia and growing influence in Persia culminated in two Anglo-Afghan wars. The first (1839-42) resulted not only in the destruction of a British army, but is remembered today as an example of the ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule. The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-80) was sparked by Amir Sher Ali's refusal to accept a British mission in Kabul. This conflict brought Amir Abdur Rahman to the Afghan throne. During his reign (1880-1901), the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan. The British retained effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs.

Afghanistan remained neutral during World War I, despite German encouragement of anti-British feelings and Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India. The Afghan king's policy of neutrality was not universally popular within the country, however.

Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son and successor, was assassinated in 1919, possibly by family members opposed to British influence. His third son, Amanullah, regained control of Afghanistan's foreign policy after launching the Third Anglo-Afghan war with an attack on India in the same year. During the ensuing conflict, the war-weary British relinquished their control over Afghan foreign affairs by signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1919. In commemoration of this event,
Afghans celebrate August 19 as their Independence Day.


Reform and Reaction.

King Amanullah (1919-29) moved to end his country's traditional isolation in the years following the Third Anglo-Afghan war. He established diplomatic relations with most major countries and, following a 1927 tour of Europe and Turkey—during which he noted the modernization and secularization advanced by Ataturk—introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. Some of these, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil 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 was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to forces led by Bacha-i-Saqao, a Tajik brigand. Prince Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah's, in turn defeated Bacha-i-Saqao in October of the same year and, with considerable Pashtun tribal support, was declared King Nadir Shah. Four years later, however, he was assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.

Mohammad Zahir Shah, Nadir Khan's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal constitution providing for a two-chamber legislature to which the king appointed one-third of the deputies. The people elected another third, and the remainder were selected indirectly by provincial assemblies. Although Zahir's "experiment in democracy" produced few lasting reforms, it permitted the growth of unofficial extremist parties on both the left and the right. These included the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which had close ideological ties to the Soviet Union. In 1967, the PDPA split into two major rival factions: the Khalq (Masses) faction headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and supported by elements within the military, and the Parcham (Banner) faction led by Babrak Karmal. The split reflected ethnic, class, and ideological divisions within Afghan society.

Zahir's cousin, Sardar Mohammad Daoud, served as his Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Daoud solicited military and economic assistance from both Washington and Moscow and introduced controversial social policies of a reformist nature. Daoud's alleged support for the creation of a Pashtun state in the Pakistan-Afghan border area heightened tensions with Pakistan and eventually resulted in Daoud's dismissal in March 1963.


Daoud's Republic (1973-78) and the April 1978 Coup

Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and poor economic conditions created by the severe 1971-72 drought, former Prime Minister Daoud seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973. Zahir Shah fled the country, eventually finding refuge in Italy. Daoud abolished the monarchy, abrogated the 1964 constitution, and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as its first President and Prime Minister. His attempts to carry out badly needed economic and social reforms met with little success, and the new constitution promulgated in February 1977 failed to quell chronic political instability.

Seeking to exploit more effectively mounting popular disaffection, the PDPA reunified with Moscow's support. On April 27, 1978, the PDPA initiated a bloody coup, which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Daoud and most of his family. Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Opposition to the Marxist government emerged almost immediately. During its first 18 months of rule, the PDPA brutally imposed a Marxiststyle "reform" program, which ran counter to deeply rooted Afghan traditions. Decrees forcing changes in marriage customs and pushing through an ill-conceived land reform were particularly misunderstood by virtually all Afghans. In addition, thousands of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the intelligentsia were imprisoned, tortured, or murdered. Conflicts within the PDPA also surfaced early and resulted in exiles, purges, imprisonments, and executions.

By the summer of 1978, a revolt began in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan and quickly spread into a countrywide insurgency. In September 1979, Hafizullah Amin, who had earlier been Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, seized power from Taraki after a palace shootout. Over the next 2 months, instability plagued Amin's regime as he moved against perceived enemies in the PDPA. By December, party morale was crumbling, and the insurgency was growing.


The Soviet Invasion

The Soviet Union moved quickly to take advantage of the April 1978 coup. In December 1978, Moscow signed a new bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan, and the Soviet military assistance program increased significantly. The regime's survival increasingly was dependent upon Soviet military equipment and advisers as the insurgency spread and the Afghan army began to collapse.

By October 1979, however, relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union were tense as Hafizullah Amin refused to take Soviet advice on how to stabilize and consolidate his government. Faced with a deteriorating security situation on December 24, 1979, large numbers of Soviet airborne forces, joining thousands of Soviet troops already on the ground, began to land in Kabul under the pretext of a field exercise. On December 26, these invasion forces killed Hafizullah Amin and installed Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction, bringing him back from Czechoslovakia and making him Prime Minister. Massive Soviet ground forces invaded from the north on December 27.

Following the invasion, the Karmal regime, although backed by an expeditionary force that grew as large as 120,000 Soviet troops, was unable to establish authority outside Kabul. As much as 80% of the countryside, including parts of Herat and Kandahar, eluded effective government control. An overwhelming majority of Afghans opposed the communist regime, either actively or passively. Afghan freedom fighters (mujahidin) made it almost impossible for the regime to maintain a system of local government outside major urban centers. Poorly armed at first, in 1984 the mujahidin began receiving substantial assistance in the form of weapons and training from the U.S. and other outside powers.

In May 1985, the seven principal Peshawar-based guerrilla organizations formed an alliance to coordinate their political and military operations against the Soviet occupation. Late in 1985, the mujahidin were active in and around Kabul, launching rocket attacks and conducting operations against the communist government. The failure of the Soviet Union to win over a significant number of Afghan collaborators or to rebuild a viable Afghan army forced it to bear an increasing responsibility for fighting the resistance and for civilian administration.


Soviet and popular displeasure with the Karmal regime led to its demise in May 1986. Karmal was replaced by Muhammad Najibullah, former chief of the Afghan secret police (KHAD). Najibullah had established a reputation for brutal efficiency during his tenure as KHAD chief. As Prime Minister, Najibullah was ineffective and highly dependent on Soviet support. Undercut by deep-seated divisions within the PDPA, regime efforts to broaden its base of support proved futile.


The Geneva Accords and Their Aftermath

By the mid-1980s, the tenacious Afghan resistance movement—aided by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others—was exacting a high price from the Soviets, both militarily within Afghanistan and by souring the U.S.S.R.'s relations with much of the Western and Islamic world. Informal negotiations for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had been underway since 1982. In 1988 the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the United States and Soviet Union serving as guarantors, signed an agreement settling the major differences between them. The agreement, known as the Geneva accords, included five major documents, which, among other things, called for U.S. and Soviet noninterference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the right of refugees to return to Afghanistan without fear of persecution or harassment, and, most importantly, a timetable that ensured full Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. About 14,500 Soviet and an estimated one million Afghan lives were lost between 1979 and the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Significantly, the mujahidin were party neither to the negotiations nor to the 1988 agreement and, consequently, refused to accept the terms of the accords. As a result, the civil war continued after the Soviet withdrawal, which was completed in February 1989. Najibullah's regime, though failing to win popular support, territory, or international recognition, was able to remain in power until 1992 but collapsed after the defection of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostam and his Uzbek militia in March. However, when the victorious mujahidin entered Kabul to assume control over the city and the central government, a new round of internecine fighting began between the various militias, which had coexisted only uneasily during the Soviet occupation. With the demise of their common enemy, the militias' ethnic, clan, religious, and personality differences surfaced, and the civil war continued.

Seeking to resolve these differences, the leaders of the Peshawar-based mujahidin groups established an interim Islamic Jihad Council in mid-April 1992 to assume power in Kabul. Moderate leader Prof. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was to chair the council for 2 months, after which a 10-member leadership council composed of mujahidin leaders and presided over by the head of the Jamiat-i-Islami, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, was to be set up for 4 months. During this 6-month period, a Loya Jirga, or grand council of Afghan elders and notables, would convene and designate an interim administration which would hold power up to a year, pending elections.

But in May 1992, Rabbani prematurely formed the leadership council, undermi ning Mojaddedi's fragile authority. In June, Mojaddedi surrendered power to the Leadership Council, which then elected Rabbani as President. Nonetheless, heavy fighting broke out in August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions, particularly those who supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami. After Rabbani extended his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the capital flared up in January and February 1993. The Islamabad Accord, signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar as Prime Minister, failed to have a lasting effect. A follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad Accord, called for the militias to be disarmed but was never fully implemented. Through 1993, Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces, allied with the Shi'a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed intermittently with Rabbani and Masood's Jamiat forces. Cooperating with Jamiat were militants of Sayyaf's Ittehad-i-Islami and, periodically, troops loyal to ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam. On January 1, 1994, Dostam switched sides, precipitating large-scale fighting in Kabul and in northern provinces, which caused thousands of civilian casualties in Kabul and elsewhere and created a new wave of displaced persons and refugees. The country sank even further into anarchy, forces loyal to Rabbani and Masood, both ethnic Tajiks, controlled Kabul and much of the north-east, while local warlords exerted power over the rest of the country.


Rise of the Taliban

In reaction to the anarchy and warlordism prevalent in the country, and the lack of Pashtun representation in the Kabul government, a movement of former mujahidin arose. Many Taliban had been educated in madrassas in Pakistan and were largely from rural Pashtun backgrounds. The name "Talib" itself means pupil. This group dedicated itself to removing the warlords, providing order, and imposing Islam on the country. It received considerable support from Pakistan. In 1994 it developed enough strength to capture the city of Kandahar from a local warlord and proceeded to expand its control throughout Afghanistan, occupying Kabul in September 1996. By the end of 1998, the Taliban occupied about 90% of the country, limiting the opposition largely to a small mostly Tajik corner in the northeast and the Panjshir valley. Efforts by the UN, prominent Afghans living outside the country, and other interested countries to bring about a peaceful solution to the continuing conflict came to naught, largely because of intransigence on the part of the Taliban.

The Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam—based in part upon rural Pashtun tradition—on the entire country and committed massive human rights violations, particularly directed against women and girls, in the process. Women were restricted from working outside the home and pursuing an education, were not to leave their homes without an accompanying male relative, and were forced to wear a traditional body-covering garment called the burka. The Taliban committed serious atrocities against minority populations, particularly the Shi'a Hazara ethnic group, and killed noncombatants in several well-documented instances. In 2001, as part of a drive against relics of Afghani stan's pre-Islamic past, the Taliban destroyed two large statues of the Buddha outside of the city of Bamiyan and announced destruction of all pre-Islamic statues in Afghanistan, including the remaining holdings of the Kabul Museum.

From the mid-1990s the Taliban provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national who had fought with them against the Soviets, and provided a base for his and other terrorist organizations. The UN Security Council repeatedly sanctioned the Taliban for these activities. Bin Laden provided both financial and political support to the Taliban. Bin Laden and his al Qaeda group were charged with the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, and in August 1998 the United States launched a cruise missile attack against bin Laden's terrorist camp in Afghanistan. Bin Laden and al Qaeda are believed to be responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist acts in the United States, among other crimes.

In September 2001, agents working on behalf of the Taliban and believed to be associated with bin Laden's al Qaeda group assassinated Northern Alliance Defense Minister and chief military commander Ahmed Shah Masood, a hero of the Afghan resis tance against the Soviets and the Taliban's principal military opponent. Following the Taliban's repeated refusal to expel bin Laden and his group and end its support for international terrorism, the U.S. and its partners in the anti-terrorist coalition began a campaign on October 7, 2001, targeting terrorist facilities and various Taliban military and political assets within Afghanistan.

Under pressure from U.S. air power and anti-Taliban ground forces, the Taliban disintegrated rapidly, and Kabul fell on November 13, 2001. Sponsored by the UN, Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban met in Bonn, Germany in early December and agreed to restore stability and governance to Afghanistan by creating an interim government and establishing a process to move toward a permanent government. Under this so-called Bonn Agreement, an Afghan Interim Authority was formed and took office in Kabul on December 22, 2001 with Hamid Karzai as Chairman. The Interim Authority held power for approximately 6 months while preparing for a nationwide "Loya Jirga" (Grand Council) in mid-June 2002 that decided on the structure of a Transitional Authority. The Transitional Authority, headed by President Hamid Karzai, renamed the government as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). One of the TISA's primary achievements was the drafting of a constitution that was ratified by a Constitutional Loya Jirga on January 4, 2004.




GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Afghanistan identifies itself as an "Islamic Republic." The new national constitution adopted on January 4, 2004 paves the way for nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in June 2004.

The government's authority beyond the capital, Kabul, is slowly growing, although its ability to deliver necessary social services remains largely dependent on funds from the international donor community. So far, the United States has committed nearly $4 billion to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, while other donors within the international community have pledged an additional $5 billion to meet short- and long-term needs.

With anti-terrorist coalition support, the government's capacity to secure Afghanistan's borders to maintain internal order is increasing. The government continues to work closely with coalition forces in rooting out remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban. The core of an Afghan National Army (ANA) is being trained, as are police. Some ministerial reforms are underway, most prominently at the Ministry of Defense, which has been reorganized to better reflect Afghanistan's ethnic diversity.

Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 2/13/04


President: Karzai, Hamid

Vice President: Khan, Mohammad Fahim

Vice President: Khalili, Abdul Karim

Vice President: Arsala, Hedayat Amin

Vice President: Shahrani, Niamatullah

Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Anwari, Seyyed Hussain

Min. of Border & Tribal Affairs: Noorzai, Mohammad Aref, Engineer

Min. of Civil Aviation & Tourism: Sadeq, Mohammad Mirwais

Min. of Commerce: Kazemi, Seyyed Mustafa

Min. of Communications: Stanakzai, Mohammad Masoom

Min. of Defense: Khan, Mohammad Fahim

Min. of Education: Qanuni, Yunis

Min. of Finance: Ghani, Ashraf

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Abdullah, Dr.

Min. of Hajj & Mosques: Naseryar, Mohammad Amin

Min. of Higher Education: Faez, Mohammad Sharif, Dr.

Min. of Information & Culture: Raheen, Seyyed Makhdoom, Dr.

Min. of Interior: Jalali, Ali

Min. of Irrigation & Environment: Nuristani, Ahmad Yusuf, Dr.

Min. of Justice: Karimi, Abdul Rahim

Min. of Labor & Social Affairs: Qarqin, Noor Mohammad

Min. of Light Industry & Food Stuffs: Razam, Mohammad Alam

Min. of Martyrs & Disabled: Wardak, Abdullah, Engineer

Min. of Mines & Industries:

Min. of Planning: Mohaqqeq, Ustad Haji Mohammad

Min. of Public Health: Sediq, Sohaila, Dr.

Min. of Public Works: Ali, Abdul

Min. of Reconstruction: Farhang, Mohammad Amin

Min. of Refugee Affairs: Nazeri, Enayatullah

Min. of Rural Development: Atmar, Mohammad Hanif

Min. of Transportation: Jawed, Seyyed Mohammad Ali

Min. of Urban Development: Shirzai, Gul Agha

Min. of Water & Power: Kargar, Mohammad Shaker

Min. of Women's Affairs: Sorabi, Habiba

Chair of the Human Rights Commission: Samar, Sima

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: Shinwari, Faisal Ahmad

Presidential Adviser on National Security: Rassoul, Zalmay

Governor, Central Bank: Ahady, Anwar Ul-Haq

Ambassador to the US: Jawad, Seyyed Tayeb

Permanent Representative to the UN, NY: Farhadi, Ravan A.G.

Afghanistan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-483-6410; email: [email protected]).




ECONOMY

In the 1930s, Afghanistan embarked on a modest economic development program. The government founded banks; introduced paper money; established a university; expanded primary, secondary, and technical schools; and sent students abroad for education. In 1956, the Afghan Government promulgated the first in a long series of ambitious development plans. By the late 1970s, these had achieved only mixed results due to flaws in the planning process as well as inadequate funding and a shortage of the skilled managers and technicians needed for implementation.

Historically, there has been a dearth of information and reliable statistics about Afghanistan's economy. The 1979 Soviet invasion and ensuing civil war destroyed much of the underdeveloped country's limited infrastructure and disrupted normal patterns of economic activity. Gross domestic product had fallen substantially over the preceding 23 years because of loss of labor and capital and disruption of trade and transport. Continuing internal strife hampered both domestic efforts at reconstruction as well as international aid efforts. However, Afghanistan's economy has been growing at a fast pace since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, albeit from a low base. In 2003, growth was estimated at close to 30%, and the growth rate is expected to be over 20% in 2004.

Agriculture

The Afghan economy continues to be overwhelmingly agricultural, despite the fact that only 12% of its total land area is arable and less than 6% currently is cultivated. Agricultural production is constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water; irrigation is primitive. Relatively little use is made of machines, chemical fertilizer, or pesticides.

Grain production is Afghanistan's traditional agricultural mainstay. Overall agricultural production dramatically declined following 4 years of severe drought as well as sustained fighting, instability in rural areas, and deteriorated infrastructure. Soviet efforts to disrupt production in resistance-dominated areas also contributed to this decline, as did the disruption to transportation resulting from ongoing conflict. The easing of the drought, which had affected more than half of the population into late 2002, and the end of civil war produced the largest wheat harvest in 25 years during 2003. Wheat production was an estimated 58% higher than in 2002. However, the country still needed to import an estimated million tons of wheat to meet its requirements for the year. Millions of Afghans, particularly in rural areas, remained dependent on food aid.

The war against the Soviet Union and the ensuing civil war led to migration to the cities and refugee flight to Pakistan and Iran, further disrupting normal agricultural production. Shortages were exacerbated by the country's already limited transportation network, which had deteriorated further due to damage and neglect resulting from war and the absence of an effective central government. Agricultural production and livestock numbers are still not sufficient to feed a large percentage of Afghanistan's population.

Opium has became a source of cash for many Afghans, especially following the breakdown in central authority after the Soviet withdrawal, and opi um-derived revenues probably constituted a major source of income for the two main factions during the civil war in the 1990s. The Taliban earned roughly $40 million per year on opium taxes alone. Opium is easy to cultivate and transport and offers a quick source of income for impoverished Afghans. Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of raw opium in 1999 and 2000. Much of Afghanistan's opium production is refined into heroin and is either consumed by a growing regional addict population or exported, primarily to Western Europe. Despite efforts to bring opium cultivation under control, the most recent 2003 crop is reportedly the largest recorded. The international community and the government are currently working on new initiatives to eliminate the narcotics economy.


Trade and Industry

Trade accounts for a small portion of the documented Afghan economy, and there are no reliable statistics relating to trade flows. In 2002-03, exports—not including opium or reexports—were estimated at $100 million and imports estimated at $2.3 billion, a significant increase over 2001-02. Since the 1989 Soviet with-drawal and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, other limited trade relationships with Central Asian states appear to be emerging. Exports to Iran and Pakistan account for about one-half of total exports. Belgium, Russia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States each account for 5% or more of Afghanistan's exports. Japan, Korea, and Pakistan account for about 40% of imports. Other significant sources of imports are Germany, India, Iran, Kenya, Turkmenistan, and the United States. Afghanistan does not enjoy U.S. most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status, which was revoked in 1986. Most of Afghanistan's exports (excluding illegal or smuggled exports) are agricultural products and carpets.

Afghanistan is endowed with a wealth of natural resources, including extensive deposits of natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, and precious and semiprecious stones. In the 1970s the Soviets estimated Afghanistan had as much as five trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, 95 million barrels of oil and condensate reserves, and 400 million tons of coal. Unfortunately, ongoing instability in certain areas of the country, remote and rugged terrain, and inadequate infrastructure and transportation network have made mining these resources difficult, and there have been few serious attempts to further explore or exploit them.

The most important resource has been natural gas, first tapped in 1967. At their peak during the 1980s, natural gas sales accounted for $300 million a year in export revenues (56% of the total). Ninety percent of these exports went to the Soviet Union to pay for imports and debts. However, during the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, Afghanistan's natural gas fields were capped to prevent sabotage by the mujahidin. Restoration of gas production has been hampered by internal strife and the disruption of traditional trading relationships following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gas production dropped from a high of 290 million cubic feet (Mmcf) per day in the 1980s to a low of about 22 Mmcf in 2001.

Trade in goods smuggled into Pakistan once constituted a major source of revenue for Afghan regimes, including the Taliban, and still figure as an important element in the Afghan economy. Many of the goods smuggled into Pakistan originally entered Afghanistan from Pakistan, where they fell under the Afghan Trade and Transit Agreement (ATTA), which permitted goods bound for Afghanistan to transit Pakistan free of duty. When Pakistan clamped down in 2000 on the types of goods permitted duty-free transit, routing of goods through Iran from the Gulf increased significantly. Shipments of smuggled goods were subjected to fees and duties paid to the Afghan Government. The trade also provided jobs to tens of thousands of Afghans on both sides of the Durand Line, which forms the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan's closing its Afghan border in September 2001 presumably curtailed this traffic.

Transportation

Landlocked Afghanistan has no functioning railways, but the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, which forms part of Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, has barge traffic. During their occupation of the country, the Soviets completed a bridge across the Amu Darya and built a motor vehicle and railroad bridge between Termez and Jeyretan. The U.S., in conjunction with the governments of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, is currently exploring the feasibility of resuscitating a bridge link over the Amu Darya.

Most road building occurred in the 1960s, funded by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Soviets built a road and tunnel through the Salang Pass in 1964, connecting northern and southern Afghanistan. A highway connecting the principal cities of Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Kabul with links to highways in neighboring Pakistan formed the primary road system.

Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana, operates domestic and international routes, including flights to New Delhi, Islamabad, Dubai, Moscow, Istanbul, Tehran, and Frankfurt. A private carrier, Kam Air, commenced domestic operations in November 2003.

Many sections of Afghanistan's highway and regional road system are undergoing significant reconstruction. The U.S. (with assistance from Japan) has just completed the first phase of paving along the entire stretch of primary road linking Kabul with the southern regional capital Kandahar. Plans to add a second layer of paving between Kabul-Kandahar, as well as reconstruct the primary road between Kandahar and the western city of Herat are also in the works. The Asian Development Bank is nearing completion on a road reconstruction project between Kandahar and Spin Boldak, located at the southeastern border with Pakistan.


Humanitarian Relief

The UN and the international donor community continue to provide considerable humanitarian relief. Since its inception in 1988, the umbrella UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) has channeled more than $1 billion in multilateral assistance to Afghan refugees and vulnerable persons inside Afghanistan. The U.S., the European Union (EU), and Japan are the leading contributors to this relief effort. One of its key tasks is to eliminate from priority areas—such as villages, arable fields, and roads—some of the 5 to 7 million land mines and 750,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO), sown mainly during the Soviet occupation, which continue to litter the Afghan landscape. Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country in the world; mine-related injuries number up to 150 per month, and an estimated 200,000 Afghans have been disabled by landmine/UXO accidents. Mine clearing efforts are ongoing, with great progress being made along the Kabul-Kandahar road construction project. With funding from international donors, including the U.S., the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have instituted a number of educational programs and mine awareness campaigns in various parts of the country.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan pursued a policy of neutrality and nonalignment in its foreign relations. In international forums, Afghanistan generally followed the voting patterns of Asian and African nonaligned countries. Following the Marxist coup of April 1978, the Taraki government developed significantly closer ties with the Soviet Union and its communist satellites.

After the December 1979 invasion, Afghanistan's foreign policy mirrored that of the Soviet Union. Afghan foreign policy makers attempted, with little success, to increase their regime's low standing in the noncommunist world. With the signing of the 1988 Geneva Accords, Najibullah unsuccessfully sought to end Afghanistan's isolation within the Islamic world and in the Non-Aligned Movement.

Most Western countries, including the United States, maintained small diplomatic missions in Kabul during the Soviet occupation. (Throughout the Soviet occupation, the U.S. did not recognize the Afghan regimes, and its mission was headed by a Charged' Affaires rather than an Ambassador.) Many countries subsequently closed their missions due to instability and heavy fighting in Kabul.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban regime in 1997. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates withdrew recognition following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Repeated Taliban efforts to occupy Afghanistan's seat at the UN and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were unsuccessful.

The fall of the Taliban in October 2001 opened a new chapter in Afghanistan's foreign relations. Afghanistan is now an active member of the international community, and has extended diplomatic relations with countries from around the world. In December 2002, the six nations that border Afghanistan signed a 'Good Neighbor' Declaration, in which they pledged to respect Afghanistan's independence and territorial integrity.


Pakistan

The 1978 Marxist coup strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan took the lead diplomatically in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in opposing the Soviet occupation. During the war against the Soviet occupation, Pakistan served as the primary logistical conduit for the Afghan resistance.

Pakistan initially developed close ties to the Taliban regime, and extended recognition in 1997. This policy was not without controversy in Pakistan, where many objected to the Taliban's human rights record and radical interpretation of Islam. Following the Taliban's resistance to Islamabad's pressure to comply with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and surrender Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, Pakistan dramatically altered its policy by closing its border and downgrading its ties.

Despite occasional tensions between the two countries, particularly along their shared border region, Afghanistan and Pakistan are engaged in ongoing dialogue to resolve their outstanding differences. Senior representatives from the two countries meet periodically through the Tripartite Commission, a U.S.-facilitated forum that offers both sides an opportunity to articulate views on specific issues and work toward common solutions. Both sides have much to gain from an improved relationship; much of Afghanistan has long relied on Pakistani links for trade and travel to the outside world, while Pakistan views Afghanistan as eventually becoming its primary route for trade with Central Asia.

Editor's Update
April 2004


A report on important events that have taken place since the last State Department revision of this Background Note.

Following the Loya Jirga held in June 2002 to elect a transitional government, one of Afghanistan's three vice presidents was assassinated. On July 6, 2002, Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir was assassinated by gunmen in Kabul. He also had been governor of the province of Nangarhar, and was a powerful and influential Pashtun leader.

Since the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan began in October 2001, the U.S. has made a number of errors in its fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. In July 2002, a U.S. air raid in Uruzgan province killed 48 civilians who were celebrating a wedding. Afghans often fire guns in the air during weddings and other celebrations, and a coalition air patrol flying in the area reported coming under anti-aircraft artillery fire. The aircraft took retaliatory action. In another incident, four Canadian soldiers were killed in April 2002 when a U.S. fighter jet bombed them by mistake during training exercises.

On September 5, 2002, Hamid Karzai was the target of an assassination attempt in Kandahar, his home town. He survived, and another plot against him was thwarted on November 22.

Afghan government forces and U.S.-led coalition forces clashed with remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda throughout 2003 and into 2004, resulting in many casualties. In August 2003, NATO took control of security in Kabul. It was the organization's first operational commitment outside Europe in its history. On March 7, 2004, U.S.-led coalition forces working with Pakistani forces began a new offensive against Taliban insurgents and al-Qaeda leaders in the porous Afghan-Pakistani border regions. Osama bin Laden was reported to have narrowly escaped capture by French forces, and the hunt was on for Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second-in-command leader behind bin Laden, was also reported to be in the region. That month, there were an estimated 500-600 suspected foreign terrorists living in the semiautonomous tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

A Loya Jirga held in January 2004 adopted a new constitution—the country's sixth written constitution—which provides for a strong presidency, a two-chamber parliament, and an independent judiciary. The constitution also declares women and men to be equal under the law.




Iran

Afghanistan's relations with Iran have fluctuated over the years, with periodic disputes over the water rights of the Helmand River as the main issue of contention. Following the Soviet invasion, which Iran opposed, relations deteriorated. The Iranian consulate in Herat closed, as did the Afghan consulate in Mashad.

The Iranians complained of periodic border violations following the Soviet invasion. In 1985, they urged feuding Afghan Shi'a resistance groups to unite to oppose the Soviets. Iran supported the cause of the Afghan resistance and provided limited financial and military assistance to rebel leaders who pledged loyalty to the Iranian vision of Islamic revolution. Iran still provides refuge to about 1.4 million Afghans.

Following the emergence of the Taliban and their harsh treatment of Afghani stan's Shi' a minority, Iran stepped up assistance to the Northern Alliance. Relations with the Taliban deteriorated further in 1998 after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif and executed Iranian diplomats.

Since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's relations with Iran have improved. Iran has been active in Afghan reconstruction efforts, particularly in the western portion of the country, and is constructing a road between their eastern border and Herat, a major trade route linking the two countries.


Russia

In the 19th century, Afghanistan served as a strategic buffer state between czarist Russia and the British Empire in the subcontinent. Afghanistan's relations with Moscow became more cordial after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Soviet Union was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Afghanistan after the Third Anglo-Afghan war and signed an Afghan-Soviet nonaggression pact in 1921, which also provided for Afghan transit rights through the Soviet Union. Early Soviet assistance included financial aid, aircraft and attendant technical personnel, and telegraph operators.

The Soviets began a major economic assistance program in Afghanistan in the 1950s. Between 1954 and 1978, Afghanistan received more than $1 billion in Soviet aid, including substantial military assistance. In 1973, the two countries announced a $200-million assistance agreement on gas and oil development, trade, transport, irrigation, and factory construction. Following the 1979 invasion, the Soviets augmented their large aid commitments to shore up the Afghan economy and rebuild the Afghan military. They provided the Karmal regime an unprecedented $800 million. The Soviet Union supported the Najibullah regime even after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in February 1989.

During the reign of the Taliban, Russia became increasingly disenchanted over Taliban support for Chechen rebels and for providing a sanctuary for terrorist groups active in Central Asia and in Russia itself. Russia provided military assistance to the Northern Alliance.

Though Afghanistan's current government has improved relations with Russia, the sensitive history between the two countries has left deep scars and residual feelings of mistrust. Afghanistan's outstanding foreign debt to Russia continues to be a source of contention.


Tajikistan

Afghanistan's relations with Tajikistan have been complicated by political upheaval and civil war in Tajikistan, which spurred some 100,000 Tajiks to seek refuge in Afghanistan in late 1992 and early 1993. Tajik rebels seeking to overthrow the Tajik government headed by Imamali Rahmanov began operating from Afghan bases and recruiting Tajik refugees into their ranks. These rebels, reportedly aided by Afghans and a number of foreign Islamic extremists, conducted cross-border raids against Russian and Tajik security posts and sought to infiltrate fighters and materiel from Afghanistan into Tajikistan. Also disenchanted by the Taliban's harsh treatment of Afghanistan's Tajik minority, Tajikistan facilitated assistance to the Northern Alliance.

In the post-Taliban era, Afghanistan seeks closer ties with its northern neighbor in order to capitalize on the potential economic benefits of increased trade. A planned bridge span linking the two countries over the Amu Darya River is a tangible sign of this new collaboration.




UN EFFORTS

During the Soviet occupation, the United Nations was highly critical of the U.S.S.R.'s interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and was instrumental in obtaining a negotiated Soviet withdrawal under the terms of the 1988 Geneva Accords.

In the aftermath of the Accords and subsequent Soviet withdrawal, the United Nations assisted in the repatriation of refugees and provided humanitarian aid such as health care, educational programs, and food and has supported mine-clearing operations. From 1990-2001, the UN worked to promote a peaceful settlement between the Afghan factions as well as provide humanitarian aid. Since October 2001, the UN has played a key role in Afghanistan through the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), including spearheading efforts to organize Afghan elections slated for 2004.




U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONS

The first extensive American contact with Afghanistan was made by Josiah Harlan, an adventurer from Pennsylvania who was an adviser in Afghan politics in the 1830s and reputedly inspired Rudyard Kipling's story "The Man Who Would be King." After the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1934, the U.S. policy of helping developing nations raise their standard of living was an important factor in maintaining and improving U.S.-Afghan ties. From 1950 to 1979, U.S. foreign assistance provided Afghanistan with more than $500 million in loans, grants, and surplus agricultural commodities to develop transportation facilities, increase agricultural production, expand the educational system, stimulate industry, and improve government administration.

In the 1950s, the U.S. declined Afghanistan's request for defense cooperation but extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan's physical infrastructure —roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy. The Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979.

After the April 1978 coup, relations deteriorated. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnapers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the December 1979 Soviet invasion.

Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghans in need. U.S. efforts also included helping Afghans living inside Afghanistan. This crossborder humanitarian assistance program aimed at increasing Afghan self-sufficiency and helping Afghans resist Soviet attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated countryside. During the period of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion in military and economic assistance to Afghans and the resistance movement.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was closed in January 1989 for security reasons, but officially reopened as an embassy on January 17, 2002. Throughout Afghanistan's difficult and turbulent 23 years of conflict, the U.S. supported the peaceful emergence of a broad-based government representative of all Afghans and actively encouraged a UN role in the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Today, the U.S. is assisting the Afghan people as they rebuild their country and establish a representative government that contributes to regional stability, is market friendly, and respects human rights. The U.S. and Afghanistan are also working together to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for terrorists. The U.S. provides financial aid for mine-clearing, reconstruction, and humanitarian assistance through international organizations.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Kabul (E), Great Masood Road between Radio Afghanistan and Ministry of Public Health: (local); official mail (Pouch) Name (or Office or Agency), Department of State, 6180 Kabul Place, Washington, D.C. 20521-6180; Tel [93] (2) 290002, 290005, 290154; INMARSAT line Tel 00 [873] (761) 837-927; Fax: 00 [873](76) 183-7374.

AMB: [Vacant]
AMB OMS: [Vacant]
CHG: David Sedney
CDA: Sandra McInturff
MGT: Jeanine E. Jackson
POL/ECO: Kurt Amend
CON: Amber Baskette
PAO: Alberto M. Fernandez
OBO: Alex L. Raley
FAC: George A. Robb
RSO: Justine M. Sincavage
AID: Craig Buck
OMC: MG Karl Eikenberry
DATT: COL John Longenecker
DEA: Al Galietti
GSO: Matthew A. Weiller
IMO: Richard L. McInturff
REF: Mark H. Jackson
TREAS: Larry C. Seale

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003


TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
January 21, 2004


Country Description: Afghanistan faces daunting challenges – recovering from over two decades of civil strife, dealing with years of severe drought, and rebuilding a shattered infrastructure. Meanwhile, Operation Enduring Freedom continues to combat remaining Taliban and al-Qaeda elements. The Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan assumed power following the Emergency Loya Jirga held in June 2002 and adopted a new Constitution in January 2004. National elections are scheduled for June 2004.

Entry and Exit Requirements: A passport and visa are required. Information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of Afghanistan located at 2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, phone no. 202-483-6410, fax no. 202-483-6488, website: www.embassyofafghanistan.org.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

Safety and Security: The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan states clearly that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. There are remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qaeda network in various parts of Afghanistan. There is a continuing threat of terrorist actions, including attacks using vehicles, improvised explosive devices and other forms of bombs. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap US citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. There is also a real danger from the presence of millions of unexploded land mines and other ordnance.

Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property have become involved in complicated disputes and, even given favorable court proceedings, face possible retaliatory actions including threats of kidnapping for ransom.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement and other Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings, including the Travel Warning for Afghanistan, can be found.

The Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use tollfree numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Crime: A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including attacks with violence.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. (Currently, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is not issuing passports and cannot replace a lost passport.) The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, and Tips for Travelers to South Asia for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are generally available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. American travelers may seek emergency medical services at the International Security Assistance Forces medical facilities in Kabul but routine care is not available. The Malteser Clinic, located behind the Police Academy in Kabul, is staffed by German contract medical personnel and provides western standard routine medical care. Afghan hospitals in Kabul should be avoided at this time. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul. There are also some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from within Afghanistan is limited.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations. Medical transfer out of Afghanistan can be very difficult to accomplish and expensive.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas health care provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP 1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban RoadConditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

All traffic is in danger of land mines that may have been planted on and near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million land mines and large quantities of unexploded ordnance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and crime are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal. Vehicles are poorly maintained and often overloaded; traffic laws are not enforced; drivers are erratic. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

Aviation Safety Oversight: Three commercial airlines serve Afghanistan from Kabul International Airport. Pakistan International Airlines has three weekly flights to and from Islamabad. Azerbaijan Airways has three weekly flights to and from Baku.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul strongly recommends against flying Ariana Afghan Airlines. As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not formally assessed Afghanistan's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. However, in January 2004, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reviewed the aviation safety assessment report prepared by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which outlined significant safety deficiencies with Ariana Afghan Airlines. The FAA's review of the ICAO findings and interviews with Ariana Afghan Airlines officials identified significant safety deficiencies. Due to these findings, the U.S. government does not authorize official personnel to fly Afghan Ariana Airlines.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.intl.faa.gov.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Customs Regulations: Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington or one of Afghanistan's other diplomatic missions for specific information regarding customs requirements. Many countries through which travelers transit to/from Afghanistan have special requirements or will not allow you to enter with a firearm, antique or modern, even if you are transiting that country on the way to your final destination. If you plan to take your firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy to learn about its regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Afghanistan's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Proselytizing remains illegal and violators will be punished.

Consular Access: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited.

Special Circumstances: Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is extremely limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are very limited, as the banking system is just becoming operational. No ATM machines exist.

Telecommunications: International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747. Afghan law does not allow for adoption of children by foreigners. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use tollfree numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration and Embassy Location: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Afghanistan are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul where they may also obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. The U.S. Embassy is located at Great Masood Road, also known as Bebe Mahro (Airport) Road, Kabul, telephone number: 93-20-29002/29005. The Embassy's website is http://usembassy.state.gov/afghanistan/. The Embassy provides no passport or visa services, but does perform emergency and routine citizens services.

Travel Warning

February 4, 2004


This Travel Warning adds information on the threat to U.S. citizens and employees of nongovernmental organizations, provides updated information on the security situation in Afghanistan generally, and provides new phone numbers for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The security threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan remains high. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued July 28, 2003.

The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap and assassinate U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. The ability of Afghan authorities to maintain order and ensure the security of citizens and visitors is limited. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist Al-Qaida network, and other groups hostile to the government, remain active. U.S.-led military operations continue. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, is unsafe due to military operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry among political and tribal groups, and the possibility of terrorist attacks, including attacks using vehicular or other bombs. The security environment remains volatile and unpredictable.

There have been a number of attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests and nationals, including the killing of a United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) worker in Ghazni and car bombing in front of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) compound in Kandahar both in November 2003, and several attacks in 2002-2004 on International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), resulting in deaths and injuries, including two deadly attacks in late January 2004. The United Nations has temporarily evacuated its international staff from Kandahar, Jalalabad and Gardez and closed its office in Ghazni. Over the past year there have been several unsuccessful rocket attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan, including a rocket landing in a field opposite the Embassy compound in December 2003, and an explosion in the perimeter wall of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on November 22, 2003.

Family members of official Americans assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are not allowed to reside in Afghanistan. In addition, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State. From time to time, the U.S. Embassy places areas frequented by foreigners off limits to its personnel depending on current security conditions. Private U.S. citizens are strongly urged to heed these restrictions as well and may obtain the latest information by calling the U.S. Embassy in Kabul or consulting the Embassy website below. As stated in the current Worldwide Caution, terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings, assaults or kidnappings. Possible threats include conventional weapons such as explosive devises or non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents.

The United States Embassy cannot provide passport or visa services, and its ability to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited. Afghan authorities also can provide only limited assistance to U.S. citizens facing difficulties.

U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Afghanistan despite this Travel Warning are urged to pay close attention to their personal security, avoid rallies and demonstrations, and to register with and obtain updated security information from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The U.S. Embassy is located at Great Masood Road between Radio Afghanistan and the Ministry of Public Health (the road is also known as Bebe Mahro (Airport) Road), Kabul. Phone numbers are (93-20) 290002/ 290005 fax (93-20) 293-153 and (93-20) 230-1364. The Embassy website is http://usembassy.state.gov/afghanistan.

Updated information on travel and security in Afghanistan may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 tollfree in the United States or Canada, or, from overseas, 1-317-472-2328. For additional information, consult the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for Afghanistan and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement located at http://travel.state.gov.

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Afghanistan