Afghanistan

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Posted by sonny 02/28/2009 @ 03:39

Tags : afghanistan, central asia, asia, world

News headlines
Suicide Bomber Kills 8 in Southern Afghanistan - Voice of America
By VOA News Officials in southern Afghanistan say a suicide bomber has attacked a fleet of fuel tankers intended for international troops, killing at least eight Afghan drivers. A spokesman for the governor of Helmand province says the attack late...
Forty vie to unseat Afghanistan's Karzai - Reuters
By Sayed Salahuddin and Peter Graff KABUL, June 13 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's election commission published on Saturday the final list for the Aug. 20 presidential election, launching a campaign in which 40 challengers will face an uphill climb to...
4 years in Afghanistan, Turks suffer only 1 attack - The Associated Press
KABUL (AP) — A top US general says violence has reached on all-time high in Afghanistan, but Turkey's foreign minister said Saturday that his troops have suffered only one attack in almost four years. Turkey, the Muslim nation with the highest number...
Gains in Pakistan Fuel Pentagon Optimism for Pursuing Al-Qaeda - Washington Post
The defense officials said the principal Pakistani aim in isolating and eventually striking against insurgents inside Waziristan, a tribally governed region on the Afghanistan border, would be to neutralize the threat posed by Baitullah Mehsud,...
Another soldier killed in Afghanistan - Times Online
A soldier killed in Afghanistan yesterday morning was from the 2nd Battalion the Rifles and was killed in a military operation near Sangin in Helmand as friends and colleagues paid tribute to another serviceman, who lost his life on Thursday....
Last of 3 Ga. guardsmen killed in Afghanistan is buried - Atlanta Journal Constitution
Family members leave behind the casket of Staff Sgt. John Beale, who was killed in Afghanistan, on Saturday at Camp Memorial cemetery in Fayetteville. Blake Lee, 5, his mother, Jena Lee, and Randy Richter (holding flag) salute the funeral procession...
Gates to Press NATO Allies for More Support in Afghanistan - Voice of America
By VOA News US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Belgium for a two-day NATO meeting that will focus, in part, on the multi-national effort to battle Taliban forces in Afghanistan. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says alliance ministers...
funeral for Queens soldier killed in Afghanistan - New York Daily News
They all gathered Friday, many in tears, to remember the soldier who spread so much joy before his death last week in an Afghanistan explosion. The 21-year-old's flag-draped silver casket, flanked by red, white, blue and yellow bouquets, stood inside...
Abuse Photos Part of Agreement on Military Spending - New York Times
By CARL HULSE and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators reached tentative agreement on Thursday on a $105.9 billion spending measure that would provide money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September but...
US military deaths in Afghanistan region at 632 - Washington Post
By AP AP -- As of Friday, June 12, 2009, at least 632 members of the US military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department....

Demography of Afghanistan

Population pyramid for Afghanistan

The Demographics of Afghanistan are ethnically and linguistically mixed. This reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South Asia and Southwest Asia. Afghanistan can be considered a country of minorities as there is no group serving as a majority. Rather, Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group followed by Tajiks as the second largest group, then Hazaras, Uzbeks tied for third, followed by the Aimak, Turkmen, Baluch, Nuristani and other small groups. Pashto and Persian (Dari) the two official languages of the country. Persian is spoken by at least half of the population and serves as a lingua franca for most. Pashto is spoken widely in the south, east and south west. Uzbek and Turkmen are spoken in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.

The term Afghan, though (historically) synonymous with Pashtun, is promoted as a national identity. It is, however, hard to combine the varying groups. Often the Pashtun are referred to as Afghans while other groups hold to their ethnic name (e.g., Tajiks are known as Tajiks, Turkmens are known as Turkmens, etc.). The citizens of Afghanistan are in many ways somewhat distinct from the notion of ethnic Afghans as a result of this understanding. In order to solve the problem, in recent years, the term Afghanistani (meaning of or from Afghanistan and analogous to Uzbekistani, Pakistani, or Tajikistani) has been suggested for the citizens of Afghanistan in contrast to (ethnic) Afghans who would be the Pashtuns. The idea is supported by some politicians in Afghanistan, such as Latif Pedram.

99% of Afghanistan's population adheres to Islam. An estimated 80% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; 19% is 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 the principal basis for expressing opposition to communist rule 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.

The modern Afghan national identity is derived from the founding of the Durrani Empire in the mid 18th century. From 1747 until 1823, Ahmed Shah Durrani and his descendants held the monarchy in direct session. They were the first Pashtun rulers of the region.

There requires some realization that Afghan nationalism can be synonymous with that of Pashtun nationalism and as a result cannot be conflated into an Afghan national identity as the country is a multiethnic entity. Thus, there have been a variety of groups who have lived in what is today Afghanistan, but were not ethnic Afghans such as the aforementioned Tajiks as well as Uzbeks and Hazaras etc. who are currently divided as to what constitutes a national Afghan identity. Because Afghan history is fraught with regional cleavages any notion of an Afghan nation-state is largely absent until the 18th century and the rise of the Durrani Empire. For this reason, important figures from the past such as Avicenna and Rumi, who were of ethnic Persian (Tajik) identity, are often not identified as ethnic Afghans or even as Afghan people, at least according to academics, while they are generally included within the context of the collective history of the modern nation-state in the geographic sense.

Pashtuns (also known as Pakhtun or Pathan), or ethnic Afghans, reside mainly in southern and eastern Afghanistan and are also located in western Pakistan. Considerable pockets also exist throughout other parts of Afghanistan as Pashtuns have in recent times migrated, or have been forcefully displaced, to northern and western regions. Smaller groups of Pashtuns are also found in Iran. There are many conflicting theories, some contemporary, some ancient, about the origins of the Pashtun people, both among historians and the Pashtun themselves. According to the writer W.K. Frazier Tyler "the word Afghan first appears in history in the Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam, a work by an unknown geographer who wrote in 982 AD." Al-Biruni referred to Afghans as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of India, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains. According to other sources, these tribes are the lost Jewish tribes that never returned and were converted to Islam during the Arab Empire. Thus it is believed that the Pashtuns emerged from the area around the Sulaiman Mountains, and expanded from there. The Afghan identity began to develop as Pashtun identity under the rule of Ahmad Shah Durrani who united the Pashtun (Afghan) chiefdoms in the middle of 18th century. Another boost took place under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan who with British support further centralized the government. Until the advent of the modern "Afghan" state in the 20th century, the word Afghan had been synonymous with Pashtun.

In modern Afghanistan, Pashtuns are the dominant people and have been ruling since the fall of the Mughal and Safavid dynasties.

The Persian-speaking Tajiks are closely related to the Persians of Iran and are amongst the oldest inhabitants of the region. They can trace their roots back to the original Eastern Iranian peoples that settled Central Asia in ancient times, such as the Bactrians, Sogdians, Scythians and Parthians, as well as ancient Persians who fled to Central Asia during the Arab Islamic expansion. The Tajiks also comprise the majority population of Tajikistan and are found in large numbers in Uzbekistan and Iran as well as parts of western Pakistan and the Xinjiang province of western China.

Sub-groups of the Tajiks include the Farsiwan and the Qizilbash. The major difference between them is that they are generally of the Shia sect while other Tajiks are of the Sunni sect.

Despite being the indigenous peoples responsible for carrying on civilized society through the centuries, since the Mongol invasion of Central Asia, Tajiks have never ruled from first hand the region that is today Afghanistan — with the exception of the Kartids and the short 10-month rule of Habibullah Kalakani in 1929.

In modern Afghanistan, Tajiks have been mainly known for being bureaucrats, educators, doctors, teachers, professors, artisans and especially successful merchants and entrepreneurs.Some were also ministers.

The Hazaras are a Persianized Asian people who reside mainly in the Hazarajat region. The Hazara seem to have Mongolian origins with some admixture from surrounding indigenous groups. Linguistically the Hazara speak a dialect of Persian and sometimes their variant is interspersed with more Mongolian words. It is commonly believed by many Afghans that the Hazara are descendants of Genghis Khan's army, which marched into the area during the 12th century. Proponents of this view hold that many of the Mongol soldiers and their family members settled in the area and remained there after the Mongol empire dissolved in the 13th century, converting to Islam and adopting local customs. Unlike most Afghans the Hazara are Shia, which has often set them apart from their neighbors. There are sizeable Hazara communities in Pakistan particularly in NWFP and Quetta as well as in Iran.

The Uzbeks are the main Turkic people of Afghanistan and are found mainly in the northern regions of the country. Most likely the Uzbeks migrated with a wave of Turkic invaders and intermingled with local Iranian tribes over time to become the ethnic group they are today. By the 1500s the Uzbeks had settled throughout Central Asia and reached Afghanistan following the conquests of Muhammad Shaybani. Most Uzbeks are Sunni Muslim and are closely related to the Turkmen who also can be found in Afghanistan. The Uzbeks of Afghanistan are usually bilingual, fluent in both Persian and Uzbek. Physically, the Uzbek are generally Mongoloid.

The Turkmen are the smaller Turkic group who can also be found in neighboring Turkmenistan, Iran particularly around Mashad and Pakistan. Largely Sunni Muslim, their origins are very similar to that of the Uzbeks. Unlike, the Uzbeks, however, the Turkmen are traditionally a nomadic people (though they were forced to abandon this way of life in Turkmenistan itself under Soviet rule). Physically, they are aquiline Mongoloid.

The Baluch are another Iranian ethnic group that numbers around 200,000 in Afghanistan. The main Baloch areas located in Balochistan province in Pakistan and Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran. Many also live in southern Afghanistan. They are most likely an offshoot of the Kurds and reached Afghanistan sometime between 1000 and 1300 BCE. Mainly pastoral and desert dwellers, the Baluch are also Sunni Muslim.

The Nuristani are an Indo-Iranian people, representing a fourth independent branch of the Aryan peoples (Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Nuristani, and Dardic), who live in isolated regions of northeastern Afghanistan as well as across the border in the district of Chitral in Pakistan. They speak a variety of Nuristani languages. Better known historically as the Kafirs of what was once known as Kafiristan (land of pagans), they converted to Islam during the rule of Amir Abdur Rahman and their country was renamed "Nuristan", meaning "Land of Light" (as in the light of Islam). A small unconquered portion of Kafiristan inhabited by the Kalash tribe who still practice their pre-Islamic religion still exists across the border in highlands of Chitral, northwestern Pakistan. Many Nuristanis believe that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great's ancient Greeks, but there is a lack of genetic evidence for this and they are more than likely an isolated pocket of early Aryan invaders. Physically, the Nuristani are of the Mediterranean sub-stock with about one-third recessive blondism. They are largely Sunni Muslims.

Other smaller groups include Wakhis, Pashai, Aimak, Kyrgyz, Brahui, and Arabs.

There are a variety of languages in Afghanistan of which the largest and official ones are Persian (Dari) and Pashto. Other significant languages include the Turkmen and the Uzbek languages.

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.

Pashto and Persian are the two official languages of Afghanistan. Pashto is also the national language of the country, and the language of the national anthem.

According to the survey "Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (avarege numbers from 2005-2009), 69% of the interviewed people preferred Persian, while 31% spoke Pashto.

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European influence in Afghanistan

Emblem of Afghanistan

The European influence in Afghanistan refers to political, social, and sometimes imperialistic influence various European nations have had on this historical development of the territory today known as Afghanistan.

It took Alexander the Great nearly three years, from about 330 BC to 327 BC, to conquer what is now Afghanistan. Upon Alexander's death in 323 BC, his empire broke apart as his companions began to divide it amongst themselves. Alexander's cavalry commander, Seleucus, took control of the eastern lands including modern day Afghanistan and founded the Seleucid dynasty. Under the Seleucids the Greeks colonized Bactria, roughly corresponding to modern Afghanistan's borders as well as Pakistan. Later, Seleucus sought to guard his eastern frontier and moved Ionian Greeks to Bactria in the third century BC.

Diodotus, governor for the Bactrian territory, asserted independence in around 245 BC, although the exact date is far from certain, to form the Greco-Bactrian kingdom.

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into northern India from 180 BC established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around 10 AD.

It was not until 1826 that the energetic Dost Mohammad Khan was able to exert sufficient control over his brothers to take over the throne in Kabul, where he proclaimed himself king.

Dost Mohammad achieved prominence among his brothers through clever use of the support of his mother's Qizilbash tribesmen and his own youthful apprenticeship under his brother, Fateh Khan. Among the many problems he faced was repelling Sikh encroachment on the Pashtun areas east of the Khyber Pass. After working assiduously to establish control and stability in his domains around Kabul, the Emir next chose to confront the Sikhs.

In 1834 Dost Mohammad defeated an invasion by the former ruler, Shuja Shah Durrani, but his absence from Kabul gave the Sikhs the opportunity to expand westward. Ranjit Singh's forces occupied Peshawar, moving from there into territory ruled directly by Kabul. In 1836 Dost Mohammad's forces, under the command of his son Mohammad Akbar Khan, defeated the Sikhs at Jamrud, a post fifteen kilometres west of Peshawar. This was a pyrrhic victory and they failed to fully dislodge the Sikhs from Jamrud. The Afghan leader did not follow up this triumph by retaking Peshawar, however, but instead contacted Lord Auckland, the new British governor general in British India, for help in dealing with the Sikhs. With this letter, Dost Mohammad formally set the stage for British intervention in Afghanistan. At the heart of the Great Game lay the willingness of Britain and Russia to subdue, subvert, or subjugate the small independent states that lay between Russia and British India.

The British became the major power in the Indian sub-continent after the Treaty of Paris (1763) and began to show interest in Afghanistan as early as their 1809 treaty with Shuja Shah Durrani. It was the threat of the expanding Russian Empire beginning to push for an advantage in the Afghanistan region that placed pressure on British India, in what became known as the "Great Game". The Great Game set in motion the confrontation of the British and Russian empires — whose spheres of influence moved steadily closer to one another until they met in Afghanistan. It also involved Britain's repeated attempts to impose a puppet government in Kabul. The remainder of the nineteenth century saw greater European involvement in Afghanistan and her surrounding territories and heightened conflict among the ambitious local rulers as Afghanistan's fate played out globally.

The débâcle of the Afghan civil war left a vacuum in the Hindu Kush area that concerned the British, who were well aware of the many times in history it had been employed as the invasion route to South Asia. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, it became clear to the British that the major threat to their interests in India would not come from the fragmented Afghan empire, the Iranians, or the French, but from the Russians, who had already begun a steady advance southward from the Caucasus.

At the same time, the Russians feared permanent British occupation in Central Asia as the British encroached northward, taking the Punjab, Sindh, and Kashmir; later to become Pakistan. The British viewed Russia's absorption of the Caucasus, the Kyrgyz and Turkmen lands, the Khanate of Khiva, and the Emirate of Bukhara with equal suspicion as a threat to their interests in the Asian subcontinent.

In addition to this rivalry between Britain and Russia, there were two specific reasons for British concern over Russia's intentions. First was the Russian influence at the Iranian court, which prompted the Russians to support Iran in its attempt to take Herat, historically the western gateway to Afghanistan and northern India. In 1837 Iran advanced on Herat with the support and advice of Russian officers. The second immediate reason was the presence in Kabul in 1837 of a Russian agent, Captain P. Vitkevich, who was ostensibly there, as was the British agent Alexander Burnes, for commercial discussions.

The British demanded that Dost Mohammad sever all contact with the Iranians and Russians, remove Vitkevich from Kabul, surrender all claims to Peshawar, and respect Peshawar's independence as well as that of Kandahar, which was under the control of his brothers at the time. In return, the British government intimated that it would ask Ranjit Singh to reconcile with the Afghans. When Auckland refused to put the agreement in writing, Dost Mohammad turned his back on the British and began negotiations with Vitkevich.

In 1838 Auckland, Ranjit Singh, and Shuja signed an agreement stating that Shuja would regain control of Kabul and Kandahar with the help of the British and Sikhs; he would accept Sikh rule of the former Afghan provinces already controlled by Ranjit Singh, and that Herat would remain independent. In practice, the plan replaced Dost Mohammad with a British figurehead whose autonomy would be as limited as that of other Indian princes.

It soon became apparent to the British that Sikh participation — advancing toward Kabul through the Khyber Pass while Shuja and the British advanced through Kandahar — would not be forthcoming. Auckland's plan in the spring of 1838 was for the Sikhs — with British support — to place Shuja on the Afghan throne. By summer's end, however, the plan had changed; now the British alone would impose the pliant Shuja Shah.

To justify his plan, Lord Auckland issued the Simla Manifesto in October 1838, setting forth the necessary reasons for British intervention in Afghanistan. The manifesto stated that in order to ensure the welfare of India, the British must have a trustworthy ally on India's western frontier. The British pretense that their troops were merely supporting Shah Shuja's small army in retaking what was once his throne fooled no one. Although the Simla Manifesto stated that British troops would be withdrawn as soon as Shuja was installed in Kabul, Shuja's rule depended entirely on British arms to suppress rebellion and on British funds to buy the support of tribal chiefs. The British denied that they were invading Afghanistan, instead claiming they were merely supporting its legitimate Shuja government "against foreign interference and factious opposition".

In November 1841 insurrection and massacre flared up in Kabul. The British vacillated and disagreed and were beleaguered in their inadequate cantonments. Shah Shuja, ineffectual for many months, was deposed. The British negotiated with the most influential sirdars, cut off as they were by winter and insurgent tribes from any hope of relief. Muhammad Akbar Khan arrived in Kabul and became effective leader of the sirdars. At a conference with them Sir William MacNaghten was killed, but in spite of this, the sirdars' demands were agreed to by the British and they withdrew.

Of the 16,500 people that left Kabul only one regiment, the 44th was actually British. Another 4000 were Indian troops and the remaining 12,000 their families and other camp followers. During the withdrawal they were attacked by Ghilzai tribesmen and in running battles through the snowbound passes nearly all were massacred. Of the British only one, Dr. William Brydon, reached Jalalabad, while a few others were captured.

After months of chaos in Kabul, Mohammad Akbar Khan secured local control and in April 1843 his father, Dost Mohammad, returned to the throne in Afghanistan. In the following decade, Dost Mohammad concentrated his efforts on reconquering Mazari Sharif, Konduz, Badakhshan, and Kandahar. Mohammad Akbar Khan died in 1845. During the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848–49), Dost Mohammad's last effort to take Peshawar failed.

By 1854 the British wanted to resume relations with Dost Mohammad, whom they had essentially ignored in the intervening twelve years. The 1855 Treaty of Peshawar reopened diplomatic relations, proclaimed respect for each side's territorial integrity, and pledged both sides as friends of each other's friends and enemies of each other's enemies.

In 1857 an addendum to the 1855 treaty permitted a British military mission to become a presence in Kandahar (but not to Kabul) during a conflict with the Persians, who had attacked Herat in 1856. In 1863 Dost Mohammad retook Herat with British acquiescence. A few months later, Dost Mohammad died. Sher Ali, his third son, and proclaimed successor, failed to recapture Kabul from his older brother, Mohammad Afzal (whose troops were led by his son, Abdur Rahman) until 1868, after which Abdur Rahman retreated across the Amu Darya and bided his time.

In the years immediately following the First Anglo-Afghan War, and especially after the 1857 uprising against the British in India, Liberal Party governments in London took a political view of Afghanistan as a buffer state. By the time Sher Ali had established control in Kabul in 1868, he found the British ready to support his regime with arms and funds, but nothing more. Over the next ten years, relations between the Afghan ruler and Britain deteriorated steadily. The Afghan ruler was worried about the southward encroachment of Russia, which by 1873 had taken over the lands of the khan, or ruler, of Khiva. Sher Ali sent an envoy seeking British advice and support. The previous year, however, the British had signed an agreement with the Russians in which the latter agreed to respect the northern boundaries of Afghanistan and to view the territories of the Afghan amir as outside their sphere of influence. The British, however, refused to give any assurances to the disappointed Sher Ali.

After tension between Russia and Britain in Europe ended with the June 1878 Congress of Berlin, Russia turned its attention to Central Asia. That same summer, Russia sent an uninvited diplomatic mission to Kabul. Sher Ali tried, but failed, to keep them out. Russian envoys arrived in Kabul on 22 July 1878 and on 14 August, the British demanded that Sher Ali accept a British mission too.

The amir not only refused to receive a British mission but threatened to stop it if it were dispatched. Lord Lytton, the viceroy, ordered a diplomatic mission to set out for Kabul in September 1878 but the mission was turned back as it approached the eastern entrance of the Khyber Pass, triggering the Second Anglo-Afghan War. A British force of about 40,000 fighting men was distributed into military columns which penetrated Afghanistan at three different points. An alarmed Sher Ali attempted to appeal in person to the tsar for assistance, but unable to do so, he returned to Mazari Sharif, where he died on 21 February 1879.

With British forces occupying much of the country, Sher Ali's son and successor, Mohammad Yaqub Khan, signed the Treaty of Gandamak in May 1879 to prevent a British invasion of the rest of the country. According to this agreement and in return for an annual subsidy and vague assurances of assistance in case of foreign aggression, Yaqub relinquished control of Afghan foreign affairs to the British. British representatives were installed in Kabul and other locations, British control was extended to the Khyber and Michni passes, and Afghanistan ceded various frontier areas and Quetta to Britain. The British army then withdrew. Soon afterwards, an uprising in Kabul led to the slaughter of Britain’s Resident in Kabul, Sir Pierre Cavagnari and his guards and staff on 3 September 1879, provoking the second phase of the Second Afghan War. Major General Sir Frederick Roberts led the Kabul Field Force over the Shutargardan Pass into central Afghanistan, defeated the Afghan Army at Char Asiab on 6 October 1879 and occupied Kabul. Ghazi Mohammad Jan Khan Wardak staged an uprising and attacked British forces near Kabul in the Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment in December 1879, but his defeat there resulted in the collapse of this rebellion.

Yaqub Khan, suspected of complicity in the massacre of Cavagnari and his staff, was obliged to abdicate. The British considered a number of possible political settlements, including partitioning Afghanistan between multiple rulers or placing Yaqub's brother Ayub Khan on the throne, but ultimately decided to install his cousin Abdur Rahman Khan as emir instead. Ayub Khan, who had been serving as governor of Herat, rose in revolt, defeated a British detachment at the Battle of Maiwand in July 1880 and besieged Kandahar. Roberts then led the main British force from Kabul and decisively defeated Ayub Khan in September at the Battle of Kandahar, bringing his rebellion to an end. Abdur Rahman had confirmed the Treaty of Gandamak, leaving the British in control of the territories ceded by Yaqub Khan and ensuring British control of Afghanistan's foreign policy in exchange for protection and a subsidy. Abandoning the provocative policy of maintaining a British resident in Kabul, but having achieved all their other objectives, the British withdrew.

As far as British interests were concerned, Abdur Rahman answered their prayers: a forceful, intelligent leader capable of welding his divided people into a state; and he was willing to accept limitations to his power imposed by British control of his country's foreign affairs and the British buffer state policy. His twenty-one-year reign was marked by efforts to modernize and establish control of the kingdom, whose boundaries were delineated by the two empires bordering it. Abdur Rahman turned his considerable energies to what evolved into the creation of the modern state of Afghanistan.

He achieved this consolidation of Afghanistan in three ways. He suppressed various rebellions and followed up his victories with harsh punishment, execution, and deportation. He broke the stronghold of Pashtun tribes by forcibly transplanting them. He transplanted his most powerful Pashtun enemies, the Ghilzai, and other tribes from southern and south-central Afghanistan to areas north of the Hindu Kush with predominantly non-Pashtun populations. The last non-Muslim Afghans of Kafiristan north of Kabul were forcefully converted to Islam. Finally, he created a system of provincial governorates different from old tribal boundaries. Provincial governors had a great deal of power in local matters, and an army was placed at their disposal to enforce tax collection and suppress dissent. Abdur Rahman kept a close eye on these governors, however, by creating an effective intelligence system. During his reign, tribal organization began to erode as provincial government officials allowed land to change hands outside the traditional clan and tribal limits.

In addition to forging a nation from the splintered regions comprising Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman tried to modernize his kingdom by forging a regular army and the first institutionalized bureaucracy. Despite his distinctly authoritarian personality, Abdur Rahman called for a loya jirga, an assemblage of royal princes, important notables, and religious leaders. According to his autobiography, Abdur Rahman had three goals: subjugating the tribes, extending government control through a strong, visible army, and reinforcing the power of the ruler and the royal family.

Abdur Rahman also paid attention to technological advancement. He brought foreign physicians, engineers (especially for mining), geologists, and printers to Afghanistan. He imported European machinery and encouraged the establishment of small factories to manufacture soap, candles, and leather goods. He sought European technical advice on communications, transport, and irrigation. Local Afghan tribes strongly resisted this modernization. Workmen making roads had to be protected by the army against local warriors. Nonetheless, despite these sweeping internal policies, Abdur Rahman's foreign policy was completely in foreign hands.

The first important frontier dispute was the Panjdeh crisis of 1885, precipitated by Russian encroachment into Central Asia. Having seized the Merv (now Mary) Oasis by 1884, Russian forces were directly adjacent to Afghanistan. Claims to the Panjdeh Oasis were in debate, with the Russians keen to take over all the region's Turkoman domains. After battling Afghan forces in the spring of 1885, the Russians seized the oasis. Russian and British troops were quickly alerted, but the two powers reached a compromise; Russia was in possession of the oasis, and Britain believed it could keep the Russians from advancing any farther. Without an Afghan say in the matter, the Joint Anglo-Russian Boundary Commission agreed the Russians would relinquish the farthest territory captured in their advance but retain Panjdeh. This agreement on these border sections delineated for Afghanistan a permanent northern frontier at the Amu Darya but also the loss of much territory, especially around Panjdeh.

For Abdur Rahman, delineating the boundary with India (through the Pashtun area) was far more significant, and it was during his reign that the Durand Line was drawn. Under pressure, Abdur Rahman agreed in 1893 to accept a mission headed by the British Indian foreign secretary, Sir Mortimer Durand, to define the limits of British and Afghan control in the Pashtun territories. Boundary limits were agreed on by Durand and Abdur Rahman before the end of 1893, but there is some question about the degree to which Abdur Rahman willingly ceded certain regions. There were indications that he regarded the Durand Line as a delimitation of separate areas of political responsibility, not a permanent international frontier, and that he did not explicitly cede control over certain parts (such as Kurram and Chitral) that were already in British control under the Treaty of Gandamak.

The Durand Line cut through tribes and bore little relation to the realities of demography or military strategy. The line laid the foundation not for peace between the border regions, but for heated disagreement between the governments of Afghanistan and British India, and later, Afghanistan and Pakistan over what came to be known as the issue of Pashtunistan or 'Land of the Pashtuns'. (See Siege of Malakand).

The clearest manifestation that Abdur Rahman had established control in Afghanistan was the peaceful succession of his eldest son, Habibullah Khan, to the throne on his father's death in October 1901. Although Abdur Rahman had fathered many children, he groomed Habibullah to succeed him, and he made it difficult for his other sons to contest the succession by keeping power from them and sequestering them in Kabul under his control.

Habibullah Khan, Abdur Rahman Khan's eldest son but child of a slave mother, kept a close watch on the palace intrigues revolving around his father's more distinguished wife (a granddaughter of Dost Mohammad), who sought the throne for her own son. Although made secure in his position as ruler by virtue of support from the army which was created by his father, Habibullah was not as domineering as Abdur Rahman. Consequently, the influence of religious leaders as well as that of Mahmud Tarzi, a cousin of the king, increased during his reign. Mahmud Tarzi, a highly educated, well-traveled poet and journalist, founded an Afghan nationalist newspaper with Habibullah's agreement, and until 1919 he used the newspaper as a platform for rebutting clerical criticism of Western-influenced changes in government and society, for espousing full Afghan independence, and for other reforms. Tarzi's passionate Afghan nationalism influenced a future generation of Asian reformers.

The boundary with Iran was firmly delineated in 1904, replacing the ambiguous line made by a British commission in 1872. Agreement could not be reached, however, on sharing the waters of the Helmand River.

Like all foreign policy developments of this period affecting Afghanistan, the conclusion of the "Great Game" between Russia and Britain occurred without the Afghan ruler's participation. The 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention (Entente, the Convention of St. Petersburg) not only divided the region into separate areas of Russian and British influence but also established foundations for Afghan neutrality. The convention provided for Russian acquiescence that Afghanistan was now outside this sphere of influence, and for Russia to consult directly with Britain on matters relating to Russian-Afghan relations. Britain, for its part, would not occupy or annex Afghan territory, or interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs.

During World War I, Afghanistan remained neutral despite pressure to support Turkey when its sultan proclaimed his nation's participation in what it considered a holy war. Habibullah did, however, entertain a Indo-German-Turkish mission in Kabul in 1915 that had as its titular head the Indian nationalist Mahendra Pratap and was led by Oskar Niedermayer and the German legate Werner Otto von Hentig. After much procrastination, he won an agreement from the Central Powers for a huge payment and arms provision in exchange for attacking British India. But the crafty Afghan ruler clearly viewed the war as an opportunity to play one side off against the other, for he also offered the British to resist a Central Powers attack on India in exchange for an end to British control of Afghan foreign policy.

On 20 February 1919, Habibullah Khan was assassinated on a hunting trip. He had not declared a succession, but left his third son, Amanullah Khan, in charge in Kabul. Because Amanullah controlled both the national treasury and the army, he was well situated to seize power. The army's support allowed Amanullah to suppress other claims and imprison those relatives who would not swear loyalty to him. Within a few months, the new amir had gained the allegiance of most tribal leaders and established control over the cities.

Amanullah Khan's reforms were heavily influenced by Europe. This came through the influence of Mahmud Tarzi, who was both Amanullah Khan's father-in-law and Foreign Minister. Mahmud Tarzi, a highly educated, well-traveled poet, journalist, and diplomat, was a key figure that brought Western dress and etiquette to Afghanistan. He also fought for progressive reforms such as woman's rights, educational rights, and freedom of press. All of these influences, brought by Tarzi and others, were welcomed by Amanullah Khan.

In 1927 and 1928 Amanullah Khan and his wife Soraya Tarzi visited Europe. On this trip they were honored and feted. In fact, in 1928 the King and Queen of Afghanistan received honorary degrees from Oxford University. This was an era when other Muslim nations, like Turkey and Egypt were also on the path to modernization. King Amanullah was so impressed with the social progress of Europe that he tried to implement them right away, this met with heavy resistance from the conservative sect and eventually lead to his demise.

Amanullah enjoyed quite a bit of early popularity within Afghanistan and he used his power to modernize the country. Amanullah created new cosmopolitan schools for both boys and girls in the region and overturned centuries-old traditions such as strict dress codes for women. He created a new capital city and increased trade with Europe and Asia. He also advanced a modernist constitution that incorporated equal rights and individual freedoms. This rapid modernization though, created a backlash, and a reactionary uprising known as the Khost rebellion which was suppressed in 1924.

Amanullah's ten years of reign initiated a period of dramatic change in Afghanistan in both foreign and domestic politics. Amanullah declared full independence and sparked the Third Anglo-Afghan War. Amanullah altered foreign policy in his new relations with external powers and transformed domestic politics with his social, political, and economic reforms. Although his reign ended abruptly, he achieved some notable successes, and his efforts failed as much due to the centripetal forces of tribal Afghanistan and the machinations of Russia and Britain as to any political folly on his part.

Amanullah came to power just as the entente between Russia and Britain broke down following the Russian Revolution of 1917. Once again Afghanistan provided a stage on which the great powers played out their schemes against one another. Keen to modernise his country and free it from foreign domination, Amanulla, sought to shore up his powerbase. Amidst intrigue in the Afghan court, and political and civil unrest in India, he sought to divert attention from the internal divisions of Afghanistan and unite all faction behind him by attacking the British.

Using the civil unrest in India as an excuse to move troops to the Durand Line, Afghan troops crossed the border at the western end of the Khyber Pass on 3 May 1919 and occupied the village of Bagh, the scene of an earlier uprising in April. In response, the Indian government ordered a full mobilisation and on 6 May 1919 declared war. For the British it had come at a time when they were still recovering from the First World War. The troops that were stationed in India were mainly reserves and Territorials, who were awaiting demobilisation and keen to return to Britain, whilst the few regular regiments that were available were tired and depleted from five years of fighting.

Afghan forces achieved success in the initial days of the war, taking the British and Indians by surprise in two main thrusts as the Afghan regular army was joined by large numbers of Pashtun tribesmen from both sides of the border. A series of skirmishes then followed as the British and Indians recovered from their initial surprise. As a counter balance to deficiencies in manpower and morale, the British had a considerable advantage in terms of equipment, possessing machine guns, armoured cars, motor transport, wire less communications and aircraft and it was the latter that would prove decisive.

The fighting concluded in August 1919 and Britain virtually dictated the terms of the Rawalpindi Agreement, a temporary armistice that provided, somewhat ambiguously, for Afghan self-determination in foreign affairs. Before final negotiations were concluded in 1921, however, Afghanistan had already begun to establish its own foreign policy, including diplomatic relations with the new government in the Soviet Union in 1919. During the 1920s, Afghanistan established diplomatic relations with most major countries.

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Afghanistan

Languages of Afghanistan (percentages are from CIA World Factbook)[1]       50% Dari (Eastern Persian)        35% Pashto            8% Uzbek            3% Turkmen              4% Balochi       2% other (Nuristani, Pashai, Brahui, etc.)

Afghanistan (pronounced /æfˈgænɪstæn/), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country that is located approximately in the center of Asia. It is variously designated as geographically located within Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the south and west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast. The name Afghanistan means the Land of Afghans.

Afghanistan is a crossroads between the East and the West, and has been an ancient focal point of trade and migration. It has an important geostrategical location, connecting South and Central Asia and Middle East. During its long history, the land has seen various invaders and conquerors, while on the other hand, local entities invaded the surrounding vast regions to form their own empires. Ahmad Shah Durrani created the Durrani Empire in 1747, which is considered the beginning of modern Afghanistan. Subsequently, the capital was shifted to Kabul and most of its territories ceded to former neighboring countries. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in "The Great Game" played between the British Indian Empire and Russian Empire. On August 19, 1919, following the third Anglo-Afghan war, the country regained full independence from the United Kingdom over its foreign affairs.

Since the late 1970s Afghanistan has suffered continuous and brutal civil war in addition to foreign interventions in the form of the 1979 Soviet invasion and the recent 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban government. In late 2001 the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This force is composed of NATO troops that are involved in assisting the government of President Hamid Karzai in establishing the writ of law as well as rebuilding key infrastructures in the nation. In 2005, the United States and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship. In the meantime, multi-billion US dollars have also been provided by the international community for the reconstruction of the country.

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

The first part of the name, "Afghan", is an alternative name for the Pashtuns who are the founders and the largest ethnic group of the country. They probably began using the term Afghan as a name for themselves since at least the Islamic period and onwards. According to W. K. Frazier Tyler, M. C. Gillet and several other scholars, "The word Afghan first appears in history in the Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam in 982 AD." Al-Biruni referred to Afghans as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of the Indus River, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains.

We travelled on to Kabul, formerly a vast town, the site of which is now occupied by a village inhabited by a tribe of Persians called Afghans.

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

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

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

The last part of the name, -stān is an ancient Indo-Iranian suffix for "place", prominent in many languages of the region.

The term "Afghanistan," meaning the "Land of Afghans," was mentioned by the sixteenth century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs, referring to the territories south of Kabul that were inhabited by Pashtuns (called "Afghans" by Babur).

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

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

Afghanistan is a landlocked and mountainous country in South-Central Asia, with plains in the north and southwest. The highest point is Nowshak, at 7,485 m (24,557 ft) above sea level. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world. Afghanistan has a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. The country is frequently subject to minor earthquakes, mainly in the northeast of Hindu Kush mountain areas. Some 125 villages were damaged and 4000 people killed by the May 30, 1998 earthquake.

At 249,984 sq mi (647,500 km²), Afghanistan is the world's 41st-largest country (after Myanmar).

Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan border Afghanistan to the north, Iran to the west, Pakistan to the south and the People's Republic of China to the east.

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

Though the modern state of Afghanistan was founded or created in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Durrani, the land has an ancient history and various timelines of different civilizations. Excavation of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree, the University of Pennsylvania, the Smithsonian Institution and others suggests that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities of the area were among the earliest in the world.

Afghanistan is a country at a unique nexus point where numerous Indo-European civilizations have interacted and often fought, and was an important site of early historical activity. Through the ages, the region has been home to various people, among them the Aryan (Indo-Iranian) tribes, such as the Kambojas, Bactrians, Pashtuns, etc. It also has been conquered by a host of people, including the Median and Persian Empires, Alexander the Great, Turks, and Mongols. In recent times, invasions from the British, Soviets, and most recently by the United States and their allies have taken place. On the other hand, native entities have invaded surrounding regions in Iranian plateau, Central Asia and Indian subcontinent to form empires of their own.

In 2000 BC, Indo-European-speaking Aryans are thought to have been in the region of Afghanistan. It is unlikely that the Aryans themselves originated in Afghanistan although they did migrate from there south towards India and west towards Persia, but they also migrated into Europe via north of the Caspian. These Aryans set up a nation which became known as Airyānem Vāejah. Original homelands of the Aryans have been proposed as Anatolia, Kurdistan, Central Asia, Iran, or Northern India, with the directions of the historical migration varying accordingly. Later, during the rule of Ashkanian, Sasanian and after, it was called Erānshahr (Persian: ايرانشهر - Īrānšahr) meaning “Dominion of the Aryans”.

It has been speculated that Zoroastrianism might have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 to 800 BC, as Zoroaster lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages, such as Avestan, may have been spoken in this region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the sixth century BC, the Persian Empire of the Achaemenid Persians overthrew the Median Empire and incorporated Afghanistan (known as Arachosia to the Greeks) within its boundaries. Alexander the Great conquered Afghanistan after 330 BCE. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area until 305 BCE, when they gave most of the area to the Mauryan Empire as part of an alliance treaty. During Mauryan rule, Buddhism became the dominant religion in the region. The Mauryans were overthrown by the Sunga Dynasty in 185 BCE, leading to the Hellenistic reconquest of Afghanistan by the Greco-Bactrians by 180 BCE. Much of Afghanistan soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks were defeated by the Indo-Scythians and expelled from most of Afghanistan by the end of the 2nd century BCE.

During the first century, the Parthian Empire subjugated Afghanistan, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid to late 1st century AD the vast Kushan Empire, centered in modern Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanids in the third century. Although various rulers calling themselves Kushanshas (generally known as Indo-Sassanids) continued to rule at least parts of the region, they were probably more or less subject to the Sassanids. The late Kushans were followed by the Kidarite Huns who, in turn, were replaced by the short-lived but powerful Hephthalites, as rulers of the region in the first half of the fifth century. The Hephthalites were defeated by the Sasanian king Khosrau I in AD 557, who re-established Sassanid power in Persia. However, the successors of Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty in Kabulistan called Kushano-Hephthalites or Kabul-Shahan/Shahi, who were later defeated by the Muslim Arab armies and finally conquered by Muslim Turkish armies led by the Ghaznavids.

In the Middle Ages, up to the nineteenth century, Afghanistan was part of a larger region known as Greater Khorasan. Several important centers of Khorāsān are thus located in modern Afghanistan, such as Balkh, Herat, Ghazni and Kabul. It was during this period of time when Islam was introduced and spread in the area.

The region of Afghanistan became the center of various important empires, including that of the Samanids (875–999), Ghaznavids (977–1187), Seljukids (1037–1194), Ghurids (1149–1212), Mongol Empire, Ilkhanate (1225–1335), and Timurids (1370–1506). Among them, the periods of the Ghaznavids and Timurids are considered as some of the most brilliant eras of the region's history.

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

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

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

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

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

King Amanullah (1919-1929) 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 Atatürk), introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, Amanullah Khan's Foreign Minister and father-in-law - and an ardent supporter of the education of women. He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's first constitution (declared through a Loya Jirga), which made elementary education compulsory. Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, 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 Habibullah Kalakani.

Prince Mohammed Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah's, in turn defeated and killed Habibullah Kalakani in October of the same year, and with considerable Pashtun tribal support he was declared King Nadir Shah. He began consolidating power and regenerating the country. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favour of a more gradual approach to modernisation. In 1933, 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. The longest period of stability in Afghanistan was when the country was under the rule of King Zahir Shah. Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. In 1946, another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Sardar Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. In 1953, he was replaced as Prime Minister by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law. Daoud sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan.

However, in 1973, Zahir Shah's brother-in-law, Mohammed Daoud Khan, launched a bloodless coup and became the first President of Afghanistan while Zahir Shah was on an official overseas visit. Mohammed Daoud Khan jammed Afghan radio's with anti-Pakistani broadcasts and looked to the Soviet Union and the United States for aid for development.

In 1978 a prominent member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), Mir Akbar Khyber (or “Kaibar”), was killed by the government. The leaders of PDPA apparently feared that Daoud was planning to exterminate them all, especially since most of them were arrested by the government shortly after. Hafizullah Amin and a number of military wing officers of the PDPA managed to remain at large and organised an uprising.

The PDPA, led by Nur Mohammad Taraki, Babrak Karmal and Amin overthrew the regime of Mohammad Daoud, who was killed along with his family. The uprising was known as the Great Saur Revolution ('Saur' means 'April' in Pashto). On May 1, Taraki became President, Prime Minister and General Secretary of the PDPA. The country was then renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), and the PDPA regime lasted, in some form or another, until April 1992.

Some are of the opinion that the 1978 Khalq uprising against the government of Daoud Khan was essentially a resurgence by the Ghilzai tribe of the Pashtun against the Durrani (the tribe of Daoud Khan and the previous monarchy).

Many people in the cities including Kabul either welcomed or were ambivalent to these policies. However, the secular nature of the government made it unpopular with religiously conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside, who favoured traditionalist 'Islamic' law.

The U.S. saw the situation as a prime opportunity to weaken the Soviet Union. As part of a Cold War strategy, in 1979 the United States government (under President Jimmy Carter) began to covertly fund forces ranged against the pro-Soviet government, although warned that this might prompt a Soviet intervention, (according to National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski). The Mujahideen belonged to various different factions, but all shared, to varying degrees, a similarly conservative 'Islamic' ideology.

In March 1979 Hafizullah Amin took over as prime minister, retaining the position of field marshal and becoming vice-president of the Supreme Defence Council. Taraki remained President and in control of the Army. On September 14, Amin overthrew Taraki, who died or was killed.

In order to bolster the Parcham faction, the Soviet Union—citing the 1978 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness that had been signed between the two countries—intervened on December 24, 1979. Over 100,000 Soviet troops took part in the invasion backed by another 100,000 plus and by members of the Parcham faction. Amin was killed and replaced by Babrak Karmal.

In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and part of its overall Cold War strategy, the United States responded by arming and otherwise supporting the Afghan mujahideen, which had taken up arms against the Soviet occupiers. U.S. support began during the Carter administration, but increased substantially during the Reagan administration, in which it became a centerpiece of the so-called Reagan Doctrine under which the U.S. provided support to anti-communist resistance movements in Afghanistan and also in Angola, Nicaragua, and other nations. In addition to U.S. support, the mujahideen received support from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other nations.

The Soviet occupation resulted in the killings of at least 600,000 to 2 million Afghan civilians. Over five million Afghans fled their country to Pakistan, Iran and other parts of the world. Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties on both sides, the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

The Soviet withdrawal from the DRA was seen as an ideological victory in the U.S., which had backed the Mujahideen through three U.S. presidential administrations in order to counter Soviet influence in the vicinity of the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

Following the removal of the Soviet forces, the U.S. and its allies lost interest in Afghanistan and did little to help rebuild the war-ravaged country or influence events there. The USSR continued to support President Najibullah (former head of the Afghan secret service, KHAD) until 1992 when the new Russian government refused to sell oil products to the Najibullah regime.

Because of the fighting, a number of elites and intellectuals fled to take refuge abroad. This led to a leadership imbalance in Afghanistan. Fighting continued among the victorious Mujahideen factions, which gave rise to a state of warlordism. The most serious fighting during this period occurred in 1994, when over 10,000 people were killed in Kabul alone. It was at this time that the Taliban developed as a politico-religious force, eventually seizing Kabul in 1996 and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. By the end of 2000 the Taliban had captured 95% of the country.

During the Taliban's seven-year rule, much of the population experienced restrictions on their freedom and violations of their human rights. Women were banned from jobs, girls forbidden to attend schools or universities. Communists were systematically eradicated and thieves were punished by amputating one of their hands or feet. The majority of the opium production was eradicated by 2001.

Following the September 11 attacks the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom, a military campaign to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist training camps inside Afghanistan. The U.S. military also threatened to overthrow the Taliban government for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden and several al-Qaida members. The U.S. made a common cause with the former Afghan Mujahideen to achieve its ends, including the Northern Alliance, a militia still recognized by the UN as the Afghan government.

In late 2001, the United States sent teams of CIA Paramilitary Officers from their Special Activities Division and U.S. Army Special Forces to invade Afghanistan to aid anti-Taliban militias, backed by U.S. air strikes against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets, culminating in the seizure of Kabul by the Northern Alliance and the overthrow of the Taliban, with many local warlords switching allegiance from the Taliban to the Northern Alliance.

In December of the same year, leaders of the former Afghan mujahideen and diaspora met in Germany, and agreed on a plan for the formulation of a new democratic government that resulted in the inauguration of Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun of the Durrani clan (from which the royal family was drawn) from the southern city of Kandahar, as Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority.

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

As the country continues to rebuild and recover, it is still struggling against poverty, poor infrastructure, large concentration of land mines and other unexploded ordnance, as well as a huge illegal poppy cultivation and opium trade. Afghanistan also remains subject to occasionally violent political jockeying. The country continues to grapple with the Taliban insurgency and the threat of attacks from a few remaining al Qaeda.

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

Afghanistan is currently led by President Hamid Karzai, who was elected in October 2004. The current parliament was elected in 2005. Among the elected officials were former mujahadeen, Taliban members, communists, reformists, and Islamic fundamentalists. 28% of the delegates elected were women, 3 points more than the 25% minimum guaranteed under the constitution. This made Afghanistan, long known under the Taliban for its oppression of women, one of the leading countries in terms of female representation. Construction for a new parliament building began on August 29, 2005.

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

Afghanistan currently has more than 70,000 national police officers, with plans to recruit more so that the total number can reach 80,000. They are being trained by and through the Afghanistan Police Program. Although the police officially are responsible for maintaining civil order, sometimes local and regional military commanders continue to exercise control in the hinterland. Police have been accused of improper treatment and detention of prisoners. In 2003 the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force, now under command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was extended and expanded beyond the Kabul area. However, in some areas unoccupied by those forces, local militias maintain control. In many areas, crimes have gone uninvestigated because of insufficient police and/or communications. Troops of the Afghan National Army have been sent to quell fighting in some regions lacking police protection.

The Afghan National Army currently has 80,000 troops, with plans to nearly double in the next few years. The Afghan Army is not affected by corruption as the National Police due to international oversight.

Afghanistan is administratively divided into thirty-four (34) provinces (welayats), and for each province there is a capital. Each province is then divided into many provincial districts, and each district normally covers a city or several townships.

The Governor of the province is appointed by the Ministry of Interior, and the Prefects for the districts of the province will be appointed by the provincial Governor. The Governor is the representative of the central government of Afghanistan, and is responsible for all administrative and formal issues. The provincial Chief of Police is appointed by the Ministry of Interior, who works together with the Governor on law enforcement for all the cities or districts of that province.

There is an exception in the capital city (Kabul) where the Mayor is selected by the President of Afghanistan, and is completely independent from the prefecture of the Kabul Province.

Afghanistan's government is currently fighting an insurgency with the assistance of the United States and NATO. Therefore, relations between Afghanistan and NATO members is strong. Afghanistan depends a lot on multi-billion dollar aid infusions from the United States. Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany are also large donors.

Relations between Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran are very strong. The two nations share the same language and culture, and both countries are part of Greater Persia. Shiites and Sunnis get a long well in Afghanistan which causes no religious tensions between the two nations. Iran is a consistent donor towards Afghan reconstruction.

Afghan and Pakistani relations always fluctuate. The two nations are always disputing, but recent relations have deteriorated vastly. Afghan Intelligence and American agencies accuse Pakistan of working to stop Afghan reconstruction mainly through the Inter-Services Intelligence. Most of the Taliban come from Pakistan and Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding in Pakistan. Afghanistan and Pakistan recently fought a series of border skirmishes and the US has lead several air strikes in Pakistani territory from Afghan air bases.

Afghanistan maintains excellent relations with their Northern Allies, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as all three share a similar culture as the Afghans. Hazaras are from those nations.

Afghanistan also has good relations with Russia and India. India is a leading investor in Afghanistan, alongside Iran, and the current Afghan President, Hamid Karzai received some of his college education in India.

Afghanistan has excellent relations with the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. Afghanistan has no relations with Israel and alongside ally Iran, is a frequent non-Arab critic of Israel.

A July 2008 estimate of the total Afghan population is 32,738,376.

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

The most common languages spoken in Afghanistan are Eastern Persian (also known as Dari; roughly 50%) and Pashto (roughly 35%). Both are Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family, and the official languages of the country. Hazaragi, spoken by the Hazara minority, is a distinct dialect of Persian. Other languages spoken include the Turkic languages Uzbek and Turkmen (ca. 9% combined), as well as 30 minor languages, primarily Balochi, Nuristani, Pashai, Brahui, Pamiri languages, Hindko, etc. (ca. 4% combined). Bilingualism is common.

According to the Encyclopædia Iranica, the Persian language is the most widely used language of the country, spoken by around 80% of the population, while Pashto is spoken and understood by around 50% of the population. According to "A survey of the Afghan people - Afghanistan in 2006", Persian is the first language of 49% of the population, while additional 37% speak the language as a second language (combined 86%). Pashto is the first language of 40% of the population, while additional 27% know the language (combined 67%). Uzbek is spoken or understood by 6% of the population, Turkmen by 3%. According to the survey "Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (avarege numbers from 2005-2009), 69% of the interviewed people preferred Persian, while 31% spoke Pashto.

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

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

Buzkashi is a national sport in Afghanistan. It is similar to polo and played by horsemen in two teams, each trying to grab and hold a goat carcass. Afghan hounds (a type of running dog) also originated in Afghanistan.

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

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

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

In addition to poets and authors, numerous Persian scientists were born or worked in the region of present-day Afghanistan. Most notable was Avicenna (Abu Alī Hussein ibn Sīnā) whose father hailed from Balkh. Ibn Sīnā, who travelled to Isfahan later in life to establish a medical school there, is known by some scholars as "the father of modern medicine". George Sarton called ibn Sīnā "the most famous scientist of Islam and one of the most famous of all races, places, and times." His most famous works are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, also known as the Qanun. Ibn Sīnā's story even found way to the contemporary English literature through Noah Gordon's The Physician, now published in many languages. Moreover, according to Ibn al-Nadim, Al-Farabi, a well-known philosopher and scientist, was from the Faryab Province of Afghanistan.

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

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

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

Religiously, Afghans are over 99% Muslims: approximately 74-80% Sunni and 19-25% Shi'a (estimates vary). Up until the mid-1980s, there were about 30,000 to 150,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in different cities, mostly in Jalalabad, Kabul, and Kandahar.

There was a small Jewish community in Afghanistan (see Bukharan Jews) who fled the country after the 1979 Soviet invasion, and only one individual, Zablon Simintov, remains today.

Afghanistan is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It is an impoverished country, one of the world's poorest and least developed. Two-thirds of the population lives on fewer than 2 US dollars a day. Its economy has suffered greatly from the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent conflicts, while severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998–2001.

The economically active population in 2002 was about 11 million (out of a total of an estimated 29 million). As of 2005, the official unemployment rate is at 40%. The number of non-skilled young people is estimated at 3 million, which is likely to increase by some 300,000 per annum.

The nation's economy began to improve since 2002 due to the infusion of multi-billion US dollars in international assistance and investments, as well as remittances from expats. It is also due to dramatic improvements in agricultural production and the end of a four-year drought in most of the country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the U.S. Geological Survey and the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Industry, Afghanistan may be possessing up to 36 trillion cubic feet (1,000 km3) of natural gas, 3.6 billion barrels (570,000,000 m3) of petroleum and up to 1,325 million barrels (2.107E+8 m3) of natural gas liquids. This could mark the turning point in Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts. Energy exports could generate the revenue that Afghan officials need to modernize the country’s infrastructure and expand economic opportunities for the beleaguered and fractious population. Other reports show that the country has huge amounts of gold, copper, coal, iron ore and other minerals. The government of Afghanistan is in the process of extracting and exporting its copper reserves, which will be earning $1.2 billion US dollars in royalties and taxes every year for the next 30 years. It will also provide permanent labor to 3,000 of its citizens.

Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national airlines carrier, with domestic flights between Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif. International flights include to Dubai, Frankfurt, Istanbul and a number of other destinations. There are also limited domestic and international flight services available from Kam Air, Pamir Airways and Safi Airlines.

The country has limited rail service with Turkmenistan. There are two railway projects currently in progress, one is between Herat and the Iranian city Mashad while another is between Kandahar and Quetta in Pakistan. Most people who travel from one city to another use bus services. Automobiles have recently become more widely available, with Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai dealerships in Kabul. A large number of second-hand vehicles are also arriving from the UAE. Nearly all highways and roads are being rebuilt in the country.

Telecommunication services in the country are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan, Areeba and Afghan Telecom. In 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a US$64.5 million agreement with ZTE Corporation for the establishment of a countrywide fibre optic cable network. This will improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services throughout the country. Around 500,000 (1.5% of the population) had internet access by the end of 2008.

Television and radio broadcastings are available in most parts of the country, with local and international channels or stations.

The nation's post service is also operating. Package delivery services such as FedEx, DHL and others are also available.

The media was tightly controlled under the Taliban and other periods in its history, and was relatively free in others. Under the Taliban, television was shut down in 1996, and print media were forbidden to publish commentary, photos or readers letters. The only radio station broadcast religious programmes and propaganda, and aired no music.

After the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, press restrictions were gradually relaxed and private media diversified. Freedom of expression and the press is promoted in the 2004 constitution and censorship is banned, though defaming individuals or producing material contrary to the principles of Islam is prohibited. In 2008, Reporters Without Borders listed the media environment as 156 out of 173, with 1st being most free. 400 publications are now registered and 60 radio stations, a major source of information, currently exist. Foreign radio stations, such as the BBC World Service, also broadcast into the country. However, press freedom is threatened by the continuing war in Afghanistan, with kidnappings of journalists, harassment and death threats.

As of 2006 more than four million male and female students were enrolled in schools throughout the country. However, there are still significant obstacles to education in Afghanistan, stemming from lack of funding, unsafe school buildings and cultural norms. A lack of women teachers is an issue that concerns some Afghan parents, especially in more conservative areas. Some parents will not allow their daughters to be taught by men.

Literacy of the entire population is estimated (as of 1999) at 36%, the male literacy rate is 51% and female literacy is 21%. Up to now there are 9,500 schools in the country.

Another aspect of education that is rapidly changing in Afghanistan is the face of higher education. Following the fall of the Taliban, Kabul University was reopened to both male and female students. In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan also opened its doors, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan. The university accepts students from Afghanistan and the neighboring countries. Construction work will soon start at the new site selected for University of Balkh in Mazari Sharif. The new building for the university, including the building for the Engineering Department, would be constructed at 600 acres (2.4 km²) of land at the cost of 250 million US dollars.

A new military school is in function to properly train and educate Afghan soldiers.

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

Kings with dragons: gold artifacts of the Scythians in Bactria from the 1st century BC, at the site of Tillia tepe.

Female school students.

Traditional carpets and a rubab.

Kotal-e Salang mountain pass in northern Afghanistan.

Politicians of Afghanistan having lunch with the visiting U.S. President George W. Bush in Kabul on March 1, 2006.

The Afghanistan-Tajikistan Friendship Border-crossing bridge, the largest in Central Asia.

A mosque in Khost, one of the provinces of Afghanistan.

First deputy vice president Ahmad Zia Massoud presents a new police officer with his diploma at the Kabul Police Academy.

Irrigated farm fields.

Blue Mosque in Mazari Sharif.

The Afghan National Army is predicted to have 136,000 soldiers by the end of the decade.

A U.S. Army soldier securing a site in Nuristan Province.

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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Source : Wikipedia