Hamid Karzai

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Posted by pompos 03/30/2009 @ 17:12

Tags : hamid karzai, afghanistan, central asia, asia, world

News headlines
Amid security concerns, foes of Karzai see electoral opening - Boston Globe
In one, President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled since the Taliban were toppled in 2001, stands with outstretched arms next to a balanced scale of justice, his campaign logo. But this sign, too, seems out of step with reality. Eight years after Karzai...
A Karzai Victory Is Just the Ticket for Regional Commanders - Washington Post
By Griff Witte MAZAR-E SHARIF, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai is considered a strong favorite to win reelection when Afghans go to the polls this summer. But here in northern Afghanistan, one of the country's most peaceful regions,...
US nat'l security adviser meets Afghan candidates - The Associated Press
Jim Jones met with opposition candidates challenging President Hamid Karzai for the country's top office in the Aug. 20 vote. Jones said the election is a milestone for Afghanistan's young democracy and called on the government to create conditions for...
Karzai, 40 Others Weigh Down Ballot - Washington Post
President Hamid Karzai and 40 other candidates will appear on the ballot for president in August in a crowded political lineup that Afghanistan's electoral commission chief on Saturday called "shameful." Karzai is considered the clear front-runner to...
Karzai faces tough challenge - United Press International
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) shakes hands with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit at a government residence outside of the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg on June 15, 2009....
US commander to order troops to halt battles near Afghan homes - WBAY
Civilian casualties have been a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Washington. The UN has put the civilian death toll in the Afghan war last year at 829. mcchrystal took command of international forces in Afghanistan...
Kyrgyz President Confirms Exchange With Karzai On Manas - RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has signaled that he received a letter from his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai regarding the use of the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. Bakiev, talking to residents of the town of At-Bashy in the Naryn region...
Alleged US massacre in Afghanistan 'provoked by false information' - Telegraph.co.uk
The deaths in a night assault by US planes last summer provoked outrage among Afghans and severely strained relations with Hamid Karzai's regime. US commanders initially said no civilians had been killed in the village of Azizabad in Herat province...
Corruption Crusader Aims for Afghan Presidency - New York Times
Ramazan Bashardost, a radical independent who has attacked corruption, could play a Ralph Nader-like spoiler role for President Hamid Karzai in the coming presidential elections. By ADAM B. ELLICK RAMAZAN BASHARDOST'S election campaign seems better...
Karzai Asks Kyrgyz To Keep Air Base Open To NATO - RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
Afghan President Hamid Karzai could meet with his Kyrgyz counterpart at an SCO summit later this month. BISHKEK -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked his Kyrgyz counterpart to meet for talks regarding the use of an air base at Manas International...

Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai in 2003, with a longer beard and his traditional turban.

Karzai in 14 June 2004.

Hamid Karzai (حامد کرزی - Ḥāmid Karzay) (born 24 December 1957) is the current President of Afghanistan since December 7, 2004. He became a prominent political figure after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001. From December 2001, Hamid Karzai had been the Chairman of the Transitional Administration followed by the Interim President from 2002 until he won the 2004 Presidential election of Afghanistan. Karzai is known for his trademark Karakul hat.

Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun of the Popalzai clan of the Durrani tribe, was born in the small village of Karz Kandahar province, Afghanistan. He comes from a family that were strong supporters of the former king, Zahir Shah. He has six brothers and one sister. Karzai is well-versed in several languages, including his mother-tongue Pashto, as well as Persian, Urdu, Hindi, English and French.

From 1979 to 1983, Karzai took a postgraduate course in political science at Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India. He then returned to work as a fund-raiser by supporting anti-Soviet Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Soviet intervention for the rest of the 1980s. After the fall of Najibullah's Soviet-backed government in 1992, he served as Deputy Foreign Minister in the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani.

In 1999, Hamid Karzai married Zeenat Karzai, an obstetrician by profession who was working as a doctor with Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. They have a son born in 2007 and named Mirwais.

Karzai was a member of the Mujahideen and took active part in driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. The Mujahideen were secretly supplied and funded by the United States, and Karzai was a top contact for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) at the time. He had close personal contact with CIA Director William Casey and George H. W. Bush, who was Vice President of the United States. Karzai's brothers immigrated to the United States; however, Hamid Karzai remained in Afghanistan and Pakistan struggling against the Soviet occupation.

He lived in exile in Quetta, in Pakistan where he worked to reinstate the Afghan king, Zahir Shah. His father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was assassinated, presumably by Taliban agents, on July 14, 1999, and Karzai swore revenge against the Taliban by working to help overthrow them. In 2001, Hamid Karzai worked closely with the Ahmad Shah Massoud to help gather support for the anti-Taliban movement.

In the months following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Mujahideen loyal to the Northern Alliance and other groups worked with the U.S. military to overthrow the Taliban and muster support for a new government in Afghanistan. In October 2001, Hamid Karzai and his group of fighters survived an American friendly fire missile attack in southern Afghanistan. The group suffered injuries and was treated in the United States; Karzai received injuries to his facial nerves as can sometimes be noticed during his speeches.

On November 4 2001, American forces flew Karzai out of Afghanistan for protection.

In December 2001, political leaders gathered in Germany to agree on new leadership structures. Under the December 5 Bonn Agreement they formed an interim Transitional Administration and named Karzai Chairman of a 29-member governing committee. He was sworn in as leader on December 22. The Loya Jirga of June 13, 2002, appointed Karzai Interim holder of the new position as President of the Afghan Transitional Administration.

After Karzai was installed into power, his actual authority outside the capital city of Kabul was said to be so limited that he was often derided as the "Mayor of Kabul". Former members of the Northern Alliance remained extremely influential, most notably Vice President Mohammed Fahim, who also served as Defense Minister.

In 2004 he rejected a US proposal to end poppy production in Afghanistan through aerial spraying of chemical herbicides, fearing that it would harm the economic situation of his countrymen. Moreover, Karzai's younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai -- who partially helped finance Karzai's presidential campaign -- is rumored to be involved in the heroin trade (although Karzai's family were quite wealthy already from owning well established restaurants in the United States.) The situation was particularly delicate since Karzai and his administration have not been equipped either financially or politically to influence reforms outside of the region around the capital city of Kabul. Other areas, particularly the more remote ones, are currently and have historically been under the influence of various local leaders. Karzai has been, to varying degrees of success, attempting to negotiate and form amicable alliances with them for the benefit of Afghanistan as a whole, instead of aggressively fighting them and risking an uprising.

When Karzai was a candidate in the October 9, 2004, presidential election, he won 21 of the 34 provinces, defeating his 22 opponents and becoming the first democratically elected leader of Afghanistan.

Although his campaigning was limited due to fears of violence, elections passed without significant incident. Following investigation by the UN of alleged voting irregularities, the national election commission on November 3 declared Karzai winner, without runoff, with 55.4% of the vote. This represented 4.3 million of the total 8.1 million votes cast. The election took place safely in spite of a surge of insurgent activity.

Karzai was officially sworn in as President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on December 7, 2004, at a formal ceremony in Kabul. Many interpreted the ceremony as a symbolically important "new start" for the war-torn nation. Notable guests at the inauguration included the country's former King, Zahir Shah, all three of the living former US presidents, and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

After winning a democratic mandate in the 2004 election and removing many of the former Northern Alliance warlords from his cabinet, it was thought that Karzai would pursue a more aggressively reformist path in 2005. However, Karzai has proved to be more cautious than was expected.

Ever since Karzai's new administration took over in 2004, the economy of Afghanistan has been growing rapidly for the first time in many years. Government revenue is increasing every year, although it is still heavily dependent on foreign aid.

On September 20, 2006, Karzai told the United Nations General Assembly that Afghanistan has become the "worst victim" of terrorism. Karzai said terrorism is "rebounding" in his country, with militants infiltrating the borders to wage attacks on civilians. He stated, "This does not have its seeds alone in Afghanistan. Military action in the country will, therefore, not deliver the shared goal of eliminating terrorism." He demanded assistance from the international community to destroy terrorist sanctuaries inside and outside Afghanistan. "You have to look beyond Afghanistan to the sources of terrorism," he told the UN General Assembly, and "destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond" the country, dismantle the elaborate networks in the region that recruit, indoctrinate, train, finance, arm, and deploy terrorists. These activities are also robbing thousands of Afghan children of their right to education, and prevent health workers from doing their jobs in Afghanistan. In addition he promised to eliminate opium-poppy cultivation in the country, which helps fuel the ongoing insurgency. He has repeatedly demanded that NATO and U.S.-led coalition forces take more care when conducting military operations in residential areas to avoid civilian casualties which undermine his government's already weak standing in parts of the country.

In a video broadcast on September 24, 2006, Karzai stated that if the money wasted on the Iraq War was actually spent on rebuilding Afghanistan, his country would "be in heaven in less than one year". In May of 2007, after as many as 51 Afghan civilians were killed in a bombing, Karzai asserted that his government "can no longer accept" casualties caused by the US and NATO operations.

Although the Bush administration in USA often charge that Iran has been meddling in Afghanistan's affairs, Karzai stated that Iran is a "very close friend" of Afghanistan despite accusations of Iranian-made arms being found in Afghanistan.

In August 2007 Karzai contradicted US assessments on Iran's role in Afghanistan by saying that Iran has been "a helper and a solution." Karzai added that "Iran has been a supporter of Afghanistan, in the peace process that we have and the fight against terror, and the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan..." Also in the same month, on August 5, 2007, Karzai was invited to Camp David in Maryland, USA, for a special meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush.

In late December 2007 Karzai and his delegates went to meet President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad, Pakistan, for new trade ties and intelligence sharing between the two countries. Karzai also met and had a 45-minute talk with Benazir Bhutto on the morning of December 27, hours before her trip to Liaquat National Bagh where she was assassinated after her speech.

In April 2007, Karzai acknowledged that he spoke to the Taliban about trying to bring peace in Afghanistan. He noted that the Afghan Taliban are "always welcome" in Afghanistan, although foreign militants are not.

Hamid Karzai had associations with the Taliban in the past and was trying to negotiate with them. He also attempted to negotiate with former Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but the offer was rejected by Hizb spokesman Haroon Zarghoon. Zarghoon claims that until there is a, "clear date for pullout of foreign troops" there can be no deal with the Afghanistan government. Hamid Karzai has also been criticized for protecting drug lords and poppy farmers in southern Afghanistan, where his political base lies as well as for blocking poppy crop aerial eradication efforts.

President Obama has criticized him as unreliable and ineffective. Secretary of State Clinton commented he presides over a narco-state.

Karzai has been the talk of many conspiracy theories over his supposed consultant work for the infamous Union Oil Company of California, aka Unocal, a now defunct oil company. Spokesmen for both Unocal and Karzai have denied any such relationship, although Unocal could not speak for all companies involved in the consortium. The original and only claim that Karzai worked for Unocal originates from a December 6, 2001 issue of the French newspaper Le Monde.

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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.

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, the Seleucids, the Indo-Greeks, 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, Herat, Kandahar, 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. Afghanistan has a particularly high level of corruption.

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.

Kotal-e Salang mountain pass in northern Afghanistan.

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

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

Blue Mosque in Mazari Sharif.

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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Politics of Afghanistan

Inauguration of President Hamid Karzai on December 7, 2004, after winning the presidential election.

In recent years the politics of Afghanistan have been dominated by the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, by the NATO forces and the subsequent efforts to stabilise and democratise the country. The nation's new constitution has been adopted and an executive president democratically elected in 2004. The parliamentary elections took place the following year, in September 2005.

The current president Hamid Karzai became the first ever democratically elected head of state in Afghanistan on December 7, 2004. He has begun the process of rebuilding his nation. The National Assembly is Afghanistan's national legislature. It is a bicameral body, composed of the House of the People and the House of the Elders. The current legislature was elected on September 18, 2005. The members of the Supreme Court were appointed by the president to form the judiciary. Together, this new system is to provide a new set of checks and balances that was unheard of in the country. Also, the system is quite new, implementation of which began only 2004, just after decades of war between different factions and warlords. The remnants of the warlords are almost non-existent. The United Nations and other governments and organizations play a vital role in rebuilding this new democracy's political environment.

Government operation in Afghanistan has in the past consisted of power struggles, bloody coups and unstable transfers of power. With the exception of a military junta, the country has been governed by every system of government over the past century, including a monarchy, republic, capitalism, theocracy, dictatorship, socialism and a pro-communist state. The constitution ratified by the 2003 Loya jirga restructured the government as an Islamic republic consisting of three branches of power (executive, legislative, and judiciary) overseen by checks and balances.

Afghanistan is currently led by President Hamid Karzai, who was elected in 2004. Before the election, Karzai led the country after being chosen by delegates of the Bonn Conference in late 2001 to head an interim government after the fall of the Taliban. While supporters have praised Karzai's efforts to promote national reconciliation and a growing economy, critics charge him with failing to stem corruption and the growing drug trade, and the slow pace of reconstruction.

The current parliament was elected in 2005. Among the elected officials were former mujahadeen, Taliban members, communists, reformists, and Islamic fundamentalists. Surprisingly, 28% of the delegates elected were women, 3% more than the 25% minimum guaranteed under the constitution. Ironically, this made Afghanistan, long known under the Taliban for its oppression of women, one of the leading countries in terms of female representation.

The Supreme Court of Afghanistan is currently led by Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari. Dominated by fundamentalist religious figures, it has tried to ban a candidate in the 2004 presidential election for questioning polygamy laws, and limited the rights of women, as well as overstepped its constitutional authority by issuing rulings on subjects not yet brought before the court. Though many believed that Karzai would make reforming the Supreme Court a priority of his administration.

On September 27, 1996, the ruling members of the Afghan government were displaced by members of the Islamic Taliban movement. The Taliban declared themselves the legitimate government of Afghanistan; however, the UN continued to recognize the former government of Burhanuddin Rabbani.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference left the Afghan seat vacant until the question of legitimacy could be resolved through negotiations among the warring factions.

By the time of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks only Pakistan recognized the Taliban government, though Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had in the past.

The Taliban occupied 95% of the territory, called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The remaining 5% belonged to the rebel forces constituting the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which the United Nations had recognized as the official government in exile.

After the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden to U.S. authorities for his suspected involvement in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., a US-led international coalition was formed; after several weeks of aerial bombardment by coalition forces and military action on the ground, including Afghan opposition forces, the Taliban was officially ousted from power on November 17, 2001.

In December 2001, a number of prominent Afghans met under UN auspices in Germany, to decide on a plan for governing the country; as a result, the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) - made up of 30 members, headed by a chairman - was inaugurated on December 22, 2001, with a six-month mandate to be followed by a two-year Transitional Authority (TA), after which elections are to be held. Some provisions in the agreement have expired, due to the creation of the constitution. Still, the agreement paved the way for the creation of a democratic Afghanistan.

The structure of the Transitional Authority was announced on June 10, 2002, when the Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) convened establishing the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA), which had 18 months to hold a constitutional Loya Jirga to adopt a constitution and 24 months to hold nationwide elections. The Loya Jirga was replaced by the National Assembly.

Under the Bonn Agreement the Afghan Constitution Commission was established to consult with the public and formulate a draft constitution. The meeting of a constitutional Loya Jirga was held in December 2003, when a new constitution was adopted creating a presidential form of government with a bicameral legislature.

Troops and intelligence agencies from the United States and a number of other countries are present, some to support the government, others assigned to hunt for remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda. A United Nations military force called the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been operating in Kabul since December 2001. NATO took control of this Force on August 11, 2003. Eurocorps took over the responsibility for ISAF on August 9, 2004.

National elections were held on October 9, 2004. Over 10 million Afghans were registered to vote. Most of the 17 candidates opposing Karzai boycotted the election, charging fraud; an independent commission found evidence of fraud, but ruled that it did not affect the outcome of the poll. Karzai won 55.4% of the vote. He was inaugurated as president on December 7 of that year. It was the country's first national election since 1969, when parliamentary elections were last held.

On September 18, 2005, parliamentary elections were held; the parliament opened on the following day, December 19. On December 20 Karzai's close ally and president of the first mujahideen government, Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, was picked to head the 102-seat upper house. On December 21, Yunus Qanuni, Afghan opposition leader and Karzai's main opponent was chosen to lead the 249-seat lower house of parliament with 122 votes against 117 for his closest challenger.

The Bonn Agreement called for a Loya Jirga to be convened. This body ratified the Constitution of Afghanistan in early 2004. It creates a strong Presidency and a bicameral legislative branch.

The 2005 Parliamentary Election for the Wolesi Jirga or House of the People were conducted on September 18, 2005. This was the first parliamentary election in Afghanistan since 1969. 2707 candidates, including 328 women, competed for 249 seats. The election was conducted with multiple seat electoral constituencies. Each province is a constituency and has a varying number of seats, depending on population. Voters have a single non-transferable vote.

The Meshrano Jirga or House of the Elders consists of 102 members. One-third of the members were appointed by the president, while another third was elected by the provincial councils. Elections for the provincial councils were held simultaneously with those for the Wolesi Jirga. The remaining third is supposed to be elected by district councils. However, elections for the district councils have been postponed, meaning that one-third of the seats in the Meshrano Jirga will be vacant when it assembles.

Despite Taliban and other anti-government forces stating they intended to disrupt the elections, the polling day went by with minimal violence.

Afghanistan held parliamentary elections on 18 September 2005. First results were announced on 9 October and final results on 12 November of 2005. Since all candidates were not listed by party and elected as non-partisans, a breakdown by party was not possible. Turnout was estimated at about 50 percent.

For more info: Afghan parliamentary election, 2005.

Political parties in Afghanistan are in flux and many prominent players have plans to create new ones. As of the 2005 Parliamentary Election, political parties are not legally recognised and candidates must run as independents, although parties can support candidates who are members.

The Constitution of Afghanistan mandates a Supreme Court. Other minor courts were created too, such as high courts, appeals courts, and other district Courts.

Afghanistan has received $892.28 million in lending since joining the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at its founding in 1966 and is ADB’s 17th largest borrower. ADB suspended its operations in Afghanistan from 1992 to 2002. Significant international engagement with Afghanistan resumed in 2001 following the ouster of the Taliban regime. In 2001 and 2002, ADB, the World Bank, and the United Nations assessed the country’s critical rehabilitation and development needs: at the 2002 Tokyo Conference, ADB pledged loan and grant assistance of some $500 million over 2.5 years, beginning with a $167.18 million Postconflict Multisector Program loan, the first loan by an international financial institution to the country in more than 23 years. In 2004, ADB pledged up to $800 million in Asian Development Fund (ADF) loans and grants for 2005–2008, while at the 2006 London Conference indicated its intention to provide up to $200 million per year in ADF funding through 2010. ADB’s support has focused on building national capacity, establishing policy and institutional frameworks, and rehabilitating infrastructure. At the request of the Afghan authorities, ADB loan and grant-financed projects and programs and related technical assistance are focused on the road [transport, energy, agriculture and natural resource management, and governance and financial sectors. Private sector support has focused on loans and investments in the telecommunications and banking sectors.

Afghanistan became a member of the World Bank in 1955. Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, World Bank operations were suspended, and the resident mission in Kabul was closed, although the Bank continued to provide assistance to Afghans through its office in neighboring Pakistan. The Bank resumed operations in Afghanistan in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people while assisting the government in developing the administrative systems required for longer-term nationwide development.

Prior to 1979, the World Bank had provided 21 no-interest loans, known as "credits" to Afghanistan across a wide range of areas including education, roads, and agriculture. Of the original US$230 million in credits approved under IDA, US $83 million was disbursed and US $147 million was subsequently canceled. Afghanistan had repaid US $9.2 million to IDA and was up to date on debt service payments until June 1992, when it stopped making payments.

In 2003, Afghanistan was able to clear its debt to the World Bank, in part with the help of Japan, the UK, Sweden, Norway, and Italy, who contributed to a trust fund for this purpose. Additional funds from the multi-donors, which is administered by the World Bank, helped to clear the remaining arrears, allowing Afghanistan to become eligible for loans for projects designed to help meet the country's longer-term development needs.

The ARTF has emerged as one of the main instruments for financing the country’s recurrent budget and investment support for Afghanistan. To date, more than US$1.37 billion has been contributed to the ARTF by 24 donors.

Since 2002, the Bank has financed 21 projects, committing around US$1.13 billion, of which US$696.8 million is in grants and US$436.4 in interest-free credits. Two budget support operations and an emergency public works project have been completed so far. commitments of approximately US$26 million for the fiscal year 2007 (July 2006 - June 2007) will be entirely in grants. The Bank-funded projects mostly support rural livelihoods by providing job opportunities, rebuilding infrastructure, education and basic health services.

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Kabul

Kabul City

Kābul (Persian: کابل, IPA: ) is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of approximately three million. The total provincial population of Kabul is 3.5 million people. It is an economic and cultural centre, situated 5,900 feet (1,800 m) above sea level in a narrow valley, wedged between the Hindu Kush mountains along the Kabul River. Kabul is linked with Ghazni, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif via a long beltway (circular highway) that stretches across the country. It is also linked by highways with Pakistan to the east and southeast and Tajikistan to the north. A highway is being rebuilt in the west to modern standards to link Afghanistan to Iran.

Kabul's main products include munitions, cloth, furniture and beet sugar, but, since 1978, a state of nearly continuous war has limited the economic productivity of the city.

Kabul is over 3,000 years old, many empires have long fought over the city for its strategic location along the trade routes of Southern and Central Asia. In 1504, Babur captured Kabul and used it as his headquarters until 1526, before his conquest of India. In 1776, Timur Shah Durrani made it the capital of modern Afghanistan. The population of the city is predominantly Persian-speaking.

The city of Kabul is thought to have been established between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE. In the Rig Veda (composed between 1700–1100 BCE) the word "Kubhā" is mentioned, which appears to refer to the Kabul River. There is a reference to a settlement called Kabura by the Persian Achaemenids around 400 BCE which may be the basis for the use of the name Kabura by Ptolemy. Alexander the Great conquered Kabul during his conquest of the Persian Empire. The city later became part of the Seleucid Empire before becoming part of the Mauryan Empire. The Bactrians founded the town of Paropamisade near Kabul, but it was later ceded to the Mauryans in the 1st century BCE.

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom captured Kabul from the Mauryans in the early 2nd century BCE, then lost the city to their subordinates in the Indo-Greek Kingdom in the mid 2nd century BCE. Indo-Scythians expelled the Indo-Greeks by the mid 1st century BCE, but lost the city to the Kushan Empire nearly 100 years later. It was conquered by Kushan Emperor Kujula Kadphises in the early 1st century CE and remained Kushan territory until at least the 3rd century CE. Kabul was one of the two capital cities of Kushans.

Around 230 CE the Kushans were defeated by the Sassanid Empire and were replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshas or Indo-Sassanids. In 420 CE the Kushanshahs (Kushan kings) were driven out of Afghanistan by the Chionites tribe known as the Kidarites, who were then replaced in the 460s by the Hephthalites. The Hephthalites were defeated in 565 CE by a coalition of Persian and Turkish armies, and most of the realm fell to those Empires. Kabul became part of the surviving Kushano-Hephthalite Kingdom of Kapisa, who were also known as Kabul-Shahan. The rulers of Kabul-Shahan built a huge defensive wall around the city to protect it from invaders. This wall has survived until today and is considered a historical site. Around 670 CE the Kushano-Hephthalites were replaced by the Shahi or Hindu-Shahi dynasty.

In 674, the Islamic invasions reached modern-day Afghanistan and occupied Kabul. However, it was not until the 9th century when Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, a coppersmith turned ruler, established Islam in Kabulistan. Over the remaining centuries to come the city was successively controlled by the Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Timurids, Mughols, Durranis, and finally by the Barakzais.

Nadir Shah of Persia captured the city in 1738 but was assassinated nine years later. Ahmad Shah Durrani, an Afghan military commander and personal bodyguard of Nader, took the throne in 1747, asserted Pashtun rule and further expanded his new Afghan Empire. His son Timur Shah Durrani, after inheriting power, transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776. Timur Shah died in 1793 and was succeeded by his son Zaman Shah Durrani.

In 1826, the kingdom was claimed by Dost Mohammed and taken from him by the British Indian Army in 1839 (see Afghan Wars), who installed the unpopular puppet Shah Shuja. An 1841 local uprising resulted in the loss of the British mission and the subsequent Massacre of Elphinstone's army of approximately 16,000 people, which included civilians and camp followers on their retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad. In 1842 the British returned, plundering Bala Hissar in revenge before retreating back to India. Dost Mohammed returned to the throne.

The British invaded in 1878 as Kabul was under Sher Ali Khan's rule, but the British residents were again massacred. The invaders again came in 1879 under General Roberts, partially destroying Bala Hissar before retreating to India. Amir Abdur Rahman was left in control of the country.

In the early 20th century, King Amanullah Khan rose to power. His reforms included electricity for the city and schooling for girls. He drove a Rolls-Royce, and lived in the famous Darul Aman Palace. In 1919, after the Third Anglo-Afghan War, Amanullah announced Afghanistan's independence from foreign interventions at Eidgah Mosque. In 1929, Ammanullah Khan left Kabul because of a local uprising and his brother Nader Khan took control. King Nader Khan was assassinated in 1933 and his 19-year-old son, Zahir Shah, became the long lasting King of Afghanistan.

Kabul University opened for classes in early 1930s, and in 1940s, the city began to grow as an industrial center. The streets of the city began being paved in the 1950s.

In the 1960s, Kabul developed a cosmopolitan mood. The first Marks and Spencer store in Central Asia was built there. Kabul Zoo was inaugurated in 1967, which was maintained with the help of visiting German Zoologists.

In 1969, a religious uprising at the Pul-e Khishti Mosque protested the Soviet Union's increasing influence over Afghan politics and religion. This protest ended in the arrest of many of its organizers including Mawlana Faizani, a popular Islamic scholar.

In July 1973, Zahir Shah was ousted in a bloodless coup and Kabul became the capital of a republic under Mohammad Daoud Khan, the new President. In 1975 an east-west electric trolleybus system provided public transportation across the city. The system was built with assistance from Czechoslovakia.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, on December 24, 1979, the Red Army occupied the capital. They turned the city into their command center during the 10-year conflict between the Soviet-allied government and the Mujahideen rebels. The American Embassy in Kabul closed on January 30, 1989. The city fell into the hands of local militias after the 1992 collapse of Mohammad Najibullah's pro-communist government. As these forces divided into warring factions, the city increasingly suffered. In December, the last of the 86 city trolley buses came to a halt because of the conflict. A system of 800 public buses continued to provide transportation services to the city.

By 1993 electricity and water in the city was completely out. At this time, Burhannudin Rabbani's militia (Jamiat-e Islami) held power but the nominal prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami began shelling the city, which lasted until 1996. Kabul was factionalised, and fighting continued between Jamiat-e Islami, Abdul Rashid Dostum and the Hezbi Wahdat. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed and many more fled as refugees. The United Nations estimated that about 90% of the buildings in Kabul were destroyed during these years.

Kabul was captured by the Taliban on September 26, 1996, publicly lynching ex-President Najibullah and his brother. During this time, all the fighting between rival groups came to an end. Burhannudin Rabbani, Gulbuddin Heckmatyar, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ahmad Shah Massoud, and the rest all fled the city.

Approximately five years later, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban abandoned Kabul in the following months because of extensive American bombing, while the Afghan Northern Alliance (former mujahideen or millias) came to retake control of the city. On December 20, 2001, Kabul became the capital of the Afghan Transitional Administration, which transformed to the present government of Afghanistan that is led by US-backed President Hamid Karzai.

Since the beginning of 2003, the city is slowly developing with the help of foreign investment. Security is has been provided by US (Operation Enduring Freedom) and NATO (ISAF) forces until late 2008. Currently it's the Afghan National Police (ANP) and the Afghan National Army (ANA) who is providing security for most of the city.

Kabul has a semi-arid climate with precipitation concentrated in the winter (in the form of snow) and spring months. Summers run from June to September and are moderate, with highs in the low 30s and very low humidity. The autumn months of October and November have moderate temperatures and low humidity. Winters are harsh, snowy and long, lasting from December to March. Spring in Kabul starts in late March and is the wettest part of the year.

Kabul City is one of the 15 districts of Kabul Province, and is divided into 18 sectors. Each sector covers several neighborhoods of the city. The number of Kabul's sectors were increased from 11 to 18 in 2005.

Unlike other cities of the world, Kabul City has two independent councils or administrations at once: Prefecture and Municipality. The Prefect who is also the Governor of Kabul Province is appointed by the Ministry of Interior, and is responsible for the administrative and formal issues of the entire province. The Mayor of Kabul City is selected by the President of Afghanistan, who engages in the city's planning and environmental work.

The police and security forces belong to the prefecture and Ministry of Interior. The Chief of Police is selected by the Minister of Interior and is responsible for law enforcement and security of the city.

Kabul has a population between 2.5 to approximately 3 million people. The population of the city reflects the general multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-confessional characteristics of Afghanistan. According to the 2005 United Nations estimate, the population of Kabul City reached 2,994,000, while according to the 2006 estimates from the Central Statistics Office of Afghanistan, the city's population is only 2,536,300.

There is no official governmental data on the exact ethnic make-up of the city. However, it appears that the Persian-speakers form the majority of the city's population, with Sunnite Tajiks being the largest group, followed by Shi'ite Hazaras. There is also a sizable number of Persian-speaking Pashtuns.

Pashto-speakers, also Sunnites, form the most important minority, followed by the Turkic-speaking Uzbeks. There are also sizable numbers of Aimak, Baloch, Pashai, as well as Sikhs and Hindus who speak their native language as a mother tongue and Persian as the native language of Kabul.

Kabul International Airport serves the population of the city as a method of traveling to other cities or countries. The airport is a hub to Ariana Afghan Airlines, which is the national airlines carrier of Afghanistan. Kam Air, Pamir Airways, and Safi Airways also have their hubs in Kabul. Turkish Airlines has recently signed a partnership contract with Ariana Afghan Airlines to make travel from Europe and the Americas to Afghanistan with less connection waits. Airlines from other nations also use the airport to arrive and depart. Firms based in Dubai are also investing in Afghan air travel. The new $35 million dollar international terminal, paid for by the government of Japan, opened in 2008 for full operation. The new terminal is the first of three terminals to be opened so far. The other two will open once air traffic to the city increases.

For most passengers coming from Europe, Africa, Russia and North America, Istanbul is the connecting city for direct flights to Kabul. Passengers coming from the Middle East and the rest of Asia connect in Dubai for direct flights to Kabul. Direct flights between Kabul and Frankfurt have been put on a temporary hold until Ariana Afghan Airlines receives its five newer and safer Boeing planes, except for one Airbus that has weekly flights between the cities.

Kabul Airport also has a military air base which serves as the main airport for the Afghan National Air Corps. NATO also uses the Kabul Airport, but most military traffic is based in Bagram, just north of Kabul. The Afghan National Army protects the airport.

Kabul has its own public buses (Millie Bus / "National Bus") that take commuters on daily routes to many destinations throughout the city. The service currently has approximately 800 buses but is gradually expanding and upgrading with more buses being added. Plans are underway to reintroduce the modern trolleybuses that the city once had. Besides the buses, there are yellow taxicabs that can be spotted just about anywhere in and around the city. The Kabul bus system has recently discovered a new source of revenue in whole-bus advertising from MTN similar to "bus wrap" advertising on public transit in more developed nations. There is also an express bus that runs from the city center to Kabul International Airport.

Private vehicles are also on the rise in Kabul, with Land Rover, BMW, Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai dealerships in the city. More people are buying new cars as the roads and highways are being improved. The average car driven in Kabul is a Toyota Corolla. With the exception of motorcycles many vehicles in the city operate on LPG. Gas stations are mainly private-owned but the fuel comes from Iran. Bikes on the road are a common sight in the city.

GSM/GPRS mobile phone services in the city are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan and MTN. In November 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a US 64.5 million dollar agreement with a company (ZTE Corporation) on the establishment of a countrywide fibre optical cable network. This will improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services not just in Kabul but throughout the country. Internet was introduced in the city in 2002 and has been expanding rapidly.

There are a number of post offices throughout the city. Package delivery services like FedEx, TNT N.V., DHL and others are also available.

All public schools in Kabul reopened in 2002 and are improving every year. Majority of the city's boys and girls are now attending classes. Some of the well known public schools are Amani High School, Durrani High School, Ghulam Haider Khan High School, Sultan Razia School, etc.

The city's colleges and universities were also renovated after 2002. Some of them were recently developed while others existed since the early 1900s.

The old part of Kabul is filled with bazaars nestled along its narrow, crooked streets. Cultural sites include the Afghan National Museum, notably displaying an impressive statue of Surya excavated at Khair Khana, the ruined Darul Aman Palace, the Mausoleum of Emperor Babur and Chehlstoon Park, the Minar-i-Istiqlal (Column of Independence) built in 1919 after the Third Afghan War, the mausoleum of Timur Shah Durrani, and the imposing Id Gah Mosque (founded 1893). Bala Hissar is a fort destroyed by the British in 1879, in retaliation for the death of their envoy, now restored as a military college. The Minaret of Chakari, destroyed in 1998, had Buddhist swastika and both Mahayana and Theravada qualities.

Other places of interest include Kabul City Center, which is Kabul's first shopping mall, the shops around Flower Street and Chicken Street, Wazir Akbar Khan district, Babur Gardens, Kabul Golf Club, Kabul Zoo, Shah Do Shamshera and other famous Mosques, the Afghan National Gallery, Afghan National Archive, Afghan Royal Family Mausoleum, the OMAR Mine Museum, Bibi Mahroo Hill, Kabul Cemetery, and Paghman Gardens.

Tappe-i-Maranjan is a nearby hill where Buddhist statues and Graeco-Bactrian coins from the 2nd century BC have been found. Outside the city proper is a citadel and the royal palace. Paghman and Jalalabad are interesting valleys north and east of the city.

As of October 2007, there are approximately 16 licensed banks in Kabul: including Da Afghanistan Bank, Afghanistan International Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Punjab National Bank, Habib Bank and others. Western Union offices are also found in many locations throughout the city.

A small sized indoor shopping mall (Kabul City Center) with a 4-star (Safi Landmark) hotel on the top six floors opened in 2005. A 5-star Serena Hotel also opened in 2005. Another 5-star Marriott Hotel is under construction. The landmark InterContinental Hotel has also been refurbished and is in operation.

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. Dr. Ashkouri has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with His Excellency Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad in Washington, DC to undertake this project and to develop it for actual implementation over the next 20 to 25 years. Dr. Ashkouri has presented the City of Light Plan to President Karzai and has received a letter of support from the President and the Minister of Urban Development in support of this project’s development.

About 4 miles (6 km) from downtown Kabul, in Bagrami, a 22-acre (9 ha) wide industrial complex has completed with modern facilities, which will allow companies to operate businesses there. The park has professional management for the daily maintenance of public roads, internal streets, common areas, parking areas, 24 hours perimeter security, access control for vehicles and persons. Another phase with additional 27 acres (11 ha) of land will be added immediately proceeding the first phase.

The city hosts the We Are the Future (WAF) center, a child care center giving children a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense of hope. The center is managed under the direction of the mayor’s office and the international NGO. Glocal Forum serves as the fundraiser, program planner and coordinator for the WAF center. Launched in 2004, the program is the result of a strategic partnership between the Glocal Forum, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation and Mr. Hani Masri, with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies and major companies.

A $25 million Coca-Cola bottling plant was opened in 2006. Financing was provided by a Dubai-based Afghan family. President Hamid Karzai formally opened the facility in an attempt to attract more foreign investment in the city.

In late 2007 the government announced that all the residential houses situated on mountains would be removed within a year so that trees and other plants can be grown on the hills. The plan is to try to make the city greener and provide residents with a more suitable place to live, on a flat surface. Once the plan is implemented it will provide water supply and electricity to each house. All the city roads will also be paved under the plan, which will solve transportation problems.

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Source : Wikipedia