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History of Afghanistan
Summary of Afghanistan History
Afghanistan's history, internal political development, foreign relations, and very existence as an independent state have largely been determined by its geographic location at the crossroads of Central, West, and South Asia. Over the centuries, waves of migrating peoples passed through the region--described by historian Arnold Toynbee as a "roundabout of the ancient world"--leaving behind a mosaic of ethnic and linguistic groups. In modern times, as well as in antiquity, vast armies of the world passed through Afghanistan, temporarily establishing local control and often dominating Iran and northern India.
Although it was the scene of great empires and flourishing trade for over two millennia, the area's heterogeneous groups were not bound into a single political entity until the reign of Ahmad Shah Durrani, who in 1747 founded the monarchy that ruled the country until 1973. In the nineteenth century, Afghanistan lay between the expanding might of the Russian and British empires. In 1900, Abdur Rahman Khan (the "Iron Amir"), looking back on his twenty years of rule and the events of the past century, wondered how his country, which stood "like a goat between these lions [Britain and Tsarist Russia] or a grain of wheat between two strong millstones of the grinding mill, [could] stand in the midway of the stones without being ground to dust?" Constrained by the competing dictates of powerful British and Russian empires, Abdur Rahman focused instead on consolidating his power within Afghanistan and creating the institutions of a modern nation-state.
Islam played a key role in the formation of Afghan history as well. Despite the Mongol invasion of Afghanistan in the early thirteenth century which has been described as resembling "more some brute cataclysm of the blind forces of nature than a phenomenon of human history," even a warrior as formidable as Genghis Khan did not uproot Islamic civilization, and within two generations his heirs had become Muslims. An often unacknowledged event that nevertheless played an important role in Afghan history (and in the politics of Afghanistan's neighbors and the entire region up to the present) was the rise in the tenth century of a strong Sunni dynasty--the Ghaznavids. Their power prevented the eastward spread of Shiism from Iran, thereby insuring that the majority of the Muslims in Afghanistan and South Asia would be Sunnis.
From prehistory until the arrival of Islam around 651. Achaemenid Empire, Zoroastrianism, Alexander the Great and the Seleucid Empire, Mauryan Empire and Buddhism, Greek Bactria, Parthians and Sakas, Kushan Empire, Sassanian Empire, Guptas, Hepthalites, Western Turks.
From the arrival of Islam until the Durrani
651-1747. Arab invasian, Abbasid Dynasty, Sunni Islam, Samanid Dynasty, Ghaznavid Empire, Kingdom of Ghor, Khwarazm Turks, Gengis Khan, Timur, Timurid Empire, Babur, Mughal Empire, Safavids, Pashtun tribes, Nadir Shah.
From Ahmad Shah until Dost Mohammed
1746-1826. Rule of Ahmad Shah (Durr-i-Durrani) and his sons and grandsons. Ahmad Shah created an empire in Afghanistan, Sindh and Punjab, defeating the Mughal Empire, but subsequently facing lengthy conflict with the Sikhs and Marathas. The territory he gained was lost during the rule of his son and grandsons who were pushed back to Kabul and Afghanistan descended into tribal conflict and a period of chaos.
Dost Mohammed and the British in Afghanistan
1826-1919. Dost Mohammed Khan gained control in Kabul. The expanding British and Russian empires collided in The Great Game. When Iranians advanced towards Herat with Russian support, Britain invaded Afghanistan in the First Anglo-Afghan War and restored Shah Shuja to the throne. The Afghans fought back and the British attempted to withdraw to Kandahar. Dost Mohammed returned to the throne and fought the Sikhs. The Russians advanced to the Amu Darya in the north and the Iranians captured Herat. Dost Mohammed signed a treaty with the British and allowed them to return to Kandahar, then recaptured Herat. After his death Sher Ali obtained control. When a Russian diplomatic mission was sent to Kabul, the British demanded that their own mission be received, but Sher Ali refused and the British invaded again, the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The Afghans were forced to cede control of foreign affairs to the British, who placed Abdur Rahman Khan in control. He modernised the country and its borders became formalised through British involvement. Habibullah Khan took control, then Amanullah Khan, who initiated the Third Anglo-Afghan War, with Afghanistan regaining full independence in 1919.
Reforms of Amanullah Khan and civil war
1919-1929 During the continued reign of Amanullah Khan, ties were established with the Soviet Union, while relations with British India were strained. Amanullah attempted to introduce major social and economic reforms, but various tribes revolted and he was deposed in favour of a short-lived Tajik administration led by Habibullah Khan, which in turn was deposed by Pashtun tribes.
Reigns of Nadir Shah and Zahir Shah
1929-1973 Mohammed Nadir Shah ascended to the throne in 1929 and began consolidating power and regenerating the country. He reversed the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favour of a more gradual approach to modernisation. He was assassinated in 1933 and his son Mohammed Zahir Shah ascended to the throne. Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle Mohammed Hashim, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. In 1946 another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud, became Prime Minister. He 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 hostile one towards Pakistan. However dipute with Pakistan led to an economic crisis and he was asked to resign in 1963. From 1963 until 1973 Zahir Shah took a more active role, instituting a new constitution which limited the power of the royal family and religious authorities. However the second elected parliament of 1969 became deadlocked, leading Mohammed Daoud Khan to stage a coup d'état on July 17, 1973 while Zahir was in Italy.
Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan
1973-1978. Mohammed Daoud Khan's return to power was welcomed by many factions. He established a new constitution for a presidential, one party system of government, abolishing the monarchy and repressing dissent. Disillusionment set in when he failed to proved the expected benefits to interest groups. A revolt by communists on April 27, 1978 led to his death a day later
Communist rule in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
1978-1992. The Afghan communist party took power, with Nur Mohammed Taraki as president. The party was internally divided into Khalq and Parcham factions which fought for control. Opposition groups proliferated and took up armed rebellion. Hafizullah Amin became president in 1979. The Soviet Union invaded on December 25, 1979 and installed Babrak Karmal as president and fought a war of attrition against the mujahedin for ten years. In 1986 Mohammad Najibullah became president. The Soviets withdrew, completed in February 1989 but fighting between government and mujahedin continued. With material help from the Soviets, Najibullah's government survived, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union it was overturned on 18 April 1992 when the forces of Ahmed Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostam took control of Kabul.
The United States, with support from the United Kingdom invaded Afghanistan in October, 2001 as part of its "War on Terrorism". The military campaign, led by U.S. general Tommy Franks, was initially dubbed Operation Infinite Justice but quickly renamed Operation Enduring Freedom, due to the perceived religious connotations of the former.
According to the US, the purpose of Operation Enduring Freedom was to target Osama bin Laden, suspected of planning and funding the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, and his terrorist network al-Qaida, as well as and the Taliban government in Afghanistan which refused to unconditionally extradite bin Laden and members of his organization. Many journalists have reported that plans to attack al-Qaida and the Taliban had been made as early as the Clinton Administration, but bureaucratic wrangling had delayed action until after the September 11 attack. (, ).
Before October 7, there were reports that U.S. and British special-forces soldiers were covertly landed in Afghanistan at some time after September 11, presumably for reconnaisance purposes, and that several of these troops were captured by the Taliban. As of October 1, all such reports had been officially denied by the U.S., British, and Afghani governments.
At approximately 16:30 GMT (12:30 EDT, 17:00 local time) on Sunday October 7, 2001, US and British forces struck at the Taliban forces and those of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan. The US government justified these attacks as a response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. The Taliban condemned these attacks and called them an 'attack on Islam.'
Strikes were reported over the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies were severed), at the airport and military nerve-centre of Kandahar (home of the Taliban's Supreme Leader Mullah Omar), and also at the city of Jalalabad (military/terrorist training camps). Both US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed their respective nations on the subject. Bush confirmed the attacks on national television at 1 PM EDT. He said that at the same time as Taliban military and terrorists' training grounds would be targeted, food would be dropped because the Afghani people were "friends" of the US.
A number of different technologies were employed in the strike. Air Force general Richard Myers, head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that approximately 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched by British and US submarines and ships, 15 strike aircraft from carriers and 25 bombers, such as B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress and F-16 Fighting Falcon were involved in the first wave. Two C-17 Globemaster transport jets were to deliver 37,500 daily rations by airdrop to refugees inside Afghanistan on the first day of the attack.
A pre-recorded video tape of Osama bin Laden had been released before the attack in which he condemned any attacks against Afghanistan. Al-Jazeera, the Arabic satellite news channel, claimed that these tapes were received shortly before the attack. In this recording bin Laden claimed that the United States would fail in Afghanistan and then collapse, just as the Soviet Union did, and called for a war of Muslims, a Jihad, against the entire non-Muslim world.
Briefings by Washington defense officials indicated that the assaults would continue for the foreseeable future, with long-range bombing missions attacking Afghanistan from US and allied coalition soil.
On November 13, the Taliban began a massive military retreat and Taliban members in the city of Jalalabad announced that they were handing power over to a civilian administration and then withdrew from the city. The Northern Alliance pushed into Kabul and killing six Arabs and Pakistanis who attempted an ambush in the process, as Taliban forces retreated to Chahar Asiab. In Nimroz Province, as the Taliban retreated, Karim Baravi, the former governor, retook power.
In (March 2002). fighting was renewed as coalition forces made a massive push against about 500 to 1000 Al-Qaida and Taliban forces (many of whom are with their families) in the Shahi-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains southeast of Zormat.
By March 6, eight Americans and seven Afghan soldiers had been killed and about 400 opposing forces had also been killed in the fighting.
Nature of coalition
The first wave of attacks was carried out solely by American and British forces. On the second day, only American forces participated.
In addition to the United Kingdom other countries have pledged support, including Canada, France and Germany. Canada said that it would contribute 2,000 troops, mostly commandos, six ships and six aircraft. Japan, in its first military deployment since World War II, also contributed naval support for non-combat reinforcement of the operation. By December, reports indicated that Australian, British, French, German and Russian special forces were on the ground in Afghanistan.
Despite reluctance in the Arab states towards retaliation against the al-Qaida network in Afghanistan, the Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf has offered support. Pakistan and Iran agreed to open borders to receive the expected increased migration of refugees from Afghanistan. Pakistan has traditionally supported the Taliban. Uzbekistan has allowed the U.S. to place troops on the ground as well as use an airfield for humanitarian relief.
The campaign is viewed on all fronts as an American initiative. The American news media labeled the attacks as "America Attacks", "American Strikes Back" or some such; the U.S. government repeatedly stated its willingness to undertake the attacks unilaterally if necessary; the BBC referred to a "confrontation between Afghanistan and the U.S."; the majority of the forces are American; the entire campaign is unequivocally led by the U.S.; the U.S. informed NATO of the attack but did not seek its consent.
Casualties and Accidental Strikes
On October 9, 2001, in a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, a United Nations spokeswoman reported that a cruise missile had killed four U.N. employees and injured four others in a building several miles east of Kabul. The casualties were Afghans employed as security guards by the Afghan Technical Consultancy, the U.N. demining agency (Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country on the planet). The Taliban reported about 8 to 20 civilian casualties, unconfirmed by independent sources.
On January 24, 2002, Green Beret commandos mistakingly raided a district compound and a school in Oruzgan, believing there were Taliban inside. However, the people they fought and killed (16, according to the Pentagon, 21, according to the Afghans) were interim-government soldiers collecting material from former Taliban supporters.
In the school, about 24 Afghans were asleep when several dozen Green Berets landed from helicopters and attacked. At least one Afghan returned fire, some escaped, one was taken prisoner and the rest were killed, including commanders Abdul Qadoos and Sana Gul, killed by grenade. In the compound, about 50 Afghans were asleep when American forces landed and attacked, killing two and taking 26 prisoners.
On March 2, 2002, Army Chief Warrant Officer Stanley L. Harriman, of the Third Special Forces Group, was killed in an ambush along the road from Gardez to the Shahi Kot Valley.
On March 4, 2002, Seven American Special Forces soldiers were killed as they attempt to infiltrate the Shahi Kot Valley on a low-flying helicopter reconnaissance mission. Around 3 a.m. local time a MH-47 Chinook helicopter was hit by an rocket-propelled grenade, causing a soldier to fall out and damaging a hydraulic line. The helicopter made an emergency landing a half-mile away.
A second helicopter on the mission picked up the first helicopter's crew and flew to where the crew member had fallen. The soldiers soon came under heavy fire, and six were killed. The remaining soldiers returned fire and retrieved the bodies before returning to base.
On April 18, four Canadians soldiers were killed (Sgt. Marc Leger, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Pte. Richard Green and Pte. Nathan Smith) and eight wounded when an American F-16 fighter jet dropped a bomb during a training exercise near Kandahar. These were the first Canadian soldiers to be killed in combat since the Korean War. An American board of inquiry eventually placed the blame on the pilot, who dropped the bomb without first receiving authorization.
On July 1, 2002, 48 people at a wedding party in a village in Oruzgan province were killed, and a further 117 injured, in a bombing raid. The name of the village is Del Rawad, though early reports gave its name as Kakrakai or Kakrak. Gunfire meant to celebrate the wedding was apparently mistaken by US military for hostile gunfire. A B-52 bomber and and AC 130 helicopter were both involved in the incident, which reportedly went on for over an hour. The victims included many women and children. Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah later said that an entire family of 25 people had been killed or injured. Some survivors were treated in Mirwai Hospital in Kandahar, and at least four children were treated at military hospitals in Bagram and Kandahar.
The incident resulted in a formal protest, and later a warning, from the Afghan government. An anti-American rally was held in Kabul on July 5 as a protest against the incident. On July 3, US President George Bush expressed "deep condolences for the loss of human life", and US authorities later stated that the area affected by the bombing would be rebuilt. Several inquiries into the incident have commenced. One has involved the United Nations. According to the London Times, a preliminary UN report has stated that US forces arrived at the scene of the bombing raid and removed vital evidence. However, this has been dismissed as false by the Afghan government.
United States bombs have also struck a Kabul residential area and struck near and damaged a military hospital (according to the U.N.) or an elderly home (according to the Pentagon) in Herat.
By studying the available news reporting including Taliban reports, Marc Herold came to the conclusion that 3767 civilians died because of US bombs in Afghanistan between October 7 and December 7. Other inquiries have listed only 300-400 civilians killed betweeen October 2001 and July 2002.
Meetings of various Afgan leaders were organised by the United Nations and took place in Germany. The Taliban was not included. These meetings produced an interim government and an agreement to allow a United Nations peacekeeping force to enter Afghanistan.
It is estimated that in Afghanistan there are 1.5 million suffering from immediate starvation, as well as 7.5 million suffering as a result of the country's dire situation - the combination of civil war, drought-related famine, and, to a large extent, the Taliban's oppressive regime.
In Pakistan, the United Nations and private humanitarian organisations have begun gearing up for the massive humanitarian effort necessary in addition to the already major refugee and food efforts. The United Nations World Food Program temporarily suspended activities within Afghanistan at the beginning of the bombing attacks. The efforts have, as of early (December 2001), resumed with a daily distrubution rate of 3,000 tons a day. It is however estimated that 30,000 tons of food will be needed by (January 2002) to provided sufficient relief to the impoverished masses.
By November 1, U.S. C-17s flying at 30,000 feet had dropped 1,000,000 food and medicine packets marked with an American flag. Doctors Without Borders called it an act of transparent propaganda and said that using medicines without medical consultation is much more likely to cause harm than good. Action Against Hunger head of operations in Afghanistan Thomas Gonnet said it was an "act of marketing". A further dangerous problem lies in the fact that the food packets are bright yellow in color; the same color as unexploded bomblets from U.S. cluster bombs. Some injuries and damage to housing also occurred from boxes of relief supplies dropped from U.S. aircraft.
Protests, demonstrations and rallies
Several small protest occurred in various cities and college campuses across the United States and in other countries in the first days after the start of the boming campaign. These were mainly peaceful but larger protests and general strikes occurred in Pakistan, a previous Taliban ally. Some of these were suppressed by police with causalties among the protesters. In various Islamic nations, as well as in many "Western" industrialised nations with no official state religion, protests and rallies of various sizes against the attack on Afghanistan took place.
On October 7, there was a peace rally of ten to twelve thousand people in New York City. They marched from Union Square to Times Square, cheering the police at the beginning of the march. The list of about twelve speakers was cut to three or four by the police, and they were herded at the end into a one-lane-wide "bullpen". The New York Times buried their coverage of the march on page B12 and, after the first couple of weeks of the campaign, few protests occurred.
Many protesters felt that the attack on Afghanistan was unjustified aggression and would lead to the deaths of many innocent people by preventing humanitarian aid workers from bringing food into the country.
Geography, Demographics and Economy
The Islamic State of Afghanistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It is bordered by Iran in the west, Pakistan in the south and east, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the easternmost part of the country.
Through the ages, Afghanistan has been occupied by many forces. A separate Afghan nation came into existence in 1746, but control was ceded to the United Kingdom until independence in 1919. Since then, the country has known many governments and several civil wars.
In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded the country, then known as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, with the intention of replacing the leadership. However they were forced into a war of attrition against the mujahedin and did not withdraw until 1989. After a period of instability the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban gained control of the country. The Taliban were ousted by an American-lead coalition in 2001, following the Taliban's refusal to unconditionally extradite Osama bin Laden, the USA's top suspect in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. An interim government, with the purpose of rebuilding the country, has been established.
As of 2002, an interim government is in place, led by Hamid Karzai, with many elements from the Northern Alliance, and a mix from other regional and ethnic groups formed from the transition government by the Loya jirga. Troops and intelligence agencies from the United States and a number of other countries are there, some to keep the peace, some still looking for Taliban and al Qaeda personnel. A United Nations peacekeeping force operates in Kabul.
Afghanistan consists of 32 provinces, or velayat:
- Sar-e Pol
Afghanistan is a mountainous country, although there are plains in the north and southwest. The highest point in Afghanistan, Nowshak, is 7485 m above sea level. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. Afghanistan has a land climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The country is frequently subject to earthquakes.
Besides the capital city Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar are the nation's major cities.
Afghanistan is an extremely poor country, highly dependent on farming and livestock raising. The economy has suffered greatly from the recent political and military unrest, severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998-2001. The majority of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care, problems exacerbated by military operations and political uncertainties. Inflation remains a serious problem. Following the US-led coalition war that led to the defeat of the Taliban in November 2001 and the formulation of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) resulting from the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, International efforts to rebuild Afghanistan were addressed at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan Reconstruction in January 2002, when $4.5 billion was collected for a trust fund to be administered by the World Bank. Priority areas for reconstruction include the construction of education, health, and sanitation facilities, enhancement of administrative capacity, the development of the agricultural sector, and the rebuilding of road, energy, and telecommunication links.
Afghanistan's ethnically and linguistically mixed population reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South and Southwest Asia. Pashtuns are the dominant ethnic group, accounting for about 38% of the population. Tajik (25%), Hazara (19%), Uzbek (6%), Aimaq, Turkmen, Baluch and other small groups also are represented. Dari (Afghan Persian) and Pashto are official languages. Dari is spoken by more than one-third of the population as a first language and serves as a lingua franca for most Afghans, though the Taliban use Pashto. Tajik, Uzbek, and Turkmen are spoken widely in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.
Afghanistan is an Islamic country. An estimated 84% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; the remainder is predominantly Shi'a, mainly Hazara. Despite attempts during the years of communist rule to secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In fact, Islam served as the principal basis for expressing opposition to the communists and the Soviet invasion. Likewise, Islamic religious tradition and codes, together with traditional practices, provide the principal means of controlling personal conduct and settling legal disputes. Excluding urban populations in the principal cities, most Afghans are divided into tribal and other kinship-based groups, which follow traditional customs and religious practices.
Population: 26,813,057 (July 2001 est.)
0-14 years: 42.2% (male 5,775,921; female 5,538,836)
15-64 years: 55.01% (male 7,644,242; female 7,106,568)
65 years and over: 2.79% (male 394,444; female 353,046) (2001 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.48% (2001 est.) note: this rate reflects the continued return of refugees from Iran
Birth rate: 41.42 births/1,000 population (2001 est.)
Death rate: 17.72 deaths/1,000 population (2001 est.)
Net migration rate: 11.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2001 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.12 male(s)/female
total population: 1.06 male(s)/female (2001 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 147.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2001 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 46.24 years
male: 46.97 years
female: 45.47 years (2001 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.79 children born/woman (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.01% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Ethnic groups: Pashtun 38%, Tajik 25%, Hazara 19%, minor ethnic groups (Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, and others) 12%, Uzbek 6%
Religions: Sunni Muslim 84%, Shi'a Muslim 15%, other 1%
Languages: Pashtu 35%, Afghan Persian (Dari) 50%, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%, much bilingualism
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 31.5%
female: 15% (1999 est.)
In Afghanistan at the present time (March 2002), there exists an interim government headed by Hamid Karzai.
The new government replaces the Taliban, which lost recognition from all other countries in the world except Pakistan after the terrorist attacks against the U.S. The former government, called the Taliban, had occupied 95% of the territory, called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. As of October 2001, only Pakistan recognized the Taliban government, though Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had in the past. 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.
The majority of the following information is taken from, or adapted from the CIA World Factbook 2001:
conventional short form: Afghanistan
local long form: Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
local short form: Afghanestan
former: Kingdom of Afghanistan, Republic of Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
ISO 3166 country code: AF
Government type: interim government
Administrative divisions: 30 provinces (velayat, singular - velayat); Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Bamian, Farah, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghowr, Helmand, Herat, Jowzjan, Kabol, Kandahar, Kapisa, Konar, Kondoz, Laghman, Lowgar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Oruzgan, Paktia, Paktika, Parvan, Samangan, Sar-e Pol, Takhar, Vardak, Zabol note: there may be two new provinces of Nurestan (Nuristan) and Khowst
Independence: August 19, 1919 (from United Kingdom control over Afghan foreign affairs)
National holiday: Victory of the Muslim Nation, April 28; Remembrance Day for Martyrs and Disabled, May 4; Independence Day, 19 August
Legal system: a new legal system has not been adopted but all factions tacitly agree they will follow Shari'a (Islamic law)
Suffrage: NA; previously males 15-50 years of age
Executive branch: on September 27, 1996, the ruling members of the Afghan Government were displaced by members of the Islamic Taliban movement; the Islamic State of Afghanistan has no functioning government at this time, and the country remains divided among fighting factions. Note: the Taliban have declared themselves the legitimate government of Afghanistan; however, the UN still recognizes the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani; the Organization of the Islamic Conference has left the Afghan seat vacant until the question of legitimacy can be resolved through negotiations among the warring factions; the country is essentially divided along ethnic lines; the Taliban controls the capital of Kabul and approximately two-thirds of the country including the predominately ethnic Pashtun areas in southern Afghanistan; opposing factions have their stronghold in the ethnically diverse north
Legislative branch: non-functioning as of June 1993
Judicial branch: upper courts were non-functioning as of March 1995 (local Shari'a or Islamic law courts are functioning throughout the country)
Political pressure groups and leaders: Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere have organized politically; Afghan Mellat Party(Afghan Social Democratic Party) [leader Shams Ul Huda Shams) presently based in Peshawar, Pakistan; Peshawar, Pakistan-based groups such as the Coordination Council for National Unity and Understanding in Afghanistan or CUNUA [Ishaq GAILANI]; tribal elders represent traditional Pashtun leadership; Writers Union of Free Afghanistan or WUFA [A. Rasul AMIN]
International organization participation: AsDB, CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat, IOC(suspended), IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW(signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO
Diplomatic representation in the US: none; note - embassy operations suspended 21 August 1997
consulate(s) general: New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US embassy in Kabul has been closed since January 1989 due to security concerns
three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and black with a gold emblem centered on the three bands; the emblem features a temple-like structure with Islamic inscriptions above and below, encircled by a wreath on the left and right and by a bolder Islamic inscription above, all of which are encircled by two crossed scimitars. Note: the Taliban uses a plain white flag or a white flag with the shahada.
The population of Afghanistan is divided in a large number of ethnic groups, which adds to the political unrest. Pashtun form the largest group, with about 45%, followed by Tajik (25%) and Hazara (10%). Minor groups include small tribes as the Aimak. The spoken language differs accordingly, with Pashtu and Dari being the main tongues.
Almost all Afghans are muslims, the large majority being Sunni.
Many of the country's historic monuments have been damaged in the wars in recent years. The two famous statues of Buddha in the Bamiyan province were destroyed by the Taliban as symbols of another religion.
Being renowned horsemen, Buzkashi is a popular sport in Afghanistan. Afghan hounds, running dogs, originate from Afghanistan.
Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
|Official language||Pashtu, Dari|
- % water
|Ranked 40th |
- Total (2002)
|Independence||August 19, 1919|
|Time zone ||UTC+4:30|
|National anthem ||Sououd-e-Melli|
Note: The history of Afghanistan is currently changing dramatically every day and the above summary is subject to rapid change.