Afghanistan

Afghanistan (/æfˈɡænɪstæn, æfˈɡɑːnɪstɑːn/ (listen); Pashto/Dari: افغانستان‬, Pashto: Afġānistān [avɣɒnisˈtɒn, ab-],[10] Dari: Afġānestān [avɣɒnesˈtɒn]), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located within South-Central Asia.[11][12][13] Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and in the far northeast, China. Its territory covers 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi) and much of it is covered by the Hindu Kush mountain range, which experience very cold winters. The north consists of fertile plains, whilst the south-west consists of deserts where temperatures can get very hot in summers.[14] Kabul serves as the capital and its largest city.


Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic Era, and the country's strategic location along the Silk Road connected it to the cultures of the Middle East and other parts of Asia. The land has historically been home to various peoples and has witnessed numerous military campaigns, including those by Alexander the Great, Mauryas, Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviets, and since 2001 by the United States with NATO-allied countries. It has been called "unconquerable"[15][16] and nicknamed the "graveyard of empires".[17] The land also served as the source from which the Kushans, Hephthalites, Samanids, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khaljis, Mughals, Hotaks, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires.[18]


The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan began with the Hotak and Durrani dynasties in the 18th century. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between British India and the Russian Empire. Its border with British India, the Durand Line, was formed in 1893 but it is not recognized by the Afghan government and it has led to strained relations with Pakistan since the latter's independence in 1947. Following the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919 the country was free of foreign influence, eventually becoming a monarchy under King Amanullah, until almost 50 years later when Zahir Shah was overthrown and a republic was established. In 1978, after a second coup Afghanistan first became a socialist state and then a Soviet Union protectorate. This evoked the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s against mujahideen rebels. By 1996 most of Afghanistan was captured by the Islamic fundamentalist group the Taliban, who ruled most of the country as a totalitarian regime for over five years. The Taliban were forcibly removed by the NATO-led coalition, and a new democratically-elected government political structure was formed.


Afghanistan is a unitary presidential Islamic republic with a population of 31 million, mostly composed of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. It is a member of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Group of 77, the Economic Cooperation Organization, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Afghanistan's economy is the world's 108th largest, with a GDP of $64.08 billion; the country fares much worse in terms of per-capita GDP (PPP), ranking 167th out of 186 countries in a 2016 report from the International Monetary Fund.[19]

 

Etymology

Main article: Name of Afghanistan

The name Afghānistān (Pashto: افغانستان‬‎) is believed to be as old as the ethnonym Afghan, which is documented in the 10th-century geography book Hudud ul-'alam. The root name "Afghan" was used historically in reference to a member of the ethnic Pashtuns, and the suffix "-stan" means "place of" in Persian. Therefore, Afghanistan translates to land of the Afghans or, more specifically in a historical sense, to land of the Pashtuns. However, the modern Constitution of Afghanistan states that "[t]he word Afghan shall apply to every citizen of Afghanistan."[20]



Citadel of Herat

Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites.[21][22]


The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. It has been home to various peoples through the ages, among them the ancient Iranian peoples who established the dominant role of Indo-Iranian languages in the region. At multiple points, the land has been incorporated within large regional empires, among them the Achaemenid Empire, the Macedonian Empire, the Indian Maurya Empire, and the Islamic Empire.[23]


Many empires and kingdoms have also risen to power in Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Kabul Shahis, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khaljis, Kartids, Timurids, Mughals, and finally the Hotak and Durrani dynasties that marked the political origins of the modern state.[24]


Pre-Islamic period

Main article: Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan


Bilingual (Greek and Aramaic) edictby Emperor Ashoka from the 3rd century BCE discovered in the southern city of Kandahar


The taller Buddha of Bamiyan. Buddhism was widespread before the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan.


The smaller Buddha.

Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with its neighbors to the east, west, and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan. Urban civilization is believed to have begun as early as 3000 BCE, and the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar in the south of the country) may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization. More recent findings established that the Indus Valley Civilisation stretched up towards modern-day Afghanistan, making the ancient civilisation today part of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. In more detail, it extended from what today is northwest Pakistan to northwest India and northeast Afghanistan. An Indus Valley site has been found on the Oxus River at Shortugai in northern Afghanistan.[25][26] There are several smaller IVC colonies to be found in Afghanistan as well.


After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan; among them were many Indo-European-speaking Indo-Iranians. These tribes later migrated further into South Asia, Western Asia, and toward Europe via the area north of the Caspian Sea. The region at the time was referred to as Ariana.[21][27][28]


The religion Zoroastrianism is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 and 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenids overthrew the Medes and incorporated Arachosia, Aria, and Bactria within its eastern boundaries. An inscription on the tombstone of Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries that he had conquered.[29]


Alexander the Great and his Macedonian forces arrived to Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier in the Battle of Gaugamela. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empirecontrolled the region until 305 BCE, when they gave much of it to the Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty. The Mauryans controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush until they were overthrown in about 185 BCE. Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic reconquest by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from them and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. They were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.[30][31]


During the first century BCE, the Parthian Empire subjugated the region, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid-to-late first century CE the vast Kushan Empire, centered in Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture, making Buddhism flourish throughout the region. The Kushans were overthrown by the Sassanids in the 3rd century CE, though the Indo-Sassanids continued to rule at least parts of the region. They were followed by the Kidarite who, in turn, were replaced by the Hephthalites. By the 6th century CE, the successors to the Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty called Kabul Shahi. Much of the northeastern and southern areas of the country remained dominated by Buddhist culture.[32]


Islamization and Mongol invasion

Main articles: Islamic conquest of Afghanistan and Mongol invasion of Central Asia


The Friday Mosque of Herat is one of the oldest mosques in Afghanistan. (March 1962 photo)

Arab Muslims brought Islam to Herat and Zaranj in 642 CE and began spreading eastward; some of the native inhabitants they encountered accepted it while others revolted. The land was collectively recognized by the Arabs as al-Hind due to its cultural connection with Greater India. Before Islam was introduced, people of the region were mostly Buddhists and Zoroastrians, but there were also Surya and Nana worshipers, Jews, and others. The Zunbils and Kabul Shahi were first conquered in 870 CE by the Saffarid Muslims of Zaranj. Later, the Samanids extended their Islamic influence south of the Hindu Kush. It is reported that Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the Ghaznavids rose to power in the 10th century.[33][34][35]


By the 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni defeated the remaining Hindu rulers and effectively Islamized the wider region, with the exception of Kafiristan. Afghanistan became one of the main centers in the Muslim world during this Islamic Golden Age. The Ghaznavid dynasty was overthrown by the Ghurids, who expanded and advanced the already powerful Islamic empire.


In 1219 AD, Genghis Khan and his Mongol army overran the region. His troops are said to have annihilated the Khorasanian cities of Herat and Balkh as well as Bamyan.[36] The destruction caused by the Mongols forced many locals to return to an agrarian rural society.[37] Mongol rule continued with the Ilkhanate in the northwest while the Khalji dynasty administered the Afghan tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush until the invasion of Timur, who established the Timurid Empire in 1370.


In the early 16th century, Babur arrived from Fergana and captured Kabul from the Arghun dynasty. In 1526, he invaded Delhi in India to replace the Lodi dynasty with the Mughal Empire. Between the 16th and 18th century, the Khanate of Bukhara, Safavids, and Mughals ruled parts of the territory. Before the 19th century, the northwestern area of Afghanistan was referred to by the regional name Khorasan. Two of the four capitals of Khorasan (Herat and Balkh) are now located in Afghanistan, while the regions of Kandahar, Zabulistan, Ghazni, Kabulistan, and Afghanistan formed the frontier between Khorasan and Hindustan.[38][39][40]


Hotak dynasty and Durrani Empire

Main articles: Hotak dynasty and Durrani Empire


Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the last Afghan empire and viewed as Father of the Nation

In 1709, Mirwais Hotak, a local Ghilzai tribal leader, successfully rebelled against the Safavids. He defeated Gurgin Khan and made Afghanistan independent.[41] Mirwais died of a natural cause in 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz, who was soon killed by Mirwais' son Mahmud for treason. Mahmud led the Afghan army in 1722 to the Persian capital of Isfahan, captured the city after the Battle of Gulnabad and proclaimed himself King of Persia.[41] The Afghan dynasty was ousted from Persia by Nader Shah after the 1729 Battle of Damghan.


In 1738, Nader Shah and his forces captured Kandahar, the last Hotak stronghold, from Shah Hussain Hotak, at which point the incarcerated 16-year-old Ahmad Shah Durrani was freed and made the commander of an Afghan regiment. Soon after the Persian and Afghan forces invaded India. By 1747, the Afghans chose Durrani as their head of state.[42] Durrani and his Afghan army conquered much of present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, and Delhi in India.[43]He defeated the Indian Maratha Empire, and one of his biggest victories was the 1761 Battle of Panipat.


In October 1772, Durrani died of a natural cause and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak in Kandahar. He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah, who transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776. After Timur's death in 1793, the Durrani throne passed down to his son Zaman Shah, followed by Mahmud Shah, Shuja Shah and others.[44]


The Afghan Empire was under threat in the early 19th century by the Persians in the west and the Sikh Empire in the east. Fateh Khan, leader of the Barakzai tribe, had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the empire. After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves. During this turbulent period, Afghanistan had many temporary rulers until Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir in 1826.[45] The Punjab region was lost to Ranjit Singh, who invaded Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in 1834 captured the city of Peshawar.[46] In 1837, during the Battle of Jamrud near the Khyber Pass, Akbar Khan and the Afghan army failed to capture the Jamrud fort from the Sikh Khalsa Army, but killed Sikh Commander Hari Singh Nalwa, thus ending the Afghan-Sikh Wars. By this time the British were advancing from the east and the first major conflict during "The Great Game" was initiated.[47]


British influence and independent kingdom

Further information: European influence in Afghanistan and Reforms of Amānullāh Khān and civil war


British and allied forces at Kandahar after the 1880 Battle of Kandahar, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The large defensive wall around the city was removed in the early 1930s by the order of King Nadir.

In 1838, the British marched into Afghanistan and arrested Dost Mohammad, sent him into exile in India and replaced him with the previous ruler, Shah Shuja.[48][49] Following an uprising, the 1842 retreat from Kabul of British-Indian forces and the annihilation of Elphinstone's army, and the Battle of Kabul that led to its recapture, the British placed Dost Mohammad Khan back into power and withdrew their military forces from Afghanistan. In 1878, the Second Anglo-Afghan War was fought over perceived Russian influence, Abdur Rahman Khan replaced Ayub Khan, and Britain gained control of Afghanistan's foreign relations as part of the Treaty of Gandamak of 1879. In 1893, Mortimer Durand made Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign a controversial agreement in which the ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories were divided by the Durand Line. This was a standard divide and rule policy of the British and would lead to strained relations, especially with the later new state of Pakistan. Shia-dominated Hazarajat and pagan Kafiristan remained politically independent until being conquered by Abdur Rahman Khan in 1891-1896.



Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, who reigned from 1933 to 1973.

After the Third Anglo-Afghan War and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi on 19 August 1919, King Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan a sovereign and fully independent state. He moved to end his country's traditional isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with the international community and, following a 1927–28 tour of Europe and Turkey, introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women. He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's 1923 constitution, which made elementary education compulsory. The institution of slavery was abolished in 1923.[50]



King Amanullah Khan and Queen Soraya Tarzi on a visit to Berlin in 1928

Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional burqa 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 Khan was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to rebel forces led by Habibullah Kalakani. Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Kalakani in November 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernisation but was assassinated in 1933 by Abdul Khaliq, a fifteen-year-old Hazara student.


Mohammed Zahir Shah, Nadir Shah's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. 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. Another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister in 1946 and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. He was replaced in 1953 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law. Daoud Khan sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan.


The King built close relationships with the Axis powers in the 1930s - but Afghanistan remained neutral and was neither a participant in World War II nor aligned with either power bloc in the Cold War thereafter. However, it was a beneficiary of the latter rivalry as both the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence by building Afghanistan's main highways, airports, and other vital infrastructure. On per capita basis, Afghanistan received more Soviet development aid than any other country. Afghanistan had therefore good relations with both Cold War enemies. In 1973, while King Zahir Shah was on an official overseas visit, Daoud Khan launched a bloodless coup and became the first President of Afghanistan, abolishing the monarchy. In the meantime, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto got neighboring Pakistan involved in Afghanistan. Some experts suggest that Bhutto paved the way for the April 1978 Saur Revolution.[51]


PDPA coup d'état and Soviet war

Main articles: Saur Revolution, Soviet–Afghan War, Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, and History of Afghanistan (1978–92)


Soviet troops in Gardez, Afghanistan in 1987

In April 1978, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in the Saur Revolution, a coup d'état against then-President Mohammed Daoud Khan. The PDPA declared the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, with its first President named as Nur Muhammad Taraki.


Opposition to PDPA reforms, such as its land redistribution policy and modernization of (traditional Islamic) civil and marriage laws, led to unrest which aggravated to rebellion and revolt around October 1978, first in eastern Afghanistan (see Initiation of the insurgency in Afghanistan 1978). That uprising quickly expanded into a civil war waged by guerrilla mujahideen against regime forces countrywide. The Pakistani government provided these rebels with covert training centers, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA regime.[52] As early as mid-1979 (see CIA activities in Afghanistan), the United States were supporting Afghan mujahideen and foreign "Afghan Arab" fighters through Pakistan's ISI.[53]


Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA — the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham — resulted (in July–August 1979) in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers under the pretext of a Parchami coup.



Hezb-i Islami Khalisfighters in the Sultan Valley of Kunar Province, 1987

In September 1979, President Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency. The Soviet Union was displeased with Amin's government, and decided to intervene and invade the country on 27 December 1979, killing Amin that same day.


A Soviet-organized regime, led by Parcham's Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions (Parcham and Khalq), filled the vacuum. Soviet troops in more substantial numbers were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal, and as a result the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan (of mujahideen against PDPA government),[54] which war from December 1979 until 1989 is therefore also known as the Soviet–Afghan War. The United States, supporting the Afghan mujahideen and foreign "Afghan Arab" fighters since mid-1979 through Pakistan's ISI,[53] and Saudi Arabia, from now on delivered for billions in cash and weapons, including two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, to Pakistan as support for the anti-Soviet mujahideen.[55][56]


The PDPA prohibited usury, declared equality of the sexes,[57] and introduced women to political life.[57] During this war from 1979 until 1989, Soviet forces, their Afghan proxies and rebels killed between 562,000[58] and 2 million Afghans,[59][60][61][62][63][64][65] and displaced about 6 million people who subsequently fled Afghanistan, mainly to Pakistan and Iran.[66] Many countryside villages were bombed and some cities such as Herat and Kandahar were also damaged from air bombardment. Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province functioned as an organisational and networking base for the anti-Soviet Afghan resistance, with the province's influential Deobandi ulama playing a major supporting role in promoting the 'jihad'.[67]Meanwhile, the central Afghan region of Hazarajat, which in this period was free of Soviet or PDPA government presence, experienced an internal civil war from 1980 to 1984. 

Faced with mounting international pressure and numerous casualties, the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, but continued to support Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah until 1992.[68]


Proxy and civil war and Islamic jihad 1989–96

Main articles: Afghan Civil War (1989–92) and Afghan Civil War (1992–96)

Mujahideen (Islamic resistance) forces in October 1978 (see above) had started a guerrilla or civil war against the PDPA's government of Afghanistan. After the Soviet invasion, December 1979, replacing one PDPA President for another PDPA President, the mujahideen proclaimed to be battling the hostile PDPA "puppet regime".[69] In 1987, Mohammad Najibullah had become Afghan President, and after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 he was still sponsored by the Soviet Union,[69] and fought by the mujahideen.


President Najibullah therefore tried to build support for his government by moving away from socialism to pan-Afghan nationalism, abolishing the one-party state, portraying his government as Islamic,[clarification needed] and in 1990 removing all signs of communism.[citation needed]


Nevertheless, Najibullah did not win any significant support. In March 1989, two mujahideen groups launched an attack on Jalalabad, instigated by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) who wanted to see a mujahideen Islamic government established in Afghanistan, but the attack failed after three months. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 and the ending of Russian support, President Najibullah was left without foreign aid. In March 1991, mujahideen forces attacked and conquered the city of Khost.


In March 1992, President Najibullah agreed to step aside and make way for a mujahideen coalition government. Mujahideen leaders came together in Peshawar, Pakistan, to negotiate such a government, but mujahideen Hezbi Islami's leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, presumably supported by ISI, refused to meet other leaders. On 16 April 1992, four Afghani government Generals ousted President Najibullah. Little later, Hezbi Islami invaded Kabul. This ignited war in Kabul on 25 April with rivalling groups Jamiat and Junbish in which soon two more mujahideen groups mingled; all groups except Jamiat were supported by an Islamic foreign government (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan) or intelligence agency (Pakistan's ISI).[70][71][72] In 1992–95, Kabul was heavily bombarded and considerably destroyed, by Hezbi Islami, Jamiat, Junbish, Hizb-i-Wahdat, and Ittihad; in that period, half a million Kabuli fled to Pakistan.[73] In January–June 1994, 25,000 people died in Kabul due to fighting between an alliance of Dostum's (Junbish) with Hekmatyar's (Hezbi Islami) against Massoud's (Jamiat) forces.[74] Also other cities turned into battleground.



A section of Kabul during the civil war in 1993, which caused significant damage to the capital

In 1993–95, (sub-)commanders of Jamiat, Junbish, Hezbi Islami and Hizb-i-Wahdat descended to rape, murder and extortion.[71][75][73] The Taliban emerged in September 1994 as a movement and militia of Pashtun students (talib) from Islamic madrassas (schools) in Pakistan,[73][76] pledged to rid Afghanistan of 'warlords and criminals',[77] and soon had military support from Pakistan.[78] In November 1994 the Taliban took control of Kandahar city after forcing local Pashtun leaders who had tolerated complete lawlessness.[73] The Taliban in early 1995 attempted to capture Kabul but were repelled by forces under Massoud. Taliban, having grown stronger, in September 1996 attacked and occupied Kabul after Massoud and Hekmatyar had withdrawn their troops from Kabul.[79][80]


Taliban Emirate and Northern Alliance

Main articles: Afghan Civil War (1996–2001), Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Taliban, and Northern Alliance

In late September 1996, the Taliban, in control of Kabul and most of Afghanistan,[81] proclaimed their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed a strict form of Sharia, similar to that found in Saudi Arabia. According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in 1998, "no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment from showing their faces, seeking medical care without a male escort, or attending school"[82]The brutality of the Taliban's totalitarian regime was comparable to those of Stalin's Russia or the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia.[83]


After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Massoud and Dostum formed the Northern Alliance. The Taliban defeated Dostum's forces during the Battles of Mazar-i-Sharif (1997–98). Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Pervez Musharraf, began sending thousands of Pakistanis to help the Taliban defeat the Northern Alliance.[84][78][85][86][87][88] From 1996 to 2001, the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri was also operating inside Afghanistan.[89] This and the fact that around one million Afghans were internally displaced made the United States worry.[85][90] From 1990 to September 2001, around 400,000 Afghans died in the internal mini-wars.[91]


On 9 September 2001, Massoud was assassinated by two Arab suicide attackers in Panjshir province of Afghanistan. Two days later, the September 11 attacks were carried out in the United States. The US government suspected Osama bin Laden as the perpetrator of the attacks, and demanded that the Taliban hand him over.[92] The Taliban offered to hand over Bin Laden to a third country for trial, but not directly to the US. Washington refused that offer.[93] Instead, the US launched the October 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom. The majority of Afghans supported the American invasion of their country.[94][95] During the initial invasion, US and UK forces bombed al-Qaeda training camps. The United States began working with the Northern Alliance to remove the Taliban from power.[96]


Recent history (2002–present)

Further information: War in Afghanistan (2001–present), Taliban insurgency, Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–present), and Corruption in Afghanistan


Hamid Karzai dominated Afghan politics after the Taliban's fall


From upper left, clockwise – Canadian troops in Kandahar; American president Barack Obama meets Afghan leader Hamid Karzai in March 2010; US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with female politicians in Kabul in October, 2011; An officer of the RAF explains a C-27 of the Afghan air force to 'Thunder Lab' students in July 2011

In December 2001, after the Taliban government was overthrown in the Battle of Tora Bora, the Afghan Interim Administration under Hamid Karzai was formed, in which process the Taliban were typecast as 'the bad guys' and left out. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to help assist the Karzai administration and provide basic security.[97][98] Taliban forces meanwhile began regrouping inside Pakistan, while more coalition troops entered Afghanistan and began rebuilding the war-torn country.[99][100]


Shortly after their fall from power, the Taliban began an insurgency to regain control of Afghanistan. Over the next decade, ISAF and Afghan troops led many offensives against the Taliban, but failed to fully defeat them. Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world due to a lack of foreign investment, government corruption, and the Taliban insurgency.[101][102]


Meanwhile, the Afghan government was able to build some democratic structures, and the country changed its name to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Attempts were made, often with the support of foreign donor countries, to improve the country's economy, healthcare, education, transport, and agriculture. ISAF forces also began to train the Afghan National Security Forces.


In the decade following 2002, over five million Afghans were repatriated, including some[quantify] who were deported from Western countries.[103]


By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form in parts of the country.[104] In 2010, President Karzai attempted to hold peace negotiations with the Taliban leaders, but the rebel group refused to attend until mid-2015 when the Taliban supreme leader finally decided to back the peace talks.[105]


After the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, many prominent Afghan figures were assassinated.[106] Afghanistan–Pakistan border skirmishes intensified and many large scale attacks by the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network also took place across Afghanistan. The United States blamed rogue elements within the Pakistani government for the increased attacks.[107][108]


In September 2014 Ashraf Ghani became President after the 2014 presidential election where for the first time in Afghanistan's history power was democratically transferred.[109][110][111][112][113] On 28 December 2014, NATO formally ended ISAF combat operations in Afghanistan and officially transferred full security responsibility to the Afghan government and the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support was formed the same day as a successor to ISAF.[114][115] However, thousands of NATO troops have remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces[116] and continue their fight against the Taliban, which remains by far the largest single group fighting against the Afghan government and foreign troops.[117] Hundreds of thousands of insurgents, Afghan civilians and government forces have been made casualty by the war.[118]


Geography

Main article: Geography of Afghanistan


Landscapes of Afghanistan, from left to right: 1. Band-e Amir National Park; 2. Salang Pass in Parwan Province; 3. Korangal Valley in Kunar Province; and 4. Kajaki Dam in Helmand Province


Afghanistan map of Köppen climate classification.


Topography

A landlocked mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is located within South Asia[13][119] and Central Asia.[120] It is part of the US-coined Greater Middle East Muslim world, which lies between latitudes 29° N and 39° N, and longitudes 60° E and 75° E. The country's highest point is Noshaq, at 7,492 m (24,580 ft) above sea level. It has a continental climate with harsh winters in the central highlands, the glaciated northeast (around Nuristan), and the Wakhan Corridor, where the average temperature in January is below −15 °C (5 °F), and hot summers in the low-lying areas of the Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin in the east, and the Turkestan plains along the Amu River in the north, where temperatures average over 35 °C (95 °F) in July.


Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry. The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world.[121] Aside from the usual rainfall, Afghanistan receives snow during the winter in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains, and the melting snow in the spring season enters the rivers, lakes, and streams.[122][123] However, two-thirds of the country's water flows into the neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan. The state needs more than US$2 billion to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed.[124]


The northeastern Hindu Kush mountain range, in and around the Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan, is in a geologically active area where earthquakes may occur almost every year.[125] They can be deadly and destructive sometimes, causing landslides in some parts or avalanches during the winter.[126] The last strong earthquakes were in 1998, which killed about 6,000 people in Badakhshan near Tajikistan.[127] This was followed by the 2002 Hindu Kush earthquakes in which over 150 people were killed and over 1,000 injured. A 2010 earthquake left 11 Afghans dead, over 70 injured, and more than 2,000 houses destroyed.


The country's natural resources include: coal, copper, iron ore, lithium, uranium, rare earth elements, chromite, gold, zinc, talc, barite, sulfur, lead, marble, precious and semi-precious stones, natural gas, and petroleum, among other things.[128][129] In 2010, US and Afghan government officials estimated that untapped mineral deposits located in 2007 by the US Geological Survey are worth at least $1 trillion.[130]


At over 652,230 km2 (251,830 sq mi),[131] Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country,[132] slightly bigger than France and smaller than Burma, about the size of Texas in the United States. It borders Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and China in the far east.


Demographics

Main articles: Demographics of Afghanistan and Afghan diaspora


Khost

Map of major cities as identified by governmental organizations[133]

The population of Afghanistan was estimated at 29.2 million in 2017.[134] Of this, 15 million are males and 14.2 million females. About 22% of them are urbanite and the remaining 78% live in rural areas.[135] An additional 3 million or so Afghans are temporarily housed in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, most of whom were born and raised in those two countries. This makes the total Afghan population at around 33,332,025, and its current growth rate is 2.34%.[12] This population is expected to reach 82 million by 2050 if current population trends continue.[136]


The only city with over a million residents is its capital, Kabul. Due to a lack of census there is no clear indication of what the largest cities in the country are, with various national and international estimates and without always acknowledging the differentiation of city municipalities and urban areas that go beyond city limits. After Kabul the other five large cities are Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz and Jalalabad. Other major cities include Lashkar Gah, Taloqan, Khost, Sheberghan, and Ghazni.