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Flag description:  See CIA World FactBook
Map: See CIA World Fact Book above.

Location: Located at the crossroads of Central, South and West Asia, sharing its borders with the Central Asian States of -Tajkistan, Uzbekistan and Turrkmenistan on the north, Chinese province of Xinjiang in the east, Iran on the west and south-west, and Pakistan and Pak-occupied territory of Kashmir on the south and south-east 

History

From 1793 onward Britain, the Colonial power in India and Russia competed for predominance in the area which included Afghanistan. Agreements drawn up between Russia and Britain in 1891 and 1895-6 fixed the present northern frontiers of Afghanistan. The Durand line , agreed in 1893 set the boundary between Afghanistan and British India, effectively cutting the Pushtun population in half (Marsden 1998, p.19).

Afghanistan stayed neutral in World War 1 but commenced war against Greta Britain in 1919 seeking to exploit reports of post-war weakness. By the Treaty of Rawalpindi, Afghanistan was left free to conduct its foreign affairs. The Anglo-Afghan Treaty signed in 1921 failed to resolve the question of jurisdiction over the Pushtun tribes on the British India side of the Durand line.

In September 1930 a council of tribal and religious leaders convened by Nadir Khan accorder him the title of King and decreed that the Hanafi Shari'a law of Sunni Islam should be the prevailing code. .  The 1931 constitution created confusion by providing for religious and secular legal systems to operate in parallel. Nadir Khan was assassinated in 1933 and was succeeded by his son Zahir Shah who reigned for 40 years.  Afghanistan remained neutral during World War 2.

British India was partitioned into Pakistan and India in 1947 and not long after Pakistan had to use force to put down the uprising.  During the battle the Pakistan Air force bombed a village on the Afghan side.  Afghanistan responded by reneging on all treaties signed by Britain  and In return Pakistan imposed a blockade on Petroleum products traveling to Afghanistan.  Afghanistan in July 1950 signed a barter agreement with the Soviet Government whereby petroleum products were exchanged for Afghanistan wool and raw cotton an free transit for Afghanistan goods through its territories .  It also commenced oil explorations in Northern Afghanistan.

The late 1960s witnessed growing dissent from students particularly Kabul University and a vehicle the People's democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).  The Shah was deposed in 1973 by Daoud.  Daoud was in turn overthrown in 1978 with possible Soviet backing.  In December 1978 an agreement was signed empowering the Kabul government to call on Moscow for direct military assistance if the need arose. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan towards the end of 1979 and remained until February 15 1989.

Those opposed to the PDPA and the Soviet forces called the Mujahidin regarded themselves engaged in a jihad or holy war. A significant large scale exodus of the population left for Pakistan (3.2 million) and Iran ( 2.9 million).

USA commenced first covert aid in 1979 and overt aid on a massive scale from 1986 on. using Pakistan as a conduit.  Pakistan recognized seven parties including the Jamiat-i-Islami (formed in 1972).  Moscow grew succeeding less committed to the war in Afghanistan.  Following negotiations (culminating with the Geneva Accords) which included Pakistan, USA and the Afghan government but excluding the Mujahidin Soviet troops withdrew. The government installed by  the soviets (Najibullah) lasted another 3 years.

Robbani became President, Hekmatyar Prime Minister, with Defence Minister Masoud  in 1992. 

The Taliban rose to power in 1994.  The word "Taliban," from the Persian "Talib" meaning religious student attended religious schools (Madrassas) in Pakistan where their families had sought refuge during the Soviet occupation.  Their proclaimed objective, to set up the world's most pure Islamic state in their homeland, Afghanistan, comes as no surprise. To fulfill this religious agenda, the small group of students swept though Afghanistan in 1994, neutralized antagonistic warlords along the way, and implemented strict Islamic law from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, two years later. Such a swift military victory has been attributed to the receptiveness of the "invaders" by the ethnically Pashtun majority in the south as well as foreign interference.  By 1996 the Taliban had captured 90% of the country with the remainder held by the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shaw Massoud.  Massoud was killed in September 9 two days before the terrorist attack on New York and Washington.

Shortly after the September 11 2001 terrorist attack on New York and Washington, US insisted on the delivery of Osama bin Laden of the al-Queda paramilitary organization believed to be protected by the Taliban in Afghanistan. When the Taliban refused US supported the Northern Alliance who swiftly regained the upper hand.

Hamid Karzai took the helm of a transitional government December 23 2001  He will lead the transitional for 6 months pending the setting up of a more permanent body.

Geography

Area: total: 647,500 sq km, land: 647,500 sq km, water: 0 sq km

Land boundaries:
total: 5,529 km - landlocked
border countries: China 76 km, Iran 936 km, Pakistan 2,430 km, Tajikistan 1,206 km, Turkmenistan 744 km, Uzbekistan 137 km

Climate: arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers

Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Amu Darya 258 m
highest point: Nowshak 7,485 m

Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones

Land use:
arable land: 12%, permanent crops: 0%, permanent pastures: 46%, forests and woodland: 3%, other: 39% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 30,000 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: damaging earthquakes occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding

Environment—current issues: soil degradation; overgrazing; deforestation (much of the remaining forests are being cut down for fuel and building materials); desertification

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban
signed, but not ratified: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation

People

Population: 25,824,882 (July 1999 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 43% (male 5,640,841; female 5,422,460)
15-64 years: 54% (male 7,273,681; female 6,776,750)
65 years and over: 3% (male 374,666; female 336,484) (1999 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.95% (1999 est.)
note: this rate reflects the continued return of refugees

Birth rate: 41.93 births/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Death rate: 17.02 deaths/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Net migration rate: 14.62 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 140.55 deaths/1,000 live births (1999 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 47.33 years, male: 47.82 years, female: 46.82 years

Nationality:
noun: Afghan(s), adjective: Afghan

Ethnic groups: Pashtun 38%, Tajik 25%, Uzbek 6%, Hazara 19%, minor ethnic groups (Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, and others)

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%, male: 47.2%, female: 15% (1995 est.)

Government

Country name:
conventional long form: Islamic State of Afghanistan; note—the self-proclaimed Taliban government refers to the country as Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
conventional short form: Afghanistan
local long form: Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
local short form: Afghanestan
former: Republic of Afghanistan

Capital: Kabul

Independence: 19 August 1919 (from UK control over Afghan foreign affairs)

National holiday: Victory of the Muslim Nation, 28 April; Remembrance Day for Martyrs and Disabled, 4 May; 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: undetermined; previously males 15-50 years of age

Executive branch: on 27 September 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; the UN has deferred a decision on credentials and 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: non-functioning as of March 1995, although there are local Shari'a (Islamic law) courts throughout the country

Political parties and leaders: Taliban (Religious Students Movement) [Mohammad OMAR]; United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan comprised of Jumbesh-i-Melli Islami (National Islamic Movement) [Abdul Rashid DOSTAM]; Jamiat-i-Islami (Islamic Society) [Burhanuddin RABBANI and Ahmad Shah MASOOD]; and Hizbi Wahdat-Khalili faction (Islamic Unity Party) [Abdul Karim KHALILI]; other smaller parties are Hizbi Islami-Gulbuddin (Islamic Party) [Gulbuddin HIKMATYAR faction]; Hizbi Islami-Khalis (Islamic Party) [Yunis KHALIS faction]; Ittihad-i-Islami Barai Azadi Afghanistan (Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan) [Abdul Rasul SAYYAF]; Harakat-Inqilab-i-Islami (Islamic Revolutionary Movement) [Mohammad Nabi MOHAMMADI]; Jabha-i-Najat-i-Milli Afghanistan (Afghanistan National Liberation Front) [Sibghatullah MOJADDEDI]; Mahaz-i-Milli-Islami (National Islamic Front) [Sayed Ahamad GAILANI]; Hizbi Wahdat-Akbari faction (Islamic Unity Party) [Mohammad Akbar AKBARI]; Harakat-i-Islami (Islamic Movement) [Mohammed Asif MOHSENI]

Political pressure groups and leaders: tribal elders represent traditional Pashtun leadership; Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Australia, US, and elsewhere have organized politically; Peshawar, Pakistan-based groups such as the Coordination Council for National Unity and Understanding in Afghanistan or CUNUA [Ishaq GAILANI]; Writers Union of Free Afghanistan or WUFA [A. Rasul AMIN]; Mellat (Social Democratic Party) [leader NA]

International organization participation: AsDB, CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat, IOC, IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO.

Economy—overview: Afghanistan is an extremely poor, landlocked country, highly dependent on farming and livestock raising (sheep and goats). Economic considerations have played second fiddle to political and military upheavals during two decades of war, including the nearly 10-year Soviet military occupation (which ended 15 February 1989). During that conflict one-third of the population fled the country, with Pakistan and Iran sheltering a combined peak of more than 6 million refugees. Now, only 750,000 registered Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan and about 1.2 million in Iran. Another 1 million have probably moved into and around urban areas within Afghanistan. Gross domestic product has fallen substantially over the past 20 years because of the loss of labor and capital and the disruption of trade and transport. Much of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care. Inflation remains a serious problem throughout the country, with one estimate putting the rate at 240% in Kabul in 1996. International aid can deal with only a fraction of the humanitarian problem, let alone promote economic development. Government efforts to encourage foreign investment have not worked. The economic situation did not improve in 1998. Numerical data are likely to be either unavailable or unreliable.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$20 billion (1998 est.) GDP—real growth rate: NA% GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$800 (1998 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 53%
industry: 28.5%
services: 18.5% (1990)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 240% (1996 est.)

Labor force: 7.1 million

Labor force—by occupation: agriculture and animal husbandry 67.8%, industry 10.2%, construction 6.3%, commerce 5%, services and other 10.7% (1980 est.)

Unemployment rate: 8% (1995 est.)

Industries: small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; handwoven carpets; natural gas, oil, coal, copper

Electricity—production: 540 million kWh (1996)

Electricity—production by source:
fossil fuel: 35.19%, hydro: 64.81%, nuclear: 0%, other: 0% (1996)

Agriculture—products: wheat, fruits, nuts, karakul pelts; wool, mutton

Exports: $80 million (1996 est.)

Exports—commodities: fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems

Exports—partners: FSU, Pakistan, Iran, Germany, India, UK, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic

Imports: $150 million (1996 est.)

Imports—commodities: food and petroleum products; most consumer goods

Imports—partners: FSU, Pakistan, Iran, Japan, Singapore, India, South Korea, Germany

Debt—external: $2.3 billion (March 1991 est.)

Economic aid—recipient: $214.6 million (1995); note—US provided $450 million in bilateral assistance (1985-93); US continues to contribute to multilateral assistance through the UN programs of food aid, immunization, land mine removal, and a wide range of aid to refugees and displaced persons

Currency: 1 afghani (AF) = 100 puls

Exchange rates: afghanis (Af) per US$1—4,750 (February 1999), 17,000 (December 1996), 7,000 (January 1995), 1,900 (January 1994), 1,019 (March 1993), 850 (1991); note—these rates reflect the free market exchange rates rather than the official exchange rate, which was fixed at 50.600 afghanis to the dollar until 1996, when it rose to 2,262.65 per dollar, and finally became fixed again at 3,000.00 per dollar on April 1996

Telephones: 31,200 (1983 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic: very limited telephone and telegraph service; in 1997, telecommunications links were established between Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad, and Kabul through satellite and microwave systems
international: satellite earth stations—1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) linked only to Iran and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); commercial satellite telephone center in Ghazni

Radio broadcast stations: AM 6 (5 are inactive), FM 1, shortwave 3 (1998)

Radios: 1.67 million (1998 est.)

Television broadcast stations: NA
note: in 1997, there was a station in Mazar-e Sharif reaching four northern Afghanistan provinces; also, the government ran a central television station in Kabul and regional stations in nine of the 30 provinces; it is unknown if any of these stations currently operate

Railways:
total: 24.6 km
broad gauge: 9.6 km 1.524-m gauge from Gushgy (Turkmenistan) to Towraghondi; 15 km 1.524-m gauge from Termiz (Uzbekistan) to Kheyrabad transshipment point on south bank of Amu Darya

Highways:
total: 21,000 km, paved: 2,793 km, unpaved: 18,207 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 1,200 km; chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to about 500 DWT

Pipelines: petroleum products—Uzbekistan to Bagram and Turkmenistan to Shindand; natural gas 180 km

Military branches: NA; note—the military does not exist on a national basis; some elements of the former Army, Air and Air Defense Forces, National Guard, Border Guard Forces, National Police Force (Sarandoi), and tribal militias still exist but are factionalized among the various groups

Military manpower—military age: 22 years of age

Other Issues

Disputes—international: support to Islamic militants worldwide by some factions; question over which group should hold Afghanistan's seat at the UN

Illicit drugs: world's second-largest illicit opium producer after Burma (cultivation in 1998—41,720 hectares, a 7% increase over 1997; potential production in 1998—1,350 metric tons) and a major source of hashish; increasing number of heroin-processing laboratories being set up in the country; major political factions in the country profit from drug trade

Appendix A Books

Marsden, Peter (1998) The Taliban, War, Religion and the New Order in Afghanistan

Appendix B

Web Sites

Following sites are good for getting spirit of party presently recognized by UN.

http://www.afghan-web.com/politics/goal.html  Aims & Goals of Jamiat-E-Islami Afghanistan Party which is currently recognized by UN

http://www.afghan-web.com/politics/rabbani.html Background on recognized President of Afghanistan

http://www.afghan-web.com/politics/struggle.html 9 Page Speech by Rabbani, President of Afghanistan

http://www.jamiat.com/new_page_2.htm 4 Page Speech by Rabbani summarizing complaints against Taliban.

http://www.afghan-web.com/politics/taliban.html "the Truth About the Taliban as described by  Jamiat-E-Islami Afghanistan Party sympathizer

Other negatively oriented material re Women's Rights and opium trade etc. may be found at http://www.afghan-web.com/  site.

-Afghanistan Online
http://www.afghan-web.com/
-Afghan-Info Center
http://www.afghan-info.com/

-Eurasia News on Afghanistan
http://eurasianews.com/erc/0afghan.htm
-Afghanistan Peace Organization
http://www.afghanistan.org/
-Official website of the Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan

http://www.jamiat.com/
Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan
http://www.hezb-e-islami.org/
-Taliban Islamic Movement
http://www.taleban.com/
-Interactive Central Asia Resource Project (ICARP)
http://personal.rockbridge.net/bichel/afghan.htp

http://www.kashmir-information.com/Afghanistan/  Afghanistan Factor in Central  and South Asian Politics

http://www.amnesty-usa.org/ailib/aipub/1999/ASA/kumar04151999.html Amnesty International Testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East & South Asia

http://www.afghan-web.com/politics/hekmatyar.html Background on one of three significant player as described by  Jamiat-E-Islami Afghanistan Party sympathizer