/af gan"euh stan'/, n.
a republic in central Asia, NW of India and E of Iran. 23,738,085; 250,000 sq. mi. (647,500 sq. km). Cap.: Kabul.

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Introduction Afghanistan
Background: Afghanistan's recent history is characterized by war and civil strife, with intermittent periods of relative calm and stability. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 but was forced to withdraw 10 years later by anti-Communist mujahidin forces supplied and trained by the US, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others. Fighting subsequently continued among the various mujahidin factions, giving rise to a state of warlordism that spawned the Taliban in the early 1990s. The Taliban was able to seize most of the country, aside from Northern Alliance strongholds primarily in the northeast, until US and allied military action in support of the opposition following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks forced the group's downfall. The four largest Afghan opposition groups met in Bonn, Germany, in late 2001 and agreed on a plan for the formulation of a new government structure that resulted in the inauguration of Hamid KARZAI as Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) on 22 December 2001. In addition to occasionally violent political jockeying and ongoing military action to root out remaining terrorists and Taliban elements, the country suffers from enormous poverty, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread land mines. Geography Afghanistan -
Location: Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran
Geographic coordinates: 33 00 N, 65 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 647,500 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 647,500 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Texas
Land boundaries: total: 5,529 km border countries: China 76 km, Iran 936 km, Pakistan 2,430 km, Tajikistan 1,206 km, Turkmenistan 744 km, Uzbekistan 137 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
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, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones
Land use: arable land: 12.13% permanent crops: 0.22% other: 87.65% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 23,860 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: damaging earthquakes occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts Environment - current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; inadequate supplies of potable water; soil degradation; overgrazing; deforestation (much of the remaining forests are being cut down for fuel and building materials); desertification; air and water pollution Environment - international party to: Desertification,
agreements: 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
Geography - note: landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor) People Afghanistan
Population: 27,755,775 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42% (male 5,953,291; female 5,706,542) 15-64 years: 55.2% (male 7,935,101; female 7,382,101) 65 years and over: 2.8% (male 410,278; female 368,462) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.43% note: this rate reflects the continued return of refugees from Iran (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 41.03 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 17.43 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 10.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.07 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1.11 male(s)/ female total population: 1.06 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 144.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 46.6 years female: 45.85 years (2002 est.) male: 47.32 years
Total fertility rate: 5.72 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.01% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Afghan(s) adjective: Afghan
Ethnic groups: Pashtun 44%, Tajik 25%, Hazara 10%, minor ethnic groups (Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, and others) 13%, Uzbek 8%
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 male: 51% female: 21% (1999 est.) total population: 36%
People - note: large numbers of Afghan refugees create burdens on neighboring states Government Afghanistan
Country name: conventional long form: Islamic State of Afghanistan conventional short form: Afghanistan local short form: Afghanestan former: Republic of Afghanistan local long form: Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
Government type: transitional
Capital: Kabul Administrative divisions: 32 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, Nurestan, and Khowst
Independence: 19 August 1919 (from UK control over Afghan foreign affairs)
National holiday: Independence Day, 19 August (1919)
Constitution: the Bonn Agreement calls for a Constitutional Loya Jirga (Grand Council) to be convened within 18 months of the establishment of the Transitional Authority to draft a new constitution for the country; the basis for the next constitution is the 1963/64 Constitution, according to the Bonn Agreement
Legal system: the Bonn Agreement calls for a judicial commission to rebuild the justice system in accordance with Islamic principles, international standards, the rule of law, and Afghan legal traditions
Suffrage: NA; previously males 15-50 years of age
Executive branch: note: following the Taliban's refusal to hand over Usama bin LADIN to the US for his suspected involvement in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, 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 ousted from power on 17 November 2001; in December 2001 a number of prominent Afghans met under UN auspices in Bonn, 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 and five deputy chairmen - was inaugurated on 22 December 2001 with about a six-month mandate to be followed by a two-year Transitional Authority (TA) after which elections are to be held; the structure of the follow-on TA will be announced on 10 June 2002 when the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) is convened chief of state: Chairman of the AIA, Hamad KARZAI (since 22 December 2001); note - presently the chairman is both chief of state and head of government head of government: Chairman of the AIA, Hamad KARZAI (since 22 December 2001); note - presently the chairman is both chief of state and head of government cabinet: the 30-member AIA elections: NA
Legislative branch: nonfunctioning as of June 1993
Judicial branch: the Bonn Agreement calls for the establishment of a Supreme Court Political parties and leaders: NA; note - political parties in Afghanistan are in flux and many prominent players have plans to create new parties; the three main groups represented in the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) are: the Northern Alliance (also known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan) - the main opposition to the Taliban - composed of different ethnic and political groups; the Rome Group, associated with the former king of Afghanistan, composed mainly of expatriate Afghans; and the Peshawar Group, another expatriate group; there are also several "independent" groups Political pressure groups and NA; note - ministries formed under
leaders: the Afghan Interim Authority(AIA) include former pressure group leaders International organization AsDB, CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-77,
participation: IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IOC (suspended), IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: ambassador Ishaq SHAHRYAR (as of 19 June 2002) chancery: 2341 Wyoming Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20008 FAX: 202-483-6487 consulate(s) general: New York telephone: 202-483-6410 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Robert
US: Patrick John FINN; note - embassy in Kabul reopened 16 December 2001 following closure in January 1989 embassy: Great Masood Road, Kabul mailing address: NA telephone: 93-2-290002-290005 FAX: NA
Flag description: three equal vertical bands of black (hoist), red, and green with a gold emblem centered on the red band; the emblem features a temple-like structure encircled by a wreath on the left and right and by a bold Islamic inscription above Economy Afghanistan -
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. 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; 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.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $21 billion (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: NA%
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $800 (2000 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 60% industry: 20% services: 20% (1990 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): NA%
Labor force: 10 million (2000 est.) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 80%, industry 10%, services 10% (1990 est.)
Unemployment rate: NA%
Budget: revenues: $NA expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures of $NA
Industries: small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; handwoven carpets; natural gas, coal, copper Electricity - production: 375 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 36% hydro: 64% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 453.75 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 105 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton, sheepskin, and lambskin
Exports: $1.2 billion (2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems
Exports - partners: Pakistan 32%, India 8%, Belgium 7%, Germany 5%, Russia 5%, UAE 4% (1999)
Imports: $1.3 billion (2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: capital goods, food and petroleum products; most consumer goods
Imports - partners: Pakistan 19%, Japan 16%, Kenya 9%, South Korea 7%, India 6%, Turkmenistan 6% (1999)
Debt - external: $5.5 billion (1996 est.) Economic aid - recipient: international pledges made by more than 60 countries and international financial institutions at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan reconstruction in January 2002 reached $4.5 billion through 2006, with $1.8 billion allocated for 2002; according to a joint preliminary assessment conducted by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the UN Development Program, rebuilding Afghanistan will cost roughly $15 billion over the next ten years
Currency: afghani (AFA)
Currency code: AFA
Exchange rates: afghanis per US dollar - 4,700 (January 2000), 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 in April 1996
Fiscal year: 21 March - 20 March Communications Afghanistan Telephones - main lines in use: 29,000 (1998) Telephones - mobile cellular: NA
Telephone system: general assessment: very limited telephone and telegraph service domestic: 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 7 (6 are inactive; the active station is in Kabul), FM 1, shortwave 1 (broadcasts in Pashtu, Afghan Persian (Dari), Urdu, and English) (1999)
Radios: 167,000 (1999) Television broadcast stations: at least 10 (one government-run central television station in Kabul and regional stations in nine of the 32 provinces; the regional stations operate on a reduced schedule; also, in 1997, there was a station in Mazar-e Sharif reaching four northern Afghanistan provinces) (1998)
Televisions: 100,000 (1999)
Internet country code: .af Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: NA Transportation Afghanistan
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 (2001)
Highways: total: 21,000 km paved: 2,793 km unpaved: 18,207 km (1998 est.)
Waterways: 1,200 km note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)
Pipelines: natural gas 180 km note: product pipelines from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have been in disrepair and disuse for years (2002)
Ports and harbors: Kheyrabad, Shir Khan
Airports: 46 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 10 over 3,047 m: 3 2,438 to 3,047 m: 4 under 914 m: 1 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 36 under 914 m: 11 (2001) 2,438 to 3,047 m: 7 1,524 to 2,437 m: 13 914 to 1,523 m: 4
Heliports: 2 (2001) Military Afghanistan
Military branches: NA; note - the December 2001 Bonn Agreement calls for all militia forces to come under Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) control, but formation of a national army is likely to be a gradual process; Afghanistan's forces continue to be factionalized largely along ethnic lines Military manpower - military age: 22 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 6,896,623 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 3,696,379 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching military males: 252,869 (2002 est.)
age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $NA
figure: Military expenditures - percent of NA%
GDP: Transnational Issues Afghanistan Disputes - international: close ties with Pashtuns in Pakistan make long border difficult to control
Illicit drugs: poppy ban cut 2001 cultivation by 97% to 1,695 hectares, with potential production of 74 tons of opium; a major source of hashish; many heroin-processing laboratories throughout the country; major political factions in the country profit from the drug trade

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officially Islamic State of Afghanistan

Country, south-central Asia.

Area: 251,825 sq mi (652,225 sq km). Population (2002 est.: 27,756,000). Capital: Kabul. About two-fifths of the people belong to the Pashtun ethnic group; other ethnic groups include Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Ḥazāra. Languages: Pashto, Persian (both official). Religion: Islam (official). Currency: afghani. Afghanistan has three distinctive regions: the northern plains are the major agricultural area; the southwestern plateau consists primarily of desert and semiarid landscape; the central highlands, including the Hindu Kush, separates these regions. Afghanistan has a developing economy based largely on agriculture; its significant mineral resources remain largely untapped because of the Afghan War of the 1980s and subsequent fighting. Traditional handicrafts remain important; woolen carpets are a major export. The area was part of the Persian Achaemenian Empire in the 6th century BC and was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. Hindu influence entered with the Hephthalites and Sāsānians; Islam became entrenched during the rule of the Ṣaffārids, с AD 870. Afghanistan was divided between the Mughal Empire of India and the Safavid empire of Persia until the 18th century, when other Persians under Nādir Shah took control. Britain fought several wars in the area in the 19th century. From the 1930s the country had a stable monarchy, which was overthrown in the 1970s. Marxist reforms sparked rebellion, and Soviet troops invaded. Afghan guerrillas prevailed, and the Soviets withdrew in 1989. In 1992 rebel factions overthrew the government and established an Islamic republic. In 1996 the Taliban militia took power and enforced a harsh Islamic order. The militia's unwillingness to extradite extremist leader Osama bin Laden and members of his al-Qaeda organization following the September 11 attacks in 2001 led to military conflict with the U.S. and allied nations, the overthrow of the Taliban, and the establishment of an interim government.

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▪ 2009

645,807 sq km (249,347 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 28,266,000 (including about 2,000,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan and about 900,000 Afghan refugees in Iran)
Chief of state and head of government:
President Hamid Karzai

      Afghanistan in 2008 saw a surge of violence from militants using relentless and brutal attacks against the U.S.-backed Kabul government. This drew increased attention to tribal areas in northwestern Pakistan that were being used as a base and sanctuary for Taliban operations in Afghanistan.

      By the end of 2007, NATO forces had driven Taliban militants from their base in Helmand province following months of combat. Guerrilla ambushes and massed attacks continued, and Taliban influence remained strong in rural areas. In March 2008 the U.S. sent 3,600 Marines to assist in the fighting in the south.

      The number of roadside bombs in Afghanistan increased to some 2,000 in 2008, double the number from a year earlier. Increased use of suicide attacks and roadside bombs suggested that the Taliban was adopting strategies from fighting in Iraq, and bold operations in Afghanistan reflected more aggressive Taliban and al-Qaeda activity inside Pakistan. Isolated attacks were opportunities for Taliban hostage taking, and reprisals by foreign troops, especially air strikes, often resulted in civilian casualties. Planned assaults in cities discredited the government of Pres. Hamid Karzai, while NATO's long supply lines through Pakistan offered terrorists many targets.

      In January eight people were killed by suicide bombers in a luxury hotel in Kabul. A suicide bomber in February killed up to 80 people at an outdoor dog fight in Kandahar. To make communications between foreign forces more difficult, the Taliban demanded that mobile phone companies shut down at night, and by the end of February it had begun destroying signal towers to force compliance. An assassination attempt on President Karzai at a large public ceremony in Kabul on April 27 failed, but several people, including a parliamentarian and a young boy, were killed during the ensuing gun battle.

      In June suicide bombers blew open a prison in Kandahar, freeing more than 800 prisoners, including almost 400 Taliban fighters who escaped in waiting minibuses. A bomb at the Indian embassy in Kabul left more than 40 dead in July. Both the Taliban and Pakistani authorities denied involvement, but in the face of intelligence presented by Afghanistan, India, and the U.S., Pakistan's government agreed to investigate possible involvement by its own officers.

      Calls by President Karzai grew stronger for U.S. and NATO forces to tackle the al-Qaeda and Taliban threat at its roots in northwestern Pakistan. Afghans who had sided with the resistance, it was argued, were not so grave a danger to the country and could be overcome and reconciled if only support and encouragement from outside Afghanistan were stopped. The U.S. was reluctant to push the issue to an outright break with one of its important allies, even as coalition ground forces pushed the front ever closer to the Pakistani border. Pakistan several times protested officially that its territory had been violated, and U.S. officials admitted that artillery and unmanned aircraft were used inside Pakistan, but only in cooperation with Pakistan's military. In September, U.S. forces adopted a more aggressive strategy, including the launch of commando raids that targeted Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan's tribal areas. In October the UN reported that 20,000 refugees had fled into Afghanistan's Kunar province from Pakistan to escape fighting between Pakistani and Taliban forces.

      Strained relations between Karzai and his Western allies appeared early in the year when Karzai blocked the appointment of a UN envoy to Afghanistan because he felt that his government was being excluded from key decisions, including diplomatic contacts with Taliban elements. Karzai's loudest complaint, however, was on the numbers of civilian casualties resulting from foreign military operations. Official Afghan investigations concluded that the 47 people killed in a coalition air strike were civilians belonging to a wedding party. According to Afghan and UN reports, another strike in August claimed up to 90 civilians. U.S. authorities initially asserted that only seven civilians died but invited a joint investigation. Public outrage at numerous such incidents caused some government figures to fear that these tactics would become counterproductive in confronting Taliban influence.

      The UN reported that land planted in opium dropped by 19% from 2007, although yield per hectare was up. Areas of greatest Taliban penetration accounted for 98% of the production. Global and local conditions driving up food prices made wheat an increasingly attractive alternative, and the income ratio of opium to wheat per hectare fell from 10:1 to 3:1.

      Except for certain problems with Pakistan, Afghanistan was on good terms with its neighbours. Indian development assistance included completion of a road in southwestern Afghanistan linking Kabul with the Iranian port of Chah Bahar, which would enable India to reach Afghanistan and Central Asia by land.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2008

645,807 sq km (249,347 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 27,145,000 (including 2,400,000 Afghans [ refugees and nonrefugees] in Pakistan and about 1,000,000 Afghan refugees in Iran)
Chief of state and head of government:
President Hamid Karzai

 Afghanistan's government, supported by almost 50,000 NATO and U.S. soldiers, in 2007 faced a Taliban resistance that had refocused its tactics. Pres. Hamid Karzai worked to extend the reach of government authority while balancing the need for international assistance against the appearance of favouring foreign interests over Afghan ones.

      With only a small national army of its own, Kabul was forced to rely on international forces for security in many parts of the country. Opponents who accused Karzai of cooperating with the enemies of Afghanistan and Islam gave support and sanctuary in the Pashtun tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to Taliban fundamentalists sympathetic to al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban influence was greatest among the Pashtun population in the south and east of Afghanistan. The year saw heavy fighting in Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar, and Khost provinces, as well as an upsurge in targeted attacks and suicide bombings in Kabul and across the country.

      As winter ended, NATO officials spoke of resistance fighters massing in the south for a spring offensive, and Taliban spokesmen boasted of having 2,000 trained-and-ready suicide bombers. On February 27 a suicide bomber killed 23 people outside the U.S. military base at Bagram while U.S. Vice Pres. Dick Cheney was inside. In March a suicide bomber drove into a U.S. embassy convoy driving through the capital. Top Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah (Dadullah, Mullah ) was killed in May in fighting in Helmand province. The spring offensive did not erupt as expected, but by midsummer a new Taliban strategy was unfolding. Suicide bombing, kidnapping, and other tactics similar to those used by al-Qaeda in Iraq were becoming typical of the resistance in Afghanistan. In July, 23 South Korean missionaries were kidnapped and 2 were killed before the Taliban released the remaining captives some six weeks later—after the South Korean government pledged to begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan by year's end.

      In March a number of civilians were killed when U.S. forces responded to enemy attacks, and President Karzai condemned the loss of innocent Afghan lives at the hands of foreign troops. Civilian deaths and presidential condemnation for the losses continued throughout the year. NATO and U.S. officials said that the Taliban used civilians as “human shields.”

      In an attempt to ease factionalism, the parliament passed, and in March Karzai approved, a controversial national reconciliation bill granting amnesty to all Afghans involved in the country's 25 years of occupation and conflict—Taliban as well as mujahideen. Critics of the bill feared that it would allow those responsible for war crimes to go unpunished, but others insisted that national reconciliation was necessary for the country's future.

      Though Taliban leaders had disapproved of and greatly reduced opium cultivation while in power, they now encouraged poppy growing for the monetary support it gave their cause. Opium cultivation contributed almost one-third of Afghanistan's overall GDP, and a UN report estimated that as much as 93% of the world's opium came from Afghanistan.

      Despite continued calls for unity and trust, Karzai and Pakistan Pres. Pervez Musharraf remained at odds. Karzai complained repeatedly of support and sanctuary given the resistance fighters from outside the country, while Musharraf insisted that Taliban operations were led and conducted from inside Afghanistan. In August a four-day peace jirga was convened in Kabul, where more than 600 tribal elders and government officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan met to promote peace and cooperation. Musharraf attended the meeting only on the final day and pointed out that not all Taliban were die-hard militants. The Taliban did not participate.

      Afghanistan's relations with the U.S., though extremely close, were complicated when it came to Pakistan and Iran. Karzai blamed Pakistan for not doing enough to cut off help to the Taliban from supporters in Pakistan, and he saw the U.S. as reluctant to push Pakistan harder on this point. U.S. officials, for their part, repeatedly blamed Iran for supplying weapons to the Taliban. During a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Kabul in June, and again in August on the eve of a meeting with U.S. Pres. George W. Bush, Karzai spoke warmly of his country's close relations with Iran, saying they had never been better.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2007

645,807 sq km (249,347 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 24,592,000 (excluding 2,600,000 Afghans [ refugees and nonrefugees] in Pakistan and about 650,000 Afghan refugees in Iran at the beginning of the year)
Chief of state and head of government:
President Hamid Karzai

 In 2006, five years after the overthrow of the Taliban, the government of Pres. Hamid Karzai remained dependent upon international military assistance to face the threat of growing armed resistance. With no fighting force at his own command, Karzai was compelled to seek support from ethnic and provincial leaders supported by militias with little loyalty to a central government. A U.S.-trained Afghan National Army undertook its first serious engagement in the 2006 summer offensive, but its reliability remained uncertain.

      In addition to escalating violence, a huge increase in opium production threatened to undermine the country's economy. Already growing most of the world's opium, Afghanistan's farmers planted half again as much land as the previous year. The inability of Kabul to control or develop many rural areas often left farmers little choice but to cultivate highly profitable opium instead of crops such as wheat. This was especially true for the Pashtun areas in southern Afghanistan, where the opium economy reinforced local support for the Taliban.

      A revitalized Taliban was credited with attacks, drive-by shootings, bombings, and even pitched battles, but other groups were also accused of aggressions. Followers of former mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were blamed for assaults, as were so-called Pakistani Taliban—fighters recruited and trained in areas of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border—and even Arabs, Uzbeks, and Chechens. Suicide bombings—which had first appeared in Afghanistan in 2001, after Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda began aiding the Taliban—became more common in the spring and summer. Targets were mosques and public markets as well as government and military positions, but the victims were overwhelmingly civilian. Violence aimed at schools, especially those open to girls, threatened educational progress. Bombings, school burnings, and threats to teachers and students blocked as many as 200,000 students from attending school.

      During the year the command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was expanded by stages to include many of the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and in September NATO officials pleaded for increased contributions. Some U.S. troops continued their own efforts to root out al-Qaeda and Taliban elements. By early spring it was obvious that Helmand province in the south had become an effective base of Taliban operations, with as many as 5,000 Taliban fighters in the area. In May U.S. and NATO units together with the Afghan army opened a massive offensive, Operation Mountain Thrust, using armoured vehicles and air cover to back up a combined force of more than 10,000 fighters. Fighting continued throughout the summer, and hundreds of Taliban militants were reportedly killed. In July the command of this operation was transferred to ISAF.

      Afghanistan maintained generally cordial relations with its neighbours. President Karzai made several visits to neighbouring countries and voiced Afghanistan's willingness for friendly relations, especially in the realm of trade and investment. Efforts to promote Afghanistan's location in facilitating communication and commerce between South and Central Asia were especially well received in India, which had been seeking closer ties. Only with Pakistan were regional tensions pronounced. Accusations that Pakistan provided sanctuary to insurgents operating against the government in Afghanistan drew strong denials from Pakistani Pres. Pervez Musharraf. Despite having stationed 80,000 of its soldiers along the border with Afghanistan, Pakistan appeared unable to prevent penetration by those wishing to join the Taliban.

      Many ordinary Afghans became disillusioned when the hopeful optimism that followed the fall of the Taliban produced so little positive change in their lives. Even in Kabul they often felt that aid and investment merely brought into their midst large numbers of foreigners who themselves consumed the greater part of aid intended to benefit Afghans and brought unwelcome economic and social disruption to Afghan society. In May a rush-hour traffic accident involving a U.S. military vehicle killed a civilian. Anti-Western and antigovernment feelings were inflamed by the incident, and stone throwing escalated into a day of widespread unrest in the city, with as many as 20 people estimated dead. Grievances over civilian casualties from assaults by foreign troops put further pressure on the Kabul government. Also in May, Karzai called on the international community to change its approach in tackling terrorism by improving local government and strengthening the police and army rather than by simply killing hundreds of Taliban.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2006

645,807 sq km (249,347 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 23,867,000 (excluding 1,900,000 Afghan refugees, numbering about 950,000 in Pakistan and about 950,000 in Iran at the beginning of the year)
Chief of state and head of government:
President Hamid Karzai

      In 2005 Afghanistan appeared to move toward constitutional stability and economic growth, but widespread incidents of violence made it clear that the Taliban, driven from power in 2001 by U.S. forces, and other fundamentalist guerrillas remained a serious threat to the government of Pres. Hamid Karzai. Supported by some 30,000 U.S. and NATO soldiers, the Karzai government struggled to broaden its control beyond Kabul and its surroundings.

      In February the Taliban announced plans to increase attacks on the government when the weather improved, and throughout the year it carried out drive-by shootings and bombings, mainly directed at local officials and pro-government clergy, and ambushed U.S. soldiers, mostly in the south and east of the country. May saw a dramatic increase in attacks, and on June 1 a suicide bomber killed 20 people in Kandahar's main mosque. The dead included Kabul's security chief, who was attending the funeral of an anti-Taliban cleric killed three days earlier by two men on a motorcycle. In late June, 16 U.S. servicemen were killed when their helicopter crashed during operations against guerrillas in Kunar province; it was the deadliest year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban. In May anti-American demonstrations in several locations were stoked by a U.S. press report that claimed that U.S. authorities at a prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had desecrated the Qurʾan. At least 14 deaths were reported. After Uzbekistan asked the U.S. in July to vacate the airbase it used there to support operations in Afghanistan, U.S. officials announced that bases in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan would be used instead. In December the U.S. announced that in 2006 it would reduce its military presence in Afghanistan from 19,000 troops to about 16,000.

      The process outlined in the Bonn agreement of December 2001 by which Afghanistan's state structure would be rebuilt approached completion with the September 18 election of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of Afghanistan's National Assembly, and provincial and local councils across the country. That process included the adoption of a constitution and the 2004 election of Karzai as president. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan who had played a very active role in implementing the Bonn agreement, left in June to represent the U.S. in Iraq. The September parliamentary elections had been scheduled together with the presidential election in October 2004 but were twice delayed. The constitution required at least two female delegates from each of Afghanistan's 34 provinces in the 249-member Wolesi Jirga, and election officials said that almost 350 of some 2,900 candidates were female. Almost 280 women sought places on provincial councils. One-third of the National Assembly's Meshrano Jirga (upper House of Elders) was to be chosen from these newly elected provincial councils. Though Taliban guerrillas had promised not to disrupt the polling, they carried out a deadly campaign of violence leading up to the elections and killed several candidates and election workers.

      Afghanistan's economic situation in 2005 generated both optimism and alarm. Obvious enthusiasm from international investors focused on opportunities arising from the need for goods and services to satisfy domestic demand and the promise of traditional exports of agricultural products and minerals. President Karzai spoke of the positive effects of Afghanistan's role as a land bridge connecting the Middle East, China, and India and welcomed investment in transportation and power generation. In addition to security concerns and the weakness of the central government, economic progress was stymied by bad roads, land mines, lack of electricity, and a poor educational system. The greatest threat to economic recovery, however, remained the nationwide economic dependence on opium production. Afghanistan supplied most of the world's opium, which was smuggled through Central Asia and Pakistan to be processed into heroin for the world market. UN sources reported that while the area under cultivation had decreased in 2005, yield per hectare had increased.

      Relations with neighbouring Pakistan were strained as Kabul officials continued to assert that madrasahs and camps in Pakistan were providing training and refuge for fighters carrying out antigovernment attacks and killings inside Afghanistan. Pakistan's government denied official responsibility, but stories from individuals seemed to corroborate Kabul's position. India, which had traditionally sought good relations with Afghanistan, stepped up its effort when India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited in August. One of the most generous aid donors to Afghanistan, India directed its assistance at education, health care and power sectors, and training for civil servants and police. Besides seeking to moderate Pakistan's influence, India viewed Afghanistan as its gateway to trade and communication with Central Asia.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2005

645,807 sq km (249,347 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 20,869,000 (excluding 2,150,000 Afghan refugees, numbering about 1,100,000 in Pakistan and about 850,000 in Iran at the beginning of the year)
Chief of state and head of government:
President Hamid Karzai

      A new constitution was ratified in Afghanistan on Jan. 4, 2004, after weeks of contention in a constitutional Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly). The constitution called for a strong president and two vice presidents as well as a National Assembly of two houses, and it specified individual rights of the kind found in many Western democratic constitutions. It declared Afghanistan to be an Islamic republic and prohibited laws that were contrary to the tenets of Islam, but it also promised that followers of other religions would be free to exercise their faiths. It guaranteed women equal rights with men, requiring at least two female delegates per province in the Wolesi Jirga—the popular house of the National Assembly—and made specific provision for women's education and social welfare.

      During the constitutional Jirga, ethnic tensions focused on recognition of official languages. Pashto and Dari were declared official, but Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashai, Nuristani, and Pamiri were allowed third-language status, and their use was permitted in publications in areas where they predominated. International reaction was generally positive; the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, called the results “one of the most enlightened constitutions in the Islamic world.”

      Security fears and the threat of violence from terrorist groups, as well as armed disputes over regional and ethnic issues, posed a continuing problem across Afghanistan. Many attacks on civilian, military, and political targets appeared to be aimed at undermining the government of the interim president, Hamid Karzai, and interrupting scheduled elections. These attacks, often employing improvised bombs, were blamed on Taliban groups.

      As elections approached, NATO pledged to increase its International Security Assistance Force to 8,500 troops. U.S.-led forces charged with hunting down the Taliban and capturing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were enlarged to 18,500 during 2004, and their brief was expanded beyond counterterrorism to include economic, political, and social development. U.S. military officials promised an expanded program of “provincial reconstruction teams” to strengthen central and local government through village development. In July the medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan, citing lack of security in the provinces, which it said had led to the death of five of its workers; linking humanitarian aid with military objectives, the organization said, made targets of aid providers.

      With the adoption of the constitution, elections for both the president and the National Assembly were expected in June, but by late March security fears and difficulties in registering Afghanistan's estimated 10 million voters had forced a postponement until September. In July the election of a president was put back a second time, until October, and National Assembly elections were postponed until spring 2005. In August UN sources estimated that 90% of eligible voters had registered.

      Interim president Karzai, a Pashtun, was favoured to win the October 9 presidential elections, and his choice of running mates—Ahmad Zia Masoud, the brother of assassinated Tajik mujahideen hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, and Hazara leader Karim Khalili—demonstrated the importance of ethnic balance in the country's new democracy. Among 17 other candidates for top offices was one woman as well as the Uzbek strongman from northern Afghanistan, Abdul Rashid Dostum, and Yunus Qanuni, a well-known Panjshiri Tajik. Voting was enthusiastic and generally peaceful, but a serious challenge from Karzai's opponents revealed that ink applied to voters' hands to prevent multiple voting could be easily removed. On November 3 Karzai was declared the winner, and he was sworn in as president on December 7.

      UN sources said that 450,000 refugees had been repatriated to Afghanistan in the first half of 2004, bringing to 3,000,000 the number of Afghans returned home since 2002. Another 440,000 internally displaced persons had gone back to their homes.

      Severe drought returned to many areas after improved rainfalls in 2003, and one-third of the population was expected to face unreliable food supplies. Opium production increased, and authorities feared not only the social threat posed by the illicit drug trade but also the financial support it provided for warlords and terrorists.

      In September three Americans were given 8- and 10-year prison sentences for running a private prison in Kabul where Afghans were beaten and tortured. The Americans, who were said to have posed as U.S. Special Forces troops, claimed to have had the backing of high-level U.S. authorities in the Pentagon. U.S. and Afghan government officials denied having supported the group, although U.S. peacekeepers admitted there had been contacts with them.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2004

645,807 sq km (249,347 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 28,717,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1,100,000 in Pakistan and about 1,000,000 in Iran, many of whom have returned home)
Chief of state and head of government:
President Hamid Karzai

      Afghanistan continued to work toward stabilization and reconstruction in 2003, but uneven progress and fears over security throughout the country left the precarious transitional administration of Hamid Karzai vulnerable to charges of impotence and a target for groups hostile to its U.S. and other international supporters. Well-wishers of the administration could point to a number of positive developments, but most of them were balanced by negative or uncertain realities.

      Following the timetable fixed by the 2001 Bonn Agreement for establishing a fully representative government, preparations were made to register Afghans for a general election in June 2004. In November the government announced the draft of a new constitution that was submitted to a special loya jirga (“grand council”) in December. Some Afghans criticized the government for having invited public debate only after the constitution was drafted, and many, both in and out of the government, advocated strict accordance with Shariʿah, Islam's traditional legal framework. Lack of countrywide security caused some, including UN special representative Lakhdar Brahimi, to doubt the possibility of conducting fair elections on schedule.

      Kabul experienced something of a boom with the increase of reconstruction projects paid for with international assistance. Much of the $4.5 billion previously pledged to Afghanistan's reconstruction, however, had not arrived or had already been consumed as humanitarian aid. In the summer the U.S. said it would increase its reconstruction aid by $900 million.

      The currency reform of 2002 appeared to have been successful, creating a foundation for economic growth, yet the economy remained much smaller that it had been before the Soviet invasion in 1979. Economic hardship as well as unsettled politics motivated increased opium production even while relief from years of drought allowed a 2003 cereal harvest 50% higher than that of the previous year.

      More than 2.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons had returned voluntarily to their homes, but food shortages and an increased cost of living threatened some, especially landless returnees and households headed by women. Many refugees, even those who had been living for years in camps in Iran or Pakistan, had become accustomed to electricity and schools. When the country's school system reopened in March, five million students, boys and girls, enrolled. Construction on the Kabul–Kandahar–Herat highway reached Kandahar, restoring a vital part of the overland route linking Europe and the Middle East with South Asia.

      The most serious worry to those working for a stable, democratic Afghanistan was the general deterioration of security in parts of the country beyond the reach of the central government. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Kabul in May and declared that major combat activity by U.S. forces there was over. Still, Operation Enduring Freedom, a U.S.-led coalition of 12,500 soldiers, battled throughout the year against terrorist opposition thought to be grouped around al-Qaeda loyalists of Osama bin Laden, followers of ousted Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, and Hezbi Islami forces of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. All three leaders continued to elude capture.

      A separate International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)—5,000 troops contributed by 31 countries—was the security guarantor for areas directly under the control of the central government. In August NATO assumed responsibility for ISAF, and in October the UN Security Council authorized NATO to send ISAF troops anywhere in Afghanistan. This was intended as support for President Karzai. Pakistan's Pres. Pervez Musharraf had called for ISAF to end what he called a power vacuum in Afghanistan. In July an exchange of fire between Pakistani troops and Afghans had led to charges that Pakistan had violated the Afghan border. After a mob ransacked Pakistan's embassy in Kabul, relations between the two countries became tense.

      Reports of raids and bomb attacks by Taliban fighters increased throughout the year, although the degree to which they were coordinated was uncertain. In the summer the Taliban reportedly set up a new command structure for southern Afghanistan, its traditional base of support, and weeks later establishment of another Taliban command for northern Afghanistan was claimed.

      International forces began a new tactic in 2003 for winning support outside Kabul. The U.S., the U.K., New Zealand, and Germany formed provincial reconstruction teams, small lightly armed groups whose task was to assist in reconstruction projects across the country.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2003

652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 27,756,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1,100,000 in Pakistan and about 1,400,000 in Iran)
Chief of state and head of government:
Chairman of the Interim Administration and, from June 19, President Hamid Karzai

      Warlordism and ethnic rivalry were prominent in Afghanistan throughout 2002, yet important steps were taken toward building a stable, democratic social structure based on traditional Afghan values. Hamid Karzai, picked to head an Interim Authority in Afghanistan by a UN-sponsored international conference in Bonn, Ger., in December 2001, sought to maintain balance among the country's ethnic and tribal groups while laying a foundation for national institutions. Although he was a Pashtun tribal leader, Karzai had no armed group of his own. Security in Kabul was maintained by an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of 4,000 to 5,000 troops whose command was rotated among various participating countries.

      U.S. troops did not participate in the ISAF, but they operated throughout the country in an attempt to root out fighters loyal to the ousted Islamist Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist organization. U.S. military reports of a large-scale operation in March near the Pakistani border claimed that hundreds of holdouts had been killed, but the fate of Bin Laden as well as that of Taliban leader Muhammad Omar remained unclear even at year's end. Most Afghans did not view U.S. forces in Afghanistan as invaders, however, and many constructive results of their intervention were welcomed. Still, as the year went on, growing numbers of Afghan civilian casualties from American military activity provoked criticism from some who opposed Karzai's friendly relations with the U.S.

      In March Karzai took initial steps toward the creation of a national army not dependent on tribal or ethnic loyalties. The projected strength of the new army was 50,000, but only a few hundred recruits could be found for the first unit to be trained. In an effort to unify the country's economy, Karzai announced in September that the national currency, the afghani, would be renumerated with one new afghani replacing 1,000 old ones. Afghanistan's monetary integrity had been compromised by uncontrolled printing of money by various regimes.

      Beyond Kabul, Karzai's government depended for support on Tajik militias, sometimes called Panjshiris, led by Karzai's defense minister, Muhammad Qasim Fahim; tough Uzbek fighters in northern Afghanistan commanded by Abdul Rashid Dostam; and the powerful governor of Herat, Ismail Khan, also a Tajik. In the southern and eastern provinces, home to many Pashtun tribes from which the Taliban had drawn the core of its strength, support for the central government was uneven. Many Pashtuns, who constituted more than half of the country's population, expressed dissatisfaction with their share in the government, and there was often ill feeling expressed toward Pashtuns in areas where they constituted only a minority.

      In April the country's former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, returned to Kabul after an exile of 29 years. Many hoped that the king's return would lead to the reestablishment of Afghanistan's Pashtun monarchy, but Zahir Shah himself ruled this out. In June the former king officially opened an emergency Loya Jirga, as prescribed by the Bonn agreement. An assembly of the most important leaders from across Afghanistan, the Loya Jirga embodied supreme authority in Afghanistan's political life. The Loya Jirga's most important task was to choose a president of the Transitional Authority that, according to the Bonn agreement, should replace the Interim Authority. Karzai was expected to be elected, and challenges from former president Burhaneddin Rabbani, a Tajik, and from supporters of the former king were avoided when both men withdrew in a demonstration of national unity. The Loya Jirga then approved Karzai and 13 members of his cabinet. An additional 16 ministers were named by Karzai only after the Loya Jirga had adjourned. By late June Karzai's administration had been expanded to include four vice presidents, one each from Afghanistan's Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara ethnic groups.

      Still, violence persisted throughout the year. On February 14 Aviation and Tourism Minister Abdul Rahman was killed at Kabul's airport. On July 6 the Pashtun vice president, Haji Abdul Qadir, was assassinated outside his office in Kabul (see Obituaries (Qadir, Abdul )). Three weeks later a car loaded with explosives was discovered in downtown Kabul before it could be detonated. On September 5 a car bomb in Kabul killed more than two dozen Afghans, and on the same day in Kandahar, Karzai narrowly escaped the bullets of a gunman who attacked his car. These and other incidents during the year demonstrated the government's continued vulnerability to breakdowns in public security.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2002

652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 26,813,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number about 2,000,000 in Pakistan and about 2,000,000 in Iran)
Chief of state:
de facto Taliban Supreme Leader (Amir-ul-Momenin), Mullah Mohammad Omar; President Burhanuddin Rabbani from November 13 to December 22, and, from December 22, Chairman of the Interim Administration Hamid Karzai
Head of government:
heads of the Supreme Council Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, and, acting from April 16 to November 13, Mawlawi Abdul Kabir

      Crippling drought and unending internal fighting characterized the first half of 2001 in Afghanistan, but the terrorist attacks of September 11 in the U.S. set off a chain reaction that reversed fortunes and produced Afghanistan's first peaceful change of government in decades. A year that saw the rigid control of the Taliban on the verge of total victory also witnessed its military defeat and political marginalization.

      Though humanitarian aid continued to reach Afghanistan, Taliban attitudes toward the public role of women and sensitivity to foreign influences frustrated the work of aid agencies. Its unyielding policies also provoked international condemnation and economic sanctions. In May the U.S. announced increased assistance for Afghanistan, but in that same month the Taliban closed several UN political offices in the country. UN efforts to distribute food in Kabul were threatened in a dispute over the use of Afghan women in this work. In August eight foreign relief workers were detained on charges of promoting Christianity and threatened with the death penalty; after three months in custody, however, they were rescued by U.S. forces in November.

      Farmers across Afghanistan were severely affected when the winter rains failed for the third consecutive year. It was estimated that half of Afghanistan's irrigated land was out of use and that livestock herds had been reduced by as much as 70%. Unable to sustain themselves on the land, large numbers of the rural population became refugees in Afghanistan's cities or fled to neighbouring countries.

      UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported in August that the opium poppy had almost completely disappeared from Taliban-controlled areas. Though the international community welcomed the news, the hardship it brought to local farmers contributed to the flow of refugees, both internal and international.

      After overcoming bitter resistance, the Taliban retook Bamiyan in central Afghanistan in February. In March Mullah Mohammad Omar ordered that two large statues of Buddha hewn from a cliff at Bamiyan be destroyed because they were offensive to Islam. Although there were almost no Buddhists in Afghanistan, the statues, dating from the 4th and 5th centuries, were esteemed throughout the world as cultural treasures. The colossal figures were destroyed with explosives, and Taliban officials expressed dismay that so much concern was given statues when Afghans themselves were in such want. Taliban second-in-command Mullah Mohammad Rabbani died of cancer in April. (See Obituaries (Rabbani, Mullah Mohammad ).)

      On September 9 Ahmad Shah Masoud (see Obituaries (Masoud, Ahmad Shah )), military leader of the Northern Alliance and the most respected hero of Afghan resistance to Soviet invasion and Taliban advances, was killed by suicide bombers thought to have been sent by Osama bin Laden. (See Biographies (bin Laden, Osama ).) This major setback to anti-Taliban resistance appeared to leave the Northern Alliance more vulnerable than ever.

 Blaming Bin Laden for the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., the U.S. turned its military wrath against the Taliban for continuing to protect him. (See Map—>.) A bombing campaign begun by U.S. and British forces on October 7 was aimed at Taliban military targets and coordinated to support a Northern Alliance offensive. Later that month the Taliban executed Abdul Haq, a military commander and potential threat. (See Obituaries (Haq, Abdul ).)

      Taliban fighters were pushed out of Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz in the north with significant losses, and on November 12 they abandoned Kabul. Soon the Taliban seat of power in Kandahar had been surrendered, and many Taliban had disappeared into the countryside, fled to Pakistan, or shifted their allegiance. U.S. bombing continued in the mountainous Tora Bora area near the border with Pakistan, where Bin Laden and many of his al-Qaeda fighters were thought to have fled. At year's end neither Bin Laden nor Taliban leader Mohammad Omar had been located.

      International moves to solve the resulting political crisis focused on avoiding the chaos and destruction that had followed the mujahideen takeover from the Communist government of Mohammad Najibullah in 1992. On November 27 a UN-sponsored conference in Bonn, Ger., convened to settle on an interim government to replace the Taliban. The largest share of delegates represented the Northern Alliance, whose political leader, Burhanuddin Rabbani, had retained international recognition even after being driven from Kabul in 1996. Supporters of former king Zahir Shah also participated. The result was an agreement that Hamid Karzai (see Biographies (Karzai, Hamid )), a Pashtun tribal leader and supporter of the former king, would lead an interim administration for six months, when a Loya Jirga, a traditional Afghan assembly of notables, would choose a new government. On December 22 Karzai and a cabinet that included two women were installed in a peaceful ceremony joined by outgoing President Rabbani and most of the country's ethnic and political factions.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2001

652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 25,889,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1,100,000 in Pakistan and more than 1,200,000 in Iran)
Chief of state:
de facto Taliban Supreme Leader (Amir-ul-Momenin), Mullah Mohammad Omar
Head of government:
de facto Taliban council leader, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani

      The Taliban regime in Afghanistan further marginalized armed opposition during 2000, but the uncompromising severity of its fundamentalist Islamic view of society resulted in continued economic stagnation and international isolation. Facing economic and climatic disaster, Afghan citizens were denied both the benefits of normal commerce and much-needed international assistance.

      Clashes between Taliban and opposition forces occurred throughout the year. In September the anti-Taliban militia of Ahmad Shah Masoud was compelled to withdraw from Taloqan, capital of the northeastern province of Takhar. The significance of this Taliban advance was twofold. The area was traditionally home to many of Afghanistan's ethnic Tajiks, which meant that victory here by the Taliban, who were mostly Pashtuns, had an ethnic dimension. Takhar and its capital also straddled supply routes from Tajikistan to the Panjshir Valley, where Masoud had directed resistance to Taliban authority just as he had earlier resisted occupying Soviet forces. Masoud's long success in holding out against the Taliban was grounded in the reluctance of Afghanistan's large Tajik minority, together with other non-Pashtun ethnic groups, to accept domination by Afghanistan's Pashtun majority.

      Diplomatic efforts by neighbouring countries and international organizations to find a peaceful solution went on throughout 2000, mostly without visible results. In February the UN secretary-general's personal representative to Afghanistan met with many leading Afghans, including Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Afghan president ousted by the Taliban in 1996 but still recognized by the UN. The Organization of the Islamic Conference sponsored indirect discussions between Taliban and anti-Taliban representatives in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, in March and May, but the only agreement was on prisoner exchanges. Iran, which supported the anti-Taliban groups, and Pakistan, a Taliban ally, found several occasions to discuss a settlement. Perhaps most active were the Muslim republics of Central Asia, whose governments were especially vulnerable to destabilization from a strong fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban's open sympathy for Chechen separatism kept Russia wary as well. A special envoy of Turkmenistan's Pres. Saparmurad Niyazov met with Masoud in Tajikistan and with Taliban Supreme Leader (Amir-ul-Momenin) Mullah Mohammad Omar in the southern city of Kandahar.

      The Taliban remained uncompromising on basic issues, however. Representatives said they were prepared to talk about a broad-based government but insisted that the role of Mullah Omar was not negotiable. Taliban officials repeatedly demanded that they be given Afghanistan's UN seat, but there was no indication they were willing to surrender suspected international terrorist Osama bin Laden to international justice. Rabbani seemed to confirm Afghanistan's international reputation when he told the UN Millennium Summit in September that “foreign interference” had “turned our land into a terrorist training camp, a center for drug smugglers and a base for spilling instability.”

      Afghanistan's economy, disrupted by more than 20 years of fighting, might have been expected to show signs of recovery under the relative stability in Kabul and the 90% of the country controlled by the Taliban, but little progress was visible. The official Taliban policy discouraging the participation of women in public life further slowed economic activity. Already forbidden to study and banned from most employment, women—including all female civil servants and teachers—were subjected to mass layoffs in April. In July employment by foreign aid agencies was put off-limits to women.

      Sanctions invoked by the United Nations in November 1999 in an effort to have bin Laden turned over to the U.S. or a third country also hindered the economy. Afghanistan's foreign assets were frozen, and international air traffic to and from the country was banned. One result was the loss of income from fruit production, traditionally one of the country's important exports.

      Overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture, Afghanistan's economy faced calamity when the worst drought in three decades continued into a second year. By midsummer the entire arid wheat crop, well over half the irrigated crops, and 60–80% of livestock had been lost in the southern provinces. Some relief came in early November, when heavy rains fell over large parts of the country.

Stephen Sego

▪ 2000

652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 25,825,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1,100,000 in Pakistan and about 1,400,000 in Iran)
Chief of state:
de facto Taliban Supreme Leader (Amir-ul-Momenin), Mullah Mohammad Omar
Head of government:
de facto Taliban council leader, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani

      In 1999 the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban exercised political control over 90% of Afghanistan, but its inability to eliminate completely military opposition left the country internally divided throughout the year and made it a source of instability for other countries in the region.

      Opposition to rule by the mainly Pashtun Taliban came initially from Afghanistan's non-Pashtun ethnic groups, notably the Uzbek and Turkmen minorities. Their centre, Mazar-e Sharif, had been taken by Taliban forces in August 1998, and a few weeks later Bamiyan, the centre of the Hazara minority, had fallen. The suppression of the Shiʿite Muslim resistance heightened tension between the Taliban regime and Iranian authorities that continued into 1999. In May the Taliban was accused of conducting an anti-Shiʿite campaign in Herat, but the information minister contended that his government had only suppressed an Iran-backed conspiracy in the western Afghan city. During 1999 the most significant opposition to the Taliban movement was led by Ahmad Shah Masoud, a Tajik military leader based in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul.

      Fighting during the summer months was focused on the Shomali plains, where a Taliban campaign pushed Masoud's forces into the Panjshir Valley. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that 40,000 civilians had been forced out of the newly taken territory, populated mostly by Tajiks, in order to deprive opposition forces of sympathetic support. The Taliban was accused of destroying villages to make them uninhabitable. There were reports that another 100,000 civilian refugees had fled to the Panjshir Valley, where they were expected to face shortages of food and water.

      Afghanistan's neighbours urged the warring factions to find a peaceful settlement, an act that reflected a common concern by leaders of the former Soviet Central Asian republics over the threat to stability in their own countries from Islamic fundamentalism and ethnic antagonisms. Turkmenistan tried to establish its neutrality by opening direct talks with the Taliban and acting as host for peace talks between the two sides in its capital, Ashgabat, in February. The Ashgabat talks, organized by UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, brought Masoud together with Taliban representatives. A second round of talks in March resulted in an agreement on principles, but the crucial question of who should exercise authority in Afghanistan was not resolved. Opposition forces and the UN, encouraged by several governments in the region, pushed for a broad-based coalition to take charge, but the Taliban insisted that the country be subject to a unified command under its own supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. In April a Taliban spokesman declared the talks a failure.

      Public statements by officials in Uzbekistan showing solidarity with Iran's anti-Taliban position were balanced with diplomatic approaches to Kabul. Uzbekistan also was host to talks in Tashkent among a group of contact countries from the region. In July the UN sponsored talks in Tashkent of the “six plus two,” Afghanistan's six immediate neighbours—Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China—plus the U.S. and Russia. This conference included face-to-face meetings between Taliban and opposition representatives, but there was still no progress toward a settlement.

      Non-Afghan UN employees began returning to Afghanistan in March. The UN had pulled out all foreign staff after a colleague was shot amid violent protests against the August 1998 U.S. missile attacks on alleged terrorist camps run by Osama bin Laden. The U.S. accused bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi Arabian, of using Afghanistan as an operational base for anti-U.S. terrorist activities, including the bombings in 1998 of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Taliban authorities refused to extradite bin Laden, and his whereabouts became the subject of speculation. In July U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton signed an executive order imposing economic and commercial sanctions on the Taliban for its support of bin Laden and his terrorist network.

Stephen Sego

▪ 1999

      Area: 652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 24,792,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number more than 1,100,000 in Pakistan and about 1,400,000 in Iran)

      Capital: Kabul

      Chief of state: President Burhanuddin Rabbani; de facto Taliban Supreme Leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar

      Head of government: de facto Taliban council leader, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani

      Military successes by Afghanistan's Taliban government appeared to move the country closer to a unified political authority in 1998 than at any other time since the Soviet invasion of 1979. This consolidation of power, however, provoked international and regional tensions that threatened to destabilize the region and the Muslim world.

      Official Taliban restrictions on the education and employment of women brought critical reaction from the UN and other aid workers. In June the Taliban closed Kabul's private schools for women, including vocational training programs. The European Commission, complaining of restrictions on education, health care, and employment for women, suspended millions of dollars of funding for aid projects in July. Ordered to move their activities to a compound outside the city, most international aid workers left Kabul rather than comply.

      In August Mazar-e Sharif, the centre of anti-Taliban resistance in Afghanistan, fell to Taliban forces. This ended a stalemate in which Afghanistan had been divided between the Taliban, who controlled Kabul and the south of the country, and forces allied with the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, confined mostly to an area north of the Hindu Kush. The Rabbani government had been driven from Kabul in September 1996 by the Taliban but had joined with Uzbek militia and troops of the Hezb-i Wahdat, a Shi!ite group of ethnic Hazara Afghans, in the Northern Alliance. After the fall of Mazar-e Sharif, Hazara fighters withdrew toward their central Afghan stronghold in Bamiyan, whereas forces led by Tajik commander Ahmad Shah Masoud continued to resist from mountainous areas north of Kabul. By mid-September Bamiyan too had fallen, and the Taliban controlled more than 90% of Afghanistan.

      Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under Supreme Leader (Amir-ul-Momenin) Mullah Mohammad Omar and a Council of Ministers headed by Mullah Mohammad Rabbani. Most other countries and the UN continued to recognize the Islamic State of Afghanistan, led by Pres. Burhanuddin Rabbani.

      The consolidation of authority by the predominantly Pashtun Taliban aggravated tensions between Pashtuns and Afghanistan's other ethnic groups. In addition, the circumstances of the Taliban victory exposed a profound split between the staunchly Sunni Taliban and Shi!ite Iran, which had supported Afghanistan's Shi!ite minority. Taliban forces had occupied Mazar-e Sharif for a few days in 1997. During their withdrawal several thousand Taliban fighters had been taken captive and, as mass graves later revealed, massacred. The Taliban held Hazara forces primarily responsible for these killings. At the same time, Iran, long seen as military backers of the Shi!ite Hazara, became a focus of Taliban hostility. During the capture of Mazar-e Sharif in August, at least nine Iranians were killed when their consulate was stormed. Iran reacted by announcing a buildup of 200,000 troops along its border with Afghanistan, and Taliban officials proclaimed their readiness to attack Iranian cities with missiles.

      On August 20 U.S. missiles fired from the Arabian Sea struck training camps near Khost, south of Kabul, reportedly killing more than 20. The U.S. said that the camps were terrorist training bases used by Saudi Arabian dissident Osama bin Laden (see BIOGRAPHIES (Bin Laden, Osama )), who was suspected of having financed the August 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden, who had been living in exile in Afghanistan since 1996. In November the Taliban reported that, since they had received no evidence from the U.S. of bin Laden's culpability, he was a free man.

      In February an earthquake struck the area near Rustaq in Takhar province, near the border with Tajikistan. Reports suggested that more than 4,000 may have died. In May a second earthquake shook the same location, and aid workers reported that 5,000 had died. (See DISASTERS.)


▪ 1998

      Area: 652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 23,738,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number more than 1,500,000 in Pakistan and about 1,400,000 in Iran)

      Capital: Kabul

      Chief of state: President Burhanuddin Rabbani; de facto Taliban leader, Mohammad Rabbani

      Head of government: until July, Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

      Afghanistan in 1997 had two de facto governments. A Taliban government, recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, ruled about two thirds of the country, mainly in the south, including the capital, Kabul. The Taliban acknowledged as its leader Mohammad Omar Akhund ("Akhund" indicates "mullah"), who was honoured with an ancient Islamic title, "commander of the faithful." Their government, however, had been put together in Kandahar under the direction of an interim council, headed by Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, who could thus be considered the head of the Taliban government.

      An "opposition" government under Burhanuddin Rabbani continued to control large areas of the traditionally non-Pushtun north of the country. Rabbani's representative was allowed to occupy Afghanistan's UN seat, while the Organization of the Islamic Conference declared Afghanistan's seat vacant.

      In May a dispute within the opposition Jumbish-i-Milli party forced Gen. 'Abd ar-Rashid Dostam out of his stronghold in Mazar-e Sharif in the north. Dostam, who had used his Uzbek militia to bring down the communist government in 1992, was himself overthrown when one of his own generals, 'Abd al-Malik Pahlawan, turned against him. Dostam was forced to flee to Turkey, and Pahlawan opened Mazar-e Sharif to Taliban forces. It seemed that the last major centre of resistance to Taliban rule had been taken, and Pakistan became the first country to recognize the legitimacy of the Taliban government. Within a few days, however, Pahlawan again changed sides, and the Taliban were driven out of Mazar-e Sharif in a bloody battle in which several thousand of them were taken captive.

      In July, following an initiative by the UN special representative in Afghanistan, Norbert Holl, to build a broad-based government, a new anti-Taliban government with its capital in Mazar-e Sharif was announced. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had been prime minister of the government driven from Kabul by the Taliban in September 1996, was not included. Burhanuddin Rabbani was retained in the office of president, and a Cabinet of technocrats was to be led by 'Abd ar-Rahim Ghafuzai (who died in a plane crash in September). More significantly, Ahmad Shah Masoud was renamed defense minister, and Pahlawan was to be foreign minister. In fact, this government was little more than a cover for the northern alliance's military effort to retake Kabul.

      The reinvigorated northern alliance of Pahlawan's and Masoud's forces plus Hazara Shi'ite militias pushed the Taliban back to within a few kilometres of Kabul. When a second Taliban attack on Mazar-e Sharif in September was repulsed, Dostam returned and Pahlawan was forced to flee.

      The situation at the end of the year was much as it had been in the beginning. Afghanistan was divided along ethnic lines—the Pashtun south and east unified under the Taliban and the Tajik, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Hazara areas in the north.

      The Taliban (Persian for "students") had first appeared in Afghanistan in late 1994 as youthful fighters from religious schools in Pakistan. They pledged to replace with Islamic law the destructive factionalism that had marked Afghan political life since the fall of the communist regime in 1992. Popular support and military success followed their progress, especially in Pashtun areas of Afghanistan. Within two years Kabul had fallen to them with little armed resistance.

      To the discomfort of the international aid agencies seeking to provide assistance, the severe Taliban interpretation of Islamic law called for public floggings and stoning to enforce rigid social restrictions, including a ban on many activities by women—e.g., attending school, working, or appearing in public unaccompanied by a male relative.

      Among Afghanistan's neighbours, Pakistan was sympathetic with the Taliban, if not indeed a supplier of material support and direction. Iran, at ideological odds with the Sunni Taliban, continued to align itself with the Shi'ite Hazara and Persian-speaking Tajiks of the opposition. The Muslim states of Central Asia were openly alarmed when the Taliban twice temporarily occupied Mazar-e Sharif. The local authorities in Dushanbe worried that refugees from Afghanistan might endanger Tajikistan's fragile political balance.


▪ 1997

      Afghanistan is a landlocked Islamic state in central Asia. Area: 652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 22,664,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1.6 million in Pakistan and about 1.4 million in Iran). Cap.: Kabul. Monetary unit: afghani, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 4,750 afghanis to U.S. $1 (7,483 afghanis = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Burhanuddin Rabbani; prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

      In September 1996 the long power struggle between Afghanistan's armed factions appeared to have taken a decisive turn when Taliban militias captured Kabul. Despite the fundamentalist nature of the Taliban movement, many hoped that it might mean an end to the deadly rivalry between Afghan factions, which had killed 25,000-45,000 Afghans, mostly civilians, since the collapse of Afghanistan's communist government in April 1992.

      The Taliban (Persian for "students") emerged at the end of 1994, soon taking control of Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar and neighbouring areas. The "students" were recruited from schools set up among Afghan refugees in Pakistan during the years following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. From the time of the first Taliban successes, Pakistan denied any official support, but most observers discounted such denials, noting the modern logistic support and sophisticated communications equipment at the disposal of the "students." With a reputation more for zeal than for experience, they offered to rid the country of the corruption and lawlessness that had flourished during the years of Soviet occupation and that had continued after the Soviet withdrawal left Afghanistan divided among warring factions and local warlords. Within a year they had overrun Herat and western Afghanistan. For most of the next year, they remained outside Kabul, launching frequent rocket attacks on the city.

      In June Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose Hezb-i-Islami forces had bombarded the government in Kabul until driven from their positions by the Taliban, returned to rejoin the government as prime minister. He immediately attempted to open contacts with northern Afghanistan's powerful warlord, Gen. 'Abd ar-Rashid Dostam. From his power base in Mazar-e Sharif, Dostam continued to control a virtually independent northern Afghanistan.

      After a rapid offensive in September, Taliban forces captured the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, together with important areas in Nangarhar and Laghman provinces. With these territorial advances most of Afghanistan's traditionally Pashtun homelands were united under Taliban control. The gains included Kabul's main road to Pakistan and sealed the fate of Rabbani's mostly Tajik government. On September 27, Taliban forces entered Kabul, where they met little resistance from government forces. Their first act was to execute Afghanistan's last communist president, Mohammad Najibullah (see OBITUARIES (Najibullah, Maj. Gen. Mohammad )), who had been living inside the UN compound in Kabul since 1992. President Rabbani and other members of his government retreated north of Kabul. Government forces under Ahmad Shah Masoud withdrew to the Panjshir valley. In October Masoud and other former government forces formed a military alliance with General Dostam. At year's end it was reported that Taliban forces had captured an opposition air base north of Kabul.

      Since their first appearance, the Taliban had been supported by many ordinary Afghans, who welcomed their promise to restore normal life after years of destructive war. Popular enthusiasm was soon diluted, however, when the Taliban turned their captured rockets against civilians, especially in Kabul. In all areas under their control, the Taliban enforced a rigorous Islamic social order, insisting that all men grow beards and forbidding women to work outside their homes. Schools for girls were closed, and Islamic law was enforced by amputations and public executions. Restrictions on women provoked international criticism.


▪ 1996

      Afghanistan is a landlocked Islamic state in central Asia. Area: 652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 18,129,000 (excluding Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1.6 million in Pakistan and about 1.6 million in Iran). Cap.: Kabul. Monetary unit: afghani, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 4,442 afghanis to U.S. $1 (7,022 afghanis = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Burhanuddin Rabbani; prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

      A new national force that called itself Taleban (Persian for "students") brought a degree of calm to parts of Afghanistan in 1995, in part by neutralizing several powerful leaders and their supporters. The dispute over control of Kabul was not resolved, however, and regions of the country remained divided.

      Early in the year, Pres. Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose extended term had expired, offered to relinquish power if an acceptable replacement could be found. Efforts by Mahmoud Mestiri and other UN mediators to bring the contending factions together and select a successor to Rabbani came to naught. The military-political situation was so unstable that serious negotiations were impossible.

      The armed group Taleban had appeared in southern Afghanistan in late 1994. The group's first accomplishment was the defeat of local commanders who had hijacked a truck convoy traveling from Pakistan to Central Asia. These mainly Pashtun students secured the release of the convoy and within days took control of Kandahar; later they extended their control to neighbouring provinces. While maintaining a low profile in a council in Kandahar, the Taleban declared that their goal was to disarm all factions and create a united, Islamic government in Afghanistan.

      Most ordinary Afghans, particularly in traditionally Pashtun areas of the country, welcomed the sudden and effective success of the Taleban. Drug trafficking and lawlessness were targeted, and religious conformity was enforced. The latter included severe restrictions on women's appearance in public and especially on their access to education and employment. Public executions and amputations were used to enforce Islamic behaviour.

      The origin of Taleban, as well as its organization and purpose, were obscure. The name indicated that the recruits had come from Islamic schools in Pakistan. The sudden appearance of the well-organized and well-financed group suggested that it enjoyed important backing. Some observers believed that Taleban had ties to Pakistan's secret service, even though Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and other Pakistani officials denied such a connection. Pakistan, however, would clearly profit by having secure trade routes to Central Asia and the restoration of Pashtun preeminence in Afghanistan.

      By February Taleban forces had moved into central Afghanistan, where they occupied the headquarters of Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami. Hekmatyar had been bombarding Kabul in an effort to drive Rabbani from office, but when he was forced to flee, he abandoned large stocks of heavy weapons and aircraft. The Taleban next attacked the pro-Iranian Wahdat militia, a Shi'ite group that had also been attacking Kabul. In March the Taleban captured its leader, Abdul Ali Mazari, who was killed within days under unclear circumstances. Taleban forces then attacked Rabbani's troops, but this time the students were unable to hold positions directly threatening Kabul. Their image, moreover, was damaged when the rockets they fired on Kabul killed numerous civilians, but the attacks nevertheless continued through December.

      In northwestern Afghanistan Gen. 'Abd ar-Rashid Dostam continued to strengthen his independent position in Mazar-i-Sharif. With the destruction of Kabul, almost two-thirds of Afghanistan's total population was living in territory controlled by the Uzbek general. With a well-equipped army of 60,000, he continued to build economic and diplomatic relations with Afghanistan's neighbours. For Pakistan and Iran, Dostam's authority promised stable trade links to Central Asia, where he was seen as insurance against the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.

      Ismail Khan, a close ally of Rabbani, had achieved a degree of normality in Herat until early September, when Taleban militias overran the area and Ismail escaped to Iran. Although the Pashtun population was a minority in the area, the new Taleban administration undertook the Islamization of society amid tension and suspicion. In Kabul an angry crowd stormed the embassy of Pakistan as relations between Kabul and Islamabad degenerated.

      (STEVE SEGO)

▪ 1995

      Afghanistan is a landlocked Islamic state in central Asia. Area: 652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 16,903,000 (excluding Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1.5 million in Pakistan and 1.8 million in Iran). Cap.: Kabul. Monetary unit: afghani, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 2,605 afghanis to U.S. $1 (4,144 afghanis = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Burhanuddin Rabbani; prime minister to June 28, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (term expired and not extended).

      Destructive and inconclusive fighting between forces loyal to Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and troops loyal to Pres. Burhanuddin Rabbani in 1994 resulted in the disintegration of central state authority and weakened the cohesion of the multinational state.

      On January 1 Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces and those of Gen. 'Abd ar-Rashid Dostam coordinated an artillery and rocket assault on Kabul. The offensive represented a major realignment of forces vying for control of the government. Dostam had precipitated the surrender of Kabul to resistance forces in April 1992 by withdrawing his support from the Soviet-installed regime of Mohammad Najibullah. He placed the greater part of the communist army and air force under his command and assisted the new resistance government fighting Hekmatyar's forces. After intense but inconclusive fighting throughout the year, Kabul remained divided into zones controlled by rival groups. A blockade of Kabul led to fighting in northern Afghanistan over a tenuous road link to neighbouring Tajikistan. The prolonged bombardment reduced most of the Afghan capital to ruins and caused 75% of Kabul's population of two million to flee the area. Outside Kabul the central government's authority all but disappeared. Under the protection of Dostam, Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest industrial complex in Afghanistan, enjoyed relative stability. In Jalalabad local political groups and commanders cooperated to provide basic public services. In Kandahar local rivalries slowed reconstruction. Herat was generally peaceful and secure and began to reclaim its traditional role as commercial centre along trade routes with neighbouring Iran and Turkmenistan.

      In March United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali appointed former Tunisian foreign minister Mahmoud Mestiri head of a special peace commission. He met leaders inside and outside Afghanistan, but no formal UN peace plan was announced. In July Hamid al-Ghabid, secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, led a peace effort, but individual OIC member states were unable to agree on an appropriate solution.

      Rabbani refused to relinquish the presidency when his term expired on June 28, and the Supreme Court in Kabul extended his term for an additional six months. General dissatisfaction over the unending power struggle led to renewed calls to convene a Loya Jirgah, or grand assembly. While many Afghans feared that a Loya Jirgah would serve to reinforce traditional social structures at the expense of social progress, there was movement nonetheless toward some form of assembly that could offer legitimate leadership. In July representatives from throughout Afghanistan and prominent Afghans living abroad met in Herat. Although the delegates endorsed Rabbani's continuance as president, they initiated measures aimed at organizing a Loya Jirgah to choose a new government.

      International rivalries continued to agitate Afghanistan's divided society. The country's large Shi'ite minority and the 1.8 million Afghan refugees in neighbouring Iran automatically gave Tehran a role in Afghan affairs. Saudi Arabia became involved by supporting fractions it saw as a counterweight to Iranian influence. Dostam's military power and previous support of the communist regime ensured close relations between the general, an Afghan Uzbek, and the pro-Russian government of Uzbekistan. Pakistan's role was even more crucial. Not only did Pakistan give refuge to 1.5 million Afghan refugees, but it was permanent home to a section of the Pashtun ethnic group, which traditionally played a leading role in Afghan politics. India and China viewed the strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan as a danger to their own authority in Kashmir and Sinkiang, respectively, while other countries throughout the world were concerned about terrorists trained by Afghanistan's warring factions and the country's expanding drug trafficking. Serious international attention to Afghanistan remained distracted, however, both by the apparent unwillingness of Afghan leaders to cooperate and by attention to international crises elsewhere. (STEVE SEGO)

▪ 1994

      Afghanistan is a landlocked Islamic republic in central Asia. Area: 652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 20,269,000 (excluding Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1.5 million in Pakistan and 2.3 million in Iran). Cap.: Kabul. Monetary unit: afghani, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 1,520 afghanis to U.S. $1 (2,304 afghanis = £1 sterling). President in 1993, Burhanuddin Rabbani; prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (designated on March 8, sworn in on June 17).

       Afghanistan marked the first anniversary of the fall of the communist regime and the birth of an Islamic government, but in general the country had little to celebrate in 1993. One year after a rebel coalition triumphantly ousted the communist president, Mohammad Najibullah, and declared an Islamic government on April 28, 1992, Afghanistan remained a battleground, with rival factions fighting for power and pounding the capital with rockets. An estimated 10,000 people were killed, 750,000 were displaced, and many neighbourhoods in Kabul were devastated. Most UN officials and foreign diplomats left Afghanistan. Although the fighting lessened somewhat in the latter half of 1993, it was still unclear if the nation, which withstood 14 years of civil war, ultimately would be governable. Meanwhile, Najibullah, who had received a promise of safe passage from the UN when it negotiated his abdication, remained in the UN office in Kabul, suffering from a kidney ailment. The UN had been unable to secure his freedom.

      Continuing hostilities also delayed the homecoming of an estimated 3.8 million refugees in Iran and Pakistan, the largest refugee population in the world. The UN believed it would take until the end of 1995 for the 1.5 million Afghans remaining in Pakistan to return home.

      In early January a national assembly of tribal and religious leaders confirmed the acting president, approved the creation of a parliament and a new army, and set a strict Islamic path for Afghanistan. Despite allegations of vote buying, bribery, and threats of renewed civil war, the assembly voted to keep Burhanuddin Rabbani as president. The 53-year-old Islamic scholar was sworn in on January 2. Five of the 10 main rebel groups denounced the council as unrepresentative, however, and described Rabbani's reelection as a declaration of war. The 1,335-member assembly further ordered that only Muslims work for the government, banned all non-Muslim organizations, and declared that radio and television had to conform to Islamic law.

      Despite continuing fighting among the various rebel leaders—principally between government forces under Defense Minister Ahmed Shah Masood and Hezb-i-Islami faction troops loyal to fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar—a 22-member Cabinet was named on May 20. Hekmatyar was designated prime minister in March after his forces captured Masood's ministry building in Kabul, which Hezb-i-Islami troops had been shelling for a year.

      Acceding to Hekmatyar's demands, the May cease-fire agreement called for the Defense Ministry to be run by a commission under President Rabbani. Other Cabinet posts were divided among the 10 major rebel groups, including Mohammad Yunus Khalis' breakaway faction of the Hezb-i-Islami, which had boycotted all past agreements. Afghanistan's minority Shi'ites, allies of Hekmatyar who had been demanding greater representation, were given the Finance and Health ministries.

      Hekmatyar ventured into Kabul in mid-June for the first time since 1992. On June 17 he was formally sworn in as prime minister in a low-key ceremony in a village outside Kabul, the capital. The state-controlled Kabul radio reported on September 27 that the Afghan leadership, after five days of negotiations, had approved an interim constitution and that elections would be held in 1994.

      On the international front Afghanistan made efforts to win support and money from Islamic nations. Prime Minister Hekmatyar visited Tehran in August and returned with a pledge that Iran would help repair roads destroyed in the war and help Afghanistan look for oil and gas. In the same month, Afghanistan said that it would not return Stinger missile launchers supplied by the U.S. to anti-Soviet rebels during the 1978-92 Afghan war. Washington wanted to buy back the antiaircraft weapons to keep them from falling into the hands of terrorists.

      Afghanistan, the world's largest opium grower, according to the UN, produced an estimated 2,000 tons in 1992. This was a concern not only for the West, where the production fueled the illegal heroin trade, but also at home, where it was estimated that 15% of all adult Afghan males age 15-40 were addicted to hard drugs. (DILIP GANGULY)

* * *

Afghanistan, flag of   landlocked, multiethnic country located in the heart of south-central Asia. Lying along important trade routes connecting southern and eastern Asia to Europe and the Middle East, Afghanistan has long been a prize sought by empire builders, and for millennia great armies have attempted to subdue it, leaving traces of their efforts in great monuments now fallen to ruin. The country's forbidding landscape of deserts and mountains has laid many imperial ambitions to rest, as has the tireless resistance of its fiercely independent peoples—so independent that the country has failed to coalesce into a nation but has instead long endured as a patchwork of contending ethnic factions and ever-shifting alliances.

      The modern boundaries of Afghanistan were established in the late 19th century in the context of a rivalry between imperial Britain and tsarist Russia that Rudyard Kipling termed the “Great Game.” Modern Afghanistan became a pawn in struggles over political ideology and commercial influence. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Afghanistan suffered the ruinous effects of civil war greatly exacerbated by a military invasion and occupation by the Soviet Union (1979–89). In subsequent armed struggles, a surviving Afghan communist (communism) regime held out against Islamic insurgents (1989–92), and, following a brief rule by mujahideen groups, an austere movement of religious students—the Taliban—rose up against the country's governing parties and warlords and established a theocratic regime (1996–2001) that soon fell under the influence of a group of well-funded Islamists led by an exiled Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden (bin Laden, Osama). The Taliban regime collapsed in December 2001 in the wake of a sustained U.S.-dominated military campaign aimed at the Taliban and fighters of bin Laden's al-Qaeda (Qaeda, al-) organization. Soon thereafter, anti-Taliban forces agreed to a period of transitional leadership and an administration that would lead to a new constitution and the establishment of a democratically elected government.

      The capital of Afghanistan is its largest city, Kabul. A serene city of mosques and gardens during the storied reign of the emperor Bābur (1526–30), founder of the Mughal Dynasty, and for centuries an important entrepôt on the Silk Road, Kabul lay in ruins following the long and violent Afghan War. So, too, fared much of the country, its economy in shambles and its people scattered and despondent. By the early 21st century an entire generation of Afghans had come to adulthood knowing nothing but war.

      Afghanistan is completely landlocked—the nearest coast lies along the Arabian Sea, about 300 miles (480 km) to the south—and, because of both its isolation and its volatile political history, it remains one of the most poorly surveyed areas of the world. It is bounded to the east and south by Pakistan (including those areas of Kashmir administered by Pakistan but claimed by India), to the west by Iran, and to the north by the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. It also has a short border with Xinjiang, China, at the end of the long, narrow Vākhān (Wakhan Corridor), in the extreme northeast. Its overall area is roughly twice that of Norway.

The Hindu Kush
 Afghanistan's (Afghanistan) shape has been compared to a leaf, of which the Vākhān strip, nestled high in the Pamirs, forms the stem. The outstanding geographic feature of Afghanistan is its mountain range, the Hindu Kush. This formidable range creates the major pitch of Afghanistan from northeast to southwest and, along with its subsidiary ranges, divides Afghanistan into three distinct geographic regions, which roughly can be designated as the central highlands, the northern plains, and the southwestern plateau. When the Hindu Kush itself reaches a point some 100 miles (160 km) north of Kabul, it spreads out and continues westward as a series of ranges under the names of Bābā, Bāyan, Sefīd Kūh (Paropamisus), and others, and each section in turn sends spurs in different directions. One of these spurs is the Torkestān Mountains, which extend northwestward. Other important ranges include the Sīāh Kūh, south of the Harīrūd, and the Ḥeṣār Mountains, which stretch northward. A number of other ranges, including the Mālmand and Khākbād, extend to the southwest. On the eastern frontier with Pakistan, several mountain ranges effectively isolate the interior of the country from the moisture-laden winds that blow from the Indian Ocean. This accounts for the dryness of the climate.

Physiographic regions
      The central highlands—actually a part of the Himalayan (Himalayas) chain—include the main Hindu Kush range. Its area of about 160,000 square miles (414,000 square km) is a region of deep, narrow valleys and lofty mountains, some peaks of which rise above 21,000 feet (6,400 metres). High mountain passes, generally situated between 12,000 and 15,000 feet (3,600 to 4,600 metres) above sea level, are of great strategic importance and include the Shebar Pass, located northwest of Kabul where the Bābā Mountains branch out from the Hindu Kush, and the storied Khyber Pass, which leads to the Indian subcontinent, on the Pakistan border southeast of Kabul. The Badakhshān area in the northeastern part of the central highlands is the location of the epicentres for many of the 50 or so earthquakes that occur in the country each year.

      The northern plains region, north of the central highlands, extends eastward from the Iranian border to the foothills of the Pamirs, near the border with Tajikistan. It comprises some 40,000 square miles (103,000 square km) of plains and fertile foothills sloping gently toward the Amu Darya (the ancient Oxus River). This area is a part of the much larger Central Asian Steppe (Steppe, the), from which it is separated by the Amu Darya. The average elevation is about 2,000 feet (600 metres). The northern plains region is intensively cultivated and densely populated. In addition to fertile soils, the region possesses rich mineral resources, particularly deposits of natural gas.

      The southwestern plateau, south of the central highlands, is a region of high plateaus, sandy deserts, and semideserts. The average elevation is about 3,000 feet (900 metres). The southwestern plateau covers about 50,000 square miles (130,000 square km), one-fourth of which forms the sandy Rīgestān region. The smaller Mārgow Desert of salt flats and desolate steppe lies west of Rīgestān. Several large rivers cross the southwestern plateau; among them are the Helmand River and its major tributary, the Arghandāb.

      Most of Afghanistan lies between 2,000 and 10,000 feet (600 and 3,000 metres) in elevation. Along the Amu Darya in the north and the delta of the Helmand River in the southwest, the elevation is about 2,000 feet (600 metres). The Sīstān depression of the southwestern plateau is roughly 1,500 to 1,700 feet (450 to 500 metres) in elevation.

      Practically the entire drainage system of Afghanistan is enclosed within the country. Only the rivers in the east, which drain an area of 32,000 square miles (83,000 square km), reach the sea. The Kābul River, the major eastern stream, flows into the Indus River in Pakistan, which empties into the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. Almost all the other important rivers of the country originate in the central highlands region and empty into inland lakes or dry up in sandy deserts. The major drainage systems are those of the Amu Darya, Helmand, Kābul, and Harīrūd.

      The Amu Darya, 1,578 miles (2,540 km) long, originates in the glaciers of the Pamirs and drains an area of approximately 93,000 square miles (241,000 square km) in the northeastern and northern parts of the country. It forms the frontier between Afghanistan and the republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for about 600 miles (1,000 km) of its upper course. Two of its major Afghan tributaries, the Kowkcheh and the Qondūz, rise in the mountains of Badakhshān and Kondoz provinces. The Amu Darya becomes navigable from its confluence with the Kowkcheh, 60 miles (100 km) west of the city of Feyẕābād.

      The northwestern drainage system is dominated by the Harīrūd River, originating on the western slopes of the Bābā Mountains, at an elevation of 9,000 feet (2,750 metres). The river flows westward, just south of Herāt and across the broad Herāt Valley. After irrigating the fertile lands of the valley, the Harīrūd turns north about 80 miles (130 km) west of Herāt and forms the border between Afghanistan and Iran for a distance of 65 miles (105 km). It then crosses into Turkmenistan and disappears in the Karakum Desert.

      The principal river in the southwest is the Helmand (Helmand River), which rises in the Bābā Mountains about 50 miles (80 km) west of Kabul and has a course of some 715 miles (1,150 km). With its many tributaries, mainly the Arghandāb, it drains more than 100,000 square miles (259,000 square km). In its course through southern Afghanistan, the Helmand flows north of Rīgestān, crosses the Mārgow Desert, and empties into highly saline seasonal lakes in the Sīstān depression along the Afghan-Iranian border.

      The largest drainage system in the southeastern region is that of the Kābul River, which flows eastward from the slopes of the Paghmān range to join the Indus River in Pakistan. Its major tributary in the south is the Lowgar.

      Afghanistan has few lakes of any considerable size. The two most important are the Ṣāberī (a salt flat that occasionally is inundated) in the southwest and the saline Lake Īstādeh-ye Moqor, situated 60 miles (100 km) south of Ghaznī in the southeast. There are five small lakes in the Bābā Mountains known as the Amīr lakes; they are noted for their unusual shades of colour, from milky white to dark green, a condition caused by the underlying bedrock.

      The country possesses extremes in the quality of its soils. The central highlands have desert-steppe or meadow-steppe types of soil. The northern plains have extremely rich, fertile, loesslike soils, while the southwestern plateau has infertile desert soils except along the rivers, where alluvial deposits can be found. Erosion is much in evidence in the central highlands, especially in the regions affected by seasonal monsoons and heavy precipitation.

      In general, Afghanistan has extremely cold winters and hot summers, typical of a semiarid steppe climate. There are many regional variations, however. While the mountain regions of the northeast have a subarctic climate with dry, cold winters, the mountainous areas on the border of Pakistan are influenced by the Indian monsoons, usually coming between July and September and bringing maritime tropical air masses with humidity and rains. In addition, strong winds blow almost daily in the southwest during the summer. Local variation is also produced by differences in elevation. The weather in winter and early spring is strongly influenced by cold air masses from the north and the Atlantic low from the northwest; these two air masses bring snowfall and severe cold in the highlands and rain in the lower elevations.

      Temperatures vary widely in Afghanistan. Daytime highs over 95 °F (35 °C) occur in the drought-ridden southwestern plateau region. In Jalālābād, one of the hottest localities in the country, the highest temperature, 120 °F (49 °C), has been recorded in July. In the high mountain areas, January temperatures may drop to 5 °F (−15 °C) and below, while at the city of Kabul, located at an elevation of 5,900 feet (1,800 metres), a low of −24 °F (−31 °C) has been recorded.

      In the mountains the annual mean precipitation increases from west to east; there, as in the southeastern monsoon region, it averages about 16 inches (400 mm). National precipitation extremes have been recorded in the Sālang Pass of the Hindu Kush, with a highest annual precipitation of 53 inches (1,350 mm), and in the arid region of Farāh in the west, with only 3 inches (75 mm) per year. Most of the country's precipitation occurs from December to April; in the highlands snow falls from December to March, while in the lowlands it rains intermittently from December to April or May. The summer months are hot, dry, and cloudless everywhere but in the monsoon region.

Plant and animal life
      Vegetation is sparse in the southern part of the country, particularly toward the west, where dry regions and sandy deserts predominate. Trees are rare, and only in the rainy season of early spring is the soil covered with flowering grasses and herbs. The plant cover becomes denser toward the north, where precipitation is more abundant, and at higher elevations the vegetation is almost luxuriant, particularly in the mountainous region north of Jalālābād, where the climate is influenced by the monsoons. The high mountains abound with large forest trees, among which conifers, such as pine and fir, predominate. Some of these trees are 180 feet (55 metres) high. The average elevation for the fir line is over 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). At lower elevations, somewhere between 5,500 and 7,200 feet (1,700 and 2,200 metres), cedar is abundant; below the fir and cedar lines, oak, walnut, alder, ash, and juniper trees can be found. There are also shrubs, several varieties of roses, honeysuckle, hawthorn, and currant and gooseberry bushes.

      Most of the wild animals of the subtropical temperate zone inhabit Afghanistan. Large mammals, formerly abundant, are now greatly reduced in numbers, and the tiger has disappeared. There is still a great variety of wild animals roaming the mountains and foothills, including wolves, foxes, striped hyenas, and jackals. Gazelles, wild dogs, and wild cats, such as snow leopards, are widespread. Wild goats, including the markhor (Cabra falconeri; prized for its long, twisted horns) and the ibex (with long, backward-curving horns), can be found in the Pamirs, and wild sheep, including the urial and argali (or Marco Polo sheep), inhabit the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush. Brown bears are found in the mountains and forests. Smaller animals, such as mongooses, moles, shrews, hedgehogs, bats, and several species of kangaroo rats (jerboas), may be found in the many isolated, sparsely populated areas.

      Birds of prey include vultures, which occur in great numbers, and eagles. Migratory birds abound during the spring and fall seasons. There are also many pheasant, quail, cranes, pelicans, snipe, partridge, and crows.

      There are many varieties of freshwater fish in the rivers, streams, and lakes, but their numbers are not great except on the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush, where the rivers are well stocked with brown trout.

Victor P. Petrov Marvin G. Weinbaum


Ethnic groups
      No national census has been conducted in Afghanistan since a partial count in 1979, and years of war and population dislocation have made an accurate ethnic count impossible. Current population estimates are therefore rough approximations, which show that Pashtuns (Pashtun) comprise somewhat less than two-fifths of the population. The two largest Pashtun tribal (tribe) groups are the Durrānī and Ghilzay. Tajiks (Tajik) are likely to account for some one-fourth of Afghans and Ḥazāra nearly one-fifth. Uzbeks (Uzbek) and Chahar Aimaks each account for slightly more than 5 percent of the population and Turkmen an even smaller portion.

      The Hindu Kush divides the country into northern and southern regions, which can be further subdivided on the basis of topography, national and ethnolinguistic settlement patterns, or historical tradition. Northern Afghanistan, for example, may be subdivided into the Badakhshān-Vākhān region in the east and the Balkh-Meymaneh region in the west. The east, which is mainly a conglomeration of mountains and high plateaus, is inhabited chiefly by Tajiks. Although there are also pockets of Tajiks in other areas of the country, in the east they are sedentary in the plains—where they are mostly farmers and artisans—and semisedentary in the higher valleys. The Tajiks are not divided into clear-cut tribal groups. There are also small numbers of Kyrgyz in the Vākhān in the extreme northeast, where they practice herding.

      The west, which is mostly plains of comparatively low elevation, contains a mixture of peoples in which Uzbeks (Uzbek) and Turkmen, both of Turkic origin, predominate. The Uzbeks are usually farmers, while the Turkmen have traditionally been seminomadic herders. The Uzbeks are the largest Turkic-speaking group in Afghanistan. There are also other smaller Turco-Mongolian groups.

      Southern Afghanistan can be subdivided into four regions—those of Kabul, Kandahār, Herāt, and Ḥazārajāt. The Kabul region combines the area drained by the Kābul River and the high plateau of eastern Afghanistan, bounded in the south by the Gowmal (Gumal) River. This region is the main corridor connecting the other regions and their peoples. The traditional homeland of the Pashtun lies in an area east, south, and southwest of Kabul, but this group is also well represented in the west and north. The Pashtun are divided into a number of tribes, some sedentary and others nomadic, and many live in contiguous territory in Pakistan. This region is also inhabited by Tajiks, and the Nuristani (Nūristāni) inhabit an area of some 5,000 square miles (13,000 square km) north and east of Kabul.

      The Kandahār region is a sparsely populated part of southern Afghanistan. The Durrānī Pashtun, who have formed the traditional nucleus of Afghanistan's social and political elite, live in the area around the city of Kandahār itself, which is located in a fertile oasis near the Arghandāb River, and the Ghilzay inhabit the region between Kabul and Kandahār. In addition, there are a small number of Balochi (Baloch) (Baluchi) and Brahui people in the region.

      The region of Herāt, or western Afghanistan, is inhabited by a mixture of Tajiks, Pashtun, and Chahar Aimak. The life of the region revolves around the city of Herāt. The Chahar Aimak are probably of Turkic or Turco-Mongolian origin, judging by their physical appearance and their housing (Mongolian-style yurts). They are located mostly in the western part of the central mountain region.

      The mountainous region of Ḥazārajāt occupies the central part of the country and is inhabited principally by the Ḥazāra. Because of the scarcity of land, however, many have migrated to other parts of the country. Although Ḥazārajāt is located in the heart of the country, its high mountains and poor communication facilities make it the most isolated part of Afghanistan.

      The people of Afghanistan form a complex mosaic of ethnic and linguistic groups. Pashto (Pashto language) and Persian (Dari (Dari language)), both Indo-European languages, are the official languages of the country. More than two-fifths of the population speak Pashto, the language of the Pashtuns, while about half speak some dialect of Persian. While the Afghan dialect of Persian is generally termed “Dari,” a number of dialects are spoken among the Tajik, Ḥazāra, Chahar Aimak, and Kizilbash peoples, including dialects that are more closely akin to the Persian spoken in Iran (Farsi) or the Persian spoken in Tajikistan (Tajik). The Dari and Tajik dialects contain a number of Turkish and Mongolian words, and the transition from one dialect into another across the country is often imperceptible. Bilingualism is fairly common, and the correlation of language to ethnic group is not always exact. Some non-Pashtuns, for instance, speak Pashto, while a larger number of Pashtuns, particularly in urban areas, have adopted the use of one of the dialects of Persian.

      Other Indo-European languages, spoken by smaller groups, include Western Dardic (Dardic languages) (Nuristani or Kafiri), Balochi (Balochi language), and a number of Indic and Pamiri languages spoken principally in isolated valleys in the northeast. Turkic languages, a subfamily of the Altaic languages, are spoken by the Uzbek and Turkmen peoples, the most recent settlers, who are related to peoples from the steppes of Central Asia. The Turkic languages are closely related; within Afghanistan they include Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz, the last spoken by a small group in the extreme northeast. Afghanistan has very small ethnic groups of Dravidian speakers. Dravidian languages are spoken by the Brahuis (Brahui), residing in the extreme south.

      The present population of Afghanistan contains a number of elements, which, in the course of history and as a result of large-scale migration and conquests, have been superimposed on one another. Dravidians, Indo-Aryans, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols have at different times inhabited the country and influenced its culture and ethnography. Intermixture of the two principal linguistic groups is evident in such peoples as the Ḥazāra and Chahar Aimak, who speak Indo-European languages but have physical and cultural traits usually associated with the Turkic and Mongol peoples of Central Asia.

 Virtually all the people of Afghanistan are Muslims (Islāmic world), of whom some three-fourths are Sunnites of the Ḥanafī branch. The others, particularly the Ḥazāra and Kizilbash, follow either Ithnā ʿAsharī (Ithnā ʿAsharīyah) or Ismāʿīlī (Ismāʿīlīte) Shīʿite Islam. Sufism (Ṣūfism) is practiced widely. The Nuristani are descendants of a large ethnic group, the Kafir, who were forcibly converted to Islam in 1895; the name of their region was then changed from Kāfiristān (“Land of the Infidels”) to Nūrestān (“Land of Light”). There are also a few thousand Hindus and Sikhs.

Settlement patterns
Urban settlement
      Most urban settlements have grown along the road that runs from Kabul southwestward to Kandahār, then northwest to Herāt, northeast to Mazār-e Sharīf, and southeast back to Kabul. The rural population of farmers and nomads is distributed unevenly over the rest of the country, mainly concentrated along the rivers. The most heavily populated part of the country is between the cities of Kabul and Chārīkār. Other concentrations of people can be found east of the city of Kabul near Jalālābād, in the Herāt oasis and the valley of the Harīrūd in the northwest, and in the valley of the Qondūz River in the northeast. The high mountains of the central part of the country and the deserts in the south and southwest are sparsely populated or uninhabited.

      The major cities of Afghanistan are Kabul, Kandahār, Herāt, Baghlān, Jalālābād, Kondoz, Chārīkār, and Mazār-e Sharīf. Kabul is the administrative capital of the country, located south of the Hindu Kush at the crossroads of the trade routes between the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia and between the Middle East and East Asia. It is built on both sides of the Kābul River and is the main centre of economic and cultural activity. Kandahār, second to Kabul in population, is located on the Asian Highway in the south-central part of the country, between Kabul and Herāt. Kandahār became the first capital of modern Afghanistan in 1747 under Aḥmad Shah Durrānī (Aḥmad Shāh Durrānī).

Rural settlement
      Sedentary farmers usually live in small villages, most of them scattered near irrigated land in the valleys of major rivers. These villages, as a rule, are built in the form of small forts. Each fort-village contains several mud houses inhabited by closely connected families who form a defensive community.

      The semisedentary farmers, who breed livestock and raise a few crops, live in the high alpine valleys. Since cultivable land there is scarce, they live in scattered isolated hamlets. Each household owns a few head of livestock, which are moved in summer to the highland pastures. The people usually divide themselves into two groups in summer: one group remains in the hamlet to tend the crops, while the other accompanies the livestock to the highlands.

      The nomads (nomadism) are mainly Pashtun herders; there are also several thousand Balochi and Kyrgyz nomads. They move in groups (tribes or clans) from summer to winter pasturages, living in tents and, while on the move, packing their belongings on the backs of camels, donkeys, and cattle. Between one-sixth and one-fifth of the total population have in the past been classified as nomadic. Since 1977, however, some nomads have been settled in the plains north of the Hindu Kush or in the area of the Helmand Valley (irrigation) Project. More significant, the long period of civil conflict has disrupted the migratory pattern of nomads, and, as a result, their numbers have declined sharply.

Demographic trends
      The establishment of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1978, the Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) invasion of the country the following year, and the continuing conflict following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 severely disrupted the country's population patterns. Civil war and the destruction of towns and villages caused mass movements of people in two major directions—emigration, mainly to Pakistan and Iran, or internal resettlement to the relative safety of Kabul. The population of Kabul is estimated to have doubled in size. Kabul has grown to encompass almost half the urban population of the country. Afghanistan's population is mainly rural; more than two-fifths of the population is under 15 years of age. Life expectancy is about 47 years for men and 46 years for women.

      During the late 1980s some 6 million people—probably one-third of the Afghan population at the time—were refugees (refugee). Some 3.5 million were living in Pakistan, and perhaps another 2 million were in Iran. Although many were repatriated during the 1990s, the numbers of those internally and externally displaced rose again after 2000 as a result of continued civil strife, economic hardship, and an extended and severe drought.

The economy

      When Afghanistan began to plan the development of its economy with Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) assistance in the mid 1950s, it lacked not only the necessary social organization and institutions for modern economic activities but also the managerial and technical skills. The country was at a much lower stage of economic development than most of its neighbours. Between 1956 and 1979, however, the country's economic growth was guided by several five-year and seven-year plans and was aided by extensive foreign assistance. This aid, primarily from the Soviet Union and the United States, accounted for more than four-fifths of government investment and development expenditures during that period. Roads, dams, power plants, and factories were constructed, irrigation projects carried out, and education broadened. When foreign assistance declined in the 1970s, the sale of natural gas to the Soviet Union, albeit at a bargain price, more than compensated in financing budget expenditures.

The Soviet legacy
      The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the subsequent civil war severely disrupted the country's economic development. Agricultural production declined, food shortages were reported, and industrial output stagnated—with the exception of natural gas production and some other industries considered essential by the Soviet Union. The private sector during the Soviet period encompassed primarily agriculture and livestock breeding. There formerly had been a mixed pattern of small, medium, and large landholdings, but this system underwent drastic change, particularly after 1978. The bulk of the trade and transport as well as most manufacturing was in the hands of private entrepreneurs until the late 1970s, when these sectors of the economy were nationalized. Public enterprise was confined to foreign trade, mining, and some industries.

      A balanced budget was achieved with revenue derived principally from the sale of natural gas and from foreign loans and grants. Expenditures were mainly for government ministries, the developmental budget, and interest on foreign debt. The socialist government was committed to developing a mixed, guided economy. In practice, however, the effectiveness of this policy was limited by a paucity of government resources, a cumbersome bureaucracy, and a shortage in technical personnel.

Economic collapse
      However low the Afghan economy had sunk during the period of communist (communism) rule, it was to decline even more under subsequent mujahideen and Taliban governments. After more than two decades of war, and in the face of the Taliban's harsh social policies, few educated Afghans with even rudimentary technical skills remained in the country. In effect, any remains of a modern economy—at least a formal, legal one—largely collapsed during the 1990s. Public and private investment in productive enterprises was rare. Foreign aid agencies and groups, governmental and nongovernmental, provided what few services were available, but these met only basic humanitarian needs.

      During the 1990s economic activity flourished mostly in illicit enterprises, such as growing opium poppies for heroin production and smuggling goods. The taxing of Afghan-Pakistani trade contributed much revenue to the Taliban's war chest. As the Taliban's prime source of income, it overshadowed the taxing of opium trafficking. But that part of trade—encompassing a massive smuggling of duty-free goods—had crippled local industry and revenue collections and created temporary food shortages, inflation, and increased corruption in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. Poppy cultivation was the major source of income for farmers, but they shared little in its full profits. However, the drug (drug abuse) economy did provide essential revenues that enabled the Taliban to pursue its war effort. By the late 1990s Afghanistan had become the world's largest producer of opium and was thought to be the main source of heroin exported to Europe, North America, and elsewhere. Although the Taliban successfully banned the growing of opium poppies in 2000, drug trafficking continued due to large reserves of opium warehoused in the country, and it was not until that regime's collapse that an interim government attempted systematically to eradicate the narcotics trade.

      Most of the population continues to be engaged in agriculture, though the destruction caused by war has been a force for urbanization by driving many from the countryside. Many Afghans brought up in refugee camps lack the farming skills they need to survive, and the country's agricultural sector is in great need of restoration, particularly its destroyed and degraded irrigation system. The road system is similarly damaged, and domestic energy sources need to be developed for both export income and domestic use.

Agriculture and forestry
      Agriculture and animal husbandry, mainly consisting of subsistence farming and pastoral nomadism, are, in more normal times, the most important elements of the gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for nearly half of its total value. Afghanistan is essentially a pastoral country. Only about one-eighth of the total land area is arable, and only about half of the arable acreage is cultivated annually. Much of the arable area consists of fallow cultivated land or steppes and mountains that serve as pastureland. Since much of the land is arid or semiarid, about half of the cultivated land is irrigated. Traditionally, as much as 85 percent of the population drew its livelihood from a rural economy, mostly as farmers.

      The greater profits found in the illegal market for drugs and the smuggling trade have cut heavily into traditional agriculture and food production. Afghanistan now has to import much of its foodstuffs from Pakistan. Prior to the period when poppy growing became widespread, most cultivated land was planted with cereals, with wheat as the chief crop. Other food grains customarily planted were corn (maize), rice, and barley. Cotton was also important, both for a domestic textile industry—when such an industry existed—and for export. Fruits and nuts have also been important export items.

      Animal husbandry produces meat and dairy products for local consumption; skins, especially those of the famous karakul, and wool (both for export and for domestic carpet weaving) are also important products. Livestock includes sheep, cattle, goats, donkeys, horses, camels, buffalo, and mules. About two-thirds of the annual milk production is from cows, the rest from sheep and goats. In addition to the country's many other difficulties, a drought in 2000 killed off some four-fifths of the livestock in southern Afghanistan and crippled the remaining food production.

      Forests cover about 3 percent of the total land area and are found mainly in the eastern part of the country and on the southern slopes of the Hindu Kush. Woodlands in the east consist mainly of conifers, providing timber for the building industry as well as some wild nuts for export. Other trees, especially oaks, are used as fuel. North of the Hindu Kush are pistachio trees, the nuts of which are a traditional export. Deforestation has become a major problem, as much of the country's timber has been harvested for fuel—because of shortages brought on by 20 years of warfare—and for illegal export.

Resources and power
      Extensive surveys have revealed the existence of a number of minerals of economic importance. The most significant discovery has been natural gas deposits, with large reserves near Sheberghān near the Turkmenistan border, about 75 miles (120 km) west of Mazār-e Sharīf. The Khvājeh Gūgerdak and Yatīm Tāq fields were major producers, with storage and refining facilities. Until the 1990s, pipelines delivered natural gas to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and to a thermal power plant and chemical fertilizer plant in Mazār-e Sharīf.

      Petroleum resources have proved to be insignificant. Many coal deposits have been found in the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush. Major coal fields are at Maʿdan-e Karkar and Eshposhteh, between Kabul and Mazār-e Sharīf, and Qalʿeh-ye Sarkārī, southwest of Mazār-e Sharīf. In general, however, Afghanistan's energy resources, including its large reserves of natural gas, remain untapped, and fuel shortages are chronic.

      High-grade iron ore has been discovered at Ḥājjī Gak, northwest of Kabul. Copper has been mined at ʿAynak, near Kabul, and uranium in the mountains near Khvājah Rawāsh, east of Kabul. There are deposits of copper, lead, and zinc near Kondoz; beryllium in Khāṣ Konaṛ; chrome ore in the Lowgar River valley near Herāt; and the semiprecious stone lapis lazuli in Badakhshān. Afghanistan also has deposits of rock salt, beryl, barite, fluorspar, bauxite, lithium, tantalum, gold, silver, asbestos, mica, and sulfur. Taxation of mined and traded lapis lazuli and emeralds helped finance anti-Taliban forces during the civil war.

      The development of Central Asian natural gas and oil resources has sparked international interest in Afghanistan as a route for pipelines (pipeline) to markets in South Asia and beyond. If built, a pipeline could carry gas and, later, oil from Turkmenistan over some 1,100 miles (1,750 km), mostly through Afghanistan, to Multan in Pakistan for transshipment. Such a pipeline could become a major source of income for Afghanistan and also offer a source of training and employment to Afghans.

      Afghanistan is potentially rich in hydroelectric resources. However, the seasonal flow of the country's many streams and waterfalls—torrential in spring, when the snow melts in the mountains, but negligible in summer—necessitates the costly construction of dams and reservoirs in remote areas. The country's negligible demand for electricity renders such projects unprofitable except near large cities or industrial centres. The potential of hydroelectricity has been tapped substantially only in the Kabul-Jalālābād region.

      In peaceful times, manufacturing is based mainly on agricultural and pastoral raw materials. Most important is the cotton textile industry. The country also produces rayon and acetate fibres. Other manufactured products are cement, sugar, vegetable oil, furniture, soap, shoes, and woolen textiles. A nitrogenous fertilizer plant, based on natural gas, has been constructed in Mazār-e Sharīf, and phosphate fertilizers are also produced. A cement factory continues to operate in Pol-e Khomrī. In addition, a number of traditional handicrafts are practiced in Afghanistan, including carpet weaving, which in times past accounted for a fair proportion of the country's export earnings.

      The largest bank in the country, the Bank of Afghanistan, became the centre of the formal banking system. It formerly played an important role in determining and implementing the country's financial policies. Traditionally, private money traders provide nearly all the services of a commercial bank. The currency, the afghani, underwent rampant inflation beginning in the 1990s, and as a result precious metals and gems became a common form of currency for large transactions. A sanction imposed in 1999 by the United Nations (UN) against the Taliban government froze government accounts abroad and closed the few branches of Afghan banks outside the country. Despite these measures, the Taliban and their al-Qāʿidah (Qaeda, al-) supporters (al-Qāʿidah is an Islamic extremist group that found refuge under the Taliban) removed large quantities of bullion and currency from Afghanistan during the U.S. military campaign of 2001, virtually bankrupting the country. Thus, it became imperative that the post-Taliban regime establish a functioning banking and monetary system with a sound new currency as a major component of national reconstruction.

      Total annual imports have customarily exceeded exports. Prior to the fall of Afghanistan's communist regime, roughly two-thirds of exports went to the former Soviet republics to the north, and much of the rest went to the United Kingdom and Germany. The Soviet state was also the leading source of imports, followed by Japan, Singapore, China, and India. The principal export, natural gas, flowed mostly to the Soviet Union until pipelines were closed. Traditional exports are dried fruits, nuts, carpets, wool, and karakul pelts, and imports include vehicles, petroleum products, sugar, textiles, processed animal and vegetable oils, and tea. Since the mid 1990s Pakistan and Iran have served as the major suppliers of consumer goods.

      Until the collapse of the communist regime in 1992, the service sector—including public administration, military spending, and retail sales—accounted for less than one-fourth of GDP. Although there have been no official statistics since then, government spending fell sharply over the decade, and, like other segments of the economy, retail sales suffered from the country's general economic malaise. Purchasing power in the post-Taliban period began to recover with the revival of government programs that were funded mainly by international donors.

Labour and taxation
      The bulk of the population in the rural areas consists of small farmers exploiting their tiny plots of land. The majority of the city and town dwellers are artisans, small traders, or government employees. The industrial labour force, always small, is now hardly visible, and labour unions have failed to develop. Traditional loyalties to families and tribes (tribe) are stronger than those to workers' organizations.

      The Afghan government has traditionally received much of its revenue from foreign aid—particularly during the Soviet era—and as a consequence the Afghan people have generally been lightly taxed. Taxation during the mujahideen and Taliban period often took the form of levies placed on the illicit cross-border trade between Pakistan and other countries, on cultivating opium poppies and manufacturing heroin, and on extracting and exporting semiprecious stones. Following the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, the interim government relied largely on foreign aid and subsidies from donor nations.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Being a landlocked country, Afghanistan depends primarily on transit facilities from its neighbours for its international trade. It lacks railways, has few navigable rivers, and relies on roads as the mainstay of its transport system. These factors drive up transportation costs and also add to the difficulty of integrating the transport system of the country with those of its neighbours. Nevertheless, in the 1960s major efforts were directed toward upgrading the highway system and connecting the main trading centres of the country with one another, as well as with the railheads or road networks of neighbouring countries.

      The road network of Afghanistan connects railheads in Gushgy, Turkmenistan, and Termiz, Uzbekistan, with those at Chaman and Peshawar, Pakistan, respectively, and provides for direct overland transit between the countries to the north and the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent. The most important Afghan highways are those connecting Kabul with Shīr Khān, on the northern border, and with Peshawar. Other paved roads link Kandahār, Herāt, and Mazār-e Sharīf with Kabul and with frontier towns of Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. During the civil war, however, the road system was severely damaged from the fighting and from disrepair. Its rehabilitation has become a high priority in any program of national reconstruction.

      Despite the rapid development of motor transport, camels and donkeys are still commonly used as draft animals. In the countryside many people have not abandoned their cherished horses, which are an important source of prestige.

      Almost all provincial centres have at least a seasonally operable airport. There are international airports at Kabul and Kandahār. Afghanistan, however, has limited air service and only one airline, the national carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines. UN restrictions imposed in 1999 and again in 2001, aimed at punishing the Taliban government for its alleged support of international terrorism, limited international routes for Ariana and prohibited other airlines from scheduling flights into the country.

      Afghanistan's communications infrastructure is one of the least developed in the world. Telephone service is sparse, with only one main telephone line per thousand persons. As of 2002 there was no cellular telephone or Internet service in any part of the country. Radio receivers are fairly pervasive, with roughly one radio receiver per 10 people. Afghans who have access to shortwave radio listen to international broadcasts—including the Voice of America's Dari and Pashto programs and the BBC Pashto Service—which are primary sources of information. The number of televisions per capita is only one per hundred residents. Wealthy Afghans have satellite dishes and are able to receive foreign broadcasts; domestic television reception is limited to Kabul.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      Until the mid 20th century, Afghanistan was ruled by the absolute power of the king. Two constitutions were promulgated, in 1923 and 1931, both affirming the power of the monarchy. The constitution of 1964, however, provided for a constitutional monarchy based on the separation of executive, legislative, and judicial authorities. A military coup in 1973 overthrew the monarchy, abolished the constitution of 1964, and established the Republic of Afghanistan. The Grand Assembly (Loya Jirga) adopted a new constitution in February 1977, but it was abrogated in 1978 when another coup established the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, governed by the Afghan Revolutionary Council. Political turmoil continued, marked by a third coup in September 1979, a massive invasion of troops from the Soviet Union, and the installation of a socialist government in December 1979. Another new constitution—promulgated in 1987 and revised in 1990—changed the name of the country back to the Republic of Afghanistan, reaffirmed its nonaligned status, strengthened the post of president, and permitted other parties to participate in government. The communist (communism) regime, which had managed to hold power after the Soviet forces departed early in 1989, fell in 1992, and a coalition of victorious mujahideen parties formed a government (recognized by the UN) and named the country the Islamic State of Afghanistan. The new government was driven from the capital in 1996 by a movement based in Kandahār and calling itself the Taliban. The Taliban leaders promptly changed the name of the country to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In December 2001 the Taliban was toppled by a coalition of Afghan parties supported by the United States. Neither of these postcommunist governments, both espousing the supremacy of Islamic law, had promulgated a new constitution for the country.

      Many Afghans continue to believe that “the highest manifestation of the will of the people of Afghanistan” is vested in the institution of the Loya Jirga. As a specially convened national assembly, it has traditionally held the power to amend and interpret the constitution, declare war, and adopt decisions on the most critical national issues. Because the Loya Jirga is closely associated with the rule of monarchy, it is revered most by those Afghans, especially in the dominant Pashtun community, who seek a more ethnically representative government than was initially installed following the Taliban's overthrow.

Political process
      Those government institutions established during the reign of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (1880–1901) laid the groundwork for the modern Afghan state. They gave primacy to a strong military, centralized government control from Kabul, and signaled the primacy of the Pashtun as the country's ruling group.

      In practice, however, Afghan governments have never succeeded in extending their rule very deeply at the local level. This reality has meant that local influentials and power brokers would not challenge the state, and the state, in turn, would refrain from trying to interfere with them. Whatever the regime in power, a high degree of autonomy has allowed local areas to pursue economic activities and to follow tribal (tribe) and localized law and customs. To administer the government's few extractive and allocative powers, the country was divided administratively into provinces, each headed by a centrally appointed governor. The provinces were further subdivided into districts and subdistricts headed by appointed officials.

Informal institutions and justice
      Governments have also worked through largely informal consultative bodies at the local level, such as community councils (shūrās) and tribal assemblies (jirgas), many of which have continued to function regardless of changes in national politics. In the absence of an effective central government, Afghan communities have their own social norms, but none so elaborate as Pashtun tribal law, known as Pashtunwali. With the advent of the Taliban, Islamic courts and an Islamic administration of justice through interpretation of the law by clergy (ʿulamāʾ) assumed greater prominence. These changes have widely replaced the authority once exercised by traditional local leaders, or khans.

Weak central government
      Afghanistan has relied far more on foreign subsidies and export taxes than on internal taxes to finance its limited scope of activities. As in other rentier states, the authorities were better able to distribute resources than to collect them. It was unnecessary for national government institutions to be very effective, since there was little policy to implement. If called upon to enforce a more active government, the existing institutions were bound to invite challenge and be prone to collapse. The most far-reaching and ultimately disastrous attempt to expand the penetration of the Kabul government occurred during the early years of communist rule that began in 1978 and eventually led to civil war and chaos.

      Following the collapse of the communist regime in 1992, government security apparatuses quickly dissolved. Individual mujahideen factions—formerly funded by foreign interests wishing to overthrow the regime—maintained their own militias and skirmished over control of the capital city and the countryside. Central government control extended little farther than Kabul itself, and law and order broke down almost entirely. The Taliban's emergence can be traced largely to the absence of security and to the exhaustion of the population from years of civil war. Under Taliban rule—which after 1998 covered all but a small area of the northeast—the roads were secure and personal safety improved for most Afghans. However, armed Taliban devotees also kept close watch for any signs of irreligion and executed harsh punishments on perceived offenders. In fighting that continued in the northeast—between the Taliban and a coalition of mujahideen factions known as the Northern Alliance—ethnic cleansing and war atrocities were perpetrated by both sides.

      The security environment in the post-Taliban period has been threatened by many factors. Thousands of land mines (land mine) and large quantities of unexploded ordnance continue to litter the countryside. The return of many warlords expelled by the Taliban and the emergence of new power brokers spawned by the civil war has fragmented authority across the country. Regional commanders have sizable militias that they can use to compete over territory and resources, and small groups of Taliban and al-Qāʿidah (Qaeda, al-) fighters have remained capable of mounting guerrilla raids. The presence of international peacekeeping forces and other military units, although limited in their number and scope of operation, has precluded the most serious armed conflict and enhanced the authority of the central government.

Health and welfare
 Based on the levels of infant mortality and life expectancy, Afghanistan has one of the least-developed health care systems in the world. The absence of potable water in most parts of the country is responsible for the widespread incidence of waterborne diseases. No more than one-eighth of the population, mostly in urban areas, had access to safe water during the 1990s. Only a small number have access to health care. Medical training is nonexistent, and the medical aid that is available is provided principally by international and nongovernmental organizations. Services offered by the government are minimal. The major proportion of medical services is concentrated in Kabul, and many rural areas do not have hospitals or doctors. Moreover, upon their arrival to power, the Taliban prohibited women—who at that time constituted a significant portion of trained medical workers—from working in that field, further debilitating an already weakened health care sector. There is no welfare system provided by the state, and the care and tending of the wounded from a generation of warfare—particularly the many thousands maimed by the vast number of land mines still found in the country—is a major social problem.

      Afghanistan's climatic and ethnic diversity has contributed to a wide variety of traditional habitations, particularly among the country's large rural population. Nomadic (nomadism) and transhumant groups have traditionally relied on yurts in the north—these are generally found among the Turkic and Mongol peoples—and tents in the south. The latter are favoured among the Pashtun groups. In the northern and western parts of the country, traditional sedentary settlements often have consisted of fortified villages of stone and mud-brick known as qalʿahs (“fortresses”), whereas in the northern and eastern mountain regions wooden, multistoried dwellings were customary among the Nuristani.

      Until the modern period, urban dwellings were located within modest-sized walled cities, unchanged for centuries in their basic layout. It was only in the 20th century that urban centres began to spill outside the city walls and to take on characteristics associated with Western models, including high-rises, paved roads, and city services. Urban life deteriorated rapidly after the collapse of the communist regime, and a number of cities suffered severe damage to their infrastructures during the 1990s and early 21st century. By that time, few city services—electricity, water, sewage disposal—remained intact. Regardless, a large number of people fled the countryside, seeking shelter from the civil war. These people remained poorly housed and, lacking a central government, were forced to rely on private means for shelter. Rebuilding the country's housing stock has been one of the major tasks in national reconstruction.

      Education is free at all levels, and elementary education is officially compulsory wherever it is provided by the state. Nonetheless, even in the best of years, less than one-fourth of all Afghan children have attended school. Although there are primary schools throughout the country, there are secondary schools in only the provincial and some district centres. Under the Taliban, opportunities for schooling declined, and instruction was devoted mostly to Qurʾānic studies. Public education for girls virtually disappeared. In the late 1990s less than half of the male population was estimated to be literate, and probably no more than one in seven women.

      Higher education has been limited to two institutions: Kabul University, founded in 1946 by the incorporation of a number of faculties, the oldest of which is the faculty of medicine, established in 1932, and the University of Nangarhār, established in Jalālābād in 1963. The civil war interfered with their operation, especially during the 1990s and again during the U.S. military campaign in 2001.

Cultural life
      Afghanistan has a rich cultural heritage covering more than 5,000 years and absorbing elements from many cultures, especially those of Iran (Persia) and India. Even elements of Greek culture can be traced to the Hellenistic Age. This blend of cultures flourished at many points in Afghan history, notably under the reign of the Mughal emperors, when Kabul and Herāt emerged as important centres of art and learning. Largely because of its almost complete isolation from the outside world, however, little in art, literature, or architecture was produced between the 16th and early 20th centuries. Because most Afghans live outside the cities, their mode of living can be described as peasant tribal. kinship is the basis of social life and determines the patriarchal character of the community.

      Afghans are also identified by their qawm, a term that can refer to affinity with almost any kind of social group. It essentially divides “us” from “them” and helps to distinguish members of one large ethnic or tribal group, or one clan or village, from another. Particular responsibilities and advantages go with membership, and the stability of social and political institutions may vary with their qawm composition.

Daily life and social customs
      Religion has long played a paramount role in the daily life and social customs of Afghanistan. Even under the mujahideen leaders, Afghanistan appeared to be on a course of Islamization: the sale of alcohol was banned, and women were pressured to cover their heads in public and adopt traditional Muslim dress. But far more stringent practices were imposed as the Taliban enforced its Islamic code in areas under its control. These measures included banning television sets and most other forms of entertainment. Men who failed to grow beards and leave them untrimmed were fined and jailed—full beardedness being perceived by extremists as the mark of a Muslim—and little mercy was shown to convicted criminals. These and other policies were not widely popular, and the Taliban was subject to reproach at home and abroad for its inability to build a national administrative structure. But, in the absence of viable alternatives, most Afghans appeared to accept Taliban dictates for the more orderly society it brought.

      Daily life for Afghan women has changed radically in recent years. In the 1960s the wearing of a veil became voluntary, and women found employment in offices and shops; some women also received a university education. The situation changed, however, after 1992 and particularly following the Taliban's capture of Kabul in 1996. Authorities closed down girls' schools and forced women to give up employment in nearly all occupations. Strong penalties were applied against women who were not fully covered in the streets or who were found in the company of males unrelated to them.

      Today, in the post-Taliban era, daily life for most Afghans revolves around the exigencies of rebuilding a war-ravaged state. With increasing stability has come a greater and steadier food supply, but, in general, poor nutrition among Afghans has remained a serious cause of concern, especially in light of the neglect and destruction wrought upon the agricultural system during the war and the extended drought since the late 1990s. The staple of the Afghan diet is bread (nān), most commonly flat and oblong in shape and typically eaten when freshly removed from an earthen oven. Traditional cuisine consists of a variety of roast meats or meat pies (sanbūseh), stewed vegetables, rice pilaf, and a thick noodle soup (āsh) accompanied by fresh fruit and an assortment of yogurt-based sauces. The wide absence of clean drinking water and of adequate sanitation has ensured continuation of a high mortality rate, especially among young children. Outside the large cities, electricity is reserved for the privileged few.

 On the brighter side of daily life, the ban enforced by the Taliban on most forms of entertainment has been lifted, and the social atmosphere has become more relaxed. Afghans are again enjoying activities from kite flying to football, and photography is no longer prohibited. Though facilities are minimal, schools have been reopened—including those for girls—and women are once again entering the workforce. However, urban women have continued to wear the chador (or chadri, in Afghanistan), the full body covering mandated by the Taliban. This has been true even of those women of the middle class (most in Kabul) who had shed that garment during the communist era. Some men have shaved or trimmed their beards, but, aside from disregarding the style of turban associated with the Taliban, most have continued to dress traditionally—generally in the loose, baggy trousers typical of many parts of South and Central Asia, over which are worn a long overshirt and a heavy vest.

The arts and cultural institutions
      In music and dance, a revival of traditional folksinging has gone hand in hand with the imitation of modern Western and Indian music. Afghan music is different from Western music in many ways, particularly in its scales, note intervals, pitch, and rhythm, but it is closer to Western than to Asian music. Afghans celebrate their religious or national feast days, and particularly weddings, by public dancing. The performance of the attan dance in the open air has long been a feature of Afghan life. It became the national dance of the Pashtun and then of the entire country. Under the Taliban regime, however, all performances of music and dance—and even listening to or watching the same—were forbidden as un-Islamic.

      Afghanistan's literary heritage is among the richest in Central Asia and is heir to a number of ethnic and linguistic traditions. Herāt, in particular, was a noted centre of Persian literary and scholarly pursuit; the Arabic-language author al-Hamadhānī (Hamadhānī, al-) settled there in the 10th century, as did the famous Persian-language poet Jāmī 500 years later. The theologian Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (Fakhr ad-Dīn ar-Rāzī) settled in Herāt in the 12th century, and in the following century the city of Balkh, once a great centre of learning, was the birthplace of the renowned poet Jalāl al-Dīn al-Rūmī (Rūmī) (although the latter left the region at a young age). The great Afghan chieftain and poet Khushḥāl Khan Khaṭak founded Pashto literature in the 17th century.

 Archaeological research carried out since 1922 has uncovered many fine works of art of the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. A revival of the traditional arts and an interest in new forms of expression have given a new dynamism to artistic creation. Of the new painters, some draw direct inspiration from the Herāt school of the 15th-century Timurid period; others are influenced by Western styles. Between the early 1950s and mid 1970s the government encouraged the restoration and redecoration of some of the old monuments of architectural value. However, the world-renowned ancient statues of Buddha in the caves of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan were destroyed in 2001 after the Taliban condemned them as idolatrous. The destruction was denounced worldwide.

      The School of Fine Arts was established in Kabul in the 1930s. In architecture, the traditional Timurid techniques are preserved, particularly in the design of the exterior walls of mosques or tombs. Handicrafts include the world-renowned Afghan carpets and copper utensils.

      Afghanistan's cultural institutions suffered greatly during the period of civil war, particularly under the successive mujahideen and Taliban regimes; most are now either defunct or in abeyance. In February 2002, however, the National Gallery of Art reopened its doors after having managed to hide many of the treasures under its care during the Taliban rule.

Sports and recreation
      Afghanistan's traditional sports are individualistic and generally martial—even the childhood pastime of kite flying takes on a competitive edge, as youths often engage in contests to sever the kite strings of competitors. Wrestling, for individual and group honour, is universal, and shooting, both for game and for sport, is widespread. The sturdy and agile Afghan hound, popular in the West for its beauty, originally was bred for speed, agility, and hunting ability. The foremost sport in terms of popularity is indisputably the game of buzkashī. Often termed the Afghan national pastime, this rugged contest pits horsemen—sometimes in teams but often as individuals—against one another in a challenge to secure the headless carcass of a goat or calf (weighing about 50–100 pounds [20–40 kg]) and carry it to a goal while simultaneously fending off competitors.

      Western-style team sports never gained widespread popularity in Afghanistan, but the country made its first Olympic appearance in the 1936 Summer Games. It has since fielded teams only intermittently, and its last appearance was in the Summer Games of 1988. Afghanistan has never sent athletes to the Winter Games.

Media and publishing
      Traditionally, the regimes that have ruled Afghanistan have had little tolerance for a free press. This was especially true under the Taliban. Since the Taliban's demise, the local press has exploded with new publications. Dozens of new papers and magazines have appeared, about one-third government-controlled and most weeklies. High production costs and a shortage of printing facilities has left the country with only one regularly appearing daily newspaper, a state-owned publication, Arman. The country's low rate of literacy has limited the number of readers, but the long-standing practice of reading newspapers aloud in public places has greatly expanded the number of Afghans who have access to the printed word. Censorship has not been widely practiced by the interim government.

Marvin G. Weinbaum

      Variations on the word Afghan may be as old as a 3rd-century-AD Sāsānian reference to “Abgan.” The earliest Muslim reference to the Afghans probably dates to 982, but tribes related to the modern Afghans have lived in the region for many generations. For millennia the land now called Afghanistan has been the meeting place of four cultural and ecological areas: the Middle East, Central Asia (Central Asia, history of), South Asia, and East Asia.

      Paleolithic (Paleolithic Period) (Old Stone Age) peoples probably roamed Afghanistan as early as 100,000 years ago. The earliest definite evidence of human occupation was found in the cave of Darra-i-Kur in Badakhshān, where a transitional Neanderthal skull fragment in association with Mousterian-type tools was discovered; the remains are of the Middle Paleolithic Period, dating to about 30,000 years ago. Caves near Āq Kupruk yielded evidence of an early Neolithic (Neolithic Period) culture (c. 9000–6000 BC) based on domesticated animals. Archaeological research since World War II has revealed Bronze Age sites, dating both before and after the Indus civilization of the 3rd to the 2nd millennium BC. There was trade with Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Egypt, and the main export from the Afghan area was lapis lazuli from the mines of Badakhshān. In addition, a site with definite links to the Indus civilization has been excavated at Shortughai near the Amu Darya, northeast of Kondoz.

Historical beginnings (to the 7th century AD)
The Achaemenids (Achaemenian Dynasty) and the Greeks
      In the 6th century BC the Achaemenian ruler Cyrus II (the Great) established his authority over the area. Darius I (the Great) consolidated Achaemenian rule of the region through the provinces, or satrapies, of Aria (in the region of modern Herāt), Bactria (Balkh), Sattagydia (modern Ghaznī to the Indus River), Arachosia (Kandahār), and Drangiana (Sīstān).

       Alexander the Great overthrew the Achaemenids and conquered most of the Afghan satrapies before he left for India in 327 BC. Ruins of an outpost Greek (Hellenistic Age) city founded about 325 BC were discovered at Ay Khānom, at the confluence of the Amu Darya and Kowkcheh River. Excavations there produced inscriptions and transcriptions of Delphic precepts written in a script influenced by cursive Greek. Greek decorative elements dominate the architecture, including an immense administrative centre, a theatre, and a gymnasium. A nomadic raid about 130 BC ended the Greek era at Ay Khānom.

      After Alexander's death in 323 BC, the eastern satrapies passed to the Seleucid (Seleucid kingdom) dynasty, which ruled from Babylon. About 304 BC the territory south of the Hindu Kush was ceded to the Maurya (Mauryan empire) dynasty of northern India. Bilingual rock inscriptions in Greek and Aramaic (the official language of the Achaemenids) found at Kandahār and Laghmān (in eastern Afghanistan) date from the reign of Ashoka (Aśoka (Ashoka); c. 265–238 BC, or c. 273–232 BC), the Maurya dynasty's most renowned emperor. Diodotus (Diodotus II), a local Greco-Bactrian (Bactria) governor, declared the Afghan plain of the Amu Darya independent about 250 BC; Greco-Bactrian conquerors moved south about 180 BC and established their rule at Kabul and in the Punjab. The Parthians (Parthia) of eastern Iran also broke away from the Seleucids, establishing control over Sīstān and Kandahār in the south.

The Kushāns (Kushan dynasty)
      About 135 BC a loose confederation of five Central Asian nomadic tribes known as the Yuezhi wrested Bactria from the Bactrian Greeks. These tribes united under the banner of the Kushān (Kushan dynasty) (Kuṣāṇa), one of the five tribes, and conquered the Afghan area. The zenith of Kushān power was reached in the 2nd century AD under King Kaniṣka (Kaniska) (c. AD 78–144), whose empire stretched from Mathura in north-central India beyond Bactria as far as the frontiers of China in Central Asia.

 The Kushāns were patrons of the arts and of religion. A major branch of the Silk Road—which carried luxury goods and facilitated the exchange of ideas between Rome, India, and China—passed through Afghanistan, where a transshipment centre existed at Balkh. Indian pilgrims traveling the Silk Road introduced Buddhism to China during the early centuries AD, and Buddhist Gandhāra art flourished during this period. The world's largest Buddha figures (175 feet [53 metres] and 120 feet [about 40 metres] tall) were carved into a cliff at Bamiyan in the central mountains of Afghanistan during the 4th and 5th centuries AD; the statues were destroyed in 2001 by the country's ruling Taliban. Further evidence of the trade and cultural achievement of the period has been recovered at the Kushān summer capital of Bagrām, north of Kabul; it includes painted glass from Alexandria; plaster matrices, bronzes, porphyries, and alabasters from Rome; carved ivories from India; and lacquers from China. A massive Kushān city at Delbarjin, north of Balkh, and a major gold hoard of superb artistry near Sheberghān, west of Balkh, also have been excavated.

The Sāsānids and Hephthalites
      The Kushān empire did not long survive Kaniṣka, though for centuries Kushān princes continued to rule in various provinces. Persian Sāsānids (Sāsānian dynasty) established control over parts of Afghanistan, including Bagrām, in AD 241. In 400 a new wave of Central Asian nomads under the Hephthalites (Hephthalite) took control, only to be defeated in 565 by a coalition of Sāsānids and Western Turks. From the 5th through the 7th century many Chinese Buddhist pilgrims continued to travel through Afghanistan. The pilgrim Xüanzang (Xuanzang) wrote an important account of his travels, and several of the religious centres he visited, including Hadda, Ghazna (Ghaznī), Kondoz, Bamiyan, Shotorak, and Bagrām, have been excavated.

The 7th–18th centuries
      Under the Hephthalites and Sāsānids, many of the Afghan princedoms were influenced by Hinduism. The Hindu kings of the Shāhī family (Shāhi Family) were concentrated in the Kabul and Ghaznī areas. Excavated sites of the period include a major Hindu Shāhī temple north of Kabul and a chapel in Ghaznī that contains both Buddhist and Hindu statuary, indicating that there was a mingling of these two religions.

The first Muslim dynasties
      Islamic (Islāmic world) armies defeated the Sāsānids in 642 at the Battle of Nahāvand (Nahāvand, Battle of) (near modern Hamadān, Iran) and advanced into the Afghan area, but they were unable to hold the territory; cities submitted, only to rise in revolt, and the hastily converted returned to their old beliefs once the armies had passed. The 9th and 10th centuries witnessed the rise of numerous local Islamic dynasties. One of the earliest was the Ṭāhirids (Ṭāhirid Dynasty) of Khorāsān, whose kingdom included Balkh and Herāt; they established virtual independence from the ʿAbbāsid Caliphate in 820. The Ṭāhirids were succeeded in 867–869 by a native dynasty from Sīstān, the Ṣaffārids (Ṣaffārid Dynasty). Local princes in the north soon became feudatories of the powerful Sāmānids, who ruled from Bukhara. From 872 to 999 Bukhara, Samarkand, and Balkh enjoyed a golden age under Sāmānid rule.

Louis Dupree Nancy Hatch Dupree  In the middle of the 10th century a former Turkish slave named Alptigin seized Ghazna (Ghaznī). He was succeeded by another former slave, Subüktigin, who extended the conquests to Kabul and the Indus. His son was the great Maḥmūd of Ghazna, who came to the throne in 998. Maḥmūd conquered the Punjab and Multan and carried his raids into the heart of India. The hitherto obscure town of Ghazna became a splendid city, as did the second capital at Bust (Lashkar Gāh).

      Maḥmūd's descendants continued to rule over a gradually diminishing empire until 1150, when ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Ḥusayn of Ghūr, a mountain-locked region in central Afghanistan, sacked Ghazna and drove the last Ghaznavid (Ghaznavid Dynasty) into India. ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn's nephew, Muʿizz al-Dīn Muḥammad (Muʿizz-ud-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Sām), known as Muḥammad of Ghūr, first invaded India in 1175. After his death in 1206, his general, Quṭb al-Dīn Aybak (Quṭb-ud-Dīn Aybak), became the sultan of Delhi.

      Shortly after Muḥammad of Ghūr's death, the Ghurīd (Ghūrid Sultanate) empire fell apart, and Afghanistan was occupied by Sultan ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Muḥammad, the Khwārezm-Shah. The territories of the Khwārezm-Shah dynasty (Khwārezm-Shāh Dynasty) extended from Chinese Turkistan in the east to the borders of Iraq in the west.

Frank Raymond Allchin

The Mongol invasion
       Genghis Khan invaded the eastern part of ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn's empire in 1219. Avoiding a battle, ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn retreated to a small island in the Caspian Sea, where he died in 1220. Soon after ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn's death, his energetic son Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu rallied the Afghan highlanders at Parwan (modern Jabal os Sarāj), near Kabul, and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mongols under Kutikonian. Genghis Khan, who was then at Herāt, hastened to avenge the defeat and laid siege to Bamiyan. There Ṃutugen, the khan's grandson, was killed, an event so infuriating to Genghis Khan that when he captured the citadel he ordered that no living being be spared. Bamiyan was utterly destroyed. Advancing on Ghazna, Genghis won a great victory over Jalāl al-Dīn, who then fell back toward the Indus (1221), where he made a final but unsuccessful stand.

Later dynasties
      After Genghis Khan's death in 1227, his vast empire fell to pieces. In Afghanistan some local chiefs succeeded in establishing independent principalities, and others acknowledged Mongol princes as suzerains. This state of affairs continued until the end of the 14th century, when Timur (Tamerlane) conquered a large part of the country.

      Timur's successors, the Timurids (Timurid Dynasty) (1405–1507), were great patrons of learning and the arts who enriched their capital city of Herāt with fine buildings. Under their rule Afghanistan enjoyed peace and prosperity.

      Early in the 16th century the Turkic Uzbeks (Uzbek) rose to power in Central Asia under Muḥammad Shaybānī, who took Herāt in 1507. In late 1510 the Ṣafavid (Ṣafavid Dynasty) shah Ismāʿīl I besieged Shaybānī in Merv and killed him. Bābur, a descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur, had made Kabul the capital of an independent principality in 1504. He captured Kandahār in 1522, and in 1526 he marched on Delhi. He defeated Ibrāhīm (Ibrāhīm Lodī), the last of the Lodī Afghan kings of India, and established the Mughal Empire (Mughal Dynasty), which lasted until the middle of the 19th century and included all of eastern Afghanistan south of the Hindu Kush. The capital was at Agra. Nine years after his death in 1530, the body of Bābur was taken to Kabul for burial.

      During the next 200 years Afghanistan was parceled between the Mughals (Mughal Dynasty) of India and the Ṣafavids of Persia—the former holding Kabul north to the southern foothills of the Hindu Kush and the latter, Herāt and Farāh. Kandahār was in dispute for many years.

Last Afghan empire
Overthrow of foreign rule
      Periodic attempts were made to gain independence. In 1709 Mīr Vays Khan, a leader of the Hotaki Ghilzay tribe, led a successful rising against Gorgīn Khan, the Persian governor of Kandahār.

The Hotakis
      Mīr Vays Khan governed Kandahār until his death in 1715. In 1716 the Abdālīs ( Durrānī) of Herāt, encouraged by his example, took up arms against the Persians and under their leader, Asad Allāh Khan, succeeded in liberating their province. Maḥmūd, Mīr Vays's young son and successor, was not content with holding Kandahār, and in 1722 he led some 20,000 men against Eṣfahān; the Ṣafavid government surrendered after a six-month siege.

      Maḥmūd died in 1725 and was succeeded by Ashraf, who had to contend with Russian pressure from the north and Ottoman (Ottoman Empire) Turk advances from the west. Shah Ashraf halted both the Russian and Turkish onslaughts, but a brigand chief, Nādr Qolī Beg, defeated the Afghans at Dāmghān in October 1729 and drove them from Persia. During the retreat Ashraf was murdered, probably on orders from his cousin, who was then holding Kandahār.

Nādir Shah (Nādir Shāh)
      Nādr Qolī Beg took Herāt in 1732 after a desperate siege. Nādr was impressed by the courage of the Herātis and recruited many of them to serve in his army. He had himself elected shah of Persia, with the name Nādir Shah, in 1736.

      In 1738, after a year's siege, the city of Kandahār fell to Nādir Shah's army of 80,000 men. Nādir Shah seized Ghazna and Kabul and occupied the Mughal capital at Delhi in 1739. His booty included the Koh-i-noor diamond and the Peacock Throne. He was assassinated at Fatḥābād, Iran, in 1747, which led to the disintegration of his empire and the rise of the last great Afghan empire.

The Durrānī dynasty
      The commander of Nādir Shah's 4,000-man Afghan bodyguard was Aḥmad Khan Abdālī (Aḥmad Shāh Durrānī), who returned to Kandahār and was elected shah by a tribal council. He adopted the title Durr-i Durrān (“Pearl of Pearls”). Supported by most tribal leaders, Aḥmad Shah Durrānī (Aḥmad Shāh Durrānī) extended Afghan control from Meshed to Kashmir and Delhi, from the Amu Darya to the Arabian Sea. The Durrānī was the second greatest Muslim empire in the second half of the 18th century, surpassed in size only by the Ottoman.

      Aḥmad Shah died in 1772 and was succeeded by his son, Tīmūr Shah, who received but nominal homage from the tribal chieftains. Much of his reign was spent in quelling their rebellions. Because of this opposition, Tīmūr shifted his capital from Kandahār to Kabul in 1776.

Zamān Shah (1793–1800)
      After the death of Tīmūr in 1793, his fifth son, Zamān, seized the throne with the help of Sardār Pāyenda Khan, a chief of the Bārakzay (Bārakzay Dynasty). Zamān then turned to India with the object of repeating the exploits of Aḥmad Shah. This alarmed the British (British Empire), who induced Fatḥ ʿAlī Shah (Fatḥ ʿAlī Shāh) of Persia to bring pressure on the Afghan king and divert his attention from India. The shah went a step further by helping Maḥmūd, governor of Herāt and a brother of Zamān, with men and money and encouraging him to advance on Kandahār. Maḥmūd, assisted by his vizier, Fatḥ Khan Bārakzay, eldest son of Sardār Pāyenda Khan, and by Fatḥ ʿAlī Shah, took Kandahār and advanced on Kabul. Zamān, in India, hurried back to Afghanistan. There he was handed over to Maḥmūd, blinded, and imprisoned (1800). The Durrānī empire had begun to disintegrate after 1798, when Zamān Shah appointed a Sikh, Ranjit Singh, as governor of Lahore.

Shah Maḥmūd (1800–03; 1809–18)
      Shah Maḥmūd left affairs of state to Fatḥ Khan. Some of the chiefs who had grievances against the king or his ministers joined forces and invited Zamān's brother Shah Shojāʿ (Shāh Shojāʿ) (1803–09; 1839–42) to Kabul. The intrigue was successful. Shah Shojāʿ occupied the capital, and Maḥmūd sued for peace.

      The new king, Shah Shojāʿ, ascended the throne in 1803. The chiefs had become powerful and unruly, and the outlying provinces were asserting their independence. The Sikhs of the Punjab were encroaching on Afghan territories from the east, while the Persians were threatening from the west.

      Napoleon I, then at the zenith of his power in Europe, proposed to Alexander I of Russia a combined invasion of India. A British mission, headed by Mountstuart Elphinstone (Elphinstone, Mountstuart), met Shah Shojāʿ at Peshawar to discuss mutual defense against this threat, which never developed. In a treaty of friendship concluded June 7, 1809, the shah promised to oppose the passage of foreign troops through his dominions. Shortly after the mission left Peshawar, news was received that Kabul had been occupied by the forces of Maḥmūd and Fatḥ Khan. The troops of Shah Shojāʿ were routed, and the shah withdrew from Afghanistan and found asylum with the British at Ludhiāna, India, in 1815.

The rise of the Bārakzay (Bārakzay Dynasty)
      The Bārakzay were now dominant. This situation incited the jealousy of Kāmrān, Maḥmūd's eldest son, who seized and blinded Fatḥ Khan. Later Shah Maḥmūd had him cut to pieces.

Dūst Moḥammad (Dōst Moḥammad Khān) (1826–39; 1843–63)
      Advancing from Kashmir in 1818, Dūst Moḥammad, younger brother of Fatḥ Khan, took Peshawar and Kabul and drove Shah Maḥmūd and Kāmrān from all their possessions except Herāt, where they maintained a precarious footing for a few years. Balkh was seized by the ruler of Bukhara; the trans-Indus Afghan districts were occupied by the Sikhs; and the outlying provinces of Sind and Baluchistan assumed independence. Ghazna, Kabul, and Jalālābād fell to Dūst Moḥammad.

      Dūst Moḥammad established the Bārakzay (or Moḥammadzay) dynasty. His position secure after he assumed the title of emir in 1826 at Kabul, he decided to recover Peshawar from the Sikhs. Declaring a jihad, or Islamic holy war, in 1836, he advanced on Peshawar. The Sikh leader Ranjit Singh, however, sowed dissension in Dūst Moḥammad's camp, the invading army melted away, and Peshawar was lost to the Afghans.

      In November 1837 Moḥammad Shah of Persia laid siege to Herāt, which the British saw as the key to India. The Russians supported the Persians. The British, fearful that Persia was falling completely under Russian influence, entered into alliances with the rulers of Herāt, Kabul, and Kandahār. A British mission to Kabul under Captain (later Sir) Alexander Burnes (Burnes, Sir Alexander) in 1837 was welcomed by Dūst Moḥammad, who hoped the British would help him recover Peshawar. Burnes could not give him the required assurances; and when a Russian agent appeared in Kabul, the British left for India.

      With the failure of Burnes's mission, the governor-general of India, Lord Auckland (Auckland, George Eden, earl of, 2nd Baron Auckland, 2nd Baron Auckland of Auckland, Baron Eden of Norwood), ordered an invasion of Afghanistan (Anglo-Afghan Wars), with the object of restoring Shah Shojāʿ to the throne. In April 1839, after suffering great privations, the British army entered Kandahār; Shojāʿ was then crowned shah. Ghazna was captured in the following July, and in August Shah Shojāʿ was installed at Kabul. The Afghans, however, would tolerate neither a foreign occupation nor a king imposed on them by a foreign power, and insurrections broke out. Dūst Moḥammad—who had escaped first to Balkh, then to Bukhara, where he was arrested—escaped from prison and returned to Afghanistan to lead his partisans against the British. In a battle at Parwan on November 2, 1840, Dūst Moḥammad had the upper hand, but the next day he surrendered to the British in Kabul. He was deported to India with the greater part of his family.

      Outbreaks continued throughout the country, and the British eventually found their position untenable. Terms for their withdrawal were discussed with Akbar Khan, Dūst Moḥammad's son, but Sir William Hay Macnaghten (Macnaghten, Sir William Hay, Baronet), the British political agent, was killed during a parlay with the Afghans. On January 6, 1842, some 4,500 British and Indian troops, with 12,000 camp followers, marched out of Kabul. Bands of Afghans swarmed around them, and the retreat ended in a bloodbath. Shah Shojāʿ was killed after the British left Kabul.

      Though in the summer of that same year British forces reoccupied Kabul, the new governor-general, Lord Ellenborough (Ellenborough, Edward Law, earl of, Viscount Southam of Southam, Baron Ellenborough of Ellenborough), decided on the evacuation of Afghanistan. In 1843 Dūst Moḥammad returned to Kabul. During the next 20 years he consolidated his rule by occupying Kandahār (1855), Balkh and the northern Khanates (1859), and Herāt (1863), the last less than a month before his death in June.

Shīr ʿAlī (1863–66; 1868–79)
      Shīr ʿAlī Khan (Shīr ʿAlī Khān), Dūst Moḥammad's third son, then became emir, but his two elder brothers took the throne from him in May 1866. Shīr ʿAlī regained his throne in September 1868. Shīr ʿAlī's reception of a Russian mission at Kabul and his refusal to receive a British one, on British terms, led directly to the war of 1878–80. Shīr ʿAlī, leaving his son, Yaʿqūb Khan, as his regent in Kabul, sought help from the Russians, but they advised him to make peace. Shīr ʿAlī died in Mazār-e Sharīf in 1879.

Yaʿqūb Khan (1879)
      The Treaty of Gandamak (Gandomak; May 26, 1879) recognized Yaʿqūb Khan as emir, and he subsequently agreed to receive a permanent British embassy at Kabul. In addition, he agreed to conduct his foreign relations with other states in accordance “with the wishes and advice” of the British government. This British triumph, however, was short-lived. On September 3, 1879, the British envoy and his escort were murdered in Kabul. British forces were again dispatched, and before the end of October they occupied Kabul. Yaʿqūb abdicated and was given exile in India, where he died in 1923.

Mohammad Ali Louis Dupree Nancy Hatch Dupree

Modern Afghanistan

ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Khan (Abdor Raḥmān Khānʿ) (1880–1901)
      The British finally withdrew from Kandahār in April 1881. In 1880 ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (Abdor Raḥmān Khānʿ) Khan, a cousin of Shīr ʿAlī, had returned from exile in Central Asia and proclaimed himself emir of Kabul. During the reign of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, the boundaries of modern Afghanistan were drawn by the British and the Russians. The Durand Line of 1893 divided zones of responsibility for the maintenance of law and order between British India and the kingdom of Afghanistan; it was never intended as a de jure international boundary. Afghanistan, therefore, although never dominated by a European imperial government, became a buffer between tsarist Russia and British India.

      ʿAbd al-Raḥmān exerted his influence, if not actual control, over the various ethnolinguistic groups inside Afghanistan, fighting some 20 small wars to convince them that a strong central government existed in Kabul. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān was so successful that, at his death, his designated successor and eldest son, Ḥabībollāh Khan (Ḥabībollāh Khān), succeeded to the throne as Ḥabībollāh I without the usual fratricidal fighting. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān can be considered the founder of modern Afghanistan.

Ḥabībollāh Khan (Ḥabībollāh Khān) (1901–19)
      The introduction of modern European technology begun by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān was furthered by Ḥabībollāh. Western ideals and styles penetrated the Afghan royal court and upper classes. An Afghan nationalist, Maḥmūd Beg Ṭarzī, published (1911–18) the periodical Serāj al-Akbār (“Torch of the News”), which had political influence far beyond the boundaries of Afghanistan.

      Ḥabībollāh Khan visited British India in 1907 as guest of the viceroy of India, Gilbert Elliot (Minto, Gilbert John Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th earl of), 4th earl of Minto. Impressed with British power, Ḥabībollāh resisted pressures from Ṭarzī, Amānollāh (Amānollāh Khan) (Ḥabībollāh‘s third son, who had married Soraya, a daughter of Ṭarzī), and others to enter World War I on the side of the Central Powers. The peace ending World War I brought death to Ḥabībollāh; he was murdered on February 20, 1919, by persons associated with the anti-British movement, and Amānollāh (Amānollāh Khan) seized power.

Amānollāh (1919–29)
 Amānollāh launched the inconclusive Third Anglo-Afghan War in May 1919. The month-long war gained the Afghans the conduct of their own foreign affairs. The Treaty of Rawalpindi was signed on August 8, 1919, and amended in 1921. Before signing the final document with the British, the Afghans concluded a treaty of friendship with the new Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics); Afghanistan thereby became one of the first states to recognize the Soviet government, and a “special relationship” evolved between the two governments that lasted until December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

      Amānollāh changed his title from emir to pādshāh (“king”) in 1923 and inaugurated a decade of reforms—including implementing constitutional and administrative changes, allowing women to remove their veils, and establishing coeducational schools—that offended conservative religious and tribal leaders.

 Civil war broke out in November 1928, and a Tajik folk hero called Bacheh Saqqāw (Bacheh-ye Saqqā; “Child of a Water Carrier”) occupied Kabul. Amānollāh abdicated in January 1929 in favour of his elder brother, Inayatollāh, but Bacheh Saqqāw proclaimed himself Ḥabībollāh Ghāzī (or Ḥabībollāh II), emir of Afghanistan. Amānollāh failed to retrieve his throne and went into exile in Italy. He died in 1960 in Zürich, Switzerland.

Moḥammad Nāder Shah (1929–33)
      Ḥabībollāh II was driven from the throne by Moḥammad Nāder Khan and his brothers, distant cousins of Amānollāh. On October 10, 1929, Ḥabībollāh II was executed along with 17 of his followers. A tribal assembly elected Nāder Khan as shah, and the opposition was bloodily persecuted.

      Nāder Shah produced a new constitution in 1931 that was modeled on Amānollāh's constitution of 1923 but was more conservatively oriented to appease Islamic religious leaders. The national economy developed in the 1930s under the leadership of several entrepreneurs who began small-scale industrial projects. Nāder Shah was assassinated on November 8, 1933, and the 19-year-old crown prince, Zahir, succeeded his father.

Mohammad Zahir Shah (Zahir Shah, Mohammad) (1933–73)
      The first 20 years of Mohammad Zahir Shah (Zahir Shah, Mohammad)'s reign were characterized by cautious policies of national consolidation, an expansion of foreign relations, and internal development using Afghan funds alone. World War II brought about a slowdown in development processes, but Afghanistan maintained its traditional neutrality. The “Pashtunistan” problem regarding the political status of those Pashtun living on the British (Pakistani) side of the Durand Line developed after the independence of Pakistan in 1947.

      Shah Mahmud, prime minister from 1946 to 1953, sanctioned free elections and a relatively free press, and the so-called “liberal parliament” functioned from 1949 to 1952. Conservatives in government, however, encouraged by religious leaders, supported the seizure of power in 1953 by Lieutenant General Mohammad Daud Khan (Daud Khan, Mohammad), brother-in-law and first cousin of the king.

      Prime Minister Daud Khan (1953–63) took a stronger line on Pashtunistan, and, to the surprise of many, turned to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance. The Soviets ultimately became Afghanistan's major aid-and-trade partner. The Afghans refused to take sides in the Cold War, and Afghanistan became an “economic Korea,” testing the Western (particularly U.S.) will and capability to compete with the Soviet bloc in a nonaligned country. Daud Khan successfully introduced several far-reaching educational and social reforms, such as allowing women to wear the veil voluntarily and abolishing purdah (the practice of secluding women from public view), which theoretically increased the labour force by about half. The regime remained politically repressive, however, and tolerated no direct opposition.

      The Pashtunistan issue precipitated Daud Khan's downfall. In retaliation for Afghan agitation, Pakistan closed the border with Afghanistan in August 1961. Its prolonged closure led Afghanistan to depend increasingly on the Soviet Union for trade and in-transit facilities. To reverse the trend, Daud Khan resigned in March 1963, and the border was reopened in May. The Pashtunistan problem still existed, however.

      Zahir Shah and his advisers instituted an experiment in constitutional monarchy. In 1964 a Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) approved a new constitution, under which the House of the People was to have 216 elected members and the House of the Elders was to have 84 members, one-third elected by the people, one-third appointed by the king, and one-third elected indirectly by new provincial assemblies.

      Elections for both houses of the legislature were held in 1965 and 1969. Several unofficial parties ran candidates with platforms ranging from fundamentalist Islam to the extreme left. One such group was the Marxist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), the major leftist organization in the country. Founded in 1965, the party soon split into two factions, known as the People's (Khalq) and Banner (Parcham) parties. Another was a conservative religious organization known as the Islamic Society (Jamʿiyyat-e Eslāmī), which was founded by a number of religiously minded individuals, including members of the University of Kabul faculty of religion, in 1971. The Islamists were highly influenced by the militant ideology of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and were ardently opposed to the power of leftist and secular elements in Afghanistan.

      National politics became increasingly polarized, a situation reflected in the appointment by the king of five successive prime ministers between September 1965 and December 1972. The king refused to promulgate several key acts, thereby effectively blocking the institutionalization of the political processes guaranteed in the constitution. Struggles for power developed between the legislative and the executive branches, and an independent Supreme Court, as called for in the 1964 constitution, was never appointed.

      Mohammad Daud Khan sensed the stagnation of the constitutional processes and seized power on July 17, 1973, in a virtually bloodless coup. Leftist military officers and civil servants of the Banner Party assisted in the overthrow, and a number of militant Islamists were forced to flee the country. Daud Khan abolished the constitution of 1964 and established the Republic of Afghanistan, with himself as chairman of the Central Committee of the Republic and prime minister.

Afghanistan since 1973
The Republic of Afghanistan (1973–78)
      During Daud Khan's second tenure as prime minister, he attempted to introduce socioeconomic reforms, to write a new constitution, and to effect a gradual movement away from the socialist ideals his regime initially espoused. Afghanistan broadened and intensified its relationships with other Muslim countries, trying to move away from its dependency on the Soviet Union and the United States. In addition, Daud Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali), the prime minister of Pakistan, reached tentative agreement on a solution to the Pashtunistan problem.

      Daud Khan received approval in 1977 of his new constitution from a Loya Jirga, which wrote in several new articles and amended others. In March 1977 Daud Khan, then president of Afghanistan, appointed a new cabinet composed of sycophants, friends, sons of friends, and even collateral members of the royal family. The two PDPA organizations, the People's and Banner parties, then reunited against Daud Khan after a 10-year separation. There followed a series of political assassinations, massive antigovernment demonstrations, and arrests of major leftist leaders. Before his arrest, Hafizullah Amin (Amin, Hafizullah), a U.S.-educated People's Party leader, contacted party members in the armed forces and devised a makeshift but successful coup. Daud Khan and most of his family were killed, and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was born on April 27, 1978.

Civil war, communist (communism) phase (1978–92)
      Nur Mohammad Taraki (Taraki, Nur Mohammad) was elected president of the Revolutionary Council, prime minister of the country, and secretary-general of the combined PDPA. Babrak Karmal (Karmal, Babrak), a Banner leader, and Hafizullah Amin were elected deputy prime ministers. The leaders of the new government insisted that they were not controlled by the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and proclaimed their policies to be based on Afghan nationalism, Islamic principles, socioeconomic justice, nonalignment in foreign affairs, and respect for all agreements and treaties signed by previous Afghan governments.

      Unity between the People's and Banner factions rapidly faded as the People's Party emerged dominant, particularly because its major base of power was in the military. Karmal and other selected Banner leaders were sent abroad as ambassadors, and there were systematic purges of any Banner members or others who might oppose the regime.

      The Taraki regime announced its programs, which included eliminating usury, ensuring equal rights for women, instituting land reforms, and making administrative decrees in classic Marxist-Leninist rhetoric. The people in the countryside, familiar with Marxist broadcasts from Soviet Central Asia, assumed that the People's Party was communist and pro-Soviet. The reform programs—which threatened to undermine basic Afghan cultural patterns—and political repression antagonized large segments of the population, but major violent responses did not occur until the uprising in Nūrestān late in the summer of 1978. Other revolts, largely uncoordinated, spread throughout all of Afghanistan's provinces, and periodic explosions rocked Kabul and other major cities. On February 14, 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs was killed, and the elimination of U.S. assistance to Afghanistan was guaranteed.

      Hafizullah Amin became prime minister on March 28, although Taraki retained his posts as president of the Revolutionary Council and secretary general of the PDPA. The expanding revolts in the countryside, however, continued, and the Afghan army collapsed. The Amin regime asked for and received more Soviet military aid.

      Taraki was overthrown in mid September and, under orders from Amin, was killed three weeks later. In a plot hatched in Moscow, Amin was to have been removed, largely in the belief that he bore major responsibility for sparking the rebellion. But Amin learned of the plan and preempted his would-be assassins. Amin then tried to broaden his internal base of support and again to interest Pakistan and the United States in Afghan (Afghan War) security. Despite his efforts, on the night of December 24, 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Amin and many of his followers were killed on December 27.

      Babrak Karmal returned to Afghanistan from the Soviet Union and became prime minister, president of the Revolutionary Council, and secretary-general of the PDPA. Opposition to the Soviets and Karmal spread rapidly, urban demonstrations and violence increased, and resistance escalated in all regions. By early 1980 several regional groups, collectively known as mujahideen (from Arabic mujāhidūn, “those who engage in jihad”), had united inside Afghanistan, or across the border in Peshawar, Pakistan, to resist the Soviet invaders and the Soviet-backed Afghan army. Pakistan, along with the United States, China, and several European and Arab states—most notably Saudi Arabia—were soon providing small amounts of financial and military aid to the mujahideen. As this assistance grew, the Pakistani military's Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) assumed primary responsibility for funneling the money and weapons to Afghan resistance groups. Pakistani authorities were determined to exercise tight control over all such groups, and upwards of 40 separate resistance and refugee organizations coalesced, under Pakistani influence, around seven resistance parties. These parties, in turn, came together into two rival alliances, one dominated by traditional Islamic conservatives and the other by Islamic radicals. In 1985, under pressure from Pakistan and outside supporters, as well as from guerrilla commanders inside Afghanistan, these two alliances set aside their differences and formed a single coalition represented by a Supreme Council, which was responsible for making major decisions. Pakistan's exclusion of secular groups from any role in the struggle fit the ideological temper of the military regime of General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq (Zia-ul-Haq, Mohammad)—which played heavily on Islamic symbols for legitimacy—but also suited Pakistan's determination that no aid would go to Afghan nationalists who might harbour long-standing territorial designs on Pakistan.

      Recruits to the mujahideen came in large numbers from young Afghan men living in refugee camps in Pakistan. They were joined throughout the 1980s by thousands of volunteers from across the Muslim world, especially from Arab countries. (A young Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden (bin Laden, Osama), was among them, and, while he saw little military action, his personal wealth enabled him to fund high-profile mujahideen activities and gain a widely favourable reputation among his colleagues.) The bulk of the fighting was undertaken by small units that crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan and engaged mostly in brief hit-and-run operations. One of the most persistent and often most effective militant groups, however, was under the command of Ahmad Shah Massoud, who instead fought the Soviets from a redoubt in the Panjanshīr River valley (commonly Panjshēr valley) northeast of Kabul. Massoud was among those commanders affiliated with the Islamic Society (one of the most influential mujahideen groups), then headed by an Azhar (Azhar University, al-)-trained scholar, Burhanuddin Rabbani. Among the other Peshawar-based parties were Abd al-Rasul Sayyaf's militant Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan (Ettiḥād-e Eslāmī Barā-ye Āzād-e Afghānistān), which derived its support largely from foreign Islamic groups, and three parties headed by traditional religious leaders, including the most pragmatic of the mujahideen parties, the National Islamic Front (Maḥāz-e Mellī-ye Eslāmī), led by Ahmad Gailani. But the party receiving the most material support from the ISI was the extremist and virulently anti-American Islamic Party (Ḥezb-e Eslāmī; one of two parties by that name) loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Separate from the Peshawar front of Sunnite parties was an ethnic Shīʿite resistance group among the Ḥazāra, which received strong support from Iran.

      Other than the Afghan fighters themselves, few had faith that the mujahideen could prevail in a military conflict with the Soviet Union. The movement's Western sponsors viewed resistance operations as an opportunity to keep the Soviet army bogged down and to bleed Moscow economically. However, the mujahideen remained convinced that they ultimately would liberate their country from the foreign invaders. After years of bedevilment by the Soviet military's use of helicopter gunships and jet bombers, the mujahideen's prospects improved greatly toward the end of 1986 when they began to receive more and better weapons from the outside world—particularly from the United States, the United Kingdom, and China—via Pakistan, the most important of these being shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles. The Soviet and Afghan air forces then began to suffer considerable casualties.

      In May 1986 Mohammad Najibullah (Najibullah, Mohammad), former head of the secret police, replaced Karmal as secretary-general of the PDPA, and in November Karmal was relieved of all his government and party posts. Friction among the Banner and People's parties continued. A national reconciliation campaign approved by the Politburo in September, which included a unilateral six-month cease-fire to begin in January 1987, met with little response inside Afghanistan and was rejected by resistance leaders in Pakistan.

      In November 1987 a new constitution changed the name of the country back to the Republic of Afghanistan and allowed other political parties to participate in the government. Najibullah was elected to the newly strengthened post of president. Despite renewals of the official cease-fire, Afghan resistance to the Soviet presence continued, and the effects of the war were felt in neighbouring countries: Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran numbered more than five million. Morale in the Afghan military was low. Draftees deserted at the earliest opportunity, and the Afghan military dropped from its 1978 strength of 105,000 troops to about 20,000–30,000 by 1987. The Soviets attempted new tactics, but the resistance always devised countertactics.

      During the 1980s, talks between the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan were held in Geneva under UN (United Nations) auspices, the primary stumbling blocks being the timetable for the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the cessation of arms supplies to the mujahideen. Peace accords were finally signed in April 1988. Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (Gorbachev, Mikhail) subsequently carried out an earlier promise to begin withdrawing Soviet troops in May of that year; troops began leaving as scheduled, and the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan in February 1989. The civil war continued, however, despite predictions of an early collapse of the Najibullah (Najibullah, Mohammad) government following the withdrawal of the Soviets. The mujahideen formed an interim government in Pakistan, steadfastly resisting Najibullah's reconciliation efforts, and disunity among the mujahideen parties contributed to their inability to dislodge the communist government.

Louis Dupree Nancy Hatch Dupree Marvin G. Weinbaum

Civil war, mujahideen- Taliban phase (1992–2001)
      Najibullah was finally ousted from power in April 1992, soon after the breakup of the Soviet Union (which had continued to provide military and economic assistance to the Kabul government). A coalition built mainly of the mujahideen parties that had fought the communists set up a fragile interim government, but general peace and stability remained a distant hope. As rival militias vied for influence, interethnic tensions flared, and the economy lay in ruins.

      Under an arrangement to provide for the rotation of the executive office between different factions, the presidency passed after two months from interim president Sebghatullah Mujaddedi to Burhanuddin Rabbani. Rabbani, however, refused to relinquish power to his successor after the expiration of his two-year term in office. Over the next three years, rocket attacks by opposition forces—primarily those of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Islamic Party—caused severe damage to large sections of the capital. Delivery of food from international aid organizations and the UN became indispensable.

      Outside of Kabul, law and order broke down across much of the country, and Afghanistan became, in effect, a country ruled by militia leaders and warlords who exacted road taxes and transit fees from trucks engaged in cross-border trading and promoted extortion in most other areas of normal life. Kidnappings, whether for sadism or profit, were not uncommon, and the people generally fell into a state of despair.

      Partly in response to this situation, the Taliban (Persian: “Students”) emerged in the fall of 1994. The movement's spiritual and political leader was a former mujahideen fighter, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who was best known for his displays of piety and participation in the fight against the Soviet occupation. Drawing its recruits from madrasah (religious school) students in Pakistan and the southern province of Kandahār, the Taliban gained international attention when it was able to defeat those groups preying on the transit trade and when it succeeded in ridding Kandahār of its predatory and corrupt governors. The Taliban's eventual success in extending its territorial control is largely attributable to the war-weariness of the Afghan people. In a short time others joined the students, including fighters formerly associated with the communists and a number of mujahideen defectors—many of whom were induced to switch sides by generous payments funded by the government of Saudi Arabia, then a major Taliban supporter.

      The Taliban also won the early backing of senior Pakistani officials—including members of Pakistan's ISI—who, along with companies involved in cross-border trading, were anxious to secure a road route through Afghanistan to markets in Central Asia. These same officials felt that the development of lucrative gas and oil pipelines from Central Asian fields to a Pakistani terminus would also be realized sooner were the Taliban to wrest full control of the country from other factions. Importantly, Taliban rule promised for Pakistan a pliant, friendly regime in Kabul, which contrasted with previous Afghan governments that often deflected Pakistani influence in Afghanistan's domestic affairs through political overtures to India, Pakistan's archrival. Despite the Taliban's mostly Pashtun membership, the absence from their agenda of the familiar irredentist Pashtun claims against Pashtun regions of Pakistan—the Pashtunistan issue—made the Taliban a seemingly safe choice.

      However, the Taliban's initial appeal counted heavily on uniting those Pashtuns deeply resentful of the Rabbani government, which was dominated by ethnic Tajiks. Not until the Taliban ventured into areas of the country populated largely by non-Pashtuns could its wider popular acceptance be tested. Minority-dominated Herāt, Afghanistan's third largest city, fell to Taliban fighters in September 1995, and a year later the Taliban captured multiethnic Kabul, setting to flight both antigovernment troops and those of Rabbani. The northern city of Mazār-e Sharīf, populated by many ethnic Uzbeks, fell in August 1998. By 2001 the Taliban's power extended over more than nine-tenths of the country, and in most areas under its control the militia succeeded in disarming the local inhabitants. A loose coalition of mujahideen militias known as the Northern Alliance maintained control of a small section of northern Afghanistan. Fighters for the Northern Alliance, particularly those under the command of Ahmad Shah Massoud, remained the only major obstacle to a final Taliban victory.

 Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates gave formal recognition to the Taliban government after the fall of Kabul, but the movement was denied Afghanistan's seat at the UN and came under vigorous international criticism for its extreme views—with regard to women in particular—and its human rights record. Refusal by the Taliban to extradite Osama bin Laden (bin Laden, Osama), an Islamic extremist accused by the United States of planning violent acts and organizing a global terrorist network, led to UN sanctions against the regime in November 1999 and again in January 2001. The Taliban was also accused of harbouring and training militants—many of whom were holdovers from the war against the Soviets—planning insurgencies in the Central Asian republics and China. Iran objected to the treatment of the Shīʿite Muslim population and to the Taliban's alleged association with groups that smuggled narcotics across the Iranian frontier. Pakistani authorities, although concerned about the possible ramifications of Islamic radicalism on their own society, continued to assist the Taliban economically and were given varying degrees of credit for aiding the Taliban in its military successes.

 Fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance continued, and the international community made little headway toward inducing the combatants to observe a cease-fire or in convincing the Taliban to share power in a broadly representative national government. Though foreign humanitarian assistance to the Afghans continued, large-scale reconstruction was not addressed. Just as the commitment of international agencies and donors was uncertain, the capacity of Taliban leaders to manage a rebuilding effort remained questionable. The transition from a heavily criminalized domestic and regional economy—based on smuggling weapons and narcotics and the uncontrolled exploitation of Afghanistan's natural resources—remained indispensable for the country's rehabilitation and for a sustainable peace.

Struggle for democracy
   Conditions continued to deteriorate in late 2001. Blame for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and a simultaneous attack on the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., on September 11 quickly centred on members of a Muslim extremist group, al-Qaeda (Qaeda, al-), based in Afghanistan and headed by bin Laden. (See September 11 attacks.) The Taliban refused repeated U.S. demands to extradite bin Laden and his associates and to dismantle terrorist training facilities in Afghanistan. Within weeks of the attacks, the United States and Britain launched an intensive bombing campaign against the Taliban and provided significant logistical support to Northern Alliance forces in an attempt to force the regime to yield to its demands. Devastated by the U.S. bombardment, Taliban forces folded within days of a well-coordinated ground offensive launched in mid-November by Northern Alliance troops and U.S. special forces. On December 7 the Taliban surrendered Kandahār, the militia's base of power and the last city under its control. At nearly the same time, representatives of several anti-Taliban groups met in Bonn, Germany, and, with the help of the international community, named an interim administration, which was installed two weeks later. This administration held power until June 2002 when a Loya Jirga was convened that selected a transitional government to rule the country until national elections could be held and a new constitution drafted. Democratic elections, in which women were granted the right to vote, were held in October 2004, and Hamid Karzai (Karzai, Hamid), leader of the transitional government, was elected president, winning 55 percent of the vote.

Marvin G. Weinbaum  In March 2005 Karzai announced that legislative elections would be held later that year. Although al-Qaeda and Taliban elements had threatened to disrupt the elections, they took place on Sept. 18, 2005—the first time in more than 30 years that such elections were held—and in December the newly elected National Assembly convened its first session. Ongoing violence throughout 2005 increased steeply at year's end and worsened considerably the following year as instability and warfare spread. Attacks and violent exchanges between the U.S.-led coalition and the Taliban forces became more frequent, particularly in the eastern and southern provinces, and casualties increased. In July 2006, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops replaced the U.S.-led coalition at the head of military operations in the south, and in October they also took command of the eastern provinces, thus assuming control of international military operations across the entire country. Fighting between NATO and Taliban forces continued, and civilian casualties remained high.

  opium production reached record levels within a few years of the ouster of the Taliban government, and by the mid-2000s it was estimated that Afghanistan produced more than nine-tenths of the world's opiates. Complicating government efforts to curtail production was the fact that many segments of the population, including the Taliban and supporters of the central government, profited from opium production. Indeed, the Taliban derived a substantial income from the industry, using the proceeds to fund their insurgency.


Additional Reading

Overviews are provided by Richard F. Nyrop and Donald M. Seekins, Afghanistan: A Country Study, 5th ed. (1986); Louis Dupree, Afghanistan (1973, reissued 1997); Ludwig W. Adamec (ed.), Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan, 6 vol. (1972–85); and Arnold Fletcher, Afghanistan: Highway of Conquest (1965, reprinted 1982). Johannes Humlum, La Géographie de l'Afghanistan: étude d'un pays aride (1959), is a comprehensive geography. The first four chapters of W. Barthold (V.V. Bartold), An Historical Geography of Iran (1984; originally published in Russian, 1903), discuss Afghan regions. Also useful is General Atlas of Afghanistan (1974?). Mountstuart Elphinstone, An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul and Its Dependencies in Persia, Tartary, and India, 2 vol., 3rd ed. with corrections and additional notes (1972), first published in 1815, is the first detailed account of Afghanistan by an English-speaking observer. Photographs of the country are provided in Roland Michaud and Sabrina Michaud, Afghanistan (1980, reissued 1990; originally published in French, 1974); and Camille Mirepoix, Afghanistan in Pictures (1971). Additional sources of information may be found in Keith McLachlan and William Whittaker, A Bibliography of Afghanistan (1983); and M. Jamil Hanifi, Annotated Bibliography of Afghanistan, 4th ed., rev. (1982).Ethnographic studies include Richard Tapper (ed.), The Conflict of Tribe and State in Iran and Afghanistan (1983); Thomas J. Barfield, The Central Asian Arabs of Afghanistan: Pastoral Nomadism in Transition (1981); M. Nazif Mohib Shahrani, The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan: Adaptation to Closed Frontiers (1979); and Sayed Askar Mousavi, The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic, and Political Study (1997). Earlier studies can be found in Donald Newton Wilber et al., Afghanistan: Its People, Its Society, Its Culture (1962); and Olaf Caroe, The Pathans, 550 B.C.–A.D. 1957 (1958, reissued 2000).Government and social policies are the subject of Anthony Arnold, Afghanistan's Two-Party Communism: Parcham and Khalq (1983); Beverley Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan: A Reappraisal (1982); and Ronald W. O'Connor, Managing Health Systems in Developing Areas: Experiences from Afghanistan (1980), a study of the country's health problems and traditional health systems. No comprehensive analysis of Afghanistan's economy was conducted in the final quarter of the 20th century; the classic study of the topic is Maxwell J. Fry, The Afghan Economy: Money, Finance, and the Critical Constraints to Economic Development (1974).Afghanistan's archaeological discoveries are recounted in Viktor Sarianidi, The Golden Hoard of Bactria: From the Tillya-tepe Excavations in Northern Afghanistan, trans. from Russian (1985), a lavishly illustrated account of grave goods excavated from an early Kushān princedom cemetery; Jeannine Auboyer and Dominique Darbois, The Art of Afghanistan (1968; originally published in French, 1968); and Benjamin Rowland, Jr., Ancient Art from Afghanistan: Treasures of the Kabul Museum (1966, reprinted 1976). Traditional culture is explored in Mark Slobin, Music in the Culture of Northern Afghanistan (1976); Hiromi Lorraine Sakata, Music in the Mind: The Concepts of Music and Musician in Afghanistan (1983); and Stanley Ira Hallet and Rafi Samizay, Traditional Architecture of Afghanistan (1980).

F.R. Allchin and Norman Hammond (eds.), The Archaeology of Afghanistan from Earliest Times to the Timurid Period (1978), is an excellent series of essays on all major archaeological periods. Also of interest is Louis Dupree et al., Prehistoric Research in Afghanistan (1959–1966) (1972). W.W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria & India, 3rd ed., rev. by Frank Lee Holt and M.C.J. Miller (1997); and A.K. Narain, The Indo-Greeks (1957, reissued 1980), are discussions of the aftermath of Alexander's campaigns in the East. Abdur Rehman, The Last Two Dynasties of the Śahis: An Analysis of Their History, Archaeology, Coinage, and Palaeography (1979), deals with the neglected historic period of the Hindu Shāhī. Particularly recommended for the early Muslim period are the seminal works of Clifford Edmund Bosworth, Sīstān Under the Arabs, from the Islamic Conquest to the Rise of the Ṣaffārids (30–250/651–864) (1968), The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran, 994–1040, 2nd ed. (1973, reissued 1992), and The Later Ghaznavids: Splendour and Decay: The Dynasty in Afghanistan and Northern India, 1040–1186 (1977, reprinted 1992). Laurence Lockhart, The Fall of the Safavī Dynasty and the Afghan Occupation of Persia (1958), is also germane. Further information is available in V. Minorsky (trans.), Hudūd al-ʿĀlam, “The Regions of the World”: A Persian Geography, 372 A.H.–982 A.D., 2nd ed., edited by Clifford Edmund Bosworth, trans. from Persian (1970, reprinted 1982).For modern Afghanistan, M. Hasan Kakar, Government and Society in Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir 'Abd al-Rahman Khan (1979), is an excellent study of the late 19th century. Ludwig W. Adamec, Afghanistan, 1900–1923: A Diplomatic History (1967), and Afghanistan's Foreign Affairs to the Mid-Twentieth Century: Relations with the USSR, Germany, and Britain (1974), are well-documented accounts of 20th-century diplomatic history. Also useful are May Schinasi, Afghanistan at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century: Nationalism and Journalism in Afghanistan: A Study of Seraj ul-Akhbar (1911–1918) (1979); Leon B. Poullada, Reform and Rebellion in Afghanistan, 1919–1929: King Amanullah's Failure to Modernize a Tribal Society (1973); Rhea Talley Stewart, Fire in Afghanistan, 1914–1929: Faith, Hope, and the British Empire (1973); and Vartan Gregorian, The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880–1946 (1969).Accounts and analyses of the history of Afghanistan during the communist phase, 1978–92, include J. Bruce Amstutz, Afghanistan: The First Five Years of Soviet Occupation (1986); Henry S. Bradsher, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, new and expanded ed. (1985); Joseph J. Collins, The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: A Study in the Use of Force in Soviet Foreign Policy (1986); Edward Girardet, Afghanistan: The Soviet War (1985); Thomas T. Hammond, Red Flag over Afghanistan: The Communist Coup, the Soviet Invasion, and the Consequences (1984); Anthony Hyman, Afghanistan Under Soviet Domination, 1964–91, 3rd ed. (1992); Ralph H. Magnus (ed.), Afghan Alternatives: Issues, Options, and Policies (1985); Olivier Roy, Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan, 2nd ed. (1990; originally published in French, 1985); M. Nazif Shahrani and Robert L. Canfield (eds.), Revolutions & Rebellions in Afghanistan: Anthropological Perspectives (1984); M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979–1982 (1995); and Rasul Bakhsh Rais, War Without Winners: Afghanistan's Uncertain Transition After the Cold War (1994). The Soviet viewpoint is available in Evgeni Khazanov (trans.), Afghanistan: Past and Present, trans. from Russian (1981), published by the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences. Examination of Pakistan's role in the conflict as viewed by a former Pakistani intelligence chief is found in Mohammad Yousaf and Mark Adkin, The Bear Trap: Afghanistan's Untold Story (1992; also published as Afghanistan, the Bear Trap: The Defeat of a Superpower, 2001). Further discussion of Pakistan's role can be found in Marvin G. Weinbaum, Pakistan and Afghanistan: Resistance and Reconstruction (1994). An excellent discussion of Pakistan's part in events leading to the 1988 Geneva Accords is found in Riaz M. Khan, Untying the Afghan Knot: Negotiating Soviet Withdrawal (1991).Post-Soviet political and social structures are examined in Olivier Roy, Afghanistan: From Holy War to Civil War (1995); and Barnett R. Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System (1995). Discussions of the Taliban movement are found in Ralph H. Magnus and Eden Naby, Afghanistan: Mullah, Marx, and Mujahid (1998); William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan and the Taliban (1998, reissued 2001); Peter Marsden, The Taliban: War, Religion, and the New Order in Afghanistan (1998); Larry P. Goodson, Afghanistan's Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban (2001); and, most comprehensively, in Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (2000).Marvin G. Weinbaum

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