The Afghanistan reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Afghanistan

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Afghanistan (افغانستان in Dari (Persian) and Pashtu (Afghan)) is a country in Central/Southwest Asia. It is bordered by Iran in the west, Pakistan in the south and east, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the easternmost part of the country.

Between the fall of the Taliban after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the success of the 2003 Loya jirga, Afghanistan was referred to by the West as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan. Under its new constitution, however, the country is now called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It is among the poorest countries in the world.

دولت اسلامی افغانستان
Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
image:Afghanistanflag5.png Image:Coaafghanistansmall.jpg
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: None
image:LocationAfghanistan.png
Official languagesAfghan Pashtu, Persian Dari
CapitalKabul
PresidentHamid Karzai
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 40th
647,500 km²
0%
Population
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 38th
28,717,213
43/km²
Independence
 -
From Persia suzerainty
1747
Currency Afghani
Time zone UTC+4:30
National anthem Sououd-e-Melli
Internet TLD.af
Calling Code93

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Education
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External links
11 Official Goverment Websites

History

Main article: History of Afghanistan

Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a very turbulent history. Through the ages, Afghanistan has been occupied by many forces including Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great.

The Afghanistan nation-state as it is known today came into existence in 1746 under the Durrani Empire, but control was ceded to the United Kingdom until King Amanullah acceded to throne in 1919. Since then, the country has known many governments and several civil wars.

The historical rulers of Afghanistan belonged to the Abdali tribe of the ethnic Afghans, whose name was changed to Durrani upon the accession of Ahmad Shah. They belonged to the Saddozay segment of the Popalzay clan or to the Mohammadzay segment of the Barakzay clan of the ethnic Afghans. The Mohammadzay furnished the Saddozay kings frequently with top counselors, who served occasionally as regents, identified with the epithet Mohammadzay.

In the 20th century, eleven rulers were unseated through undemocratic means: 1919 (assassination), 1929 (abdication), 1929 (execution), 1933 (assassination), 1973 (deposition), 1978 (execution), 1979 (execution), 1979 (execution), 1987 (removal), 1992 (overthrow) and 1996 (overthrow).

The last period of stability in Afghanistan lay between 1933 and 1973, when the country was under the rule of King Zahir Shah. However, in 1973, Zahir's brother-in-law, Sardar Mohammed Daoud launched a bloodless coup. Daoud and his entire family was murdered in 1978 when the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan lauched a coup and took over the government.

Opposition against, and conflict within, the series of leftist governments that followed was immense, and with the government in danger of collapse, the Soviet Union intervened on December 24, 1979. Faced with mounting international pressure and losses of approximately 15,000 Soviet soldiers as a result of mujahideen opposition trained by the United States, Pakistan, and other foreign governments, the Soviets withdrew ten years later in 1989. For more details, see Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Fighting subsequently continued among the various mujahidin factions. This eventually gave rise to a state of warlordism that eventually spawned the Taliban. The most serious of this fighting occurred in 1994, when 10,000 people were killed from factions fighting in the Kabul area. Backed by Pakistan and her strategic allies, the Taliban developed as a political/religious force and eventually seized power in 1996. The Taliban were able to capture 90% of the country, aside from Northern Alliance strongholds primarily in the northeast. The Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam. The Pakistan-Taliban alliance gave safe haven and assistance to Islamic terrorists (Especially Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda) and was the epicenter of Islamic terrorism.

The United States and allied military action in support of the opposition following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks forced the group's downfall. In late 2001, major leaders from the Afghan opposition groups and diaspora met in Bonn 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 December 2001. After a nationwide Loya Jirga in 2002, Karzai was elected President.

In addition to occasionally violent political jockeying and ongoing military action to root out remaining al-Qaida and Taliban elements, the country suffers from enormous poverty, rampant warlordism, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread land mines.

On March third and twenty-fifth, 2002, a series of earthquakes struck Afghanistan, with a loss of thousands of homes and over 1800 lives. Over 4000 more people were injured. The earthquakes occurred at Samangan Province (March 3) and Baghlan Province (March 25). The latter was the worse of the two, and incurred most of the casualties. International authorites assisted the Afghan government in dealing with the situation.


See also: Afghanistan timeline, Invasions of Afghanistan

Politics

Main article: Politics of Afghanistan

Currently, an interim government is in place, led by president Hamid Karzai, with many elements from the Northern Alliance, and a mix from other regional and ethnic groups formed from the transition government by the Loya jirga. Former monarch Mohammed Zahir Shah returned to the country, but was not reinstated as king and only exercises limited ceremonial powers.

Under the Bonn Agreement the Afghan Constitution Commission was established to consult with the public and formulate a draft constitution. Scheduled to release a draft on September 1, 2003, the commission has asked for a delay in order to undertake further consultations. The meeting of a constitutional loya jirga (grand council) was held in December 2003 when a new constution was adopted creating a presidential form of government.

Troops and intelligence agencies from the United States and a number of other countries are present, some to keep the peace, others assigned to hunt for remnants the Taliban and al Qaeda. A United Nations peacekeeping force called the International Security Assistance Force operates in Kabul, starting December 2001. NATO took control of this Force on August 11, 2003. Most of the country remains under the control of warlords.

On March 27, 2003, Afghan deputy defense minister and powerful warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum created an office for the North Zone of Afghanistan and appointed officials to it, defying interim president Hamid Karzai's orders that there be no zones in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's government is attempting to hold elections as soon as possible. However elections are made more difficult by widespread political instability, endemic violence, and a lack of familiarity with democratic processes. Many observers[1] claim elections are being pushed by the United States before Afghanistan will be ready for them, for U.S. political reasons.

see also: List of leaders of Afghanistan

Provinces

Main article: Provinces of Afghanistan

Image:af-map.png

Afghanistan consists of 34 provinces, or velayat:

Geography

Main article: Geography of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a mountainous country, although there are plains in the north and southwest. The highest point in Afghanistan, Nowshak, is 7485 m above sea level. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. Afghanistan has a land climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The country is frequently subject to earthquakes.

Besides the capital city Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar are the nation's major cities. See also Cities of Afghanistan.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is an extremely poor country, highly dependent on farming and livestock raising. The economy has suffered greatly from the recent political and military unrest, severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998-2001. The majority of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care, problems exacerbated by military operations and political uncertainties. Inflation remains a serious problem. Following the US-led coalition war that led to the defeat of the Taliban in November 2001 and the formulation of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) resulting from the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, International efforts to rebuild Afghanistan were addressed at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan Reconstruction in January 2002, where $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. Two-thirds of the population live on less than US$2 a day. The infant mortality rate is 257 per 1000 births.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Afghanistan

The population of Afghanistan is divided into a large number of ethnic groups. Ethnic Afghans, also known as Pashtuns, form the largest group estimated to account for 44% of the population, followed by Tajik (25%) and Hazara (10%). Minor groups include small tribes as the Aimak, Turkmen, and Baloch make up 13% and Uzbeks (8%). The spoken language differs accordingly, with Afghan (Pashtu) (35%) and Persian (Dari) (50%) being the main tongues. Others include Uzbek and Turkmen (11%). The remaining 4% is made up of over 30 minor languages, primarily Balochi and Pashai. Bilingualism is common in Afghanistan.

Religiously Afghans are predominately Muslim or Pashtun, or both.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Afghanistan

Many of the country's historic monuments have been damaged in the wars in recent years. The two famous statues of Buddha in the Bamiyan province were destroyed by the Taliban because they were regarded as being symbols of another religion.

The people of Afghanistan being renowned horsemen, the sport known as Buzkashi is popular there. Afghan hounds, running dogs, originate from Afghanistan.

Before the Taliban gained power, the city of Kabul was home to many musicians who were masters of both traditional and modern Afghan music. Kabul in the middle part of the 20th century has been likened to Vienna during the 18th and 19th centuries.

See also: Radio Kabul, music of Afghanistan

Education

Main article: Education in Afghanistan

In the spring of 2003, it was estimated that 30% of Afghanistan's 7,000 schools had been seriously damaged during more than two decades of Soviet occupation and civil war. Only half of the schools were reported to have clean water, while less than an estimated 40% had adequate sanitation. Education for boys was not a priority during the Taliban regime, and girls were banished from schools outright.

In regards to the poverty and violence of their surroundings, a study in 2002 by the Save the Children aid group said Afghan children were resilient and courageous. The study credited the strong institutions of family and community.

Up to four million Afghan children, possibly the largest number ever, are believed to have enrolled for class for the school year which began in March of 2003.

Literacy of the entire population is estimated at 36%.

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Official Goverment Websites


Countries in Southwest Asia
Afghanistan | Armenia | Azerbaijan | Bahrain | Cyprus | Egypt¹ | Gaza Strip | Georgia | Iran | Iraq | Israel | Jordan | Kuwait | Lebanon | Oman | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Syria | Turkey² | United Arab Emirates | West Bank | Yemen