Population: 28,395,716 (July 2009 estimate)
Area: 251,827 square miles (652,230 sq km)
Bordering Countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
Highest Point: Noshak at 24,557 feet (7,485 m)
Lowest Point: Amu Darya at 846 feet (258 m)
Afghanistan, officially called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a large landlocked country located in Central Asia. About two-thirds of its land is rugged and mountainous and much of the country is sparsely populated. Afghanistan's people are very poor and the country has recently been working to achieve political and economic stability despite the reemergence of the Taliban, following its fall in 2001.
Afghanistan was once a part of the ancient Persian Empire but was conquered by Alexander the Great in 328 B.C.E. In the 7th century, Islam arrived in Afghanistan after Arab peoples invaded the area. Several different groups then tried to run Afghanistan's lands until the 13th century when Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire invaded the area.
The Mongols controlled the area until 1747 when Ahmad Shah Durrani founded what is present-day Afghanistan. By the 19th century, Europeans began entering Afghanistan when the British Empire expanded into the Asian subcontinent and in 1839 and 1878, there were two Anglo-Afghan wars. At the end of the second war, Amir Abdur Rahman took control of Afghanistan but the British still played a role in foreign affairs.
In 1919, Abdur Rahman's grandson, Amanullah, took control of Afghanistan and began a third Anglo-Afghan war after invading India. Shortly after the war began however, the British and Afghan's signed the Treaty of Rawalpindi on August 19, 1919 and Afghanistan officially became independent.
Following its independence, Amanullah attempted to modernize and incorporate Afghanistan into world affairs. Beginning in 1953, Afghanistan again closely aligned itself with the former Soviet Union. In 1979, though, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and installed communist group in the country and occupied the area with its military occupation until 1989.
In 1992, Afghanistan was able to overthrow Soviet rule with its mujahideen guerrilla fighters and established an Islamic Jihad Council that same year to take over Kabul. Shortly thereafter, the mujahideen began having ethnic conflicts. In 1996, the Taliban then began rising in power in an attempt to bring stability to Afghanistan. However, the Taliban imposed strict Islamic rule on the country which lasted until 2001.
During its growth in Afghanistan, the Taliban took many rights from its people and caused tensions throughout the world after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 because it allowed Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaida members to remain in the country. In November 2001, after United States military occupation of Afghanistan, the Taliban fell and its official control of Afghanistan ended.
In 2004, Afghanistan had its first democratic elections and Hamid Karzai became Afghanistan's first president via election.
Government of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic that is divided into 34 provinces. It has executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Afghanistan's executive branch consists of a head of government and chief of state, while its legislative branch is a bicameral National Assembly made up of the House of Elders and the House of People. The judicial branch is comprised of a nine member Supreme Court and High Courts and Appeals Courts. Afghanistan's most recent Constitution was ratified on January 26, 2004.
Economics and Land Use in Afghanistan
Afghanistan's economy is currently recovering from years of instability but it is considered one of the poorest nations in the world. Most of the economy is based on agriculture and industry. Afghanistan's top agricultural products are opium, wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton, sheepskins and lambskins; while its industrial products include textiles, fertilizer, natural gas, coal and copper.
Geography and Climate of Afghanistan
Two-thirds of Afghanistan's terrain consists of rugged mountains. It also has plains and valleys in the northern and southwestern regions. The valleys of Afghanistan are its most populated areas and much of the country's agriculture takes place either here or on the high plains. Afghanistan's climate is arid to semiarid and has very hot summers and very cold winters.
More Facts about Afghanistan
• Afghanistan's official languages are Dari and Pashto
• Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 42.9 years
• Only ten percent of Afghanistan is below 2,000 feet (600 m)
• Afghanistan's literacy rate is 36%
Central Intelligence Agency. (2010, March 4). CIA - the World Factbook - Afghanistan. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/af.html
Geographica World Atlas & Encyclopedia. 1999. Random House Australia: Milsons Point NSW Australia.
Infoplease. (n.d.). Afghanistan: History, Geography, Government, Culture -Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107264.html
United States Department of State. (2008, November). Afghanistan (11/08). Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5380.htm