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د افغانستان اسلامي دولت
Da Afghanistan Islami Dawlat
دولت اسلامی افغانستان

Dawlâteh Eslamiyeh Afghanistan{{#if:{{{conventional_long_name|}}}|
Image:Flag of Afghanistan.svg Image:Afghanistan COA.png
Flag [[{{{symbol_type_article|{{{symbol_type|Coat of arms}}}}}} of Afghanistan|{{{symbol_type|Coat of arms}}}]]
Motto: none
Anthem: Soroud-e-Melli
Capital Kabul
Template:Coor dm
{{{largest_settlement_type|Largest city}}} Kabul}}}
Official language(s) Pashto, Afghan Persian (Dari)
Government Islamic Republic
Hamid Karzai
(from UK control over Afghan affairs)
 - Total
 - Water (%)
647,500 km² (40th)
250,001 sq mi 
 - 2006 est.{{#if:{{{population_census|}}}|
 - [[As of |]] census}}
 - Density
43/km² (125th)
111/sq mi 
 - Total
 - Per capita
2004 estimate
$21.5 billion (105th)
$800 (185th)
HDI (2003) NA (unranked) – NA
Currency Afghani (Af) (AFN)
Time zone
 - Summer (DST)
Internet TLD .af
Calling code +93 {{#if:{{{footnotes|}}}|<tr><td colspan="2">{{{footnotes|}}}

Coordinates: Template:Coor dm

Afghanistan (Pashto/Dari-Persian: افغانستان, Afğānistān) is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Asia. Generally considered a part of Central Asia, it is sometimes ascribed to a regional bloc in either South Asia or the Middle East, as it has cultural, ethno-linguistic, and geographic links with most of its neighbors. It is bordered by Iran in the west, Pakistan in the south and east, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China to the east. It has a population of 31,056,997 people.

Afghanistan is a mosaic of ethnic groups and cultures and a crossroads between east and west. An ancient land that has often been plundered and also been a focal point of trade, Afghanistan has seen numerous invaders come and go including Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, and Turks. Afghanistan, in its current form was formed following the Anglo-Afghan wars that culminated in Afghanistan's complete independence from foreign intervention in 1919. The country's recent history has seen it ravaged by the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, the rise and fall of the Taliban, and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. As a result of these traumatic events, Afghanistan is in rebuilding phase as it attempts to reconcile the devastation that constant warfare has created with a new government that seeks to unify and rebuild Afghanistan. Largely populated by Muslim Iranian and Turkic peoples, Afghanistan faces numerous problems ranging from its devastated economy, the return of millions of refugees, continued warlordism, drug trafficking, and a new government that is struggling with political forces that are trying to define what sort of country Afghanistan will become in the 21st century.



The name Afghanistan literally translates to Land of the Afghans. The origins of the name Afghanistan are shrouded in some mystery, but its modern usage derives from the word Afghan. The Pashtuns appear to have begun using the term Afghan as a name for themselves from the Islamic period onwards. According to W.K. Frazier Tyler, M.C. Gillet and several other scholars, "The word Afghan first appears in history in the Hudud-al-Alam in 982 AD." The last part of the name Afghanistan originates from the Persian word stān (country or land). The English word Afghanland that appeared in various treaties between Qajar-Persia and the United Kingdom dealing with the Eastern lands of the Persian kingdom (modern Afghanistan) was adopted by the Afghans and became Afghanistan.



Afghanistan exists at a unique nexus-point where numerous Eurasian civilizations have interacted and often fought and was an important site of early historical activity. Through the ages, the region today known as Afghanistan has been invaded by a host of peoples, including the Aryans: the Medes, and Persians (the Achaemenids and later Sassanians ). It was also invaded by the Greeks, Mauryans, Kushans, Arabs, Turks, British, Soviets and, most recently, the United States of America. But rarely have these groups managed to exert complete control over the region. On other occasions, native Afghan entities have invaded surrounding regions to form empires of their own. Image:Bamiyan.jpg Between 2000 and 1200 BCE, waves of Indo-European-speaking Aryans are thought to have flooded into modern-day Afghanistan, setting up a nation that became known as Aryānām Xšaθra, or "Land of the Aryans." Zoroastrianism is speculated to have possibly originated in Afghanistan between 1800 to 800 BCE. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages such as Avestan may have been spoken in Afghanistan around a similar time-line with the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Persian Empire supplanted the Medes and incorporated Aryana within its boundaries; and by 330 BCE, Alexander the Great had invaded the region. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the Hellenic successor states of the Seleucids and Bactrians controlled the area, while the Mauryas from India annexed the southeast for a time and introduced Buddhism to the region until the area returned to the Bactrian rule.

During the 1st century CE, the Tocharian Kushans occupied the region. Thereafter, Aryana fell to a number of Eurasian tribes — including Parthians, Scythians, and Huns, as well as the Sassanian Persians and local rulers such as the Hindu Shahis in Kabul — until the 7th century CE, when Muslim Arab armies invaded the region.

The Arabs initially annexed parts of western Afghanistan in 652 and then conquered most of the rest of Afghanistan between 706-709 CE and administered the region as Khorasan, and over time much of the local population converted to Islam. Afghanistan became the center of various important empires, including the Ghaznavid Empire (962-1151), founded by a local Turkic ruler from Ghazni named Yamin ul-Dawlah Mahmud. This empire was replaced by the Ghorid Empire (1151-1219), founded by another local ruler, this time of Tajik extraction, Muhammad Ghori, whose domains laid the foundations for the Delhi Sultanate in India.

In 1219, the region was overrun by the Mongols under Genghis Khan, who devastated the land. Their rule continued with the Ilkhanates, and was extended further following the invasion of Tamerlane (Timur Leng), a ruler from Central Asia. The Uzbek-born Babur, a descendant of both Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, established the Mughal Empire with its capital at Kabul by 1504. Later, the Safavids of Persia challenged Mughal rule with the Persians acquiring the area by the mid-17th century.

Local Ghilzai Pashtun tribesmen successfully overthrew Safavid rule, and under the Hotaki dynasty, which briefly controlled Afghanistan and all or parts of Persia itself from 1722 to 1736. Following a brief period under the rule (1736-1747) of the Turko-Iranian conqueror Nadir Shah, one of his high-ranking military officers, Ahmad Shah Abdali, himself a Pashtun tribesman of the Abdali clan, called for a loya jirga following Nadir Shah's assassination (for which many implicate Abdali) in 1747. The Afghans/Pashtuns came together at Kandahar in 1747 and chose Ahmad Shah, who changed his last name to Durrani (meaning 'pearl of pearls' in Persian), to be king. The Afghanistan nation-state as it is known today came into existence in 1747 as the Durrani Empire which was centered in Afghanistan. The Durrani Empire lasted for nearly a century until internecine conflicts and wars with the Persians and Sikhs diminished their empire by the early 19th century. However, the current borders of Afghanistan would not be determined until the coming of the British.

During the 19th century, following the Anglo-Afghan wars (fought in 1839-1842, 1878-1880, and lastly in 1919), Afghanistan saw much of its territory and autonomy ceded to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom exercised a great deal of influence, and it was not until King Amanullah acceded to the throne in 1919 (see "The Great Game") that Afghanistan regained complete independence. During the period of British intervention in Afghanistan, ethnic Pashtun territories were divided by the Durand Line, and this would lead to strained relations between Afghanistan and British India, and later the new state of Pakistan, over what came to be known as the Pashtunistan debate.

The longest period of stability in Afghanistan was 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 were murdered in 1978 when the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan launched a coup known as the Great Saur Revolution and took over the government.

Opposition against, and conflict within, the series of communist governments that followed, was considerable. As part of a Cold War strategy, the US government began to covertly fund and train anti-government Mujahideen forces through the Pakistani secret service agency known as Inter Services Intelligence or ISI, which were derived from discontented Muslims in the country who opposed the official atheism of the Marxist regime, in 1978. In order to bolster the local Communist forces the Soviet Union - citing the 1978 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness that had been signed between the two countries in 1978 - intervened on December 24, 1979. The Soviet occupation resulted in a mass exodus of over 5 million Afghans who moved into refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. More than 3 million alone settled in Pakistan. Faced with mounting international pressure and the loss of approximately 15,000 Soviet soldiers as a result of Mujahideen opposition forces trained by the United States, Pakistan, and other foreign governments, the Soviets withdrew ten years later, in 1989. For more details, see Soviet war in Afghanistan.

The Soviet withdrawal was seen as an ideological victory in the US, which ostensibly had backed the Mujahideen in order to counter Soviet influence in the vicinity of the oil-rich Persian Gulf. Following the removal of the Soviet forces in 1989, the US and its allies lost interest in Afghanistan and did little to help rebuild the war-ravaged country. The USSR continued to support the regime of Dr. Najibullah (formerly the head of the secret service, Khad) until its downfall in 1992. However, the absence of the Soviet forces resulted in the downfall of the government as it steadily lost ground to the guerrilla forces.<ref>Infoplease - Afghanistan: History</ref>

As the vast majority of the elites and intellectuals had either been systematically eliminated by the Communists, or escaped to take refuge abroad, a dangerous leadership vacuum came into existence. Fighting continued among the various Mujahidin factions, eventually giving rise to a state of warlordism. The chaos and corruption that dominated post-Soviet Afghanistan in turn spawned the rise of the Taliban in response to the growing chaos. The most serious fighting during this growing civil conflict occurred in 1994, when 10,000 people were killed during factional fighting in Kabul.

Exploiting the chaotic situation in Afghanistan, a few regional bedfellows including fundamentalist Afghans trained in refugee camps in western Pakistan, the Pakistani secret intelligence service (ISI), the regional Mafia (well-established network that smuggled mainly Japanese electronics and tyres before the Russian invasion, now involved in drug smuggling) and Arab extremist groups (that were looking for a safe operational hub) joined forces and helped to create the Taliban movement.<ref name=Rashid>Rashid, Ahmed (2000) "Taliban - Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia", Yale University Press</ref> Backed by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other strategic allies, the Taliban developed as a politico-religious force, and eventually seized power in 1996. The Taliban were able to capture 90% of the country, aside from the Afghan Northern Alliance strongholds primarily found in the northeast in the Panjshir Valley. The Taliban sought to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law and gave safe haven and assistance to individuals and organizations that were implicated as terrorists, most notably Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

Since 1900, eleven monarchs and rulers have been unseated through undemocratic means: in 1919 (assassination), 1929 (abdication), 1929 (execution), 1933 (assassination), 1973 (deposition), 1978 (execution), 1979 (execution), 1979 (execution), 1987 (removal), 1992 (overthrow), 1996 (overthrow) and 2001 (overthrow).

The United States and allied military action in support of the opposition following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks forced the Taliban'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.

On March 3 and March 25 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).

As the country continues to rebuild and recover, as of late 2005, it was still struggling against widespread poverty, continued warlordism, a virtually non-existent infrastructure, possibly the largest concentration of land mines on earth and other unexploded ordinance, as well as a sizable illegal poppy and heroin trade. Afghanistan also remains subject to occasionally violent political jockeying, and the nation's first elections were successfully held in 2004 as women parliamentarians were selected in record numbers. Parliamentary elections in 2005 helped to further stabilize the country politically, in spite of the numerous problems it faced, including inadequate international assistance. The country continues to grapple with occasional acts of violence from a few remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban and the instability caused by warlords.

The present international forces present in Afghanistan are the United Nations' International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the US Enduring Freedom.

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Template:More Image:Loya Jirga 2002.jpg Afghanistan is currently led by president Hamid Karzai, who was elected in October of 2004. Before the election, Karzai led the country after having been hand-picked by the administration of United States' President Bush to head an interim government, after the fall of the Taliban. His current cabinet includes members of the Afghan Northern Alliance, and a mix from other regional and ethnic groups formed from the transitional government by the Loya jirga (grand council).


Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces (velayat) which are further divided into districts. Template:Main Template:Main

The 34 provinces are:

Image:Afghanistan provinces numbered.png


Image:Afghanistan map.png Template:Main

Afghanistan is a land-locked mountainous country, with plains in the north and southwest. The highest point, at 7485 m (24,557 ft) above sea level, is Nowshak. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. Afghanistan has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The country is frequently subject to earthquakes.

The major cities of Afghanistan are its capital Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar.

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Template:Main Image:Afghan60c.jpg Afghanistan is an extremely impoverished country, being one of the world's poorest and least developed countries. Two-thirds of the population lives on less than US$2 a day. The economy has suffered greatly from the recent political and military unrest since the 1979-80 Soviet invasion and subsequent conflicts, while severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998-2001.

About 70 percent of the population is under 30, according to Asian Development Bank. The total fertility rate is 6.8, the highest in South Asia (with a regional average at 3.3), but so are mortality rates. Infant mortality rate is 163 per 1,000 births, the second-highest in the world.<ref>CIA - The World Factbook - Rank Order - Infant mortality rate</ref> The economically active population in 2002 was about 11 million (out of a total of an estimated 29 million). While there are no official unemployment rate estimates available, it is evident that it is high. The number of non-skilled young people is estimated at 3 million, which is likely to increase by some 300,000 per annum.<ref name=Fujimura>Fujimura, Manabu (2004) "Afghan Economy After the Election", Asian Development Bank Institute</ref>

The country's natural resources include copper, zinc and iron ore in central areas; precious and semi-precious stones such as lapis, emerald and azure in the north-east and east; and (unproved) oil and gas reserves in the north. However, "its significant mineral resources remain largely untapped because of the Afghan War of the 1980s and subsequent fighting" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2005). As much as one-third of Afghanistan's GDP comes poppy growing and illicit drugs including opium and its two derivatives; morphine and heroin, as well as hashish production.<ref name=CIA>CIA - The World Factbook - Afghanistan</ref>

Image:President Celal Bayar, King Zahir and Lord Nasher.jpg

On a positive note, international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan led to the formation of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) as a result of the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, and later addressed at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan Reconstruction in January 2002, where $4.5 billion was committed in a trust fund to be administered by the World Bank Group. Priority areas for reconstruction include the rebuilding of education system, health, and sanitation facilities, enhancement of administrative capacity, the development of the agricultural sector, and the rebuilding of road, energy, and telecommunication links.

According to a 2004 report by the Asian Development Bank, the present reconstruction effort is two-pronged: first it focuses on rebuilding critical physical infrastructure, and second, on building modern public sector institutions from the remnants of Soviet style planning to ones that promote market-led development.<ref name=Fujimura>Fujimura, Manabu (2004) "Afghan Economy After the Election", Asian Development Bank Institute</ref> But macroeconomic planning and management at present is hampered by poor information, weak service delivery systems, and less than adequate law enforcement.

The country has been going through economic recovery since the Taliban were overthrown in October 2001. However, estimating Afghanistan's economy is problematic as it is impossible to gather reliable statistics while it is going through a significant change period in all fronts, with the added problem of less than ideal security situation. The best estimate that can be relied upon is that of the Central Statistical Office in 2003, from which the CIA Factbook seems to have drawn some data. Accordingly, the country's estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was $21.5 billion in 2004, a 28.6% growth over 2002.<ref name=CIA>CIA - The World Factbook - Afghanistan</ref>

Among the 232 listed countries in the CIA Factbook, Afghanistan ranks 108th in terms of GDP, which means per capita income of $800. A brief comparison shows that Afghanistan is the poorest country among its neighbors. Pakistan, with a GDP of $385 billion in 2005 had a per capita purchasing power of $2200 and Iran with its $517 billion had $7700. In the north, Turkmenistan had a GDP of $27.6 billion and a per capita income of $5700, Uzbekistan with its $48 billion had $1800, and Tajikistan despite a low GDP of only $8 billion had a per capita income of $1100 per head. The World Bank estimates that Afghanistan will remain in need of external financial help before it can stand on its own feet economically.

Ironically, Afghanistan's GDP ranks approximately at the same level as Jordan ($25.5bn) and oil-rich Qatar ($19.5bn). However, considering that those Arab states have smaller populations, Jordan per capita income amounts to $4500 and Qatar's to $23,200.

One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over two million refugees from neighbouring countries and the West, who brought with them fresh energy, entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed capital to start up small businesses. What is also helping is the estimated $2-3 billion in international assistance, the partial recovery of the agricultural sector, and the reestablishment of market institutions.

While the country's current account deficit is largely financed with the "donor money", only a small portion - about 15% - is provided directly to the government budget. The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the UN system and NGOs. It needs to be mentioned that there are some (as yet unconfirmed) claims that most of this money is spent on the expenses of the UN and other non-governmental organizations as well as being funneled into illegitimate activities.

The government had a central budget of only $350 million in 2003 and an estimated $550 million in 2004. The country's foreign exchange reserves totals about $500 million. Revenue is mostly generated through customs, as income and corporate tax bases are negligible.

Inflation had been a major problem until 2002. However, the depreciation of the afghani in 2002 after the introduction of the new notes (which replaced 1,000 old afghani by 1 new afghani) coupled with the relative stability compared to previous periods has helped prices to stabilize and even decrease between December 2002 and February 2003, reflecting the turnaround appreciation of the new Afghani currency. Since then, the index has indicated stability, with a moderate increase toward late 2003.<ref name=Fujimura>Fujimura, Manabu (2004) "Afghan Economy After the Election", Asian Development Bank Institute</ref>

The Afghan government and international donors seem to remain committed to improving access to basic necessities, infrastructure development, education, housing and economic reform. The central government is also focusing on improved revenue collection and public sector expenditure discipline. The rebuilding of the financial sector seems to have been so far successful. Money can now be transferred in and out of the country via official banking channels and according to accepted international norms. A new law on private investment provides 3-7 year tax holidays to eligible companies and a 4-year exemption from exports tariffs and duties.

While these improvements will help rebuild a strong basis for the nation in the future, for now, the majority of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, medical care, and other problems exacerbated by military operations and political uncertainties. The government is not strong enough to collect customs duties from all the provinces due to the power of the warlords. Fraud is widespread and “corruption is rife within all Afghan government organs, and central authority is barely felt in the lawless south and south-west”.<ref>The Economist magazine, UK, October 2005</ref>

Expanding poppy cultivation and a growing opium trade is another huge problem for the country. The CIA estimates that one-third of the country's GDP comes from opium export, although the Asian Development Bank states a lower figure, namely $2.5 billion (12% of the GDP). At any rate, this is not only one of Kabul's most serious policy and law-enforcement challenges<ref>CIA - The World Factbook - Rank Order - GDP (purchasing power parity)</ref>, but also one of the world's most serious problems.

The problem began with the Soviet invasion in 1979-80. As the government began to lose control of provinces, "warlordism" flourished and with it opium production as regional commanders searched for ways to generate money to purchase weapons, according to the UN.<ref>UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs website - Bitter-Sweet Harvest: Afghanistan's New War</ref> (At this time the West was pursuing an "arms-length" supporting strategy of the Afghan freedom-fighters or Mujahidin, the main purpose being to cripple the USSR slowly into withdrawal rather than a quick and decisive overthrow).

When the West abandoned Afghanistan after its perceived victory over the Soviet Union as the Red Army was forced to withdraw in 1989, a power vacuum was created. Various Mujahidin factions started fighting against each other for power. With the discontinuation of Western support, they resorted ever more to poppy cultivation to finance their military existence.

The regional mafia, who were looking for a safe operational hub, joined forces with the more fanatic sections of the Mujahidin supported by Arab extremists like Osama bin Laden as well as the Pakistani secret intelligence service ISI to form the Taliban movement towards the end of 1994;<ref name=Rashid>Rashid, Ahmed (2000) "Taliban - Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia", Yale University Press</ref> see also BBC report here <ref>BBC News - Afghanistan's turbulent history October 8, 2004</ref>.

The Taliban, having taken control of 90% of the country, actively encouraged poppy cultivation. With this, they not only fulfilled their promises and obligations to their partners - the regional mafia - but also increased their own desperately needed income through taxes. According to the above UN source, Afghanistan saw a bumper opium crop of 4,600 million tonnes in 1999, which was the height of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. When they came under extreme international diplomatic pressure in 2002, they initiated a ban on poppy cultivation.

Following the US-led coalition war that led to the defeat of the Taliban in November 2001 which essentially collapsed the economy, the relatively few other sources of revenue forced many of the country's farmers to resort back to growing cash crops for export. A notable example of such a crop is the opium poppy (1,300 km² in 2004 according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), the cultivation of which has largely increased during the last decade: Afghanistan has become the first illicit opium producer in the world, before Burma (Myanmar), part of the so-called "Golden Triangle".

The main obstacle to eradicating poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is the US forces' need for the warlords and their forces in hunting terrorists. The warlords are the major culprits in poppy cultivation, but are also highly useful to the US forces in scouting, providing local intelligence, keeping their own territories clean from Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents, and even taking part in military operations - all for money. This also contributes to the lack of central government's real authority in provinces and discourages farmers from growing grain and fruit as they did for centuries previously.

In short, the Afghan economy is currently (December 2005) going through a hefty change period. On the one hand, there are encouraging signs of positive development and increasing wealth creation and management. But on the other hand, the security situation, the lingering war against terrorism and the opium problem have created tall barriers for Afghanistan to rejoin the international community in prosperity and economic development.



The population of Afghanistan is divided into a wide variety of ethnic groups. Because a systematic census has not been held in the country in decades, exact figures about the size and composition of the various ethnic groups are not available.<ref>BBC News - Afghan poll's ethnic battleground - October 6, 2004</ref> Therefore most figures are approximations only. According to the CIA World FactBook,<ref name=CIA>CIA - The World Factbook - Afghanistan</ref> an approximate ethnic group distribution is as follows:

Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%,, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%.

The CIA factbook on languages in Afghanistan refers to the official languages of Afghanistan as being Afghan Persian (local name: Dari) 50% and Pashtu 35%. Other languages include Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%. Bilingualism is common.

Religiously, Afghans are overwhelmingly Muslim (approximately 80% Sunni and 19% Shi'a). There are also small Hindu and Sikh minorities. Afghanistan was once home to a many-centuries-old Jewish minority, numbering approximately 5,000 in 1948. Most Jewish families fled the country after the 1979 Soviet invasion, and only one individual remains today, Zablon Simintov. <ref> - Afghan Jew Becomes Country's One and Only - N.C. Aizenman</ref> With the fall of the Taliban a number of Sikhs have returned to the Ghazni, Nangarhar, Kandahar and Kabul Provinces of Afghanistan.



According to the 2004 constitution of Afghanistan, Afghanistan is run by a president, who is elected by direct popular vote to a five-year term. The president may only serve two terms. A candidate for president must be at least forty years of age, a Muslim, and a citizen of Afghanistan. The country has two vice-presidents. The president serves as head of state and government, and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president makes appointments for his cabinet, as well as posts in the military, police force, and provincial governorships, with the approval of parliament.

The legislative body of Afghanistan is a parliament consisting of two houses: the Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) and the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders). The Wolesi Jirga consists of up to 250 members elected to five-year terms through direct elections in proportion to the population of each province. At least two women must be elected from each province. In the Meshrano Jirga, one-third of the members are elected by provincial councils for four years, one-third are elected by district councils of each province for three years, and one-third are appointed by the president for five years, of whom half must be women.

The judicial system of Afghanistan consists of the Stera Mahkama (Supreme Court), appeals courts, and lower district courts designated by law. The Stera Mahkama is made up of nine judges appointed by the president, with the approval of parliament, to a ten-year term. Judges must be at least forty years of age, not belong to a political party, and have a degree in law or Islamic jurisprudence. The Stera Mahkama can judge the constitutionality of all laws in the country.



Afghans display pride in their country, ancestry, military prowess, and above all, their independence. Like other highlanders, Afghans are regarded with mingled apprehension and condescension, for their high regard for personal honor, for their clan loyalty and for their readiness to carry and use arms to settle disputes.<ref name=Heathcote>Heathcote, Tony (1980, 2003) "The Afghan Wars 1839 - 1919", Sellmount Staplehurst</ref> As clan warfare / internecine feuding has been one of their chief occupations since time immemorial, this individualistic trait has made it difficult for foreign invaders to hold the region.

Afghanistan has a complex history that has survived either in its current cultures or in the form of various languages and monuments. However, many of the country's historic monuments have been damaged in recent wars. The two famous statues of Buddha in the Bamiyan Province were destroyed by the Taliban, who regarded them as idolatrous. Other famous sites include the very cities of Herat, Ghazni and Balkh. The Minaret of Jam, in the Hari Rud valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The people of Afghanistan are prominent horsemen as the national sport is Buzkashi. Afghan hounds (a type of running dogs) also originated in Afghanistan.

Although literacy levels are very low, classic Persian poetry plays a very important role in Afghan culture. Poetry has always been one of the major educational pillars in both Iran and Afghanistan, to the level that it has integrated itself into culture. Private poetry competition events known as “musha’era” are quite common even among ordinary people. Almost every home owns one or more poetry collection of some sort, even if it is not read often.

The Afghan dialect of the Persian language Dari derives from "Farsee-e Darbari", meaning 'Persian of the royal courts'. It is regarded by some scholars as the more original version of the language. Iran, having a larger population, a stronger economy and closer ties to the rest of the world has developed its language further in the course of history. Afghanistan took a more conservative approach mainly due to lack of resources. As a result, Dari has not changed much over the last few centuries.

Many of the famous Persian language poets of 10th to 15th centuries stem from what is now known as Afghanistan. They were mostly also scholars in many disciplines like languages, natural sciences, medicine, religion and astronomy. Examples are Mawlvi Balkhi (Rumi), born and educated in the Balkh province in the 13th century and moved to today’s Istanbul, Sanaayi Ghaznavi (12th century, native of Ghazni provice), Jami Heravi (15th century, native of Jam-e-Herat in western Afghanistan), Nizam ud-Din Ali Sher Heravi Nava'i, (15th century, Herat province). Also, some of the contemporary Persian language poets and writers, who are relatively well-know in both Iran and Afghanistan includes Ustad Behtab, Khalilullah Khalili <ref> - Ustad Khalilullah Khalili - 1997</ref>, Sufi Ghulam Nabi Ashqari <ref> - Kharaabat - by Yousef Kohzad - 2000</ref>, Parwin Pazwak and others.

In addition to poets, the region of Afghanistan produced numerous scientists as well including Avicenna (Ibn Sina Balkhi) who hailed from Balkh. Avicenna, who travelled to Isfahan later in life to establish a medical school there, is known by some scholars as "the father of modern medicine". George Sarton called Ibn Sina "the most famous scientist of Islam and one of the most famous of all races, places, and times." His most famous works are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, also known as the Qanun. Avicenna's story even found way to the contemporary English literature through Noah Gordon's The Physician <ref>Noah Gordon</ref>, now published in many languages.

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

The tribal system, which orders the life of most people outside metropolitan areas, is certainly as potent in political terms as the national state system of Europe 1914. Men feel a fierce loyalty to their own tribe, such that, if called upon, assemble in arms under the tribal chiefs and local clan leaders (Khans) in the same way that men throughout Europe "flocked to the colours" in 1914, forming up in regional divisions and battalions under the command of the local nobility and gentry. In theory, under Islamic law, every believer has an obligation to bear arms at the ruler's call (Ulul-Amr), but this was no more needed than was enforced conscription to fill the ranks of the British Army in 1914. The Afghan shepherd or peasant went to war for much the same mixture of reasons as the more "civilised" European clerk or factory worker - a desire for adventure, a desire not to be left out or lose esteem in the eyes of his fellows, a contempt for invading foreigners, revenge against those that ruined his family life or threatened his faith, perhaps even the chance of extra cash or enhanced personal prospects.

The tribal system is not something particularly backward or warlike. It is simply the best way of organizing large groups of people in a country that is geographically difficult, and in a society that has an uncomplicated lifestyle - from a materialistic point of view.<ref name=Heathcote>Heathcote, Tony (1980, 2003) "The Afghan Wars 1839 - 1919", Sellmount Staplehurst</ref>

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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 civil war. Only half of the schools were reported to have clean water, while fewer 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 beginning in March of 2003. Education is available for both girls and boys.

Literacy of the entire population is estimated at 36%, Male Literacy rate is 51% and female literacy is 21%. The male literacy rate is higher because previous Taliban laws prohibited the education of women.

Higher Education - The American University of Afghanistan

Another aspect of education that is rapidly changing in Afghanistan is the face of Higher Education. In 2006 the American University of Afghanistan will open its doors, with support from USAID and other donors. With the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan, the university will take students from Afghanistan and the region.

View of Afghanistan

See also




Additional references

  • Ghobar, Mit Gholam Mohammad. Afghanistan in the Cource of History, 1999, All Prints Inc.
  • Griffiths, John C. 1981. Afghanistan: A History of Conflict. André Deutsch, London. Updated edition, 2001. Andre Deutsch Ltd, 2002, ISBN 0233050531.
  • Levi, Peter. 1972. The Light Garden of the Angel King: Journeys in Afghanistan. Collins, 1972, ISBN 0002110423. Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973, Indianapolis/New York, ISBN 0672512521.
  • Moorcroft, William and Trebeck, George. 1841. Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Panjab; in Ladakh and Kashmir, in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz, and Bokhara... from 1819 to 1825, Vol. II. Reprint: New Delhi, Sagar Publications, 1971. Oxford University Press, 1979, ISBN 0195771990.
  • Rashid, Ahmed (2000) "Taliban - Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia", Yale University Press
  • Caroe, Olaf. 1958. The Pathans (about the ethnic origin of Afghans).
  • Toynbee, Arnold J. 1961. Between Oxus and Jumna. Oxford University Press, London. ISBN B0006DBR44.
  • Wood, John. 1872. A Journey to the Source of the River Oxus. New Edition, edited by his son, with an essay on the "Geography of the Valley of the Oxus" by Henry Yule. John Murray, London. Gregg Division McGraw-Hill, 1971, ISBN 0576033227.
  • Heathcote, T.A. The Afghan Wars 1839-1999, 1980,2003, Spellmount Staplehurst

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