Afghanistan

Coordinates: 34°31′N 69°11′E / 34.517°N 69.183°E / 34.517; 69.183
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Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
  • د افغانستان اسلامي امارت (
    Dari
    )

    Imārat-i Islāmī-yi Afğānistān
Motto: لا إله إلا الله، محمد رسول الله
Lā ʾilāha ʾillā llāh, Muhammadun rasūlu llāh
"There is no god but
theocratic Islamic emirate[14]
Hibatullah Akhundzada
Hasan Akhund (acting)
Abdul Hakim Haqqani
LegislatureNone
27 May 1863
26 May 1879
19 August 1919
• Kingdom
9 June 1926
• Republic
17 July 1973
27–28 April 1978
28 April 1992
27 September 1996
26 January 2004
15 August 2021
Afghanistan Time)
DST is not observed[25]
ISO 3166 codeAF
Internet TLD.af

Afghanistan,[d] officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,[e] is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. Referred to as the Heart of Asia,[26] it is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south,[f] Iran to the west, Turkmenistan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, Tajikistan to the northeast, and China to the northeast and east. Occupying 652,864 square kilometers (252,072 sq mi) of land, the country is predominantly mountainous with plains in the north and the southwest, which are separated by the Hindu Kush mountain range. Kabul is the country's largest city and serves as its capital. According to the World Population review, as of 2021, Afghanistan's population is 40.2 million.[6] The National Statistics Information Authority of Afghanistan estimated the population to be 32.9 million as of 2020.[28]

Zahir Shah was overthrown in 1973, following which the Republic of Afghanistan
was established.

Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan's history has been dominated by extensive warfare, including

amongst themselves following the Soviets' withdrawal in 1989. The Islamic fundamentalist Taliban controlled most of the country by 1996, but their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan received little international recognition before its overthrow in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban returned to power in 2021 after capturing Kabul and overthrowing the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, ending the 2001–2021 war.[36] In September 2021 the Taliban re-established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.[37] The Taliban government remains internationally unrecognized.[38]

Afghanistan is rich in natural resources, including

Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Due to the effects of war in recent decades, the country has dealt with high levels of terrorism, poverty, and child malnutrition. Afghanistan remains among the world's least developed countries, ranking 180th in the Human Development Index. Afghanistan's gross domestic product (GDP) is $81 billion by purchasing power parity and $20.1 billion by nominal values. Per capita, its GDP is amongst the lowest of any country as of 2020
.

Etymology

Some scholars suggest that the

aśva, the Sanskrit and Avestan words for "horse").[43]

Historically, the ethnonym Afghān was used to refer to ethnic

The name Afghanistan (Afghānistān, land of the Afghans / Pashtuns, afāghina, sing. afghān) can be traced to the early eighth/fourteenth century, when it designated the easternmost part of the

Kartid realm. This name was later used for certain regions in the Ṣafavid and Mughal empires that were inhabited by Afghans. While based on a state-supporting elite of Abdālī / Durrānī Afghans, the Sadūzāʾī Durrānī polity
that came into being in 1160 / 1747 was not called Afghanistan in its own day. The name became a state designation only during the colonial intervention of the nineteenth century.

The term "Afghanistan" was officially used in 1855, when the British recognized Dost Mohammad Khan as king of Afghanistan.[47]

History

Prehistory and antiquity

Tents of Afghan nomads in the northern Badghis province. Early peasant farming villages came into existence about 7,000 years ago.

Excavations of prehistoric sites suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to

Oxus River at Shortugai in northern Afghanistan, which shows Afghanistan to have been a part of Indus Valley Civilization.[52]

After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan; among them were many

Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries that he had conquered.[54] The region of Arachosia, around Kandahar in modern-day southern Afghanistan, used to be primarily Zoroastrian and played a key role in the transfer of the Avesta to Persia and is thus considered by some to be the "second homeland of Zoroastrianism".[55][56][57]

Scythian belt depicting Dionysus, from Tillya Tepe in the ancient region of Bactria

Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. They were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.[58][59]
The Silk Road appeared during the first century BCE, and Afghanistan flourished with trade, with routes to China, India, Persia, and north to the cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva in present-day Uzbekistan.[60] Goods and ideas were exchanged at this center point, such as Chinese silk, Persian silver and Roman gold, while the region of present Afghanistan was mining and trading lapis lazuli stones[61] mainly from the Badakhshan region.

During the first century BCE, the

Buddhist culture.[63][64]

Medieval period

The Ghurids originated from Ghor Province in central Afghanistan

Samanids extended their Islamic influence south of the Hindu Kush. The Ghaznavids rose to power in the 10th century.[74][75][76]

By the 11th century,

Mongol invasions and conquests

In 1219 CE,

Bamyan.[81] The destruction caused by the Mongols forced many locals to return to an agrarian rural society.[82] Mongol rule continued with the Ilkhanate in the northwest while the Khalji dynasty administered the Afghan tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush until the invasion of Timur (aka Tamerlane), who established the Timurid Empire in 1370. Under the rule of Shah Rukh the city of Herat[83] served as the focal point of the Timurid Renaissance, whose glory matched Florence of the Italian Renaissance as the center of a cultural rebirth.[84][85]

In the early 16th century,

Mughals ruled parts of the territory.[88] During the medieval period, the northwestern area of Afghanistan was referred to by the regional name Khorasan, which was commonly used up to the 19th century among natives to describe their country.[89][90][91][92]

Hotak Dynasty

Map of the Hotak Empire at its height in 1728, disputed between Hussain Hotak (centered in Kandahar) and Ashraf Hotak (centered in Isfahan)

In 1709,

Gurgin Khan, the Georgian governor of Kandahar under the Safavids, and established his own kingdom.[93] Mirwais died in 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz, who was soon killed by Mirwais's son Mahmud for possibly planning to sign a peace with the Safavids. Mahmud led the Afghan army in 1722 to the Persian capital of Isfahan, and captured the city after the Battle of Gulnabad and proclaimed himself King of Persia.[93] The Afghan dynasty was ousted from Persia by Nader Shah after the 1729 Battle of Damghan
.

In 1738, Nader Shah and his forces captured Kandahar in the siege of Kandahar, the last Hotak stronghold, from Shah Hussain Hotak. Soon after, the Persian and Afghan forces invaded India, Nader Shah had plundered Delhi, alongside his 16-year-old commander, Ahmad Shah Durrani who had assisted him on these campaigns. Nader Shah was assassinated in 1747.[94][95]

Durrani Empire

After the death of Nader Shah in 1747,

Nishapur
once again, and captured it.

The Afghan Durrani Empire at its height in 1761

Ahmad Shah

Battle of Manupur (1748), where he was defeated and forced to retreat to back to Afghanistan.[99] He returned the next year in 1749 and captured the area around Lahore and Punjab, presenting it as an Afghan victory for this campaign.[100] From 1749 to 1767, Ahmad Shah led six more invasions, the most important being the last; the Third Battle of Panipat created a power vacuum in northern India, halting Maratha
expansion.

Portrait of Ahmad Shah Durrani c. 1757

Ahmad Shah Durrani died in October 1772, and a civil war over succession followed, with his named successor, Timur Shah Durrani succeeding him after the defeat of his brother, Suleiman Mirza.[101] Timur Shah Durrani ascended to the throne in November 1772, having defeated a coalition under Shah Wali Khan and Humayun Mirza. Timur Shah began his reign by consolidating power toward himself and people loyal to him, purging Durrani Sardars and influential tribal leaders in Kabul and Kandahar. One of Timur Shah's reforms was to move the capital of the Durrani Empire from Kandahar to Kabul. Timur Shah fought multiple series of rebellions to consolidate the empire, and he also led campaigns into Punjab against the Sikhs like his father, though more successfully. The most prominent example of his battles during this campaign was when he led his forces under Zangi Khan Durrani – with over 18,000 men total of Afghan, Qizilbash, and Mongol cavalrymen – against over 60,000 Sikh men. The Sikhs lost over 30,000 in this battle and staged a Durrani resurgence in the Punjab region[102] The Durranis lost Multan in 1772 after Ahmad Shah's death. Following this victory by Timur Shah, Timur Shah was able to lay siege to Multan and recapture it,[103] incorporating it into the Durrani Empire once again, reintegrating it as a province until the Siege of Multan (1818). Timur Shah was succeeded by his son Zaman Shah Durrani after his death on in May 1793. Timur Shah's reign oversaw the attempted stabilization and consolidation of the empire. However, Timur Shah had over 24 sons, which plunged the empire in civil war over succession crises.[104]

Shah Shuja Durrani (on 13 July 1803).[107] Shah Shuja attempted to consolidate the Durrani Realm but was deposed by his brother at the Battle of Nimla (1809).[108] Mahmud Shah Durrani defeated Shah Shuja and forced him to flee, usurping the throne again. His second reign began on 3 May 1809.[109]

Barakzai dynasty and British wars

Emirate of Herat
seen as well.

By the early 19th century, the Afghan empire was under threat from the

Principality of Qandahar, Emirate of Herat, Khanate of Qunduz, Maimana Khanate, and numerous other warring polities. The most prominent state was the Emirate of Kabul, ruled by Dost Mohammad Khan.[110][111]

With the collapse of the Durrani Empire, and the exile of the

Afghan tribesmen in 1841, painted by British officer James Rattray

In 1839, a

The Battle of Kabul that led to its sacking, the British gave up on their attempts to try and subjugate Afghanistan, which allowed Dost Mohammad Khan to return as ruler. Dost Mohammad united most of the Afghan realm in his reign, launching numerous campaigns including against the surrounding states in Afghanistan in numerous campaigns such as the Hazarajat campaign, conquest of Balkh, conquest of Kunduz, conquest of Kandahar, and finally securing the last major state, Herat, in his final campaign. During his campaigns of re-unification, he held friendly relations with the British and affirmed their status in the Second Anglo-Afghan treaty of 1857, while Bukhara
and internal leaders pressured the Afghans to invade india.

Dost Mohammad died in June 1863, a few weeks after his successful

Pashtun and Baloch territories were divided by the Durand Line, which forms the modern-day border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Shia-dominated Hazarajat and pagan Kafiristan remained politically independent until being conquered by Abdur Rahman Khan in 1891–1896. He was known as the "Iron Amir" for his features and his ruthless methods against tribes.[117] He died in 1901, succeeded by his son, Habibullah Khan.

How can a small power like Afghanistan, which is like a goat between these lions [Britain and Russia] or a grain of wheat between two strong millstones of the grinding mill, [could] stand in the midway of the stones without being ground to dust?

— Abdur Rahman Khan, the "Iron Amir", in 1900[118][119]

During the

First World War, when Afghanistan was neutral, Habibullah Khan was met by officials of the Central Powers in the Niedermayer–Hentig Expedition. They called on Afghanistan to declare full independence from the United Kingdom, join them and attack British India, as part of the Hindu–German Conspiracy. The effort to bring Afghanistan into the Central Powers failed, but it sparked discontent among the population about maintaining neutrality with the British. Habibullah was assassinated in February 1919, and Amanullah Khan eventually assumed power. A staunch supporter of the 1915–1916 expeditions, Amanullah Khan provoked the Third Anglo-Afghan War, entering British India via the Khyber Pass.[120]

King of Afghanistan
in June 1926.

After the end of the Third Anglo-Afghan War and the signing of the

constitution, which made elementary education compulsory. Slavery was abolished in 1923.[123] King Amanullah's wife, Queen Soraya, was an important figure during this period in the fight for woman's education and against their oppression.[124]

Some of the reforms that were put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional

Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, defeated and killed Kalakani in October 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah.[126] He abandoned the reforms of King Amanullah in favor of a more gradual approach to modernization, but was assassinated in 1933 by Abdul Khaliq.[127]

Amanullah loyalists. Afghanistan joined the League of Nations in 1934. The 1930s saw the development of roads, infrastructure, the founding of a national bank, and increased education. Road links in the north played a large part in a growing cotton and textile industry.[128] The country built close relationships with the Axis powers, with Nazi Germany having the largest share in Afghan development at the time.[129]

King Zahir
, the last reigning monarch of Afghanistan, who reigned from 1933 until 1973

Until 1946, King Zahir ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of

Pashtun nationalist who sought the creation of a Pashtunistan, leading to highly tense relations with Pakistan.[130] Daoud Khan pressed for social modernization reforms and sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union. Afterward, the 1964 constitution was formed, and the first non-royal prime minister was sworn in.[128]

Zahir Shah, like his father Nadir Shah, had a policy of maintaining national independence while pursuing gradual modernization, creating nationalist feeling, and improving relations with the United Kingdom. Afghanistan was neither a participant in

, abolishing the monarchy.

Democratic Republic and Soviet war

Soviet troops in Gardez, Afghanistan in 1987

In April 1978, the communist

Maoist guerrillas) against regime forces countrywide. It quickly turned into a proxy war as the Pakistani government provided these rebels with covert training centers, the United States supported them through Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),[133] and the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA regime.[134] Meanwhile, there was increasingly hostile friction between the competing factions of the PDPA – the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham.[135]

In September 1979, PDPA General Secretary Taraki was assassinated in an internal coup orchestrated by then-prime minister

civil war ensued until the communist regime under People's Democratic Party leader Mohammad Najibullah collapsed in 1992.[149][150][151]

The Soviet-Afghan War had drastic social effects on Afghanistan. The

Post–Cold War conflict

Development of the civil war from 1992 to late 2001

Another civil war broke out after the

women.[165][166] During their rule, the Taliban and their allies committed massacres against Afghan civilians, denied UN food supplies to starving civilians and conducted a policy of scorched earth, burning vast areas of fertile land and destroying tens of thousands of homes.[167][168][169][170][171][172][excessive citations
]

After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum formed the Northern Alliance, later joined by others, to resist the Taliban. Dostum's forces were defeated by the Taliban during the Battles of Mazar-i-Sharif in 1997 and 1998; Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Pervez Musharraf, began sending thousands of Pakistanis to help the Taliban defeat the Northern Alliance.[173][161][174][175][176][excessive citations] By 2000, the Northern Alliance only controlled 10% of territory, cornered in the northeast. On 9 September 2001, Massoud was assassinated by two Arab suicide attackers in Panjshir Valley. Around 400,000 Afghans died in internal conflicts between 1990 and 2001.[177]

US invasion and Islamic Republic

In October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power after they refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect of the September 11 attacks, who was a "guest" of the Taliban and was operating his al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan.[178][179][180] The majority of Afghans supported the American invasion.[181][182] During the initial invasion, US and UK forces bombed al-Qaeda training camps, and later working with the Northern Alliance, the Taliban regime came to an end.[183]

US troops and Chinooks in Afghanistan, 2008

In December 2001, after the Taliban government was overthrown, the

Karzai administration and provide basic security.[184][185] By this time, after two decades of war as well as an acute famine at the time, Afghanistan had one of the highest infant and child mortality rates in the world, the lowest life expectancy, much of the population were hungry,[186][187][188] and infrastructure was in ruins.[189] Many foreign donors started providing aid and assistance to rebuild the war-torn country.[190][191] As coalition troops entered Afghanistan to help the rebuilding process,[192][193] the Taliban began an insurgency to regain control. Afghanistan remained one of the poorest countries in the world because of a lack of foreign investment, government corruption, and the Taliban insurgency.[194][195]

The Afghan government was able to build some democratic structures, adopting a constitution in 2004 with the name

Operation Resolute Support was formed the same day as a successor to ISAF.[204][205] Thousands of NATO troops remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces[206] and continue their fight against the Taliban.[207] A report titled Body Count concluded that 106,000–170,000 civilians had been killed as a result of the fighting in Afghanistan at the hands of all parties to the conflict.[208]

A map of Afghanistan showing the 2021 Taliban offensive

On 19 February 2020, the

US–Taliban deal was made in Qatar. The deal was one of the critical events that caused the collapse of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF);[209] following the signing of the deal, the US dramatically reduced the number of air attacks and deprived the ANSF of a critical edge in fighting the Taliban insurgency, leading to the Taliban takeover of Kabul.[210]

Second Taliban era

NATO Secretary General

Panjshir Province, with resistance fighters retreating to the mountains.[220] Clashes in the valley ceased mid-September.[221]

According to the Costs of War Project, 176,000 people were killed in the conflict, including 46,319 civilians, between 2001 and 2021.[222] According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, at least 212,191 people were killed in the conflict.[223] Though the state of war in the country ended in 2021, armed conflict persists in some regions[224][225][226] amid fighting between the Taliban and the local branch of the Islamic State, as well as an anti-Taliban Republican insurgency.[227]

Taliban fighters in Kabul on a captured Humvee following the 2021 fall of Kabul

The Taliban government is led by

supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada[228] and acting prime minister Hasan Akhund, who took office on 7 September 2021.[229][230] Akhund is one of the four founders of the Taliban[231] and was a deputy prime minister of the previous emirate; his appointment was seen as a compromise between moderates and hardliners.[232] A new, all-male cabinet was formed, which included Abdul Hakim Haqqani as minister of justice.[233][234] On 20 September 2021, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres received a letter from acting minister of foreign affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi to formally claim Afghanistan's seat as a member state for their official spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen. The United Nations did not recognize the previous Taliban government and chose to work with the then-government in exile instead.[235]

Western nations suspended most of their humanitarian aid to Afghanistan following the Taliban's August 2021 takeover of the country; the World Bank and International Monetary Fund also halted their payments.[236][237] More than half of Afghanistan's 39 million people faced an acute food shortage in October 2021.[238] Human Rights Watch reported on 11 November 2021 that Afghanistan was facing widespread famine due to an economic and banking crisis.[239] The Taliban have significantly tackled corruption, now being placed as 150th on the corruption watchdog perception index. The Taliban have also reportedly reduced bribery and extortion in public service areas.[240] At the same time, the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated.[241] Following the 2001 invasion, more than 5.7 million refugees returned to Afghanistan;[242] however, in 2021, 2.6 million Afghans remained refugees, primarily in Iran and Pakistan, and another 4 million were internally displaced.[243]

In October 2023, the Pakistani government ordered the

expulsion of Afghans from Pakistan.[244] Iran also decided to deport Afghan nationals back to Afghanistan.[245] Taliban authorities condemned the deportations of Afghans as an "inhuman act."[246] Afghanistan faced a humanitarian crisis in late 2023.[247]

Geography

Afghanistan is located in Southern-Central Asia.

Allama Iqbal
once wrote about the country:

Asia is a body of water and earth, of which the Afghan nation is the heart. From its discord, the discord of Asia; and from its accord, the accord of Asia.

At over 652,864 km2 (252,072 sq mi),

Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan; Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China; and the Gilgit-Baltistan territory, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Balochistan province of Pakistan.[258]

The geography in Afghanistan is varied, but is mostly mountainous and rugged, with some unusual mountain ridges accompanied by plateaus and river basins.

Paktika provinces (see East Afghan montane conifer forests),[261] and tundra in the northeast. The country's highest point is Noshaq, at 7,492 m (24,580 ft) above sea level.[262] The lowest point lies in Jowzjan Province
along the Amu River bank, at 258 m (846 ft) above sea level.

The mountainous topography of Afghanistan

Despite having numerous rivers and

Hari Rud flows west towards Herat, and the Arghandab River from the central region southwards. To the south and west of the Hindu Kush flow a number of streams that are tributaries of the Indus River,[259] such as the Helmand River. The Kabul River flows in an easterly direction to the Indus ending at the Indian Ocean.[264] Afghanistan receives heavy snow during the winter in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains, and the melting snow in the spring season enters the rivers, lakes, and streams.[265][266] However, two-thirds of the country's water flows into the neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan. As reported in 2010, the state needs more than US$2 billion to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed.[267]

The northeastern Hindu Kush

6.3 magnitude earthquake struck northwest of Herat, killing over 1,400 people.[271]

Climate

Köppen climate map of Afghanistan[272]

Afghanistan has a

arid in the summers, with most rainfall falling between December and April. The lower areas of northern and western Afghanistan are the driest, with precipitation more common in the east. Although proximate to India, Afghanistan is mostly outside the monsoon zone,[259] except the Nuristan Province which occasionally receives summer monsoon rain.[274]

Biodiversity

The snow leopard is the official national animal of Afghanistan.

Several types of

wild sheep, lynx and other big cats populate the mountain forest region of the east. In the semi-desert northern plains, wildlife include a variety of birds, hedgehogs, gophers, and large carnivores such as jackals and hyenas.[275]

Afghan hound is a native breed of dog known for its fast speed and its long hair; it is relatively known in the west.[277]

Endemic fauna of Afghanistan includes the Afghan flying squirrel, Afghan snowfinch, Paradactylodon (or the "Paghman mountain salamander"), Stigmella kasyi, Vulcaniella kabulensis, Afghan leopard gecko, Wheeleria parviflorellus, amongst others. Endemic flora include Iris afghanica. Afghanistan has a wide variety of birds despite its relatively arid climate – an estimated 460 species of which 235 breed within.[277]

The forest region of Afghanistan has vegetation such as

Band-e Amir, Wakhan and Nuristan. Afghanistan had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 8.85/10, ranking it 15th globally out of 172 countries.[278]

Demographics

A Cold War-era CIA map showing traditional Afghan tribal territories. Pashtun tribes form the world's largest tribal society.[279]

The population of Afghanistan was estimated at 32.9 million as of 2019 by the Afghanistan Statistics and Information Authority,[280] whereas the UN estimates over 38.0 million.[281] In 1979 the total population was reported to be about 15.5 million.[282] About 23.9% of them are urbanite, 71.4% live in rural areas, and the remaining 4.7% are nomadic.[283] An additional 3 million or so Afghans are temporarily housed in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, most of whom were born and raised in those two countries. As of 2013, Afghanistan was the largest refugee-producing country in the world, a title held for 32 years.

The current population growth rate is 2.37%,[262] one of the highest in the world outside of Africa. This population is expected to reach 82 million by 2050 if current population trends continue.[284] The population of Afghanistan increased steadily until the 1980s, when civil war caused millions to flee to other countries such as Pakistan.[285] Millions have since returned and the war conditions contribute to the country having the highest fertility rate outside Africa.[286] Afghanistan's healthcare has recovered since the turn of the century, causing falls in infant mortality and increases in life expectancy, although it has the lowest life expectance of any country outside Africa. This (along with other factors such as returning refugees) caused rapid population growth in the 2000s that has only recently started to slow down.[citation needed] The Gini coefficient in 2008 was 27.8.[287]

Ethnicity and languages

Ethnolinguistic map of Afghanistan (2001)

Afghan National Anthem.[289]

Farsi' by some Afghans like in Iran), functions as the lingua franca in Kabul as well as in much of the northern and northwestern parts of the country.[291] Native speakers of Dari, of any ethnicity, are sometimes called Farsiwans.[292] Pashto is the native tongue of the Pashtuns, although many of them are also fluent in Dari while some non-Pashtuns are fluent in Pashto. Despite the Pashtuns having been dominant in Afghan politics for centuries, Dari remained the preferred language for government and bureaucracy.[293]
According to CIA World Factbook, Dari Persian is spoken by 78% (L1 + L2) and functions as the lingua franca, while Pashto is spoken by 50%, Uzbek 10%, English 5%, Turkmen 2%, Urdu 2%, Pashayi 1%, Nuristani 1%, Arabic 1%, and Balochi 1% (2021 est). Data represent the most widely spoken languages; shares sum to more than 100% because there is much bilingualism in the country and because respondents were allowed to select more than one language. There are a number of smaller regional languages, including Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi, and Nuristani.[294]

When it comes to foreign languages among the populace, many are able to speak or understand

taught in public schools during the 1980s.[295]

Religion

Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif is the largest mosque
in Afghanistan.

The CIA estimated in 2009 that 99.7% of the Afghan population was Muslim

CIA Factbook variously estimates up to 89.7% Sunni or up to 15% Shia.[262]

Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are also found in certain major cities (namely Kabul, Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kandahar)[300][301] accompanied by gurdwaras and mandirs.[302] According to Deutsche Welle in September 2021, 250 remain in the country after 67 were evacuated to India.[303]

There was a small Jewish community in Afghanistan, living mainly in Herat and Kabul. Over the years, this small community was forced to leave due to decades of warfare and religious persecution. By the end of the twentieth century, nearly the entire community had emigrated to Israel and the United States, with one known exception, Herat-born Zablon Simintov. He remained for years, being the caretaker of the only remaining Afghan synagogue. He left the country for the US after the second Taliban takeover. A woman who left shortly after him has since been identified as the likely last Jew in Afghanistan.[304][305][306]

Afghan Christians, who number 500–8,000, practice their faith secretly due to intense societal opposition, and there are no public churches.[307][308]

Urbanization

As estimated by the CIA World Factbook, 26% of the population was urbanized as of 2020. This is one of the lowest figures in the world; in Asia it is only higher than Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Urbanization has increased rapidly, particularly in the capital Kabul, due to returning refugees from Pakistan and Iran after 2001, internally displaced people, and rural migrants.[309] Urbanization in Afghanistan is different from typical urbanization in that it is centered on just a few cities.[310]

The only city with over a million residents is its capital, Kabul, located in the east of the country. The other large cities are located generally in the "ring" around the Central Highlands, namely Kandahar in the south, Herat in the west, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz in the north, and Jalalabad in the east.[283]

 
Largest cities or towns in Afghanistan
2019 estimate[311]
Rank Name Province Pop.
Kabul
Kabul
Kandahar
Kandahar
1 Kabul Kabul Province 4,273,200 Herat
Herat
Mazar-i-Sharif
Mazar-i-Sharif
2 Kandahar Kandahar Province 614,300
3 Herat Herat Province 556,200
4 Mazar-i-Sharif Balkh Province 469,200
5 Jalalabad Nangarhar Province 356,500
6 Kunduz Kunduz Province 263,200
7 Taloqan Takhar Province 253,700
8 Puli Khumri Baghlan Province 237,900
9 Ghazni Ghazni Province 183,000
10 Khost Khost Province 153,300

Education

UNESCO Institute of Statistics Afghanistan Literacy Rate among population aged 15+ (1980–2018)

formal learning.[315] As of 2018 the literacy rate of the population age 15 and older is 43.02% (males 55.48% and females 29.81%).[316]

The top universities in Afghanistan are the

Khost University
in the east.

After the Taliban regained power in 2021, it became unclear to what extent female education would continue in the country. In March 2022, after they had been closed for some time, it was announced that secondary education would be reopened shortly. However, shortly before reopening, the order was rescinded and schools for older girls remained closed.[317] Despite the ban, six provinces, Balkh, Kunduz, Jowzjan, Sar-I-Pul, Faryab, and the Day Kundi, still allow girl's schools from grade 6 and up.[318][319] In December 2023, investigations were being held by the United Nations on the claim that Afghan girls of all ages were allowed to study at religious schools.[320]

Health

The Daoud Khan Military Hospital in Kabul is one of the largest hospitals in Afghanistan.

According to the

maternal mortality rate is 396 deaths/100,000 live births and its infant mortality rate is 66[322] to 112.8 deaths in every 1,000 live births.[262] The Ministry of Public Health plans to cut the infant mortality rate to 400 for every 100,000 live births before 2020. The country has more than 3,000 midwives, with an additional 300 to 400 being trained each year.[323]

There are over 100

In spite of all this, many Afghans travel to Pakistan and India for advanced treatment.

It was reported in 2006 that nearly 60% of the Afghan population lives within a two-hour walk of the nearest health facility.[326] The disability rate is also high in Afghanistan due to the decades of war.[327] It was reported recently that about 80,000 people are missing limbs.[328][329] Non-governmental charities such as Save the Children and Mahboba's Promise assist orphans in association with governmental structures.[330]

Governance

The Arg (the Presidential palace) in Kabul, photographed in 2020

Following the effective collapse of the

V-Dem Democracy indices Afghanistan was 2023 the third least electoral democratic country in Asia.[333]

A traditional instrument of governance in Afghanistan is the

Pashtun consultative meeting that was mainly organized for choosing a new head of state, adopting a new constitution, or to settle national or regional issue such as war.[334] Loya jirgas have been held since at least 1747,[335] with the most recent one occurring in August 2020.[336][337]

Development of Taliban government

Interior Minister
Mullah Yaqoob
Second Deputy Leader and Acting Defense Minister
Abdul Ghani Baradar
Third Deputy Leader and Acting First Deputy Prime Minister

On 17 August 2021, the leader of the Taliban-affiliated Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin party, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, met with both Hamid Karzai, the former President of Afghanistan, and Abdullah Abdullah, the former chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and former Chief Executive, in Doha, Qatar, with the aim of forming a national unity government.[338][339] President Ashraf Ghani, having fled the country during the Taliban advance to either Tajikistan or Uzbekistan, emerged in the United Arab Emirates and said that he supported such negotiations and was in talks to return to Afghanistan.[340][341] Many figures within the Taliban generally agreed that continuation of the 2004 Constitution of Afghanistan may, if correctly applied, be workable as the basis for the new religious state as their objections to the former government were political, and not religious.[342]

Hours after the final flight of American troops left Kabul on 30 August, a Taliban official interviewed said that a new government would likely be announced as early as Friday 3 September after

Arg in an official ceremony. Abdul Ghani Baradar would be named head of government as Prime Minister, while other important positions would go to Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Yaqoob. Beneath the supreme leader, day-to-day governance will be entrusted to the cabinet.[343]

In a report by CNN-News18, sources said the new government was going to be governed similarly to Iran with Haibatullah Akhundzada as supreme leader similar to the role of Saayid Ali Khamenei, and would be based out of Kandahar. Baradar or Yaqoob would be head of government as Prime Minister. The government's ministries and agencies will be under a cabinet presided over by the Prime Minister. The Supreme Leader would preside over an executive body known Supreme Council with anywhere from 11 to 72 members. Abdul Hakim Haqqani is likely to be promoted to Chief Justice. According to the report, the new government will take place within the framework of an amended 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan.[344] Government formation was delayed due to concerns about forming a broad-based government acceptable to the international community.[345] It was later added however that the Taliban's Rahbari Shura, the group's leadership council was divided between the hardline Haqqani Network and moderate Abdul Ghani Baradar over appointments needed to form an "inclusive" government. This culminated in a skirmish which led to Baradar being injured and treated in Pakistan.[346]

As of early September 2021, the Taliban were planning the Cabinet to be men-only. Journalists and other human rights activists, mostly women,

protested in Herat and Kabul, calling for women to be included.[347] The acting Cabinet announced on 7 September was men-only, and the Ministry of Women's Affairs appeared to have been abolished.[331]

Administrative divisions

Afghanistan is administratively divided into 34 provinces (

wilayat).[348] Each province has a governor and a capital. The country is further divided into nearly 400 provincial districts
, each of which normally covers a city or several villages. Each district is represented by a district governor.

The

provincial governors are now appointed by the Prime Minister of Afghanistan, and the district governors are selected by the provincial governors.[349] The provincial governors are representatives of the central government in Kabul and are responsible for all administrative and formal issues within their provinces. There are also provincial councils that are elected through direct and general elections for four years.[350]
The functions of provincial councils are to take part in provincial development planning and to participate in the monitoring and appraisal of other provincial governance institutions.

According to article 140 of the constitution and the presidential decree on electoral law, mayors of cities should be elected through free and direct elections for a four-year term. In practice however, mayors are appointed by the government.[351]

The 34 provinces in alphabetical order are:

Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces, which are further divided into a number of districts.

Foreign relations

Afghanistan became a member of the United Nations in 1946.[352] Historically, Afghanistan had strong relations with Germany, one of the first countries to recognize Afghanistan's independence in 1919; the Soviet Union, which provided much aid and military training for Afghanistan's forces and includes the signing of a Treaty of Friendship in 1921 and 1978; and India, with which a friendship treaty was signed in 1950.[353] Relations with Pakistan have often been tense for various reasons such as the Durand Line border issue and alleged Pakistani involvement in Afghan insurgent groups.

The present Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is currently internationally

Strategic Partnership Agreement in which Afghanistan became a major non-NATO ally.[356] Such qualification was rescinded by US President Joe Biden in July 2022.[357]

Military

The

Armed Forces of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan captured a large amount of weapons, hardware, vehicles, aerocrafts, and equipment from the Afghan National Security Forces following the 2021 Taliban offensive and the Fall of Kabul. The total value of the captured equipment has been estimated at US$83 billion.[358][359]

Human rights

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General and cited sources

Further reading

External links