|Islamic Republic of Afghanistan|
and largest city
|Official languages||Dari 27 million (77%) (L1 + L2), Pashto 16.8 million (48%)|
|Government||Unitary presidential Islamic republic|
|1st Vice President||Amrullah Saleh|
|2nd Vice President||Sarwar Danish|
|Upper house||House of Elders|
|Lower house||House of the People|
|Hotak Empire||21 April 1709|
|Durrani Empire||July 1747|
|Recognized||19 August 1919|
|Kingdom||9 June 1926|
|Republic||17 July 1973|
|Current constitution||26 January 2004|
|Total||652,230 km (251,830 sq mi) (40th)|
|2019 estimate||32,225,560 (44th)|
|Density||46/km (119.1/sq mi) (174th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2018 estimate|
|Total||$72.911 billion (96th)|
|Per capita||$2,024 (169th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2018 estimate|
|Total||$21.657 billion (111st)|
|Per capita||$601 (177th)|
low · 1st
low · 170th
|Currency||Afghani (Afs) (AFN)|
|Time zone||UTC+4:30 Solar Calendar (D†)|
|ISO 3166 code||AF|
|Internet TLD||.af افغانستان.|
Afghanistan (/æfˈɡænɪstæn, æfˈɡɑːnɪstɑːn/ (listen), also pronounced /ævˈɡænᵻstæn, ævˈɡɑːnᵻstɑːn/; Pashto/Dari: افغانستان, Pashto: Afġānistān [avɣɒnisˈtɒn, ab-, Dari: Afġānestān [avɣɒnesˈtɒn), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia.
Occupying 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi), it is a mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest.
Kabul is the capital and largest city.
Humans lived in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago.
Settled life emerged in the region 9,000 years ago, evolving gradually into the Indus civilization (Shortugai site), the Oxus civilization (Dashlyji site), and the Helmand civilization (Mundigak site) of the 3rd millennium BCE.
Indo-Aryans migrated through Bactria-Margiana area to Gandhara, followed by the rise of the Iron Age Yaz I culture (ca. 1500–1100 BCE), which has been closely associated with the culture depicted in the Avesta, the ancient religious texts of Zoroastrianism.
Muslims brought Islam to Sassanian-held Herat and Zaranj in the mid-7th century, while fuller Islamization was achieved between the 9th and 12th centuries under the Saffarid, Samanid, Ghaznavid, and Ghurid dynasties.
In the First Anglo-Afghan War, the British East India Company seized control of Afghanistan briefly, but following the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919 the country was free of foreign influence, eventually becoming a monarchy under Amanullah Khan, until almost 50 years later when Zahir Shah was overthrown and a republic was established.
By 1996, most of the country was captured by the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, who ruled as a totalitarian regime for over five years; they were removed from power after the US invasion in 2001 but still control a significant portion of the country.
The ongoing war between the government and the Taliban has contributed to the perpetuation of Afghanistan's problematic human rights record including complications of women's rights, with numerous abuses committed by both sides, such as the killing of civilians.
Afghanistan is a unitary presidential Islamic republic.
The country has high levels of terrorism, poverty, child malnutrition, and corruption.
It is a member of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Group of 77, the Economic Cooperation Organization, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Afghanistan's economy is the world's 96th largest, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $72.9 billion by purchasing power parity; the country fares much worse in terms of per-capita GDP (PPP), ranking 169th out of 186 countries as of 2018.
Main article: Name of Afghanistan
Historically, the ethnonym Afghān was used to refer to ethnic Pashtuns.
The Arabic and Persian form of the name, Afġān was first attested in the 10th-century geography book Hudud al-'Alam.
The last part of the name, "-stan" is a Persian suffix for "place of."
Therefore, "Afghanistan" translates to "land of the Afghans," or "land of the Pashtuns" in a historical sense.
Main article: History of Afghanistan
Many empires and kingdoms have also risen to power in Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Sakas, Kushans, Kidarites, Hephthalites, Alkhons, Nezaks, Zunbils, Turk Shahis, Hindu Shahis, Lawiks, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khwarazmians, Khaljis, Kartids, Timurids, Lodis, Surs, Mughals, and Safavids, and finally, the Hotak and Durrani dynasties, which marked the political origins of the modern state.
Throughout millennia several cities within the modern day Afghanistan served as capitals of various empires, namely Bactra (Balkh), Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum), Kapisi, Sigal, Kabul, Kunduz, Zaranj, Firozkoh, Herat, Ghazna (Ghazni), Binban (Bamyan), and Kandahar.
The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought.
For its success in resisting foreign occupation during the 19th and 20th centuries, Afghanistan has been called the "graveyard of empires," though it is unknown who coined the phrase.
Prehistory and antiquity
Main article: Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan
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 Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites.
Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with its neighbors to the east, west, and north.
More recent findings established that the Indus Valley Civilisation stretched up towards modern-day Afghanistan, making the ancient civilization today part of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
In more detail, it extended from what today is northwest Pakistan to northwest India and northeast Afghanistan.
There are several smaller IVC colonies to be found in Afghanistan as well.
These tribes later migrated further into South Asia, Western Asia, and toward Europe via the area north of the Caspian Sea.
The region at the time was referred to as Ariana.
Zoroastrianism and Hellenic era
Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism.
The Mauryans controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush until they were overthrown in about 185 BCE.
Much of it soon broke away from them and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom.
They were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.
Hindu and Buddhist era
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.
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 mainly from the Badakhshan region.
They were replaced by the Turk Shahi in the 7th century.
The Buddhist Turk Shahi of Kabul was replaced by a Hindu dynasty before the Saffarids conquered the area in 870, this Hindu dynasty was called Hindu Shahi.
Much of the northeastern and southern areas of the country remained dominated by Buddhist culture.
It is reported that Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the Ghaznavids rose to power in the 10th century.
The Ghurids controlled Afghanistan for less than a century before being conquered by the Khwarazmian dynasty in 1215.
Mongols and Babur
The destruction caused by the Mongols forced many locals to return to an agrarian rural society.
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.
During the Medieval Period, the northwestern area of Afghanistan was referred to by the regional name Khorasan.
Two of the four capitals of Khorasan (Herat and Balkh) are now located in Afghanistan, while the regions of Kandahar, Zabulistan, Ghazni, Kabulistan, and Afghanistan formed the frontier between Khorasan and Hindustan.
However, up to the 19th century the term Khorasan was commonly used among natives to describe their country, Sir George Elphinstone wrote with amazement that the country known to outsiders as "Afghanistan" was referred to by its own inhabitants as "Khorasan" and that the first Afghan official whom he met at the border welcomed him to Khorasan.
Hotak and Durrani dynasties
He defeated Gurgin Khan and made Afghanistan independent.
In 1738, Nader Shah and his forces captured Kandahar, the last Hotak stronghold, from Shah Hussain Hotak, at which point the incarcerated 16-year-old Ahmad Shah Durrani was freed and made the commander of an Afghan regiment.
Soon after, the Persian and Afghan forces invaded India.
In October 1772, Durrani died of natural causes and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak in Kandahar.
Barakzai dynasty and British wars
Fateh Khan, leader of the Barakzai tribe, had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the empire.
After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves.
During this turbulent period, Afghanistan had many temporary rulers until Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir in 1823.
In 1837, during the Battle of Jamrud near the Khyber Pass, Akbar Khan and the Afghan army failed to capture the Jamrud Fort from the Sikh Khalsa Army, but killed Sikh Commander Hari Singh Nalwa, thus ending the Afghan-Sikh Wars.
Following an uprising, the 1842 retreat from Kabul of British-Indian forces and the annihilation of Elphinstone's army, and the Battle of Kabul that led to its recapture, the British placed Dost Mohammad Khan back into power and withdrew their military forces from Afghanistan.
In 1878, the Second Anglo-Afghan War was fought over perceived Russian influence, Abdur Rahman Khan replaced Ayub Khan, and Britain gained control of Afghanistan's foreign relations as part of the Treaty of Gandamak of 1879.
This was a standard divide and rule policy of the British and would lead to strained relations, especially with the later new state of Pakistan.
He was known as the Iron Amir for his features and his ruthless methods against tribes.
The Iron Amir viewed railway and telegraph lines coming from the Russian and British empires as "trojan horses" and therefore prevented railway development in Afghanistan.
He died in 1901, replaced by his son Habibullah Khan.
During World War I, when Afghanistan was neutral, Habibullah Khan was met by officials of the Central Powers in the Niedermayer–Hentig Expedition, to declare full independence from the United Kingdom, join them and attack British India, as part of the Hindu–German Conspiracy.
Their efforts to bring Afghanistan into the Central Powers failed, but it caused discontent among the population for keeping neutrality against the British.
Habibullah was assassinated during a hunting trip in 1919, and Amanullah Khan eventually assumed power.
Following a 1927–28 tour of Europe and Turkey, he introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation.
A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women.
He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's 1923 constitution, which made elementary education compulsory.
The institution of slavery was abolished in 1923.
Khan's wife Queen Soraya Tarzi was a figure during this period.
Some of the reforms that were put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional burqa for women and the opening of several co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders, and this led to the Afghan Civil War (1928–1929).
Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Kalakani in October 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah.
He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernization but was assassinated in 1933 by Abdul Khaliq, a fifteen-year-old Hazara student who was an Amanullah loyalist.
Mohammed Zahir Shah, Nadir Shah's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973.
The tribal revolts of 1944–1947 saw Zahir Shah's reign being challenged by Zadran, Safi, Mangal, and Wazir tribesmen led by Mazrak Zadran, Salemai, and Mirzali Khan, among others, many of whom were Amanullah loyalists.
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.
Until 1946, Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah.
Another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister in 1946 and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected.
He was replaced in 1953 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law, and a Pashtun nationalist who sought the creation of a Pashtunistan, leading to highly tense relations with Pakistan.
During his ten years at the post until 1963, 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.
King 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.
However, it was a beneficiary of the latter rivalry as both the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence by building Afghanistan's main highways, airports, and other vital infrastructure in the post-period.
On a per capita basis, Afghanistan received more Soviet development aid than any other country.
Afghanistan had, therefore, good relations with both Cold War enemies.
Democratic Republic regime and Soviet war
Further information: History of Afghanistan (1978–92)
This would trigger a series of events that would dramatically turn Afghanistan from a poor and secluded (albeit peaceful) country to a hotbed of international terrorism.
The PDPA initiated various social, symbolic and land distribution reforms that provoked strong opposition, while also brutally oppressing political dissidents.
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), and the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA regime.
In September 1979, PDPA General Secretary Taraki was assassinated in an internal coup orchestrated by fellow Khalq member, then-Prime minister Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the new general secretary of the People's Democratic Party.
The situation in the country deteriorated under Amin and thousands of people went missing.
Displeased with Amin's government, the Soviet Army invaded the country in December 1979, heading for Kabul and killing Amin just 3 days later.
A Soviet-organized regime, led by Parcham's Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions (Parcham and Khalq), filled the vacuum.
Soviet troops in more substantial numbers were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal, marking the beginning of the Soviet–Afghan War.
The United States and Pakistan, along with smaller actors like Saudi Arabia and China, continued supporting the rebels, delivering billions of dollars in cash and weapons including two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles.
Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province functioned as an organisational and networking base for the anti-Soviet Afghan resistance, with the province's influential Deobandi ulama playing a major supporting role in promoting the 'jihad'.
Post-Cold War conflict and Taliban regime
Amid a state of anarchy and factional infighting, various mujahideen factions committed widespread rape, murder and extortion, while Kabul was heavily bombarded and partially destroyed by the fighting.
Several failed reconciliations and alliances occurred between different leaders.
Taking control of Kandahar city that year, they conquered more territories until finally driving out the government of Rabbani from Kabul in 1996, where they established an emirate that gained international recognition from only three countries.
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.
Dostum's forces were defeated by the Taliban during the Battles of Mazar-i-Sharif (1997–98); Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Pervez Musharraf, began sending thousands of Pakistanis to help the Taliban defeat the Northern Alliance.
By 2000 the Northern Alliance only controlled 10% of territory, cornered in the north-east.
Around 400,000 Afghans died in internal conflicts between 1990 and 2001.
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.
The majority of Afghans supported the American invasion of their country.
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.
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, and infrastructure was in ruins.
Many foreign donors started providing aid and assistance to rebuild the war-torn country.
Taliban forces meanwhile began regrouping inside Pakistan, while more coalition troops entered Afghanistan to help the rebuilding process.
The Taliban began an insurgency to regain control of Afghanistan.
Over the next decade, ISAF and Afghan troops led many offensives against the Taliban, but failed to fully defeat them.
Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world because of a lack of foreign investment, government corruption, and the Taliban insurgency.
Meanwhile, Karzai attempted to unite the peoples of the country, and the Afghan government was able to build some democratic structures, adopting a constitution in 2004 with the name Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Attempts were made, often with the support of foreign donor countries, to improve the country's economy, healthcare, education, transport, and agriculture.
ISAF forces also began to train the Afghan National Security Forces.
The number of NATO troops present in Afghanistan peaked at 140,000 in 2011, dropping to about 16,000 in 2018.
On 28 December 2014, NATO formally ended ISAF combat operations in Afghanistan and transferred full security responsibility to the Afghan government.
The NATO-led Operation Resolute Support was formed the same day as a successor to ISAF.
Thousands of NATO troops remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces and continue their fight against the Taliban.
It was estimated in 2015 that "about 147,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan war since 2001.
More than 38,000 of those killed have been civilians".
A report titled Body Count concluded that 106,000–170,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting in Afghanistan at the hands of all parties to the conflict.
Main article: Geography of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is located in South Asia and Central Asia - indeed the region particularly centered at Afghanistan is considered the "crossroads of Asia", and the country has had the nickname Heart of Asia.
At over 652,230 km (251,830 sq mi), Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country, slightly bigger than France and smaller than Myanmar, and about the size of Texas in the United States.
There is no coastline, as Afghanistan is landlocked.
It shares borders with Pakistan in the south and east (including Indian-claimed Gilgit-Baltistan); Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and China in the far east.
The geography in Afghanistan is varied, but is mostly mountainous and rugged, with some unusual mountain ridges accompanied by plateaus and river basins.
Most of the highest points are in the east consisting of fertile mountain valleys.
The Hindu Kush ends at the west-central highlands, creating plains in the north and southwest, namely the Turkestan Plains and the Sistan Basin; these two regions consist of rolling grasslands and semi-deserts, and hot windy deserts, respectively.
The country's highest point is Noshaq, at 7,492 m (24,580 ft) above sea level.
The lowest point lies in Jowzjan Province along the Amu River bank, at 258 m (846 ft) above sea level.
Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry.
The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world.
One exception is the Kabul River which flows in an easternly direction to the Indus ending at the Indian Ocean.
As reported in 2010, the state needs more than US$2 billion to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed.
The last strong earthquakes were in 1998, which killed about 6,000 people in Badakhshan near Tajikistan.
This was followed by the 2002 Hindu Kush earthquakes in which over 150 people were killed and over 1,000 injured.
A 2010 earthquake left 11 Afghans dead, over 70 injured, and more than 2,000 houses destroyed.
Afghanistan has a continental climate with harsh winters in the central highlands, the glaciated northeast (around Nuristan), and the Wakhan Corridor, where the average temperature in January is below −15 °C (5 °F) and can reach −26 °C (−15 °F), and hot summers in the low-lying areas of the Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin in the east, and the Turkestan plains along the Amu River in the north, where temperatures average over 35 °C (95 °F) in July and can go over 43 °C (109 °F).
The country is generally 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.
Main article: Wildlife of Afghanistan
Several types of mammals exist throughout Afghanistan.
The Afghan hound is a native breed of dog known for its fast speed and its long hair; it is relatively known in the west.
Endemic fauna of Afghanistan includes the Afghan flying squirrel, Afghan snowfinch, Afghanodon (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.
The forest region of Afghanistan has vegetation such as pine trees, spruce trees, fir trees and larches, whereas the steppe grassland regions consist of broadleaf trees, short grass, perennial plants and shrublands.
The colder high elevation regions are composed of hardy grasses and small flowering plants.
The population of Afghanistan was estimated at 32.9 million as of 2019 by the Afghanistan Statistics and Information Authority, whereas the UN estimates over 38.0 million.
About 23.9% of them are urbanite, 71.4% live in rural areas, and the remaining 4.7% are nomadic.
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%, 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.
The population of Afghanistan increased steadily until the 1980s, when civil war caused millions to flee to other countries such as Pakistan.
Millions have since returned and the war conditions has meant a high fertility rate compared to global and regional trends.
Afghanistan's healthcare has recovered since the turn of the century, causing falls in infant mortality and increases in life expectancy.
This (along with other factors such as returning refugees) caused rapid population growth in the 2000s that has only recently started to slow down.
Main article: Ethnic groups in Afghanistan
Afghanistan's population is divided into several ethnolinguistic groups.
The ethnicities are represented on the table on the right.
The percentages given are estimates only, as accurate and current statistical data on ethnicity are not available.
A further 10 other ethnic groups are recognized and each are represented in the Afghan National Anthem.
Main article: Languages of Afghanistan
Dari, which is a variety of and mutually intelligible with Persian (and very often called '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.
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.
When it comes to foreign languages among the populace, many are able to speak or understand Hindustani (Urdu-Hindi), partly due to returning Afghan refugees from Pakistan and the popularity of Bollywood films respectively.
English is also understood by some of the population, and has been gaining popularity as of the 2000s.
Some Afghans retain some ability of Russian, which was taught to public schools during the 1980s.
Main article: Religion in Afghanistan
The CIA Factbook variously estimates up to 89.7% Sunni or up to 15% Shia.
There was a small Jewish community in Afghanistan who had emigrated to Israel and the United States by the end of the twentieth century; at least one Jew, Zablon Simintov, remains, who is the caretaker of the only remaining synagogue.
Afghan Christians, who number 500–8,000, practice their faith secretly due to intense societal opposition, and there are no public churches.
As estimated by the CIA World Factbook, 26% of the population was urbanized as of 2020.
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.
Urbanization in Afghanistan has been noted to be different than traditional urbanization, in that it's centered on a few cities rather than evenly spread out nationwide.
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 and Kunduz in the north, and Jalalabad in the east.
Afghanistan is an Islamic republic consisting of three branches, the executive, legislative, and judicial.
According to Transparency International, Afghanistan remains in the top most corrupt countries list.
A January 2010 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that bribery consumed an amount equal to 23% of the GDP of the nation.
The agreement ended months-long political deadlock in the country.
Elections and parties
One instrument of Afghan governance is the loya jirga (grand assembly), a Pashtun consultative meeting that is mainly organized for choosing a new head of state, adopting a new constitution, or to settle national or regional issue such as war.
Loya jirgas have been held since at least 1747, with the most recent one occurring in 2013.
Under the 2004 constitution, both presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held every five years.
Presidential elections use the two-round system; if no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the first round, a second round will be held featuring the top two candidates.
Parliamentary elections have only one round and are based on the single non-transferable vote system, which allows some candidates to be elected with as little as one percent of the vote.
The 2004 Afghan presidential election was relatively peaceful, in which Hamid Karzai won in the first round with 55.4% of the votes.
However, the 2009 presidential election was characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout, and widespread electoral fraud, ending in Karzai's reelection.
The 2014 presidential election ended with Ashraf Ghani winning by 56.44% of the votes.
Political parties played a marginal role in post-2001 Afghan politics, in part due to Karzai's opposition to them.
In the 2005 parliamentary election, the ballots did not show candidates' party affiliation, so the results were dictated by the personal prestige of the candidates.
Among the elected officials were a large mix of former mujahideen, Islamic fundamentalists, warlords, tribal nationalists, former communists, reformists, urban professionals, royalists and several former Taliban associates.
In the same period, Afghanistan became the 30th highest nation in terms of female representation in the National Assembly.
Parties became more influential after 2009, when a new law established more stringent requirements for party registration.
Nearly a hundred new parties were registered after the law came into effect, and party activity increased in the 2014 elections, but party influence remained limited.
Afghanistan is administratively divided into 34 provinces (wilayats).
Each province is the size of a U.S. county, having 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 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.
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.
The following is a list of all the 34 provinces in alphabetical order:
Main article: Foreign relations of Afghanistan
Afghanistan became a member of the United Nations in 1946.
Afghanistan has historically 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.
Afghanistan also has diplomatic relations with neighboring China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, including with regional states such as Bangladesh, Japan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Russia, South Korea, and the UAE.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was established in 2002 to help the country recover from decades of war.
Today, several NATO member states deploy about 17,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the Resolute Support Mission.
Main article: Afghan Armed Forces
Main article: Law enforcement in Afghanistan
The ANP consists of two primary branches, the Afghan Uniformed Police and the Afghan Border Police.
The mission of the Uniformed Police is to ensure security within Afghanistan, prevent crime, and protect property.
The Border Police is responsible for securing and maintaining the nation's borders with neighboring states as well as all international airports within the country.
All parts of Afghanistan are considered dangerous due to militant activities and terrorism-related incidents.
Kidnapping for ransom and robberies are common in major cities.
Every year hundreds of Afghan police are killed in the line of duty.
Afghanistan is also the world's leading producer of opium.
Afghanistan's opium poppy harvest produces more than 90% of illicit heroin globally, and more than 95% of the European supply.
The Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics is responsible for the monitoring and eradication of the illegal drug business.
However many issues regarding human rights exist contrary to the law, often committed by local tribes, lawmakers and hardline clerics.
Journalists in Afghanistan face threat from both the security forces and insurgents.
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) claimed in 2017 that the Afghan government accounted for 46% of the attacks on Afghans journalists, while insurgents were responsible for rest of the attacks.
According to Global Rights, almost 90% of women in Afghanistan have experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse or forced marriage.
The perpetrators of these crimes are the families of the victim.
A 2009 proposal for a law against the violence of women could only be passed through a presidential decree.
In 2012, Afghanistan recorded 240 cases of honor killing, but the total number is believed to be much higher.
Of the reported honor killings, 21% were committed by the victims' husbands, 7% by their brothers, 4% by their fathers, and the rest by other relatives.
Homosexuality is taboo in Afghan society; according to the Penal Code, homosexual intimacy is punished by up to a year in prison.
However an ancient tradition involving male homosexual acts between youngsters and older men (typically wealthy or elite people) called bacha bazi persists.
This act is also illegal under the Penal Code and offenders can be imprisoned.
On August 14, 2020, UN Human Rights Council experts issued a joint statement urging Afghanistan officials to prevent the killings of human rights defenders as there have been nine deaths of human rights defenders since January 2020.
Main article: Economy of Afghanistan
Afghanistan's nominal GDP was $21.7 billion in 2018, or $72.9 billion by purchasing power parity (PPP).
Its GDP per capita is $2,024 (PPP).
Despite having $1 trillion or more in mineral deposits, it remains one of the world's least developed countries.
Afghanistan's rough physical geography and its landlocked status has been cited as reasons why the country has always been among the least developed in the modern era – a factor where progress is also slowed by contemporary conflict and political instability.
The country imports over $7 billion worth of goods but exports only $784 million, mainly fruits and nuts.
It has $2.8 billion in external debt.
The service sector contributed the most to the GDP (55.9%) followed by agriculture (23%) and industry (21.1%).
While the nation's current account deficit is largely financed with donor money, only a small portion is provided directly to the government budget.
The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations.
A number of local and foreign banks operate in the country, including the Afghanistan International Bank, New Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Pashtany Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and the First Micro Finance Bank.
One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over 5 million expatriates, who brought with them entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed funds to start up businesses.
Many Afghans are now involved in construction, which is one of the largest industries in the country.
Some of the major national construction projects include the $35 billion New Kabul City next to the capital, the Aino Mena project in Kandahar, and the Ghazi Amanullah Khan Town near Jalalabad.
An estimated 400,000 people enter the labor market each year.
Several small companies and factories began operating in different parts of the country, which not only provide revenues to the government but also create new jobs.
Improvements to the business environment have resulted in more than $1.5 billion in telecom investment and created more than 100,000 jobs since 2003.
Afghan rugs are becoming popular again, allowing many carpet dealers around the country to hire more workers; in 2016–17 it was the fourth most exported group of items.
It holds an observer status in SCO.
In 2018, a majority of imports come from either Iran, China, Pakistan and Kazakhstan, while 84% of exports are to Pakistan and India.
Agricultural production is the backbone of Afghanistan's economy and has traditionally dominated the economy, employing about 40% of the workforce as of 2018.
The country is known for producing pomegranates, grapes, apricots, melons, and several other fresh and dry fruits.
It is also known as the world's largest producer of opium – as much as 16% or more of the nation's economy is derived from the cultivation and sale of opium.
It is also one of the world's top producers of cannabis.
In recent years, there has been an uptick in saffron production, which authorities and farmers are trying to replace poppy cultivation.
Between 2012 and 2019, the saffron cultivated and produced in Afghanistan was consecutively ranked the world's best by the International Taste and Quality Institute.
Production hit record high in 2019 (19,469 kg of saffron), and one kilogram is sold domestically between $634 and $1147.
Main article: Mining in Afghanistan
The country's natural resources include: coal, copper, iron ore, lithium, uranium, rare earth elements, chromite, gold, zinc, talc, barite, sulfur, lead, marble, precious and semi-precious stones, natural gas, and petroleum, among other things.
In 2010, US and Afghan government officials estimated that untapped mineral deposits located in 2007 by the US Geological Survey are worth at least $1 trillion.
Michael E. O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution estimated that if Afghanistan generates about $10 billion per year from its mineral deposits, its gross national product would double and provide long-term funding for Afghan security forces and other critical needs.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated in 2006 that northern Afghanistan has an average 460 million m (2.9 billion bbl) of crude oil, 440 billion m (15.7 trillion cu ft) of natural gas, and 67 billion L (562 million US bbl) of natural gas liquids.
In 2011, Afghanistan signed an oil exploration contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for the development of three oil fields along the Amu Darya river in the north.
In 2007, a 30-year lease was granted for the Aynak copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan's history.
Government officials estimate that 30% of the country's untapped mineral deposits are worth at least $1 trillion.
One official asserted that "this will become the backbone of the Afghan economy" and a Pentagon memo stated that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium".
In a 2011 news story, the CSM reported, "The United States and other Western nations that have borne the brunt of the cost of the Afghan war have been conspicuously absent from the bidding process on Afghanistan's mineral deposits, leaving it mostly to regional powers."
Access to biocapacity in Afghanistan is lower than world average.
In 2016, Afghanistan had 0.43 global hectares of biocapacity per person within its territory, much less than the world average of 1.6 global hectares per person.
In 2016 Afghanistan used 0.73 global hectares of biocapacity per person - their ecological footprint of consumption.
This means they use just under double as much biocapacity as Afghanistan contains.
As a result, Afghanistan is running a biocapacity deficit.
According to the World Bank, 98% of the rural population have access to electricity in 2018, up from 28% in 2008.
Overall the figure stands at 98.7%.
As of 2016, Afghanistan produces 1,400 megawatts of power, but still imports the majority of electricity via transmission lines from Iran and the Central Asian states.
The majority of electricity production is via hydropower, helped by the amount of rivers and streams that flow from the mountains.
However electricity is not always reliable and blackouts happen, including in Kabul.
Power is managed by the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS, Afghanistan Electricity Company).
Main article: Tourism in Afghanistan
Tourism is a small industry in Afghanistan due to security issues.
Nevertheless, some 20,000 foreign tourists visit the country annually as of 2016.
In particular an important region for domestic and international tourism is the picturesque Bamyan Valley, which includes lakes, canyons and historical sites, helped by the fact it is in a safe area away from insurgent activity.
Smaller numbers visit and trek in regions such as the Wakhan Valley, which is also one of the world's most remote communities.
From the late 1960s onwards, Afghanistan was a popular stop on the famous Hippie trail, attracting many Europeans and Americans.
Tourism peaked in 1977, the year before the start of political instability and armed conflict.
The citadel of Alexander in the western city of Herat has been renovated in recent years and is a popular attraction.
The National Museum of Afghanistan is located in Kabul and hosts a large number of Buddhist, Bactrian Greek and early Islamic antiquities; the museum suffered greatly by civil war but has been slowly restoring since the early 2000s.
Main article: Communications in Afghanistan
By 2001 following years of civil war, telecommunications was virtually a non-existent sector, but by 2016 it had grown to a $2 billion industry, with 22 million mobile phone subscribers and 5 million internet users.
The sector employs at least 120,000 people nationwide.
Main article: Transport in Afghanistan
Due to Afghanistan's geography, transport between various parts of the country have historically been difficult.
The backbone of Afghanistan's road network is Highway 1, often called the "Ring Road", which extends for 2,210 kilometers (1,370 mi) and connects five major cities: Kabul, Ghazni, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, with spurs to Kunduz and Jalalabad and various border crossings, while skirting around the mountains of the Hindu Kush.
The Ring Road is crucially important for domestic and international trade and the economy.
A key portion of the Ring Road is the Salang Tunnel, completed in 1964, which facilitates travel through the Hindu Kush mountain range and connects northern and southern Afghanistan.
It is the only land route that connects Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent.
Several mountain passes allow travel between the Hindu Kush in other areas.
Traveling by bus in Afghanistan remains dangerous due to militant activities.
Airlines from a number of countries also provide flights in and out of the country.
The country has four international airports: Hamid Karzai International Airport (formerly Kabul International Airport), Kandahar International Airport, Herat International Airport, and Mazar-e Sharif International Airport.
Including domestic airports, there are 43.
Bagram Air Base is a major military airfield.
The country has three rail links: one, a 75-kilometer (47 mi) line from Mazar-i-Sharif to the Uzbekistan border; a 10-kilometer (6.2 mi) long line from Toraghundi to the Turkmenistan border (where it continues as part of Turkmen Railways); and a short link from Aqina across the Turkmen border to Kerki, which is planned to be extended further across Afghanistan.
These lines are used for freight only and there is no passenger service.
About 125 kilometers (78 mi) of the line will lie on the Afghan side.
There are various proposals for the construction of additional rail lines in the country.
Private vehicle ownership has increased substantially since the early 2000s.
Taxis are yellow in color and consist of both cars and auto rickshaws.
Bicycles are popular throughout Afghanistan.
Main article: Education in Afghanistan
There are over 16,000 schools in the country and roughly 9 million students.
Of this, about 60% are males and 40% females.
Over 174,000 students are enrolled in different universities around the country.
About 21% of these are females.
The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a four-year military development institution dedicated to graduating officers for the Afghan Armed Forces.
Major universities outside of Kabul include Kandahar University in the south, Herat University in the northwest, Balkh University and Kunduz University in the north, Nangarhar University and Khost University in the east.
The United States is building six faculties of education and five provincial teacher training colleges around the country, two large secondary schools in Kabul, and one school in Jalalabad.
Kabul University was founded in 1932 and is a respected institute that played a significant part in the country's education; from the 1960s the Kabul University was also a hotbed of radical political ideologies such as Marxism and Islamism, which played major parts in society, politics and the war that began in 1978.
As of 2018 the literacy rate of the population age 15 and older is 43.02% (males 55.48% and females 29.81%).
The Afghan National Security Forces are provided with mandatory literacy courses.
Main article: Health in Afghanistan
The average life expectancy is estimated to be around 60 years.
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.
There are over 100 hospitals in Afghanistan, with the most advanced treatments being available in Kabul.
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.
Disability rate is also high in Afghanistan due to the decades of war.
It was reported recently that about 80,000 people are missing limbs.
Main article: Culture of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a predominantly tribal society, with different regions of the country having their own cultures as a result of differing ethnicities and geographic obstacles that makes much of the country remote.
Family is the mainstay of Afghan society and families are often headed by a patriarch.
The Pashtuns (and Baloch) are largely connected to the culture of South Asia.
Those who have lived in Pakistan and Iran over the last 30 years have been further influenced by the cultures of those neighboring nations.
The Afghan people are known to be strongly religious.
Afghans, particularly Pashtuns, are noted for their tribal solidarity and high regard for personal honor.
One writer considers the tribal system to be the best way of organizing large groups of people in a country that is geographically difficult, and in a society that, from a materialistic point of view, has an uncomplicated lifestyle.
Afghan culture is deeply Islamic, but pre-Islamic practices persist.
One example is bacha bazi, a term for activities involving sexual relations between older men and younger adolescent men, or boys.
Child marriage is prevalent in Afghanistan; the legal age for marriage is 16.
Villages typically have a headman (malik), a master for water disribution (mirab) and a religious teacher (mullah).
Men would typically work on the fields, joined by women during harvest.
These were worn by some women of the Pashtun community well before Islam came to the region, but the Taliban enforced this dress on women when they were in power.
Another popular dress is the chapan which acts as a coat.
The karakul is a hat made from the fur of a specific regional breed of sheep.
It was favored by former kings of Afghanistan and became known to much of the world in the 21st century when it was constantly worn by President Hamid Karzai.
The Mazari hat originates from northern Afghanistan.
Main article: Architecture of Afghanistan
The nation has a complex history that has survived either in its current cultures or in the form of various languages and monuments.
However, many of its historic monuments have been damaged in modern times due to the civil wars.
Despite that, archaeologists are still finding Buddhist relics in different parts of the country, some of them dating back to the 2nd century.
As there was no colonialism in the modern era in Afghanistan, European-style architecture is rare; most notably the Victory Arch at Paghman, and the Darul Aman Palace in Kabul, were built in this style in the 1920s by the Afghans themselves.
Art and ceramics
See also: Afghan art
Carpets have been produced in the region for thousands of years and traditionally done by women.
Some crafters express their feelings through the designs of rugs; for example after the outbreak of the Soviet-Afghan War, "war rugs" were created with designs representing pain and misery caused by the conflict.
Every province has its own specific characteristics in making rugs.
In some of the Turkic-populated areas in the north-west, bride and wedding ceremony prices are driven by the bride's weaving skills.
Pottery has been crafted in Afghanistan for millennia.
The village of Istalif, north of Kabul, is in particular a major center, known for its unique turquoise and green pottery, and their methods of crafting have remained the same for centuries.
The lands of Afghanistan have a long history of art, with the world's earliest known usage of oil painting found in cave murals in the country.
Since the 1900s, the nation began to use Western techniques in art.
Abdul Ghafoor Breshna was a prominent Afghan painter and sketch artist from Kabul during the 20th century.
Media and entertainment
Main article: Media of Afghanistan
Afghanistan has around 350 radio stations and over 200 television stations.
Radio Television Afghanistan, originating from 1925, is the state public broadcaster.
The first Afghan newspaper was published in 1873, and there are hundreds of print outlets today.
By the 1920s, Radio Kabul was broadcasting local radio services.
Press restrictions have been gradually relaxed and private media diversified since 2002, after more than two decades of tight controls.
It has been claimed that Afghanistan is among the biggest markets for the Hindi film industry.
Many Bollywood film stars have roots in Afghanistan, including Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Feroz Khan, Kader Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Zarine Khan, Celina Jaitly, and a number of others.
Main article: Music of Afghanistan
Genres of this style of music include ghazal (poetic music) and instruments such as the Indian tabla, sitar and harmonium, and local instruments like zerbaghali, as well as dayereh and tanbur which are also known in Central Asia, the Caucusus and the Middle East.
Pop music developed in the 1950s through Radio Kabul and was influential in social change.
During this time female artists also started appearing, at first Mermon Parwin.
Perhaps the most famous artist of this genre was Ahmad Zahir, who synthesized many genres and continues to be renowned for his voice and rich lyrics long after his death in 1979.
Attan is the national dance of Afghanistan, a group dance popularly performed by Afghans of all backgrounds.
The dance is considered part of Afghan identity.
Main article: Afghan cuisine
Afghan cuisine is largely based upon the nation's chief crops, such as wheat, maize, barley and rice.
The nation's culinary specialties reflect its ethnic and geographic diversity.
Afghanistan is known for its high quality pomegranates, grapes, and sweet melons.
Tea is a favorite drink among Afghans, and they typically eat naan breads, yoghurts, rice and meat in a typical diet.
Main article: Poetry of Afghanistan
Poetry has always been one of the major educational pillars in the region, to the level that it has integrated itself into culture.
One of the poetic styles is called landay.
A popular theme in Afghan folklore and mythology are devs, monstrous creatures.
Thursdays are traditionally "poetry night" in the city of Herat when men, women and children gather and recite both ancient and modern poems.
The Afghan region has produced countless Persian-speaking poets and writers from the Middle Ages to the present day, among which three mystical authors are considered true national glories (although claimed with equal ardor by Iran), namely: Khwaja Abdullah Ansari of Herat, a great mystic and Sufi saint in the 11th century, Sanai of Ghazni, author of mystical poems in the 12th century, and, finally, Rumi of Balkh, in the 13th century, considered the persophonist throughout the world as the greatest mystical poet of the entire Muslim world.
The Afghan Pashto literature, although quantitatively remarkable and in great growth in the last century, has always had an essentially local meaning and importance, feeling the influence of both Persian literature and the contiguous literatures of India.
Both main literatures, from the second half of the nineteenth century, have shown themselves to be sensitive to genres (novel, theater), movements and stylistic features imported from Europe.
Khushal Khan Khattak of the 17th century is considered the national poet.
Holidays and festivals
Afghanistan's official New Year starts with Nowruz, an ancient tradition that started as a Zoroastrian celebration in present-day Iran, and with which it shares the annual celebration along with several other countries.
It occurs every year at the vernal equinox.
Yaldā, another nationally celebrated ancient tradition, commemorates the ancient goddess Mithra and marks the longest night of the year on the eve of the winter solstice (čelle ye zemestān; usually falling on 20 or 21 December), during which families gather together to recite poetry and eat fruits—particularly the red fruits watermelon and pomegranate, as well as mixed nuts.
Some regional festivals include the Pamir Festival, which celebrates the culture of the Wakhi and Kyrgyz peoples, the Red Flower Festival (during Nowruz) in Mazar-i-Sharif and the Damboora Festival in Bamyan Province.
Main article: Sport in Afghanistan
Sport in Afghanistan is managed by the Afghan Sports Federation.
Cricket and association football are the two most popular sports in the country.
The Afghan Sports Federation promotes cricket, association football, basketball, volleyball, golf, handball, boxing, taekwondo, weightlifting, bodybuilding, track and field, skating, bowling, snooker, chess, and other sports.
Afghanistan's sports teams are increasingly celebrating titles at international events.
It won the ACC Twenty20 Cup in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
The team eventually made it and played in the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) is the official governing body of the sport and is headquartered in Kabul.
The Alokozay Kabul International Cricket Ground serves as the nation's main cricket stadium.
There are several other stadiums throughout the country, including the Ghazi Amanullah Khan International Cricket Stadium near Jalalabad.
Domestically, cricket is played between teams from different provinces.
The national team has never competed or qualified for the FIFA World Cup but has recently won an international football trophy in 2013.
The country also has a national team in the sport of futsal, a 5-a-side variation of football.
The traditional and the national sport of Afghanistan is buzkashi, mainly popular in the north, but also having a following in other parts of the country.
It is similar to polo, played by horsemen in two teams, each trying to grab and hold a goat carcass.
In 2002, traveler Rory Stewart reported that dogs were still used for wolf hunting in remote areas.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghanistan.