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- Country name: Afghanistan (Afghanestan).
- Convention long form: Islamic State of Afghanistan (Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan).
- Taliban refers to it as: Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
- Nationality: Afghan(s) as a noun and Afghan for adjective.
- Location: Southwest Asia, northwest of the Indian subcontinent.
- Borders: Pakistan to the south and east; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan to the north; and China at the northeast tip.
- Area: 647,500 sq km and 250,000 square miles.
- Climate: Dry arid to semiarid with extreme temperatures that vary from the cold of the mountain highlands to extreme heat of the vast desert areas.
- Topography: Mountainous region with large plains to the north and southwest. In the large desert regions, the mountain rivers produce intermittent fertile valleys.
- Capital and population: Kabul-2,590,000.30 Provinces (velayat, singular-velayat): Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Bamian, Farah, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghowr, Helmand, Herat, Jowzjan, Kabol, Kandahar, Kapisa, Konar, Kondoz, Laghman, Lowgar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Oruzgan, Paktia, Paktika, Parvan, Samangan, Sar-e Pol, Takhar, Vardak, Zabol; note-there may be two new provinces of Nurestan (Nuristan) and Khowst.
- Total population: 26,813,057 (July 2001 est.).
- Population density: 104 per square mile.
- Median Age: 18.7.
- Children 0-14: 42.2%-5,538,836.
- Teenage 10-19: 22.9%-3,002,190.
- Youth between 15-24: 19.8%-2,573,953.
- Seniors Over 70: 1.5%-190,245.
- Male to female ratio: 106.3 males per 100 females.
- Birth rate: 41.42 births/1,000 population (2001 est.).
- Life expectancy at birth: 46.97 years for males and 45.47 years for females (2001 est.).
- Infant mortality rate: 147.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2001 est.).
- Official languages: 35% Pashtu, 50% Afghan Persian (Dari or Farsi), 11% Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen), and 4% are speak a variety of about 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai). Many are bilingual.
- Ethnic groups: 38% Pashtun, 25% Tajik, 19% Hazara, 12% are comprised by similar minorities including the Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, and others, and 6% Uzbek.
- Religious affiliations: Sunni Muslim 84%, Shi'ite Muslim 15%, other 1%.
- Christian denominations: N/A.
- Education: Compulsory from 7-13.
- Literacy rate: 31.5% among the total population, which breaks down as 47.2% for males and 15% for females. (1999 est.)
- Currency: Afghani (AFA)
- GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity-$800 (2000 est.).
- National GDP: Purchasing power parity-$21 billion (2000 est.).
- Major Industries: Small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; hand-woven carpets; natural gas, oil, coal, copper.
- Chief crops: Opium poppies, wheat, fruits, nuts; wool, mutton, karakul pelts.
- Natural resources: Natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.
- Electricity production: 420 million kWh (1999).
- TV Sets (illegal under Taliban rule): 100,000 (1999).
- Radios: 167,000 (1999).
- Telephones: 29,000 (1998) In 1998, there were 21,000 main lines in service in Kabul.
- Daily newspaper circulation: 11 per 1,000 people.
- Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000).
- Government type: No functioning central government, administered by factions.
- Head of state and government: The government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan has not been able to implement a universally functioning government. The country remains divided among fighting factions. In 1996, the ruling members of the Afghan Government were overthrown by of the Islamic Taliban movement.
- The Taliban declared itself the legitimate government of Afghanistan, but the UN still recognizes the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani.
- The Organization of the Islamic Conference has left the Afghan seat vacant until legitimacy can be determined through negotiations among and with the warring factions.
- The country is divided along ethnic lines. The Taliban controls the capital of Kabul and approximately two-thirds of the country including the predominately ethnic Pashtun areas in southern Afghanistan. Opposing factions have their stronghold in the ethnically diverse north.
- Afghan leaders to watch in the struggle for power:
- King Mohammad Zahir Shah. Member of the Durrani Dynasty who fled to Italy in 1973 after his cousin staged a military coup. Has asked the UN to prepare a peacekeeping force to Afghanistan should the Taliban fall.
- Abdurrashid Dostum. Vice chairman of the Northern Alliance. A former Soviet General, who is a secularist.
- Mullah Mohammed Omar. Self-declared leader of the Muslim faithful and head of the Taliban. Former mujahideen.
- Ismail Khan. Former anti-Soviet mujahideen and governor of Herat. Only opposition leader who has made any progress with the Northern Alliance. Has asked for the US to send "military aid" instead of troops.
- Burhanuddin Rabbani. President of Afghanistan from 1992-96 who was driven from Kabul by the Taliban. Ethnic Tajik and the first non-Pashtun leader of Afghanistan in 250 years.
- Pir Syed Ahmad Gailani. Head of the Sufi Muslim sect and relatively moderate leader. Chief of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan party.
- Legal system: A uniform system is not in place at this time, however, all factions loosely agree to follow Shari'a (Islamic Law).
- International organization memberships: United Nations (UN) but because the majority of the world does not recognize the Taliban the UN still recognizes Rabbani's government.
Afghanistan's history is long and peppered with turmoil. By examining it, one begins to understand the conflicts of modern Afghanistan and the diversity of the organizations that lay claim to this part of the world. Around 2000 BC, the area was populated by peoples from Central Asia and was called Aryana, the Land of the Aryans. By the 6th century BC, the Persian Empire controlled the region, until Alexander the Great took control around 330 BC. After Alexander the Great, the region became divided into kingdoms. In the 1st century AD, the Kushans, a central Asian people, won control of the area, and Buddhism became the dominant religion from the 3rd century until the 8th century AD. In the 7th century AD, Arab armies brought Islam to the area and by 998 AD, Islam was the established religion under the Ghaznavid king, Muhmud. As the Ghaznavid state grew weaker, the Ghurid kingdom rose to power in the central west. The early 13th century brought another central Asian dynasty, the Khwarizm Shahs, to power, which in turn was devastated by the Mongol emperor, Genghis Khan, around 1220 AD. Then in the 14th century, the Asian military leader, known to the West as Tamerlane, conquered Afghanistan and pressed on into India. Under Tamerlane's descendents, the Timurids, the empire became fragmented until October of 1504, when the Mughal Empire was established. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Afghanistan was torn between the Mughal Empire, centered in India, and the Safavid dynasty, in Persia. The Mughals generally controlled Kabul and the Persians hailed from Herat. The Mughals and Persians fought for Kandahar and control of if vacillated between them. During this time, the Pashtun people gained momentum but were not to gain power.
After the assassination of the Persian king, Nadir Shah, in the 18th century, the Pashtun, Ahmad Shah, rose to power with the support of an assembly of tribal chiefs. His rule stretched from Kashmir and Delhi in the east, to Amu Darya in the north, and to Persia in the west. By the 19th century, however, the Afghan borders shrank to roughly the land area of modern Afghanistan. During this time, the British and the Russians began to compete for control of the area, and this resulted in the First Anglo-Afghan War from 1838-1842 and the Second Anglo-Afghan War from 1878-1880. By the century's end, the Brits had gained control of Afghanistan's foreign relations. Afghanistan became a buffer between the Russian and British Empires. In the Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919, the Afghans achieved complete independence.
From 1880 until 1929, the line of Abd-ar-Rahman Khan led the Afghan people in educational reforms, modernization, and independence. In 1926, King Amanullah began to force reforms, encouraging women to give up wearing the burka and men to wear Western clothing. This sparked internal revolts that forced Amanullah to flee the country. Four brothers, who were relatives of Amanullah, restored order. One of these became King, and his son Muhammad Zahir Shah established his family as heir to the throne. In 1946, Afghanistan joined the United Nations.
In 1953, Muhammad Daud, nephew of Nadir Shah, became prime minister and began a program of rapid modernization with economic and military aid from the USSR. These actions began to alienate Afghanistan from its neighbor Pakistan. 10 years later, Zahir Shah removed Daud from office, hoping to improve relations with Pakistan and limit Soviet influence. In 1964, Afghanistan restructured their government from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. The 1970s brought a severe drought, economic hardship, and the end of the regime. Daud exiled the king in 1973 and declared himself president. By April of 1978, Daud was overthrown by Noor Muhammad Taraki, a leader of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). Taraki announced a revolutionary campaign including land reform, emancipation of women, and education literacy. Later in that same year, Islamic traditionalists objected, led an armed revolt, and killed Taraki.
On December 25, 1979, Soviet forces invaded and installed Babrak Karmal as president. Karmal promised to combine social and economic reform with respect for Islam, but rebellion intensified against the Soviet dependent government. Millions fled to Pakistan and Iran. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China sustained anti-Soviet rebels with weapons and money. In the mid-1980s, the U.S. supported the rebels with hundreds of millions of dollars each year and Stinger missiles for shooting down Soviet helicopters. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev resolved to remove Soviet troops from the devastating and hopeless war. In 1988, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the USSR, and the United States signed an agreement to end foreign intervention and Soviet occupation.
In the last decade of the twentieth century, Afghanistan continued to face the horrors of civil war. Rebels, who had not signed the peace treaty, refused to participate with a central government that included Communists. The rebels were still supported by the United States and Pakistan, while Najibullah's government continued to receive support from the Soviets. In 1991, the U.S.S.R. and U.S. signed an agreement to end military aid to those in Afghanistan. In 1992, Najibullah's government fell to Peshawar groups. Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, became president and the government sought to keep Pashtun leaders from important government positions. Various factions and eventually the Pashtun-dominated Taliban besieged Kabul. Identifying themselves as religious students, the Taliban emerged in 1994 as a strong guerrilla faction. The Taliban stated their purpose to disarm the warring factions and to impose strict Islamic law. Though Rabbani's government ceased to exist in 1994, he still held office until the Taliban took Kabul in September of 1996. Rabbani and his prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, fled north to join the alliance against the Taliban. In 1997, the alliance became known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, known to the West as the Northern Alliance, and appointed Dostum as chief military commander. By the year 2000, only Pakistan and Iraq recognized the legitimacy of the Taliban, though it controlled most of Afghanistan territory.
TRENDS AND SOCIAL ISSUES
Understanding the trends and social issues of a particular country should always take into consideration the opinions of persons within the country. The Center for Youth Studies is looking for contributors from each country to add to our appreciation and understanding of the Afghan culture, potential, trends, and critical issues. From our perspective, here are some of the issues facing the Afghan public.
Afghanistan was thrust on to the world stage after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Since 1996, the Taliban has provided a safe harbor for the primary suspect in the attacks, Osama bin Laden, and his Al Quaeda network of terrorist cells. The U.S. interpreted these attacks as an act of war and then issued an ultimatum to the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden. The Taliban refused and portrays the United States as Islam's enemy, threatening Holy War. Beginning September 30, 2001, the U.S. and its allies began military attacks on Taliban strongholds and Al Quaeda installations in Afghanistan, while simultaneously dropping food aide packages in civilian areas.
Once the Taliban established their leadership, they began to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law. They refused women the opportunities of education and employment, made it mandatory for a woman to where the traditional burka, diminished women's access to medical assistance, and made it illegal for a women to appear in public without a male escort. The international community has voiced great outrage at these oppressive policies, which are enforced by public beatings and executions.
What is next for Afghanistan? In light of the past, who will rise up to lead such a divided nation? Ethnic and religious alliances have defined themselves in opposition to others. Many years of bloodshed and civil war have deepened the wounds of betrayal, hate, and fear. As mentioned above, a variety of leaders have some interest in the future of Afghanistan. Can the West have a positive influence in the development of a new Afghanistan? If so, how much can the West force the country to adopt democratic ideals and policies? Should the West force the Afghan people to adopt policies of religious freedom or equality for women?kqphere
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(2001, January 19). A Tale of Betrayal and Revenge. British Broadcasting,
(2001, September 24). Fighting Escalates Between Taliban Troops and Afghan Opposition.
Fox News Channel, Associated Press.
Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001. ©1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
US Census Bureau, International Database
US Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook
(2001, October 16). Washington Says UN Should Direct Afghan Rebuilding.
Boston Globe, (260)108.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
- Afghanistan has been involved in war for the past 3 decades. Boys are recruited to fight at an early age. What are the implications for the youth in Afghanistan?
- What is the outlook for Afghanistan's female population? Is there anything the United Nations can do to help Afghan women? Develop a United Nations program that would help these women. As you do, be sure to think through the range of religious sensibilities and morality in the area.
- The country seems to be torn between secularism, Islam, and militant Islam. How could a young person returning home after studying abroad help reconcile these issues?
- Describe some possible future scenarios for Afghanistan. What role does your country have in helping this country to establish itself?
- The Taliban uses the Koran and Islam to support its brutally imposed law and the protection of Osama Bin Laden. Others leaders of Islam have denounced the terrorist actions as anti-Islam. What do you know about Islam? How do you know whom to believe?
Tammy Smith cCYS