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Islamic Countries - Afghanistan

National name:
Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
Hamid Karzai (2002)
250,000 sq mi (647,500 sq km)
Population (2002 est.):
27,755,775 (growth rate: 2.4%); birth rate: 41.0/1000; infant mortality rate: 144.8/1000; density per sq mi: 111
Capital (2000 est.):
Kabul, 2,450,000
Largest cities (2000 est.):
Mazar-i-Sharif, 2,500,000; Kandahar, 225,500; Herat, 177,300
Afghanistan, is bordered on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, on the extreme northeast by China, on the east and south by Pakistan, and by Iran on the west. The country is split east to west by the Hindu Kush mountain range, rising in the east to heights of 24,000 ft (7,315 m). With the exception of the southwest, most of the country is covered by high snow-capped mountains and is traversed by deep valleys.
Geographic coordinates:
33 00 N, 65 00 E
Map references:

total: 647,500 sq km
land: 647,500 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Monetary unit:
Pushtu, Dari Persian, other Turkic and minor languages
Pashtun 38%, Tajik 25%, Uzbek 6%, Hazara 19%, minor ethnic groups (Chahar Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, and others)
Islam (Sunni 84%, Shi'ite 15%, other 1%)
Literacy rate:
29% (1990)
opium poppies, wheat, fruits, nuts; wool, mutton, karakul pelts.
Labor force
(2000 est): 10 million; agriculture 70%, industry 15%, services 15% (1990 est.).
Natural resources:
natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.
small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; handwoven carpets; natural gas, oil, coal, copper.
$80 million (does not include opium) (1996 est.): opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semiprecious gems.
$150 million (1996 est.): capital goods, food and petroleum products; most consumer goods.
Major trading partners:
Former Soviet Union, Pakistan, Iran, Germany, India, UK, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Japan, Singapore, South Korea.
Transportation: Railways:
total: 24.6 km.
total: 21,000 km; paved: 2,793 km; unpaved: 18,207 km (1998 est.).
1,200 km; chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to about 500 DWT.
Ports and harbors:
Kheyrabad, Shir Khan.
45 (2000 est.).
Communications: Telephones:
main lines in use: 29,000 (1996); note: there were 21,000 main lines in use in Kabul in 1998; mobile cellular: n.a.
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 7 (6 are inactive; the active station is in Kabul), FM 1, shortwave 1 (broadcasts in Pushtu, Dari, Urdu, and English) (1999).
167,000 (1999).
Television broadcast stations:
at least 10 (one government run central television station in Kabul and regional stations in nine of the 30 provinces; the regional stations operate on a reduced schedule; also, in 1997, there was a station in Mazar-e Sharif reaching four northern Afghanistan provinces) (1998).
100,000 (1999).
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000).
Internet users:
Darius I and Alexander the Great were the first to use Afghanistan as the gateway to India. Islamic conquerors arrived in the 7th century, and Genghis Khan and Tamerlane followed in the 13th and 14th centuries.
In the 19th century,Afghanistan became a battleground in the rivalry between imperial Britain and czarist Russia for control of Central Asia. Three Anglo-Afghan wars (1839–42, 1878–80, and 1919) ended inconclusively. In 1893 Britain established an unofficial border, the Durand Line, separating Afghanistan from British India, and London granted full independence in 1919. Emir Amanullah founded an Afghan monarchy in 1926.
During the cold war, King Mohammed Zahir Shah developed close ties with the Soviet Union, accepting extensive economic assistance from Moscow. He was overthrown in 1973 by his cousin Mohammed Daoud, who was himself ousted in a 1978 coup by Noor Taraki. Taraki and his successor, Babrak Karmal, attempted to create a Marxist state. However, the new leadership was criticized by armed insurgents who bitterly opposed communism and hoped to create an Islamic state in Afghanistan. Fearing his government was on the verge of collapse, Karmal called for Soviet troops. Moscow responded with a full-scale invasion of the country in Dec. 1979.
The Soviets were met with fierce resistance from groups already energized by opposition to the Karmal government. The guerrilla forces, calling themselves mujahideen, pledged a jihad, or holy war, to expel the invaders. Initially armed with outdated weapons, the mujahideen became a focus of U.S. cold war strategy against the Soviet Union, and with Pakistan's help, Washington began funneling sophisticated arms to the resistance. Moscow's troops were soon bogged down in a no-win conflict with determined Afghan fighters. In April 1988 the USSR, U.S., Afghanistan, and Pakistan signed accords calling for an end to outside aid to the warring factions. In return, a Soviet withdrawal took place in Feb. 1989, but the pro-Soviet government of President Najibullah was left in the capital, Kabul.
By mid-April 1992 Najibullah was ousted as Islamic rebels advanced on the capital. Almost immediately, the various rebel groups began fighting one another for control. Amid the chaos of competing factions, a group calling itself the Taliban—consisting of Islamic students—seized control of Kabul in Sept. 1996. It imposed harsh fundamentalist laws, including stoning for adultery and severing hands for theft. Women were prohibited from work and school, and they were required to cover themselves from head to foot in public. By fall 1998 the Taliban controlled about 90% of the country and, with its scorched-earth tactics and human rights abuses, had turned itself into an international pariah. Only three countries, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAR, recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government
On Aug. 20, 1998, U.S. cruise missiles struck a terrorist training complex in Afghanistan believed to have been financed by Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Islamic radical sheltered by the Taliban. The U.S. asked for the deportation of bin Laden, whom they believed was involved in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998. The United Nations Security Council passed resolutions in 1999 and 2000 demanding that the Taliban cease their support for terrorism and hand over bin Laden for trial.
In Sept. 2001, legendary guerrilla leader Ahmed Shah Masoud was killed by suicide bombers, a seeming death knell for the anti-Taliban forces, a loosely connected group referred to as the Northern Alliance. Days later, terrorists attacked New York'sWorld Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon, and bin Laden emerged as the primary suspect in the tragedy.
On Oct. 7, after the Taliban repeatedly and defiantly refused to turn over bin Laden, the U.S. and its allies began daily air strikes against Afghan military installations and terrorist training camps. Five weeks later, with the help of U.S. air support, theNorthern Alliance managed with breathtaking speed to take the key cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, the capital. On Dec. 7, the Taliban regime collapsed entirely when its troops fled their last stronghold, Kandahar. However, al-Qaeda members and other mujahideen from various parts of the Islamic world who had earlier fought alongside the Taliban persisted in pockets of fierce resistance, forcing U.S. and allied troops to maintain a presence in Afghanistan. Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, remained at large. In the meantime, Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding somewhere in a cave complex in the mountains of Tora Bora.
The U.S. and the international community have vowed to assist Afghanistan in forming a stable government and have pledged $25 billion for reconstruction. But intricate political, ideological, and ethnic differences, deepened by decades of war, complicated the formation of a broad-based representative government. In Dec. 2001, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun (the dominant ethnic group in the country), and the leader of the powerful 500,000-strong Populzai clan, was named head of Afghanistan's interim government. In June 2002, 1,500 delegates gathered for a loya jirga, or grand council, and formally elected Karzai president. His term expires in 2004, when general elections will be held. Karzai, a popular figure in the West, has not yet solidified power within the country, as warlords maintain tight regional control. Haji Abdul Qadir, one of Karzai's newly appointed vice presidents, was gunned down in Kabul in July, and an assassination attempt on Karzai himself was narrowly averted in Sept.
The U.S. and its Afghan allies continued the assault through the summer of 2002 on the remaining positions held by al-Qaeda fighters. Some of the war's heaviest fighting occurred in March's Operation Anaconda, a ground offensive in Paktia Province intended to root out remaining soldiers. The U.S. war strategy met stinging criticism in Afghanistan when the number of civilian casualties hovered near 400 by mid-July. In one particularly bloody assault, more than 50 members of a wedding party were killed after an Air Force fighter jet dropped a 2,000-pound bomb in Oruzgan Province.

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