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Flag of Afghanistan
Map of Afghanistan
Introduction Afghanistan
Afghanistan's recent history is characterized by war and civil unrest. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 but was forced to withdraw 10 years later by anti-Communist mujahidin forces supplied and trained by the US, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others. Fighting subsequently continued among the various mujahidin factions, giving rise to a state of warlordism that eventually spawned the Taliban. Backed by foreign sponsors, the Taliban developed as a political force and eventually seized power. The Taliban were able to capture most of the country, aside from Northern Alliance strongholds primarily in the northeast, until US and allied military action in support of the opposition following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks forced the group's downfall. In late 2001, major leaders from the Afghan opposition groups and diaspora met in Bonn, Germany and agreed on a plan for the formulation of a new government structure that resulted in the inauguration of Hamid KARZAI as Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) on 22 December 2001. The AIA held a nationwide Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) in June 2002, and KARZAI was elected President by secret ballot of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). The Transitional Authority has an 18-month mandate to hold a nationwide Loya Jirga to adopt a constitution and a 24-month mandate to hold nationwide elections. In December 2002, the TISA marked the one-year anniversary of the fall of the Taliban. In addition to occasionally violent political jockeying and ongoing military action to root out remaining terrorists and Taliban elements, the country suffers from enormous poverty, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread land mines.
Geography Afghanistan
Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran
Geographic coordinates:
33 00 N, 65 00 E
Map references:
total: 647,500 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 647,500 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Texas
Land boundaries:
total: 5,529 km
border countries: China 76 km, Iran 936 km, Pakistan 2,430 km, Tajikistan 1,206 km, Turkmenistan 744 km, Uzbekistan 137 km
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Amu Darya 258 m
highest point: Nowshak 7,485 m
Natural resources:
natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones
Land use:
arable land: 12.13%
permanent crops: 0.22%
other: 87.65% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
23,860 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
damaging earthquakes occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Environment - current issues:
limited natural fresh water resources; inadequate supplies of potable water; soil degradation; overgrazing; deforestation (much of the remaining forests are being cut down for fuel and building materials); desertification; air and water pollution
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban
signed, but not ratified: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
People Afghanistan
27,755,775 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 42% (male 5,953,291; female 5,706,542)
15-64 years: 55.2% (male 7,935,101; female 7,382,101)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 410,278; female 368,462) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
note: this rate reflects the continued return of refugees from Iran (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
41.03 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
17.43 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
10.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.11 male(s)/female
total population: 1.06 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
144.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 46.6 years
female: 45.85 years (2002 est.)
male: 47.32 years
Total fertility rate:
5.72 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.01% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
noun: Afghan(s)
adjective: Afghan
Ethnic groups:
Pashtun 44%, Tajik 25%, Hazara 10%, minor ethnic groups (Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, and others) 13%, Uzbek 8%
Sunni Muslim 84%, Shi'a Muslim 15%, other 1%
Pashtu 35%, Afghan Persian (Dari) 50%, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%, much bilingualism
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
male: 51%
female: 21% (1999 est.)
total population: 36%
People - note:
large numbers of Afghan refugees create burdens on neighboring states
Government Afghanistan
Country name:
conventional long form: Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan
conventional short form: Afghanistan
local short form: Afghanestan
former: Republic of Afghanistan
local long form: Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
32 provinces (velayat, singular - velayat); Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Bamian, Farah, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghowr, Helmand, Herat, Jowzjan, Kabol, Kandahar, Kapisa, Khowst, Konar, Kondoz, Laghman, Lowgar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Nurestan, Oruzgan, Paktia, Paktika, Parvan, Samangan, Sar-e Pol, Takhar, Vardak, and Zabol
19 August 1919 (from UK control over Afghan foreign affairs)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 19 August (1919)
the Bonn Agreement called for a Loya Jirga (Grand Council) to be convened within 18 months of the establishment of the Transitional Authority to draft a new constitution for the country; the basis for the next constitution is the 1963/64 Constitution, according to the Bonn Agreement
Legal system:
the Bonn Agreement calls for a judicial commission to rebuild the justice system in accordance with Islamic principles, international standards, the rule of law, and Afghan legal traditions
NA; previously males 15-50 years of age
Executive branch:
note: following the Taliban's refusal to hand over Usama bin LADIN to the US for his suspected involvement in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, a US-led international coalition was formed; after several weeks of aerial bombardment by coalition forces and military action on the ground, including Afghan opposition forces, the Taliban was ousted from power on 17 November 2001; in December 2001 a number of prominent Afghans met under UN auspices in Bonn, Germany, to decide on a plan for governing the country; as a result, the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) - made up of 30 members, headed by a chairman - was inaugurated on 22 December 2001 with a six-month mandate to be followed by a two-year Transitional Authority (TA) after which elections are to be held; the structure of the follow-on TA was announced on 10 June 2002 when the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) convened establishing the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) which has an 18-month mandate to hold a Loya Jirga to adopt a constitution and a 24-month mandate to hold nationwide elections
chief of state: President of the TISA, Hamad KARZAI (since 10 June 2002); note - presently the president and head of government
head of government: President of the TISA, Hamad KARZAI (since 10 June 2002); note - presently the president and head of government
cabinet: the 30-member TISA
elections: NA
Legislative branch:
nonfunctioning as of June 1993
Judicial branch:
the Bonn Agreement calls for the establishment of a Supreme Court
Political parties and leaders:
NA; note - political parties in Afghanistan are in flux and many prominent players have plans to create new parties; the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) is headed by President Hamid Karzai; the TISA is a coalition government formed of leaders from across the Afghan political spectrum; there are also several "independent" groups
Political pressure groups and leaders:
NA; note - ministries formed under the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) include former influential Afghans, diaspora members, and former political leaders
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: ambassador Ishaq SHAHRYAR
chancery: 2341 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
FAX: 202-483-6487
consulate(s) general: New York
telephone: 202-483-6410
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert Patrick John FINN; note - embassy in Kabul reopened 16 December 2001 following closure in January 1989
embassy: Great Masood Road, Kabul
mailing address: 6180 Kabul Place, Dulles, VA 20189-6180
telephone: [93] (2) 290002, 290005, 290154
FAX: 00932290153
Flag description:
three equal vertical bands of black (hoist), red, and green with a gold emblem centered on the red band; the emblem features a temple-like structure encircled by a wreath on the left and right and by a bold Islamic inscription above
Economy Afghanistan
Economy - overview:
Afghanistan is an extremely poor, landlocked country, highly dependent on farming and livestock raising (sheep and goats). Economic considerations have played second fiddle to political and military upheavals during two decades of war, including the nearly 10-year Soviet military occupation (which ended 15 February 1989). During that conflict one-third of the population fled the country, with Pakistan and Iran sheltering a combined peak of more than 6 million refugees. Gross domestic product has fallen substantially over the past 20 years because of the loss of labor and capital and the disruption of trade and transport; severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998-2001. The majority of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care, problems exacerbated by military operations and political uncertainties. Inflation remains a serious problem. Following the US-led coalition war that led to the defeat of the Taliban in November 2001 and the formulation of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) resulting from the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, International efforts to rebuild Afghanistan were addressed at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan Reconstruction in January 2002, when $4.5 billion was collected for a trust fund to be administered by the World Bank. Priority areas for reconstruction include the construction of education, health, and sanitation facilities, enhancement of administrative capacity, the development of the agricultural sector, and the rebuilding of road, energy, and telecommunication links.
purchasing power parity - $21 billion (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $800 (2000 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 60%
industry: 20%
services: 20% (1990 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
Labor force:
10 million (2000 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 80%, industry 10%, services 10% (1990 est.)
Unemployment rate:
revenues: $NA
expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures of $NA
small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; handwoven carpets; natural gas, coal, copper
Electricity - production:
375 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 36%
hydro: 64%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
453.75 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
105 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton, sheepskin, and lambskin
$1.2 billion (2001 est.)
Exports - commodities:
opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems
Exports - partners:
Pakistan 32%, India 8%, Belgium 7%, Germany 5%, Russia 5%, UAE 4% (1999)
$1.3 billion (2001 est.)
Imports - commodities:
capital goods, food and petroleum products; most consumer goods
Imports - partners:
Pakistan 19%, Japan 16%, Kenya 9%, South Korea 7%, India 6%, Turkmenistan 6% (1999)
Debt - external:
$5.5 billion (1996 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
international pledges made by more than 60 countries and international financial institutions at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan reconstruction in January 2002 reached $4.5 billion through 2006, with $1.8 billion allocated for 2002; according to a joint preliminary assessment conducted by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the UN Development Program, rebuilding Afghanistan will cost roughly $15 billion over the next ten years
afghani (AFA)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
afghanis per US dollar - 4,700 (January 2000), 4,750 (February 1999), 17,000 (December 1996), 7,000 (January 1995), 1,900 (January 1994), 1,019 (March 1993), 850 (1991); note - these rates reflect the free market exchange rates rather than the official exchange rate, which was fixed at 50.600 afghanis to the dollar until 1996, when it rose to 2,262.65 per dollar, and finally became fixed again at 3,000.00 per dollar in April 1996
Fiscal year:
21 March - 20 March
Communications Afghanistan
Telephones - main lines in use:
29,000 (1998)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Telephone system:
general assessment: very limited telephone and telegraph service
domestic: in 1997, telecommunications links were established between Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad, and Kabul through satellite and microwave systems
international: satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) linked only to Iran and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); commercial satellite telephone center in Ghazni
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 7 (6 are inactive; the active station is in Kabul), FM 1, shortwave 1 (broadcasts in Pashtu, Afghan Persian (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 32 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 country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
Transportation Afghanistan
total: 24.6 km
broad gauge: 9.6 km 1.524-m gauge from Gushgy (Turkmenistan) to Towraghondi; 15 km 1.524-m gauge from Termiz (Uzbekistan) to Kheyrabad transshipment point on south bank of Amu Darya (2001)
total: 21,000 km
paved: 2,793 km
unpaved: 18,207 km (1998 est.)
1,200 km
note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)
natural gas 180 km
note: product pipelines from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have been in disrepair and disuse for years (2002)
Ports and harbors:
Kheyrabad, Shir Khan
46 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 10 10
over 3,047 m: 3 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4 4
under 914 m: 1 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 2
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 37 35
under 914 m: 4 11 (2002)
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 7 13
914 to 1,523 m: 14 4
5 (2002)
Military Afghanistan
Military branches:
NA; note - the December 2001 Bonn Agreement calls for all militia forces to come under Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) control, but formation of a national army is likely to be a gradual process; Afghanistan's forces continue to be factionalized largely along ethnic lines
Military manpower - military age:
22 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 6,896,623 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 3,696,379 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 252,869 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
Transnational Issues Afghanistan
Disputes - international:
close ties with Pashtuns in Pakistan make long border difficult to control
Illicit drugs:
world's largest producer of opium; cultivation of opium poppy - used to make heroin - expanded to 30,750 hectares in 2002, despite eradication; potential opium production of 1,278 tons; source of hashish; many narcotics-processing labs throughout the country; drug trade source of instability and some government groups profit from the trade; 80-90% of the heroin consumed in Europe comes from Afghan opium; vulnerable to narcotics money laundering through the hawala system

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003