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AFGHANISTAN
 

Cities in AFGHANISTAN

Kabul

Geography and Landscape

Geography

Afghanistan, the 'Land of the Afghans' is located in South Central Asia and is bordered to the northeast by China (91 km), to the west by Iran (921 km), to the north by Uzbekistan (144 km), Tajikistan ( 1357 km) and Turkmenistan (804 km), and in the east and south to Pakistan (2670 km). The river Amu Darya, which flows into the Aral Sea on the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, forms the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan over a length of about 1000 km.

Course of the river Amu Darja, Afghanistan
Photo:DEMIS Mapserver, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

A historical buffer area is the Wakhan Corridor, an at first sight curious promontory of about 300 km long and varying in width from 16 to 60 km, which just connects Afghanistan with the Chinese province of Xinjiang and borders Tajikistan and Pakistan.

The surface of Afghanistan is 647,500 km2, making the country slightly larger than France. Afghanistan is 41st on the list of the largest countries in the world. The longest distance from north to south is 1012 km and from east to west 1320 km. Afghanistan is a long way from the sea and surrounded entirely by the above countries.

Afghanistan Satellite photo
Photo:Publlc domain

One of the most famous mountain passes in the world is the Khyber Pass, which runs for about 50 km and at a maximum height of 1070 meters through the Hindu Kush from the Afghan city of Torkham to the Pakistani city of Peshawar. Other high passes are Wakhjir (4923 m), Baroghil (3798 m), Kachin (5639 m), Shotorgardan (3720 m), Bazarak (2713 m), Khawak (3550 m), Anjuman (3858 m), Hajigak (2713) m) and Unai (3350 m).

Khyber Pass Photo: James Mollison, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

Landscape

Geographically, Afghanistan pertain to the northeastern part of the Iranian Highlands, almost half of which (1.2 million km2) lies in Afghanistan. In the flat northern steppe region of Afghanistan there are fertile valleys, irrigated by rivers, with some important cities such as Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz. The south of Afghanistan, with peaks of at most about 1000 meters, is desert area (Registan desert with many sand dunes and Dasjt-i Margo desert) or desert-like and the rivers flowing there are often dry.

Afghanistan mountain landscape
Photo: Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force in the public domain

Between the landscapes described above is a mountain landscape with mountain ranges that run from the southwest to the northeast and cover about two thirds of the surface of Afghanistan. The main mountain range is the Hindu Kush mountain range (length 1100 km), located just north of the capital, Kabul, which extends into the north of Pakistan. The highest peak of the entire mountain range is Tirich Mir (7699 m) in Pakistan, the highest mountain in Afghanistan is Noshaq (7485 m). This mountain is located at the beginning of the Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of land that reaches as far as China, and is the most westerly mountain in the world at over 7,000 meters high. Other high mountains in Afghanistan are the Urgend II (6940 m), the Yamit (6940 m), the Tirgaran (6755 m), the Koheandaras (6628 m) and the Lasht (6504 m). Afghanistan has more than 100 mountains that are higher than 6100 meters and almost 50% of the country is above 2000 meters.

Noshaq, the highest mountain in Afghanistan
Photo: Khwahan, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The central part of the Afghan mountain area is formed by the Koh-i Baba, a mountain range with peaks up to 5200 m. The eastern mountain area, with peaks up to 4877 meters, is called Sefid-Koeh and here at an altitude of about 1100 m is the famous Khyber Pass, a 48 km long and sometimes three meters wide pass that connects the Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia with Pakistan and the subcontinent of India. The mountains of Afghanistan join in the northeast with the Karakoram Mountains, which in turn form part of the Himalayas.

This area is geologically very active, with frequent (severe) earthquakes. Earthquakes in 1955, 1998 (6.9 on the Richter scale) and 2002 (7.2) left villages destroyed, thousands of deaths, tens of thousands injured and many homeless. On April 24, 2013, an earthquake hit an area 24 km northwest of the Nangarhar provincial capital of Jalalabad (5.7); 18 people were killed, 141 injured and 676 houses were damaged.

Map of Afghanistan with elevation changes
Photo: Thuresson, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Rivers and lakes

South of the Hindu Kush is the Kabul Valley through which the Kabul River flows. It is of course no coincidence that the most important city of Afghanistan was founded here. The Kabul (600 km), with tributaries such as the Ghorband, the Panjshir, the Logar and the Kuna, is the only river that flows through the Indus into the Arabian Sea, part of the Indian Ocean. Other Afghan rivers, including the Helmand with tributary Arghandab, the longest river in Afghanistan (1,449 km), flow into inland seas or water basins like that of Sistan in southwestern Afghanistan.

The Hari-Rud (640 km) flows west from Central Afghanistan, then forms the border between Afghanistan and Iran and flows into a water basin in neighboring Turkmenistan. The Amu Darya River in North Afghanistan (1100 km) forms the border between Afghanistan and the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and flows into Aral Lake. Smaller rivers in the north are the Balkhab, the Samangan and the Kunduz.

River Kabul
Photo:Khalid Mahmood CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Afghanistan does not have many bigger lakes. In the extreme southwest is Afghanistan's largest lake, Lake Hamun-e-Saberi. In this area there are also the lakes Daryacha-e-Namakzar and Hamun-e-Pusak. This lake is also largely located in Iran. In the southeast lies the salt lake Istadeh-ye Moqor and in the Baba mountains in the central region of Bamiyan at an altitude of 2,900 meters there are five small lakes, the Band-e-Mir lakes Haybat, Ghulaman, Zulfiqar, Qanbar and Panir . In the northeast, in the Wakhan corridor, is Lake Sar-e-Qul. To the east, south of the town of Ghazni, is the salt lake Ab-e-Istada (130 km2). To the north of the northeastern city of Faizabad is the beautifully situated Lake Shewa.

Climate and Weather

Köppen climate classification Afghanistan
Photo: Ali Zifan, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Afghanistan generally has a continental climate with dry, hot summers and cold winters. Of course there are considerable differences due to the size of the country and due to the mountainous areas in the middle and northeast of the country. Summers can be very hot in the lower regions with temperatures above 40 °C and with peaks of more than 50 °C in cities such as Herat, Mazar-i Sharif, Jalalabad and Kandahar. Due to its location in relation to the mountains, the temperatures in summer can be had in higher-altitude cities such as Kabul, Bamyan and Faizabad. In the mountains, the temperature can drop to more than -30 °C.

In the north it can be bitterly cold in winter due to the wind blowing from Siberia in Russia. In the northern city of Mazir-i Sharif, for example, the extremes are far apart with an average of 4.5 °C in December and more than 33 °C in July and a maximum of 43 °C. To the east and south of the mountain ranges, the climate is much less extreme, for example in the capital Kabul. This city is located at an altitude of 1800 meters and it is therefore not surprising that there is usually snow in winter with temperatures averaging -3 °C in December. Summer is quite pleasant with an average of 25 °C in July.

Street in Kabul covered with snow
Photo: Aulfat, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic no changes made

Around Jalalabad in the east, much lower than Kabul (300 m), it is an average of 7°C in December and about 35 °C in July with high humidity. The southwest regions have a desert climate, but temperatures are between 2 °C in January and 29 °C in July. High-altitude Central Afghanistan has a dry mountain climate, with summers reaching a maximum temperature of 28 °C and cold nights even in August. From November, temperatures drop to or below freezing with a lot of snowfall, which can last until March or even April.

There is always snow on the highest mountains in Afghanistan, almost all mountainous areas are covered with snow from November to March. Precipitation in the form of rain falls mainly in winter, where there are also large differences. For example, in the desert-like areas in the southwest, an average of about 75 mm falls per year, but in some years only a few millimeters, and in the Salang pass at an altitude of more than 3000 meters above Kabul, about 1150 mm and in Nuristan in the northeast falls more than 2000 mm, sometimes even in the form of monsoon rains from South Asia. In Kabul itself an average of about 305 mm of rain falls per year. In 2014, floods affected more than 100,000 people in 27 provinces and 123 districts. Jawzjan, Faryab, Sar-e Pul, Baghlan and Balkh districts were most affected, with 6,800 houses destroyed, 7,600 heavily to lightly damaged.

In summer it is hot on the high-altitude Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan, but even in the height of summer it can freeze at night. As of late September, the Wakhan Corridor may have been cut off from the rest of Afghanistan by heavy snow.

Climate diagram Kabul
Photo:Hedwig in Washington, CCAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Climate diagram Kandahar
Photo:Hedwig in Washington, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Snow on mountains in the eastern province of Paktia
Photo: Fred W. Baker III in the public domain

Western Afghanistan, particularly Herat Province, is known for the bad-i-sad-o-bist-roz, the '120 days of wind', which blows at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour from June to September. Complete existing dunes in this desert area are relocated and new dunes are formed.

Desert Afghanistan
Photo: Mouliric, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Plants and Animals

Plants

Vegetation Kunar Province, Afghanistan
Photo:monneb afghan, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

The flora and fauna of Afghanistan suffered a lot during the long war years. Afghanistan was once largely covered with forests and grasslands, but according to the United Nations, forests only cover 2.5% of Afghanistan's surface and the grasslands have turned into semi-deserts. In the last decades, approximately 90% of Afghanistan's forests have been destroyed by war and (illegal) logging, and erosion and desertification have had free rein. On the positive side, millions of young trees have now been planted under the Karzai government, including many maples in the capital, Kabul. Nevertheless, the flora can still be enjoyed in various places in the country.

Many large trees grow at an altitude of 1800-3000 meters in the mountains, especially coniferous species such as the deodar or Himalayan cedar, Norway spruce, Pinus roxburghii, maritime pine, umbrella pine, laurel, barberry and larch or larch. Furthermore deciduous trees: hazelnut, juniper, walnut, wild peach, almond and date palms in the southwest of Afghanistan. Various varieties of roses, honeysuckle, gooseberry, common hawthorn, rhododendron, lemon tree and many herbaceous plants grow in the shade of these large varieties. Holm oaks are often found together with alder, ash and astragalus.

Nannorrhops ritchieana
Photo: Gabriele Kothe-Heinrich, CC Naamsvermelding-Gelijk delen 3.0 Unported no changes made

At an altitude of about 1000 meters, species such as wild olive, rock rose, wild privet, acacia, mimosa, barberry, Chinese date or jujuba, Nannorrhops ritchieana (palm variety), bignonia (catalpa), toothbrush or mustard tree, verbena and acanthus. The vegetation of the lower regions of the mountains to the west consists almost entirely of herbaceans, scattered shrubs and very rarely trees. Lips, compound flowers and umbelliferous plants and flowers are most common here. Expected ferns and mosses occur in higher places. Among the undergrowth of the dull plains on the plateau of Kandahar, leguminous thorny plants such as Hedysarum alhagi, cat thorn, mimosa species and mugwort, as well as orchids, currant, gooseberry, hawthorn and various types of lye herb are found. Date palms grow in the subtropical region between the highlands and the desert in the south.

In spring, marsh marigolds and anemones bloom in the valleys and on hills, followed by tulips, petunias, sunflowers, marigolds, honeysuckle, dahlias and geraniums in summer.

Animals

Afghanistan's national bird, the golden eagle
Photo: Rocky, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Most of the wildlife found in the temperate subtropical zone is also found in Afghanistan. Large mammals, formerly common, have extensively disappeared, such as the tiger, or are greatly reduced in numbers. Still, a fairly wide variety of animal species can still be found, especially in the hills and mountains of Afghanistan. We can mention wolves, Afghan fox, striped hyenas, jackals, wild dogs and cats and gazelles (including goiter gazelle). The national animal of Afghanistan is the snow leopard, the national bird is the golden eagle.

Snow leopard, national animal of Afghanistan
Photo:irbis1983 in het publieke domein

Wild goats, including the screw horn goat or 'markhoor' and the ibex are still found in the Pamir regions. Furthermore sheep species such as the oerial or the steppe sheep and an argali species. The Argali is the largest sheep in the world, and in Afghanistan, the Marco Polo sheep subspecies is found in the Pamir regions and in the Hindu Kush. The brown bear still lives in the mountains, along with smaller mammals such as mongoose, ferrets, weasels, martens, otters, badgers, moles, shrews, hedgehogs, bats and various types of jumping mice and the yellow ground squirrel. The bear macaque is found in the dense forests of Nooristan and Paktiya. In addition to goats, cows and sheep, camels, especially on the plains, and camels, especially in the mountains, are used for transport, meat, hides and milk.

A critically endangered subspecies of the red deer, the Afghan red deer, also known as Bukhara deer, is still found in northern Afghanistan.

Rare: Afghan red deerPhoto: Sarefo, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

There are not many fish species in the rivers and lakes, but the trout stands out in terms of numbers, including the rainbow trout. Other types of fish are carp and barbs.

Afghanistan is also home to tortoises and various species of frogs, toads, lizards and a monitor lizard that can grow up to two meters in length. Among the many snake species, several are highly venomous, including a crow species, a cobra species, and viper species.

Pictures of the Afghan hound, used as a hunting dog and called 'tazi' in Afghanistan, have been found on 4,000-year-old petroglyphs. The Afghan Hound is therefore one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Of the original two breeds, the mountain Afghan and the plain Afghan, after the spread across Europe and the development of a breed standard, only one crossbred species remains.

Afghan Hound
Photo:Bryan Ungard Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

A typical Afghan dog species is the kuchi or Afghan sheep dog, which is used by Kuchi herders, among others, to protect livestock. Three types can be distinguished: the mountain type, the steppe type and the desert type, and the differences are mainly found in the construction of the dog and the coat. There is not yet an officially recognized breed.

Kuchi, dog species from Afghanistan
Photo:Sabawoon Nezami, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

There are about 500 bird species in Afghanistan, including about 80 pigeon species. About half of these species actually breed in Afghanistan. Vultures (including black vulture and bearded vulture) occur in large numbers, as well as eagles, hawks and falcon species. Migratory birds can be seen mainly in the spring and autumn, in addition to pheasants, quails, cranes, pelicans, partridges (including Asian stone partridge and black wood partridge) and crows. Common birds are weeping mania (also called Indian maina, shepherd maina or weeping starling), rock pigeon, bulbul and crested bustard.

A 2019 census revealed 492 species, of which 24 are critically endangered *.

ducks
Bar-headed goosegreylag goosewhite goose
Little Goosered-breasted goosemute swan
wild swancasarcashelduck
coromandel ducksummer translationshoveler
gadwallbronze-headed duck *wigeon
mallardpintailteal
marble duckred-crested duckpochard
white-eyed duck *tufted ducktopper
Great Scotergoldeneyenun
common mergansermiddle merganserwhite-headed duck
pheasants
Persian desert partridgequailAsian stone partridge
Tibetan Mountain Grousehimalayan mountain grouseblack franklin
gray franklinred junglefowlHimalayan Lance Pheasant
forest pheasantWallich's pheasantpartridge
Koklasfazant
flamingos
flamingolittle flamingo *
grebes
grebeblack-necked grebered-necked grebe
killer
pigeons
rock pigeonklipduifsnow pigeon
stock pigeonoriental stock dovewood pigeon
Hodgson's pigeonsummer doveoriental dove
Collared Dovepalm turtle dovepearl neck turtleneck
sand grouse
Tibetan steppe fowlwhite-bellied sand grouse
black-bellied sand grouseCrown Sandgrouse
swifts
spiny-tailed swiftalpine swiftcommon swift
house swift
coots and moorhens
waterralcorncrakeSpotted Crake
Moorhencootgray-headed burgundy
brown spotted spotted grouselittle moorhensmallest moorhen

Bronze-headed duck, almost extinct in Afghanistan
Photo: Francis C. Franklin, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

cranes
demoiselle craneSiberian White Cranecrane bird
grielen
griel
avocets
kluutblack-winged stilt
ibissbavels
ibissnavel
Oystercatchers
Oystercatcher
lapwings and plovers
lapwing *Indian lapwingsteppekievit
white-tailed lapwingsilver ploverAsian Golden Plover
Mongolian ploverdesert ploverCaspian plover
Kentish Ploverringed ploverlittle plover
goldsnipe
goudsnip
jacanas
water pheasant
sandpipers and snip
curlew *whimbrelbar-tailed godwit *
black-tailed godwit *stone runnerruff
broad-billed sandpipercurved sandpiperTemminck's sandpiper
three-toed sandpiperspotted sandpiperlittle sandpiper
bokjewoodcockmountain snipe
snipeterekruitergray phalarope
sandpiperwitgatblack rider
green-legged riderpool riderforest rider
redshank
racing birds and fork-tailed plovers
renvogelfork-tailed ploverlittle fork-tailed plover
gulls
thin-billed gullblack-headed gullbrown-headed gull
Little Gullgiant black-headed gullstorm gull
lesser black-backed gullLittle Ternlachstern
giant ternblack starwhite-winged tern
white-faced ternriver tern *common tern
storks
storkblack stork

River Tern, almost extinct in AfghanistanPhoto: Yathin S Krishnappa, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

cormorants
Indian Cormorantpygmy cormorantgreat cormorant
Indian Cormorant
pelicans
pink pelicangray pelican *frizzy couple *
herons
bitternLittle BitternRed Little Bittern
Blue Heronpurple herongreat egret
little egretCattle Egretral heron
kwak
ibises and spoonbills
black ibisspoonbill
Ospreys
osprey
hawks
gray vulturebearded vulture *Egyptian vulture
honey buzzardAsian Honey Buzzardblack vulture *
Bengal VultureIndian Vulturehimalayan *
griffon vulturesnake eaglebastard eagle
pygmy eaglesavanna eaglesteppearend
imperial eaglegolden eaglehawk eagle
white-eyed hawkMarsh HarrierHen Harrier
marsh harrier *Montagu's Harriershikra
sparrow hawkhawkblack kite
sea eaglewhite-banded sea eaglebuzzard
Long-legged Buzzard
owls
Indian scops owlscops owlstriped scops owl
owlcoromandeloehoecollared little owl
little owltawny owllong-eared owl
short-eared owlrough-legged owl
hopping
hop
kingfishers
kingfishersmyrnaijsvogelChinese Giant Kingfisher
pied kingfisher
bee-eaters
bee-eatergreen bee-eater
free range
rollerIndian roller

Himalayan vulture, almost extinct in AfghanistanPhoto: MAKY.OREL, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unportedno changes made

woodpeckers
swivel neckAsian Woodpeckerbrown-fronted woodpecker
white-winged woodpeckerHimalayan woodpeckerscaly green woodpecker
falcons
lesser kestrelkestrelred-legged falcon
merlinfalconIndian lanner falcon *
sakervalkgyrfalconperegrine falcon
parrots of Africa and the New World
great alexander parakeetring-necked parakeetgray-headed parakeet
caterpillars, trills and red lead birds
long-tailed red henfish
Oriole
OrioleIndian Oriole
drongo's
koningsdrongogray drongo
monarchs and fan-tailed flycatchers
Indian paradise monarch
shrike
red-backed shrikeTurkestan ShrikeDaurian Shrike
brown shrikebrown-backed shrikelong-tailed shrike
Great Gray Shrikelesser gray shrikeRed-headed Shrike
crows
striped jaymagpienutcracker
himalayan nutcrackerred-billed choughalpine chough
chewhouse crowrook
black crowhooded crowfat-faced crow
brown-necked crowraven
tit
black titspruce titazure tit
great titgray great tit
larks
white-banded larkrosy desert larkdesert lark
beach larkshort-toed larkTibetan Lark
mountain calander larkcalender larklittle short-toed lark
Indian Sand Larktree larkSkylark
little skylarkcrested lark
Panuridae
bearded man

Thin-beaked fibrosis, almost extinct in Afghanistan
Photo: Kalyan VarmaCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Nuthatches
NuthatchCashmere NuthatchWhite-cheeked Nuthatch
large rock bug
real tree creepers
himalayan creeper
wren
wren
dipper
dipperblack dipper
starlings
starlingpink starlingpagoda starling
treurmaniaoevermania
thrushes
thrushredwing *blackbird
Tickells thrushfieldfarechestnut thrush
black-throated thrush
flycatchers
soot fly trapgray flycatcherruddy fan tail
Indian whinyrobinorange nightingale
Persian robinarctic nightingalenightingale
bluethroatChinese Flute Thrushsmall fork tail
spotted fork tailred-throated nightingaleHimalayan Black-breasted Nightingale
himalayan bluetailWhite-throated Flycatcherred-tailed flycatcher
little flycatcherpied flycatcherHimalayan redtail
water redstartEvermanns Redstartriver redstart
blue-headed redstartcollared redstartwhite-crowned redstart
black redstartmountain thrushred rock thrush
blue rock thrushdesert poppyAsian Stonechat
Black StonechatwheatearIzabelle Wheatear
white wheateardesert wheatearSpotted Wheatear
picatatapeuitHumes tapuitFinsch 'wheatear
Red-tailed Wheatear
Hypocoliidae
silk tail
finches
tiger tickmuscatfinch
honeysuckers
purple honey sucker
hedge sparrows
alpine hedge mushimalayan hedge musbanded hedge sparrow
brown hedge sparrowblack-throated hedge sparrow

sparrows
saxaulmushouse sparrowSpanish sparrow
moabmusring sparrowIndian Rock Sparrow
rock sparrowpale rock sparrowsnowfinch
Afghan Snowfinch
wagtails and squeakers
great yellow wagtailyellow wagtaillemon wagtail
Indian Pied Wagtailwhite wagtailbig beeper
Oriental beeperlong-beaked beeperduinpieper
highland pipitgrass piperwine chest pip
boom beeperSiberian Tree Pipitred-throated pipit
water piper
finches
checkkeepyellow-necked chubby
spiegeldikbekhawthornredfinch
Blyths redfinchpale rosefinchbig rosefinch
himalayan white brow redmusclebullfinchred desert finch
desert finchMongolian Desert FinchHodgson's Mountain Finch
Brandt's Mountain Finchpale desert finchgreen body
brotherlinnetcrossbill
putterred-fronted canarysiskin
buntings
black-headed buntingbrown-headed buntinggray bunting
gray-headed buntinggray buntingStewarts bunting
yellowhammerwhite-headed buntingSteenortolaan
ortolaanstriped buntingreed bunting
dwarf buntingforest bunting

Red-fronted canary, Afghanistan
Photo: Zeynel Cebeci Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 Internationalno changes made

History

Pre-Islamic period

Archaeologists and historians, supported by Stone Age finds at Aq Kupruk and Hazar Sum, believe that people lived in present-day territory of Afghanistan at least 50,000 BC, and farming communities are among the oldest in the world. Archaeological evidence indicates that urban civilization in the present-day territory of Afghanistan began between 3000 and 2000 BC.
The first historical records relating to that time were recorded by the Achaemenids, a royal family of the Ancient Persian Empire , covering the region from 550 to 331 BC. under control. The Achaemenid Empire at that time consisted of the seven major satrapies (provinces in the old Persian Empire headed by a governor) Gandhara (Jalalabad region), Bactria, Merv, Herat, Sattagydia (southeast lowland), Arachosia (Kandahar) and Zaranka (Sistan). These satrapies were in fact the impetus for today's modern Afghanistan, which is still sharply divided along provincial and ethnic lines.

Persian Empire in 490 BC.
Photo: DHUSMA in the public domain

Between 330 and 327 BC. Alexander the Great defeated the Achaemenid Emperor Darius III and quelled local resistance in what is now Afghanistan. Alexander's successors, the Seleucids, kept the region under the influence of Greek culture until about 150 BC. Many Greek migrants settled in Bactria, the area around the present-day city in northern Afghanistan, Mazar-i Sharif. Around 250 BC. Bactria even became an independent Greek kingdom and from about 200 BC. Bactria even controlled almost all of present-day Afghanistan. The Maurya Dynasty, an Indian dynasty established between 321 and 185 BC. ruled almost the entire Indian subcontinent, controlled southern Afghanistan and en passant also introduced Buddhism.
In ca.250 BC. the nomadic and Buddhist Kushanas founded a cultural and commercial empire that lasted until 224 AD. managed to maintain. From 224 to the 7th century, there was no real dominant power in this area, although vassals of the Persian Sassanid dynasty, led by Ardashir I in 224, stood as protectors of the population in that area. Afghanistan became a hub of various civilizations during this period and the Silk Road, among others, was developing during this time.

Empire of the Sasanians (light yellow: Sasanians; dark yellow: vassals)
Photo: Captain Blood, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Islam makes its appearance

Of great influence on all of world history until now was the proclamation of Muhammad ibn Abadallah of a new faith: Islam. After defeating the Sassanids at the Battle of Qadisiya in 637, the Arab Muslims began an approximately 100-year battle against Afghan tribes that was also intended to bring Islam into these regions. In 650 Muslim troops occupied northern and western Afghanistan.
By the 10th century, the power of the Arab Caliphate of the Abassids (749-1258) and its successor in Central Asia, the Persian Samanid dynasty ( 819-999 and founded by Saman Khuda). The Ghaznavids, a Turkish dynasty split from the Samanids, ruled an empire around the Persian city of Ghazni, which was in present-day Afghanistan, from 975 to 1187. The Ghasnavid Dynasty, particularly under the rule of Mahmud of Ghazni, was the first major Islamic dynasty to rule Afghanistan.

Ghasnavid Empire (975-1187)
Photo: Arab League in the public domain

Mongols and Moguls

In 1220, Mongol troops led by the famed Genghis Khan conquered all of Central Asia. and destroyed important Afghan cities such as Balkh, Herat and Ghazni. However, Afghanistan remained a fragmented society until the year 1380, when Timur Lenk, a Turko-Mongol warlord, expanded and consolidated the Mongol Empire. Timur Lenk's successors, who died in 1405, ruled Afghanistan until the early 16th century. In 1504, the Afghan region came under the rule of the Mughals, a North Indian Islamic empire from the Indus and Ganges regions that dominated almost the entire Indian subcontinent between 1526 and 1858. The Mughals disputed Afghan territory with the Iranian Safavi Dynasty and the Uzbeks of Central Asia for two centuries .

Kingdom of Afghanistan

After the death of the great Savafi leader Nadir Shah Afshar in 1747, indigenous southern and southwestern Pashtuns, who belonged to the Durrani tribal confederation, took power until 1973 and founded the kingdom of Afghanistan. The first Durrani ruler was a bodyguard of Nadir Shah Afshar, the Pashtun Ahmad Shah, known as the founder of the Durrani Empire and founder of the Afghan nation, united all Pashtun tribes and ruled an empire that formed itself in 1760. stretched as far as Delhi in India and to the Arabian Sea. He even conquered the then Iranian capital, Isfahan, and the entire Safavid empire in 1722. The Durrani Empire fell apart after the death of Ahmad Shah in 1772 and under his successor, his son Timur Shah, but by 1826, under Dost Mohammad, leader of the Muhammadzai tribe, order had already been restored. Timur Shah Durrani (1748-1793) was still the one who moved the capital of his empire in 1776 from the Pashtun capital Kandahar to the current capital Kabul.

Ahmad (or Ahmed) Shah Durrani (1722-1772)
Photo: Colonel Gentil in the public domain

Dost Mohammad reigned as Emir of Afghanistan (1823-1839 and 1842-1863) at the beginning of the "Great Game", the c. 100-year struggle for the domination of Central Asia and Afghanistan between Tsarist Russia, which wanted to expand south to force a passage to the Indian Ocean, and Great Britain, which wanted to protect its lucrative income and power over India at all costs. During this period, Afghan rulers were able to maintain a degree of independence through a number of compromises.

British occupation

In the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842), Dost Mohammad was deposed by the British, but they left with zéé Great losses of their Afghan garrisons as early as 1842 after revolts against the British and their front man Shah Shuja Durrani (1785-1842). In the following decades, Russian forces approached Afghanistan's northern border and in 1878 the British raided Afghanistan and occupied most of Afghanistan during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1881).

Dost Mohammad Khan (1793-1863)
Photo: James Rattray (1818-1854) in the public domain

Yet the British were well aware that they could not lead the country themselves, but had to leave that to those in power from Afghanistan itself. Before that, the British appointed the Durrani Abdur Rahman Khan (c. 1830/1844-1901), and in 1881 the last British troops left Afghan territory. In 1880, Abdur Rahman Kahn entered his 21-year reign and, with the help of British financial aid and weapons, managed to navigate between British and Russian interests and the tensions that existed between different Afghan tribes. Moreover, he did not shy away from brutal violence to achieve his goal, a somewhat united Afghanistan. In addition, he carried out a major reorganization and renewal of the civil administration in what has since been regarded as the beginning of the modern Afghan state with a more or less central authority.

On November 12, 1893, the Durand Line was negotiated with the British. (Mortimer Durand on behalf of the British and Abdul Rahman on behalf of the Afghans), agreeing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan (2640 km) in the Hindu Kush Mountains for a period of 100 years. It is clear that these agreements in the Durand Agreement, which split several Pashtun tribes, would become the source of future tensions in this border region.

First half of the 20th century

Abdur Rahman died in October 1901 and was succeeded by his son Habibullah Khan (1872-1919), who pushed through his father's administrative reforms and succeeded in keeping Afghanistan neutral in World War I. Under his rule (1901-1919), the clergy regained some of its lost rights and Afghanistan opened up more to foreign countries.

Durand Line: The red line on the map is the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan
Photo:US Government in the public domain

On February 20, 1919, Habibullah Khan was assassinated and succeeded by his son Amir Amanullah Khan (1892-1960). In the same year, Afghanistan signed the Treaty of Rawalpindi on August 19, ending the Third Anglo-Afghan War and marking the official date of an independent Afghanistan. Between the two world wars, Afghanistan managed to hold its own between the two world powers Russia and Great Britain. Amir Amanullah (reign 1919-1929) skilfully navigated the new British-Soviet rivalry and forged several good relations with important countries.
Amanullah gave Afghanistan its first constitution in 1923, with equal rights for Muslims and non-Muslims, but the internal reform program marked the end of Amanullah's reign, his plans were far too modern for the traditional population, and in 1929 he was forced to abdicate the throne. Eventually, Amanullah Khan fled his country and died in exile in 1960. Amanullah Khan was followed shortly by a very traditional leader nicknamed Bachcha Saqqao, then by his son Inayatullah Khan Seraj, then by Habibullah Kalakani and finally by Nadir Shah, who ruled from 1929 to 1933. Nadir Shah was assassinated and succeeded that year. by his son Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan whose reign would last until 1973.

The last king of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah (1914-2007)
Photo: unknown author in the public domain

In World War II, Afghanistan remained neutral, and the persistent division of Pashtun tribes created tensions with the neighboring state Pakistan, which was founded on the other in 1948. side of the Durand line. In response, Afghanistan increasingly focused its foreign policy on the Soviet Union. The premiership of Mohammed Daoud (1953-1963), the king's nephew, was cautiously reformist, modern and aimed at centralizing the government and strengthening ties with the Soviet Union. However, in 1963 Zahir fired Shah Daoud for his anti-Pakistani policies that had severely damaged Afghanistan's fragile economy.

Russians

A new constitution, ratified in 1964, liberalized the constitutional monarchy somewhat, but in the following decade both economic and political conditions deteriorated in Afghanistan. On January 1, 1965, the Marxist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was founded in Kabul. After winning some parliamentary seats in the first elections in 1965 in which the party took part, the party fell into two factions, the 'Khalq', as early as 1967, with many Pashtun supporters in the countryside and led by the future president Nur Mohammed. Tarakki, and the 'Parcham', with many intellectual Pathans from the cities and led by Babrak Karmal, later also president of Afghanistan. The 1965 elections created a period of a Western-tinted Afghanistan.
On July 17, 1973, Lieutenant General Mohammed Daoud deposed his cousin King Mohammed Zahir Shah, proclaimed the Republic of Afghanistan and became president himself. However, economic conditions did not improve and Daoud lost most of his political support, which consisted mainly of the Parcham faction. Already on April 27, 1978, he was overthrown by communist rebels, murdered and in fact started the Afghan civil war that would last for decades. The leadership of Afghanistan now fell into the hands of a revolutionary council headed by the pro-Soviet Nur Mohammed Taraki, who was assassinated in August 1979. As early as 1978, when the Taraki regime was losing control of Afghanistan, Khalq supporter Hafizollah Amin, who was less pro-Soviet, took over power.
In 1979 threats from a tribal rebellion against the pro-communist government led to the invasion of tens of thousands of Soviet troops, which then ended up in a hopeless ten-year guerrilla war. President Amin was already killed in the Soviet invasion and was succeeded by Babrak Karmal. Karmal, with the help of the Soviets, was in turn pushed aside in 1986 by the most powerful man in the Secret Service, Mohammed Najibullah. The Soviets, along with two Soviet-backed regimes, failed to defeat the loose rally of mujahideen guerrillas, supported by the United States, Pakistan, China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, between 1979 and 1989. In 1988, the Soviet Union agreed to establish a neutral Afghan state, and the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan in February 1989. The agreement ended a basically pointless war that had killed thousands of Afghans, between five and a half years old. six million refugees and destroyed industry and agriculture.

Mohammed Najibullah (1947-1996)
Photo: RIA Novosti archive, image # 12070/Alexandr Graschenkov/CC-BYSA 3.0

Communist rule lasted until April 1992, when the Mudjahedin forces of generals Ahmad Shah Massoud and Rashid Dostum conquered Kabul. The departure of the Soviet troops had already led to bitter fighting between Afghan resistance groups. Until then they had never united politically, and Pashtun groups in particular were very divided among themselves. The war turned into a battle for the capital Kabul between the Hezb-i-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Islami, ultimately devastating large parts of the city.
After the fall of Najibullah, an interim government was formed. A consultative meeting elected Burhannuddin Rabbani as president. Several Mudjahedin groups, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami and Dostum troops, turned against the Rabbani government, although Hekmatyar had been appointed prime minister.
Northwestern Afghanistan remained under effective control of Dostum. The Rabbani government exercised authority over the remainder of Afghanistan, with the exception of the southeast, where local Pashtun warlords and drug lords were killing each other.

Taliban

In the fall of 1994, the rural Taliban, an Islamic 'student' guerrilla movement supported by Pakistan and the Arab countries, started from the southern city of Kandahar their march into Afghanistan. They conquered the south of the country, in September 1996 Kabul and in 1998 the important northern city of Mazar-i Sharif fell. Pakistan, Saudi Arabiaand the Unitde Arab Emerates were the only countries to enter 1997 to recognize the Taliban regime. Afghanistan's seat in the UN was occupied by a representative of the deposed President Rabbani.

Burhanuddin Rabbani (1940-2011)
Photo: DVIDS, Public Domain

The Taliban effectively took the place of the fighting mujahedin groups, controlling about 95% of Afghanistan's territory (including the capital, Kabul). The remaining, mostly ethnic, minority groups in the north of the country and the expelled Rabbani government united in the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan against the Taliban and controlled areas in northern Afghanistan.

Former Taliban fighters surrender their weapons
Photo: isafmedia, Creative Commons license Attribution 2.0 Unported no changes made

21th century

Following the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the Taliban regime came under strong pressure from the United States to to extradite the instigators of the terrorist attacks, including Osama bin Laden. After the Taliban refused to cooperate, heavy bombing by the Americans followed. After several weeks of fighting, Taliban rule fell and the city of Kandahar was abandoned by the Taliban on December 7, 1994.

Karzai Afghanistan
Photo: Paul Morse, public domain

During the Bonn conference (December 2001), an agreement was reached on an interim government, led by the pro-Western Hamid Karzai, who had already established an anti-Taliban movement from Pakistan in 1998, and the stationing of an international peace force (ISAF-International Security Assistance Force). In June 2002, a so-called‘ Loya Jirga’ organized that designated a transition government, again led by Karzai. In January 2004, the Constitutional Loya Jirga, with representatives from all over the country, passed a new constitution. It declared Afghanistan the 'Islamic Republic of Afghanistan' and is quite progressive with on paper equal rights for all Afghans.
According to the Bonn Agreement, the first democratic elections were to be held in 2004 and that happened on October 9, 2004: Karzai was elected president and installed on December 7 as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president. His cabinet from December 2004 was a relatively clean cabinet of technocratic persons. The elections for parliament and provincial councils took place in September 2005, although without the presence of political parties. The parliament consisted of individual representatives, including many warlords, but also a number of women. The new government, which Karzai presented to parliament in early 2006, was again a moderate and somewhat technocratic cabinet.

The UN has been playing an important role in rebuilding and developing the political agenda since 2002, under leadership of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). In addition, the UN peacekeeping force ISAF has an important role to play, mainly because of the continuing insecurity in large parts of the country. The Afghan government is playing an increasingly important role in the coordination of reconstruction. At an international conference in Berlin (spring 2004), the international community pledged a total of $ 8.2 billion in aid for the period 2004-2006.
At a similar conference on January 31 and February 1, 2006 in London, the international community made new agreements on cooperation, for 5 years, with the Afghan government, in the Afghanistan Compact. Donors pledged approximately USD 10 billion. These agreements are monitored by an Afghan-international body, the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB).

ISAF logo
Photo: North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the public domain

The year 2006 was marked by a revival of the Taliban, which was mainly expressed in an uprising in the south of the country. ISAF took over command of Southern and Eastern Afghanistan from the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom and is now in command of all of Afghanistan. Despite military successes, Afghan and international security forces have not yet been able to stabilize those areas. President Karzai founded the Policy Action Group, in which the Afghan government consults with international actors active in the south about pacifying the area. Until May 1, 2007, the Netherlands had regional command over the ISAF troops in the south.

In May 2007, Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban leader, was killed in fighting with the armed forces of the United States and Afghanistan. The last king of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, also passed away in 2007.
In April 2008, in Bucharest NATO leaders declared that the mission in Afghanistan had top priority. In Kabul, 40 people were killed in a July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy .
In February 2009, 20 NATO countries pledged to increase their military efforts. On August 20, 2009, relatively quiet presidential elections took place, which were again won by Karzai. Obama pledged more troops, relocating a total of 100,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan.
Former President Burhanuddin Rabbani was killed in a September 2011 bombing.
In 2013, a dialogue between the local those in power and the Taliban. At the beginning of 2014, it was still unrest in Afghanistan and preparations were being made for the presidential elections. In April 2014, the fight had not yet been decided, so a second round was needed. The second round on June 14 was between candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani: on September 21, 2014, Ashraf Ghani was declared the winner and on September 29, 2014, he was sworn in as president of Afghanistan, with Abdul Rashid Dostum and Sarwar Danish as vice presidents.

Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan as of September 2014
Photo: SK Vemmer (US Department of State) in the public domain

On October 29, 2014, an enormous amount of confiscated drugs was burned in Qasaba Khana Azi, north of Kabul; 20 tons, including 936 kg heroin, 9474 kg opium and 425 kg hash.
In late November 2014, a Taliban suicide attack during a volleyball tournament in Yahyakhail district, Paktita province, which borders Pakistan. At least 45 people were killed and dozens (seriously) injured, including children.
On December 2, 2014, NATO launched a new relief mission in Afghanistan in Brussels.
On December 8, 2014, NATO the joint operation between the United States and NATO officially ended. The 13-year mission cost nearly $ 720 billion and killed approximately 21,000 Afghans, more than 2,200 American soldiers and 453 British soldiers. 2015 and 2016 are marked by attacks and negotiations with the Taliban.
In June 2017, Islamic State militants conquer the mountainous area of Tora Bora in Nangarhar province, the former base of the late al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. In August 2017, President Trump of the United States promised additional troops to fight the Taliban. In January 2018, an ambulance loaded with bombs by the Taliban explodes in Kabul. This causes more than a hundred people to lose their lives. There will be many terrorist attacks in 2019, with the attack on a wedding in Kabul as the provisional low point, which left almost a hundred dead.

Population

General

The last official census in Afghanistan was in 1979 when the country had a population of 15,551,358. More than 34 million people currently live in Afghanistan (2017 estimate). Afghanistan is a sparsely populated country with a population density of just over 44 inhabitants per square kilometer. The number of 32 million inhabitants is only a rough estimate, because the war(s) in Afghanistan killed or fled millions of Afghans (4-8 million). According to the UNHCR, nearly six million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002.

Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has been in a more or less permanent war situation, and millions of Afghans have died in the meantime. The number of lightly and seriously injured and traumatized Afghans can no longer be counted. Add to that the perhaps five million Afghans who fled their country in the 1980s to Pakistan, Iran, but also to Europe and the United States, and it will be clear that almost every Afghan was facing the war.
Just a few generations ago, most Afghans lived in the countryside, nowadays urbanization is increasing.
The four largest and most important cities are located spread across the country: Mazar-i Sharif (approx. 320,000 inhabitants) in the north, the capital Kabul (approx. 3 million inhabitants) in the east, Kandahar (approx. 400,000 inhabitants) in the south and Herat (approx. 420,000 inhabitants) ) in the west.

Afghans with traditional headgear
Photo: Chitrapa in the public domain

Natural population growth is 2.38%. (2020)
Birth rate per 1000 inhabitants is 36.70 (2020)
Death rate per 1000 inhabitants is 12.70 (2020)
Life expectancy is 51.4 years for men and for women 54.4 years (2020)

Girls Afghanistan
Photo: Sgt. Christopher Harper in the public domain

Ethnic groups

Afghanistan has a very varied population composition, on the one hand due to its location at a crossroads of migration routes, on the other hand due to the geographical conditions of the country with its many mountains and remote valleys. As a result, in addition to countless dialects, more than fifty different languages are spoken in Afghanistan. Most of the ethnic groups in Afghanistan are Indo-Iranian or Turko-Mongol, generally depending on what language they speak. In Afghanistan it is certainly not the case that there are straight lines between the different population groups, inter-ethnicity is not commonplace , but it certainly occurs regularly. Unfortunately, due to the civil war, the dividing lines between the various population groups have tightened again.

Ethnic Groups in Afghanistan Photo: Public domain

PATHANS or PASHTUN
The Pashtuns are by far the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan with about 12 million people and are also an important group in Pakistan. Since 1893 the Pashtuns have been separated after the establishment by the British of the so-called Durand line. Former President Hamid Karzai was a Pashtun and leader of an important tribe from the area of Kandahar, the main Pashtun city. The Pashtuns have a tribal structure, the largest confederations of which are the southern and southwestern Durranis and the eastern and southeastern Ghalji or Ghilzai. To break the power of the Pashtuns during the reign of Amir Rahman Khan (1880-1901), many Pashtuns were forced by the military to move to northern Afghanistan. These northern Pashtuns were again forced to flee south after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
The Durranis, who mainly live in the south, southwest and east, are the most powerful group, but not the largest group of Pathans. Important Durrani tribes are the Popalzi and the Barakzi, the richest and largest group. Former President Zahir Shah was a Barakzi, as was his cousin Daud, who ousted him in 1973. To the north of Kandahar live the Popalzi, Ahmad Shah Durrani was a Popalzi, just like former president Hamid Karzai. The two groups are not really peaceful with each other, there are many problems and irritations among themselves. In addition to the tribes mentioned above, there are many others, including Ghilzai, Afridi, Sadozai, Yusufzai, Waziri, Mohammadzai and Kandahari.

Typical Pathanclothing
Photo: Kai Hendry from Woking, UK Creative Commons

Traditionally a people of nomads, the Ghalji live mainly in eastern Afghanistan, between the cities of Kabul and Kandahar. The 'capital' of the Ghalji, they outnumber the Durranis, is Ghazni.

TADZJIKEN
There are probably about ten million Tajiks in Afghanistan, a large group, but only after the fall of the Taliban regime became politically more influential. They were already in Afghanistan when the Pashtuns, Uzbeks and Turkmen were yet to come. The Tajiks, a people without a tribal structure, speak Dari, a Persian language and mainly live in the mountainous, somewhat remote region of Badakhshan. In the southeastern province of Paktika, a small group of Tajiks still lives around the city of Urgun. The renowned Mudjahedin leader Ahmad Shah Massud was a Tajik. The isolated Mountain Tajiks, also known as Pamiris or Ghalchas, live in the early northeast of Afghanistan. Most of the Mountain Tajiks are Ismaili, a variant of Shia Islam, in religion. They speak a number of Iranian languages, including Wakhani.

AIMAK
Western Afghanistan is home to the Sunni Aimak, a group of nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes, including the Farsiwan and the Firuzkuhi, who mainly live around the city of Herat.

BALUCHIS
The Sunni Baluchis migrated from the south to southwest Afghanistan at the end of the 18th century. About half a million Baluchis live in Aghanistan, most Baluchis live in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, but also in Iran. The Baluchis speak Baluchi, an Iranian language. The region of the Baluchis is also home to the Brahui, a people who originally also come from the Pakistani Baluchistan.

NURISTANIS
The Nuristani or Kafiris, virtuoso woodworkers, live in the wild, mountainous Nuristan area in eastern Afghanistan and differ ethnically and culturally from the rest of Afghanistan. Remarkably, many Nuristani have blonde or red hair and blue or green eyes. According to their own words, this is due to their ancient Greek roots.
The Nuristani, currently several hundred thousand individuals with their own Indo-Iranian language related to the Sanskrit of Northern India, were originally non-Islamic, but converted to Islam in the early 20th century. Kafiris who adhere to their original religion still live in Pakistan.

Nuristani girl
Photo: Barbara Millucci, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

PASHAI
The several hundred thousand Pashai are neighbors of the Nuristani, as it were, living in roughly the same area and in the past also in the valley of the Kabul river, but have been largely displaced there by the Pashtuns. The Pashai speak an Indian language.

QIZILBASH
The approximately 50,000 Shia Qizilbash live mainly in the capital Kabul and in the city of Kandahar, and descend from Turkmen immigrants who came from the 18th century. Iran to Afghanistan.

Turkish populations

TURKMENS
Most of the approximately Sunni Turmen live in northwestern Afghanistan and are mostly descendants of refugees who fled south from Russia and the Soviet Union in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Turkmen in Afghanistan speak Turkish-related Turkmen and generally belong to the Ersari and Tekke tribes.

UZBEKS
The approximately three million Uzbeks are also a Turkish-speaking population group, descended from 15th century Central Asian migrants. But even after the Russian Revolution in the early 20th century, many Uzbeks fled south to Afghanistan. Uzbeks often wear ikat robes like 'chapans', and to please the Uzbeks ex-president Karzai often wore a chapan.

Uzbek Afghans
Photo: Public domain

HAZARAS
Although the approximately three million Shia Hazaras belong to the Turkish population groups, they speak Dari. The area where they live is south of the Central Afghan mountains. The Hazaras are one of the poorest population groups in Afghanistan and are often troubled in their existence by Kuchis, a Pashtun nomadic tribe. The Sunni Taliban don't like the Shia Hazaras, and that has already cost many Hazaras their lives. Still, the Hazaras have generally managed to keep the Taliban out of their territory.

Hazara girls
Photo: Sgt. Ken Scar in the public domain

NOMADS
Since most of Afghanistan is arid and barren, it is not surprising that about 20% of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. "Kuchis," or "Powindahs," in fact Ghilzai-Pathans and the best-known group of nomads, head into the mountains with their herds every year. They are often at the bottom of the social ladder, but have recently become represented in the Afghan parliament and are proud of their extremely hard way of life. Nomadic men wear large turbans and are always armed with a dagger and a rifle. Nomadic women wear colorful robes over trousers and cover their heads with a long scarf. More often they also wear heavy silver bracelets, anklets and other jewelry.

Kuchi nomads in Afghanistan are always on the go
Photo: Tech. Sgt. John Cumper in the public domain

Language

Afghanistan Language Map
Photo:United States. Central Intelligence Agency in the public domain

Dari (since 1964) and Pashto (since 1933) are the official languages of Afghanistan, of which Dari is most commonly used as a 'lingua franca' for inter-ethnic communication. Like Farsi, Dari and Pashto are also written in the Arabic script.
Dari is so similar to Farsi, the language of Iran, that many Dari-speaking Afghans call their language Farsi. The main difference between the two languages is that Farsi has more loan words from Turkish and Arabic. Spoken mainly by the Tajiks, Dari is an Indo-Iranian language and a member of the Indo-European language family. Although it is written in the Arabic script, there is no further relationship between the two languages. Pashto is the language of Pashtuns in southern and eastern Afghanistan and in Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of western and northwestern Pakistan. Pashto is written in the Arabic script. The pronunciation of vowels and consonants is more or less the same as in Dari.
In addition to Dari and Pashto, some 25 other languages and dialects are spoken in Afghanistan. Tajik, Uzbek, Turkmen, Kyrgyz and Wakhi, the most primitive form of spoken Persian, are spoken in northern Afghanistan by the minority groups living there. Many Afghans are bilingual.

The main languages are:
Pashto 35%; Dari 50%; Turkic languages (Uzbek, Turkmen) 11%; 30 minority languages (mainly Baluchi and Pashai) 4%.

EnglishDari
How are you?Shomaa chetaur hasted?
Glad you came.Aaz amadan-e shomaa, khosh hastam.
What's your name?Nam-e shomaa chist?
Day.Khodaa haafez.
I don't understand.Man na-mefahmam.
Please drive slowly!Lotfat aasta boro!
Where is the toilet?Tashnaab kojast?
What time is it?Hey waqt ast?

Pashto alphabet Image: gf, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

EnglishPashto
armylashkar
bookkitab
childwor-kaey
farmerbazgar
homeastogna'h
journeysafari
landownerzamin-dar
meatghwasha'h
mountainghar
peacesulha'h
poorkhwar
sleepkhub
waterobah

Religion

Afghanistan religion: blue mosque of Mazar-i SharifPhoto:ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs Office CCAttribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The two main schools of Islam are Shia and Sunnism. This dichotomy arose almost immediately after the death of the Pfophet Mohammed in 632 AD. and is about the succession of Mohammed. Sunnis believe that Muhammad had not appointed a successor and therefore made their own choice between Muhammad's two fathers-in-law, and the choice fell on Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad's favorite wife Aishah. Shites believe that Muhammad had indeed appointed a successor, namely the husband of Muhammad's daughter Fatima, and thus his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ali was murdered and his followers demanded that his descendants succeed him. According to the Sunnis, anyone can become a leader of the Muslim world if he sees to the proper exercise and interpretation of the rules of Islam.

Shias live mainly in Iran, southern Iraq, Kuwait and as a minority in countries such as Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Lebanon and a number of Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates. Sunnis, about 85% of all Muslims anyway, live mainly in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and many countries in the Middle East.

Praying Muslims in the northeastern province of Kunar
Photo: Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade (U.S. Armed Forces) in the public domain

Most Afghans are Sunni Muslims (85%) from the fairly liberal Hanafite school, one of the four schools of law recognized by Sunni Islam. 14% of the Afghans, including most of the Mountain Tajiks or Pamiris, Farsiwan, Hazaren and Qizilbash, adhere to Shia doctrine. The Pashtun Muslims in Kandahar province are the most strict in the teachings of Islam in Afghanistan, if not worldwide. In addition, about 1% of the Afghans are adherents of another religion, mainly Hindus (Sikhs), Buddhists and Zoroastrians. The very few Christians in Afghanistan, almost all Muslim converts, are under great pressure from the immediate environment and the government does not really care about this group. The expectation is that Christians will literally have to survive underground as the Taliban grows again and Christians face verbal death threats.

Especially among the Mountain Tajiks in northeastern Afghanistan are many Ismailis who are Shia but do not want to accept the seventh Imam of the Imami Shias, Musa Kasim. The Ismailis are followers of Ismail, son of the fifth Imam. They also revere Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and nephew. Ali would be the one who explained Islam to the people, Muhammad would only have preached the teachings of Islam.

A number of Sufi movements can also be distinguished in Afghanistan. These Muslims look for a mystical bond between Allah and man and are mainly found among Sunni Muslims. One of the most famous Afghan Sufis was Jalaluddin Rumi, who lived in the 13th century AD. The Sufis have united themselves over the centuries into a number of Sufi brotherhoods, the most important of which are the Qadiriya (founded in Baghdad in the 12th century AD by Pir al-Qadir al-Gailani) and the Naqshbandiya brotherhood ( founded in Bukhara north of Afghanistan).

Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
Photo: Public domain

The Bamiyan Valley was Buddhist at the beginning of our era. Two famous Buddha statues, carved in the mountains around AD 500, were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Buddha statues of Bamiyan, before and after the destruction
Photo: UNESCO/A Lezine, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Society

State structure

In the 18th century, Afghanistan was divided into the four (semi) autonomous regions of Herat, Kandahar, Turkistan and Qaraghan-Badakshan, with Kabul as the capital. King Abd al-Rahman (reign 1880-1901) subjected the four regions to his power and placed confidants as governor in the seat of government to keep the regions easily under control. During the reign of Mohammed Nadir (reign 1929-1933) Afghanistan was divided into five main and four less important administrative areas.
In 1964 the country was divided into 26 provinces or 'wilayat', in 2004 expanded to 34 provinces. These provinces, headed by a governor or 'wali', are again divided into 397 districts or 'wuluswali' and sub-districts or 'alaqadari', depending on the number of inhabitants. The administrators of the districts and sub-districts are called 'wuluswal' and 'alaqadar' respectively, and are appointed by the central authority in Kabul. Villages in the sub-districts are divided into several 'qaryas', and the chief of a qarya is called 'qaryadar', 'arbab' or 'malik'. A qaryadar is chosen by the local population.

Provinces of Afghanistan
Image : Golbez Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Provinces and Capitals

ProvinceCapitalProvinceCapital
BadakshanFaizabadKonarAsadabad
BadghisQaleh-ye NowKunduzKunduz
BaghlanPol-e KhomriLaghmanMehtar Lam
BalkhMazar-e ShariffLowgarPol-e Alam
BamyanBamyanNangarharJalalabad
DaikondiNiliNimruzZaranj
FarahFarahNuristanNuristan
FaryabMaymanaPanjshirBazarak
GhazniGhazniPaktiaGardez
GhowrChaghcharanPaktikaSharan
HelmandLashkar GarParwanCharikar
HeratHeratSamanganAybak
YowzjanSheberghanSar-i PolSar-i Pol
KabulKabulTakharTaloqan
KandaharKandaharUruzganTarin Kowt
KapisaMahmud-e RaqiWardakMeydan Shahr
KhostKhostZabolQalat

Politics

Rabbani shakes hands with Putin
Photo: Kremlin.ru, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Afghan mudjahedin groups concluded an agreement in 1992 that provided for a transition period. Rivalry between the different groups made decisions about a transitional government more difficult. Burhannudin Rabbani was eventually appointed President and Hezb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was to assume the position of Prime Minister. However, the Sunni ultra-conservative movement of the Taliban soon emerged. After Kabul captured by the Taliban in September 1996, President Rabbani and Commander-in-Chief Massoud fled the city and the government army retreated to the north. The Taliban controlled most of the country. Their opponents united in Northern Alliance led by General Ahmed Shah Massoud (backed by Iran, Russia and CIS states). Peace initiatives by, among others, the neighboring countries plus the USA and Russia, under the auspices of the UN and the OIC, have yielded nothing.

Since the Bonn agreement and the appointment of the Afghan Transitional Authority (ATA ) in 2002 the situation was relatively stable. The Pashtun Hamid Karzai was chairman, but this government was dominated by Tajik politicians. The Pashtuns, often regarded as accomplices of the Taliban at the time, were under-represented. The power of the regional rulers appears to have diminished in recent years, in favor of the central authority. For example, a number of regional rulers have joined the formal power structures in Kabul. Others have been relieved of their duties and put on hold.

There are still frequent incidents that make large parts of the country unsafe: fighting involving warlords and attacks, especially by the Taliban, against western aid workers and soldiers. Significant progress has been made in the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants and a start has been made on the disarmament of illegal armed groups (DIAG). In contrast, large drug production and trafficking hampers the central government's ability to further expand its authority.

Thanks to the presence of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), security in Kabul and the surrounding area is reasonable. ISAF expansion to the south is underway, including through Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT). In addition, there are a number of PRTs under Operation Enduring Freedom, the Coalition's anti-Taliban and Al-Qaeda military undertaking led by the USA. This operation seems to continue for some time.

Locations of ISAF troops in Afghanistan
Image: cedricBLN, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

The October 2004 presidential elections were quiet and successful beyond expectations. There were 17 candidates, including President Karzai, the big favorite. Despite an increase in the number of security incidents in the run-up to these elections, they went very well. The turnout was high, about 80 percent of those eligible to vote. There was a limited number of technical irregularities, but after a special investigation panel concluded that the errors identified did not materially affect the final outcome of the election, all candidates accepted the result. Karzai received over 55% of the votes cast, followed by Qanooni (16.3%), Mohaqeq (11.6%) and Dostum (10%). Karzai was thus elected president in one round. Voting has largely taken place along ethnic lines.

Karzai's current cabinet is technocratic and relatively "clean" cabinet: most of the ministers have a professional background, all ethnicities are represented and most warlords are excluded. Karzai is expected to slightly change and downsize the cabinet, which is to be approved by the new parliament.

The elections to parliament and provincial councils of September 18, 2005 appeared to have gone well, with a quiet election day and approx. 55% turnout. However, when the votes were counted, many cases of fraud came to light, delaying the outcome. Also found all over the country otherwise peaceful demonstrations instead of dissatisfied voters and candidates. A good number of ballot boxes that had been tampered with were excluded. The Electoral Complaints Commission has since handled thousands of complaints. Incidentally, the process has still gone reasonably well for a post-conflict situation.

Afghanistan Parliament
Photo: Ben Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

In particular, many jihadi and warlords have been elected to parliament (about 100), who are largely conservative, but will partly also support Karzai. A positive point is that a number of reform-minded representatives have been elected, many of them women. Parliament is expected to be fragmented and ethnically balanced. Both the opposition and the government do not have a clear majority; President Karzai will always have to negotiate to get support for his policies. After the members of the provincial councils became known, these delegates elected to the upper house and President Karzai appointed the other members. The House of Lords has less notorious figures than the House of Commons. Parliament was naugurated on December 19, 2005. Subsequently, Qanooni was elected President of the House of Commons (Wolesi Jirga with 249 seats) and Mojadeddi as President of the House of Lords (Meshrano Jirga with 102 seats).

Approximately 70 political parties have been registered, but these are do not play an important role in Afghan politics, as the electoral system is based on geographic representation by individuals (Single Non-Transferable Vote). The political parties are mostly Islamic (jihad groups), democratic (reform-minded), and some (former) communist. There are also some royalist political parties, mainly consisting of Pathans. According to the law on political parties, parties with a military wing (as well as presidential and parliament candidates with militia) are banned; this criterion contributed to the GDR process.

For the current political situation see the chapter history.

Education

In ancient times, reading and writing was only learned by the mullahs, Islamic clergy who study the Quran but are also authoritative in many other areas.
From the 19th century on, official schools were founded in Afghanistan, only the first secondary schools in the early 20th century. The first girls' school was established under the rule of Amir Amanullah (1919-1929). From the 1930s onwards, education became compulsory, but not much of this has been achieved in practice to this day. The University of Kabul was founded in 1932.
The Taliban regime has had a disastrous influence on the already inadequate school structure in Afghanistan. At that time, there was no longer any question of structure in education, and that still influences the current situation. Less than 50% of all men can read and write, this percentage is considerably lower for women. Obviously, the percentages are higher in the cities than in the countryside.

Simple classroom in rural Afghanistan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Marcus J. Quarterman in the public domain

Nevertheless, many schools have been built since the fall of the Taliban, especially for primary education. Some seven million children are now expected to be educated in about 16,000 schools, but especially in the south and east of Afghanistan, few children attend school regularly. Three million children are deprived of any education.
The University of Kabul currently has about 7,000 students, of which more than a thousand girls. The American University of Afghanistan is also located in Kabul. Scattered across the country, there are still universities in the cities of Kandahar, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar and Khost.

Saleha Bayat Building of the American University of Afghanistan
Photo: USAID Afghanistan in the public domain

Burqa

Symbolically for Afghanistan is the burqa or chador, a garment worn by women. The burqa covers the woman's entire body, including the face. The woman can still see through a kind of gauze. The burqa was introduced in Afghanistan from the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century.
The burqa consists of a cap, the chador and the ruband, the face veil. These parts are sewn together and together form the burqa. Most burqas in Afghanistan are blue, but white burqas are usually worn in the north.
At the time of the Taliban rule, almost all women wore a burqa, at the moment it is mainly women in the east and south who wear a burqa. burqa. In the west the chador is the favorite, in the north of Afghanistan women often wear a long robe with a headscarf.

Women in Afghanistan often wear a burqa
Photo: Nitin Madhav (USAID) in the public domain

Kite flying

Kite fights are very popular in Afghanistan. The name for this sport in Afghanistan is 'gudiparan bazi' and the cutting line is called 'tar'. The tar is made of cotton and covered with a mixture of ground glass and rice glue. The kites are between half and one and a half meters wide and, depending on their size, a kite can fly up to 3,500 meters high.
From 1996 to 2001, kite flying was banned by the Taliban government. be Islamic. After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, there is a lot of flying again in Afghanistan.

Children with kites in Afghanistan
Photo: US Department of Defense Current Photos in the public domain

Economy

General

Afghanistan Pomegranates
Photo: USAID Afghanistan in the public domain

The civil war in Afghanistan has severely damaged all sectors of the economy, which was one of the weakest in the world even before the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Many agricultural areas have been destroyed or made inaccessible by mines. About a third of the agricultural infrastructure has been destroyed, also due to years of drought. The yields from agriculture and livestock are about half of that in 1978. In addition, almost the entire agricultural sector is dependent on irrigation, and many irrigation channels and systems have suffered from war activities. Most of the agricultural land is located around a number of major cities spread across the country: Kunduz and Mazir-i Sharif in the north, Jalalabad in the east, Kandahar in the south, and along the Herat River to the west. Typical products for these areas are grapes, nuts, pomegranates and melons.

Nomads, also called 'kuchi', go into the mountains with their herds of sheep and or goats. Nomads buy all kinds of products from the farmers, the farmers buy products such as milk, skins and wool from the nomads.

Tents of nomads or 'kuchi' in the northwestern province of Badghis
Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O'Donald (U.S. Armed Forces) in the public domain

The small industrial sector was wiped out. Many factories and machinery have to be rebuilt, including those for the supply of energy and water. Since 2002, economic activities have been resuming, especially in the cities, especially in and around the capital Kabul. Inadequate transport and communication options hinder growth, in addition to the constant insecurity.

Since 2001, after the fall of the Taliban regime, the Afghan economy has been growing strongly. This is partly due to the good harvests in recent years, there was sufficient rainfall, and the reconstruction activities, which contributed to the growth in construction, trade, transport and telecommunications. Of course, financial aid from abroad is also very important, usually in the form of development aid from donor countries. Of great concern is that corruption persists at every level, weakening foreign confidence in the government of Afghanistan.

The private sector develops mainly in the cities. The first foreign investments are a fact. AISA (Afghanistan Investment Support Agency) was established in August 2003 as a "one-stop-shop" for investors. This resulted in an increase in foreign direct investment in Afghanistan, mainly construction, telecommunications and industry. Furthermore, the World Bank has started insuring political risks and the first foreign banks have been opened in Kabul. The infrastructure is also gradually taking shape: the Salang tunnel in northern Afghanistan has been reopened and the first part of the road network has been restored.

Afghanistan Export
Image: R Haussman, Cesar Hidalgo, et. al. CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes

The government has announced a new tax system, which will increase tax revenues. According to the IMF, the government has made good progress in improving economic management and achieving macroeconomic stability. Nevertheless, fiscal discipline is still in its infancy and further administrative reforms are necessary. To further stimulate the private sector, market regulation, commercial law and respect for property rights need to be strengthened. Consolidating economic growth requires improvement of the security situation and inadequate infrastructure, as well as the development of clear authority relationships between Kabul and the rest of the country. At the moment, not the whole country can benefit from the economic impulses. In the coming years, Afghanistan will remain largely dependent on external sources of money.

The role of the region is also of great importance for economic development. Afghanistan is also a member of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Economic facts

Afghanistan is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world due to decades of wars and lack of foreign investment. In 2017, the gross national product was approximately $ 69 billion and the income per capita was $ 1,900.

Nevertheless, there are also many positive developments to report, including that the gross domestic product has increased fivefold since 2002. In addition, more than 100 business partnerships and Chambers of Commerce have been established, including several dozen by women, in cities such as Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Kunduz and Mazar-i Shariff. In 2007, only 7% of the population had access to electricity, in 2017 that percentage had risen to more than 40%, partly due to the commissioning of 18 mini-hydroelectric power plants in the province of Bamiyan, sponsored by the Netherlands, Denmark , Japan, Norway and the European Union.

Afghanistan has on its territory enormous amounts of raw materials and minerals, which are also very different in nature. The problem is to mine all those mineral resources, the money is not there and the (civil) war situation in which Afghanistan finds itself almost constantly does not really help either.

In the far northeast of Afghanistan, in the province of Badakhshan, the semi-precious stone 'lapis lazuli' has been mined since the time of the pharaohs in Egypt. At the town of Sar-e Sang is one of the oldest operating mines in the world.Art object made from lapis lazuli' Photo: Hi-Res Images of Chemical Elements CC Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

To the south of the capital, Kabul and in the province of Logar, immense quantities of copper ore lie waiting to be mined over a length of 600 km, to the southwest of the capital and in the province of Bamiyan iron ore has been found. Gas has been extracted in northwestern Afghanistan since the 1970s.

In addition to the above raw materials and minerals, there are also more or less large stocks of barite (province of Herat), fluorspar (province of Uruzgan), gold, chrome, lead, alabaster, celestite (province of Kunduz), mica, nickel, silver, spread across the country. Ruby, jade, quartz, zinc, manganese, asbestos, uranium, cobalt, copper, tin (West and Southeast Afghanistan), mercury, salt, white and black marble (Wardak, Kabul and Nangahar provinces), tungsten (West Central Afghanistan) and niobium, a rare, flexible, malleable, gray-metallic metal. In total, more than 1,400 minerals have been found in the Afghan soil.

Niobium is found in Afghanistan
Photo: Dnn87 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tourism to Afghanistan was at its peak in the 1970s, more than 90,000 annually visited Afghanistan to enjoy the beauty of the country and the very friendly people. At the moment Afghanistan is a dangerous area to go to.

The cultivation of poppies, particularly in the southern province of Helmand and in a dubious second place in the northeastern province of Badahshan, was strictly prohibited during Taliban rule, but re-emerged on a large scale after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, and according to the United Nations, never before has more poppies been grown than at present. And this despite the billions that the United States has invested in the fight against poppy cultivation. The 'illegal' cultivation of the bulb poppy or sleeping bulb still generates an important and reasonably stable source of income, especially for the local rural population in the south of Afghanistan.

Since the crop does not require much water, it is easy to grow. Milk juice is extracted from the seed bulb or moon globe and from its dried form opium is extracted, the raw material of heroin, among other things. In the province people do not talk about grams or kilos of drugs, but about tons. Afghanistan remains the world leader in opium production in both size and quality. At the end of 2014, it was announced by the United Nations that never before so much poppy was grown in 2014. In one year, more than 15,000 hectares of land were added, making an estimated 224,000 arable land used for the cultivation of poppy. Opium production increased by 17% to 6,400 tons, good for a street value of 65 billion dollars. About 42% of that enormous quantity was produced in Helmand Province and about 8% in Badakshan Province.

The northern Balkh province is known for the cultivation of cannabis. Smoking cannabis or 'charas', despite being officially banned, has a long tradition in Afghanistan. Only in the province of Balkh is the special variety 'shirac' grown, an easy plant that requires little water and care.

Poppy field in Helmand province, Afghanistan
Photo: Sgt Pete Thibodeau in the public domain

An agricultural product that is increasingly being grown in place of poppy is the flavoring and coloring saffron, the world's most expensive spice, made from the dried pistils of the saffron crocus, a plant that is remarkably absent in the wild.

The largest producer of the very expensive saffron due to the labor-intensive cultivation is Iran (approx. 200 tons), with approx. 85% of the world production. Saffron is now grown in almost all Afghan provinces, but especially in the northwestern province of Herat, with the harvest generally being done by women. Saffron currently yields much more for Afghan producers / farmers than poppy, sometimes as much as four times as much. One pound of saffron is easily paid $ 1200. In 2013, Afghanistan produced 4.5 tons of saffron, most of which was exported. The saffron crocus has a seven-year growth cycle, yielding about $ 2500-3000 per hectare in the first year. In the third and fourth years, this can amount to $ 28,000 per hectare. The cultivation of poppies yields a maximum of approximately 3,500 euros per hectare.

Saffron crocus
Photo:KENPEI Creative Commons Naamsvermelding-Gelijk delen 3.0 Unported no changes made

Particularly in northwestern Afghanistan, many karakul sheep are kept, which are known for their silky coat. This fur is used in both the Afghan and the international fashion industry and the wool from the sheep is an important export product. It is controversial, however, that the best wool comes from unborn feets and newly born lambs.

Karakul sheep
Photo: Jean from Shelbyville, KY CCNaamsvermelding 2.0 Unported no changes made

Holidays and Sightseeing

Destroyed Buddha Statue
Photo: Tracy Hunter, Creative Commons-licentie Naamsvermelding 2.0 Unported no changes made

Afghanistan is still one of the least obvious holiday destinations at the moment and travel outside of the cities is strongly discouraged at this point. It is a country that has suffered from nearly three decades of wars, which can still cause major problems. It is therefore important and sometimes vital to collect as recent as possible information on the situation in various parts of the country. It is also a fact that Afghanistan is one of the most mining 'rich' countries in the world; at least 640,000 mines are believed to have been laid since 1979. Between 1988 and 2013, the Hazardous Area Life Support Organization (HALO) defused 766,908 mines, 225,908 mines placed and 541,000 mines in ammunition stores. Yet while Afghanistan can turn out to be an unstable and hostile environment at any time, it is also a country of incredible cultural and natural treasures.

Street scene in Kabul, AfghanistanPhoto:Scott Clarkson Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 no changes made

The capital Kabul is buzzing with activity again, and Mazar-e-Sharif in northeastern Afghanistan is home to the country's most sacred site, Samangan (Aibak), home to caves and shrines of Takht-a Rostam, a Buddhist gem. The pointless destruction of Bamiyan's gigantic Buddhist statues remains criminal, but even the remains, set in a serene valley, remain an inspiring experience for many visitors.

Despite thorough preparation and ears and eyes open, traveling in Afghanistan as a tourist is almost impossible at the moment. In the post-Taliban period, there is again investment in the country and it also becomes a bit 'easier' to travel around and find shelter. Traveling in Afghanistan in a calm and safe environment is a fascinating experience, and once you have been to Afghanistan you usually want to return.

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Sources

CIA World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Elmar Landeninformatie

Clammer, Paul / Afghanistan
Lonely Planet

Last updated August 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb