Official name of the country: Dowlat-e Islami-ye Afghanestan (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan)
Area: 647,500 sq km
Population: 28,513,677 (July 2004 estimated), with an estimated total of 2 million refugees in Pakistan and 800,000 in Iran. In the latest Census of 1978 the population was said to be 15,54 millions.
Ethnic groups: Pashtuns 42 p.c, Tajiks 27 p.c, Hazaras 9 p.c, Uzbeks 9 p.c, Aimak 4 p.c, Turkmen 3 p.c, Baloch 2 p.c, others 4 p.c.
Languages: Pashtu – used by the pashtun majority – 35 p.c; Dari (the Afghan dialect of Persian) 50 p.c; Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11 p.c; plus 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4 p.c. Bilingualism is very common. Pashtu and Dari are official languages.
Religions: Sunni Muslims 85 p.c, Shia Muslims 15 p.c; Other religions (Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, Baha'is, Hindus, Sikhs) 1 p.c.
Other main cities: Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad
Administration: The country is divided into 32 provinces (Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Bamian, Farah, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghowr, Helmand, Herat, Jowzjan, Kabol, Kandahar, Kapisa, Konar, Kondoz, Laghman, Lowgar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Oruzgan, Paktia, Paktika, Parvan, Samangan, Sar-e Pol, Takhar, Vardak, Zabol, Nurestan, and Khowst)
Life Expectancy: 46 years
GDP per capita: US $5.8 billion (IMF January 2006)
Growth rate: The Afghan economy grew by an average of 25% (excluding drugs) between 2002-04. Growth slowed to around 8% in 2004-05, due largely to the negative impact of adverse weather conditions on agricultural production.
Currency: 1 Afghani = 100 puls
Major industries: Textiles, fruit and nuts, soap, furniture, shoes, fertiliser, hand woven carpets, cement, natural gas, coal and copper.
Major trading partners: Exports to Pakistan, the EU, India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates; imports from Pakistan, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, India and Turkmenistan.
National anthem: The Taliban givernment prohibited music, and had therefore no national anthem. The anthem of 1978, composed by Ustad Salim Sarmad, with lyrics by Suleiman Laeq, was reintroduced in 2001, but already in 2002 it was replaced with a Mujahedin battle song, So Che Da Mezaka Asman Wee.
The Loya Jirga in January 2004 decided upon the new constitution stating that the National Anthem of Afghanistan shall be in Pashtu language, and mention ”Allahu Akbar” and the names of the ethnic groups of Afghanistan.
National flag: The flag which was Afghanistan´s official during the period 1933–1973 was reintroduced as national flag in January, 2002.
Independence: Afghanistan was united as a nation state by Ahmad Shah Abdali, who ruled the country 1747–1772. He established a hereditary royal dynasty. During the 19th century and the beginning of 20th century Afghanistan fought three wars against Great Britain, who never succeeded in colonizing the country.
Afghanistan was granted full independence through the Treaty of Rawalpindi of 8 August 1919.
Current history: The king Zahir Shah, who had ruled the country since 1933 was thrown out of power in 1973 in a coup led by his cousin Mohammed Daoud. He proclaimed himself the first president of Afghanistan. Daoud himself was overthrown in April 1978, in the so called Saur revolution, led by the marxist party PDPA. Afghanistan was turned into a Soviet style peoples´s republic. Factional infighting in the ruling party (between the Khalk and the Parcham factions) led eventually to a disastrous invasion by the Soviet Union in December 1979. A civil war started to rage the country, with mujahedin fighters all over the country battling the government army and more than 100 000 Soviet soldiers.
Soviet Union withdrew its troops in 1989, but the war against the Soviet-backed government continued till 1992 when the mujahedin forces finally succeeded in defeating the last communist president Najibullah. A loose coalition of Islamic mujahedin groups took over power, but because of sharp internal divisions between the different leading personalities new fighting broke out and a new war over control of the country. Local warlords took power over the regions, and Kabul was totally destroyed during the new civil war.
The Taliban, an islamic student´s movement among pashtun refugees and based at madrasas in Pakistan, was created during this time, with support from the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI. Their new militia conquered Kandahar in the south, which was to become their central base, in 1994, and then continue taking over more and more of the country. Kabul fell to the Taliban in 1996.
The Taliban government led by the one-eyed Mullah Muhammed Omar changed the status of the country into the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar was proclaimed to be the Amir-al-Mumineen, i e the Caliph of our time. The flag was changed into the muslim banner shown here beside.
In spite of its rapid takeover of the country the regime never became internationally recognized, except by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The seat in the United Nations was kept by the ethnic tajik dominated old mujahedin government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose control of territory inside Afghanistan continued to diminish up till the beginning of 2001, when the Shura-e Nezar (or so called Northern Alliance) only controlled the mountainous northeastern province of Badakshan and the Panjshir valley north of Kabul. The Alliance´s commander, former Defence Minister, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was furthermore assasinated by Taliban agents in the beginning of September 2001.
Things then changed abruptly and extremely hasty. The reason was the terrorist attack in U.S.A on 11 September. Because the Taliban refused to hand over the Al-Quaida leader Osama bin Ladin, staying in Afghanistan, in spite of evidence given by the U.S. that he was the man who planned the terrorist attacks, the U.S and Great Britain declared a War on Terror, which resulted in starting a bomb war on Afghanistan on 7 October, 2001. Read articles in Swedish and International media on this war and its effects on South Asia.
The bomb war paved the way for the Northern Alliance to reconquer the parts of Afghanistan it had vacated during the last years, and on 13 November Kabul was liberated from the Taliban. Shortly thereafter also the southern part of the country fell, as the Taliban government broke down. A peace conference was held under the auspices of the United Nations, in Bonn, Germany, in the beginning of December 2001. Representatives from the Northern Alliance and opposition groups based outside Afghanistan decided to form an interim government with broad representation of all ethnic, political and religious groups except the Taliban.
This was followed up the Loya Jirga, a grand conference in Kabul in the beginning of June 2002. 1 500 elected representatives from all parts of the country came together to form an interim government, and decide upon Afghanistan’s definite political structure for the future. This including drawing up a new Consitution and arranging general elections in the country.
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 US-dollars 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.
The Afghan Constitutional Commission posted its draft constitution in Pashtu and Dari languages on 3 November 2003. The draft constitution envisages a strong presidency, elected directly by the people through fair and transparent means and reaffirms the nation's links with the Islamic faith. The draft constitution providing a strong presidential system of government was approved by 502 delegates at another Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) held in Kabul during the period 14 December 2003 – 4 January 2004. A decision was taken to hold presidential elections in the Summer 2004. The Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai then signed the recently approved Afghan Constitution into law on 26 January, promising a democratic Islamic state under a strong presidency, a bicameral parliament, and an independent judiciary.
Both parliamentary and presidential elections were initially meant to be held in June 2004. Due to the constant bad security situation in the country the elctions were however postponed. Now presidential elections took place on 9 October 2004, whereas the parliamentary elections were postponed till 18 September 2005.
In April 2007, Afghanistan was admitted as a full fledged member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, SAARC. More information.
Parliament: The shape of Afghanistan's new and democratic government was set out in the constitution approved in January 2004 by Afghan elders and local dignitaries. The constitution established Afghanistan as an Islamic republic where men and women have equal rights and duties before the law. The government consists of a powerful presidency with two vice presidents, a bicameral legislature and an independent judiciary.
The Upper House is called Meshrano Jirga (The House of Elders), and consists of an unspecified number of local dignitaries and experts appointed by the 34 provincial councils, the district councils, and the president. This house forms more of an advisory role rather than a maker of law. Still, the house has some veto power.
The Lower House of the Afghanistan parliament is called Wolesi Jirga (House of the People), has 249 seats ans is elected for a period of five years. At least 64 delegates (two from each province) must be women; they are appointed by the president who also nominates two representatives of the physically disabled, and two Kuchi nomads. Wolesi Jirga will have the primary responsibility for making and ratifying laws and approving the actions of the president.
Elections to the Lower House of Parliament (Wolesi Jirga) and to the Provincial Councils were held in Afghanistan on 18 September 2005. These were the first such elections for 36 years. The Afghan Independent Election Commission intends to hold the next Wolesi Jirga election on September 18, 2010. More information on Wolesi Jirga.
In April 2007, a number of former mujahedeen leaders, members of the former communist regime and a figure from country's royal family, most of whom fought each other during country's decades-long war, formed a new political party, the Jabhey Mili or National Front. It is headed by the former president of the mujahedeen government Burhanuddin Rabbani and some members of Karzai's current cabinet, including Vice-President Ahmad Zia Massoud. The new group also includes the country's former warlords, Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Abdul Rashid Dostum, the former defence minister Ismail Khan, and Mustafa Zahir, the grandson of Zahir Shah, Afghanistan's last king (who passed away on July, 23, 2007). The Jabhey Milli favours a parliamentary system and have called for direct elections for 34 provincial governors, in its manifesto.
• Guide to Parliamentary Elections in Afghanistan. Report by Andrew Reynolds, Lucy Jones and Andrew Wilder, on the eve of the parliamentary elections in September 2005. A one-stop source of information on the Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council elections that includes an explanation of the elections process, the different actors involved, and the key issues that will affect electoral procedures. Report by Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, AREU, August 2005.
President: The Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai was elected to the post by the Loya Jirga on 13 June, 2002. (photo to the left). After winning the presidential elections in October 2004 he was installed as the first-ever elected president of Afghanistan on 7 December 2004.
A second presidential election in Afghanistan was held on August 20, 2009, and again won by Hamid Karzai. He was inaugurated for a second five-year term on 19 November 2009.
The main contenders for the presidential elections, besides the incumbent president, were Dr Abdullah Abdullah, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Dr Ashraf Ghani, former Minister of Finance.
Other leading politicians:
• Burhanuddin Rabbani (Jamiat-i-Islami party). Tajik. President in the mujahedin government which had to flee the capital Kabul in 1996. Afterwards he continued to be the formal head of state, and he returned as president to Kabul in November 2001. But he resigned from the post in favour of Hamid Karzai after the UN conference in Bonn.
• General Mohammed Fahim, tajik, Ahmad Shah Massouds successor. One of the country’s two vice presidents.
• General Rashid Dostum, uzbek, warlord and leader for the Jombesh-e Melli Islami party. Deputy Defence minister.
• Ismail Khan, tajik, Jamiat-i-Islami, warlord and Governor for Herat.
• Abdul Karim Khalili, hazara, leader for the Shia party Hezb-e-Wahdat, one of the country’s two vice presidents.
• Ahmed Zia Massoud, brother of killed war hero Ahmed Shah Massoud.
• Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf, pashtun, leader for Ittehad-i Islami.
More information on Afghanistan
• Office of the President/Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Provides information on Afghanistan's National Budget, the Government's Donor Assistance Database, and on major international conferences on Afghan reconstruction.
• Institute for Afghan Studies (IAS), Internet-based institute run by some of the World’s leading scholars on Afghanistan, with the goal ”to foster a better understanding of Afghan affairs through scholarly research and studies.” The IAS homepage provides valuable information about the political situation in Afghanistan (including accords and treaties), the role of the Taliban in Afghan history, about the UN Talks on Afghanistan in Bonn, etc. It offers bibliographies for Afghanistan and the Taleban, a who-is-who of the Taliban, background information about the history of Afghanistan and its economy, maps and much more.
• Academic Info: Afghanistan Studies. Directory of Online Resources for the Study of Afghanistan
• Afghanistan WWW Virtual Library History, created by the University of Kansas, USA, in 1993
• Afghanistan Research Group (ARG) – an informal association of scholars, writers, diplomats and of aid and development experts who have worked or still work in or on Afghanistan – offers a web site full of information, articles and links to Internet Resources on Afghanistan. The site is managed by Dr Bernt Glatzer, Berlin.
• Afghanpedia is a new resource service of Sabawoon Online, providing quality information on Afghanistan for research papers, articles, general references, and more.
• EurAsianet.org offers a wealth of updated information on the country. A service funded by the Soros foundation.
The Library of Congress, USA, offers through its Country Studies Web site detailed Information on all Aspects of Countries round the Globe. Look for Afghanistan. Information contained in the Country Studies On-Line is not copyrighted and thus is available for free and unrestricted use by researchers. As a courtesy, however, appropriate credit should be given to the series. Unfortunately, though, the information on Afghanistan is not updated since 1997.
• World Bank Group/Afghanistan: Constantly updated data reports, publications, statistics, projects etc, for Afghanistan
• CIA –The World Factbook: Afghanistan
• The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice on safety aspects on travelling to Afghanistan
The Swedish Government’s Division for Democratic Issues, based at the Ministry of Justice, regularly publishes yearly reports about the human rights situation in countries all over the World. Read the 2010 Report on the Human Rights Situation in Afghanistan (in Swedish only).