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Afghanistan

from Wikipedia

Afġānistān, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Persian: جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان, Pashto: د افغانستان اسلامى جمهوريت ), is a landlocked country that is located in the heart of Asia. It is variously designated as located geographically within Central Asia[3], the Middle East[4], or South Asia[5]. It has religious, ethno-linguistic, and geographic links with most of its neighbors. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east,[6] Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast. The name Afghanistan means the “Land of Afghans.”

Afghanistan is a culturally mixed nation, a crossroads between the East and the West, and has been an ancient focal point of trade and migration. It has an important geostrategical location, connecting South Asia, Central Asia and Southwest Asia. During its long history, the land has seen various invaders and conquerors, while on the other hand, local entities invaded the surrounding vast regions to form empires to themselves. Ahmad Shah Durrani created a large empire in the middle of the eighteenth century, with its capital at Kandahar.[7] Subsequently, most of its territories were ceded to former neighboring countries. In the 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in “The Great Game” played between the British Indian Empire and Russian Empire. On August 19, 1919, following the third Anglo-Afghan war, the country regained full independence from the United Kingdom over its foreign affairs.

Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has suffered continuous and brutal civil war, which included foreign interventions in the form of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan in which the ruling Taliban government was toppled. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This force, composed of NATO troops, has been involved in assisting the government of President Hamid Karzai in establishing authority across the nation. In 2005, the United States and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement committing both nations to a long-term relationship. In the meantime, about 40 billion US dollars have also been provided by the international community for the reconstruction of the country.

from Amnesty International

Head of state and government: Hamid Karzai

Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: ratified

The government and its international partners were unable to ensure security and a climate of political uncertainty grew in the course of the year. Armed conflict, marked by aerial bombardments and suicide bombings, escalated in southern parts of the country. At least 1,000 civilians were killed. Poor governance, the power of regional commanders and the impact of narcotics undermined the rule of law and human rights. Government security bodies committed human rights violations with impunity. There was little reform of judicial, law enforcement and security agencies. Women continued to face violence. Human rights defenders, including women, were targeted and killed. It became increasingly dangerous to speak out against human rights abuses and for justice.

from CIA Factbook

Ahmad Shah DURRANI unified the Pashtun tribes and founded Afghanistan in 1747. The country served as a buffer between the British and Russian empires until it won independence from notional British control in 1919. A brief experiment in democracy ended in a 1973 coup and a 1978 Communist counter-coup. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 to support the tottering Afghan Communist regime, touching off a long and destructive war. The USSR withdrew in 1989 under relentless pressure by internationally supported anti-Communist mujahedin rebels. Subsequently, a series of civil wars saw Kabul finally fall in 1996 to the Taliban, a hardline Pakistani-sponsored movement that emerged in 1994 to end the country’s civil war and anarchy. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, a US, Allied, and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action toppled the Taliban for sheltering Osama BIN LADIN. The UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for political reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution and a presidential election in 2004, and National Assembly elections in 2005. On 7 December 2004, Hamid KARZAI became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan. The National Assembly was inaugurated on 19 December 2005.

from Afghanistan Embassy in DC

Land and People

General Facts and Statistics

Area: 647,500 sq. km. (249,935 sq. mi.), slightly smaller than Texas
Capital: Kabul, 2,000,000 (approx.)
Population: 29,863,000 (2005 est.)
Natural resources: Natural gas, petroleum, coal, cooper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones
Land use: Arable land 12% Permanent pastures 46% Forests and woodland 3% Other 39%
Literacy rate: 28.7 percent (UN Afghanistan Human Development Report of 2005)

from BBC

Landlocked and mountainous, Afghanistan has suffered from such chronic instability and conflict during its modern history that its economy and infrastructure are in ruins, and many of its people are refugees.

After the fall of the Taleban administration in 2001, adherents of the hardline Islamic movement have re-grouped and are now a resurgent force, particularly in the south and east. A fledgling democratic government faces the challenges of extending its authority beyond the capital and of forging national unity.

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