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Afghanistan's history, internal political development, foreign relations, and very

existence as an independent state have largely been determined by its
geographic location at the crossroads of Central, West, and South Asia. Over the
centuries, waves of migrating peoples passed through the region described by
historian Arnold Toynbee as a "roundabout of the ancient world"--leaving behind
a mosaic of ethnic and linguistic groups. The outline of the Afghanistan History In
modern times, as well as in antiquity, will focus on vast armies of the world
passing through Afghanistan, temporarily establishing local control.

50,000 BC - 20,000 BC Stone Age

o Archaeologists have identified evidence of stone age
technology in Aq Kupruk (balkh), and Hazar Sum.
o Plant remains at the foothill of the Hindu Kush mountains
indicate, that North Afghanistan was one of the earliest
places to domestic plants and animals.

3000 BC - 2000 BC Bronze Age

o It has been indicated the Bronze have been invented in
ancient Afghanistan around this time.
o Urbanization and trade grows, making it an important point
between Mesopotamian and other civilizations to emerge as
the present day’s “Crossroads of Asia”.
o First true urban centers rise in two main sites in
Afghanistan--Mundigak, and Deh Morasi Ghundai.
o Mundigak (near modern day Kandahar)--had an economic
base of wheat, barley, sheep and goats. Also, evidence
indicates that Mudigak could have been a provincial capital
of the Indus valley civilization.
o Ancient Afghanistan--crossroads between Mesopotamia, and
other Civilizations.

2000 BC - 1500 BC Aryan Tribes in Aryana Emperor Yama (Ancient

o The City of Kabul is thought to have been established during
this time.
o Rig Veda may have been created in Afghanistan around this
time. Evidence of early nomadic iron age in Aq Kapruk IV.

728 BC - 550 BC Medes Empire

o Deioces, 728BC - 675BC
o Phraortes (Kashtariti), 675BC - 653BC
o Cyaxares, 625BC - 585BC
o Astyages, 585BC - 550BC

628 BC - Zoroaster introduces a new religion in its capital Bactria (Balkh) in N.
Afghanistan.---(Zoroastrianism--Monotheistic religion)

6 BC- 330 BC Achaemenids Empire

o Teispes
o Cyrus I
o Cambyses I (Kambiz) 600 B.C
o Cyrus the Great, Start of Achaemenid Empire, 559BC -
o Kambiz II, 530BC - 522BC
o Darius I the Great, 522BC - 486BC
o Xerxes I(Khashyar), 486BC - 465BC
o Artaxerxes I , 465BC - 425BC
o Xerxes II, 425BC - 424BC (45 days)
o Darius II, 423BC - 404BC
o Artaxerxes II, 404BC - 359BC
o Artaxerxes III, 359BC - 339BC
o Arses, 338BC - 336BC
o Darius III, 336BC - 330BC
o Dariusthe Great expands the Achaemenid empire to its
peak, when it takes most of Afghanistan., including Aria
(Herat), Bactriana(Balk, and present-day Mazar-i-Shariff),
Margiana (Merv), Gandhara (Kabul, Jalalabad and
Peshawar), Sattagydia (Ghazni to the Indus river), Arachosia
(Kandahar, and Quetta), and Drangiana (Sistan).
o The Persianempire was plagued by constant bitter and
bloody tribal revolts from Afghans living in Arachosia
(Kandahar, and Quetta)

329 BC - 326 BC Hellenistic period

o Alexander the Great conquering Persia, Afghanistan. 330BC
- 323BC
o Alexander conquers Afghanistan, but fails to really subdue
its people, but unrest and bloody revolts become the
regime’s hallmarks.
o Philip III(Arrhidaeus), 323BC - 317BC
o Alexander IV,317BC - 312BC

323 BC - After Alexander's death the region at first was part of the Seleucid
empire. In the north, Bactria became independent, and the south was acquired
by the Maurya dynasty.
o Bactria expanded southward but fell (mid-2d cent. B.C.) to
the Parthians and rebellious tribes (notably the Saka).
o Buddhismwas introduced from the east by the Yüechi, who
founded the Kushan dynasty (early 2d cent. B.C.). Their
capital was Peshawar.
o The city, once called Purushapura, was the capital of the
ancient Greco-Buddhist center of Gandhara.
o The Kushans declined (3d cent. A.D.) and were supplanted
by the Sassanids, the Ephthalites, and the Turkish Tu-Kuie.

312 BC - 260 BC Seleucids Empire

o Seleucus I, 312BC - 281BC
o Antiochus I Soter, 281BC - 261BC
o Seleucus, 280BC - 267BC

256 BC - 130 BC - Graeco-Bactrian state established in northern Afghanistan
Arsacids Empire and Parthian Empire

o Arsaces, 238BC - 217BC (or 211BC?)
o Artabanus(Ardawan) or Arsaces II, 211BC - 191BC
o Priapatius I, 191BC - 176BC
o Phraates I, 176BC - 171BC

Phil-Hellenistic period

o Mithradates I, 171BC - 138BC
o Phraates II, 138BC - 128BC
o Artabanus I, 128BC - 123BC
o Mithradates II(the Great), 123BC - 87BC
o Gotarzes, 90BC - 80BC
o Orodes I, 80BC - 77BC
o Sanatruces, 77BC - 70BC
o Phraates III, 70BC - 57BC
o Mithradtes III, 57BC - 55BC
o Orodes II, 57BC - 37BC
o Phraates IV, 37BC - 2BC


o Phraates V, 2BC - AD 4
o Orodes III, AD 4 - AD 7
o Vonones, AD 7 - AD 11

Anti-Hellenistic Period
o Artabanus II, 12 - 38
o Gotarzes II, 38 - 51
o Vardanes I, 39 - 45
o Vonones II, 51
o Vologases I, 51 - 78
o Vardanes II, 55 - 58
o Vologases II, 77 - 80
o Artabanus III, 80 - 81
o Pacorus, 78 - 105

120 Kushan Empire, under King Kanishka

o Graeco-Buddhist Gandharan culture reach its height.
o Under the Kushan King, Kanishka, Buddha was first given a
human face and the world's largest Buddhas (175 feet and
120 feet tall) were carved into the cliff at Bamiyan. But many
gods and goddesses from Greek, Persian, Central Asian and
Hindu cultures were also worshipped.

225 - 650 Sassanians

o Ardashir I, 224 - 241
o Shapur I, 241 - 272
o Hormizd I, 272 - 273
o Bahram I, 273 - 276
o Bahram II, 276 - 293
o Bahram III, 293
o Narses, 293 - 302
o Hormizd II, 302 - 309
o Shapur II, 309 - 379
o Ardashir II, 379 - 383
o Shapur III, 383 - 388
o Bahram IV, 388 - 399
o Yazdegerd I, 399 - 420
o Bahram V Gur, 420 - 438
o Yazdegerd II, 438 - 457
o Hormizd III, 457 - 459
o Piruz, 457 - 484
o Balash, 484 - 488
o Kavadh (Qobad) I, 488 - 496
o Tamasb, 496 - 499
o Kavadh I, 499 - 531
o Khosrow I (Anushirvan), 531 - 579
o Hormizd IV, 579 - 590
o Khosrow IIParviz, 590
o Bahram VI, 590 - 591
o Khosrow II Parviz, 591 - 628
o Bestam (in Media), 591 - 596
o Kavadh (Qobad) II Shiruye (Siroes), 628 - 630
o Ardashir III, 628 - 630
o Shahrbaraz, 630
o Purandokht, 629 - 631
o Azarmedukht, 631 - 632
o Hormizd V, 631 - 632
o Khosrow III, 632 - 633
o Yazdegird III, 632 - 651

400 Invasion of the White Huns. They destroy the Buddhist culture, and leave
most of the country in ruins

425 - 550 Independent Yaftalee rule in Afghanistan .Yaftalee Dynasty
-Established in northern Hindu Kush region of Takhar, this dynasty gains control
over the majority of present day Afghanistan by 425.

530 Persians reassert control over all of what is now Afghanistan.

531 - 579 Khosrow I (Khosrow Anüshirvan), king of Persia

590 - 628 Khosrow II (Khosrow Parviz), king of Persia of the Sassanid, or
Sassanian, dynasty

652 Arabs introduce Islam that was to influence the course of Afghanistan’s

650 - 661 Arabs - Orthodox Caliphates

o Uthman (Osman), 650 - 656
o Ali, 656 - 661

661 - 750 Arabs - Umayyad Caliphate

o Mu'awiya I, 661 - 680
o Yazid I, 680 - 683
o Mu'awiya II, 683 - 684
o Marwan I, 684 - 685
o Abd-al-Malik, 685 - 705
o Al-Walid I, 705 - 715
o Suleyman, 715 - 717
o Umar II, 717 - 720
o Yazid II, 720 - 724
o Hisham, 724 - 743
o Al-Walid II, 743 - 744
o Yazid III, 744
o Ibrahim, 744
o Marwan II, 744 - 750

750 - 821 Arabs - Abbasid Caliphate

o Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah, 750 - 754
o Al-Mansur, 754 - 775
o Al-Mahdi, 775 - 785
o Al-Hadi, 785 - 786
o Harun al-Rashid, 786 - 809
o Al-Amin, 809 - 813
o Al-Mamun, 813 - 833

860 - 960 Samanid (Turkestan)

o Nasr I, 864 - 892
o Ismail, 892 - 907
o Ahmad, 907 - 914
o Nasr II, 914 - 942
o Nuh I, 942 - 954
o Abd al-Malik I, 954 - 961
o Mansur I, 961 - 976

962 - 1030 Ghaznavid Dynasty - (Khurasan)

o Mahmud, 970 - 1030 The Islamic era begins with
Mohammed Ghazni and Afghanistan becomes the centre of
Islamic power and civilisation. Several short-lived Muslim
dynasties were founded, the most powerful of them having
its capital at Ghazna (see Ghazni). Mahmud of Ghazna, who
conquered the lands from Khorasanin Iran to the Punjab in
India early in the 11th cent., was the greatest of
Afghanistan's rulers
o Masoud I, 1030 - 1040

1140 - 1215 Ghorid leaders from central Afghanistan capture and burn Ghazni,
then move on to conquer India.

Ghurid Empire Shansabani Dynasty (Afghanistan)

o Izz Al-Din Husayn I, 1117 - 1146
o Sayf al_Din Suri, 1146 - 1149
o Baha al-Din Sam I, 1149
o Ala al-Din Husayn II, 1149 - 1161
o Say al-Din Muhammad I, 1161 - 1163
o Ghiyath al_Din Muhammad II, 1163 - 1203
o Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad III, 1203 - 1206
o Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud, 1206 - 1210
o Baha al-Din Sam II, 1210
o Ala al-Din Atsiz, 1210 - 1214
o Ala al-Din Muhammad IV, 1215 - 1215

1219 - 1221 Mongol Invasion of Afghanistan by Genghis Khan Empire

Khans (Mongol)

o Hülagü Khan, 1256 - 1265
o Abagha, 1265 - 1282
o Tegüder, 1282 - 1284
o Arghun, 1284 - 1291
o Gaykhatu, 1291 - 1295
o Baydu, 1295
o Mahmud Ghazan, 1295 - 1304
o Uljaytü, 1304 - 1316
o Abu Said, 1317 - 1335
o Arpa, 1335 - 1336
o Musa, 1336 - 1337
o Muhammad, 1336 - 1338
o Sati Beg, 1338 - 1339
o Jahan Temür, 1339 - 1340
o Sulayman, 1339 - 1343

1273 Marco Polo crosses Afghanistan on his voyage from Italy to China to
discover the “Silk Route”. Revolts and battles between smaller kingdoms mark
the next two centurie

1370 - 1404 Timurids and Turkmen Empire


o Timur, 1393 - 1405
o Miranshah (Western Persia), 1405 - 1408
o Khalil (Western Persia 1409 - 1411), 1405 - 1409
o Ulugh Beg, 1447 - 1449
o Soltan Abu Said, 1451 - 1469

1414 - 1421 The Sayyids

o Khizr Khan (1414-1421)
1451 Lodi dynasty An Afghan by the named Buhlul Khan invades Delhi, and
seizes the throne.

o 1451-1489: Buhlul Khan Lodi
o 1489-1517: Sikandar Lodi
o 1517-1526: Ibrahim

1504-1519 Moghul dynasty Babur shah, takes control of Kabul, Babar begins
to take control of Afghanistan. Babur, a descendant of Timur , used Kabul as the
base for his conquest of India and the establishment of the Mughal empire in the
16th cent.

1520-1579 Bayazid Roshan (Afghan intellectual) revolts against the power of
the Moghul government. Roshan was killed in a battle with the Moghuls in
1579--but his struggle for independence continued.

1613-1689 Khushhal Khan Khattak (Afghan warrior-poet) initiates a national
uprising against the foreign Moghul government.

1708 Mir Wais Neka (forerunner of Afghan independence) makes Kandahar
independent of Safavid Persia that had ruled it since 1622. Mir Wais, considered
by some to be the father of Afghan independence, takes over Kandahar. His son,
Mir Mahmud, invades Persia and liberates Herat.

o 1715-- Mir Wais dies peacefully, and lies in a mausoleum
outside of Kandahar.
o 1722-- Mir Wais' son, Mir Mahmud, invades Persia and
occupies Isfahan. At the same time, the Durranis revolt, and
terminate the Persian occupation of Herat. The Durranis
revolt to throw out Persians from Herat.
o 1725 (April 25)--Mir Mahmud is mysteriously killed after
going mad. Afghans start to lose control of Persia.

1736 Persian King Nadir Shah occupies the south-west and later Kandahar;
assassinated in 1747.

o the Persian Nadir Shah extended his rule to N of the
Hindu Kush. After his death (1747) his lieutenant,
Ahmad Shah, an Afghan tribal leader, established a
Shah Rokh Shah, 1409 - 1447 united state covering
most of present-day Afghanistan. His dynasty, the
Durrani, gave the Afghans the name (Durrani) that
they themselves frequently use.1747 Nadir Shah is
assassinated, and the Afghans rise once again.
Afghans, under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Abdali
retake Kandahar, and establish modern Afghanistan.
1747 - 1773 Ahmad Shah Durrani, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali and
(Ahmad Shah Baba) is the founder of today's Afghanistan. Pir Sabir Shah, the
spiritual guide of the time, showered his praise for the young Ahmad Shah by
declaring him Dar-e-Durran (pearl of the pearls) not because that he was a
military giant but for his humanity a definite quality of a statesman. The start of
the Durrani's Empire.

1773 - 1793 Timur Shah

o Relocated the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to

1793 - 1800 Zaman Shah

o He began to remove prominent Muhammadzai leaders from
positions of power and replacing them with men of his own
lineage, the Sadozai. This upset the delicate balance of
Durrani tribal politics that Ahmad Shah had established and
may have prompted Painda Khan and other Durrani chiefs to
plot against the shah. Painda Khan and the chiefs of the
Nurzai and the Alizai Durrani clans were executed, as was
the chief of the Qizilbash clan. Painda Khan's son fled to Iran
and pledged the substantial support of his Muhammadzai
followers to a rival claimant to the throne, Zeman's older
brother, Mahmood Shah. The clans who's chiefs Zeman had
executed joined forces with the rebels, and they took
Kandahar without bloodshed.

1800 - 1803 Shah Mahmood

o King of Afghanistan (1800 - 03; second time 1810 - 26)

1803 - 1810 Shah Shujah

o King of Afghanistan (1803 -10; second time 1839 - 42)
whose alliance with the British led to his death.

1810 - 1826 Shah Mahmood and his brother Zaman Shah struggle for the

o 1819-1826 Shaw Mahmood but the reign of the Sadozai line
ended in 1818, and no predominant ruler emerged until Dost
Muhammad became emir in 1826.

1826 - 1839 Dost Mohammad Khan takes Kabul, and establishes control.
During his rule the status of Afghanistan became an international problem, as
Britain and Russia contested for influence in central Asia. Aiming to control
access to the northern approaches to India, the British tried to replace Dost
Muhammad with a former emir, subordinate to them. This policy caused the first
Afghan War (1838–42) between the British and the Afghans. Dost Muhammad
was at first deposed but, after an Afghan revolt in Kabul, was restored. In 1857,
Dost Muhammad signed an alliance with the British. He died in 1863 and was
succeeded, after family fighting, by his third son, Sher Ali.

o King of Afghanistan (1826 - 39; second time 1843 - 63)
o 1832--1833 Persia moves into Khurasan (province), and
threatens Herat. Afghans defend Herat successfully.
o 1834-- (May) Afghans lose Peshawar to the Sikhs; later they
crushed the Sikhs under the leadership of Akbar Khan
who defeated the Sikhs near Jamrud, and killed the great
Sikh general Hari Singh. However, they failed to retake
Peshawar due to disunity and bad judgment on the part of
Dost Mohammad Khan.
o 1836 Dost Mohammad Khan is proclaimed as Amir al-mu'
minin (commander of the faithful). He was well on the road
toward reunifying the whole of Afghanistan when the British,
in collaboration with an ex-king (Shah Shuja), invade
Afghanistan to curtail the growing Russian and Persian

1839 - 1842 Shah Shuja is installed as a "puppet king" by the British .

o First Anglo-Afghan War
o After some resistance, Amir Dost Mohammad Khan
surrenders to the British and is deported to India.
o April 1842--Shah Shuja killed by Afghans.
o 1842-1844 Akbar Khan (Afghan hero) is victorious against the
British. The ferocity was such that the 16,500- B British garrison
with 12,000 support staff and dependents were wiped out. Only one
survived, of mixed British-Indian garrison, reaches the fort in
Jalalabad, on a stumbling pony.
o Mohammad Akbar Khan was a major player in the defeat of the
British army in the first Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842). He
outsmarted and killed Sir William MacNaughten, a top British official
who highly advocated the invasion and subjugation of Afghanistan
by the British army. Mohammad Akbar was very ambitous and
wanted to regain all the land that was lost by the Afghans, and
rebuild another great empire, similar to Ahmad Shah Abdali's.
However, his father, Dost Mohammad Khan, who wanted to work
with the British, feared his son's rise to power. Many believed that
Amir Dost Mohammad poisoned his own son at the age of 29.
Mohammad Akbar Khan is highly revered by Afghans today, and is
seen as a major historical hero. A residential area of Kabul is
named after him.
o By 1843 the nation declares independence, Dost
Khan returns to occupy the throne.
o In 1844, Akbar Khan dies.

1843 - 1863 Dost Mohammad Khan comes back and occupies the royal throne.
After the annihilation of British troops, Afghanistan once again becomes

o 1859-- British take Baluchistan , and Afghanistan
becomes completely landlocked.

1863 - 1866 Sher Ali Dost Mohammad Khan's son , succeeds to the throne.

o King of Afghanistan (1863 - 66; second time 1868 - 79)

o (1865)--Russia takes Bukhara, Tashkent, and

1866 - 1867 Mohamad Afzal

o Mohammad Afzal occupies Kabul and proclaims
himself Amir.
o October, 1867--Mohammad Afzal dies.

1867 - 1868 Mohammad Azam

o Mohammad Azam succeeds to the throne
o 1868--Mohammad Azam flees to Persia

1868 - 1879 Sher Ali reasserts control

o 1873 Russia establishes a fixed boundary with
Afghanistan and promises to respect its territorial
o 1878-British launch their second war. For the second
time, the Afghans’ spirited resistance forces them to
withdraw. Sher Ali dies. Mohammad Yaqub Khan
takes over but concedes to the British such key
territories as Khyber and Pischin. The Afghans will
never get back these regions.

1879 - Amir Muhammad Yaqub Khan takes over until October 1879.
o Amir Muhammad Yaqub Khan gives up the following
Afghan territories to the British: Kurram, Khyber,
Michni, Pishin, and Sibi. Afghans lose these
territories permanently.
o Kabul occupied by British forces

1880 - 1901 Abdur Rahman takes throne of Afghanistan. He was, however,
recognized by the British as emir in 1880, and he supported British interests
against Russia..

o Battle of Maiwand
o July 1880, Afghan woman named Malalai carries the Afghan flag
forward after the soldiers carrying the flag were killed by the
British. She becomes a hero for her show of courage and valour.
o The British, shortly after the accession of the new
Amir, withdraw from Afghanistan, although they retain
the right to handle Afghanistan's foreign relations.
o Abdur Rahman establishes fixed borders and he
loses a lot of Afghan land.
o Nuristan converted to Islam.
o 1885- Russian forces seize the Panjdeh Oasis, a
piece of Afghan territory north of the Oxus River.
Afghans tried to retake it, but was finally forced to
allow the Russians to keep Panjdeh, and the
Russians promised to honor Afghan territorial integrity
in the future.
o 1893- The Durand line fixes borders of Afghanistan
with British India, splitting Afghan tribal areas, leaving
half of Afghans in what is now Pakistan.
o 1895 Afghanistan's northern border is fixed and
guaranteed by Russia
o 1901-- Abdur Rahman dies, his son Habibul
succeeds him.

1907- 1919 Habibullah Khan’s regime.Russia and Great Britain sign the
convention of St. Petersburg, Agreement reached between British and Russian
governments over the territorial integrity of Afghanistan

1919 - 1929 Amanullah Khan (The reform King)

o 1921--Third Anglo-Afghan war.

1929 - 1930 Habibullah Kalakani (Bachae Saqaw)

1930 - 1933 Nadir Khan takes the throne; his tribal army loots government
buildings and houses of wealthy citizens because the treasury was empty.
Habibullah Kalakani, along with his supporters, and a few supporters of
Amanullah Khan are killed by Nadir Khan. Now Nadir Khan establishes full

o 1933-- Nadir Khan was assassinated by a High
School student whos father served Amanullah Khan
and was killed by Nadir Khan.
o Zahir Shaw, at the age of 19 inherits the throne, even
though he did not want to take the throne. He rules
until 1973. Zahir Shah's uncles serve as prime
ministers and advisors until 1953.
o Mahmud Tarzi dies in Turkey at the age of 68 with a
heart full of sorrow and despair toward his country.

1940 - 1973 Zahir Shah proclaims Afghanistan as neutral during WW2

o 1949-- Afghanistan's Parliament denounces the
Durand Treaty and refuses to recognize the Durand
line as a legal boundary between Pakistan and
Afghanistan. Pashtuns in Pashtunistan (Occupied
Afghan Land) proclaim an independent Pashtunistan,
but their proclamation goes unacknowledged by the
world community.
o 1973-- July 17th: Zahir Shah is in Europe, when his
government is overthrown in a military coup headed
by Daoud Khan his cousin.

1973 - 1978 Daoud Khan abolishes the monarchy, declares himself President.
The Republic of Afghanistan is established.

o 1978-- Bloody Communist coup: Daoud is killed

1978 - 1979 Taraki is named President,

o June--Afghan guerrilla (Mujahideen) movement is
o 1979--Taraki is killed

1979 - Hafizullah Amin takes the Presidency.

o Mass killings of Afghans
o US ambassador killed
o 1979 --Amin is executed

1979 - 1986 Babrak Karmal replaceing Amin
o 1979 Soviet Union (Russia) invade in December.
o Babrak Karmal is replaced by Dr. Najibullah.

1986 - 1992 Dr. Najibullah replaceing Karmal

o1987-- Najibullah proposes ceasefire, but the
Mujahideen refuse to deal with a "puppet
o 1988--1989 Peace accords signed in Geneva . Soviet
Union defeated by Afghanistan, total withdrawal by
the Soviets occurred on Feb. 15, 1989.
o The Geneva Accords and Their Aftermath

1992 April 15 The Mujahideen take Kabul and liberate Afghanistan, Najibullah
is protected by UN.

o The Mujahideen form an Islamic State--Islamic Jihad
o Professor Burhannudin Rabbani takes power.
o Through 1993, Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces,
allied with the Shi'a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed
intermittently with Rabbani and Masood's Jamiat
forces. Dostam switched sides, precipitating
largescale fighting in Kabul and in northern provinces.
o 1994-The Talibanmilitia are born, and advance rapidly
against the Islamic government. Dostum and
Hekmatyar continued to clash against Rabbani and
Masood's government, and as a result Kabul is
reduced to rubble.

1996 - 2001 Mullah Omar Taliban militia force President Rabbani and his
government out of Kabul. After the capture of Kabul, the Taliban executed

2001 - Dec. 5 Hamid Karzai interim Afghan government
Land & Resources
Afghanistan is shaped roughly like a clenched fist with the thumb extended out to
the northeast. Afghanistan covers an area of about 652,090 sq km (about
251,773 sq mi). Its maximum length from east to west is about 1240 km (about
770 mi); from north to south it is about 1015 km (about 630 mi). The
northwestern, western, and southern border areas are primarily desert plains and
rocky ranges, whereas the southeast and northeast borders rise progressively
higher into the major, glacier-covered peaks of the Hindu Kush, an extension of
the western Himalayas. Only the northern border is formed by a river, the Amu
About Afghanistan
Afghanistan, in southwestern Asia, bounded on the north by Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan; on the east by China and the part of the disputed
territory of Jammu and Kashmir controlled by Pakistan; on the south by Pakistan;
and on the west by Iran. Afghanistan was a monarchy from 1747 to 1973, when
the king was overthrown by military officers and the country was proclaimed a
republic; the republic dissolved in 1992 as the country erupted in civil war.
Afghanistan lies across ancient trade and invasion routes from central Asia into
India. This position has been the greatest influence on its history because the
invaders often settled there. Today the population includes many different ethnic
groups. Most of the present borders of the country were drawn up in the 19th
century, when Afghanistan became a buffer state, or neutral zone, between
Russia and British India. Kabul is the capital and largest city.

Ahmad Shah Durani also known as (Ahmad Shah Baba) is the founder of today's
Afghanistan. Pir Sabir Shah, the spiritual guide of the time, showered his praise
for the young Ahmad Shah by declaring him Dar-e-Durran (pearl of the pearls)
not because that he was a military giant but for his humanity a definite quality of
a statesman. He was the King of Afghanistan from 1747-1772 AD.

Key Data
Region: Asia
Area Total: 647,500 km2
Area Land: 647,500 km2
Coast Line: 0 km (Landlocked) km
Capital: Kabul
Climate: Dry to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
Languages: Pashto, Pashtu or Pukhto number of Speakers in Afghanistan approximately 14
million and Dari (Farsi) is spoken by almost every ethnic division, they are Indo-European
languages and are the major two languages spoken in Afghanistan; other Indo-European, Indo-
Aryan languages, such as Balochi, Pashayi and Eastern Farsi, are also spoken; Turkic and Altaic
languages, such as Uzbek and Turkmen, are present; Tajiki is also used.
Currency: Afghani
Holiday: Independence Day, 19 August
Pakistan: 2,430km
Tajikistan: 1,206km
Iran: 936km
Turkmenistan: 744km
Uzbekistan: 137km
China: 76km
Ethnic Divisions
Pashtun: 52%
Tajiks: 21%
Hazara: 9%
Baloch: 7%
Uzbek 6%
Turkmen 2%
Qizilbash 1%
Other 1%
Sunni Muslim: 88%
Shi`a Muslim: 11%
Other (including Zoroastrian, Jewish, Hindu, Baha'i and Christian) 1%
Natural Regions
High mountains cover much of Afghanistan, with about one-half of the land over
2000 m (6600 ft) in elevation. Small glaciers and year-round snowfields are
common. The highest peak, Nowshak (Noshaq), rises 7485 m (24,557 ft) on the
northeast border and is a lower spur of the Tirich Mir peak in Pakistan. The Hindu
Kush range extends across the country in a southwesterly direction from the
Vakhan Corridor almost to the Iranian border. From the Hindu Kush, other lower
ranges radiate in all directions. Some of the major ranges include the Pamirs in
the upper northeast of the Vakhan Corridor, the Badakhshan Ranges in the
northeast, the Paropamisus Range in the north, and the Sefid Koh range, which
forms part of the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lowland areas are
concentrated in the south and west and include the Turkistan Plains, the Herat-
Ferah Lowlands of the extreme northwest, the Sistan Basin and Helmand River
valley of the southwest, and the Rigestan Desert of the south.

Except for the river valleys and a few places in the lowlands where underground
fresh water makes irrigation possible, agriculture is difficult. Only about 15
percent of the land is suitable for farming. Moreover, a war with the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the 1980s and the subsequent civil war in
the 1990s left some of that land unusable because of neglect, the planting of
explosive mines, and other problems. In general, sheep and goat grazing make
up the main agricultural land use. In eastern and southeastern Afghanistan,
forest lands amounted to about 2 million hectares (about 5 million acres), or
about 4.5 percent of the country, before the war. The ravages of war, the scarcity
of fuel, and the need for firewood for cooking and heating have caused rapid

Because Afghanistan has so many high mountains, the passes through them
have been of profound importance in both the history of invasion of the country
and in commerce. In the 320s BC Alexander the Great invaded the country
through the Kushan Pass (about 4370 m/about 14,340 ft) in the west and left it to
the east through the low Khyber Pass (920 m/3018 ft) to invade India. These
same passes were used by the Mughal emperor Babur to conquer both
Afghanistan and India in the 1500s. The famous Salang Pass (about 3880
m/12,720 ft) and its Soviet-built tunnel in the central Hindu Kush was one of the
main routes the Soviets used to invade Afghanistan in 1979.
Rivers and Lakes
Many of Afghanistan's major rivers are fed by mountain streams. The Amu Darya
on the northern frontier has a number of significant tributaries that rise in the
eastern Hindu Kush. It is the only navigable river in Afghanistan, though ferry
boats can cross the deeper areas of other rivers. The Harirud River rises in
central Afghanistan and flows to the west and northwest to form part of the
border with Iran. The long Helmand River rises in the central Hindu Kush,
crosses the southwest of the country, and ends in Iran. It is used extensively for
irrigation and agriculture, although in recent years its water has experienced a
progressive build up of mineral salts, which has decreased its usefulness. Most
of the rivers end in inland seas, swamps, or salt flats; the Kabul River is an
exception. It flows east into Pakistan to join the Indus River, which empties into
the Indian Ocean.
Afghanistan's lakes are small in size and number, but include Lake Zarkol in the
Vakhan Corridor along the Tajikistan border, Shiveh in Badakhshan, and the
saline Lake Istadeh-ye Moqor, located south of Ghazni. The country also has a
few salt marshes at the limits of the Helmand drainage on the western border
with Iran. The most important dams and reservoirs in Afghanistan are the Kajaki
Reservoir on the Helmand, the Arghandab Dam on a tributary of the Helmand,
the Sardeh Dam on the Ghazni River, and the Kelagay Dam on the Darya-ye-
Qondoz tributary of the Amu Darya. Prior to the civil war, less than 10 percent of
the country's hydroelectric potential had been developed. After the war began,
hydroelectric production dropped off almost completely as turbines were
destroyed, floodgates blown open, and transmission lines brought down. By the
mid-1990s private diesel-fired generators were about all that remained of 75
years of electric development.
Plant & Animal Life
Plant life in Afghanistan is sparse but diverse. Common trees in the mountains
are evergreens, oaks, poplars, wild hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios. The
plains of the north are largely dry, treeless steppes, and those of the
southwestern corner are nearly uninhabitable deserts. Common plants in the arid
regions include camel thorn, locoweed, spiny restharrow, mimosa, and
wormwood, a variety of sagebrush. The wild animals of Afghanistan include more
than 100 mammal species, some of which are nearing extinction. The most
seriously endangered are the goitered gazelle, leopard, snow leopard, markor
goat, and Bactrian deer. Other wild animals of Afghanistan include Marco Polo
sheep, urials, ibex, bears, wolves, foxes, hyenas, jackals, and mongooses. Wild
boar, hedgehogs, shrews, hares, mouse hares, bats, and various rodents also
occur. More than 380 bird species are found in Afghanistan, with more than 200
breeding there. Flamingo and other aquatic fowl breed in the lake areas south
and east of Ghazni. Ducks and partridges are also common, but all birds are
hunted widely and many are becoming uncommon, including the endangered
Siberian crane.
Most of Afghanistan has a subarctic mountain climate with dry and cold winters,
except for the lowlands, which have arid and semiarid climates. In the mountains
and a few of the valleys bordering Pakistan, a fringe effect of the Indian
monsoon, coming usually from the southeast, brings moist maritime tropical air in
summer. Afghanistan has clearly defined seasons; summers are hot and winters
can be bitterly cold. Summer temperatures as high as 49° C (120° F) have been
recorded in the northern valleys. Midwinter temperatures as low as -9° C (15° F)
are common around the 2000-m (6600-ft) level in the Hindu Kush. The climate in
the highlands varies with elevation. The coolest temperatures usually occur on
the heights of the mountains.
Temperatures often range greatly within a single day. Variations in temperature
during the day may range from freezing conditions at dawn to the upper 30°s C
(upper 90°s F) at noon. Most of the precipitation falls between the months of
October and April. The deserts receive less than 100 mm (4 in) of rain a year,
whereas the mountains receive more than 1000 mm (40 in) of precipitation,
mostly as snow. Frontal winds sweeping in from the west may bring large
sandstorms or dust storms, while the strong solar heating of the ground raises
large local whirlwinds.
Natural Resources
Despite a lengthy history of small-scale mining of gems, gold, copper, and coal,
systematic exploration of Afghanistan's mineral resources did not begin until the
1960s. In the 1970s Afghanistan was discovered to have a wide variety of
mineral resources, but only coal, iron ore, copper ore, and gemstones were
targeted for development. Natural gas fields are scattered throughout much of
Afghanistan. Recent analysis by the United States Geological Survey has
indicated significant unexploited oil reserves in the north as well. After their
invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Soviets endeavored to export some of the
country's resources to the USSR. Natural gas, for example, was exported by
pipeline across the Amu Darya into the USSR in the 1980s. Ongoing hostilities,
however, severely hampered this effort and finally cut off the natural gas export.
By the mid-1990s there was little mineral or oil and gas extraction.
Environmental Issues
Afghanistan has long been a land of marginal environment-too dry and too cold
for much life. Thousands of years of environmental stress by the country's people
have dramatically altered the landscape and caused extensive environmental
destruction. Because the Afghan people lack the financial means to purchase
fuel, they must cut trees, uproot shrubs, and collect dung for burning. Domestic
animals overgraze the range. The result is extensive soil erosion by water and
wind. Long-term irrigation without flushing has added salt to much of the arable
land and destroyed its fertility. Polluted water supplies are common, except in the
high mountain regions where few people live permanently. Ancient writings and
archaeological evidence show that once rich areas of forest and grassland have
been reduced to stretches of barren rock and sand. The government of
Afghanistan began to recognize environmental problems in the 1970s with the
help of the United Nations and other international agencies. The pressures of the
war, however, have diverted attention from these issues and further aggravated
the country's environmental state.
People of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is comprised of a variety of ethnic groups called Afghans, the
overwhelming majority of whom are Muslim, usually either followers of Sunni or
Shia Islam. The people of Afghanistan are related to many of the ethnic groups in
Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; the borders drawn
between these groups are arbitrary. For the most part, Afghans are farmers,
although a significant minority follows a nomadic lifestyle. In the years since the
Soviet invasion and the later civil war, a large number of Afghans have fled the
country and become refugees in neighboring nations, most typically in Iran and
In the mid-1990s, after a decade of Soviet occupation, war, and economic
manipulation, followed by the ongoing civil war, the economy of Afghanistan was
in shambles. Even in the 1970s, prior to the war, Afghanistan had one of the
lowest standards of living in the world; things have declined since then, with the
production, trafficking, and movement of drugs and guns as a major hidden part
of the economy. As the war and its effects spread throughout the country in the
early 1980s, two separate economies emerged; the urban financial and industrial
facilities, tied especially to the Soviet Union, and the largely independent rural
subsistence economy. In 1990 annual income was estimated to be $714 per
Over the centuries, Afghans have developed a number of different strategies to
earn a living from their difficult environment. Most Afghans are settled farmers,
herders, or both, depending upon ecological, economic, and political factors.
They are usually self-sufficient in foodstuffs and other necessities. Industry and
mining developed considerably in the 20th century, but local handicrafts are still
important. In 1956 the government launched the first of several five-year plans.
Irrigation efforts and development of a better road and telecommunications
network had top priority, with later efforts toward production of textiles, cement,
electricity, fertilizer, and grain storage facilities. Progress was made to develop
better trade with the outside world, especially toward Europe, the United States,
and Japan. Major nations aided Afghanistan in building roads, dams,
hydroelectricity facilities, airports, factories (including those for light machinery,
cement, and textiles), and irrigation networks for such crops as cotton, wheat,
barley, and rice. After the Soviet invasion in 1979, development aid from the West
ceased, and Afghanistan became economically dependent on the USSR. Fruits,
vegetables, fine carpets, and gemstones now constitute the majority of the export
In 1993 the total labor force was estimated to be about 6.6 million. As recently as
1985, about 60 percent of the working population was engaged in agriculture or
animal husbandry, though this percentage may be higher today with the loss of
other kinds of employment because of war. Widespread unemployment and a
lack of skilled workers and administrators are among the most pressing labor
Only a very small share of Afghanistan's land (about 15 percent), mostly in
scattered valleys, is suitable for farming; about 6 percent of the land is actually
cultivated. At least two-thirds of this farmland requires irrigation. Water is drawn
from springs and rivers and is distributed through surface ditches and through
underground channels, or tunnels, which are excavated and maintained by a
series of vertical shafts. Such a tunnel is known as a karez or qanat. In 1987
about 26,600 sq km (10,300 sq mi) of farmland were irrigated.

Wheat is the most important crop, followed by barley, corn, and rice. Cotton is
another important and widely cultivated crop. Fruit and nuts are among
Afghanistan's most important exports. Afghanistan is noted for its unusually
sweet grapes and melons, grown mostly in the southwest, north of the Hindu
Kush, and in the fertile regions around Herat. Raisins are also an important
export. Other important fruits are apricots, cherries, figs, mulberries, and

Livestock is nearly as important as crops to Afghanistan's economy. Karakul
sheep are raised in large numbers in the north. The tight curly fleece of Karakul
lambs is used to make Persian lamb coats. Other breeds of sheep, such as the
fat-tailed sheep, and goats are also raised.

Afghanistan is a major supplier in the international drug trade. It is the second-
largest opium producer after Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), with 950
metric tons produced in 1994. Afghanistan also produces significant quantities of

Distinctive Afghan Rugs are made by Turkmen and some Uzbeks;
characteristically these have parallel rows of geometric figures on a dark red
ground, although many other patterns also exist. The Baluchi, well-known
producers of prayer rugs, also make carpets mainly of wool, using a blend of
dark colors. Camel hair and cotton are also used in some of these carpets. A
variety of beautiful embroideries are also made for bridal trousseaus (the cloth in
which the bride wraps her clothes and other personal possessions) and for sale.
Large natural gas deposits in northern Afghanistan were exploited jointly with the
USSR starting in 1967. In the 1980s large quantities of natural gas were exported
to the USSR, but that was terminated after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Oil has
been found to the north of the Hindu Kush in large reserves but it is unexploited,
primarily because of war. Afghanistan is the world's only source of high-grade
lapis lazuli and has major copper and iron deposits. However, most resources
have not been exploited.
Industrial development increased substantially after World War II (1939-1945).
With the opening in 1965 of a large West German-built wool mill, woolen-textile
production more than doubled. Among the other factories located primarily in
Kabul are plants manufacturing textiles (the most important manufactured export
product) and footwear; government-operated cement plants; a fruit-processing
plant; a plant making coal briquettes; and several cotton gins. As with other
aspects of the economy, the war has been a major obstacle to industrial
Almost half of the energy used in Afghanistan comes from firewood. Most of the
rest comes from gas, oil, and hydroelectricity. There are dams and hydroelectric
stations on the Kondoz, Kabul, Arghandab, and Helmand rivers. The dams also
store water for irrigation.
Foreign Trade
Afghanistan's chief exports are natural gas and dried fruit. Other exports include
carpets, fresh fruit, wool, and cotton. Afghanistan imports food, motor vehicles,
petroleum products, and textiles. Most of the foreign trade of Afghanistan is
controlled by the government or by government-controlled monopolies. The
USSR was Afghanistan's chief trading partner even before the 1979 Soviet
invasion, and this relationship intensified in the 1980s. The leading purchasers of
Afghan products, in addition to the USSR and the former Soviet republics, have
been Pakistan, Great Britain, Germany, and India. In 1991 exports amounted to
about $188.2 million, while imports cost $616.4 million.
Currency and Banking
The unit of currency in Afghanistan is the afghani, which is divided into 100 puls.
Since 1981 the official rate of exchange has been fixed at 50 afghanis equal
U.S.$1. However, the actual market rate of the afghani has fluctuated, and in
1994 2400 afghanis equaled U.S.$1. Dramatic inflation (with rates of up to 57
percent), which has been taking place in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion,
contributed to the drastic decrease in the purchasing power of the afghani from
1981 to 1994.

Afghanistan's central bank was founded in 1938 and is the largest bank in
Afghanistan. The central bank issues all notes, executes government loans, and
lends money to cities and to other banks. All private banks in Afghanistan were
nationalized in 1975, mostly because a lack of clear terms for borrowers and
lenders had made it difficult for people to use the country's credit resources. No
stock market or other modern form of economic development exists in
Afghanistan. Instead, archaic "money bazaars" exist to provide money-lending
and foreign exchange dealings.
On Monday Oct 7, 2002 Afghanistans interim government marked the first
anniversary of U.S. air strikes that brought it to power by issuing new banknotes,
aimed at reasserting central control over a war-ravaged economy.

Travel within Afghanistan is severely limited by the rugged terrain. The country
has less than 25 km (less than 16 mi) of railroad track, all of which is for shipping
goods to and from Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Petroleum
products are piped in from Uzbekistan to Bagram and from Turkmenistan to
Shindand. Natural gas used to be piped into the part of the USSR that is now
Uzbekistan through a 180-km (110-mi) pipeline, but was terminated immediately
after the war. Except for the Amu Darya, which has 1200 km (750 mi) of
navigable waters and handles vessels up to about 500 metric tons, the country's
narrow, fast-flowing rivers are nearly all unnavigable and are used chiefly for the
transportation of free-floating timber. Ports on the Amu Darya include Keleft,
Kheyrabad, and Shir Khan. There are about 21,000 km (about 13,000 mi) of
highways, about 13 percent are paved, 8 percent are gravel, and 79 percent are

Public transportation in Afghanistan is generally by bus and truck in which loads
of people, animals, and produce are packed into small spaces or on the roof. In
general women ride in the front, separated from men. City dwellers tend to travel
by bus and bicycle. In the countryside most Afghans travel by foot, donkey,
horseback, and occasionally by camel.

Kabul and Kandahar have international airports. There are 48 airports in the
country, about half of which have paved runways. The national airline is Ariana
Afghan Airlines; Bakhtar Afghan Airlines also provides some domestic service,
but it is nearly defunct because of the war.

Camels and other pack animals are used for conveying goods. Afghanistan
depends on neighboring countries for the shipment of goods to and from its
borders. Hostilities between Pakistan and Afghanistan have often led to the
closing of that border.

Telephone and telegraph networks link the major towns. In the early 1990s about
31,200 telephones were in use but there was only one public telephone in Kabul.
One international telephone link is maintained through Iran. The government
provides radio broadcasts in Pashto, Dari, and ten other languages on a handful
of AM and shortwave radio-broadcast stations. Many Afghans own transistor
radios, and loudspeaker systems in some villages carry the broadcasts to larger
audiences. The first Afghan television station, built with Japanese aid, went on
the air in Kabul in 1978. In the mid-1990s several television stations were run by
factions and local councils, providing only intermittent service.
The history of newspapers, magazines, and other publications in Afghanistan has
varied, depending upon the level of censorship in the ruling government. The first
printed newspaper was distributed in 1875, and two other small newspapers
were printed just after 1900. With the beginning of the reign of King Amanullah in
1919, the press flourished with the publication of more than 15 newspapers and
magazines. By the 1950s, 95 percent of the nation's printed materials came from
the government. The small remainder was produced by provincial hand-operated
presses. In 1962 the Kabul Times appeared as the first English-language paper.
Bakhtar News Agency subscribed to a variety of international press services and
its news bulletin was available as well. Following the 1978 coup the Kabul Times
was renamed the Kabul New Times and began publishing Communist rhetoric
that was reminiscent of the worst days of the Cold War. The newspaper was
highly confrontative and hostile to the West. In reaction to the suppression of the
free press, antiregime shabnamah (night letters) were secretly printed (primarily
in Kabul) with uncensored news and opinions. In the early 1990s Afghanistan
had more than 10 newspapers, but by the mid-1990s this number had dropped
off as the suppression of Afghanistan's media increased.

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