Facts about Afghanistan

World Facts Index

AfghanistanAhmad 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. A series of subsequent 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, a presidential election in 2004, and National Assembly elections in 2005. In December 2004, Hamid KARZAI became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan and the National Assembly was inaugurated the following December. Despite gains toward building a stable central government, a resurgent Taliban and continuing provincial instability - particularly in the south and the east - remain serious challenges for the Afghan Government.

Geography of Afghanistan

Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran
33 00 N, 65 00 E
Map references:
total: 647,500 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 647,500 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Texas
Land boundaries:
total: 5,529 km
border countries: China 76 km, Iran 936 km, Pakistan 2,430 km, Tajikistan 1,206 km, Turkmenistan 744 km, Uzbekistan 137 km
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Amu Darya 258 m
highest point: Nowshak 7,485 m
Natural resources:
natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones
Natural hazards:
damaging earthquakes occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Environment - current issues:
limited natural fresh water resources; inadequate supplies of potable water; soil degradation; overgrazing; deforestation (much of the remaining forests are being cut down for fuel and building materials); desertification; air and water pollution
Geography - note:
landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)

Population of Afghanistan

29,121,286 (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 43.6% (male 6,343,611/female 6,036,673)
15-64 years: 54% (male 7,864,422/female 7,470,617)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 326,873/female 353,520) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 18 years
male: 17.9 years
female: 18 years (2010 est.)
Growth rate:
Birth rate:
38.11 births/1,000
Death rate:
17.65 deaths/1,000
Net migration rate:
4.24 migrant(s)/1,000
Infant mortality:
151.5 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 44.65 years
male: 44.45 years
female: 44.87 years
Total fertility rate:
44.87 children born/woman
noun: Afghan(s)
adjective: Afghan
Ethnic groups:
Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%
Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi'a Muslim 19%, other 1%
Afghan Persian or Dari (official) 50%, Pashto (official) 35%, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%, much bilingualism
total population: 28.1%
male: 43.1%
female: 12.6%


Country name:
conventional long form: Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan
former: Republic of Afghanistan
local long form: Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
32 provinces (velayat, singular - velayat)
19 August 1919 (from UK control over Afghan foreign affairs)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 19 August (1919)
new constitution drafted 14 December 2003 - 4 January 2004; signed 16 January 2004
Legal system:
according to the new constitution, no law is contrary to Islam; the state is obliged to create a prosperous and progressive society based on social justice, protection of human dignity, protection of human rights, realization of democracy, and to ensure national unity and equality among all ethnic groups and tribes; the state shall abide by the UN charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Hamid KARZAI; Vice Presidents Ahmad Zia MASOOD and Abdul Karim KHALILI; note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government; former King ZAHIR Shah holds the honorific, "Father of the Country," and presides symbolically over certain occasions, but lacks any governing authority; the honorific is not hereditary
cabinet: 27 ministers; note - under the new constitution, ministers are appointed by the president and approved by the National Assembly
elections: the president and two vice presidents are elected by direct vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); if no candidate receives 50% or more of the vote in the first round of voting, the two candidates with the most votes will participate in a second round; a president can only be elected for two terms
Legislative branch:
the bicameral National Assembly consists of the Wolesi Jirga or House of People (no more than 249 seats), directly elected for five-year terms, and the Meshrano Jirga or House of Elders (102 seats, one-third elected from provincial councils for four-year terms, one-third elected from local district councils for three-year terms - provincial councils elected temporary members to fill these seats until district councils are formed, and one-third presidential appointees for five-year terms; the presidential appointees will include 2 representatives of Kuchis and 2 representatives of the disabled; half of the presidential appointees will be women)
Judicial branch:
the constitution establishes a nine-member Stera Mahkama or Supreme Court (its nine justices are appointed for 10-year terms by the president with approval of the Wolesi Jirga) and subordinate High Courts and Appeals Courts (note - nine supreme court justices were appointed in the interim in January 2005 pending National Assembly selection of the constitutionally mandated justices); there is also a minister of justice; a separate Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission established by the Bonn Agreement is charged with investigating human rights abuses and war crimes


Economy - overview:
Afghanistan's economy is recovering from decades of conflict. The economy has improved significantly since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 largely because of the infusion of international assistance, the recovery of the agricultural sector, and service sector growth. Despite the progress of the past few years, Afghanistan is extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid, agriculture, and trade with neighboring countries. Much of the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs. Criminality, insecurity, weak governance, and the Afghan Government's inability to extend rule of law to all parts of the country pose challenges to future economic growth. Afghanistan's living standards are among the lowest in the world. While the international community remains committed to Afghanistan's development, pledging over $57 billion at three donors' conferences since 2002, the Government of Afghanistan will need to overcome a number of challenges, including low revenue collection, anemic job creation, high levels of corruption, weak government capacity, and poor public infrastructure
GDP growth rate:
8% (2005 est.), 11.5% (2007 est.), 22.5% (2009 est.)
GDP per capita:
$800 (2004 est.), $1,000 (2007 est.), $900 (2009 est.)
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 31%
industry: 26%
services: 43%
note: data exclude opium production
Population below poverty line:
23% (2002), 53% (2003), 36% (2009)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate:
5.2% (2003 est.), 16.3% (2005 est.), 30.5% (2009 est.)
Labor force:
11.8 million (2001 est.), 15 million (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 78.6%
industry: 5.7%
services: 15.7%
40% (2005 est.), 35% (2008 est.)
revenues: $1 billion
expenditures: $3.3 billion
note: Afghanistan has also received $2.6 billion from the Reconstruction Trust Fund and $63 million from the Law and Order Trust Fund 
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 36.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0%
hydro: 63.7%
small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement; handwoven carpets; natural gas, coal, copper
opium, wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton, sheepskins, lambskins
opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems
Export partners:
US 26.47%, India 23.09%, Pakistan 17.36%, Tajikistan 12.51% 
machinery and other capital goods, food, textiles, petroleum products
Import partners:
Pakistan 26.78%, US 24.81%, India 5.15%, Germany 5.06%, Russia 4.04% 
afghani (AFA)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

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