Location: Southern Asia, North West of Pakistan, east of Iran
Population: 33,609,937 (July 2009 est.)
Conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Current Provincial Governors:
<!--[if !supportLists]--> <!--[endif]--> Chief of State and head of government: President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai (Since December 7th 2004)
<!--[if !supportLists]--> <!--[endif]--> First Vice President: Ahmad Zia Massood (since December 7th 2004)
<!--[if !supportLists]--> <!--[endif]-->
Second Vice President: Abdul Karim Khalili (since December 7th 2004)
<!--[if !supportLists]--> <!--[endif]-->
Cabinet: 25 ministers - according to the new constitution the 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; election last held 9 October 2004 (next to be held in August 2009)
National Security Advisor - Dr. Zalmai Rassoul
Afghan Nation [also known as the Afghan Social Democratic Party] (Afghan Mellat)
Afghan Nation [also known as the Afghan Social Democratic Party] (Afghan Mellat - Shams faction)
Afghan Society for the Call to the Koran and Sunna (Jama'at al-Da'wat il'l Qur'an wa Sunnat al-Afghanistan)
Afghanistan Independence Party (Hizb-e Istiqlal-e Afghanistan)
Afghanistan's Islamic Mission Organization (Tanzim-e Dahwat-e Islami-ye Afghanistan)
Afghanistan's Welfare Party (Hizb-e Refah-e Afghanistan)
Freedom and Democracy Movement of Afghanistan (Nahzat-e Azadi wa Demokrasi-ye Afghanistan)
Freedom Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Azadi-ye Afghanistan)
Freedom Party National Faction (Hizb-e Azadi-ye Bakhsh-e Melli-ye Afghanistan)
Homeland Party (Hizb-e Maihan)
Human Rights Protection and Development Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Ifazat az Hoquq-e Bashar wa Inkeshaf-e Afghanistan)
Islamic & National Revolutionary Movement of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Harkat-e Inqilabi-ye Islami wa Melli-ye Afghanistan)
Islamic Civilization Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Islami-ye Tamadun-e Afghanistan)
Islamic Justice Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Adalat-e Islami-ye Afghanistan)
Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (Harakat-e Islami-ye Afghanistan)
Islamic People's Movement of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Harak-e Islami-ye Mardum-e Afghanistan)
Islamic Rights Advocates Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Itifaq-e Hoquq Khwahan-e Islami-ye Afghanistan)
Islamic Society of Afghanistan (Jami'at-e Islami-ye Afghanistan)
Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Wahdat-e Islami-ye Afghanistan)
Islamic Unity Party of the People of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Wahdat-e Islami-ye Mardum-e Afghanistan)
Justice Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Adalat-e Afghanistan)
Labor and Progress of Afghanistan Party (Hizb-e Kar wa Tawse'a-e Afghanistan)
Moderate Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e E'tidal-e Afghanistan)
National Congress Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Kongra-ye Melli-ye Afghanistan)
National Islamic Fighters Party of Afghanistan (Da Afghanistan Da Melli Mubarizinu Islami Gond)
National Islamic Front of Afghanistan (Mahaz-e Melli-ye Islami-ye Afghanistan)
National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Junbish-e-Melli-ye Afghanistan)
National Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Wahdat-e Melli-ye Islami-ye Afghanistan)
National Liberation Front of Afghanistan (Jabha-e Melli-ye Nijat-e Afghanistan)
National Movement of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Nahzat-e Melli-ye Afghanistan)
National Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Melli-ye Afghanistan)
National Peace & Islamic Party of the Tribes of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Sulh-e Melli-ye Islami-ye Aqwam-e Afghanistan)
National Peace & Unity Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Sulh wa Wahdat-e Melli-ye Afghanistan)
National Peace Islamic Party of Afghanistan (Da Afghanistan Da Solay Melli Islami Gond)
National Peace Movement of Afghanistan (Nahzat-e Melli Sulh-e Afghanistan)
National Prosperity and Islamic Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Sahadat-e Melli wa Islami-ye Afghanistan)
National Prosperity Party (Hizb-e Refah-e Melli)
National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan (Nahzat-e Hambastagi-ye Melli-ye Afghanistan)
National Solidarity Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Paiwand-e Melli-ye Afghanistan)
National Stability Party (Hizb-e Subat-e Melli)
National Tribal Unity Islamic Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Melli-ye Wahdat-e Aqwam-e Islami-ye Afghanistan)
National Unity Movement (Tahrik-e Wahdat-e Melli)
National Unity Movement of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Harakat-e Melli-ye Wahdat-e Afghanistan)
National Unity Party (Hizb-e Mutahid-e Melli)
National Unity Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Wahdat-e Melli-ye Afghanistan)
New Afghanistan Party (Hezb-e-Afghanistan Naween)
Party of Islam (Hizb-e Islami)
Party of Islam (Hizb-e Islami - Khalis faction)
Peace and National Welfare Activists Society (Majmah-e Melli-ye Fahalin-e Sulh-e Afghanistan)
Peace Movement (Da Afghanistan Da Solay Ghorzang Gond)
People's Aspirations Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Arman-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
People's Liberal Freedom Seekers Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Libral-e Azadi-ye Khwa-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
People's Message Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Risalat-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
People's Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
People's Prosperity Party of Afganistan (Hizb-e Falah-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
People's Sovereignty Movement of Afghanistan (Nahzat-e Hakimyat-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
People's Uprising Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Rastakhaiz-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
People's Welfare Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Sahadat-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
People's Welfare Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Refah-e Mardum-e Afghanistan)
Public Opinion Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Afkar-e Ama-ye Afghanistan)
Republican Party (Hizb-e Jamhuri Khwahan)
Solidarity Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Hambastagi Afghanistan)
United Afghanistan Party (Hizb-e Afghanistan-e Wahid)
Understanding and Democracy Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Tafahum-e wa Demokrasi-ye Afghanistan)
Young Afghanistan's Islamic Organization (Sazman-e Islami-ye Afghanistan-e Jawan)
Youth Solidarity Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Hambastagi-ye Melli-ye Jawanan-e Afghanistan)
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; 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.
GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $26.29 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (Official Exchange Rate): $12.85 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (Real Growth Rate): 7.5% (2008 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $800 (2008 est)
GDP - composition by sector: 31% Agricultural, 26% Industry, 43% Services
Labour Force: 15 million (2004 est)
Unemployment Rate: 40% (2008 est)
Labour Force - by Occupation: 80% Agricultural, 10% Industry, 10% Service (2008 est)
Budget: revenues $890 million, expenditures $2.7 billion (Afghanistan has also received $2.6 billion from the Reconstruction Fun and $63 million from the Law and Order Trust Fund)
Agricultural products: opium, wheat, fruits, nuts; wool, mutton, sheepskins, lambskins
Industries: small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement; hand-woven carpets; natural gas, coal, copper
Exports - commodities: opium, fruits and nuts, hand-woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems
Export Partners: India 22.8%, Pakistan 21.8%, US 20.5%, Tajikistan 7.2% (2007)
Import Partners: Pakistan 36.8%, US 11%, India 5%, Germany 4.2%
Import - Commodities: capital goods, food, textiles, petroleum products
Approved by President Hamid Karzai in April 21, 2008, this document outlines the Afghan government's strategies for security, governance economic growth and poverty reduction. The blue print lays out the plans the period of 2008 to 2013:
International organization participation: ADB, CP, ECO, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE (partner), SAARC, SACEP, SCO (guest), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Military branches: Afghan Armed Forces: Afghan National Army (ANA, includes Afghan National Army Air Corps) (2009)
Military service age and obligation: 22 years of age; inductees are contracted into service for a 4-year term (2005)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 7,431,147, females age 16-49: 7,004,819 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 4,371,193, females age 16-49: 4,072,945 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 382,720, female: 361,733 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures: 1.9% of GDP (2006 est.)
Afghanistan's history spans five thousand years and the Afghan people have contributed to the emergence of many Central Asian empires. The ancient centers of culture and civilization were influenced by diverse outsiders such as Rome, Greece, Arabia, Iran, Central Asia, India, and China. Great conquerors such as Jenghiz Khan and Timurlane swept through Afghanistan during the 13th and 14th century. These rulers brought with them the desire to establish kingdoms, and founded cultural and scholarly communities in Afghanistan. In particular, during the Timurid dynasty, poetry, architecture and miniature painting reached their zenith.
The rise of the great Mughal Empire again lifted Afghanistan to heights of power. The ruler, Babur, had his capital in Kabul in 1512, but as the Mughals extended their power into India, Afghanistan went from being the center of the empire to merely a peripheral part of it. In the 18th and 19th century with European forces eroding the influence of the Mughals on the Indian subcontinent, the kingdom of Afghanistan began to emerge. Ahmad Shah ruled from 1747 and successfully established the concept of a united Afghanistan.
Throughout the 19th century Afghans fought against British forces. In the 1830s, Dost Muhammad skillfully balanced the influence of the Russians, British, Iranians, and Sikhs. However, rising tensions resulted in several wars from 1839 and 1842 and from 1878 to 1880. The twenty-one year reign of Abdur Rahman Khan was an important period for the consolidation of a modern state marked by efforts to modernize and establish control of the kingdom. The borders of Afghanistan were established in 1893 through negotiations with the British and provincial governments emerged, taking the place of clan rule.
In 1919, Afghanistan gained independence from British occupying forces. From 1919-1973 Afghanistan modernized and built extensive infrastructure with the assistance of the international community. This period of relative stability ended in 1973 when King Zahir Shah was overthrown while away in Europe.
In 1978 and 1979, a number of coups brought to power a communist government that drifted increasingly toward the USSR, ending with a Soviet puppet government in Kabul led by Babrak Kamal and an invasion of Soviet forces. Throughout the eighties, an indigenous Afghan resistance movement fought against the invading Soviet forces. With the help of the United States, Afghans successfully resisted the occupation. On February 15, 1989 the last Soviet soldier retreated across Afghanistan's northern border. As hostilities ceased, more than a million Afghans lay dead and 6.2 million people, over half the world's refugee population, had fled the country.
The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 weakened the communist government of President Najibullah, leading to his ousting in April 1992. An interim president was installed and replaced two months later by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a founder of the country's Islamic political movement, backed by the popular commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
The government remained unstable and unable to form a national consensus amongst its various factions. This instability was exploited by a group of Islamic fighters called the Taliban ('talib' means 'religious student' or 'seeker of knowledge'). With the assistance of foreign governments, organizations, and resources, the Taliban seized Kandahar and in September 1998 entered Kabul.
Taliban rule became infamous for their repression of women and dissidents as well as their destruction of the country's cultural heritage. Showing little interest in trying to govern and rebuild Afghanistan, they instead played host to the radical Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Following Al-Qaeda's 2001 attacks, the United States and its allies began military operations and quickly overthrew the Taliban. An interim government was installed.
In December of 2001, Afghan and world leaders met in Bonn, Germany under United Nations auspices to design an ambitious agenda that would guide Afghanistan towards "national reconciliation, a lasting peace, stability, and respect for human rights," culminating in the establishment of a fully representative government. Many political and civil institutions were established with the Bonn Agreement such as the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Judicial Commission, Counter- Narcotics Directorate, and the Constitutional commission.
Progress on the political front has been rapid, with elections leading to an elected parliament and president as well as a national constitution. With international assistance, the new government of Afghanistan is developing a stable, political infrastructure and security apparatus.
The security situation in Afghanistan necessitates the continued presence of international forces. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was created in accordance with the Bonn Conference, in December 2001, after the ousting of the Taliban regime. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took over command and coordination of ISAF in August 2003. This is the first mission outside the Euro-Atlantic area in NATO's history. Initially restricted to providing security in and around Kabul, NATO's mission now covers about 50% of the country's territory. ISAF currently numbers about 9,700 troops from 37 NATO and non-NATO troop contributing countries. The Alliance is expanding its presence in Southern Afghanistan.
The London Conference on Afghanistan in January 2006 aimed to launch the Afghanistan Compact, the successor to the Bonn Agreement, to present the interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy, and to ensure the Government of Afghanistan has adequate resources to meet its domestic ambitions. The Afghanistan Compact marks the formal end of the Bonn Process, with completion of the Parliamentary and Provincial elections, and represents a framework for co-operation for five years.
The Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy (I-ANDS) is the product of twelve-months of intensive consultations within the Afghan government and with a wide array of stakeholders including community representatives, the ulama, the private sector, NGOs, and the international community. The document outlines the government's policy objectives and analyzes the obstacles to their achievement.
The insurgency and related violence remain the primary obstacle to development and stability in Afghanistan. Especially in the south and east of the country violent clashes between insurgents and NATO or OEF occur on a regular basis. A report released by UNAMA in September 2007 found that the number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan had increased by more than 700 percent between 2005 (17 incidents) and 2006 (123 incidents). Numbers are expected to rise further in 2007, with 103 incidents in the first eight months alone. In the first quarter of 2008, NGOs have been directly targeted for attack on 29 occasions. Although comparable to last year's figures in volume (30), the attacks of this year have resulted in many more fatalities.
Both the insurgents and the international coalition have launched their respective military campaigns after the end of the 2007/2008 winter. Media reports indicate a steady level of violence in the south and east, and an increase in violence in the north and west of the country. Insurgents have shifted away from a conventional strategy to using more suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) - even in areas where they have little suport base. Afghan outrage at civilian casualties caused by NATO forces continues to create difficulties for the ISAF mission and bolster support for the insurgents. In an effort to protect himself from the political fallout of this popular discontent, President Karzai publicly blamed international forces for rising violence in June 2008, saying they have mismanaged the fight against the Taliban.
Insurgents benefited from this public debate and a number of other factors: continued access to safe havens across the border in Pakistan, rampant corruption of Afghan police and government representatives, the return of warlords to power, poverty and unemployment, a lack of benefits to some populations from foreign aid, opium cultivation, poorly applied opium eradication schemes, and tribal disputes.
As mentioned in one of the UN Secretary-General's latest reports to the Security Council, "a key to sustaining security gains in the long term is increasing the capability, autonomy and integrity of the Afghan National Security Forces." In view of this long-term perspective, efforts to train and equip Afghan forces are being increased and discussions are ongoing on how to address serious challenges with the reform of the Afghan National Police. There are signs that the US is refocusing on Afghanistan, dedicating more resources to the Afghan mission and pushing other NATO countries to increase their own contributions to the mission in Afghanistan.
Reconciliation and Power Sharing
Many critics of the mission in Afghanistan, but also NATO leaders themselves, have been explicit in stating that a military strategy will not solve Afghanistan's problems and call for a political solution. While President Karzai has apparently made some contact with the Taliban and there is some effort towards reconciliation through the Strengthening Peace Program, no wide-ranging, track one peace process is underway. The willingness of some opposition forces to share power with Karzai's government remains in question. A new political opposition, the United National Front, has emerged to oppose president Karzai. This group is a mix of former Northern Alliance members, mujahideen, and even former members of the communist government. Former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar has interpreted this as a show of independence by Afghans who believe the US will not be able to stabilize the situation.
Pakistan's role continues to be controversial, as many Afghans and international observers allege Pakistani support for the insurgency. A new series of peace deals between Pakistan's government and local Taliban groups has granted insurgents wide latitude in areas along the border with Pakistan. According to NATO commanders, Pakistan's failure to act against militants in its tribal areas has led to an increase in attacks against US and NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan.
Allegations that Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban have also become more common, though the Iranian government denies its involvement with the insurgency in Afghanistan. Some analysts argue that Iran may be pursuing a two-pronged approach, with overt support for the Karzai government and economic investment in Afghanistan on the one hand and covert assistance to insurgents on the other hand, thus hedging its bets and securing influence (esp. in western Afghanistan) no matter who will control the country in the long run.
The international community in Afghanistan is working to improve its coordination and increase aid effectiveness, while some NGOs call for the military to stop doing reconstruction work. The situation for women in Afghanistan continues to be grim, and some claim hard-won freedoms achieved since 9-11 are in danger of being stifled before a lasting impact on women's rights can be achieved. Recent murders of Afghan women journalists and continued forced marriages highlight the volatility of the situation for women in Afghanistan.
Opium cultivation continues to reach record levels, and debates about how to tackle this issue are heated. According to UNODC, Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tons of opium in 2007 (34 percent more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier (93 percent of the global opiates market). The United States continues to push for eradication, while many, including some other NATO nations, fear this only feeds insurgency and instability. Other alternatives are licensing opium cultivation and providing alternative livelihoods. The first option has not been pursued, and the latter has not been sufficiently funded nor has it had time to achieve any significant results.
Despite the insurgency, development and reform efforts continue. Initiativens like the, in which local councils are consulted to determine their own development needs, are expanding. While media reports from Afghanistan tend to focus on the violence and instability, some parts of the country are relatively stable and are benefitting from development efforts.