s.

How can a small power like Afghanistan,

which is like a goat between these lions

Britain and Russia

or a grain of wheat between two strong millstones

of the grinding mill,

could stand in the midway

of the stones without being ground to dust?

— Abdur Rahman Khan,

the "Iron Amir", in 1900

 is a landlocked country

located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia.

Referred to as the Heart of Asia

 it is bordered by Pakistan

to the east and southIran to the west, Turkmenistan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, Tajikistan to the northeast, and China to the northeast and east.

Occupying 252,072 sq mi of land,

the country is predominantly mountainous with plains in the north and the southwest,

which are separated by the Hindu Kush mountain range.

As of 2021, its population is 40.2 million, composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.

Kabul is the country's largest city and serves as its capital.

 

 2021, Afghanistan was captured by the Taliban,

which marked the end of the 2001–2021 war,

the longest war in US history

 

Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic era,

and the country's strategic location along the historic Silk Road has led it to being described, picturesquely, as the ‘roundabout of the ancient world’.

Popularly referred to as the graveyard of empires,

 the land has historically been home to various peoples and has witnessed numerous military campaigns,

including those by the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Maurya Empire, Arab Muslims, the Mongols, the British, the Soviet Union, and most recently by an American-led coalition.

Afghanistan also served as the source from which the

Greco-Bactrians and the Mughals, among others, rose to form major empires.

The various conquests and periods in both the Iranian and Indian cultural spheres made the area a center for Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and later Islam throughout history.

 

 Aśvakan literally means "horsemen", "horse breeders", or "cavalrymen"

from aśva or aspa, the Sanskrit and Avestan words for "horse"

 

Several types of mammals exist throughout Afghanistan.

Snow leopards, Siberian tigers and brown bears live in the high elevation alpine tundra regions.

The Marco Polo sheep exclusively live in the Wakhan Corridor region of north-east Afghanistan.

Foxes, wolves, otters, deer, wild sheep, lynx and other big cats populate the mountain forest region of the east.

In the semi-desert northern plains,

wildlife include a variety of birds, hedgehogs, gophers, and large carnivores such as jackals and hyenas.

Gazelles, wild pigs and jackals populate the steppe plains of the south and west, while mongoose and cheetahs exist in the semi-desert south. 

Marmots and ibex also live in the high mountains of Afghanistan, and pheasants exist in some parts of the country.

The Afghan hound is a native breed of dog known for its fast speed

and its long hair; it is relatively known in the west.

Endemic fauna of Afghanistan includes

the Afghan flying squirrel, Afghan snowfinch, Afghanodon (or the "Paghman mountain salamander"), Stigmella kasyi, Vulcaniella kabulensis, Afghan leopard gecko, Wheeleria parviflorellus, amongst others. Endemic flora include Iris afghanica. Afghanistan has a wide variety of birds despite its relatively arid climate – an estimated 460 species of which 235 breed within.

The forest region of Afghanistan has vegetation such as pine trees, spruce trees, fir trees and larches, whereas the steppe grassland regions consist of broadleaf trees, short grass, perennial plants and shrublands. The colder high elevation regions are composed of hardy grasses and small flowering plants.

Several regions are designated protected areas; there are three national parks: Band-e Amir, Wakhan and Nuristan.

Afghanistan had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 8.85/10, ranking it 15th globally out of 172 countries.

The CIA estimated in 2009 that 99.7% of the Afghan population was Muslim and most are thought to adhere to the Sunni Hanafi school.

 

Homosexuality is taboo in Afghan society; according to the Penal Code, homosexual intimacy is punished by up to a year in prison. With implementing Sharia law offenders can be punished by death.

However an ancient tradition involving male homosexual acts between youngsters and older men (typically wealthy or elite people) called bacha bazi persists.

Religious minorities such as Sikhs,Hindus,and

Christians have reportedly faced persecution in the country.

Since May 2022, all women in Afghanistan have been required by law to wear full-body coverings when in public (either a burqa or an abaya paired with a niqāb, which leaves only the eyes uncovered).

 

In a May interview with Christiane Amanpour, First Deputy Leader Sirajuddin Haqqani claimed the decree is only advisory and no form of hijab is compulsory in AfghanistanAgricultural production is the backbone of Afghanistan's economy and has traditionally dominated the economy, employing about 40% of the workforce as of 2018.

 The country is known for producing pomegranates, grapes, apricots, melons, and several other fresh and dry fruits. It is also known as the world's largest producer of opium – as much as 16% or more of the nation's economy is derived from the cultivation and sale of opium. It is also one of the world's top producers of cannabis.

Saffron, the most expensive spice, grows in Afghanistan, particularly Herat Province. In recent years, there has been an uptick in saffron production, which authorities and farmers trying to replace poppy cultivation. Between 2012 and 2019, the saffron cultivated and produced in Afghanistan was consecutively ranked the world's best by the International Taste and Quality Institute.

Production hit record high in 2019 (19,469 kg of saffron), and one kilogram is sold domestically between $634 and $1147.

The availability of cheap diesel-powered water pumps imported from China and Pakistan, and in the 2010s, of cheap solar power to pump water, resulted in expansion of agriculture and population in the southwestern deserts of Afghanistan in Kandahar Province, Helmand Province and Nimruz Province in the 2010s. Wells have gradually been deepened, but water resources are limited.

Opium is the major crop, but as of 2022, was under attack by the new Taliban government which, in order to suppress opium production, was systematically suppressing water pumping.

AFGHANISTAN

 

Background

Afghanistan

served as a buffer

between the British and Russian Empires

until it won independence from British control in 1919. 

In August 2021,

the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban overran the country; the latest group to rule in this war-torn country since 1979.Geography

 

Area

land: 652,230 sq km

water: 0 sq km

 

Climate

arid to semiarid;

cold winters and hot summers

Natural resources

natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones, arable land

 

People and Society

Population

38,346,720

2022 est.

 

Religions

Muslim 99.7%

(Sunni 84.7 - 89.7%, Shia 10 - 15%),

other <0.3% (2009 est.)

 

Population growth rate

2.3%

2022 est.

 

 

Capital

Kabul

 

Economic overview

extremely low-income South Asian economy; import drops, currency depreciation, disappearing central bank reserves, and increasing inflation after Taliban takeover; increasing Chinese trade; hit hard by COVID; ongoing sanctions

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$77.04 billion (2020 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$2,000 (2020 est.)

 

Agricultural products

wheat, milk, grapes, vegetables, potatoes, watermelons, melons, rice, onions, apples

Industries

small-scale production of bricks, textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, apparel, food products, non-alcoholic beverages, mineral water, cement; handwoven carpets; natural gas, coal, copper

 

Exports

$1.48 billion (2020 est.)

Exports - partners

United Arab Emirates 45%, Pakistan 24%, India 22%, China 1% (2019)

 

Exports - commodities

gold, grapes, opium, fruits and nuts, insect resins, cotton, handwoven carpets, soapstone, scrap metal (2019)

 

Imports

$6.98 billion

(2020 est.)

 

Imports - partners

United Arab Emirates 23%, Pakistan 17%, India 13%, China 9%, United States 9%, Uzbekistan 7%, Kazakhstan 6% (2019)

Imports - commodities

wheat flours, broadcasting equipment, refined petroleum, rolled tobacco, aircraft parts, synthetic fabrics (2019)

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Image by Zabihullah Habibi

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