Afghanistan Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest;

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;

Population: 31,108,077 (July 2013 est.)


Introduction: Background

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. 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 and Washington, D.C., 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. KARZAI was re-elected in August 2009 for a second term. 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. In January 2011, Afghanistan assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2012-13 term.

People and Society
Population 30,419,928 (July 2012 est.)
note: this is a significantly revised figure; the previous estimate of 33,609,937 was extrapolated from the last Afghan census held in 1979, which was never completed because of the Soviet invasion
Languages 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
Religions Sunni Muslim 80%, Shia Muslim 19%, other 1%
Median Age total: 18.2 years
male: 18.2 years
female: 18.2 years (2011 est.)
Age Structure 0-14 years: 42.3% (male 6,464,070/female 6,149,468)
15-64 years: 55.3% (male 8,460,486/female 8,031,968)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 349,349/female 380,051) (2011 est.)

Government Type Islamic republic
Capital name: Kabul
geographic coordinates: 34 31 N, 69 11 E
time difference: UTC+4.5 (9.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Legal System mixed legal system of civil, customary, and Islamic law

Location Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran
Area – Comparative slightly smaller than Texas
Area total: 652,230 sq km
land: 652,230 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Climate arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
Terrain mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
Natural Hazards damaging earthquakes occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Natural Resources natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones

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. 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 difficulty in extending 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 $67 billion at nine donors’ conferences between 2003-10, 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 (Official Exchange Rate) $17.9 billion (2011 est.)
Budget revenues: $1.58 billion
expenditures: $3.3 billion
note: Afghanistan received $15.7 billion in 2010/2011 (2011 est.)
Current Account Balance -$2.475 billion (2009 est.)
$85 million (2008 est.)
Imports – Commodities machinery and other capital goods, food, textiles, petroleum products
Exports – Commodities opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems

Broadcast Media state-owned broadcaster, Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), operates a series of radio and television stations in Kabul and the provinces; an estimated 150 private radio stations, 50 TV stations, and about a dozen international broadcasters are available (2010)
Internet Users 1 million (2009)
Internet Hosts 121 (2011)
Telephones – Mobile Cellular 13 million (2010)
Telephones – Main Lines in Use 140,000 (2010)

Airports 53 (2010)
Heliports 11 (2010)
Roadways total: 42,150 km
paved: 12,350 km
unpaved: 29,800 km (2006)
Waterways 1,200 km; (chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT) (2008)
Ports and Terminals Kheyrabad, Shir Khan

Manpower Fit for Military Service males age 16-49: 4,050,222
females age 16-49: 3,797,087 (2010 est.)

Transitional Issues
Disputes – International Afghan, Coalition, and Pakistan military meet periodically to clarify the alignment of the boundary on the ground and on maps; Afghan and Iranian commissioners have discussed boundary monument densification and resurvey; Iran protests Afghanistan’s restricting flow of dammed Helmand River tributaries during drought; Pakistan has sent troops across and built fences along some remote tribal areas of its treaty-defined Durand Line border with Afghanistan which serve as bases for foreign terrorists and other illegal activities; Russia remains concerned about the smuggling of poppy derivatives from Afghanistan through Central Asian countries
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons IDPs: 132,246 (mostly Pashtuns and Kuchis displaced in south and west due to drought and instability) (2007)

Trafficking In Persons current situation: Afghanistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Afghan boys and girls are trafficked within the country, in forced prostitution, in forced labor in carpet-making factories, and in forced domestic service; forced begging is a growing problem in Afghanistan; Afghan boys are subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor in the drug smuggling industry in Pakistan and Iran; Afghan women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution and forced marriages; women and girls from Iran, Tajikistan, and possibly Uganda and China are reportedly forced into prostitution in Afghanistan

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – the Government of Afghanistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; despite these efforts, the government did not show evidence of increased efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year; the Afghan government did not prosecute or convict trafficking offenders under its 2008 law, and it punished victims of sex trafficking with imprisonment for adultery or prostitution (2011)