Official Name: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Area: 652,230 sq. km. (251,827 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.
Cities: Capital--Kabul. Other cities--Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Konduz.
Terrain: Landlocked; mostly mountains and desert.
Climate: Dry, with cold winters and hot summers.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Afghan(s).
(July 2009 est.): 28.396 million. More than 3 million Afghans live
outside the country, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, although over 5
million have returned since the removal of the Taliban.
Annual population growth rate (2009 est.): 2.629%.
Main ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Aimaq, Baluch, Nuristani, Kizilbash.
Religions: Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi'a Muslim 19%, other 1%.
Main languages: Dari (Afghan Farsi), Pashto.
Education: Approximately 6 million children, of whom some 35% are girls. Literacy
(2008 est.)--28.1% (male 43%, female 12%), but real figures may be
lower given breakdown of education system and flight of educated Afghans
during 3 decades of war and instability.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2009 est.)--151.95 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2009 est.)--44.47 yrs. (male); 44.81 yrs. (female).
Type: Islamic Republic.
Independence: August 19, 1919.
Constitution: January 4, 2004.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state). Legislative--bicameral National Assembly; Wolesi Jirga (lower house)--249 seats, Meshrano Jirga (upper house)--102 seats. Judicial--Supreme Court, High Courts, and Appeals Courts.
Political subdivisions: 34 provinces.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
GDP (2009 est., purchasing power parity): $27 billion.
GDP growth: 22.5% (2009-2010); 11% (2010-2011).
GDP per capita (2009 est.): $800.
resources: Natural gas, oil, coal, petroleum, copper, chromite, talc,
barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious
Agriculture (estimated 31% of GDP): Products--wheat, opium, sheepskins, lambskins, corn, barley, rice, cotton, fruit, nuts, karakul pelts, wool, and mutton.
Industry (estimated 26% of GDP): Types--small-scale
production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, cement;
hand-woven carpets; natural gas, coal, and copper.
Services (estimated 43% of GDP): Transport, retail, and telecommunications.
Trade (2009 est.): Exports--$547
million (does not include opium): fruits and nuts, hand-woven carpets,
wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semiprecious gems. Major markets--Central Asian republics, United States, Russia, Pakistan, India. Imports--$5.3 billion: food, petroleum products, textiles, machinery, and consumer goods. Major suppliers--Central Asian republics, Pakistan, United States, India, Germany.
The currency is the afghani, which was reintroduced as Afghanistan's
new currency in January 2003. At present, $1 U.S. equals approximately
ethnically and linguistically mixed population reflects its location
astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia
into South and Southwest Asia. While population data is somewhat
unreliable for Afghanistan, Pashtuns make up the largest ethnic group
at 42% of the population, followed by Tajiks (27%), Hazaras (9%), Uzbek
(9%), Aimaq, Turkmen, Baluch, and other small groups. Dari (Afghan
Farsi) and Pashto are official languages. Dari is spoken by more than
one-third of the population as a first language and serves as a lingua
franca for most Afghans, though Pashto is spoken throughout the Pashtun
areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan. Tajik and Turkic languages
are spoken widely in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country
also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.
is an Islamic country. An estimated 80% of the population is Sunni,
following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; the remainder of the
population--and primarily the Hazara ethnic group--is predominantly
Shi'a. Despite attempts during the years of communist rule to secularize
Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In
fact, Islam served as a principal basis for expressing opposition to
communism and the Soviet invasion. Islamic religious tradition and
codes, together with traditional tribal and ethnic practices, have an
important role in personal conduct and dispute settlement. Afghan
society is largely based on kinship groups, which follow traditional
customs and religious practices, though somewhat less so in urban areas.
often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent
history. In 328 BC, Alexander the Great entered the territory of
present-day Afghanistan, then part of the Persian Empire, and
established a Hellenistic state in Bactria (present-day Balkh).
Invasions by the Scythians, White Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding
centuries. In AD 642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced
Arab rule gave way to the Persians, who controlled the
area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998. Following
Mahmud's short-lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule
sections of the country until the destructive Mongol invasion of 1219
led by Genghis Khan.
Following Genghis Khan's death in 1227, a
succession of petty chiefs and princes struggled for supremacy until
late in the 14th century, when one of his descendants, Tamerlane,
incorporated Afghanistan into his own vast Asian empire.
1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of what is known today as
Afghanistan, established his rule. A Pashtun, Durrani was elected king
by a tribal council after the assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir
Shah at Khabushan in the same year. Throughout his reign, Durrani
consolidated chieftainships, petty principalities, and fragmented
provinces into one country. His rule extended from Mashad in the west to
Kashmir and Delhi in the east, and from the Amu Darya (Oxus) River in
the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.
the 19th century, collision between the expanding British Empire in
the subcontinent and czarist Russia significantly influenced
Afghanistan in what was termed "The Great Game." British concern over
Russian advances in Central Asia and growing influence in Persia
precipitated two Anglo-Afghan wars in 1839 and again in 1878. The first
resulted in the destruction of a British army. The latter conflict
brought Amir Abdur Rahman to the Afghan throne. During his reign
(1880-1901), the British and Russians officially established the
boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan through the
demarcation of the Durand Line. The British retained effective control
over Kabul's foreign affairs.
Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son and
successor, was assassinated in 1919. His third son, Amanullah, regained
control of Afghanistan's foreign policy after launching the third
Anglo-Afghan war with an attack on India in the same year. During the
ensuing conflict, the war-weary British relinquished their control over
Afghan foreign affairs by signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August
1919. In commemoration of this event, Afghans celebrate August 19 as
their Independence Day.
Reform and Reaction
Amanullah (1919-29) moved to end his country's traditional isolation.
He established diplomatic relations with most major countries and
introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. Some of
these, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil for women
and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly
alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming
armed opposition, Amanullah was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after
Kabul fell to forces led by Bacha-i-Saqao, a Tajik brigand. Prince
Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah's, in turn defeated Bacha-i-Saqao in
October of the same year and, with considerable Pashtun tribal support,
was declared King Nadir Shah. Four years later, however, he was
assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.
Zahir Shah, Nadir Khan's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and
reigned from 1933 to 1973. In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a
liberal constitution providing for a two-chamber legislature to which
the king appointed one-third of the deputies. Although Zahir's
"experiment in democracy" produced few lasting reforms, it permitted
the growth of unofficial extremist parties on both the left and the
right. These included the communist People's Democratic Party of
Afghanistan (PDPA), which had close ideological ties to the Soviet
Union. In 1967, the PDPA split into two major rival factions: the Khalq
(Masses) faction headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and
supported by elements within the military, and the Parcham (Banner)
faction led by Babrak Karmal. The split reflected ethnic, class, and
ideological divisions within Afghan society.
Sardar Mohammad Daoud, served as his Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963.
During his tenure as Prime Minister, Daoud solicited military and
economic assistance from both Washington and Moscow and introduced
controversial social policies of a reformist nature. Daoud's alleged
support for the creation of a Pashtun state in the Pakistan-Afghan
border area heightened tensions with Pakistan and eventually resulted
in Daoud's dismissal in March 1963.
Daoud's Republic (1973-78) and the April 1978 Coup
charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and
poor economic conditions, former Prime Minister Daoud seized power in a
military coup on July 17, 1973. Zahir Shah fled the country, eventually
finding refuge in Italy. Daoud abolished the monarchy, abrogated the
1964 constitution, and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as
its first President and Prime Minister. His attempts to carry out badly
needed economic and social reforms met with little success, and the new
constitution promulgated in February 1977 failed to quell chronic
Seeking to exploit more effectively
mounting popular disaffection, the PDPA reunified with Moscow's
support. On April 27, 1978, the PDPA initiated a bloody coup, which
resulted in the overthrow and murder of Daoud and most of his family.
Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of
the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
Opposition to the Marxist
government emerged almost immediately. During its first 18 months of
rule, the PDPA brutally imposed a Marxist-style "reform" program, which
ran counter to deeply rooted Afghan traditions. In addition, thousands
of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and
the intelligentsia were imprisoned, tortured, or murdered. Conflicts
within the PDPA also surfaced early and resulted in exiles, purges,
imprisonments, and executions.
By the summer of 1978, a revolt
began in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan and quickly spread
into a countrywide insurgency. In September 1979, Hafizullah Amin, who
had earlier been Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, seized power
from Taraki. Over the next 2 months, instability plagued Amin's regime
as he moved against perceived enemies in the PDPA. By December, party
morale was crumbling, and the insurgency was growing.
The Soviet Invasion
December 1978, Moscow signed a new bilateral treaty of friendship and
cooperation with Afghanistan, and the Soviet military assistance
program increased significantly. The regime's survival increasingly was
dependent upon Soviet assistance as the insurgency spread and the
Afghan army began to collapse.
By October 1979, however,
relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union were tense as
Hafizullah Amin refused to take Soviet advice on how to stabilize and
consolidate his government. Faced with a deteriorating security
situation, on December 24, 1979, large numbers of Soviet airborne
forces began to land in Kabul. They killed Hafizullah Amin and
installed Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction, as Prime
Following the invasion, the Karmal regime, although
backed by 120,000 Soviet troops, was unable to establish authority
outside Kabul. As much as 80% of the countryside, including parts of
Herat and Kandahar, eluded effective government control. An
overwhelming majority of Afghans opposed the communist regime, either
actively or passively. Afghan fighters (mujahideen) made it almost
impossible for the regime to maintain a system of local government
outside major urban centers. Poorly armed at first, in 1984 the
mujahideen began receiving substantial assistance in the form of
weapons and training from the U.S. and other outside powers.
May 1985, the seven principal Peshawar-based guerrilla organizations
formed an alliance to coordinate their political and military operations
against the Soviet occupation. Late in 1985, the mujahideen were
active in and around Kabul. The failure of the Soviet Union to win over
a significant number of Afghan collaborators or to rebuild a viable
Afghan army forced it to bear an increasing responsibility for fighting
the resistance and for civilian administration.
popular displeasure with the Karmal regime led to its demise in May
1986. Karmal was replaced by Muhammad Najibullah, former chief of the
Afghan secret police (KHAD). As Prime Minister, Najibullah was
ineffective and highly dependent on Soviet support. Undercut by
deep-seated divisions within the PDPA, regime efforts to broaden its
base of support proved futile.
The Geneva Accords and Their Aftermath
the mid-1980s, the tenacious Afghan resistance movement was exacting a
high price from the Soviets, both militarily within Afghanistan and by
souring the U.S.S.R.'s relations with much of the Western and Islamic
world. Informal negotiations for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
had been underway since 1982. In 1988 the Geneva accords were signed,
which included a timetable that ensured full Soviet withdrawal from
Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. About 14,500 Soviet and an estimated
one million Afghan lives were lost between 1979 and the Soviet
withdrawal in 1989.
Significantly, the mujahideen were party
neither to the negotiations nor to the 1988 agreement and,
consequently, refused to accept the terms of the accords. As a result,
the civil war continued after the Soviet withdrawal, which was
completed in February 1989. Najibullah's regime was able to remain in
power until 1992 but collapsed after the defection of Gen. Abdul Rashid
Dostam and his Uzbek militia in March. However, when the victorious
mujahideen entered Kabul to assume control over the city and the
central government, a new round of internecine fighting began between
the various militias. With the demise of their common enemy, the
militias' ethnic, clan, religious, and personality differences
surfaced, and the civil war continued.
Seeking to resolve these
differences, the leaders of the Peshawar-based mujahideen groups
established an interim Islamic Jihad Council in mid-April 1992 to
assume power in Kabul. Moderate leader Prof. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was
to chair the council for 2 months, after which a 10-member leadership
council composed of mujahideen leaders and presided over by the head of
the Jamiat-i-Islami, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, was to be set up for 4
months. During this 6-month period, a Loya Jirga, or grand council of
Afghan elders and notables, would convene and designate an interim
administration which would hold power up to a year, pending elections.
in May 1992, Rabbani prematurely formed the leadership council,
undermining Mojaddedi's fragile authority. In June, Mojaddedi
surrendered power to the Leadership Council, which then elected Rabbani
as President. Nonetheless, heavy fighting broke out in August 1992 in
Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions,
particularly those who supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami.
After Rabbani extended his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the
capital flared up in January and February 1993. The Islamabad Accord,
signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar as Prime Minister,
failed to have a lasting effect. A follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad
Accord, called for the militias to be disarmed but was never fully
implemented. 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. Cooperating with Jamiat were militants of
Sayyaf's Ittehad-i-Islami and, periodically, troops loyal to ethnic
Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam. On January 1, 1994, Dostam switched
sides, precipitating large-scale fighting in Kabul and in northern
provinces, which caused thousands of civilian casualties in Kabul and
elsewhere and created a new wave of displaced persons and refugees. The
country sank even further into anarchy, forces loyal to Rabbani and
Masood, both ethnic Tajiks, controlled Kabul and much of the northeast,
while local warlords exerted power over the rest of the country.
Rise and Fall of the Taliban
Taliban had risen to power in the mid-1990s in reaction to the anarchy
and warlordism that arose after the withdrawal of Soviet forces. Many
Taliban had been educated in madrassas in Pakistan and were largely
from rural southern Pashtun backgrounds. In 1994, the Taliban developed
enough strength to capture the city of Kandahar from a local warlord
and proceeded to expand its control throughout Afghanistan, occupying
Kabul in September 1996. By the end of 1998, the Taliban occupied about
90% of the country, limiting the opposition largely to a small mostly
Tajik corner in the northeast and the Panjshir valley.
Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam--based upon
the rural Pashtun tribal code--on the entire country and committed
massive human rights violations, particularly directed against women and
girls. The Taliban also committed serious atrocities against minority
populations, particularly the Shi'a Hazara ethnic group, and killed
noncombatants in several well-documented instances. In 2001, as part of a
drive against relics of Afghanistan's pre-Islamic past, the Taliban
destroyed two huge Buddha statues carved into a cliff face outside of
the city of Bamiyan.
From the mid-1990s the Taliban provided
sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national who had fought with the
mujahideen resistance against the Soviets, and provided a base for his
and other terrorist organizations. Bin Laden provided both financial
and political support to the Taliban. Bin Laden and his Al-Qaida group
were charged with the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar
Es Salaam in 1998, and in August 1998 the United States launched a
cruise missile attack against bin Laden's terrorist camp in
southeastern Afghanistan. Bin Laden and Al-Qaida have acknowledged
their responsibility for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
against the United States.
Following the Taliban's repeated
refusal to expel bin Laden and his group and end its support for
international terrorism, the U.S. and its partners in the
anti-terrorist coalition began a military campaign on October 7, 2001,
targeting terrorist facilities and various Taliban military and
political assets within Afghanistan. Under pressure from U.S. military
and anti-Taliban forces, the Taliban disintegrated rapidly, and Kabul
fell on November 13, 2001.
Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban
met at a United Nations-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany in
December 2001 and agreed to restore stability and governance to
Afghanistan--creating an interim government and establishing a process
to move toward a permanent government. Under the "Bonn Agreement," an
Afghan Interim Authority was formed and took office in Kabul on
December 22, 2001 with Hamid Karzai as Chairman. The Interim Authority
held power for approximately 6 months while preparing for a nationwide
"Loya Jirga" (Grand Council) in mid-June 2002 that decided on the
structure of a Transitional Authority. The Transitional Authority,
headed by President Hamid Karzai, renamed the government as the
Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). One of the TISA's
primary achievements was the drafting of a constitution that was
ratified by a Constitutional Loya Jirga on January 4, 2004. On December
7, 2004, the country was renamed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
October 9, 2004, Afghanistan held its first national democratic
presidential election. More than 8 million Afghans voted, 41% of whom
were women. Hamid Karzai was announced as the official winner on
November 3 and inaugurated on December 7 for a 5-year term as
Afghanistan's first democratically elected president.
was held on September 18, 2005 for the "Wolesi Jirga" (lower house) of
Afghanistan's new bicameral National Assembly and for the country's 34
provincial councils. Turnout for the election was about 53% of the
12.5 million registered voters. The Afghan constitution provides for
indirect election of the National Assembly's "Meshrano Jirga" (upper
house) by the provincial councils and by reserved presidential
appointments. The first democratically elected National Assembly since
1969 was inaugurated on December 19, 2005. Younus Qanooni and
Sigbatullah Mojadeddi were elected Speakers of the Wolesi Jirga and
Meshrano Jirga, respectively.
The second national democratic
presidential and provincial council elections were held in August 2009,
and National Assembly elections were held September 2010. Hamid
Karzai's main competitor, Abdullah Abdullah, forced a presidential
run-off to be scheduled, but then withdrew. On November 2, 2009,
officials of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) declared Hamid
Karzai President of Afghanistan for another 5-year term. Unlike
previous election cycles, the elections were coordinated by the IEC,
with assistance from the UN. NATO officials announced in March 2009
that 15.6 million voters had registered to vote, roughly half of the
country's population, and that 35% to 38% of registered voters were
The government's authority is growing, although its
ability to deliver necessary social services remains largely dependent
on funds from the international donor community. U.S. assistance for
Afghanistan's reconstruction from fiscal year 2001 to the present
totals over $40 billion. Donors pledged continued assistance for the
rebuilding of the country at the June 2008 international Afghanistan
support conference in Paris. Overall, the international community has
made multi-year reconstruction and security assistance pledges to
Afghanistan totaling over $50 billion.
community support, including more than 40 countries participating in
Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO-led International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF), the government's capacity to secure
Afghanistan's borders and maintain internal order is increasing. As of
January 2010, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) had reached
approximately 107,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, and over
99,000 police, including border and civil order police, had received
training. Reform of the army and police, to include training, is an
extensive and ongoing process, and the U.S. is working with NATO and
international partners to further develop Afghanistan's National
Security Forces. As of March 2010, training and equipping programs for
the ANSF remained at a steady pace to meet objectives of having 134,000
ANA and 109,000 Afghan National Police (ANP) by October 2010.
Principal Government Officials
First Vice President--Mohammad Qasim Fahim
Second Vice President--Abdul Karim Khalili
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Zalmay Rassoul
Minister of Defense--Abdul Raheem Wardak
Minister of Interior--Bismillah Khan Mohammadi
Minister of Finance--Omar Zakhilwal
Ambassador to the United States--vacant; Charge d'Affaires is Khojesta Fana Ebrahimkhel
Afghanistan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-483-6410 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 202-483-6410 end_of_the_skype_highlighting; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
are 34 provinces in Afghanistan. Each province is divided into small
districts. There are approximately 364 districts although this number
fluctuates. There are approximately 153 municipalities. Provincial line
departments have basic service delivery responsibility in key sectors
(health, education). Provincial governors are generally nominated by
the Independent Directorate of Local Governance and appointed by the
president. On March 22, 2010, the Sub National Governance Policy was
approved by the Afghan cabinet. If this strategy is fully implemented,
it will clarify the roles and responsibilities of and
interrelationships between the major subnational governance actors,
strengthen the role of governors and provincial councils, introduce some
elements of provincial budgeting and potentially increase public
accountability. This represents a significant step forward in
subnational governance if fully realized.
Operation Moshtarak in
Marjah (February 2010) represents the initial implementation of the
Afghan Government-led District Development Program (DDP) developed by
the District Development Working Group comprising the Ministry of Rural
Rehabilitation and Development; Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation
and Livestock; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Education; and
Directorate for Independent and Local Governance.
the 1930s, Afghanistan embarked on a modest economic development
program. The government founded banks; introduced paper money;
established a university; expanded primary, secondary, and technical
schools; and sent students abroad for education. Historically, there has
been a dearth of information and reliable statistics about
Afghanistan's economy. The 1979 Soviet invasion and ensuing civil war
destroyed much of the country's limited infrastructure and disrupted
normal patterns of economic activity. Gross domestic product fell
substantially because of loss of labor and capital and disruption of
trade and transport. Continuing internal strife hampered both domestic
efforts at reconstruction as well as international aid efforts. However,
Afghanistan's economy has grown at a fast pace since the 2001 fall of
the Taliban, albeit from a low base. GDP growth exceeded 12% in 2007
and 3.4% in 2008; growth for 2009-2010 was 22.5%. Despite these
increases, unemployment remains around 40% and factors such as
corruption, security, and shortage of skilled workers constrains
development and the conduct of business. In June 2006, Afghanistan and
the International Monetary Fund agreed on a Poverty Reduction and
Growth Facility program for 2006-2009 that focused on maintaining
macroeconomic stability, boosting growth, and reducing poverty.
Afghanistan is also rebuilding its banking infrastructure through the
Da Afghanistan National Central Bank.
estimated 85% of Afghans are dependent on agriculture and related
agribusinesses for their livelihoods. Opium poppy production and the
opium trade continue to have a significant monetary share of the
country’s agricultural economy. However, both this share and the number
of farmers growing poppy continue to decline, as more farmers are
taking advantage of opportunities to produce and market alternative
crops. Licit commercial agriculture is playing a significant role in
increasing the income of rural populations. The major food crops
produced are: corn, rice, barley, wheat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
The major industrial crops are: cotton, tobacco, madder, castor beans,
and sugar beets. Agricultural production is constrained by an almost
total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water;
irrigation is primitive. Relatively little use is made of machines,
chemical fertilizer, or pesticides.
Afghan farmers need financing
to buy quality seeds, fertilizer, and equipment. The United States and
the international community are helping to restore banking and credit
services to rural lenders, which now administer loans in nearly
two-thirds of the country’s provinces. As of September 2009, more than
52,300 agricultural loans ranging from approximately $200 to $2 million
had gone to small businesses, with a repayment rate of 94%. Of these,
49% of loans had gone to women-owned businesses, and 27,700 borrowers
were women. The program’s success has encouraged commercial banks to
extend revolving loans for agribusinesses. Funds have been provided for
leases and to promote agro-processing and support for crop exports.
2009, the United States significantly revised its counter-narcotics
strategy for Afghanistan, ending direct involvement in eradication of
poppy and increasing support for licit agriculture and interdiction. The
new strategy puts heavy focus on going after those targets where there
is a strong nexus between the insurgency and the narcotics trade, to
deny resources to the Taliban. Poppy is easy to cultivate and opium is
easily transported. Afghanistan produced a record opium poppy crop in
2007, supplying 93% of the world's opium. Much of Afghanistan's opium
production is refined into heroin and is either consumed by a growing
regional addict population or exported, primarily to Western Europe.
Trade and Industry
is endowed with natural resources, including extensive deposits of
natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur,
lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, and precious and semiprecious stones.
Unfortunately, ongoing instability in certain areas of the country,
remote and rugged terrain, and an inadequate infrastructure and
transportation network have made mining these resources difficult, and
there have been few serious attempts to further explore or exploit
them. The first significant investment in the mining sector is expected
to commence soon, with the development of the Aynak copper deposit in
east-central Afghanistan. This project tender, awarded to a Chinese
firm and valued at over $2.5 billion, is the largest international
investment in Afghanistan to date. The Ministry of Mines also plans to
move forward with oil, gas, and possibly iron ore tenders in 2010.
most important resource has been natural gas, first tapped in 1967. At
their peak during the 1980s, natural gas sales accounted for $300
million a year in export revenues (56% of the total). Ninety percent of
these exports went to the Soviet Union to pay for imports and debts.
However, during the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, Afghanistan's
natural gas fields were capped to prevent sabotage by the mujahidin.
Restoration of gas production has been hampered by internal strife and
the disruption of traditional trading relationships following the
collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, efforts are underway to
create Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs). ROZs stimulate badly
needed jobs in underdeveloped areas where extremists lure fighting-age
young men into illicit and destabilizing activities. ROZs encourage
investment by allowing duty-free access to the U.S. for certain goods
produced in Afghanistan.
the “Ring Road” that links Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat with the northern
cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz continues. Much of the road has
now been completed, including economically vital stretches linking
Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat.
Landlocked Afghanistan has no
functioning railways, but the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, which forms part
of Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan,
has barge traffic. During their occupation of the country, the Soviets
completed a bridge across the Amu Darya. The Shirkan Bandar bridge,
reconstructed with U.S. assistance, reopened in 2007 and has opened
vital trade routes between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif railway project is also in progress. The
project aims to increase trade between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan,
reduce transport costs, increase vehicle operation savings, and create
job opportunities in the project area. It will improve Hairatan's
marshaling yard and railway station, construct a new single-track
railway line of about 75 km from Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif, construct a
new transshipment terminal facility at Mazar-e-Sharif, install
signaling and telecommunication systems, install safety features for
efficient operation, develop institutional capacity of the railway
sector, and provide construction supervision and project management
Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana, operates
domestic and international routes, including flights to New Delhi,
Islamabad, Dubai, Moscow, Istanbul, and Tehran. Civil aviation has been
expanding rapidly and several private airlines now offer an
alternative to Ariana and operate a domestic and international route
network. The first, Kam Air, commenced domestic operations in November
For nearly 3 decades, the availability of
secure energy supplies in Afghanistan was significantly disrupted by
conflict. Much of the country's power generation, transmission, and
distribution infrastructure was destroyed, and what remained was
stretched far beyond capacity. More than 90% of the population had no
access to electricity. In January 2009, with the help of the Asian
Development Bank and the Indian Government, electricity began to flow
into Kabul along a newly constructed transmission line running from
neighboring Uzbekistan. For the first time in more than a generation,
the majority of the capital's 4 million people enjoy the benefits of
power. In 2001, Afghanistan produced 430 megawatts of electricity.
Today the country produces more than 754 megawatts. International
statistics maintained by the World Bank indicate the ratio of gross
domestic product (GDP) growth to electrical production is approximately
$1,000 to 300 kwh. The Afghan Government's current power plan sets a
goal to deliver sufficient electricity to meet the needs of an economic
growth rate of 9% per year. Additionally, the Afghan Government
anticipates approximately 90% of urban businesses will have access to
electrical power by the end of 2010. Finally, the plan's objective is
to provide access to electricity to 65% of urban and 25% of rural
households by the end of 2010.
The United States has provided
considerable assistance to help develop new electricity generation
capacity and provide 24-hour power in key cities including Kabul,
Lashkar Gah, and Kandahar. Major projects carried out include
refurbishment of power generation capacity at Kajaki Dam in the south
and opening the Kabul power plant. Under the U.S. and partners’
supervision, the Afghan Government has transferred all assets,
liabilities, and personnel from the troubled, state-run power utility
Da Afghanistan Breshna Mosesa (DABM) to the new corporatized national
electricity utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS). The move was a
significant breakthrough in Afghan Government and donor efforts to
modernize and begin to commercialize the national electricity sector.
affordable electricity is vitally important to Afghan economic growth,
prosperity, and stability. The energy infrastructure continues to be a
priority for the U.S. and other donor nations.
and other explosive remnants of war affect virtually every province in
Afghanistan, a tragic legacy of nearly 3 decades of continuous
conflict. On average, according to the Landmine Monitor program, as
many as 83 people are injured or killed each month in Afghanistan by
these hidden hazards, with children involved in more than half of these
incidents. As in many countries struggling to recover from conflicts,
landmines and unexploded ordnance inhibit development, disrupt markets
and production, prevent the delivery of goods and services, and
generally obstruct reconstruction and stabilization efforts. Removing
these deadly hazards enables socio-economic development that could
further the larger goal of promoting stability and security in
Afghanistan and the wider region.
Many Afghan non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) such as Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan
Rehabilitation (OMAR), Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), Demining
Agency for Afghanistan (DAFA), Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA),
and Mine Detection Center Afghanistan (MDC) have hard-won demining
expertise and experience. The United States works with a wide array of
international partners in mine action efforts in Afghanistan, but the
majority of U.S. financial assistance for demining in Afghanistan goes
directly to Afghan-run NGOs, which have pioneered an approach called
In community-based demining, Afghan
NGOs recruit, train, and employ local workers, in close partnership
with community leaders, to survey and clear explosives. Training local
Afghan demining technicians offers a new skill, allowing the country to
build self-sufficient capabilities to continue resolving its own
issues, as well as lend support to other countries recovering from
conflict in the future.
Community-based demining represents a new
and unique opportunity to link Afghan and U.S. humanitarian,
development, and counterinsurgency objectives. It furnishes jobs that
keep young men employed, establishes trust with local leaders, and
enables local personnel to participate in taking back their community,
thus reinforcing local governance and reducing insurgent influence.
1993, the United States has provided more than $165 million for
humanitarian mine action in Afghanistan, making it the largest
international donor to Afghanistan for this type of assistance.
International and Afghan partners have used these funds to clear more
than 160 million square meters of land and are now extending these
efforts through community-based demining.
Refugees and Internally Displaced People
has had the largest refugee repatriation in the world in the last 30
years. Over 5 million Afghan refugees have returned to the country
since 2002, with 4.4 million receiving repatriation assistance from the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Ministry of
Refugees and Repatriation (MORR) leads the Government of the Islamic
Republic of Afghanistan in assisting its citizens in returning from
exile. The UNHCR leads the international community's response, in
coordination with the International Organization of Migration (IOM),
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP),
the World Health Organization (WHO), and a number of other national and
international NGOs and donors.
In February 2009, UNHCR reported
235,833 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country. The United
States channels a significant amount of aid to refugees, returnees,
IDPs, and other vulnerable conflict victims through agencies such as
UNHCR, the international Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World
Food Program, and numerous non-governmental organizations. The U.S.
also supports various organizations in providing assistance and
protection to the 3.6 million Afghan refugees residing outside
Afghanistan. While anchoring returnees in Afghanistan will remain a
priority for U.S. assistance programs, the U.S. will also continue to
support refugee assistance and protection inside countries of asylum.
Since September 2001, the United States has contributed over $718
million to these programs.
Afghanistan has one
of the highest mortality rates in the world: one in five children dies
before the age of five and one out of every eight Afghan women die from
causes related to pregnancy and childbirth each year. Life expectancy
is only 44 years for both men and women. While these statistics are
tragic, there has been progress. Recent reports indicate that 85% of
the population has access to basic health services within 1 hour of
travel to a health facility (68% for those on foot)--up from 9% in
2002. More than 1,650 professional midwives are employed by the
ministry of public health, providing health care and childbirth
services across Afghanistan. This has helped reduce infant mortality
rates by 23%, saving 80,000 newborn lives each year. Child mortality has
also fallen; down 26% since 2002. The U.S. through various agencies
and in conjunction with the Afghan Government has implemented health
programs to help meet the immediate health care needs of the population
by strengthening the health care service delivery system; addressing
the management leadership and stewardship capacity of the Afghan health
care system at the central, provincial, district, and community
levels; and increasing demand for and access to quality health products
and services through the private sector--60% of the population receive
health care from the private sector.
Insecurity along the
border, especially in the south, has led to a lack of health workers
and an increase in polio cases from seven in 2004 to at least 24 in
2009. The U.S. supports the national Polio Eradication Initiative to
strengthen Afghanistan’s immunization communication, service delivery,
and surveillance networks. As a result of this assistance, more than 7
million Afghan children, or 90% of children under the age of five, have
been vaccinated against polio. The United Sates also supports
tuberculosis (TB) detection, treatment, and control efforts in 13
target provinces using the Directly Observed Therapy, Short Course
(DOTS) methodology. Globally recognized as the best way to cure TB and
control its spread, DOTS is a 6- to 8-month program in which health
providers directly administer medication and closely monitor patient
To strengthen the private sector and foster best
practices, the U.S. is supporting private hospitals, pharmacists, and
pharmaceutical manufacturers in the development of professional
Afghanistan has made impressive
advances in increasing basic education. More than 10,000 schools are
providing education services to 6.3 million children, a six-fold
enrollment growth since 2001. During the Taliban regime no girls were
registered in schools. Today, 36.3% of the student population is
girls. Similarly, the number of teachers has increased seven-fold to
142,500, of whom nearly 40,000 are women.
activities increased rapidly in 2009. Learning centers grew from 1,100
to 6,865, and activities expanded from 9 to 20 provinces, bringing
literacy and financial services to over 169,000 beneficiaries (62%
female). From a situation of total illiteracy, these learners can now
read, write, form simple sentences, and do basic mathematical
calculations. Ongoing support of literacy and basic education is
paramount, as well as the quality and preparation of teachers in order
to close the literacy gap left by 30 years of conflict.
is an active member of the international community, and has diplomatic
relations with countries around the world. In December 2002, the six
nations that border Afghanistan signed a 'Good Neighbor' Declaration,
in which they pledged to respect Afghanistan's independence and
territorial integrity. Afghanistan and its South Asia neighbors meet
annually at the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference (RECC),
promoting intra-regional relations and economic cooperation.
the war against the Soviet occupation, Pakistan served as the primary
logistical conduit for the Afghan resistance. Pakistan initially
developed close ties to the Taliban regime, and extended recognition in
1997. However, after September 11, 2001 Pakistan altered its policy in
support of coalition efforts to remove the Taliban. Although frictions
and suspicions persist, Afghanistan and Pakistan are engaged in
dialogue to resolve bilateral issues such as border security,
immigration, and trade. Regular meetings are held at the head of state
and ministerial levels through a trilateral dialogue between
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Pakistan is also seeking to repatriate
its Afghan refugee population, which is concentrated mostly in the
Northwestern Frontier Province.
relations with Iran have fluctuated over the years, with periodic
disputes over the water rights of the Helmand River as the main issue
of contention. Following the Soviet invasion, which Iran opposed,
relations deteriorated. Iran supported the cause of the Afghan
resistance and provided financial and military assistance to rebel
leaders who pledged loyalty to the Iranian vision of Islamic revolution.
Following the emergence of the Taliban and their harsh treatment of
Afghanistan's Shi'a minority, Iran stepped up assistance to the Northern
Alliance. Relations with the Taliban deteriorated further in 1998
after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif and
executed Iranian diplomats. Since the fall of the Taliban,
Afghanistan's relations with Iran have improved. Iran has been active
in Afghan reconstruction efforts, particularly in the western portion
of the country.
In order to diversify
supply routes to Afghanistan to meet immediate military needs, U.S.
military planners have adopted the Northern Distribution Network (NDN),
a commercially based logistical corridor connecting Baltic and Black
Sea ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.
Its establishment also offers an opportunity for the United States to
help facilitate intraregional trade. Such commerce can provide
sustainable income for Afghanistan and Central Asia, deepen
Afghanistan's integration with neighboring states, and contribute to
Over the past few years, Afghanistan and its
northern neighbors have opened several fronts on which to build trust
and economic cooperation. In 2003 the Central Asia Trans State Share
Company founded AFCAT--a joint Uzbek-Afghan cargo transportation
company. At last count, 122 Afghan enterprises were registered in
Uzbekistan, 39 of which operated with 100% Afghan investment.
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are in various stages of supplying
electricity to northern Afghanistan and Kabul. Turkmenistan and
Afghanistan are seeking closer cooperation through a broad package of
mutual cooperation that includes reiteration of support for a
trans-Afghan gas pipeline, transit of Turkmen electricity to
neighboring countries of Afghanistan, extension of a Turkmen rail
network to Afghanistan, and a common struggle against narcotics and
terrorism. Efforts are underway by the Central Asian countries to stem
the flow of drugs and fighters crossing in and out of Afghanistan while
facilitating the movement of licit goods and services.
UN has played an important role in Afghanistan for more than 20 years,
assisting in the repatriation of Afghan refugees and providing
humanitarian aid. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA),
launched in October 2001, was instrumental in helping restore peace and
stability in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, organizing the
Afghan presidential elections held in October 2004 and National
Assembly elections held in 2005.
On March 22, 2010, the
15-member UN Security Council unanimously approved UN Security Council
Resolution 1917, renewing the mandate of the United Nations Assistance
Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Resolution 1917 recognized the key role
the UN plays in coordinating international efforts in Afghanistan and
the critical support UNAMA provides to the Afghan Government on matters
of security, governance, and regional cooperation. The UN is expected
to play a critical role implementing the commitments made by the Afghan
Government and the international community at the January 2010 London
Conference. A new Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General
for Afghanistan (SRSG), Staffan de Mistura of Sweden, was appointed on
January 28, 2010. Resolution 1917 mandates that UNAMA and the SRSG
continue to lead international civilian efforts on the rule of law,
transitional justice, anti-corruption, realizing the Afghan
Government’s development and governance priorities, and strengthening
cooperation between ISAF and the NATO Civilian Representative to
improve civilian-military coordination. UNAMA website:
the fall of the Taliban, the U.S. supported the emergence of a
broad-based government, representative of all Afghans, and actively
encouraged a UN role in the national reconciliation process in
Afghanistan. The U.S. has made a long-term commitment to help
Afghanistan rebuild itself after years of war. The U.S. and others in
the international community currently provide resources and expertise to
Afghanistan in a variety of areas, including humanitarian relief and
assistance, capacity-building, security needs, counter-narcotic
programs, and infrastructure projects.
During his December 1,
2009 speech at West Point, President Barack Obama laid down the core of
U.S. goals in Afghanistan, which are to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat
al-Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return
to Afghanistan. While the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan is not
open-ended, the United States plans to remain politically,
diplomatically, and economically engaged in Afghanistan for the long
term. The United States is willing to support fully the ambitious
agenda set out by the recently re-elected Afghan president, focusing on
reintegration, economic development, improving relations with
Afghanistan’s regional partners, and steadily increasing the security
responsibilities of Afghan security forces. Rapid progress on this
agenda is important and requires international support. Toward this
end, the U.S. is encouraging the Afghan Government to take strong
actions to combat corruption and improve governance, and to provide
better services for the people of Afghanistan, while maintaining and
expanding on the important democratic reforms and advances in women’s
rights that have been made since 2001.