GEOGRAPHY - Area: 652,225 km ². Local Time: +7 h30. Climate: subtropical arid (mostly). Capital: Kabul. Cities: Kabul (1.424,400), Kandahar (225,500), Herat (177,300), Mazar-e-Sharif (130,600).
POPULATION - 28 million; Nationality: Afghan, composition: 38% * Pashtuns, Tajiks 25%, 19% Hazaras, Uzbeks 6%, other 12% (1996). Languages: Dari, Pashto * (official). Religion: Islam 98.1%, other 1.8% (2010).
FOREIGN AFFAIRS - Organizations: World Bank, IMF, UN. Embassy: 2341 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008, USA.
GOVERNMENT - Republic presidential. Administrative Div: 34 provinces. President: Hamid Karzai (since 2001, elected in 2004). Parties: in training. Legislative branch: bicameral - House of the People (250 members) and House of Elders (with representatives of provincial councils, district and members appointed by the president). Constitution: 2004.
The fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, triggered by the military offensive of the United States (USA), starts a new chapter in the contentious history of Afghanistan. Located in Central Asia, the country is at war for over two decades. Islamic guerrillas (mujahideen) joined in the fight against the Soviet invasion from 1979 to 1989. When the occupation forces were expelled, these same fighters, divided into religious and ethnic factions, began to fight among themselves. The Taliban militia has emerged on the scene in Afghan 1995.Nos years, took control over 90% of the territory and the country became an Islamic theocracy. The shelter given to Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden led the Taliban to isolation and military defeat. An ally of the U.S. government takes office, with the challenge of pacifying the country. In 2004, the Loya Jirga, traditional Afghan assembly, approved the new constitution.
Since antiquity, the region corresponding to present-day Afghanistan is the confluence of commerce and conquest in Asia. The earliest civilizations, of which little is known, there are more than 2500 years. Around 500 BC, the region is part of the Persian Empire under Darius I. A century later, is occupied by Alexander the Great of Macedon (356 BC-323 BC) who founded the city of Alexandroupolis, Kandahar today, which now play an important role in the spread of Hellenistic culture in Central Asia. People of Celtic origin founded in the second century BC, the Kushan Empire, responsible for the spread of Buddhism and its entry into China. The region is integrated into the Persian Sassanid Empire in the third century to the seventh century, when it starts to Islamic influence. The Mongol rule begins in the twelfth century, with Genghis Khan (1155? -1227), And extends until the sixteenth century. Only in 1747 the monarch Ahmad Shah Durrani unified the region and strengthen the state and founded a dynasty that remains in power until 1973. In 1880, the monarchy is placed under British protection, which lasts until independence in 1919. Soviet invasion in 1973, former Prime Minister Daud Khan, sympathetic to the Soviet Union (USSR), overthrew the king Mohammad Zahir Shah and proclaimed the Republic. In 1978, Daud is overthrown and executed by the military. A communist-inspired regime is adopted, with opposition from Islamic guerrillas. In 1979, Soviet troops invaded the country and put in power Babrak Karmal, Mohammad succeeded by Nadjibollah in 1986.A USSR can not defeat Afghan Islamic fighters, called mujahideen, armed and supported by the U.S., Iran and Pakistan, and retires in 1989 . The pro-Moscow government resigns in 1992, rival guerrilla factions and begins a new phase of the war. A Loya Jirga - a traditional council of notables formed by tribal leaders, religious authorities and elders - install a moderate Islamist government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani. But the real power lies with corrupt regional warlords and armed gangs.
Taliban on the scene - In early 1995, the Taliban Islamic militia (plural of Talib, which means student, in Pashto) gains power in the country. It is a group of fundamentalist Sunni Pashtun, emerged from religious schools (madrassas) in Pakistan and backed by the government of that country. In September 1996, the Taliban conquer Kabul and establishing the Sharia, Islamic law. Women are forbidden from working and forced to wear the burka, costume that covers the entire body including the face. In August 1998, the Taliban dominates 90% of the territory to take Mazar-e-Sharif, the last major city in opposition Northern Alliance, led by former Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Masood, whose troops are restricted to the northern territory. That same month, the U.S. fire missiles at suspected terrorist training camps in the country as retaliation for attacks against its embassies in Africa, through which the Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden, protected the Taliban, is blamed. The United Nations (UN) announced in 1999, sanctions against the country until the government extradite bin Laden.
In March 2001, as a result of a campaign by the Taliban to destroy all the objects of idolatry of the country, the militia demolished two gigantic statues of Buddha, declared patrimony of humanity. UN figures indicate that, under the command of the Taliban, the country became the world's largest producer of opium - a drug extracted from opium and raw material for heroin. On September 9, Shah Masood is killed in an attack attributed to bin Laden.
Anglo-American attacks - The United States accuses bin Laden and al Qaeda attacks of September 11 in New York and Washington require delivery of the Saudi not to attack Afghanistan. Mullah Mohammed Omar, leader of the Taliban and bin Laden's father, not expelled. In October, the U.S. and UK bombing Afghan cities. Pakistan supports the U.S. and the Taliban loses its ally. The attacks cause the flight of thousands of civilians to Pakistan. The Northern Alliance takes advantage of the Anglo-American military aid and advances.
Fall of the Taliban - About 500 Taliban fighters killed in November, in an offensive in the Northern Alliance supported by U.S. forces. Then, the alliance took Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul. Mullah Omar flees the Qandahar in December and the saddle was the last step of the Taliban. The U.S. does not capture Bin Laden or Omar. The Afghans celebrate the end of the regime. Movies and TV stations are reopened. Women take over the right not to wear the burka and work and study.
New government - moderate Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai, with U.S. support and the ex-king Zahir Shah, is chosen to form an interim government from December 2001.Um contingent of 5500 soldiers of the International Security Force for Afghanistan (ISAF), the UN, arrives in the country in January 2002. Karzai is chosen in June by the Loya Jirga to continue as head of the provisional government. The other factions of the opposition becomes more evident and violent. Representatives from more than 60 countries willing to help in rebuilding the Afghan economy meet only 4.5 billion dollars, less than half the 10 billion that the UN considers necessary.
Return of the Rebels - In early 2003 it is clear that the Taliban is reorganizing. At the same time, enhance the conflicts in the north. In March, U.S. forces in Afghanistan launched an air and ground offensive against the Taliban. In June the U.S. starts another attack in the south. In August, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Western military alliance, takes control of security in Kabul. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warns that opium accounts for half the income of Afghanistan. In October, the UN Security Council allows the expansion of operations of the peacekeeping forces outside Kabul.
Constitution and elections - In January 2004, the Loya Jirga approves a new constitution establishing a presidential system of Islam, with equal rights for both sexes. The Constitution also seeks to balance ethnic conflicts. In March, Karzai gets international funds worth 8.2 billion dollars over three years. The attacks continue, but presidential elections are scheduled for October. Karzai, who had escaped several attempts, in September is the target of a missile fired unsuccessfully, in the direction of the helicopter as it was. The following month, he gets 55% of the votes and is elected for a term of five years. The opium war intensifies. In December, farmers complain of a chemical spray against plantations, whose authorship is not assumed neither by government nor by the Americans, who control the country militarily.
Main ethnic groups
Set in a desert and mountainous territory, Afghanistan has been the subject since antiquity, invasions and conquests. Throughout history, becomes a meeting point of cultures and ethnicities. The main groups are the Pashtuns (ethnic group of President Hamid Karzai), Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. The remaining population consists of nomadic tribes living in the region for centuries, attracted by the trade along the Silk Road that connected China with the West. It is estimated that there are in Afghanistan 1200 ethnic-tribal armed factions. Controlled by "warlords" - regional warlords - these groups have digladiado in the power struggle, almost always in the hands of the Pashtun majority. During the Taliban regime (a Pashtun), Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, not always coexisted harmoniously unite in coalition Northern Alliance. The new Constitution establishes the Pashtun and Dari (Persian) language as the state, but also supports the use of uzbeki, the Turkmen, Baluchi's, the pashaei of nuristano and "other languages spoken in the country."