Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlockedcountry located in Central Asia and South Asia. It has a population of around 30 million inhabiting an area of approximately 652,000 km2 (252,000 sq mi), making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan and Indiain the south and the east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.
Afghanistan has been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and human migration. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation from as far back as the Middle Paleolithic. Urban civilization may have begun in the area as early as 3,000 to 2,000 BC.Sitting at an important geostrategic location that connects the Middle East culture with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the land has been home to various peoples through the ages and witnessed many military campaigns, notably by Alexander the Great,Arab Muslims, Genghis Khan, and in modern-era Western forces. The land also served as a source from which the Kushans,Hephthalites, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Mughals, Durranis and others have risen to form major empires.
The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan begins in 1709 with the rise of the Pashtuns - historically known as "Afghans" - when the Hotaki dynasty was established in Kandahar followed by the rise of the Durrani Empire in 1747. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between British India and the Russian Empire. Following the 1919 Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah began a European style modernization of the country but was stopped by ultra-conservatives. During theCold War, after the withdrawal of the British from neighboring India in 1947, the United States and the Soviet Union began spreading influences in Afghanistan, which led in 1979 to a bloody war between the US-backed mujahideen forces and the Soviet-backed Afghan government in which over a million Afghans lost their lives. This was followed by a 1990s civil war, the rise and fall of the extremistTaliban government, and the 2001–present war. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of theInternational Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help maintain security in Afghanistan and assist the Karzai administration.
Three decades of war made Afghanistan one of the world's most dangerous countries. While the international community is rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan, terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Hezbi Islami are actively involved in a nationwide Taliban-ledinsurgency, which includes hundreds of assassinations and suicide attacks According to the United Nations, the insurgents were responsible for 80% of civilian casualties in 2011 and 2012.
In September 1979, Khalqist President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency. Distrusted by the Soviets, Amin was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December 1979. A Soviet-organized government, led by Parcham's Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions, filled the vacuum. Soviet troops were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal in more substantial numbers, although the Soviet government did not expect to do most of the fighting in Afghanistan. As a result, however, the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan.
At the time some believed the Soviets were attempting to expand their borders southward in order to gain a foothold in the Middle East. The Soviet's movement south seemed to position them for further expansion toward Pakistan in the East, and Iran to the West. American politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, feared the Soviets were positioning themselves for a takeover of Middle Eastern oil. Others believed that the Soviet Union was afraid Iran's Islamic Revolution and Afghanistan's Islamization would spread to the millions of Muslims in the USSR. The PDPA prohibited usury, made statements on women's rights by declaring equality of the sexes and introducing women to political life.
After the invasion, President Jimmy Carter announced what became known as the Carter Doctrine: that the US would not allow any other outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf. He terminated the Soviet Wheat Deal in January 1980, which was intended to establish trade with USSR and lessen Cold War tensions. The grain exports had been beneficial to people employed in agriculture, and the Carter embargo marked the beginning of hardship for American farmers. That same year, Carter also made two of the most unpopular decisions of his entire Presidency: prohibiting American athletes from participating in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and reinstating registration for the draft for young males. Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous US contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghan refugees.
The Reagan administration increased arming and funding of the mujahideen as part of the Reagan Doctrine, thanks in large part to the efforts ofCharlie Wilson and CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Early reports estimated $6–20 billion but more recent reports suggest that up to $40 billion were provided by the United States and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan This was in the forms of cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles.
The 10-year Soviet war resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Afghans, mostly civilians. About 6 million fled to Pakistan and Iran, and from there tens of thousands began emigrating to the European Union, United States, Australia and other parts of the world. Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties, the Soviets withdrew in 1989 but continued to support Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah until 1992.
Afghanistan is an impoverished and least developed country, one of the world's poorest because of decades of war and lack of foreign investment. As of 2012, the nation's GDP stands at about $34.29 billion with an exchange rate of $19.91 billion, and the GDP per capita is $1,100. The country's export was $2.6 billion in 2010. Its unemployment rate is about 35% and roughly the same percentage of its citizens live below the poverty line. About 42% of the population live on less than $1 a day, according to a 2009 report. The nation has less than $1.5 billion external debt and is recovering by the assistance of the world community.
The Afghan economy has been growing at about 10% per year in the last decade, which is due to the infusion of over $50 billion in international aid and remittances from Afghan expats. It is also due to improvements made to the transportation system and agricultural production, which is the backbone of the nation's economy. The country is known for producing some of the finest pomegranates, grapes, apricots, melons, and several other fresh and dry fruits, including nuts. Many sources indicate that as much as 11% or more of Afghanistan's economy is derived from the cultivation and sale of opium, and Afghanistan is widely considered the world's largest producer of opium despite Afghan government and international efforts to eradicate the crop.