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Afghanistan History


Afghanistan History

Written by AfghanSite Network. Posted in Afghanistan History

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All About Afghanistan

Introduction: Afghanistan is located in the heart of Central Asia. The country is officially named the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Pashtu: D'Afghanistan Islami Emarat). It has an area of some 251,825 square miles (652,225 square kilometers) and is completely landlocked. The nearest coast lying along the Arabian Sea is about 300 miles to the south. Its longest border, of 1,125 miles (1,810 kilometers), is with Pakistan, to the east and south. The 510-mile border in the west separates Afghanistan from Iran. Afghanistan also has about 200-mile border with the part of Jammu and Kashmir claimed by Pakistan. The combined length of Afghanistan's northern borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan is 1,050 miles. The shortest border, 50 miles, is with the Uighur Autonomous Region of Sinkiang of the People's Republic of China, at the end of Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor), in the extreme northeast. The capital of Afghanistan and its largest populated cityis Kabul, which is located in the east-central part of the country at an altitude of about 5,900 feet (l,800 meters). The city is connected by road to most Afghan provinces and neighboring countries to the north and east. 

The current boundaries of Afghanistan were established in the late 19th century in the context of rivalry with Britain and Russia. Modern Afghanistan became a pawn in struggles over political ideology and commercial influence. In the late 20th century Afghanistan suffered ruinous effects of prolonged civil war (the 90's), invasion by the Soviet Union (1979), and Soviet military presence (1979-89)

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Afghanistan's shape has been compared to a leaf, of which the Vakhan strip forms the stem. The outstanding geographic feature of Afghanistan is its mountain range, the Hindu Kush. This formidable range is a barrier between the comparatively fertile northern provinces and the rest of the country, it creates the major pitch of Afghanistan from northeast to southwest. The Hindu Kush, when it reaches a point some 100 miles north of Kabul, spreads out and continues westward under the names of Baba, Bamyan, Safid Kuh (Paropamisus), and others, each section in turn sending spurs in different directions. One of these spurs is the Torkestan Mountains, which extend northwestward. Other important ranges include the Kasa Murgh, south of the Hari River; the Hesar Mountains, which extend northward; and two formidable ranges, the Mazar and the Khurd, extending in a southwestern direction. On the eastern frontier with Pakistan, several mountain ranges effectively isolate the interior of the country from the rain-laden winds that blow from the Indian Ocean, accounting for the dryness of the climate. The Hindu Kush and subsidiary ranges divide Afghanistan into three distinct geographic regions, which roughly can be designated as the Central Highlands, the Northern Plains, and the Southwestern Plateau. The Central Highlands, actually a part of the Himalayan chain, include the main Hindu Kush range. Its area of about 160,000 square miles is a region of deep, narrow valleys and lofty mountains, some peaks of which rise above 21,000 feet. High mountain passes, generally situated between 12,000 and 15,000 feet above sea level, are of great strategic importance and include the Shebar Pass, located northwest of Kabul where the Baba Mountains meet the Hindu Kush, and the Khyber Pass, which leads to the Indian subcontinent, on the Pakistan border southeast of Kabul. The Badakhshan area in the northeastern part of the Central Highlands is the location of the epicentres for many of the 50 or so earthquakes that occur in the country each year. The Northern Plains region, north of the Central Highlands, extends eastward from the Iranian border to the foothills of the Pamirs, near the border with Tajikistan. It comprises 40,000 square miles of plains and fertile foothills sloping gently toward the Amu River (the ancient Oxus River). This area is a part of the much larger Central Asian steppe, from which it is separated by the Amu River. The average elevation is about 2,000 feet. The Northern Plains region is intensively cultivated and densely populated. In addition to fertile soils, the region possesses rich mineral resources, particularly deposits of natural gas and oil. The Southwestern Plateau, south of the Central Highlands, is a region of high plateaus, sandy deserts, and semi-deserts. The average altitude is about 3,000 feet. The Southwestern Plateau covers about 50,000 square miles, one-fourth of which forms the sandy Rigestan Desert. The smaller Morgowb Desert of salt flats and desolate steppe lies west of the Rigestan Desert. Several large rivers cross the Southwestern Plateau; among them are the Helmand River and its major tributary, the Arghandab. Most of Afghanistan lies between 2,000 and 10,000 feet in elevation. Along the Amu River in the north and the delta of the Helmand River in the southwest, the altitude is about 2,000 feet. The Sistan depression of the Southwestern Plateau, 1,500 to 1,700 feet in elevation, was the seat of a flourishing ancient civilization that was ended in the 14th century by Timur (Tamerlane).


Practically the entire drainage system of Afghanistan is enclosed within the country. Only the rivers in the east, which drain an area of 32,000 square miles, reach the sea. The Kabul River, the major eastern stream, flows into the Indus River in Pakistan, which empties into the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. Almost all the other important rivers of the country originate in the Central Highlands region and empty into inland lakes or dry up in sandy deserts. The major drainage systems are those of the Amu, Helmand, Kabul, and HariRoad. The Amu, a 1,578-mile-long river originating in the glaciers of the Pamirs, drains an area of approximately 93,000 square miles in the northeastern and northern parts of the country. It forms the frontier between Afghanistan and the republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for about 600 miles of its upper course. Two of its major Afghan tributaries, the Kowkcheh and the Qonduz, rise in the mountains of Badakhshan and Konduz provinces. The Amu becomes navigable from its confluence with the Kowkcheh, 60 miles west of the city of Feyzabad. It empties into the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. The northwestern drainage system is dominated by the HariRoad River, originating on the western slopes of the Baba Mountains, at an altitude of 9,000 feet. The river flows westward, just south of Herat and across the broad Herat Valley. After irrigating the fertile lands of the valley, the Hari River turns north about 80 miles west of Herat and forms the border between Afghanistan and Iran for a distance of 65 miles. It then crosses into Turkmenistan and disappears in the Kara-Kum Desert. The principal river in the southwest is the 715-mile-long Helmand, which rises in the Baba Mountains, about 50 miles west of Kabul. With its many tributaries, mainly the Arghandab, it drains more than 100,000 square miles. The river empties into the Saberi, an inland lake. In its course through the southern region of the country, the Helmand flows north of the Rigestan Desert and then crosses the Margow Desert until it reaches a region of seasonal lakes in the Sistan depression. The largest drainage system in the southeastern region is that of the Kabul River, which flows eastward from the slopes of the Mazar Range to join the Indus River at Attock, Pak. Its major tributary in the south is the Lowgar. Afghanistan has few lakes of any considerable size. The two most important are Lake Saberi in the southwest and the saline Lake Istadeh-ye Moqor, situated 60 miles south of Ghazni in the southeast. There are five small lakes in the Baba Mountains known as the Amir lakes; they are noted for their unusual shades of colour, from milky white to dark green, caused by the underlying bedrock.


The country possesses extremes in the quality of its soils. The Central Highlands have desert-steppe or meadow-steppe types of soil. The Northern Plains have extremely rich, fertile, loess like soils, while the Southwestern Plateau has infertile desert soils except along the rivers in the southwest, where alluvial deposits can be found. Erosion is very much in evidence in the Central Highlands, especially in the regions affected by seasonal monsoons and heavy precipitation.


In general, Afghanistan has extremely cold winters and hot summers, typical of a semiarid steppe climate. There are many regional variations, however. While the mountain regions of the northeast have a sub arctic climate with dry, cold winters, the mountainous areas on the border of Pakistan are influenced by the Indian monsoons, usually coming between July and September and bringing maritime tropical air masses with humidity and rains. In addition, strong winds blow almost daily in the southwest during the summer. Local variation is also produced by differences in altitude. The weather in winter and early spring is strongly influenced by cold air masses from the north and the Atlantic low depression from the northwest; these two air masses bring snowfall and severe cold in the highlands and rain in the lower altitudes. Afghanistan has a wide range of temperatures. High temperatures over 95 F (35 C) have been recorded in the drought-ridden Southwestern Plateau region. In Jalalabad, one of the hottest localities in the country, the highest temperature of 120 F (49 C) has been recorded in July. January temperatures may drop to 5 F (-15 C) and below in the high mountain areas, while at the city of Kabul, located at an altitude of 5,900 feet, the lowest temperature has been recorded at -24 F (-31 C). In the mountains the annual mean precipitation increases from west to east; there, as in the southeastern monsoon region, it averages about 16 inches (400 millimeters). The extremes of precipitation have been recorded in the Salang Pass of the Hindu Kush, with the highest annual precipitation of 53 inches, and in the arid region of Farah in the west, with only three inches a year. Most of the country's precipitation occurs from December to April; in the highlands snow falls from December to March, while in the lowlands it rains intermittently from December to April or May. The summer months are hot, dry, and cloudless everywhere but in the monsoon region.

Plant & Animal Life

Vegetation is sparse in the southern part of the country, particularly toward the west, where dry regions and sandy deserts predominate. Trees are rare, and only in the rainy season of early spring is the soil covered with flowering grasses and herbs. The plant cover becomes more dense toward the north, where precipitation is more abundant; and at higher altitudes the plants are almost luxuriant, particularly in the mountainous region north of Jalalabad, where the climate is influenced by the monsoons. The high mountains abound in large forest trees, among which conifers, such as pine and fir, predominate. Some of these trees are 180 feet high. The average altitude for the fir line is over 10,000 feet. At lower altitudes, somewhere between 5,500 and 7,200 feet, cedar is abundant; below the fir and cedar lines, oak, walnut, alder, ash, and juniper trees can be found. There are also shrubs, several varieties of roses, honeysuckle, hawthorn, and currant and gooseberry bushes. Most of the wild animals of the subtropical temperate zone inhabit Afghanistan. Large mammals, formerly abundant, are now greatly reduced in numbers. The Siberian tiger, which inhabited the banks of the Amu River, has all but disappeared, as have the tigers that inhabited the southeastern region. There is still a great variety of wild animals roaming the mountains and foothills, including wolves, foxes, striped hyenas, and jackals. Gazelles, wild dogs, and wild cats, such as snow leopards, are widespread. Wild goats, including the markhor (prized for its long, twisted horns) and the ibex (with long, backward-curving horns), can be found in the Pamirs, and wild sheep, including the urial and argali (or Marco Polo sheep), in the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush. Brown bears are found in the mountains and forests. Smaller animals, such as mongooses, moles, shrews, hedgehogs, bats, and several species of kangaroo rat (jerboas), may be found in the many isolated, sparsely populated areas. Birds of prey include vultures, which occur in great numbers, and eagles. Migratory birds abound during the spring and fall seasons. There are also many pheasant, quail, cranes, pelicans, snipe, partridge, and crows. There are many varieties of freshwater fish in the rivers, streams, and lakes, but their numbers are not great except on the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush, where the rivers are well stocked with brown trout.


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Ethno Linguistic Groups

The people of Afghanistan form a mosaic of ethnic and linguistic groups. Pashtu (Pashto) and Dari, , are Indo-European languages; they are the official languages of the country. More than sixty five percent of the population speaks Pashto, the language of the Pashtoons, while the rest of the population speaks Dari,{the language of the Tajiks, Hazaras, Chahar Aimaks, and Kizilbash peoples and other Indo-European languages, spoken by smaller groups, include Western Dardic (Nuristani or Kafiri)}, Baluchi, and a number of Indic and Pamiri languages spoken principally in isolated valleys in the northeast, Turkic languages, a subfamily of the Altaic languages, are spoken by the Uzbek and Turkmen peoples, the most recent settlers, who are related to peoples from the steppes of Central Asia. The Turkic languages are closely related. Within Afghanistan they include Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz, the last spoken by a small group in the extreme northeast. (see also Index: Pashtu language, Dari language, Dardic languages, Balochi language, Turkic languages) The present population of Afghanistan contains a number of elements, which, in the course of history and as a result of large-scale migration and conquests, have been superimposed upon one another. Dravidians, Indo-Aryans, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols have at different times inhabited the country and influenced its culture and ethnography. Intermixture of the two principal linguistic groups is evident in such peoples as the Hazaras and Chahar Aimaks, who speak Indo-European languages but have pronounced Mongoloid physical characteristics and cultural traits usually associated with Central Asia. The Pashtoons of Afghanistan predominantly inhabit the southern and eastern parts of the country but are also well represented in the west and north. They are divided into a number of clans, some sedentary and others nomadic. The traditional homeland of the Pashtuns lies in an area east, south, and southwest of Kabul; many live in contiguous territory of Pakistan. The two most politically important groups of the Pashtoon are the Durranis, who live in the area around the city of Qandahar, and the Ghilzays, who inhabit the region between Kabul and Qandahar. The Durranis formed the modern nucleus of Afghanistan's social and political elite. The Tajiks, mostly farmers and artisans, live in the Kabul and Badakhshan provinces of the northeast and the Herat region in the west; there are also pockets of Tajiks in other areas. They are sedentary in the plains and semi-sedentary in the higher valleys. The Tajiks are not divided into clear-cut tribal groups. The Nuristanis, who speak Western Dardic, inhabit an area of some 5,000 square miles in Laghman, Nangarhar, and Konar provinces, north and east of Kabul. The Hazaras traditionally occupy the central mountainous region of Hazarajat. Because of the scarcity of land, however, many have migrated to other parts of the country. The Hazaras speak a Dari dialect that contains a number of Turkish and Mongolian words. The Chahar Aimaks are probably of Turkic or Turco-Mongolian origin, judging by their Mongoloid physical appearance and their housing of Mongolian-style yurts. They are located mostly in the western part of the central mountain region. The Uzbeks and Turkmens inhabit a region north of the Hindu Kush, and there are small numbers of Kyrgyz in the Vakhan in the extreme northeast. The Uzbeks are usually farmers, while the Turkmens and Kyrgyz are mainly semi-nomadic herdsmen. The Uzbeks are the largest Turkic-speaking group in Afghanistan. There are also other smaller Turco-Mongolian groups. Afghanistan has very small ethnic groups of Dravidian and Semitic speakers. Dravidian languages are spoken by the Brahuis, residing in the extreme south. There are also a small number of Jews, most of whom speak Dari in their daily lives but use Hebrew for religious ceremonies.


Pashtoo Language: Also called PUSHTU, PAKHTO, or AFGHAN, Indo-European language spoken by the Pashtoon in Afghanistan and northern-western and western Pakistan. Its dialects fall into two main divisions: the southern, which preserves the ancient sh (as in "Pashtu"), and the northern and eastern, which has kh (as in "Pakhtu") sound. Written in a modified Arabic alphabet, Pashtu shows strong Sansicrit influence, some Arabic and Persian loanwords, and numerous archaic Sinsicrit features. It has been attested from the beginning of the 16th century and became prominent after the creation of the Afghan state in the 18th century. In 1936 Pashtu was declared the national and official language of Afghanistan, and instruction in it is now compulsory. Dari was the other official languge. Pashto literature exists from the 7th century The first Psshtu poem that has bee documented was writen in the 7th century by Amir Karoor (Le Ma Atal Nashta). The national poet of Afghanistan, Khushhal Khan (1613-94), chief to the Khatak clan, wrote spontaneous and forceful poetry of great charm. His grandson Afdal Khan was the author of a history of the Pashtoon. Popular mystical poets were 'Abd ar-Rahman and 'Abd al-Hamid, in the late 17th or early 18th century, and Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the modern Afghan nation, was himself a poet. The Pashtu Academy publishes a variety of literary works. Dari Laguage: Member of the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian family of languages; it is, along with Pashto, one of the two official languages of Afghanistan. Dari is the Afghan dialect of Farsi (Persian). It is written in a modified Arabic alphabet, and it has many Arabic and Persian loanwords. The syntax of Dari does not differ greatly from Farsi, but the stress accent is less prominent in Dari than in Farsi. To mark attribution, Dari uses the suffix -ra. The vowel system of Dari differs from that of Farsi, and Dari also has additional consonants. About one-third of the population of Afghanistan, i.e., about 5,000,000 people (Tadzhik, Uzbak, Turkman, Hazarah, Some Pashtoon), speak Dari. It is the primary language of the Tadzhik, Hazara, and Chahar Aimak peoples. Dari, rather than Pashto, serves as the means of communication between speakers of different languages in Afghanistan. Balochi Language: Also spelled BALUCHI, or BELUCHI, modern Iranian language of the Indo-Iranian group of the Indo-European language family. Balochi speakers live mainly in an area now composed of parts of southeastern Iran and southwestern Pakistan that was once the historic region of Balochistan. They also live in Central Asia (near Merv, Turkmenistan) and southwestern Afghanistan, and there are colonies in Oman, southern Arabia, and along the east coast of Africa as far south as Kenya. Balochi is a Western Iranian language that is closely related to Kurdish. Despite the vast area over which it is spoken, its six dialects (Rakhshani, Sarawani, Kechi, Lotuni, the Eastern Hill dialects, and the coastal dialects) are all believed to be mutually intelligible. There are an estimated 4,800,000 worldwide speakers of Balochi Mostly in (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran). Turkic Language: Group of closely related languages that form a subfamily of the Altaic languages. The Turkic languages show close similarities to each other in phonology, morphology, and syntax, though Chuvash, Khalaj, and Yakut differ considerably from the rest. The earliest linguistic records are Old Turkic inscriptions, found near the Orhon River in Mongolia and the Yenisey River valley in south-central Russia, which date from the 8th century AD. (see also Index: Orhon inscriptions) Classification: The Turkic languages may be classified according to linguistic, historical, and geographic criteria into the following branches: 1. The southwestern, or Oguz, branch includes Turkish (Ottoman Turkish), Gagauz, Azeri (Azerbaijani), Turkmen, and Khorasan Turkic. (see also Index: Southwestern Turkic languages, Turkish language, Gagauz language, Azerbaijani language, Turkmen language) 2. The northwestern, or Kipchak, branch includes Kazak, Karakalpak, Nogay, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Bashkir, West Siberian dialects, Crimean Tatar, Kumyk, Karachay-Balkar, and Karaite. 3. The southeastern, or Uighur-Chagatai, branch includes Uzbek, Uighur, Yellow Uighur, and Salar (of Oguz origin). 4. The northeastern, or Siberian, branch includes Yakut (Sakha), Dolgan, Altay, Khakas, Shor, Tuvan, and Tofa. 5. Chuvash, a strongly divergent language of the Volga region. 6. Khalaj, a strongly divergent language of central Iran. The development of distinct Turkic literary languages began in the 8th century in Central Asia. The Uighur literary language flourished in the 9th-14th century, and the Qarakhanid literary language came into existence in the 11th century. Khwarezmian (13th-14th century) and Chagatai (15th-16th century), the latter with its postclassical products of the 17th-19th century, were the antecedents of the modern Uzbek and Uighur (New-Uighur) literary languages. In the Oguz group, Turkish has the most significant literary tradition. Its antecedent is the Ottoman Turkish language, which developed from the Old Anatolian Turkish literary language (13th-15th century) of the Seljuq Turks, the first Turkish conquerors of Anatolia (11th century). The Arabic script was generally used by all Turkic peoples writing Turkic languages until the early 1920s, when the Latin script began to be introduced to the Turkic peoples of the Soviet Union. After 1939 the Latin script was almost completely replaced in the Soviet Union by modified forms of the Cyrillic alphabet. Turkey officially adopted a Latin script in 1928. Currently, the Arabic alphabet is used only by Turkic peoples living in China, Iran, and the Arab countries. Linguistic characteristics: One notable characteristic of the Turkic languages is vowel harmony. The vowels are of two kinds--front vowels, which are produced at the front of the mouth (e,i,ö,ü), and back vowels, produced at the back of the mouth (a,i,o,u). Purely Turkic words can contain only all front or all back vowels, and all suffixes and affixes must conform to the vowel of the syllable preceding them in the word. Thus, Turkish kül 'ash,' kül-ler 'ashes,' kül-ler-i 'its ashes,' kül-ler-in-den 'from its ashes,' as opposed to kul 'slave,' kul-lar 'slaves,' kul-lar-i 'his slaves,' kul-lar-in-dan 'from his slaves.' Besides this "palatal harmony," most Turkic languages also adopt a "labial harmony" between syllables with respect to rounded and unrounded vowels. Only rounded vowels may occur after an initial rounded vowel in a word, with the same pattern holding true for unrounded vowels--e.g., Turkish pul-u 'his stamp,' versus pil-i 'his battery.' These harmony rules vary considerably across the various languages. Due to foreign influence, harmony is phonetically differently realized, though far from lost, in the Karaite, Gagauz, and Uzbek languages. The morphology of the Turkic languages is agglutinative; i.e., it offers rich possibilities of expanding word stems by means of relatively unchangeable suffixes, many of which designate grammatical notions. For example, the word evlerimde 'in my houses' is composed of ev 'house,' ler = plural suffix, im = possessive suffix 'my,' and de = locative suffix 'in.' When attached to a word with back vowels, such as oda 'room,' these suffixes change their vowels according to the law of vowel harmony but retain their meaning: odalarimda 'in my rooms.' The Turkic languages mostly lack subordinative conjunctions and relative pronouns, using verbal nouns, participles, and converbs instead. Thus the sentence 'I know that the person who had come went away' is rendered in Uzbek Kelgän kisining ketgänini bilämän, literally 'Having-come person-of having-gone-his know-I.'


About 99 percent of the people of Afghanistan are Muslims, of whom some three-fourths are members of the Sunnite sect (Hanafi branch). The others, particularly the Hazaras, Kizilbash, and a few Isma'ilis, follow Shi'ite Islam. The Nuristanis are descendants of a large ethnic group, the Kafirs, who were forcibly converted to Islam in 1895; the name of their region was then changed from Kafiristan ("Land of the Infidels") to Nuristan ("Land of Light"). There are also a few thousand Hindus and Sikhs.

Demographic Trends

The establishment of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1978 and the Soviet invasion of the country the following year disrupted the country's population patterns. Civil war and the destruction of towns and villages caused mass movements of people in two major directions--emigration, mainly to Pakistan and Iran, or escape to the relative safety of the capital city, Kabul. By some estimates almost 5,000,000 people escaped to Pakistan and some 1,850,000 to Iran; the population of Kabul is estimated to have doubled in size. Kabul has grown to encompass almost half of the urban population of the country. Afghanistan's population is mainly rural; almost half of the population is under 15 years of age. Life expectancy is less than 45 years. According to some estimation the population of Afghanistan has risen to 20 million in recent years. There is estimated 2.5 million Afghan still live in Pakistan as refugees and according to some (unconfirmed( report about 3.5 million in Iran.


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Mir Habib'ula Khan (1901-1919)


Aman'ula Khan (1919-1929)


Nadir Shah (1929-1933)


Zahir Shah (1933-1973)


Sardar Dawoud Khan (1973-1978)


Nor Mohamand Taraki (1978-1979)


Babrak Karmal &Afiz'ula Amin (1979-1987)


Dr. Najib'ulah (1987-1992)


Borhan'udin Rabani (1992-1996)


Mulah Mohamad Omar (1996-2001)


Hamid Karzi (2001-Current)



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Management of the Economy

Before the Soviet invasion, the government budget was divided into two parts, ordinary and development. The former covered administrative activities and the latter investment expenditures, incorporated into the national plans of development. Total domestic revenue was usually exceeded by expenditures; the difference was covered through deficit financing and foreign loans and grants. Following the Soviet invasion, a balanced budget was achieved with revenue derived principally from the sale of natural gas and from foreign loans and grants. Expenditures were mainly for government ministries, the developmental budget, and foreign debt service. The private sector engages primarily in agriculture and livestock breeding. There formerly was a mixed pattern of small, medium, and large landholdings, but this system underwent drastic change, particularly after 1978. The bulk of the trade and transport and most manufacturing were in the hands of private entrepreneurs until the late 1970s when these sectors of the economy were nationalized. Public enterprise formerly was confined to a section of the foreign trade, to mining, and to some industries. Because most of the population is engaged in agriculture, the industrial labor force is insignificant, and labor unions have failed to develop. Traditional loyalties to families and tribes are stronger than those to workers' organizations.


Mineral Resources: Extensive surveys have revealed the existence of a number of minerals of economic importance. The most important discovery has been that of natural gas, with large reserves near Sheberghan in Jowzjan province, near the Turkmen border, about 75 miles west of Mazar-e Sharif. The Khvajeh Gugerdak and Yatim Taq fields are major producers, with storage and refining facilities. Pipelines deliver natural gas to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and to a thermal power plant and chemical fertilizer plant in Mazar-e Sharif. Petroleum resources have proved to be insignificant. Many coal deposits have been found in the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush. Major coal fields are at Karkar and Eshposhteh, in Baghlan province, and Fort Sarkari, in Balkh province. High-grade iron ore, with an iron content of 62-63 percent, has been discovered at Hajigak, 60 miles northwest of Kabul. Copper is mined at 'Aynak, near Kabul, and uranium is extracted in the mountains near Khvajeh Rawash, east of Kabul. There are also deposits of copper, lead, and zinc near Konduz; beryllium in Khas Konar; chrome ore in the Lowgar valley near Herat; and the semiprecious stone lapis lazuli in Badakhshan. Afghanistan also has deposits of rock salt, beryl, barite, fluorspar, bauxite, lithium, tantalum, gold, silver, asbestos, mica, and sulfur.

Biological Resources: Afghanistan is essentially a pastoral country. Only 12 percent of the total land area is arable, and only about half of the arable acreage is cultivated annually. Much of the arable area consists of fallow cultivable land or steppes and mountains that serve as pastureland. In addition, a large area is desert. Forests cover about 3 percent of the total land area; they are found mainly in the eastern part of the country and on the southern slopes of the Hindu Kush. Those in the east consist mainly of conifers, providing timber for the building industry as well as some wild nuts for export. Other trees, especially oaks, are used as fuel. North of the Hindu Kush are pistachio trees, the nuts of which are exported.
Power Resources: Afghanistan is potentially rich in hydroelectric resources. However, the seasonal flow of the country's many streams and waterfalls--torrential in spring, when the snow melts in the mountains, but negligible in summer--necessitates the costly construction of dams and reservoirs in remote areas. The nation's negligible demand for electricity renders such projects unprofitable except near large cities or industrial canters. The potential of hydroelectricity has been tapped substantially only in the Kabul-Jalalabad region.


Agriculture and animal husbandry, much of which consists of subsistence farming and pastoral nomadic, are by far the most important items of the gross national product, accounting for more than half of its total value. Since much of the land is arid or semiarid, about half of the cultivated land is irrigated. Most of the cultivated land is planted with cereals. Of these, wheat is the chief crop and the staple food of the population. The other food grains are corn (maize), rice, and barley. Cotton is important, both for the domestic textile industry and for export. Fruits and nuts are also important items of export. Opium poppy and cannabis are grown for the illegal international drug trade. Animal husbandry produces meat and dairy products for local consumption; skins, especially the famous karakul, and wool (both for export and for domestic carpet weaving) are also important products. Livestock includes sheep, cattle, goats, donkeys, horses, camels, buffalo, and mules. About two-thirds of the annual milk production is from cows, the rest from sheep and goats.


Industry is based mainly on agricultural and pastoral raw materials. Most important is the cotton textile industry. The country also produces rayon and acetate fibers. Other industrial products are cement, sugar, vegetable oil, furniture, soap, shoes, and woolen textiles. A nitrogenous fertilizer plant, based on natural gas, has been constructed in Mazar-e Sharif, and phosphate fertilizers are also produced. In addition, Afghanistan has a number of traditional handicrafts, which account for a fair proportion of the country's export earnings.


In 1975 the government nationalized all banks. The largest bank in the country, the Bank of Afghanistan, is the center of the formal banking system. It is the sole bank of issue, and it plays an important role in determining and implementing the government's financial policies. There are private money traders who provide nearly all the services of a commercial bank. International trade was done through Pashtany Tujarati Bank. D'Afghan Bank is also an important financial institution and Afghanistan. There are plans for private own Bank operation in Afghanistan.


Total annual imports usually exceed exports. Roughly two-thirds of Afghanistan's exports go to the former Soviet republics to the north, and one-seventh to the United Kingdom and Germany. The Soviet Union was traditionally the leading source of imports, followed by Japan, Singapore, China, and India. The principal export is natural gas, which for many years went mainly to the Soviet Union. In addition, dried fruit, nuts, carpets, wool, and karakul pelts are exported. Imports include vehicles, petroleum products, sugar, textiles, processed animal and vegetable oils, and tea.


Being a landlocked country, Afghanistan is primarily dependent on transit facilities from its neighbors for its international trade. Lacking railways and with few navigable rivers, it relies on roads as the mainstay of its transport system. These factors produce high transport costs and also add to the difficulty of integrating the transport system of the country with those of its neighbors. Nevertheless, in the 1960s major efforts were directed toward upgrading the highway system and connecting the main trading centers of the country with one another, as well as with the railheads or road networks of neighboring countries. The road network of Afghanistan now connects railheads in Kushka, Turkmenistan, and Termez, Uzbekistan, with those at Chaman and Peshawar, Pak., respectively, and provides for direct overland transit between the nations to the north and the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent. The most important Afghan highways are those connecting Kabul with Shir Khan, on the northern border, and with Peshawar. Other paved roads link Qandahar, Herat, and Mazar-e Sharif with Kabul and with frontier towns of Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Despite the rapid development of motor transport, camels and donkeys are still commonly used as draft animals. In the countryside many people have not abandoned their cherished horses, which are important for prestige. Civil aviation has increased in importance. Almost all provincial centers have at least a seasonally operable airport, while there are international airports at Kabul and Qandahar.

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