kids encyclopedia robot

Afghanistan facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

  • جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان (Dari)
  • Jomhūrīyyeh Eslāmīyyeh Afġānestān
  • د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوریت (Pashto)
  • Da Afġānistān Islāmī Jumhoryat
Coat of arms of Afghanistan
Coat of arms
Motto: لا إله إلا الله، محمد رسول الله
"Lā ʾilāha ʾillā llāh, Muhammadun rasūlu llāh"
"There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God. (Shahada)
Anthem: Millī Surūd
ملي سرود
"The National Anthem"
Location of Afghanistan
Location of Afghanistan
Capital
and largest city
Kabul
Script error: The function "coordinsert" does not exist.
Official languages
Ethnic groups
Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimaq, Turkmen, Baloch and others
Religion
Islam
Demonym(s) Afghan
Government Unitary presidential Islamic republic
Ashraf Ghani
• Chief Executive Officer
Abdullah Abdullah
Legislature National Assembly
House of Elders
House of the People
Formation
• Hotak Empire
April 1709
October 1747
• Emirate
1823
• Recognized
19 August 1919
• Kingdom
9 June 1926
• Republic
17 July 1973
• Current constitution
26 January 2004
Area
• Total
652,864 km2 (252,072 sq mi) (40th)
• Water (%)
negligible
Population
• 2018 estimate
37,171,921 (40th)
• Density
49.88/km2 (129.2/sq mi) (150th)
GDP (PPP) 2017 estimate
• Total
$67.681 billion
• Per capita
$2,022
GDP (nominal) 2017 estimate
• Total
$19.290 billion
• Per capita
$576
Gini (2008) 29
low
HDI (2014) Increase 0.465
low · 171st
Currency Afghani (AFN)
Time zone UTC+4:30 Solar Calendar (D†)
Driving side right
Calling code +93
ISO 3166 code AF
Internet TLD .af افغانستان.

Afghanistan (officially called Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Persian: جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان, Pashto: د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوريت) is a country located in Central Asia and South Asia. It has borders with Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.

In early times people passed through it with animals and other goods as it connected China and India with Central Asia and the Middle East. More recently, Afghanistan has been damaged by many years of war. This has resulted in there not being enough jobs.

The country is around 251,826 square miles (652,230 square kilometres) in size or area. There are 30 million people in Afghanistan. There are about 3 million Afghan refugees (people who had to leave the country) who are in Pakistan and Iran for some time. In 2011, its capital, Kabul, had about 3,691,400 people living in it.

Geography

Black Hawk flying over a valley in Bamyan
Snow-capped Koh-i-Baba mountains in Bamyan Province of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has many mountains. The mountains are called the Hindu Kush and Himalayas. The big mountain in Afghanistan is Mount Nowshak. There are plains (which have soil that is good for growing plants) and foothills. Part is also dry and called the Registan Desert.

Afghanistan has snow and glaciers in the mountains. Amu Darya is the big water stream, or river.

The country has a lot of a valuable stone called lapis lazuli, which was used to decorate the tomb of the Egyptian king Tutankhamun.

Climate

Afghanistan has a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. Having no water sometimes causes problems for farmers. Sandstorms happen a lot in the desert.

Plants and animals

Uncia uncia 2
Endangered snow leopards live in the cold Hindu Kush, but they have thick fur to stay warm. Hunters sell the soft leopard skins in the markets in the capital Kabul.

Southern Afghanistan has not many plants because it is dry. There are more plants where there is more water. Mountains have forests of pine and fir, cedar, oak, walnut, alder, and ash trees.

Afghanistan's wild animals live in the mountains. There are wolves, foxes, jackals, bears, and wild goats, gazelles, wild dogs, camels, and wild cats such as the snow leopard in the country. The birds are falcons, eagles and vultures. The Rhesus Macaque and the red flying squirrel are also in Afghanistan.

Many years of war, hunting, and years of no water have killed animals in Afghanistan. There used to be tigers in Afghanistan, but now there aren't any. Bears and wolves are almost gone.

People and culture

2011 Afghan Youth Voices Festival
The 2011 Afghan Youth Voices Festival at the Gardens of Babur in Kabul

Many people have moved through or invaded the land of Afghanistan. Today's people of Afghanistan are known as Afghans. They have many traits passed down from these previous peoples.

The largest group of people are the Pashtuns. These make up about half the population. Tajiks are the second-largest ethnic group, making up about one-fifth of the population. Before the 20th century, Tajiks were called Sarts and some come from the Iranian peoples. Most Pashtuns are also related to the Iranian peoples. Some Pashtuns and Tajiks marry each other but at the same time they are rivals. The third-largest group are the Hazaras. They are native to the Hazaristan area in central Afghanistan. The country's other groups include the Uzbek, Aimaq, Turkmen, Nuristani, Baloch, Pashayi and a few others.

Dari-Persian and Pashto are the official languages of Afghanistan. Many people speak both languages. Both are Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family. They are usually written with the Arabic alphabet. Uzbek and Turkmen are widely spoken in the north and Nuristani and Pashai are spoken in the east. Almost all Afghans follow the religion of Islam.

Afghanistan is a largely rural country. This means there are only a few major cities. About one fifth of the population live in cities. Kabul, the capital, is the largest city. It is south of the Hindu Kush range and alongside the Kabul River. Other cities in Afghanistan include Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, and Jalalabad. The rural population is made up of farmers and nomads. The farmers live mainly in small villages along the rivers. The nomads live in tents while moving from place to place with their animals and belongings. Some people live in the high central mountains. Some live in the deserts in the south and southwest. Millions of people left Afghanistan to get away from the wars that happened in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Most of them lived in neighboring Pakistan and Iran.

History

Afghanistan is in the path of important trade routes that connect southern and eastern Asia to Europe and the Middle East. Because of this, many empire builders have decided to rule over the area. Signs that these emperors were near Afghanistan still exist in many parts of the country. Afghanistan is near what used to be the Silk Road, so it has many cultures. From up to 8,000 years ago, the peoples of Afghanistan helped develop (create) major world religions, traded and exchanged many products, and sometimes controlled politics and culture in Asia.

Prehistory

Raffael 071
Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, lived in Bactria, an ancient land in the north of today's Afghanistan.

Archaeologists digging a cave in what is now northeastern Afghanistan (in Badakhshan), discovered that people lived in the country as early as 100,000 years ago. They found the skull of a Neanderthal, or early human, as well as tools from about 30,000 years ago. In other parts of Afghanistan, archaeologists uncovered pottery and tools that are 4,000 to 11,000 years old—evidence that Afghans were among the first people in the world to grow crops and raise animals.

Kaunakes Bactria Louvre AO31917
A Stone Female Figurine, known as Bactrian Princess, from Bactria, north of Afghanistan, about 4,000 years ago

Farmers and herders settled in the plains surrounding the Hindu Kush as early as 7000 B.C. These people may have grown rich off the lapis lazuli they found along riverbeds, which they traded to early city sites to the west, across the Iranian plateau and Mesopotamia. As farms and villages grew and thrived in Afghanistan, these ancient people eventually invented irrigation (digging ditches for water so it flows to crops) that allowed them to grow crops on the northern Afghanistan desert plains. This civilization (advanced state of organization) is today called BMAC (Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex), or the "Oxus civilization".

The Oxus civilization expanded as far east as western edge of the Indus Valley during the period between 2200 and 1800 B.C. These people, who were the ancestors of the Indo-Aryans, used the term "Aryan" to identify their ethnicity, culture, and religion. Scholars know this when they read the ancient texts of these people; the Avesta of Iranian people and the Vedas of Indo-Aryans.

Zoroaster, the founder of the Zoroastrian religion, the world's earliest monotheistic religion, (meaning a religion believing in one god) lived in the area (somewhere north of today's Afghanistan), around 1000 B.C.

Ancient history

Ancient Khorasan highlighted
Names of territories during the Caliphate in 750 CE. Khorasan was part of Persia (in yellowish).

Before the middle of the sixth century BCE, the land was held by the Medes. Then the Achaemenids took over control of the land and made it part of the Persian empire. Alexander the great defeated and conquered the Persian Empire in 330 BCE. He founded some cities in the area. The people used Greek culture and language. After Alexander, Greco-Bactrians, Scythians, Kushans, Parthians and Sassanians ruled the area.

Kushans spread Buddhism from India in the 1st century BCE, and Buddhism remained an important religion in the area until the Islamic conquest in the 7th century CE.

The Buddhas of Bamiyan were giant statues, a reminder of Buddhism in Afghanistan. They were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. There were international protests. The Taliban believe that the ancient statues were un-Islamic and that they had a right to destroy them.

Medieval history

Arabs introduced Islam in the 7th century and slowly began spreading the new religion. In the 9th and 10th centuries, many local Islamic dynasties rose to power inside Afghanistan. One of the earliest was the Tahirids, whose kingdom included Balkh and Herat; they established independence from the Abbasids in 820. The Tahirids were succeeded in about 867 by the Saffarids of Zaranj in western Afghanistan. Local princes in the north soon became feudatories of the powerful Samanids, who ruled from Bukhara. From 872 to 999, north of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan enjoyed a golden age under Samanid rule.

In the 10th century, the local Ghaznavids turned Ghazni into their capital and firmly established Islam throughout all areas of Afghanistan, except the Kafiristan region in the northeast. Mahmud of Ghazni, a great Ghaznavid sultan, conquered the Multan and Punjab region, and carried raids into the heart of India. Mohammed bin Abdul Jabbar Utbi (Al-Utbi), a historian from the 10th century, wrote that thousands of "Afghans" were in the Ghaznavid army. The Ghaznavid dynasty was replaced by the Ghorids of Ghor in the late 12th century, who reconquered Ghaznavid territory in the name of Islam and ruled it until 1206. The Ghorid army also included ethnic Afghans.

Portrait miniature of Ahmad Shah Durrani
Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the modern state of Afghanistan in 1747.

Afghanistan was recognized as Khorasan, meaning "land of the rising sun," which was a prosperous and independent geographic region reaching as far as the Indus River.

All the major cities of modern Afghanistan were centers of science and culture in the past. The New Persian literature arose and flourished in the area. The early Persian poets such as Rudaki were from what is now Afghanistan. Moreover, Ferdowsi, the author of Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran, and Rumi, the famous Sufi poet, were also from modern-day Afghanistan. It has produced scientists such as Avicenna, Al-Farabi, Al-Biruni, Omar Khayyám, Al-Khwarizmi, and many others who are widely known for their important contributions in areas such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, physics, geography, and geology. It remained the cultural capital of Persia until the devastating Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Timur, the Turkic conqueror, took over in the end of the 14th century and began to rebuild cities in this region. Timur's successors, the Timurids (1405–1507), were great patrons of learning and the arts who enriched their capital city of Herat with fine buildings. Under their rule Afghanistan enjoyed peace and prosperity.

Between south of the Hindu Kush and the Indus River (today's Pakistan) was the native land of the Afghan tribes. They called this land "Afghanistan" (meaning "land of the Afghans"). The Afghans ruled the rich northern Indian subcontinent with their capital at Delhi. From the 16th to the early 18th century, Afghanistan was disputed between the Safavids of Isfahan and the Mughals of Agra who had replaced the Lodi and Suri Afghan rulers in India. The Safavids and Mughals occasionally oppressed the native Afghans but at the same time the Afghans used each empire to punish the other. In 1709, the Hotaki Afghans rose to power and completely defeated the Persian Empire. Then they marched towards the Mughals of India and nominally defeated them with the help of the Afsharid forces under Nader Shah Afshar.

In 1747, after Nader Shah of Persia was killed, a great leader named Ahmad Shah Durrani united all the different Muslim tribes and established the Afghan Empire (Durrani Empire). He is considered the founding father of the modern state of Afghanistan while Mirwais Hotak is the grandfather of the nation.

Recent history

During the 1800s, Afghanistan became a buffer zone between two powerful empires, British India and Russia. As British India advanced into Afghanistan, Russia felt threatened and expanded southward across Central Asia. To stop the Russian advance, Britain tried to make Afghanistan part of its empire but the Afghans fought wars with British-led Indians from 1839 to 1842 and from 1878 to 1880. After the third war in 1919, Afghanistan under King Amanullah gained respect and recognition as a completely independent state.

The Kingdom of Afghanistan was a constitutional monarchy established in 1926. It was the successor state to the Emirate of Afghanistan. On 27 September 1934, during the reign of Zahir Shah, the Kingdom of Afghanistan joined the League of Nations. During World War II, Afghanistan remained neutral. It pursued a diplomatic policy of non-alignment.

The creation of Pakistan in 1947 as its eastern neighbor created problems. In 1973, political crises led to the overthrow of the king. The country's new leader ended the monarchy and made Afghanistan a republic. In 1978, a Communist political party supported by the Soviet Union seized control of Afghanistan's government. This move sparked rebellions throughout the country. The government asked the Soviet Union for military assistance. The Soviets took advantage of the situation and invaded Afghanistan in December 1979.

Most people in Afghanistan opposed the sudden Soviet presence in their country. For nearly a decade, anti-Communist Islamic forces known as Mujahideen were trained inside neighboring Pakistan to fight the Soviets and the Afghan government. The United States and other anti-Soviet countries supported the Mujahideen. In the long war, over one million Afghan civilians were killed. The Soviet Army also lost more than 15,000 soldiers in that war. Millions of Afghans left their country to stay safe in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. In 1989 the Soviet Army withdrew the last of its troops.

2011 Afghan Independence Day-2
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the 2011 Afghan Independence Day in Kabul.

After the Soviets left, different Afghan warlords began fighting for control of the country. The warlords received support from other countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Iran. A very conservative Islamic group known as the Taliban emerged in an attempt to end the civil war. By the late 1990s the Taliban had gained control over 95% of Afghanistan. A group known as the Northern Alliance, based in northern Afghanistan near the border with Tajikistan, continued to fight against the Taliban.

Afghan soldiers
NATO-trained Afghan National Army (ANA).
Military terminal at Kabul International Airport
NATO's military terminal at Kabul International Airport

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan according to their strict version of Islamic law. People whom the Taliban believed violated these laws were given cruel punishments. In addition, the Taliban completely restricted the rights of women. Because of such policies, most countries refused to recognize the Taliban government. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) accepted them as the official government.

The Taliban also angered other countries by allowing suspected terrorists to live freely in Afghanistan. Among them were Osama bin Laden and members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network. In September 2001, the United States blamed bin Laden for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. The Taliban refused to hand him over to the United States. In response, the United States and its allies launched a bombing campaign against al-Qaeda in October 2001. Within months the Taliban abandoned Kabul, and a new government led by Hamid Karzai came to power, but fighting between the Taliban and US-led armies continued. Taliban fighters have gone into Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan. Afghans accuse Pakistan's military of being behind the Taliban militants but Pakistan has rejected this and stated that a stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan's own interest.

In December 2004, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan. NATO began rebuilding Afghanistan, including its military and government institutions. Many schools and colleges were built. Freedom for women has improved. Women can study, work, drive, and run for office. Many Afghan women work as politicians, some are ministers while at least one is a mayor. Others have opened businesses, or joined the military or police. Afghanistan's economy has also improved dramatically, and NATO agreed in 2012 to help the country for at least another 10 years after 2014. In the meantime, Afghanistan improved diplomatic ties with many countries in the world and continues.

Government

Afghanistan is a newly formed democracy. Under the new constitution, the president and two vice presidents are elected every five years. The International Security Force Assistance (ISAF) helps the government maintain peace and rebuild the country.

The government still faces problems with the Taliban, internal security, and public services.

Provinces

As of 2004, there are thirty-four provinces. Each province is divided into districts. (For cities see List of cities in Afghanistan.)

Province map of Afghanistan
Provinces of Afghanistan
Provinces of Afghanistan
Province Map # ISO 3166-2:AF Capital Population Area (km²) Languages Notes U.N. Region
Badakhshan 30 AF-BDS Fayzabad 889,700 44,059 Dari (Persian), Pamiri, Pashto 29 districts North East Afghanistan
Badghis 4 AF-BDG Qala i Naw 464,100 20,591 Dari, Pashto 7 districts West Afghanistan
Baghlan 19 AF-BGL Puli Khumri 848,500 21,118 Dari, Uzbeki, Turkmeni, Pashto 16 districts North East Afghanistan
Balkh 13 AF-BAL Mazari Sharif 1,219,200 17,249 Dari, Pashto 15 districts North West Afghanistan
Bamyan 15 AF-BAM Bamiyan 418,500 14,175 Dari 7 districts Central Afghanistan
Daykundi 10 AF-DAY Nili 431,300 8,088 Dari, Pashto 8 districts
Formed from Oruzgan in 2004
South West Afghanistan
Farah 2 AF-FRA Farah 474,300 48,471 Pashto, Dari, Balochi 11 districts West Afghanistan
Faryab 5 AF-FYB Maymana 931,800 20,293 Uzbek, Dari, Pashto, Turkmen 14 districts North West Afghanistan
Ghazni 16 AF-GHA Ghazni 1,149,400 22,915 Pashto, Dari 19 districts South East Afghanistan
Ghor 6 AF-GHO Chaghcharan 646,300 36,479 Dari, Pashto 10 districts West Afghanistan
Helmand 7 AF-HEL Lashkar Gah 1,441,769 58,584 Pashto, Dari 13 districts South West Afghanistan
Herat 1 AF-HER Herat 1,744,700 54,778 Dari, Pashto, Turkmeni 15 districts West Afghanistan
Jowzjan 8 AF-JOW Sheberghan 503,100 11,798 Uzbeki, Turkmeni, Pashto, Dari 9 districts North West Afghanistan
Kabul 22 AF-KAB Kabul 3,691,400 4,462 Dari, Turkmeni, Pashto, Uzbeki 18 districts Central Afghanistan
Kandahar 12 AF-KAN Kandahar 1,127,000 54,022 Pashto, Dari 16 districts South East Afghanistan
Kapisa 29 AF-KAP Mahmud-i-Raqi 413,000 1,842 Dari, Pashto, Pashai 7 districts Central Afghanistan
Khost 26 AF-KHO Khost 537,800 4,152 Pashto 13 districts South East Afghanistan
Kunar 34 AF-KNR Asadabad 421,700 4,942 Pashto 15 districts North East Afghanistan
Kunduz 18 AF-KDZ Kunduz 935,600 8,040 Pashto, Dari, Uzbeki, Turkmeni 7 districts North East Afghanistan
Laghman 32 AF-LAG Mihtarlam 417,200 3,843 Pashto, Pashai, Nuristani, Dari 5 districts East Afghanistan
Logar 23 AF-LOW Pul-i-Alam 367,000 3,880 Pashto, Dari 7 districts Central Afghanistan
Nangarhar 33 AF-NAN Jalalabad 1,409,600 7,727 Pashto, Dari 23 districts East Afghanistan
Nimruz 3 AF-NIM Zaranj 153,900 41,005 Balochi, Pashto, Dari 5 districts South West Afghanistan
Nuristan 31 AF-NUR Parun 138,600 9,225 Nuristani, Pashto 7 districts North East Afghanistan
Oruzgan 11 AF-ORU Tarin Kowt 328,000 22,696 Pashto, Dari 6 districts Central Afghanistan
Paktia 24 AF-PIA Gardez 516,300 6,432 Pashto 11 districts South East Afghanistan
Paktika 25 AF-PKA Sharan 407,100 19,482 Pashto 15 districts South East Afghanistan
Panjshir 28 AF-PAN Bazarak 143,700 3,610 Dari, Pashto 5 districts
Created in 2004 from Parwan Province
North East Afghanistan
Parwan 20 AF-PAR Charikar 620,900 5,974 Dari, Pashto 9 districts Central Afghanistan
Samangan 14 AF-SAM Aybak 362,500 11,262 Dari, Uzbeki 5 districts North West Afghanistan
Sar-e Pol 9 AF-SAR Sar-e Pol 522,900 16,360 Dari, Pashto, Uzbeki 7 districts North West Afghanistan
Takhar 27 AF-TAK Taloqan 917,700 12,333 Dari, Uzbeki, Pashto 12 districts North East Afghanistan
Wardak 21 AF-WAR Meydan Shahr 558,400 9,934 Pashto, Dari 9 districts Central Afghanistan
Zabul 17 AF-ZAB Qalat 284,600 17,343 Pashto 9 districts South East Afghanistan

Related pages

Notes


Images for kids

kids search engine
Afghanistan Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.