Slide 4 - Geography
Overview. The country of Afghanistan located in south-central Asia, is a high, landlocked country a little smaller than Texas. It is bordered on the west by Iran and on the east and south by Pakistan. Its northern neighbors are Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan and China lies to the northeast.
Afghanistan is located between Iran and Pakistan. Afghanistan’s physical geography is severe
, consisting mainly of inhospitable desert and high mountains. The mountains of the Hindu Kush and the Pamir Knot dominate the country. The Hindu Kush runs roughly east to west through the central part of Afghanistan, with peaks averaging 15,000 to 16,000 feet. The Pamir Knot is a range of high peaks in the Wakhan Corridor, the finger of territory extending from the northeast part of the country. Well over 80% of the Pamir Knot is above 10,000 feet in altitude, with peaks as high as 24,000 feet. While there are a number of passes through the mountains, primarily the Hindu Kush, most are closed by snow in the winter, and only a few have paved roads. During the summers, the passes are navigable by heavy vehicles, but horses, mules, and camels are probably the most efficient means of transport. The Panjshir Valley runs through the Hindu Kush, north of Kabul.
To the west of the Hindu Kush, the land gradually slopes downward into sparsely inhabited, arid to semiarid rocky deserts, broken only by the river systems – the Amu Darya (Oxus), the Hari Rud, the Hilmand-Arghandab, and the Kabul. Most of the water in Afghanistan comes from these great river systems that carry the snowmelt from the mountains into the lower areas of the country
, in yearly floods that frequently destroy crops and villages. It has long been recognized that the river systems have the capability to irrigate extensive drier areas through dams, water storage, and irrigation programs. Afghanistan does not suffer from a lack of water but rather from the inability to control and use the water it has.
Plate-tectonic activity in Afghanistan has contributed to the creation of the geologic riches of the country, but has also produced frequent and sometimes deadly earthquakes. Roughly fifty earthquakes are recorded each year. Although most are relatively mild, the most severe earthquakes in recent history occurred in July 1985 and March 2002. Both measured around 7.2 on the Richter scale with their epicenters sited in the Hindu Kush.
Slide 5 – Geography
Climate. The climate of Afghanistan is typical of an arid or semiarid steppe. The winters are characteristically very cold, with temperatures dropping well below freezing, while the summers are hot and dry. The mountain regions of the northeast are sub-arctic, with dry,cold winters. Along the mountains that border Pakistan, there are some fringe effects from the monsoon, which brings tropical air masses that impact the climate between July and September. These air masses, at times, can advance into central and southern Afghanistan, bringing increased humidity and some rain.
On the intermountain plateaus, the winds do not blow very strongly. However, in the Sistan Basin near Iran, severe blizzards can occur during winter, generally December through February. The “wind of 120 days” is a northerly wind that blows across the western and southern regions of Afghanistan during the summer months of June to September. This wind is usually accompanied by intense heat, drought, and sand storms. In addition, dust and whirlwinds frequently occur during the summer months on the flats in the southern part of the country. Rising at midday or in the early afternoon, these "dust winds" advance at velocities ranging between 60 and 110 miles per hour, raising high clouds of dust.
Temperature and precipitation are controlled by the exchange of air masses. The highest temperatures and the lowest precipitation occur in the southern plateau region where the land is drought-ridden and poorly watered. This region extends over the boundaries into Iran and Pakistan.
The Central Mountains represent another distinct climatic region. From the Koh-e Baba Range to the Pamir Knot, January temperatures may drop to 5 F or lower in the highest mountain areas; July temperatures vary between 32 and 80 F depending on altitude. In the mountains, the annual mean precipitation, most of which is snow, increases eastward. Precipitation in these regions and the eastern monsoon area is about 16 inches per year. Permanent snow covers the highest mountain peaks with depths as much as 6.6 feet during the winter months.
Precipitation generally fluctuates greatly during the course of the year in all parts of the country. Surprise rainstorms often transform the episodically flowing rivers and streams from puddles to torrents; unwary invading armies have been trapped in such flooding more than once in Afghanistan's history. Nomadic and semi-nomadic Afghans have also succumbed to the sudden flooding of their camps.
The climate of the Turkistan Plains, which extend northward from the Northern Foothills, represents a transition between mountain and steppe climates. Aridity increases and temperatures rise with the drop in altitude.
Slide 6 - History
Overview. Afghanistan’s history, its political development, foreign relations, and very existence as an independent state have largely been determined by its geographic location. Afghanistan is at the crossroads of Central, West, and South Asia.
Migrating groups have passed through the region over the centuries and have left behind a blend of ethnic and linguistic influences. Evidence of human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to 50,000 B.C. Artifacts indicate the people were small farmers and herdsmen, as they are today, very probably grouped into tribes, with small local kingdoms rising and falling through the ages. Afghanistan has also seen its share of vast armies passing through and establishing temporary local control when necessary.
Urban civilization on the Iranian plateau, which includes most of Iran and Afghanistan, may have begun as early as 3000 to 2000 B.C. However, little is known about the area before the middle of the first millennium B.C., when its history began to be recorded during the Achaemenid Empire.
Slide 7 - History
The first of the conquerors who marched into Afghanistan was Darius the Great, who in 500 B.C. expanded the Achaemenid/Persian Empire as far east as the Kabul-Jalabad-Peshawar area. The Achaemenids were enlightened rulers who permitted some regional autonomy through the creation of 20 separate provinces throughout the empire. A 1,550- mile highway linked the provinces and, using relays of mounted couriers, the most remote areas of the empire could be reached in fifteen days.
Alexander the Great also marched through Afghanistan in 329 B.C., extending his own empire to the northernmost and easternmost parts. Alexander had to battle the local inhabitants for every bit of territory he gained.
The next major invasion into Afghanistan was in the 1st century B.C. The Kushans, a loose union of five central Asian nomadic tribes, took Afghanistan from the Greeks and held power over the area for several centuries. Around this time, the Western world established cultural and economic ties with China, and many of the routes of the Silk Road ultimately ran through the Afghan area. The Silk Road carried Buddhism northward from India. One of the greatest cultural achievements of the Kushans was the carving in the third and fourth centuries A.D. of the world's largest Buddha figures –one of them 175 feet tall, the other 125 feet– in the sandstone cliffs close to present-day Bamiyan. (It was those statues that the Taliban blew up in 2001, amid much publicity, on the premise that it is offensive to produce representations of the human form.)
Muslim Arabs first brought Islam to Afghanistan in the seventh century A.D. Within 100 years of the prophet Mohammed's death in 632, they had established a new Muslim empire that reached as far as Spain in the west and to central Asia and India in the east. Even the well-established Persians fell under the Muslim Arab influence, although the Arab Empire borrowed much from the Persians, in the same way that the Roman Empire was influenced by the conquered Greeks.
For the next several centuries, Afghanistan was under the power of one conqueror or another. Genghis Khan marched through Afghanistan in 1220, conquering (and destroying) as he went. After his death, some local Afghan chiefs established independent principalities, while others remained under Mongol rule. This situation continued until the end of the 14th century, when Tamerlane, a Turkmen Mongol, conquered a large part of the country as part of the empire he established and extended from India to the Mediterranean.
In the 6th century, Babur, a descendant of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, made Kabul the capital of an independent principality. He went on to capture Kandahar in 1522 and in 1526 established the Moghul Empire, which lasted until the middle of the 19th century. The Moghul Empire included all of eastern Afghanistan south of the Hindu Kush.
Slide 8 - History
Even while under the Moghul Empire, native Afghan Pashtun tribes were beginning to gain power and exercise influence over increasing areas of the country. In the 18th century, one of these tribal confederations, the Durrani, was granted authority over their homelands around present-day Kandahar. Their leader, Ahmad Shah Durrani, went on to form a Muslim empire in the late 18th century that was second in area only to the Turks' Ottoman Empire. After Ahmad Shah's death, the empire was beset by rebellions on the part of local tribal chiefs, causing Ahmad Shah's son Timur to move the capital from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776.
Ahmad Shah's grandson Zaman seized the throne after his father's death in 1793. Zaman was interested in reestablishing power in India, but the British, who were well established in India by this time, persuaded the Shah of Persia to divert Zaman's attention from India by threatening the western side of his empire. The Shah obliged and Zaman hurried back to Afghanistan in 1800 to defend his land. His own brother, who agreed to work with the Shah, defeated him.
This kind of struggle for power – tribe against tribe, family against family, brother against brother – characterizes the intertribal relationships among the Afghans, and continued as their territory became crucial to the interests of greater powers, most notably the czarist Russians in the north and the British in the south.
Slide 9 – First Anglo-Afghan War
Objective – Depose Dost Mohammad
Diplomatic relations with Russia
Advanced w/ little resistance
British settle in
Prices & Taxes raised
Riots lead to general uprising
300 troops killed
Envoy & deputy killed
Safe passage promised
Slide 10 – British Retreat from Kabul
Nearest garrison in Jalalbad (90 miles)
Army of the Indus
500 British soldiers
200 British dependents
3,800 Indian soldiers
12,000 Indian campworkers
Pashtuns attack baggage train
Massacre in Khoord-Cabool Pass
Only Survivor – Dr. Brydon
59 soldiers, 19 wives, 22 children held as hostages
Included General Eliphistone
Two British armies return to Afghanistan
Destroy bazaar in Kabul then withdraw
Dost Mohammad returns from exile in India to throne
Slide 11 – Second Anglo-Afghan War
Russians again send diplomatic mission to Kabul
British invade with 35,000 troops
Easily take Kabul
Treaty grants British control over Afghan foreign affairs
Withdraw some troops
British embassy destroyed by mob
British troops take Khandahar & withdraw
Slide 12 - History
Around 1880, Abdurrahman Khan, a Durrani Pashtun and a fine soldier who had learned military strategy from a British mentor, declared himself Emir of Kabul. During the next 10 years, he engaged in a series of battles with tribal leaders, gaining control over area after area until he controlled almost all of modern Afghanistan.
Constrained by the competing dictates of powerful Russian and British empires to his north and south, as well as Persia, Abdurrahman concentrated on establishing a single kingdom. To do so, he had to break the power still held by local tribes. He accomplished this in part by forcing movements of enemy Pashtuns to non-Pashtun areas north of the Hindu Kush, where their descendents still live. Another of his strategies to divide the tribes was to establish provincial governorships with boundaries that did not coincide with tribal boundaries.
It was during Abdurrahman's reign that the modern boundaries of Afghanistan were established. In 1891, after much saber rattling, the Russians and the British, with Abdurrahman only as observer, agreed that the Amu Darya, once known as the Oxus River, would form the boundary between Russia and the Afghan territory. The fertile agricultural area between the river and the mountains remained in Afghan control.
In 1893, the Durand Line was drawn to establish the spheres of interest between Afghanistan and British India. The line was named for Sir Mortimer Durand, who used subtle threats to persuade Abdurrahman to agree to the boundary. The Durand Line was not originally intended as a physical boundary between Afghanistan and India, but it ultimately became just that and now forms the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Slide 13 – Third Anglo-Afghan War
Rioting in India and World War One
Afghan Amanullah Khan declares Jihad
Britain responds w/ 50,000 troops & airplanes
Amanullah sues for peace
Treaty of Rawalpindi recognizes Afghani Independence
Slide 14 - History
In 1921, the Afghans concluded a treaty of friendship with the new Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union. Afghanistan became one of the first nations to recognize the Soviet government, and a special relationship evolved between the two governments that lasted until December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
Amanullah was open to European influence, and pushed for educational reform and the emancipation of women. These proposals infuriated the Muslim religious leaders, and resulted in tribal revolts that led to the seizure of Kabul and Amanullah's abdication in 1929.
Over the next 40 years, a series of cautious and moderate governments under the Afghan monarchy brought political stability to the country, and allowed it to make substantial strides toward modernization and national unity. Always, however, there was substantial resistance to any attempts at social change from the conservative religious elements of the society. While the monarchy was always Pashtun, it was the non-Pashtun, Dari-speaking Afghans who provided the more liberal, Western-looking influences in the country.
In 1931, the government drew up a constitution, an amalgamation of Turkish, Iranian, and French constitutions overlaid with aspects of the Hanafi shari'a (set of laws) of Sunni Islam. The constitution established a loya jirga (‘large meeting,’ or, in modern terms, parliament), a term used today in discussions of future governments in Afghanistan. The constitution left power in the hands of the monarchy, gave judiciary power to religious leaders, and created an economic framework that allowed free enterprise. A national economy developed in the 1930s under the leadership of several entrepreneurs who began small-scale industrial projects.
World War II brought about a slowdown in the development process. During the war, Afghanistan maintained its traditional neutrality.
Shah Mahmud, prime minister from 1946 to 1953, and head of the Liberal Parliament, sanctioned free elections and a relatively free press. The country's conservatives and religious elements objected and supported the seizure of power in 1953 by Lieutenant General Mohammad Daoud Khan, who became prime minister for the next 10 years.
In keeping with the agreement of 1921, Daoud Khan turned to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance. The Soviets ultimately became Afghanistan's major aid and trade partner, but shared the stage with the United States. The competition between the superpowers in aid of nonaligned Afghanistan benefited Afghanistan's infrastructure: Its roads and hydroelectric dam systems were in turn funded and directed by the Soviets and Americans. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviets also aided Afghanistan in developing ports on the Afghan side of the Amu Darya, opposite railheads on the Soviet side. Goods to and from Afghanistan were transported across the river by steamers and barges pulled by tugboats.
Daoud Khan successfully introduced women into the labor force by allowing them to go unveiled if they wished and by abolishing the practice of secluding them from public view. When religious leaders protested, he challenged them to cite a single verse of the Qur’an specifically mandating veiling. When they continued to resist, he jailed them for a week.
Foreign relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been strained since Pakistan was formed in 1947. Much of the difficulty can be traced to the Durand Line, which divides a number of the eastern Afghan Pashtun tribes. The Pashtun are comprised of over 60 clans with 12.5 million residing in Afghanistan and the remaining 14 million in Pakistan.
Afghanistan and Pakistan severed relations on September 6, 1961 and traffic between the two countries came to a halt. By 1963, it became clear that neither Daoud Khan nor Ayub Khan, then ruler of Pakistan, would yield and to settle the issue one of them would have to be removed from power. Afghanistan's economy was suffering from the dispute and in March 1963, with the backing of the royal family, King Zahir Shah sought Daoud Khan's resignation on the basis that the country's economy was deteriorating as a result of his position regarding the Pashtun tribes in Pakistan. Daoud Khan resigned.
Two weeks after Daoud Khan's resignation, the king appointed a commission to draft a new constitution. In the spring of 1964, he ordered the convening of a loya jirga--a countrywide gathering. Although the assemblage of 452 persons was composed primarily of officials who would support the royal line, the loya jirga also included members elected from around the entire nation.
King Zahir's "New Democracy" promised much but delivered little. Daoud Khan seized power again in 1973 in a virtually bloodless coup. His comeback was seen as a welcome return to strongman rule. Leftist military officers assisted in the overthrow. Daoud Khan abolished the 1964 constitution and established the Republic of Afghanistan, with himself as chairman of the Central Committee of the Republic and prime minister. King Zahir Shah went into exile in Rome.
Slide 15 - History
The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was formed in 1977, and seized control of the government in 1978 with Daoud Khan’s assassination. Their Marxist reform programs sparked major rebellions in the countryside and Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prevent their Afghan clients from being overthrown. In the war that followed, groups of Afghan mujaheddin were able to mount a successful guerrilla resistance. Millions of Afghan civilians fled into Pakistan and Iran to escape the destructive Soviet military campaigns against the insurgency. The guerrillas kept control of most of the countryside, and the Soviet troops held the cities and those areas near local garrisons.
The United States supported the Afghan rebels, pouring supplies and weapons into the country via Pakistan. U.S.-made Stingers, hand-held anti-aircraft missiles, were a key factor in driving the Soviets out. Until the United States equipped the rebels with Stingers, they had been unable to counter air attacks.
The struggle against the Soviets, which was styled a jihad, or religious war, was fought by the mujaheddin, or freedom fighters. The mujaheddin was comprised mostly of Pashtuns. The struggle also attracted conservative Muslims to the Afghan cause. One of those was the Saudi Arab Osama bin Laden, who went to Afghanistan in 1979 to join the Afghan resistance. While in Afghanistan, bin Laden founded the Maktab al-Khidimat (MAK), which recruited fighters from around the world and imported equipment to aid the Afghan resistance against the Soviet army.
After years of futile effort, the Soviet Union withdrew its 100,000 troops from Afghanistan from May 1988 to February 1989. After the Soviets had left the country, the United States withdrew as well, leaving Afghanistan to its own devices. The civil war continued between the guerrilla soldiers and the government, which was still communist. In April 1992, several rebel factions succeeded in capturing Kabul, overthrowing the communist government, and establishing a provisional Islamic republic headed by the Tajik northerner Bernahuddin Rabbani. Rival rebel groups fought among themselves, however, and the civil war continued.
A period of anarchy ensued, during which the government was powerless, and the rival groups seized anything of value in the country to pay and supply the troops with which they jockeyed for power. The economy was in a shambles, and the situation became so bad in the cities that it was dangerous to venture out into the streets, particularly for women
Slide 16 - History
The Taliban developed in religious schools in Pakistan. (Talib is the Arabic/Persian/Pashto word for ‘student’; -an is the Dari/Pashto masculine plural.) They were mostly young, poorly educated Pashtuns, many of whom lost their fathers and uncles in the struggle against the Soviets. They fought off rival mujaheddin and other warlords, and went on to take the city of Kandahar, beginning a successful campaign that ended with their capture of Kabul in September 1996. Their success was largely due to their ability to restore civil order after the chaos of the preceding war years.
The Taliban restored order by imposing extreme interpretations of Islamic law, with severe restrictions on the activities of women. Measures were enforced with public floggings and stoning. Their extreme measures alienated most of the world. Only Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia recognized the Taliban government, while the rest of the world continued to recognize the Rabbani government, although by then it controlled little of the country.
In 1996, the Taliban extended safe haven to Osama bin Laden, who had returned to Saudi Arabia from Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal to work in the family construction business. From Afghanistan, Bin Laden called for a jihad against the United States.
Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization led by bin Laden, has been identified as the organization behind terrorist acts against the United States, the most renowned being the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. The United States demanded the surrender of bin Laden for his part in 9/11, but the Taliban refused to give him up, claiming that Pashtunwali (specifically, their concept of hospitality and the responsibility of a host to protect a guest) did not allow them to. In the recent conflict, pro-American fighters decimated the Taliban’s fighting force and their rule ended. A provisional government has been established, and the country is tentatively beginning, once again, to rebuild.
Slide 17 – Refugees
Aconsequence of the constant strife and warfare in Afghanistan has been the flood of refugees seeking to escape.
Slide 18 - People
Oerview. Afghanistan has never been inhabited by only one ethnic group. Its ethnic mosaic has no precise boundaries, nor is its national culture uniform. Few of its ethnic groups are indigenous and few maintain racial homogeneity. The modern country's boundaries were determined by the interests of foreign powers, and on every side they cut arbitrarily through land traditionally occupied by one ethnic group or another. Within Afghanistan there are over 40 major ethnicities who speak over 50 separate languages or dialects. Its citizens naturally identify with those who speak their language and share their culture. Their loyalty is first to their local leaders and their tribe. Identification with an abstract Afghan nation has always been fragile.
While the different groups differ in language and culture, they also share fundamental qualities. One of the most striking qualities of the Afghan people is their toughness and resilience. Popular culture is based on tradition, steeped in religion and colored by tribal war, romance, and magic.
There has never been an accurate population census taken in Afghanistan, but the most common estimate is approximately 28 million. One out of five people are thought to be in refugee camps along the country’s borders and in neighboring nations. Pakistan has given refuge to 3 million Afghan refugees.