LOCATION AND SIZE
Afghanistan is a 252,000 sq mi (652,000 km2) landlocked country situated at the hub of South Asia and Central Asia. It has a population of approximately 28.6 million people (2016). To the south and east, Afghanistan shares a border with Pakistan; to the west, it shares a border with Iran, and its northern border touches the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. In the far northeast, it shares a border with China.
Afghanistan achieved independence and freed itself from British control over its foreign affairs in 1919, following the Third Anglo-Afghan War. The Treaty of Rawalpindi granted Afghanistan sovereignty, which was declared on August 19, 1919 by King Amanullah Khan.
Afghanistan’s National Unity Government, elected in 2014, is led by President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzei and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.
Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan with a population of about 4.5 million.
Afghanistan has an abundance of natural resources, among them: natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromate, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones like emeralds, rubies, and lapis lazuli.
Afghanistan has been a land of diverse peoples for centuries. The country’s constitution officially recognizes 14 ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Baluch, Turkmen, Nuristani, Pamiri, Arab, Gujar, Brahui, Qizilbash, Aimaq, and Pashai. Pashto and Dari are Afghanistan’s official languages; Dari is spoken by more than one-third of the population and Pashto is spoken throughout Kabul and eastern and southern Afghanistan, but many Afghans are multilingual. Tajik and Turkic languages are spoken widely in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.
Afghanistan is an Islamic country. An estimated 80 percent of the population is Sunni and 20 percent are predominantly Shi’a.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
Afghanistan’s geography features soaring mountain ranges and steep plateaus, as well as deserts, rivers, lakes, verdant plains and forests. It has a relatively dry climate with four distinct seasons; summers are hot and sunny, during the spring, flowers bloom in profusion across the country; autumns are mild; and winters are cold and bring snow to most areas.
The “Afghani” (AFN) is the national currency, with an exchange rate of about 60 Afghanis to $1 USD.
Did you know?
- The media age of Afghan women and men is 18.4. 27% of Afghans live in urban areas, the rest live in the countryside.
- More than 90 percent of the country has cell phone coverage, and there are 23 million cell phone users.
- The vast majority of Afghans (78 percent) work in the agriculture industry.
- The country produces some of the world’s finest pomegranates, grapes, apricots and melons.
- The world’s first oil paintings were drawn around 650 BC in the caves of Bamiyan, in the central highlands of Afghanistan.
- Poetry is 1,000 years old in Afghanistan.
- There are 135 institutions of higher education in Afghanistan.