Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
AnthemAfghan National Anthem
(and largest city)
34°31′N 69°08′E / 34.517°N 69.133°E / 34.517; 69.133
Official language(s) Pashto and Dari (Persian) [1][2]
Demonym Afghan [alternatives]
Government Islamic republic
 -  President Hamid Karzai
 -  Vice President Mohammed Fahim
 -  Vice President Karim Khalili
 -  Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi
 -  First Afghan state [3][4] October 1747 
 -  Independence August 19, 1919 
 -  Total 647500 km2 (41st)
251772 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  2010 estimate 28,395,716[5] (42nd)
 -  1979 census 15.5 million[6] 
 -  Density 43.5/km2 (150th)
111.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 estimate
 -  Total $26.976 billion[7] 
 -  Per capita $1,000[8] 
GDP (nominal) 2009 estimate
 -  Total $14.483 billion[7] 
 -  Per capita $501[7] 
HDI (2007) 0.352 (low) (181st)
Currency Afghani (AFN)
Time zone D† (UTC+4:30)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .af
Calling code +93

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, commonly known as Afghanistan (; افغانستان afġānistān), is a landlocked and mountainous country in south-central Asia.[9] It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east,[note] Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast. The territories now comprising Afghanistan have been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and human migration. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation from as far back as 50,000 BCE.[10] Urban civilization may have begun in the area as early as 3000 to 2000 BC.[11]

The country sits at an important geostrategic location which connects the Middle East with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent,[12] which has been home to various people through the ages.[13] The land has witnessed military conquests since antiquity, including by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and many others.[10][11] It has also served as a source from which many local dynasties, for example Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, or Ghaznavids have established empires of their own.[14]

The political history of modern Afghanistan begins in the 18th century with the rise of the Pashtun tribes (known as Afghans in Persian language), when in 1709 the Hotaki dynasty rose to power in Kandahar and Ahmad Shah Durrani established the Durrani Empire in 1747.[4][15][16] The capital of Afghanistan was shifted in 1776 from Kandahar to Kabul and part of its territory was ceded to neighboring empires by 1893. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between the British and Russian empires.[17] On August 19, 1919, following the third Anglo-Afghan war and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi, the nation regained control over its foreign policy from the British.

Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has experienced a continuous state of war, including major foreign occupations in the forms of the 1979 Soviet invasion, Pakistani military interference in favour of the Taliban in the late 1990s and the October 2001 US-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help maintain security and assist the Karzai administration.[18] The country is being rebuilt slowly with support from the international community while dealing with the Taliban insurgency and widespread political corruption.[19][20]


The name Afghānistān, Persian: افغانستان ,[21] means the "Land of Afghans", originating from the word Afghan.

Origin of the name

The first part of the name "Afghan" designates the Pashtun people since ancient times, the founders and the largest ethnic group of the country.[22] This name is mentioned in the form of "Abgan" in the 3rd century CE[23] and as "Avagana" in the 6th century CE.

The Encyclopædia Iranica states:

A people called "Afghans" are mentioned several times in a 10th century geography book, Hudud al-'alam. Al-Biruni referred to them in the 11th century as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of the Indus River, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains.[24] Ibn Battuta, a famous Moroccan travelling scholar visiting the region in 1333, writes:

Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah (Ferishta) explains extensively about Afghans in the 16th century. For example, he writes:

By the 17th century AD, it seems that some Pashtuns themselves were using the term as an ethnonym - a fact that is supported by traditional Pashto literature, for example, in the writings of the 17th-century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak:

Pull out your sword and slay any one, that says Pashtun and Afghan are not one! Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans![25]

The last part of the name, -stān is a Persian suffix for "place", prominent in many languages of the region. The name "Afghanistan" is described by the 16th century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs as well as by later Mughal scholar Firishta, both referring to the territories south of Kabul that were inhabited by Pashtuns (called "Afghans" by both authors).[26] Until the 19th century the name was used for the traditional lands of the Pashtuns only, while the kingdom as a whole was known as the Kingdom of Kabul, as mentioned by the British statesman and historian Mountstuart Elphinstone.[27] In 1857, in his review of J.W. Kaye's The Afghan War, Friedrich Engels describes "Afghanistan" as:

Other parts of the country were at certain periods recognized as independent kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Balkh in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.[28] With the expansion and centralization of the country, Afghan authorities adopted and extended the name "Afghanistan" to the entire kingdom, after its English translation had already appeared in various treaties between the British Raj and Qajarid Persia, referring to the lands subject to the Pashtun Barakzai dynasty of Kabul.[29] It became the official internationally recognized name in 1919 after the Treaty of Rawalpindi was signed to regain full independence over its foreign policy from the British,[30] and was confirmed as such in the nation's 1923 constitution.[31]


A landlocked and mountainous country, with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is variously described as being located within South Asia,[32][33] Central Asia[34][35] and sometimes Western Asia (or the Middle East).[36] Its highest point is Nowshak, at 7,485 m (24,557 ft) above sea level. The climate varies by region and tends to change quite rapidly. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world.[37]

The nation has a continental climate with very harsh winters in the central highlands, the glaciated northeast (around Nuristan) and the Wakhan Corridor, where the average temperature in January is below , and hot summers in the low-lying areas of Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin of the east, and the Turkistan plains along the Amu River of the north, where temperatures average over in July. The country is frequently subject to minor earthquakes, mainly in the northeast of Hindu Kush mountain areas. Some 125 villages were damaged and 4,000 people killed by the May 31, 1998, earthquake.

At , Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country (after Burma). It shares borders with Pakistan in the East, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east. The country does not face any water shortage because it receives huge amounts of snow during winter. Once that melts, the water runs into rivers, lakes, and streams, but most of its national water flows to neighboring states. The state needs around $2 billion to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly used.[38]

The nation's natural resources include gold, silver, copper, zinc, and iron ore in the Southeast; precious and semi-precious stones (such as lapis, emerald, and azure) in the Northeast; and potentially significant petroleum and natural gas reserves in the North. The country also has uranium, coal, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, and salt.[39][40][41][42] It was revealed in 2010 that the country has about $1–3 trillion in untapped mineral deposits.[43][44]