Afghanistan is a remote region without access to the sea. It serves as a strategic link between the Middle East and the Far East.
Present-day Afghanistan has been conquered in ancient times by Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and the Mogul Empire, and it was a buffer between Russia and India.
In 1979, the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan for ten years. During the occupation, the United States supported anti-Communist resistance groups. A major connection between the CIA and Mujahideen was Osama bin Laden.
After the Soviets left, conflicts arose between the many ethnic factions in Afghanistan. Dozens of languages are spoken, and forming any national unity or identity is not easy. The national government in the capital city of Kabul has little influence in the country’s rural regions.
The Islamic fundamentalist group known as the Taliban came to power, using Islam as a unifying force to bring the country together, while ignoring the fact Islam was practiced very differently by the many local groups. Many Afghanis opposed the Taliban, causing a civil war that resulted in the deaths of fifty thousand people. Under Taliban rule, women were removed from many jobs and required to be covered from head to toe with burkas.
Osama bin Laden remained in Afghanistan and established training camps for his anti-Western resistance group called al-Qaeda. The 9-11 attack in New York City was traced back to al-Qaeda and bin Laden. The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, removed the Taliban from power, and dismantled the al-Qaeda training camps. The armed conflicts in Afghanistan did not end with the US invasion.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest places on Earth. Agriculture is the main economic activity in rural communities. The country is the world’s largest producer of opium, which can be refined into heroin. Vast amounts of mineral wealth have been found, including iron, copper, gold, cobalt, and lithium. These finds may change the future of Afghanistan.
Most of the country is ruled by warlords and clan leaders. Bribery and corruption in the Afghan government are serious obstacles to a stable political environment. Afghanistan’s infrastructure has been destroyed through war, and its government is dependent on foreign aid.
Democratic elections were held in 2004. Hamid Karzai became the country’s first elected president in the twentieth century, despite wide claims of election fraud. The right to vote was restored to women.
Source: Central Asia and Afghanistan: Afghanistan
By Saylor Academy, CC-BY 3.0