Afghanistan ‘s recent history is characterized by war and civil unrest. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 but was forced to withdraw 10 years later by anti-Communist mujahidin forces supplied and trained by the US, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others. Fighting subsequently continued among the various mujahidin factions, giving rise to a state of warlordism that eventually spawned the Taliban.
Backed by foreign sponsors, the Taliban developed as a political force and eventually seized power. The Taliban were able to capture most of the country, aside from Northern Alliance strongholds primarily in the northeast, until US and allied military action in support of the opposition following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks forced the group’s downfall. In late 2001, major leaders from the Afghan opposition groups and diaspora met in Bonn, Germany and agreed on a plan for the formulation of a new government structure that resulted in the inauguration of Hamid KARZAI as Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) on 22 December 2001. The AIA held a nationwide Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) in June 2002, and KARZAI was elected President by secret ballot of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA).
The Transitional Authority had an 18-month mandate to hold a nationwide Loya Jirga to adopt a constitution and a 24-month mandate to hold nationwide elections. In early January 2004 Afghanistan adopted its new constitution, establishing the country as an Islamic republic.
After being postponed twice, Afghanistan’s presidential election, in which over 8 million people voted, was finally held on 9 th October 2004. Hamed Karzai, the interim president was the winner with 55.4% of the votes. Although the adoption of a new constitution in January 2004 and the election of Hamid Karzai as president in October 2004 were considered major advances in Afghanistan’s fragmented political life, substantial regional power centers remained in 2006.
After the first National Assembly was seated in December 2005, the balance between the executive and legislative branches remained uncertain, and Karzai was obliged to name key regional warlords to his new cabinet in 2006. In March 2006, the United Nations renewed for one year the mandate of its Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), designed to provide political and strategic guidance. ) In addition to occasionally violent political jockeying and ongoing military action to root out remaining terrorists and Taliban elements, the country suffers from enormous poverty, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread land mines.
|Description: Three equal vertical bands of black, red and green with a gold emblem centered on the red band; the emblem features a temple-like structure encircled by a wreath on the left and right and by a bold Islamic inscription above.|
The most scientific demographic survey carried out in Afghanistan was also one of the first. Conducted in 1972-74 by the State University of New York (SUNY) for the United States Agency for International Development (AID), in cooperation with the Afghan government, this survey reported a settled population of 10.18 million. It did not cover the entire country, and the nomadic population was not surveyed. The nomads were separately estimated at slightly more than 1 million. Afghanistan’s population in July 2002 was estimated at 27.7 million with 3.43% growth rate.
Afghanistan is home to a multiplicity of ethnic and linguistic groups, as well as several sects within Islam and other religions. Historic and geographic factors created and preserved this diversity although varying degrees of cultural assimilation continuously take place and a considerable degree of cultural homogeneity exists.
In 1996, approximately 40 percent of Afghans were Pashtun, 11.4 of whom are of the Durrani tribal group and 13.8 percent of the Ghilzai group. Tajiks make up the second largest ethnic group with 25.3 percent of the population, followed by Hazaras, 18 percent; Uzbeks, 6.3 percent; Turkmen, 2.5 percent; Qizilbash, 1.0; 6.9 percent other. The usual caveat regarding statistics is particularly appropriate here.
Islam is one of the few commonalities in Afghan society despite the existence of sectarian differences and variations in Quranic and legal interpretations. Approximately 99 percent of Afghans are Muslims. Eighty-five percent are Sunni of the Hanafi School; the rest are Shia, the majority of whom are Imami along with smaller numbers of Ismailis. There is also a strong influence of Sufism among both Sunni and Shia communities.
Pashtu and Dari are two formal language in Afghanistan and the literacy rate is 36%. (male: 51% and female: 21%)
(Executive Branch: In October 2004 the president, Hamed Karzai who was elected to five-year terms is both chief of state and head of government. The president appoints ministers, subject to the approval of the Wolesi Jirga (People’s Council), the lower house of the National Assembly. Following a reorganization in early 2006, the government included 25 ministries; appointments to these ministries have been distributed among influential regional and military groups. The reorganization reduced the number of ministries by two and shifted key individuals. One woman headed a ministry in 2006. The process of confirming Karzai’s new ministerial appointees for 2006, considered a major test of power between the president and his opposition in parliament, resulted in approval of all the president’s nominees. The former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, who was 89 years old in 2005, received the honorific title “Father of the Country” and represents the country at some state functions, but he exercises no governmental power.
Legislative Branch: The constitution calls for a bicameral legislature, the National Assembly. The Wolesi Jirga, whose geographical distribution is determined by population, has 249 seats. Some 68 seats are designated for women and 10 for the Kuchis. The 102 members of the upper house, the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), are appointed by provincial councils (one member for each of 34 provinces, serving four-year terms); by district councils (accounting for another 34 members, each serving three-year terms); and the president. The government can convene a Loya Jirga (Constituent Assembly) to decide urgent matters of independence, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
Judicial Branch: Afghanistan’s judicial branch deteriorated during the Soviet occupation, and justice was administered by strict Islamic law during the Taliban era (1996–2001). To replace the ad hoc system in place under the transitional government, the constitution of 2004 stipulated that the Supreme Court include nine justices appointed by the president, with approval of the Wolesa Jirga, for 10-year terms. At the urging of his Western partners in the 2006 Afghanistan Compact, President Karzai replaced several Supreme Court justices in 2006.)
Afghanistan is an extremely poor, landlocked country, highly dependent on farming and livestock raising (sheep and goats). Economic considerations have played second fiddle to political and military upheavals during two decades of war, including the nearly 10-year Soviet military occupation (which ended 15 February 1989). During that conflict one-third of the population fled the country, with Pakistan and Iran sheltering a combined peak of more than 6 million refugees. Gross domestic product has fallen substantially over the past 20 years because of the loss of labor and capital and the disruption of trade and transport; severe drought added to the nation’s difficulties in 1998-2001.
The majority of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care, problems exacerbated by military operations and political uncertainties. Inflation remains a serious problem. Following the US-led coalition war that led to the defeat of the Taliban in November 2001 and the formulation of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA), International efforts to rebuild Afghanistan were addressed at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan Reconstruction in January 2002, when $4.5 billion was collected for a trust fund to be administered by the World Bank.
Priority areas for reconstruction include the construction of education, health, and sanitation facilities, enhancement of administrative capacity, the development of the agricultural sector, and the rebuilding of road, energy, and telecommunication links.
Afghanistan currency is Afghani.
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