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 History AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY, its internal political development, its foreign relations, and its very existence as an independent state have been largely determined by its location at the crossroads of Central, West, and South AAlthough it was the scene of great empires and flourishing trade for over two millennia, Afghanistan did not become a truly independent nation until thetwentieth century. For centuries a zone of conflict among strong neighboring sia. Waves of migrating peoples poured through the region in ancient times, leaving a human residue to form a mosaic of ethnic and linguistic groups. In modern times, a.. well as in antiquity, great armies passed through the region, establishing at least temporary local control and often dominating Iran and northern India as well. powers, the area’s heterogeneous groups were not bound into a single political entity until the reign of the brilliant Ahmad Shah Durrani, who in 1747 founded the monarchy that ruled the country until 1973. After his death, the absence of a strong successor possessed of military and political skills resulted in the temporary disintegration of the kingdom he had created, a frequent pattern in the society’s history. Just as it was the arena of conflict between the Mughal Empire of India and the Safavi Empire of Iran in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, Afghanistan in the nineteenth century lay between the expanding might of the Russian and British empires. It was in the context of this confrontation that Afghanistan in its contemporary form came into existence during the reigns of Dost Mohammad Khan and Amir Abdur Rahman Khan. Historical patterns of the past several centuries remained relevant to the nation’s situation in the mid-1980s. First, because of Afghanistan’s strategic location geopolitically, great rival powers have tended to view the control of Afghanistan by a major opponent as unacceptable. Sometimes the Afghans have been able to use this circumstance to their benefit, but more often they have suffered grievously in the great power struggles. Great powers have considered Afghanistan’s internal politics more as a reflection of international rivalry than as events in themselves. A second pattern has been the inability of central governments to establish effective and permanent control over the Afghanistnn: A Country Study numerous peoples of the society. Only in response to foreign invasions or as part of a conquering army outside the country have the many diverse groups found common cause. In the more remote areas tribal warriors-particularly the Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group-have successfully resisted foreign domination for centuries. Neither the heirs of Alexander the Great nor those of Genghis Khan, Timur, or Ahmad Shah were able to subdue the tribes permanently. A third enduring pattern in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been the gradual extension of Russian control into Central Asia. The strategies used by the tsar’s generals to subdue the khans north of the Amu Darya may have been instructive to Soviet commanders who moved across the river in 1979. The Afghans, like the Turks and Iranians, historically have had both a fear of the Soviet Union and a desire to benefit from relations with their northern neighbor. Finally, one cannot examine Afghan history without noting the key role of Islam. Even Genghis Khan was unable to uproot Islam, and within two generations his heirs had become Muslims. Religious leaders have always played a political role and, as in many other nations, religion has served as a means of political expression. An important, if often unacknowledged, event in Afghan history that played a role in the politics of Afghanistan’s neighbors and the entire region up to the present was the rise in the tenth century of a strong Sunni dynasty- the Ghaznavids-whose power prevented the eastward spread of Shiism from Iran and thereby assured that the majority of Muslims in Afghanistan and South Asia would become Sunnis.

Afghanistan is Divided Into 34 Provinces




ProvinceHASCISOFIPSPopulationArea (km.²)Area (mi.²)Capital
BadghisAF.BGBDGAF02301,00020,5917,950Qal'eh-ye Now
BaghlanAF.BLBGLAF03745,00021,1188,154Pol-e Khomri
BalkhAF.BKBALAF30869,00017,2496,660Mazar-e Sharif
DaikondiAF.DKDAYAF41 8,0883,123Khadir
HelmandAF.HMHELAF10745,00058,58422,619Lashgar Gah
LaghmanAF.LALAGAF35373,0003,8431,484Mehtar Lam
LowgarAF.LWLOWAF17292,0003,8801,498Pol-e 'Alam
OruzganAF.OZORUAF39627,00022,6968,763Tarin Kowt
PanjshirAF.PJPANAF42 3,6101,394Bazarak
Sar-e PolAF.SPSARAF33468,00015,9996,177Sar-e Pol
34 provinces20,291,000645,807249,347