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JULY 1994

Official Name:  Islamic State of Afghanistan


Area:  648,000 sq. km. (252,000 sq. mi.); slightly 
smaller than Texas.  Cities (1993 est.):  Capital--Kabul 
(est. 800,000).  Other cities--Kandahar (226,000); Herat 
(177,000); Mazar-e-Sharif (131,000);  Jalalabad (58,000);  
Konduz (57,000).  

Terrain:  Landlocked;  mostly mountains and desert.  

Climate:  Dry, with cold winters and hot summers.

Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Afghan(s).  
Population:  17.7 million (1993 estimate, including about 
1.4 million refugees in Pakistan and 2 million refugees 
in Iran).  Annual growth rate:  2.5% (1993 est.).  

Ethnic groups:  Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Aimaq, 
Turkmen, Baluch, Nuristani.  

Religions:  Sunni Muslim 84%, Shi'a Muslim 15%.  

Languages:  Pashto, Dari (Afghan Persian).  

Education: Years compulsory--6.  Literacy--about 29%.  

Health: Infant mortality rate (1993)--169 /1,000.  Life 
expectancy (1992 est.)--45 yrs. (male); 43 yrs. (female).  

Work force:  Mostly in rural agriculture; number cannot 
be estimated due to conflict.

Type:  Afghanistan identifies itself as an "Islamic 

Independence:  August 19, 1919 (from U.K.). 

Organization:  Interim government is a presidential 
system with a prime minister and cabinet. 

Political parties:  The 10 major Afghan political 
factions are largely based on the former resistance 
organizations.  About half are Islamist in orientation; 
the other are more traditional or secular.  President 
Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-i-Islami (Islamic Society) 
and Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami 
(Islamic Party) have been bitter rivals for political 
influence in Afghanistan.  

Flag:  Adopted in 1992, the flag has three horizontal 
bands--green, white, and black--with the great seal of 
Afghanistan superimposed on the bands. 

GDP:  $3 billion (1991 est.).

Natural resources:  Natural gas, oil, coal, copper, talc, 
barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron, salt, precious and 
semiprecious stones.

Agriculture (at least 65% of GDP):  Wheat, corn, barley, 
rice, cotton, fruit, nuts, karakul pelts, wool, mutton. 

Industry (estimated 20% of GDP):  Small-scale production 
for domestic use of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, 
fertilizer, and cement; handwoven carpets for export. 

Trade (1992 est.):  Exports--$1 billion:  carpets, rugs, 
fruit and nuts, natural gas, cotton, oil-cake, karakul.  
Major markets--Central Asian Republics, EEC, India, 
Pakistan.  Imports--$1.7 billion:  petroleum products, 
sugar, manufactured goods, edible oils, tea.   Major 
suppliers--Central Asian Republics, Japan, Singapore, 
France, India, Pakistan.   

1994 market exchange rate:  2,400 Afghanis=U.S. $1.

Afghanistan's ethnically and linguistically mixed 
population reflects its location astride historic trade 
and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South 
and Southwest Asia.  Pashtuns are the dominant ethnic 
group, accounting for about 38% of the population.  Tajik 
(25%), Hazara (19%), Aimaq (6%), Uzbek (6%), Turkmen 
(2%), and other small groups are also represented.  Dari 
(Afghan Persian) and Pashto are official languages.  Dari 
is spoken by more than one-third of the population as a 
first language and serves as a lingua franca for most 
Afghans.  Tajik, Uzbek, and Turkmen are spoken widely in 
the north.  More than 70 other languages and numerous 
dialects are also spoken by smaller groups throughout the 

Afghanistan is an Islamic country.  An estimated 84% of 
the population is Sunni;  the remainder is predominantly 
Shi'a, including Isma'ilis, Hazaras, and the Qizilbash.  
Despite attempts during the years of communist rule to 
secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices still 
pervade all aspects of life.  Likewise, Islamic religious 
tradition and codes provide the principal means of 
controlling personal conduct and settling legal disputes.  
Excluding urban populations in the principal cities, most 
Afghans are divided into clans and tribal groups, which 
follow centuries-old customs and religious practices.

Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, 
has had a turbulent history.  In 328 BC, Alexander the 
Great entered the territory of present-day Afghanistan, 
then part of the Persian Empire, to capture Bactria 
(present-day Balkh).  Invasions by the Scythians, White 
Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries.  In AD 
642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced 

Arab rule quickly gave way to the Persians, who 
controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic 
Ghaznavids in 998.  Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) 
consolidated the conquests of his predecessors and turned 
Ghazni into a great cultural center as well as a base for 
frequent forays into India.  Following Mahmud's short-
lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule sections 
of the country until the Mongol invasion of 1219.  The 
Mongol invasion, led by Genghis Khan, resulted in the 
destruction of many cities, including Herat, Ghazni, and 
Balkh, and the despoliation of fertile agricultural 

Following Genghis Khan's death in 1227, a succession of 
petty chieftains and princes struggled for supremacy 
until late in the 14th century, when one of his 
descendants, Tamerlane, incorporated Afghanistan into his 
own vast Asian empire.  Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane 
and the founder of India's Moghul dynasty at the 
beginning of the 16th century, made Kabul the capital of 
an Afghan principality.

In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of what is known 
today as Afghanistan, established his rule.  A Pashtun, 
Durrani was elected king by a tribal council after the 
assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir Shah at 
Khabushan in the same year.  Throughout his reign, 
Durrani consolidated chieftainships, petty 
principalities, and fragmented provinces into one 
country.  His rule extended from Mashhad in the west to 
Kashmir and Delhi in the east, and from the Amu Darya 
(Oxus) River in the north to the Arabian Sea in the 
south.  All of Afghanistan's rulers until the 1978 
Marxist coup were from Durrani's Pashtun tribal 
confederation, and all were members of that tribe's 
Mohammadzai clan after 1818.

European Influence
Collision between the expanding British and Russian 
Empires significantly influenced Afghanistan during the 
19th century.  British concern over Russian advances in 
Central Asia and growing influence in Persia culminated 
in two Anglo-Afghan wars.  The first (1839-42) resulted 
not only in the destruction of a British army, but is 
remembered today as an example of the ferocity of Afghan 
resistance to foreign rule.  The second Anglo-Afghan war 
(1878-80) was sparked by Amir Shir Ali's refusal to 
accept a British mission in Kabul.  This conflict brought 
Amir Abdur Rahman to the Afghan throne.  During his reign 
(1880-1901), the British and Russians officially 
established the boundaries of what would become modern 
Afghanistan.  The British retained effective control over 
Kabul's foreign affairs.

Afghanistan remained neutral during World War I, despite 
German encouragement of anti-British feelings and Afghan 
rebellion along the borders of British India.  The Afghan 
king's policy of neutrality was not universally popular 
within the country, however.  

Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son and successor, was 
assassinated by members of an anti-British movement in 
1919.  His third son, Amanullah, regained control of 
Afghanistan's foreign policy after launching the Third 
Anglo-Afghan war with an attack on India in the same 
year.  During the ensuing conflict, the war-weary British 
relinquished their control over Afghan foreign affairs by 
signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1919.  In 
commemoration of this event, Afghans celebrate August 19 
as their Independence Day.

Reform and Reaction
King Amanullah (1919-29) moved to end his country's 
traditional isolation in the years following the Third 
Anglo-Afghan war.  He established diplomatic relations 
with most major countries and, following a 1927 tour of 
Europe and Turkey--which had seen modernization and 
secularization under Attaturk--introduced several reforms 
intended to modernize the country.  Some of these, such 
as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil for women 
and the opening of a number of coeducational schools, 
quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders.  The 
weakness of the army under Amanullah further jeopardized 
his position.  He was forced to abdicate in January 1929 
after Kabul fell to forces led by Bacha-i-Saqao, a Tajik 
brigand.  Prince Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah's, in 
turn defeated Bacha-i-Saqao in October of the same year.  
With considerable Pashtun tribal support, Khan was 
declared King Nadir Shah.  Four years later, however, he 
was assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.

Mohammad Zahir Shah, Nadir Khan's 19-year-old son, 
succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973.  
In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal 
constitution providing for a two-chamber legislature to 
which the king appointed one-third of the deputies.  The 
people elected another third, and the remainder were 
selected indirectly by provincial assemblies.  Although 
Zahir's "experiment in democracy" produced few lasting 
reforms, it permitted the growth of unofficial extremist 
parties of both left and right.  This included the 
communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan 
(PDPA), which had close ideological ties to the Soviet 
Union.  In 1967, the PDPA split into two major rival 
factions:  the Khalq (Masses) faction headed by Nur 
Muhammad Taraki and supported by the military, and the 
Parcham (Banner) faction led by Babrak Karmal.  The split 
reflected deep ethnic, class, and ideological divisions 
within Afghan society.

Zahir's cousin, Sardar Mohammad Daoud, served as his 
Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963.  During his tenure as 
Prime Minister, Daoud solicited military and economic 
assistance from both Washington and Moscow and introduced 
controversial social policies.  Daoud's alleged support 
for the creation of a Pashtun state in the Pakistan-
Afghan border area heightened tensions with Pakistan and 
eventually resulted in Daoud's dismissal in March 1963.

Daoud's Republic (1973-78) and the April 1978 Coup 
Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the 
royal family and poor economic conditions caused by the 
severe 1971-72 drought, former Prime Minister Daoud 
seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973.  Daoud 
abolished the monarchy, abrogated the 1964 constitution, 
and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as its 
first President and Prime Minister.  His attempts to 
carry out badly needed economic and social reforms met 
with little success, and the new constitution promulgated 
in February 1977 failed to quell chronic political 

Seeking to exploit more effectively mounting popular 
disaffection, the PDPA reunified with Moscow's support.  
On April 27-28, 1978, the PDPA initiated a bloody coup 
which resulted in the overthrow and death of Daoud and 
most of his family.  Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary 
General of the PDPA, became President of the 
Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly 
established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Opposition to the Marxist government emerged almost 
immediately.  During its first 18 months of rule, the 
PDPA brutally imposed a Marxist-style "reform" program 
which ran counter to deeply rooted Islamic traditions.  

Decrees advocating the abolition of usury, changes in 
marriage customs, and land reform were particularly 
misunderstood and upsetting to highly conservative 
villagers.  In addition, thousands of members of the 
traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the 
intelligentsia were imprisoned, tortured, or murdered.  
Conflicts within the PDPA also surfaced early and 
resulted in exiles, purges, imprisonments, and 

By the summer of 1978, a major revolt in the Nuristan 
region of eastern Afghanistan spread into a country-wide 
insurgency.  In September 1979, Hafizullah Amin, who had 
earlier been the Prime Minister and minister of defense, 
seized power from Taraki after a palace shootout.  Over 
the next two months, instability plagued Amin's regime as 
he moved against perceived enemies in the PDPA.  By 
December, party morale was crumbling, and the insurgency 
was growing.

The Soviet Invasion
The Soviet Union moved quickly to take advantage of the 
April 1978 coup.  In December 1978, Moscow signed a new 
bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation with 
Afghanistan, and the Soviet military assistance program 
increased significantly.  The regime's survival 
increasingly was dependent upon Soviet military equipment 
and advisers as the insurgency spread and the Afghan army 
began to collapse.  

By October 1979, however, relations between Afghanistan 
and the Soviet Union were tense as Hafizullah Amin 
refused to take Soviet advice on how to stabilize and 
consolidate his government.  Faced with a deteriorating 
security situation on December 24, 1979, large numbers of 
Soviet airborne forces, joining thousands of Soviet 
troops already on the ground, began to land in Kabul 
under the pretext of a field exercise.  On December 26, 
these invasion forces killed Hafizullah Amin and 
installed Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham 
faction, as Prime Minister.  Massive Soviet ground forces 
invaded from the north on December 27.

Following the invasion, the Karmal regime, although 
backed by an expeditionary force of about 120,000 Soviet 
troops, was unable to establish authority outside Kabul.  
As much as 80% of the countryside, including parts of 
Herat and Kandahar, eluded effective government control.  
An overwhelming majority of Afghans opposed the communist 
regime, either actively or passively.  Afghan freedom 
fighters (mujahidin) made it almost impossible for the 
regime to maintain a system of local government outside 
major urban centers.  Poorly armed at first, in 1984 the 
mujahidin began receiving substantial assistance in the 
form of weapons and training from the U.S. and other 
outside powers.  

In May 1985, the seven principal Peshawar-based guerrilla 
organizations formed an alliance to coordinate their 
political and military operations against the Soviet 
occupation.  Late in 1985, the mujahidin were active in 
and around Kabul, launching rocket attacks and 
assassinating high government officials.  The failure of 
the Soviet Union to win over a significant number of 
Afghan collaborators or to rebuild a viable Afghan army 
forced it to bear an increasing responsibility for 
fighting the resistance and for civilian administration.

Soviet and popular displeasure with the Karmal regime led 
to its demise in May 1986.  Karmal was replaced by 
Muhammad Najibullah, former chief of the Afghan secret 
police (KHAD).  Najibullah had established a reputation 
for brutal efficiency during his tenure as KHAD chief.

As Prime Minister, though, Najibullah was ineffective and 
highly dependent on Soviet support.  Undercut by deep-
seated divisions within the PDPA, regime efforts to 
broaden its base of support proved futile.

The Geneva Accords and Aftermath
By the mid-1980s, the tenacious Afghan resistance 
movement--aided by the United States, Saudi Arabia, 
Pakistan, and others--was exacting a high price from the 
Soviets, both militarily within Afghanistan and by 
souring the U.S.S.R.'s relations with much of the Western 
and Islamic world.  Although informal negotiations for a 
Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had been underway 
since 1982, it was not until 1988 that the Governments of 
Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the United States and 
Soviet Union serving as guarantors, signed an agreement 
settling the major differences between them.  The 
agreement, known as the Geneva accords, included five 
major documents, which, among other things, called for 
U.S. and Soviet non-interference in the internal affairs 
of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the right of refugees to 
return to Afghanistan without fear of persecution or 
harassment, and, most importantly, a timetable that 
ensured full Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by 
February 15, 1989.  About 14,500 Soviet and an estimated 
one million Afghan lives were lost between 1979 and the 
Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Significantly, the mujahidin were neither party to the 
negotiations nor to the 1988 agreement and, consequently, 
refused to accept the terms of the accords.  As a result, 
civil war did not end with the Soviet withdrawal, 
completed as scheduled in February 1989.  Instead, it 
escalated.  Najibul-lah's regime, though failing to win 
popular support, territory, or international recognition, 
was able to remain in power until 1992.

The Soviet-supported Najibullah regime did not collapse 
until the defection of General Abdul Rashid Dostam and 
his Uzbek militia in March 1992.  However, as the 
victorious mujahidin entered Kabul to assume control over 
the city and the central government, a new round of 
internecine fighting began between the various militias, 
which had coexisted only uneasily during the Soviet 
occupation.  With the demise of their common enemy, the 
militias' ethnic, clan, religious, and personality 
differences surfaced, and the civil war continued.

Seeking to resolve these differences, the leaders of the 
Peshawar-based mujahidin groups agreed in mid-April to 
establish a 51-member interim Islamic Jihad Council to 
assume power in Kabul.  Moderate leader Professor 
Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was to chair the council for three 
months, after which a 10-member leadership council 
composed of mujahidin leaders and presided over by the 
head of the Jamiat-i-Islami, Professor Burhanuddin 
Rabbani, was to be set up for a period of four months.  
During this six-month period, a Loya Jirga, or grand 
council of Afghan elders and notables, would convene and 
designate an interim administration which would hold 
power up to a year, pending elections.

But in May 1992, Rabbani prematurely formed the 
leadership council, undermining Mojaddedi's fragile 
authority.  In June, Mojaddedi surrendered power to the 
Leadership Council, which then elected Rabbani as 
President.  Nonetheless, heavy fighting broke out in 
August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President 
Rabbani and rival factions, particularly those who 
supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami.  After 
Rabbani convened a highly controversial council to extend 
his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the capital 
flared up in January and February 1993.  The Islamabad 
accord, signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar 
as Prime Minister, failed to have a lasting effect.  A 
follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad accord, called for the 
militias to be disarmed but was never fully implemented.  
Through 1993, Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces, allied 
with the Shi'a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed 
intermittently with Rabbani and Masood's Jamiat forces.  
Cooperating with Jamiat were militants of Sayyaf's 
Ittehad-i-Islami and, periodically, troops loyal to 
ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam.  On January 
1, 1994, Dostam switched sides, precipitating large-scale 
fighting in Kabul and in northern provinces, which caused 
thousands of civilian casualties in Kabul and elsewhere 
and created a new wave of displaced persons and refugees.

The central government exercises only limited control 
over the countryside, where local leaders and militia 
commanders, some with only nominal allegiance to any of 
the national figures battling for power in Kabul, hold 
sway.  A date for elections in Afghanistan has yet to be 

Principal Government Officials
President--Burhanuddin Rabbani
Prime Minister--Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
Minister of Finance--Abdul Karim Khalili
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Hidayat Amin Arsala
Charge d'Affaires to the U.S.--Abdul Rahim

Afghanistan maintains an embassy in the United States at 
2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-

Historically, there has been a dearth of information and 
reliable statistics about Afghanistan's economy.  This 
was exacerbated by the Soviet invasion and ensuing civil 
war, which destroyed much of the underdeveloped country's 
infrastructure and disrupted normal patterns of economic 

The Afghan economy continues to be overwhelmingly 
agricultural, despite the fact that only 15% of its total 
land area is arable and less than 6% currently is 
cultivated.  Agricultural production is constrained by an 
almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and 
spring rains for water; irrigation is primitive.  
Relatively little use is made of machines, chemical 
fertilizer, or pesticides.  

Grain production is Afghanistan's traditional 
agricultural mainstay.   Overall agricultural production 
declined an average of 3.5% per year between 1978 and 
1990.  This can be attributed to sustained fighting, 
instability in rural areas, prolonged drought, and 
deteriorated infrastructure.  Soviet efforts to disrupt 
production in resistance-dominated areas also contributed 
to this decline.  Furthermore, Soviet efforts to 
centralize the economy through state ownership and 
control and consolidation of farmland into large 
collective farms contributed to lower production.  

The war against the Soviet Union and the ensuing civil 
war also led to migration to the cities and refugee 
flight to Pakistan and Iran, further disrupting normal 
agricultural production.  Recent studies indicate that 
agricultural production and livestock numbers are less 
than one-half of what they were in 1978.  It is estimated 
that Afghanistan's food production levels are about 15% 
lower than what is necessary to feed the population.  
Shortages are exacerbated by the country's already 
limited transportation network, which has deteriorated 
due to damage and neglect resulting from war and the 
absence of an effective central government.

Opium is increasingly becoming a source of cash for many 
Afghans, especially since the breakdown in central 
authority after the Soviet withdrawal.  Opium is easy to 
cultivate and transport and offers a quick source of 
income for returning refugees and other impoverished 
Afghans.  Afghanistan is the second-largest producer of 
raw opium in the world, after Burma.  In 1993, despite 
efforts by the U.S. and others to encourage alternative 
crops, poppy and opium production increased 8% and 7%, 
respectively, from a year earlier.  Much of Afghanistan's 
opium production is shipped to laboratories in Pakistan 
and refined into heroin which is either consumed by a 
growing South Asian addict population or exported, 
primarily to Europe and North America.

Trade and Industry
Trade accounts for a small portion of the Afghan economy, 
and there are no reliable statistics relating to trade 
flows.  Since the Soviet withdrawal and the collapse of 
the Soviet Union, other limited trade relationships 
appear to be emerging with Iran, Pakistan, and the West.  
Afghanistan trades little with the United States; its 
1992 trade is estimated at  $6 million.  Afghanistan does 
not enjoy U.S. most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status, 
which was revoked in 1986.

Afghanistan is endowed with a wealth of natural 
resources, including extensive deposits of coal, salt, 
chromium, iron ore, gold, fluorite, talc, copper, and 
lapis lazuli.  Unfortunately, the country's remote and 
rugged terrain, and inadequate transportation network, 
usually have made mining these resources unprofitable. 

The most important resource has been natural gas, first 
tapped in 1967.  At their peak during the 1980s, natural 
gas sales accounted for $300 million a year in export 
revenues (56% of the total).  Ninety percent of these 
exports went to the Soviet Union to pay for imports and 
debts.  However, during the withdrawal of Soviet troops 
in 1989, Afghanistan's natural gas fields were capped to 
prevent sabotage by the mujahidin.  Restoration of gas 
production has been hampered by internal strife and the 
disruption of traditional trading relationships following 
the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Landlocked Afghanistan has no rail-ways, but the Amu 
Darya (Oxus) River, which forms part of Afghanistan's 
border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, has 
barge traffic.  During their occupation of the country, 
the Soviets completed a bridge across the Amu Darya and 
built a motor vehicle and railroad bridge between Termez 
and Jeyretan.  

Most roadbuilding occurred in the 1960s, funded by the 
U.S. and the Soviet Union.  The Soviets built a road and 
tunnel through the Salang Pass in 1964, connecting 
northern and southern Afghanistan.  A highway connecting 
the principal cities of Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni, and 
Kabul forms the primary road system. 

The highway system requires significant reconstruction, 
and regional roads are in a state of disrepair.  The poor 
state of the Afghan transportation and communication 
networks has further fragmented and hobbled the 
struggling economy.

Economic Development and Recovery
Afghanistan embarked on a modest economic development 
program in the 1930s.  The government founded banks, 
introduced paper money, established a university, 
expanded primary, secondary, and technical schools, and 
sent students abroad for education.  In 1956, the Afghan 
Government promulgated the first in a long series of 
ambitious development plans.  By the late 1970s, these 
had achieved only mixed results due to flaws in the 
planning process as well as inadequate funding and a 
shortage of the skilled managers and technicians needed 
for implementation.

These constraints on development have been exacerbated by 
the flight of refugees and the disruption and instability 
stemming from the Soviet occupation and ensuing civil 
war.  Today, economic recovery and long-term development  
will depend on establishing an effective and stable 
political system.

The UN and the international donor community continue to 
provide considerable humanitarian relief.  Since its 
inception in 1988, the umbrella UN Office for the 
Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan 
(UNOCHA) has channeled $512 million in multilateral cash 
assistance to Afghan refugees and vulnerable per-sons 
inside Afghanistan.  The U.S. and Japan are the leading 
contributors to this relief effort.  One of its key tasks 
is to eliminate from priority areas (such as villages, 
arable fields, and roads) some of the estimated 10 
million land-mines which continue to litter the Afghan 
landscape.  Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country 
in the world; mine-related injuries number up to 100 per 
month.  Without successful mine clearance, refugee 
repatriation, political stability, and economic 
reconstruction will be severely constrained.

The UN, through the UN Development Program (UNDP), is 
expected to play a major role in post-war recovery and 
reconstruction of Afghanistan.  In November 1993, the 
UNDP Action Plan for the Immediate Rehabilitation of 
Afghanistan identified more than $600 million in quick-
impact development projects which could be implemented 
within two years where security conditions permit.

Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan pursued a policy 
of neutrality and nonalignment in its foreign relations.  
In international forums, Afghanistan generally followed 
the voting patterns of Asian and African non-aligned 
countries.  Following the Marxist coup of April 1978, the 
Taraki Government developed significantly closer ties 
with the Soviet Union and its communist satellites.

After the December 1979 invasion, Afghanistan's foreign 
policy mirrored that of the Soviet Union.  Afghan foreign 
policy-makers attempted, with little success, to increase 
their regime's low standing in the non-communist world.  
With the signing of the Geneva accords, Najibullah 
unsuccessfully sought to end Afghanistan's isolation 
within the Islamic world and in the Non-Aligned Movement.

Most Western countries, including the United States, 
maintained small diplomatic missions in Kabul during the 
Soviet occupation.  Many subsequently closed their 
missions due to instability and heavy fighting in Kabul.  
Although a few states have reestablished a diplomatic 
presence in Kabul, most embassies, including that of the 
United States, remain closed.

Two areas--Pashtunistan and Baluchistan--have long 
complicated Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan.  
Controversies involving these areas date back to the 
establishment of the Durand Line in 1893 dividing Pashtun 
and Baluch tribes living in Afghanistan from those living 
in what later became Pakistan.  Afghanistan vigorously 
protested the inclusion of Pashtun and Baluch areas 
within Pakistan without providing the inhabitants with an 
opportunity for self-determination.  Since 1947, this 
problem has led to incidents along the border, with 
extensive disruption of normal trade patterns.  The most 
serious crisis lasted from September 1961 to June 1963, 
when diplomatic, trade, transit, and consular relations 
between the countries were suspended.  

The 1978 Marxist coup further strained relations between 
the two countries.  Pakistan took the lead diplomatically 
in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the 
Organization of the Islamic Conference in opposing the 
Soviet occupation.  During the war against the Soviet 
occupation, Pakistan served as the primary logistical 
conduit for the Afghan resistance.  Pakistan, aided by UN 
agencies, private groups, and many friendly countries, 
continues to provide refuge to about 1.4 million Afghans.

Much of Afghanistan remains dependent on Pakistani links 
for trade and travel to the outside world, and Pakistan 
views Afghanistan as eventually becoming its primary 
route for trade with Central Asia.

Afghanistan's relations with Iran have fluctuated over 
the years, with periodic disputes over the water rights 
of the Helmand River as the main issue of contention.  

Following the Soviet invasion, which Iran opposed, 
relations deteriorated.  The Iranian consulate in Herat 
closed, as did the Afghan consulate in Mashhad.  The 
Iranians complained of periodic border violations 
following the Soviet invasion.  In 1985, they urged 
feuding Afghan Shi'a resistance groups to unite to oppose 
the Soviets.  Iran supported the cause of the Afghan 
resistance and provided limited financial and military 
assistance to rebel leaders who pledged loyalty to the 
Iranian vision of Islamic revolution.  Iran provides 
refuge to about 2 million Afghans.

In the 19th century, Afghanistan served as a strategic 
buffer state between czarist Russia and the British 
Empire in the sub-continent.  Afghanistan's relations 
with Moscow became more cordial after the Bolshevik 
Revolution in 1917.  The Soviet Union was the first 
country to establish diplomatic relations with 
Afghanistan after the Third Anglo-Afghan war and signed 
an Afghan-Soviet non-aggression pact in 1921, which also 
provided for Afghan transit rights through the Soviet 
Union.  Early Soviet assistance included financial aid, 
aircraft and attendant technical personnel, and telegraph 

The Soviets began a major economic assistance program in 
Afghanistan in the 1950s.  Between 1954 and 1978, 
Afghanistan received more than $1 billion in Soviet aid, 
including substantial military assistance.  In 1973, the 
two countries announced a $200-million assistance 
agreement on gas and oil development, trade, transport, 
irrigation, and factory construction.  Following the 1979 
invasion, the Soviets augmented their large aid 
commitments to shore up the Afghan economy and rebuild 
the Afghan military.  They provided the Karmal regime an 
unprecedented $800 million.  The Soviet Union supported 
the Najibullah regime even after the withdrawal of Soviet 
troops in February 1989.  Today, unresolved questions 
concerning Soviet MIA/POWs in Afghanistan remain an issue 
between Russia and Afghanistan.

Tajik rebels based in Afghanistan in July 1993 attacked a 
Russian border outpost in Tajikistan, killing 25 Russians 
and prompting Russian retaliatory strikes which caused 
extensive damage in northern Afghanistan.  Reports of 
Afghan support for the Tajik rebels have led to cool 
relations between the two countries.  

Afghanistan's relations with newly independent Tajikistan 
have been complicated by ongoing political upheaval and 
civil war in Tajikistan which spurred some 100,000 Tajiks 
to seek refuge in Afghanistan in late 1992 and early 
1993.  Tajik rebels seeking to overthrow the regime of 
Russian-backed former communist Imamali Rahmanov began 
operating from Afghan bases and recruiting Tajik refugees 
into their ranks.  These rebels, reportedly aided by 
Afghans and a number of foreign Islamic extremists, 
conduct cross-border raids against Russian and Tajik 
security posts and seek to infiltrate fighters and 
materiel from Afghanistan into Tajikistan.

The first extensive American contact with Afghanistan was 
made by Josiah Harlan, an adventurer from Pennsylvania 
who was an adviser in Afghan politics in the 1830s and 
reputedly inspired Rudyard Kipling's story, "The Man Who 
Would be King."

After the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1934, 
the U.S. policy of helping developing nations raise their 
standard of living was an important factor in maintaining 
and improving U.S.-Afghan ties.  From 1950 to 1979, U.S. 
foreign assistance provided Afghanistan with more than 
$500 million in loans, grants, and surplus agricultural 
commodities to develop transportation facilities, 
increase agricultural production, expand the educational 
system, stimulate industry, and improve government 

In the 1950s, the U.S. declined Afghanistan's request for 
defense cooperation but extended an economic assistance 
program focused on the development of Afghanistan's 
physical infrastructure--roads, dams, and power plants.  
Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to 
technical assistance programs to help develop the skills 
needed to build a modern economy.  The Peace Corps was 
active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979.

After the April 1978 coup, relations deteriorated.  In 
February 1979,  U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs was murdered 
after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnapers.  
The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated 
a small military training program.  All remaining 
assistance agreements were ended after the Soviet 

Following the Soviet invasion, the United States 
supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet 
withdrawal.  In addition, generous U.S. contributions to 
the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in 
efforts to assist Afghans in need.  U.S. efforts also 
included helping Afghans living inside Afghanistan.  This 
cross-border humanitarian assistance program increased 
Afghan self-sufficiency and helped Afghans resist Soviet 
attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated 
countryside.  During the period of Soviet occupation of 
Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion in 
military and economic assistance to Afghans and the 
resistance movement.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was closed in January 1989 for 
security reasons.  The U.S. has supported the peaceful 
emergence of a broad-based government representative of 
all Afghans and has been active in encouraging a UN role 
in the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan.  
The U.S. provides financial aid for mine-clearing 
activities and other humanitarian assistance to Afghans 
through international organizations.  

In addition to the efforts of the UN and other donors, 
the U.S. has provided $328 million in direct bilateral 
assistance to Afghanistan since 1985 through its cross-
border program based in Islamabad, Pakistan.  However, 
assistance levels have fallen dramatically in recent 
years due to overall budgetary constraints in the U.S. 
and the difficulties inherent in administering a cross-
border aid program.  For these reasons, the program is 
scheduled for closure by the end of 1994.

During the Soviet occupation, the United Nations was 
highly critical of the U.S.S.R.'s interference in the 
internal affairs of Afghanistan and was instrumental in 
obtaining a negotiated Soviet withdrawal under the terms 
of the Geneva accords.  

In the aftermath of the accords and subsequent Soviet 
withdrawal, the United Nations has assisted in the 
repatriation of refugees and has provided humanitarian 
aid such as health care, educational programs, and food 
and has supported mine-clearing operations.  The UNDP and 
associated agencies have undertaken a limited number of 
development projects.  However, the UN reduced its role 
in Afghanistan in 1992 in the wake of fierce factional 
strife in and around Kabul.  The UN Secretary General has 
designated a personal representative to head the Office 
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to 
Afghanistan (UNOCHA) and the Office of the Secretary 
General in Afghanistan and Pakistan (OSGAP), both based 
in Islamabad, Pakistan.  


Travel advisory:  The U.S. Department of State warns all 
U.S. citizens not to travel to Afghanistan.  Westerners 
remain vulnerable to politically and criminally motivated 
attacks and violence, including robbery, kidnaping, and 
hostage-taking.  Landmines are still prevalent throughout 
the countryside.  There is no U.S. embassy in 
Afghanistan, and no other diplomatic mission represents 
U.S. interests or provides consular services.

Climate and clothing:  Kabul's climate is similar to 
Denver's, but drier and dustier.  Winter lasts from 
December through February; summer, mid-May to mid-
September.  Because of cultural sensitivities, 
conservative attire is essential.

Customs:  Visas required.  No immunization requirements 
at present, but this is subject to change.  Check latest 

Health:  No health controls or sanitation regulations 
govern the safety of foods in markets and restaurants.  
Travelers and foreign residents are advised to boil 
drinking water, cook fruits, vegetables, and meats 
thoroughly, and not to consume local dairy products.

Transportation:  Ariana Airlines provides international 
flights to and from Afghanistan.  Bakhtar Airlines 
provides internal flights between Kabul and regional 
centers such as Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kandahar.  
Taxis are available in Kabul; buses are often overcrowded 
and uncomfortable.

Telecommunications:  The reliability of 
telecommunications into and out of Afghanistan is erratic 
at best.  Kabul is 9-1/2 hours ahead of Eastern standard 
time.  Commercial cables from the U.S. may take several 
days to arrive under the best of circumstances.  


Published by the United States Department of State -- 
Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of  Public 
Communication -- Washington, DC
Managing Editor:  Peter Knecht -- Editor:  Peter Freeman  

Department of State Publication 7795 -- Background Notes 

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. 
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC  20402.

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