Afghanistan: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government in the country of Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN

NITTY GRITTY

Location--Where Central Asia, India, and Iran meet. Along the northern border lies the Soviet Union, to the west is Iran, and to the south and east is Pakistan. Afghanistan has a short border on the northeast with China.

How Created--Afghanistan was formed during the 18th and 19th centuries out of the efforts of Britain and Czarist Russia to create a buffer zone between their empires in the subcontinent and Central Asia. Several Khans of the region were involved at the same time in attempting to form an effective unity out of the 15 different ethnic groups in the area. It was 1880 before the British finally found a Khan they could work with and depend upon, and who was able to hold the region together without direct intervention of British troops. By 1901, at this Khan's death, the present borders of the state were largely settled.

Size--251,823 sq. mi. (652,221 sq. km.), about the size of Texas

Population--Over 18 million: Pathans (Pushtuns, Pakhtuns), 58.7%; Tadzhik, 28.7%; Uzbek, 5.3%; Hazara, 2.7%; others, 4.6% 99% Muslim.

Who Rules--The military clique that overthrew the monarchy in 1973 declared a republic, suspended the 1965 constitution and the landlord-dominated legislature. The leader of the coup, a former Prime Minister of the country, set up a republican government, but not a democracy. There are no legal political parties.

Who REALLY Rules--The leader of the 1973 coup, Lt. Gen. Sardar Muhammad Daud, has become President of Afghanistan. He is a brother-in-law and cousin of the deposed King, and was forced out as Prime Minister a decade before the coup. The royal family has been ousted from power, but by a faction of the same ruling elite. The Pathan ruling class is still the ruling class. The military faction is very sympathetic to the Soviet Union, from which it gets military aid, but is not controlled by its northern neighbor. Most powerful in terms of day-to-day control of the impoverished masses of Afghanistan are the religious clerics. They act as legal arbiters and teachers in the villages, and wield great moral authority among the villagers.

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