The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is a land -locked country in south central Asia, measuring 652,225 sq km, bordered by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikstan to the north, Iran to the west and Pakistan to the south and east.
It is the poorest and least developed country in the area.
It is governed by an Islamic theocracy government with a president as it's leader, and politically made up of 34 provinces.
The huge Hindu Kush mountain range divides the country into three very different geographic regions, with altitude, climate and natural resources varying greatly.
THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS.
Located in this region is the imfamous Khyber Pass, in an area of high mountains and deep valleys.
With seasons ranging from blisteringly hot Summers to bitterly cold winters,this semi- desert to grass steppe topography hosts little in the way of vegetation.
THE SOUTHERN PLATEAU.
This region is made up of arid desert high plateau, criss crossed with several rivers. It has a dry and mild climate, but hosts little in the way of vegetation.
THE NORTHERN PLAINS.
This region is made up of fertile high plains and ridges, boasting a pleasant climate of regular seasons and average rainfall.
This area is home to Afghanistan's agricultural area, it's rich natural deposits of gold, silver, aluminium, lead, copper and precious and semi - precious stones, and it's abundance of wildlife.
After years of conflict, it's wildlife population has been devastated, and with it's habitat disappearing due to drought and conflict, wildlife conservationists along with the Afghan government, have recently designated the country's first National park in this area.
Read about how the present conflict in Afghanistan began - afghanistan-how-it-all-began
Situated at Band - E - Amir, west of the capital Kabul, it is protecting an area of six lakes, and a growing population of the country's Snow Leopards, Marco Polo Sheep, Asiatic black bears, Striped Hyena, 9 wild cat species, 5 wild dog species and 6 species of birds of prey.
City of Herat.
The country as a whole is made up of several large mountainous regions, including the Hindu Kush, The Pamir and the Karakoram.The country has four main river systems, the Amu Darya at 1,100 km, the Hilmand, at 1,300 km, the Harirud at 650 km and the only river that eventually leads into the sea, the Kabul, at 460 km long.
The country's population is hard to define, due to conflict, civil war and occupying forces for nearly 40 years, there has not been a proper census done in decades.
Casualties of war, the taliban- regime decimating the female population, and civilians fleeing the country into neighbouring lands, there is no definate demographic numbers.
A U.N survey done in 2000, puts the overall population at around 28 million, with many ethnic groups, but mainly Pashtu and Tajiks.
This has lead to figures of a religious population made up of around 80 % Sunni Muslims and 18 % Shi' ite Muslims.
The official languages are Pashtu and Dari,both hailing from the Indo - European group of languages.
City of Mazari Sharaf.
Education in the country is poor, due to many obstacle including lack of funding, inappropriate buildings, and a lack of female teachers.
The country's literacy rate runs at about 39 %.
Before the warring years ( 1978 ) Afghanistan had two of south central Asia's leading health care institutes,but during the Soviet occupation this was destroyed.
The taliban did make improvements when they came to power ( 1989 ), but healthcare was not available to women.
With the start of the Islamic Republic ( 2002 ) the system improved dramatically, due to international aid, government sanctions and the institutions acceptance of women again.
The Afghan healthcare system is one of the country's few success stories.
Kabul City with the vast Hindu Kush in the background.
Afghanistan's largest city and capital is Kabul, situated in Kabul Province in the north east of the country.
It has a population of between 3 and 5 million ( U.N approximation 2002 ) and is divided into 18 districts.
It is a modern city with a much improved infrastructure, now boasting 7, universities, 7 parks, 4 mosques, 3 museums, 6 international hotels, a golf club and 16 licensed banking institutions.
The city is served by Kabul International airport, with Ariana Afghan Airlines as it's flag carrier.
It takes flights from neighbouring Pakistan, Iran and India, with transposed flights coming in from Dubai.
Local travel is done by the public bus service ( Milli Bus ), which serves the entire country, but is not safe for use by foreigners.
Map of Afghanistan
The country's road system is gradually being improved with foreign aid and government sanctions, there are 2 railway projects currently in progress, with links to the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Tajikstan.
Telecommunication systems are mainly channelled via fibre optic cable, supplying most of the country's telephone, internet and television.
During the taliban regime TV was shut down, and media fobidden, with only religious and government propaganda broadcasts on radio.
Since 2001 press restrictions have been relaxed, freedom of expression encouraged and censorship bannned.
There are currently 60 radio stations, including the B.B.C world service, a myriad of T.V channels and internet is available countrywide to those that can afford it.
Unemployment is currently running at 40 % for the non skilled workforce, but there is an upsurge of foreign business interests and foreign investments, due mainly to it's large and as yet untapped natural gas and petroleum reserves.
A 1/3 rd of the country's GDP is currently still coming from opium production.
An estimated 1 million people in Afghanistan are handicapped due to limb loss as a result of landmines, this is the highest instance in the world.
It's national bank is the Afghan United Bank, and the national currency is the Afghani.
Time zone is UTC +4.30.
Calling code +93.
Internet TLD .af
Other articles about Afghanistan by the same author. afghanistans-taliban-laws
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