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October 2001



Afghanistan, slightly smaller than Texas in size, is located in Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, and east of Iran. The border countries of landlocked Afghanistan include, China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The population estimation as of July 2000 was 25,838,797. Ethnic groups living in Afghanistan include, Pashtun 38%, Tajik 25%, Uzbek 6%, Hazara 19%, and other minor ethnic groups, Aimaks, Turkmen, and Baloch. The religious make-up is 84% Sunni Muslim 15% Shi'a Muslim and 1% other.

On 27 September 1996, the ruling members of the Afghan Government were displaced by members of the Islamic Taliban movement. Currently the Islamic State of Afghanistan has no functioning government, and the country remains divided among fighting factions. The country is essentially divided along ethnic lines; the Taliban controls the capital of Kabul and approximately two-thirds of the country including the predominately ethnic Pashtun areas in southern Afghanistan; opposing factions have their stronghold in the ethnically diverse north.

Afghanistan is extremely poor, 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. In early 1999, 1.2 million Afghan refugees remained in Pakistan and about 1.4 million in Iran. 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. The majority of the population continues to suffer from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care. Inflation remains a serious problem throughout the country. The economic situation did not improve in 1998-99, as internal civil strife continued, hampering both domestic economic policies and international aid efforts.

The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, United States Department State Background Notes, 1/2001