The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is situated in Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan and east of Iran. With a total surface of 251,827 square miles, Afghanistan is slightly smaller than Texas, being the world’s 41st largest country. The 2013 population of Afghanistan is 31,100,000 and it has a density of 111.8 inhabitants per square mile, according to a 2013 estimate provided by CIA World Factbook. By population, Afghanistan is ranked 40 globally. Kabul is the capital and the largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 3.2 million people
Basic History of Afghanistan
Since it was founded in 1747, Afghanistan only had a few years of peace. After a brief experiment in democracy from 1919, when it became independent from Britain, to 1978, Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979. The USSR withdrew in 1989 under relentless pressure by internationally supported anti-Communist mujahedin rebels. Later, because of a series of subsequent civil wars, in 1996 Afghanistan fell to the Taliban – a hardline Pakistani-sponsored movement that emerged in 1994 to end the country’s civil war and anarchy. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, a US, Allied, and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action toppled the Taliban for sheltering Osama bin Laden. The UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for political reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution, a presidential election in 2004, and National Assembly elections in 2005. In December 2004, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan and the National Assembly was inaugurated the following December, according to CIA World Factbook.
Geography of Afghanistan
Being part of South Asia, Central Asia, and to some extent Western Asia, Afghanistan is a landlocked sovereign country with a total area of 251,827 square miles, bordered by Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east. By land mass, Afghanistan is the 41st largest state in the world. Administratively, Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces, which are further divided into 398 smaller provincial districts – each district covers a city or a number of villages. The climate in Afghanistan is arid to semiarid, with cold winters and hot summers, while the terrain consists of mostly rugged mountains, with plains in north and southwest. One important aspect about the geography of Afghanistan is that the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide the northern provinces from the rest of the country. The lowest point in Afghanistan is Amu Darya (846 feet) and the highest peak is Noshak (24,580 feet).
Population of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is home to 31,108,077 people and has a density of 111.8 people per square miles. Despite the wars that have affected the population, Afghanistan is the 40th most populous country in the world. The last census in Afghanistan took place in 1979 and was a partial one. It showed a total population of 15.5 million people, which means that in 34 years the population has grown with more than a half – approximately 15.6 million people. As for 2013, the population growth is of 2.25%. Life expectancy at birth of the total population is 50.11 years, 48.81 years for males and 51.47 years for females. Birthrate in Afghanistan is of 39.05 births/1,000 population, while sex ratio of the total population is of 1.03 male(s)/female, as stated by CIA World Factbook. According to a population projection provided by the United Nations Data, the population of Afghanistan will reach 53,252,039 in 2030.
Largest city in Afghanistan
The capital but also the largest city in Afghanistan is Kabul, situated in Kabul Province, in the eastern part of the country. With a total population of 3,289,000 inhabitants and a surface of 106 square miles, Kabul is the 64th largest and the 5th fastest growing city in the world. The largest city in Afghanistan after Kabul is Kandahar, situated in Kandahar Province, with 512,000 people, followed by Herat, in Herat Province, with 397,456 inhabitants, and Mazar-i-Sharif, in Balkh Province, with 375,000 people.
Ethnicity in Afghanistan
Even though no census has been held in the Afghanistan in decades, CIA World Factbook estimates that the dominant ethnic group is Pashtun, with 42% of the total population. After Pashtun, the next largest majority group is Tajik, with 27%, followed by Hazara and Uzbek, with 9% each, Aimak, with 4%, Turkmen, with 3%, and Baloch, with 2%. Other ethnic groups – Pashayi, Nuristani, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri, Gurjar – make 4% of the total population of Afghanistan.
Religion in Afghanistan
The official and the dominant religion in Afghanistan is Islam, practiced by 99% of the Afghan population. Sunni Muslim makes up 80% of the population, while the remaining 19% are Shia Muslim adherents. Approximately 1% of Afghans practice other religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Parsi, Sikhism, Judaism and Hinduism.
Language in Afghanistan
Pashto and Afghan Persian (Dari), both Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family, are the official languages in Afghanistan. While Afghan Persian or Dari is spoken by 50% of the Afghan people, Pashto is used by 30% of the population. Even though Afghanistan is a bilingual country, Dari functions as the lingua franca. Moreover, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) are spoken by 11% of the population. Overall, there are at least 30 minor languages in Afghanistan (4%), of which the most spoken are Arabic, Urdu, English, and other languages such as Balochi, Pashai, Nuristani, and Pamiri. The Turkic languages Uzbek and Turkmen, as well as Balochi, Pashai, Nuristani, and Pamiri are the third official languages in areas where the majority speaks them.
Economy in Afghanistan
Despite the progress of the past few years, Afghanistan is extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid, which made the country’s living standards among the lowest in the world. As of a 2012 estimate, much of the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs. Other negative aspects are criminality, insecurity, weak governance, lack of infrastructure, and the Afghan Government’s difficulty in extending rule of law to all parts of the country. The 2012 estimated GDP was of $33.55 billion (ranked 109th in comparison to the world), while the GDP per capita was of $1,000 (ranked 217th globally). Despite gains toward building a stable central government, a resurgent Taliban and continuing provincial instability – particularly in the south and the east – remain serious challenges for both the government and the economy of Afghanistan.
As stated, there is no current census data available for this nation but as projections for the 2014 population of Afghanistan become available they will be published here. We will also be posting a new religious map of Afghanistan soon.