macrohistory & world report

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Map showing Afghanistan (center), its capital Kabul, and neighboring countries, including Iran and Chinaxxx

Afghanistan (its capital Kabul) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of October 2014: "Afghanistan's economy is recovering from decades of conflict. The economy has improved significantly since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 largely because of the infusion of international assistance, the recovery of the agricultural sector, and service sector growth. Despite the progress of the past few years, Afghanistan is extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid. Much of the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs. Criminality, insecurity, weak governance, lack of infrastructure, and the Afghan Government's difficulty in extending rule of law to all parts of the country pose challenges to future economic growth. Afghanistan's living standards are among the lowest in the world."

Economic growth rate:
2013: 3.1%
2012: 12.5%
2011: 7.1%
2010: 8.2%
2009: 20.9%

Labor force in agriculture
2008-09: 78.6%

Unemployment rate
2008: 35%

Exports commodities
Opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems

Export partners
2010: Pakistan 25.9%, India 25.5%, US 14.9%, Tajikistan 9.6%, Germany 5%


Births vs Deaths
2014: 38.84 / 14.12 – a high death rate given its lack of the elderly.

Net migration rate
More leaving than arriving, 1.83 persons per 1,000 population.

Annual population growth rate
2014: 2.29%, 39th among 233 countries, despite the high death rate and migration.

Age structure
2014: 2.5% 65 or older.

Living in an urban area
2010: 23%

Ethnic groups
Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%.

Sunni Muslim 80%, Shia Muslim 19%, other 1%

Literacy (age 15 and over and can read and write)
2000: males 43.1%, females 12.6%


East of Iran. West of Pakistan. Landlocked. Slightly smaller than Texas. Mostly rugged mountains.


The president and two vice presidents are elected by direct vote for a five-year term.

Capital: Kabul

Recent History

Oct 28, 2008: A US funded survey in Afghanistan finds that 70 % of respondents judge the availability of education for children "to be good," and 44 % say there have been "improvements in access to schools in the last two years." Around 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, are now going to school every year. During the Taliban's regime only 1 million boys went to school.

November 18, 2010: Disagreements exists about how many Afghanis support the presence of US troops. In the Intelligence Squared debate on November 10, on whether Afghanistan was a "lost cause," Max Boot and Peter Bergen argued that 60% of Afghans support the presence of NATO troops in their country and only 4% support a return to power by the Taliban. The journalist-scholar Nil Rosen criticized those figures and claimed that a more accurate measure could be gathered by going into villages, without military accompaniment, and talking to common people – as he has been doing. Rosen described 80% of the population as under Taliban control.

November 21, 2010: The debate described below continues on Fareed Zakaria's CNN broadcast. Nir Rosen argues again that polls on Afghan opinion are not what polls are supposed to be – in other words, those polls are nonsense. He argues that ultimately what develops in Afghanistan will be a product of the Afghans and that Afghan warlords supporting us are after the dollars that Americans are splashing around. Rachel Reid, of Human Rights Watch, speaks of her experience in Afghanistan and people feeling caught between forces rather than supporting the government. The question is asked, and not answered, why it is that the Taliban can walk into a village and take it over without resistance. Max Boot takes the side of NATO operations and the new surge in US troops. He says in effect that we have just begun to fight. He argues about the importance of America's prestige, and Rosen points to the US recovery from its Vietnam debacle. 


Intelligence Squared debate on the motion "Afghanistan is a lost cause."

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.