Afghanistan is a country in southwestern Asia that is situated on a landlocked plateau between Iran, Pakistan, China, and several countries in Central Asia. Afghanistan is a rugged place. Rocky Mountains and deserts cover most of the land, with little vegetation anywhere except the mountain valleys and northern plains. The country has hot, dry summers and bitterly cold winters. Kabul is the capital and largest city.
Afghanistan has long been known as the crossroads of Asia, with ancient trade and invasion routes crossing its territory. Over the centuries many different people passed through Afghanistan, and some made it their homeland. Today this history is reflected in the country’s ethnic and linguistic diversity. The Pashtuns, who make up the largest ethnic group, were long known as Afghans, but in modern times the term Afghan denotes nationality for all citizens of the country.
Afghanistan was a monarchy from 1747 to 1973, when military officers overthrew the king and established a republic. In 1979 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) invaded Afghanistan, starting the Soviet-Afghan War. The United States supplied military aid to the guerrilla insurgents who fought the Soviet-backed Afghan government. After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the country erupted in civil war. An Islamic fundamentalist movement called the Taliban seized control of Kabul in 1996. The Taliban gave refuge to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, against the United States, U.S. military forces invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001. Afghanistan adopted a new constitution establishing a presidential form of government in 2004.