In April 1978, after Daud launched a crackdown against the PDPA, leftist military officers lead a coup and overthrew him. PDPA leader Noor Muhammad Taraki became prime minister, subsequently assuming the title of president as well. Taraki and his deputy prime minister, Hafizullah Amin, … Continue reading
The few major libraries and museums in Afghanistan are located in Kabul. However, most of the materials in the Kabul University Library (founded in 1931) were dispersed during the war with the Soviets and the subsequent civil war; the National Archives was also … Continue reading
Afghanistan’s principal energy sources are petroleum, coal, natural gas, and hydroelectricity. Petroleum is imported from Iran and from former Soviet republics in Central Asia, notably Turkmenistan. Afghanistan’s own modest reserves of oil are located in the north near the Amu Darya. … Continue reading
Two separate systems of education exist in Afghanistan. The older system is a religious one, taught by the mullahs, who conduct classes in the madrassas (mosque schools). They teach the religious precepts of the Qur’an, reading, writing, and arithmetic. The other system was introduced in Afghanistan’s 1964 constitution, which provided for free and compulsory education at all levels, although this was rarely achieved. This system was based on Western models. Special emphasis was placed on primary education. Secondary schools existed in Kabul and the larger towns. Five years of primary school and five years of secondary school were expected, although many Afghans could not attend because they lived in areas where there were no schools.
Decades of war effectively eliminated most education, and an entire generation grew up without any formal schooling. The civil war resulted in the closing or dismantling of most lower, middle, and higher educational facilities in the country. Many teachers quit their posts and left Afghanistan. The subsequent Taliban regime suppressed all schooling except in the madrassas, and forbade it for girls and women. Only rote memorization of the Qur’an in Arabic was officially allowed. Opposition groups in a few places in the country tried to maintain some education, but under very difficult circumstances.
With the removal of the Taliban from power in late 2001, people in Afghanistan began to rebuild a national education system. Schools such as Kabul University reopened, and student enrollments soared. However, the country was sorely lacking the educational facilities and resources it needed to meet the burgeoning demand. A mobile school system was set up to bring education to rural areas, and foreign universities and nongovernmental organizations donated books and teaching materials. By the 2003-04 academic year 4.2 million boys and girls attended about 7,000 schools around the country. The male-female ratio had returned to pre-Taliban levels, although boys still outnumbered girls. A major project to improve literacy rates throughout Afghanistan was launched in January 2003 with the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The average literacy rate was estimated to be 36 percent for all Afghans aged 15 and older in 2000, with 51 percent literacy among males and 21 percent among females.
According to the 2004 constitution, Afghans are free to choose the language in which they receive their education. Primary and secondary educations are available in both Dari and Pashto, as well as in Afghanistan’s other languages, such as Uzbek. University courses are mostly taught in Dari. Kabul University, founded in 1932, is the country’s largest and most prestigious academic institution. Nine other colleges were established within it from 1938 through 1967. The University of Nangarhār in Jalālābād was established in 1962 to teach medicine and other disciplines. Important but small universities are also located in Kandahar, Herāt, Balkh, and Bāmiān. Before 1961 only men could receive a higher education; that year the government opened all public institutions of higher learning to women.
Prior to the Soviet-Afghan War, the Afghan defense had long relied on the USSR for military equipment and advisers. In 1978 the Afghan army numbered 110,000 men, but desertions reduced it to 50,000 by 1986. Many deserters joined the mujahideen in fighting a guerrilla war against the Soviet occupation until 1989. During the subsequent civil war, elements of the former army, National Guard, border guard, national police, and ethnic militias were broken up among the various mujahideen factions. Thereafter, mujahideen commanders maintained control over their own private militias, which enabled them to hold power over most of the country outside Kabul.
In early 2002 Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, and Hamid Karzai, then the interim leader of Afghanistan, discussed the urgent need to form a well-trained and disciplined Afghan police force and army. In 2003 U.S. and French forces began training recruits for a new multiethnic Afghan National Army (ANA). Karzai ordered all private militias to disarm and merge into the ANA to help bring a goal of 70,000 soldiers into the national army. Many regional commanders resisted disbanding their private militias, however, and the disarmament and army-building process progressed slowly which continually weakened the Afghan defense.
Afghanistan after the Taliban is indeed a society expected to show more respect to human rights and the rights of women to education hitherto absent during the Taliban years. United Nations-sponsored negotiations in Bonn, Germany, resulted in agreement on December 5, 2001, among four major Afghan factions to create an interim post-Taliban administration in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, a widely respected Pashtun leader, was chosen to head the interim administration, which took power in Kabul on December 22. Afghanistan after the Taliban also saw an international peacekeeping force maintained a measure of law and order in the capital although such forces may not stay beyond 2014 if withdrawal plans are implemented.
The Afghan civil war was a direct consequence of the activities of the mujahideen, who did not sign the agreement concerning the Soviet withdrawal and maintained their fight against the Afghanistan central government with weapons that they continued to get from the United States via Pakistan. They rejected offers from Najibullah to make peace and share power, and refused to consider participating in any national government that included Communists. Thus the civil war continued. The United States and Pakistani sponsors prompted the Peshawar-based rebels to besiege Jalālābād, a strong point for Najibullah in southern Afghanistan. After months of fighting, however, the Afghan government scored a clear victory. A March 1990 coup attempt also failed to bring down Najibullah. He continued to receive Soviet food, fuel, and weapons to help maintain his control. However, rebels persisted in terrorizing the civilian population by rocket bombardment of Kabul and other cities. Finally in late 1991 the USSR and the United States signed an agreement to end military aid to the Kabul government and to the mujahideen rebels.
In 1992 as the resistance closed in on Kabul, the Najibullah government fell, in part because of the defection of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek from northern Afghanistan whose militia had served the PDPA government. Two mujahideen parties from Peshawar, both considered fundamentalist, joined forces with Dostum and Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tajik military commander, in the north and central mountains of Afghanistan. They won control of Kabul, and Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, became interim president from July through December 1992, taking office as full president in January 1993. A strong attempt was made to keep the Pashtun leaders, who traditionally held the power in Afghanistan, out of the most important government positions. Kabul was besieged beginning in 1992, first by various mujahideen groups and then by the Pashtun-dominated Taliban, which sought to reestablish Pashtun dominance in the capital.
The Taliban emerged in the fall of 1994 as a faction of mujahideen soldiers who identified themselves as religious students. The movement started in the south and worked its way toward Herāt in the northwest and Kabul in the east. It made outstanding military gains using armor, heavy rocket artillery, and helicopters against government forces. The Taliban’s stated mission was to disarm the country’s warring factions and to impose their strictly orthodox version of Islamic law. Some experts suspected the Pakistani government of supporting the Taliban, in order to keep the combat within Afghanistan and out of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, which is a major part of the Pashtun homeland. During the many vagaries of shifting alliances, as Afghans sought a new political equilibrium, one fundamentalist and one moderate party from the Peshawar-based mujahideen groups contributed considerable personnel to the Taliban.
The term of Rabbani’s government expired in December 1994, but he continued to hold office amid the chaos of the civil war. Factional fighting since the beginning of January 1994 kept government officers from actually occupying ministries and discharging government responsibilities. Most cities outside of Kabul were administered by former resistance commanders and their shuras (councils). In June 1996 Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had resigned as prime minister in 1994 to launch a military offensive against forces loyal to Rabbani, again assumed the post, this time to help Rabbani’s government fight the Taliban threat. Despite their efforts, the Taliban took Kabul in September 1996. By that time, the capital had been devastated by the civil war.
Rabbani and Hekmatyar fled north to join the northern-based anti-Taliban alliance led by the military commanders Massoud and Dostum. The alliance was a coalition of ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras who were opposed to the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. The alliance took the name United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, commonly known as the United Front or the Northern Alliance. Massoud was the military commander of its chief political wing, Jamiat-i Islami (Islamic Society). The Taliban advanced north toward the mountain strongholds of the Northern Alliance and by the late 1990s had taken control of almost all of Afghanistan. Northern Alliance forces held a small portion of the country’s territory in the north. Historically, the Afghan Civil War played a very prominent role in the latter chaos that the country suffered whose wounds may likely take some time to heal completely.
- The Taliban Regime of Afghanistan (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
The Art and Architecture of Afghanistan are of a great ancestry. Afghanistan contains striking architectural remnants of all ages, including Greek and Buddhist stupas (shrines or reliquaries) and monasteries, arches, monuments, intricate Islamic minarets (the tall, slender towers on mosques), temples, and forts. Among the most famous sites are the great mosques of Herāt and Mazār-e Sharif; the minaret of a mosque at Jām in the west central highlands; the 1,000-year-old Great Arch of Qal‘eh-ye Bost; the Chel Zina (Forty Steps) and rock inscriptions made by Mughal emperor Babur in Kandahar; the Great Buddha of Bāmīān, destroyed by Taliban militants in March 2001; the “Towers of Victory” in Ghaznī; and Emperor Babur’s tomb and the great Bala Hissar fort in Kabul.
In the smaller arts, magnificent light blue-green fired tile work is famous in Herāt, along with other fine work in book illumination (colored or gilded calligraphy), illustration, bronze, stone, and wood. Afghan cultural life is characterized by traditional arts and pastimes; gold and silver jewelry, marvelous decorative embroidery, and various leather goods are still made in homes. By far the greatest art forms known widely from Afghanistan are the Persian-style woven carpets. The Art and Architecture of Afghanistan is however a generational thing owing to the antecedents associated with the discoveries of its arts and architecture.
The Mass Media of Afghanistan had developed depending on the regime in control of the country. The first Afghan television station, built with Japanese aid, went on the air in Kabul in 1978. After the Taliban took control of the capital, they closed the country’s television stations and outlawed television and movies. Television stations began broadcasting again soon after the Taliban were driven from the capital by Northern Alliance forces in November 2001.
The history of newspapers, magazines, and other publications in Afghanistan has varied, depending upon the level of censorship in the ruling government. The first printed newspaper was distributed in 1875, and two other small newspapers were printed just after 1900. With the beginning of the reign of King Amanullah in 1919, the press flourished with the publication of more than 15 newspapers and magazines. By the 1950s, 95 percent of the nation’s printed materials came from the government. The small remainder was produced by provincial hand-operated presses.
In 1962 the Kabul Times appeared as the first English-language paper. Bakhtar News Agency subscribed to a variety of international press services and its news bulletin was available as well. Following the 1978 coup the Kabul Times was renamed the Kabul New Times and began publishing communist rhetoric that was reminiscent of the worst days of the Cold War. The newspaper was highly confrontational and hostile to the West. In reaction to the suppression of the free press, anti-regime shabnamah (night letters) were secretly printed (primarily in Kabul) with uncensored news and opinions. In 1996 Afghanistan had 12 daily newspapers, but most ceased publication after the Taliban came to power. The Taliban officially revived two newspapers in 1998 to serve as organs of their regime.
In early 2002 the country’s new interim government passed a law declaring freedom of the press. Subsequently, more than 100 newspapers began to be published and distributed in Afghanistan. Kabul Weekly is the largest newspaper in circulation. The Mass Media of Afghanistan was however significantly limited during the Taliban regime.
The Population and Settlement of Afghanistan had over the years depended heavily on the political situation at home. In the country’s first and most recent official census, conducted in 1979, a population of 15,551,358 was recorded. The population was estimated to be 32,738,376 in 2008. After two decades of war—with its casualties and refugees—any estimate is highly speculative. Demographic uncertainty will prevail until a new reliable census is taken.
Beginning with the Soviet invasion in 1979, the number of Afghan refugees outside the country escalated dramatically. As many as 3 million refugees went to Pakistan and 1.5 million to Iran. About 150,000 Afghans were able to migrate permanently to other countries, including the United States, Australia, and various European countries. Many refugees began returning to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Their numbers surpassed expectations, with more than 1.5 million refugees returning from Pakistan and more than 400,000 from Iran by the end of 2002. The rapid return of refugees led to a national humanitarian crisis as the government and international aid agencies struggled to provide adequate food and medical supplies. Many refugees had returned to farms and fields studded with land mines or devastated by air strikes, as well as chronic water shortages following several years of drought.
Before the Soviet-Afghan War, Afghanistan had an estimated annual population growth rate of 3.5 percent. Urban areas had a growth rate of 4.8 percent, reflecting migration to places of greater employment. In 2008 the growth rate was estimated at 2.63 percent. Afghanistan’s infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, with 155 deaths for every 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy is 44 years.
The population of Afghanistan is overwhelmingly rural, with about 77 percent living in rural areas in 2003. Of urban dwellers, probably about half reside in Kabul, the country’s capital and largest city. The Population and Settlement of Afghanistan indicate the vast socio-cultural heritage of the country.