Afghanistan has consistently been a lynch pin in the arena of international relations. During the 19th century, the British had attempted to control the region as a means of passage into India. In 1978, a Communist coup overthrew the Daud Khan (Republic of Afghanistan)that had previously existed, but as the new government was unable to establish full control over the country they asked Soviet troops to intervene within a year of the coup. Islamist groups in Afghanistan, the main opposition to the Marxist leadership, mobilized in response to this invasion, launching a civil war that would last until 1996. These Islamist militants would later form the backbone of the Taliban and eventually Al Qaeda, their arms being mainly supplied by the US as a part of that country's containment policy towards the Soviet Union. In 1996, the Taliban established control over the entire country. After September 11, 2001, the United States along with a number of NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in attempts to dismantle Al Qaeda, a fringe group being given refuge by the Taliban, and this US-led coalition has occupied the country since.

Throughout the early 20th century, Afghanistan had been a model of public diplomacy in the Middle East. An Islamic State, Afghanistan had been one of the remaining jewels from "The Great Game" of the 1800’s. Within the past quarter century however, the opposite is true. After the end of the Soviet incursion in the late 1980’s, a power vacuum in Afghanistan led to regional chaos under warlords. Eventually, the Taliban, a fundamentalist militant group, was able to gain the upper hand, and after 1996 it implemented a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law. Afghanistan cut itself of with any interaction with Western nations. Newspapers and media outlets were shut down as writers and editors were arrested and executed. Many members in the international community, including the United Nations and Iran, severed diplomatic ties with the Taliban government. During this time, Afghanistan's economy recovered after years of war, though opium production, which had become a dominant feature of the country's economy, all but disappeared as a result of strict Taliban law enforcement. It should be noted that despite the human rights abuses occurring in Taliban Afghanistan, the world community, especially the US, was remarkably silent.

Afghanistan’s Pamir mountains border with Pakistan became the new home for al Qaeda during this time. After Al Qaeda attacked New York & Washington DC on September 11, 2001, the US government as well as its NATO allies, invaded Afghanistan in an effort to dislodge Al Qaeda and their hosts, the Taliban. Notably, Iranian intelligence offered to the US played a key role in the coalition's initial decisive victory. Since then, there have been numerous attempts by the US-propped Afghan government to create a new government and constitution. Over the past five years, Afghanistan has attempted to control each of regions, but because of continuing instability much of the country has returned to warlord hands.

With the establishment of a new government, under President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan has been slowly working its way back into the international community. Opium farming has experienced a massive resurgence and lawlessness is still prevalent in rural areas. The rise in opium farming has created a virtual drug war along the border with Afghanistan, as hundreds of Iranian policemen have been killed in attempts to block the transfer of drugs through Iranian territory.

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Vital Information

  • Capital - Kabul
  • Population - 31,056,997 (July 2006 est.)
  • Government – Islamic Republic
  • President Ashraf Ghani
  • Vice Presidents Ahmad Zia Masood and Abdul Karim Khalili

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