President of the Afghan Transitional Authority
(pronounced "HA-mehd CAHRZ-eye")
"Having experienced the ravages of war for 23 years and having been taken hostage by a group of terrorists, we are once again free to determine our destiny."
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, located in Central Asia, is a landlocked nation slightly smaller than Texas. It has a total land area of 647,500 sq km (250,001 sq mi). It is bordered on the north by the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, on the east and south by Pakistan, and on the west by Iran. A strip of land less than 80 km (50 mi) wide and known as the Wakhan corridor extends to the northeast. It forms a 76-km (47-mi) border with China. The population was estimated in 2002 at 27.7 million, although decades of warfare make accurate population counts impossible. The capital, Kabul, is located in the east-central part of the country. The 2002 population of Kabul was estimated at 2.1 million; a large number of displaced persons, many of them refugees from neighboring countries, returned to the city in 2002.
The average elevation is 1,200 m (4,000 ft). The towering Hindu Kush mountain range, running southwest from the Wakhan corridor in the northeast, has elevations of more than 6,200 m (20,000 ft). In the provinces north of the Hindu Kush the altitude drops to about 460 m (1,500 ft), enabling farmers to grow cotton, fruit, grains, and other crops. The central part of the country features a plateau with lush valleys suitable for grazing sheep, goats, and camels. In the southwest, the land is a barren desert where the temperature extremes are the greatest found anywhere in the country. Decades of violent civil and international conflicts have caused widespread poverty, devastated the roads, bridges, and infrastructure, and left the countryside riddled with dangerous land mines. (The United Nations [UN] estimates that 7–10 million land mines remain buried in Afghanistan, rendering much farming and grazing land useless.) Earthquakes in the northern Hindu Kush region, overgrazing, and rampant deforestation by citizens in search of fuel and building materials all combine to present the government in 2002 with the challenge of resurrecting even the most basic services.
Pashtu and Dari (Afghani variant of Persian) are the official languages. Dari is the language spoken in Kabul and has historically been the principal language of Afghan literature, government, and business. Many Afghans are bilingual and almost all are Muslim.
Office of the Afghan Transitional Authority