Info on Afghanistan

Afghanistan's map Location: Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran
Geographic coordinates: 33 00 N, 65 00 E
Map references: Asia
total: 647,500 sq km
land: 647,500 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 5,529 km
Border Countries: China 76 km, Iran 936 km, Pakistan 2,430 km, Tajikistan 1,206 km, Turkmenistan 744 km, Uzbekistan 137 km
Population: 29,928,987 (July 2005 est.)
Capital: Kabul
Climate: arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Amu Darya 258 m
highest point: Nowshak 7,485 m
Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones
Irrigated land: 23,860 sq km (1998 est.)
Environment-international agreements:
party to: Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban signed, but not ratified: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation

Age structure:
0-14 years: 44.7% (male 6,842,857/female 6,524,485)
15-64 years: 52.9% (male 8,124,077/female 7,713,603)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 353,193/female 370,772) (2005 est.)
Net migration rate: 21.43 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 163.07 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)
Languages: Pashtu, Afghan Persian (Dari), Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 1, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai), much bilingualism
Administrative divisions: 30 provinces (velayat, singular-velayat)
Independence: 19 August 1919 (from UK control over Afghan foreign affairs)

Timeline: Afghanistan
Prepared using BBC News, May 24, 2005

A chronology of key events:

1919 - Afghanistan regains independence after third war against British forces trying to bring country under their sphere of influence.

1926 - Amanullah proclaims himself king and attempts to introduce social reforms leading to opposition from conservative forces.

1929 - Amanullah flees after civil unrest over his reforms.

1933 - Zahir Shah becomes king and Afghanistan remains a monarchy for next four decades.

1953 - General Mohammed Daud becomes prime minister. Turns to Soviet Union for economic and military assistance. Introduces a number of social reforms, such as abolition of purdah (practice of secluding women from public view).

1963 - Mohammed Daud forced to resign as prime minister.

1964 - Constitutional monarchy introduced - but leads to political polarisation and power struggles.

1973 - Mohammed Daud seizes power in a coup and declares a republic. Tries to play off USSR against Western powers. His style alienates left-wing factions who join forces against him.

1978 - General Daud is overthrown and killed in a coup by leftist People's Democratic Party. But party's Khalq and Parcham factions fall out, leading to purging or exile of most Parcham leaders. At the same time, conservative Islamic and ethnic leaders who objected to social changes begin armed revolt in countryside.

1979 - Power struggle between leftist leaders Hafizullah Amin and Nur Mohammed Taraki in Kabul won by Amin. Revolts in countryside continue and Afghan army faces collapse. Soviet Union finally sends in troops to help remove Amin, who is executed.

Soviet intervention

1980 - Babrak Karmal, leader of the People's Democratic Party Parcham faction, is installed as ruler, backed by Soviet troops. But anti-regime resistance intensifies with various mujahedin groups fighting Soviet forces. US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia supply money and arms.

1985 - Mujahedin come together in Pakistan to form alliance against Soviet forces. Half of Afghan population now estimated to be displaced by war, with many fleeing to neighbouring Iran or Pakistan. New Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says he will withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

1986 - US begins supplying mujahedin with Stinger missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships. Babrak Karmal replaced by Najibullah as head of Soviet-backed regime.

1988 - Afghanistan, USSR, the US and Pakistan sign peace accords and Soviet Union begins pulling out troops.

1989 - Last Soviet troops leave, but civil war continues as mujahedin push to overthrow Najibullah.

1991 - US and USSR agree to end military aid to both sides.

Mujahedin triumph

1992 - Resistance closes in on Kabul and Najibullah falls from power. Rival militias vie for influence.

1992-94 - Over 65,000 people are killed in Kabul in the fundamentalists groupís infighting. 90% Kabul city is changed into ashes.

Factional contests continued for some years

1993 - Mujahedin factions agree on formation of a government with ethnic Tajik, Burhanuddin Rabbani, proclaimed president.

1994 - Factional contests continue and the Pashtun-dominated Taliban emerge as major challenge to the Rabbani government.

1996 - Taliban seize control of Kabul and introduce hardline version of Islam, banning women from work, and introducing Islamic punishments, which include stoning to death and amputations. Rabbani flees to join anti-Taliban northern alliance.

Taliban under pressure

1997 - Taliban recognised as legitimate rulers by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Most other countries continue to regard Rabbani as head of state. Taliban now control about two-thirds of country.

1998 - Earthquakes kill thousands of people. US launches missile strikes at suspected bases of militant Osama bin Laden, accused of bombing US embassies in Africa.

1999 - UN imposes an air embargo and financial sanctions to force Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden for trial.

2001 January - UN imposes further sanctions on Taliban to force them to hand over Osama bin Laden.

2001 March - Taliban blow up giant Buddha statues in defiance of international efforts to save them.

2001 April - Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, the second most powerful Taliban leader after the supreme commander, Mullah Mohammad Omar, dies of liver cancer.

2001 May - Taliban order religious minorities to wear tags identifying themselves as non-Muslims, and Hindu women to veil themselves like other Afghan women.

2001 September - Eight foreign aid workers on trial in the Supreme Court for promoting Christianity. This follows months of tension between Taliban and aid agencies.

2001 - Ahmad Shah Masood, leader of Shur-e-Nezar, is killed, apparently by assassins posing as journalists.

2001 October - USA, Britain launch air strikes against Afghanistan after Taliban refuse to hand over Osama bin Laden, held responsible for the September 11 attacks on America.

2001 November - Opposition forces seize Mazar-e Sharif and within days march into Kabul and other key cities.

2001 5 December - Afghan groups agree deal in Bonn for interim government.

2001 7 December - Taliban finally give up last stronghold of Kandahar, but Mullah Omar remains at large.

2001 22 December - Pashtun royalist Hamid Karzai is sworn in as head of a 30-member interim power-sharing government.

2002 January - First contingent of foreign peacekeepers in place.

2002, April 18 - Former King Zahir Shah returns, but says he makes no claim on the throne.

2002 May - UN Security Council extends mandate of the peacekeeping International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan until December 2002. Turkey prepares to take over command of the 5,000-strong ISAF from Britain by the end of June 2002.

Allied forces continue their military campaign to find remnants of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the south-east.

June 10 - Grassroots support for former King Zahir Shah spawns political bickering among Afghanistan's feuding factions, delaying the start of the Loya Jirga.

June 11 - Loya Jirga opens.

2002 June 13- Loya Jerga, or grand council, elects Hamid Karzai as interim head of state. Karzai picks members of his administration which is to serve until 2004.

Turkey officially takes command of the international peacekeeping force from Britain.

2002 July - Vice-President Haji Abdul Qadir is assassinated by gunmen in Kabul.

2002 July - US air raid in Uruzgan province kills 48 civilians, many of them members of a wedding party.

2002 September - Karzai narrowly escapes an assassination attempt in Kandahar, his home town.

2002 December - President Karzai and Pakistani, Turkmen leaders sign agreement paving way for construction of gas pipeline through Afghanistan, carrying Turkmen gas to Pakistan.

Asian Development Bank resumes lending to Afghanistan after 23-year gap.

2003 June - Clashes between Taliban fighters and government forces in Kandahar province leave 49 people dead.

2003 August - Nato takes control of security in Kabul. It is the organisation's first operational commitment outside Europe in its history.

New constitution

2004 January - Grand assembly - or Loya Jirga - adopts new constitution which provides for strong presidency.

2004 April - Fighting in northwest between regional commander and provincial governor allied to government.

Twenty people, including two aid workers and a police chief, are killed in incidents in the south. Taliban militants are suspected.

First execution since the fall of the Taliban is carried out.

2004 June - Eleven Chinese construction workers killed by gunmen in Kunduz.

2004 September - Rocket fired at helicopter carrying President Karzai misses its target; it is the most serious attempt on his life since September 2002.

2004 October/November - Presidential elections: Hamid Karzai is declared the winner, with 55% of the vote. He is sworn in, amid tight security, in December.

2005 February - Several hundred people are killed in the harshest winter weather in a decade.

2005 April - Afghan Health Minister says Afghanistan facing health disaster worse than the Tsunmai

2005 April - An Afghan woman was stoned to death for adultery

2005 May - Details emerge of alleged prisoner abuse by US forces at detention centres in Afghanistan.

Main events in Afghanistan since the Soviet exit
AFP, Feb.12, 1999

On February 15, 1989: The Soviet Union pulled its last troops out of Afghanistan, ending a 10-year occupation and signalling that an end to the Cold War was in sight.

Feb 15, 1989: The last Red Army soldier leaves Afghanistan. Officially some 15,000 Soviet soldiers died. Unofficial estimates say many more died.

Spring 1989: The pro-Moscow government of Mohammad Najibullah continues to battle United States and Pakistan-sponsored Mujahedeen forces. Mujahedeen repulsed after staging coordinated attacks in Jalalabad.

March 1990: Najibullah, who many predicted would fall within days after the Soviet withdrawal, foils coup attempt.

Feb 1992: Moscow backing for Najibullah ends as the Soviet Union breaks up.

April 28, 1992: Najibullah resigns and takes refuge in a UN compound. Sibghatullah Mujaddedi forms government with his interim term fixed at two months under the Peshawar agreement. Factional in-fighting claims some 60,000 civilian lives over the next two years.

May 1992: Burhanuddin Rabbani succeeds Mujaddedi as president for six months. However, factionalism sees him remain as president amid cries of foul play.

Jan 1, 1994: General Abdul Rashid Dostam ends alliance with defence minister Ahmad Shah Masood and stages bloody coup in league with Masood's rival Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Coup fails.

Oct 12, 1994: The hardline Islamic Taliban militia emerge and seize the southern city of Kandahar vowing to oust the Mujahedeen and introduce pure Islamic rule.

Sept 5, 1995: Taliban take the strategic western Herat province, on the Iranian border.

June 1996: Taliban capture Hekmatyar bases in the south forcing the ethnic Pashtun to join the government of Rabbani, who he once opposed, as prime minister.

Sept 11, 1996: Taliban take the eastern city of Jalalabad. Laghman province soon falls to the militia.

Sept 25, 1996: Taliban overrun Sarobi district outside Kabul. They close in on disunited government soldiers in Kabul.

Sept 26, 1996: Masood pulls out of Kabul.

Sept 27, 1996: Taliban take Kabul. Najibullah is dragged from UN compound and hanged alongside his brother. Islamic Sharia law imposed. Girls' schools are closed, women's access to health restricted.

May 23, 1997: Combined Taliban and Malik forces overrun Jauzjan, Sari Pul, Mazar-i-Sharif and surrounding provinces. Dostam flees to Turkey.

May 24, 1997: Pakistan recognizes the Taliban. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates follow suit.

Feb 1998: A massive earthquake hits northeastern province of Takhar, killing at least 4,000 people.

June 1998: Another earthquake hits northeast provinces of Badakhshan and Takhar, this time killing at least 4,500 villagers.

July 12, 1998: Taliban capture Faryab.

July 22, 1998: Non-governmental aid organisations begin leaving Kabul after defying a Taliban order to relocate their offices to a dilapidated polytechnic compound on the outskirts of town.

Aug 2, 1998: Taliban capture Sheberghan. Close in on Mazar-i-Sharif as the UN Secuity Council calls for a ceasefire.

Aug 8, 1998: Taliban take Mazar-i-Sharif. Eleven Iranian diplomats and a correspondent are killed, pushing both countries to the verge of war. International human rights groups say the Taliban soldiers massacred between 4,000 and 8,000 ethnic Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Aug 20, 1998: The US launches a Tomahawk missile strike on suspected terrorist bases in the southern province of Khost, allegedly run by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden. Italian UN observer Colonel Carmine Calo is shot dead in Kabul by protestors. UN evacuates most expatriates.

Sept 1998: Reacting to the murder of its diplomats, Iran starts military manoevres close to the Afghan border.

Sept 13, 1998: Taliban seize central Bamyan province, stronghold of the Shia and ethnic Hazaras from the pro-Iranian Hezb-i-Wahdat party.

Feb 4, 1999: UN makes first official visit to Kabul since evacuation amid speculation the world body could return by March.