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Afghanistan - Land of Conflict and Beauty

Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country forming part of South Asia,Central Asia,and to some extent Western Asia. With a population of around 30 million, it has an area of 647,500 km2 (250,001 sq mi), making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and the east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.

Three decades of war made Afghanistan the world's most dangerous country, including the largest producer of refugees and asylum seekers. While the international community is rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan, terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Hezbi Islami are actively involved in a nationwide Taliban-led insurgency, which includes hundreds of assassinations and suicide attacks. According to the United Nations, the insurgents were responsible for 80% of civilian casualties in 2011 and 2012.
Geography and Climate

A landlocked mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is described as being located within South Asia or Central Asia. It is part of the Greater Middle East Muslim world, which lies between latitudes29° N and 39° N, and longitudes60° E and 75° E. The country's highest point is Noshaq, at 7,492 metres (24,580 feet) above sea level. It has a continental climate with very harsh winters in the central highlands, the glaciated northeast (around Nuristan) and the Wakhan Corridor, where the average temperature in January is below −15 °C (5 °F), and hot summers in the low-lying areas of the Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin in the east, and the Turkestan plains along the Amu River in the north, where temperatures average over 35 °C (95 °F) in July. 

Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry. The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world. Aside from the usual rain falls, Afghanistan receives snow during winter in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains, and the melting snow in the spring season enters the rivers, lakes, and streams. However, two-thirds of the country's water flows into neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan. The state needs more than US$2 billion to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed.

The northeastern Hindu Kush mountain range, in and around the Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan, is in a geologically active area where earthquakes may occur almost every year. They can be deadly and destructive sometimes, causing landslides in some parts or avalanche during winter.The last strong earthquakes were in 1998, which killed about 6,000 people in Badakhshan near Tajikistan. This was followed by the 2002 Hindu Kush earthquakes in which over 150 people of various regional countries were killed and over 1,000 injured. The 2010 earthquake left 11 Afghans dead, over 70 injured and more than 2,000 houses destroyed.

The country's natural resources include: coal, copper, iron ore, lithium, uranium, rare earth elements, chromite, gold, zinc, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, marble, precious and semi-precious stones, natural gas, and petroleum among other things. In 2010, US and Afghan government officials estimated that untapped mineral deposits located in 2007 by the US Geological Survey are worth between $900 billion and $3 trillion.
At 652,230 square kilometers (251,830 sq mi), Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country, slightly bigger than France and smaller than Burma, about the size of Texas in the United States. It borders Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east.


Education in the country includes K-12 and higher education, which is supervised by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education. The nation's education system was destroyed due to the decades of war, but it began reviving after the Karzai administration came to power in late 2001. More than 5,000 schools were built or renovated, with more than 100,000 teachers being trained and recruited. It was reported in 2011 that more than seven million male and female students were enrolled in schools.

As of 2011, about 82,000 students are enrolled in different universities around the country.Kabul University reopened in 2002 to both male and female students. In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan was established in Kabul, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan. The capital of Kabul serves as the learning center of Afghanistan, with many of the best educational institutions being based there. Major universities outside of Kabul include Kandahar University in the south, Herat University in the northwest, Balkh University in the north, Nangarhar University and Khost University in the eastern zones, as well as a number of others. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a four-year military development institution dedicated to graduating officers for the Afghan armed forces. The $200 million Afghan Defense University is under construction near Qargha in Kabul. The United States is building six faculties of education and five provincial teacher training colleges around the country, two large secondary schools in Kabul and one school in Jalalabad.

Literacy rate of the entire population is low, around 28%. Female literacy may be as low as 10%. In 2010, the United States began establishing a number of Lincoln learning centers in Afghanistan. They are set up to serve as programming platforms offering English language classes, library facilities, programming venues, Internet connectivity, educational and other counseling services. A goal of the program is to reach at least 4,000 Afghan citizens per month per location. The military and national police are also provided with mandatory literacy courses. In addition to this, Baghch-e-Simsim (based on the American Sesame Street) was launched in late 2011 to help Afghan children learn from preschool and onward.


As of 2012, the population of Afghanistan is around 30,419,928, which includes the roughly 2.7 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan and Iran. In 1979, the population was reported to be about 15.5 million. The only city with over a million residents is its capital, Kabul. The other largest cities in the country are, in order of population size, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Lashkar Gah, Taloqan, Khost, Sheberghan, Ghazni, and so on. Urban areas are experiencing rapid population growth following the return of over 5 million expats. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the Afghan population is estimated to increase to 82 million by 2050.

Pashto and Dari (Persian) are the official languages of Afghanistan, making bilingualism very common. Both are Indo-European languages from the Iranian languages sub-family. Persian has always been the prestige language and as the main means of inter-ethnic communication, maintaining its status of lingua franca. It is the native tongue of the Tajiks, Hazaras, Aimaks and Kizilbash. Pashto is the native tongue of the Pashtuns, although many Pashtuns often use Persian and some non-Pashtuns are fluent in Pashto.

Other languages, such as Uzbek, Arabic, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi and Nuristani languages (Ashkunu, Kamkata-viri, Vasi-vari, Tregami and Kalasha-ala), are used as native tongue by minority groups across the country and have official status in the regions where they are widely spoken. Minor languages also include Pamiri (Shughni, Munji, Ishkashimi and Wakhi), Brahui, Hindko, Kyrgyz, etc. Small percent of Afghans are also fluent in Arabic, Urdu, English, and other languages


Over 99% of the Afghan population is Muslim: approximately 80–85% follow the Sunni sect, 15–19% are Shi'a, and 1% other. Until the 1890s, the region around Nuristan was known as Kafiristan (land of the kafirs) because of its inhabitants: the Nuristanis, an ethnically distinctive people who practiced animism, polytheism and shamanism. Apart from Muslims, there are also small minorities of Christians, Buddhist, Parsi, Sikhs and Hindus. There was also a small Jewish community in Afghanistan who emigrated to Israel and the United States by the end of the last century, and only one individual by the name of Zablon Simintov remains today.

Miss Globe Afghanistan 2012: 

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