Hardships people face in Afghanistan

Hardships people face in Afghanistan

Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent history. This country was passed around through rulers. It was passed from Alexander the Great, the Turks, the Arabs, the Persians, to Ghengis Khan, to the Pashtuns, to the British, then after 3 Anglo-Afghan wars, Afghanistan earned its independence on August 19, 1919. Throughout the century this county was real quiet and remained neutral through many wars including World War 1. Not until the Soviet invasion, did this country show it ferocity against foreign rule as it did against the British. Ten years of brutal war against the Soviet Union had ravished this country. Years of civil war, which just not long ago calmed down, have caused a gap between many tribes and families that may take a long time to close. Life in the Islamic State of Afghanistan, as you would formally call it, is rough because of the poverty, war, and the form of government it is going through as of this moment.

Afghanistan is located in southern Asia. With a literal global position at 33 00 N and 65 00 E, Afghanistan is pretty much landlocked. Nevertheless the country has water supply through the rivers and canals throughout the country. The rivers’ main source is from the snowmelt off of the mountains in the Hindu Kush, which is the largest mountain range there. The climate there is mainly arid to semi-arid, with the winters being extremely cold, and the summers being intensely hot. With this kind of weather you wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there isn’t really a permanent crop grown here. But they do have pastures and only about 12 percent of the land is arable. Not to say this in a joking manner, but land mines have become a prominent land feature of this war-torn nation.

The population of Afghanistan is 26,813,057 with the males outnumbering the females. If you were to segregate the population by age group it would be like this: 42 percent of the population is between the ages of 0 and 14, 55 percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 63, and 3 percent of the population is 65 years of age or older. The population growth rate is 3.48 percent. The country has many ethnic groups, with 38 percent being Pashtun, 25 percent being Tajik, and 19 percent being Hazara. The minor ethnic groups makes up 18 percent of the population, with 12 percent including Aimaks, Turkmen, Balochs, and others. The last 6 percent are Uzbek. With all this ethnic diversity you wouldn’t be surprised that this country has over 30 languages. The most dominant language is Persian (Dari) which about 50 percent of the population speaks. Coming in second would be Pashtu, which about 35 percent of the nation speaks. Most of the country’s people are bilingual. The dominant religion of the country is Islam and 99 percent of the country practice it, with 84 percent being Sunni Muslims, 15 percent being Shi’a Muslims, and 1 percent being other religions. The literacy rate in the country is very poor with only 31 percent of the population over 15 years of age can read and write.

Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Turkmenistan surround Afghanistan. This country is made up of 30 provinces: Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Bamian, Farah, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghowr, Helmand, Herat, Jowzjan, Kabol, Kandahar, Kapisa, Konar, Kondoz, Laghman, Lowgar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Oruzgan, Paktia, Paktika, Parvan, Samangan, Sar-e Pol, Takhar, Vardak, Zabol, Nuristan (note- there may be two new provinces of Nuristan), and Khowst. The capital city of Afghanistan is Kabul.

As of this moment Afghanistan has established a democratic government with a foreign minister named Abdullah Abdullah and a president from the Northern Alliance named Burhanuddin Rabbani. Afghanistan’s government was very fluctuant. Afghanistan was ruled by a monarchy since it was created and during its independence from the UK on August 19, 1919. But after the war between the Soviets there has been a new form of government. It wasn’t clearly established until September 27, 1996 when the Taliban overthrew the old members of the Afghan government. Taliban have declared themselves the legitimate government of Afghanistan; however, the UN still recognizes the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani. Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan pursued a policy of neutrality and nonalignment in its foreign relations. In international forums, Afghanistan generally followed the voting patterns of Asian and African nonaligned countries. Following the Marxist coup of April 1978, the Taraki government developed significantly closer ties with the Soviet Union and its communist satellites. After the December 1979 invasion, Afghanistan’s foreign policy mirrored that of the Soviet Union. Afghan foreign policymakers attempted, with little success, to increase their regime’s low standing in the noncommunist world. With the signing of the Geneva Accords, Najibullah unsuccessfully sought to end Afghanistan’s isolation within the Islamic world and in the Non-Aligned Movement. Most Western countries, including the United States, maintained small diplomatic missions in Kabul during the Soviet occupation. Throughout the Soviet occupation, the U.S. did not recognize the Afghan regimes and a Charge D’Affaires rather than an Ambassador headed its mission. Many countries subsequently closed their missions due to instability and heavy fighting in Kabul.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban regime in 1997. Saudi Arabia and the UAE withdrew recognition following the September 11, 2001 bombings. Repeated Taliban efforts to occupy Afghanistan’s seat at the UN and OIC were unsuccessful. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has left the Afghan seat vacant until the question of legitimacy can be resolved through negotiations among the warring factions. The country is essentially divided along ethnic lines; the Taliban controls the capital of Kabul and approximately two-thirds of the country including the predominately ethnic Pashtun areas in southern Afghanistan; opposing factions have their stronghold in the ethnically diverse north. Afghanistan since then didn’t have a central government but was merely administered by factions. There was a new legal system that wasn’t really adopted but all factions tacitly agree they will follow Shari’a, or the Islamic law. During most of the century this country remained neutral throughout the world wars and the cold war but it informally sided with the US. But it did have it’s own war with the Soviets and with help from neighboring countries and the US, they defeated one of the world’s strongest powers of that time. But this neutrality issue doesn’t apply to foreign affairs. Afghanistan participates in many international organizations: AsDB, CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat, IOC, IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, and WtoO. There are many political parties in Afghanistan and the most recognizable one would be the Taliban, Religious Students Movement, with it’s leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. The chairman of the United National Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan or UNIFSA is Burhanuddin Rabbani and General Abdul Rashid Dostam is the vice-chairman. The military commander is Ahmad Shah Masood. Mohammed Yunis Qanuni is the spokesman. There 13 parties opposed to the Taliban including Harakat-i-Islami Afghanistan, (Islamic Movement of Afghanistan), Hizb-i-Islami (Islamic Party), Hizb-i-Wahdat-i-Islami (Islamic Unity Party), Jumaat-i-Islami Afghanistan (Islamic Afghan Society), Jumbish-i-Milli (National Front), and the Mahaz-i-Milli-i-Islami (National Islamic Front). Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Australia, US, and elsewhere have organized politically; Mellat (Social Democratic Party). In Peshawar, Pakistan there are based groups such as the Coordination Council for National Unity and Understanding in Afghanistan or CUNUA and the leader of that group is Ishaq Gailani. Tribal elders represent traditional Pashtun leadership. The Writers Union of Free Afghanistan or WUFA’s leader is A. Rasul Amin. The US embassy in Kabul has been closed since January 1989 due to security concerns but on Monday, December 17, 2001 the US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan opened back up for business.

Abdullah Abdullah is the new foreign minister of Afghanistan. Although it is roughly new, the government in Afghanistan is a Democratic one. I have no idea how they do things over there now, since it’s so new, but I can guess how it is. Back when there were kings, Afghanistan’ basic system was like this: a liberal constitution providing for a two-chamber legislature to which the king appointed one-third of the deputies; the people elected another third, and the remainder were selected indirectly by provincial assemblies. Nowadays they probably have a government similar to ours, with elections and appointing of officials. I don’t know how the power structure would be because it is new not only to me but for them too. I guess they would have elections for positions and the president of the country would appoint cabinet members. All I know about the political power is that they have a foreign minister in charge right now. A law is made probably through voting since now it is a democratic government. People or elected officials would propose a law and the cabinet members would pass it. The people can also vote on the law. Well a law that may be different from here, in the US, is that if you steal, the punishment would be that they cut off a hand so that you wouldn’t do it again. Or if you commit adultery you could receive the death penalty as a result.

Well I think that this country now has a connection or belongs to the United Nations and the ambassador would be Abdullah Abdullah. A few weeks ago Afghanistan had a dispute with the United States over the notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, and his terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The result was a “confrontation” between the Taliban and the US forces. It was a minor war but Afghanistan’s people sided with the US and helped overtake Taliban forces. This recent interaction reshaped the United States policy against terrorism. The US created a new cabinet position called Office of Homeland Security and the head of the office is Tom Ridge. Afghanistan is also the world’s largest illicit opium producer and a major source of hashish. Increasing number of heroin processing laboratories are being set up in the country and major political factions in the country profit from drug trade. Another dispute is over which group should hold Afghanistan’s seat in the UN because there are supports to Islamic militants worldwide by some factions. Two areas–Pashtunistan and Baluchistan–have long complicated Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan. Controversies involving these areas date back to the establishment of the Durand Line in 1893 dividing Pashtun and Baluch tribes living in Afghanistan from those living in what later became Pakistan. Afghanistan vigorously protested the inclusion of Pashtun and Baluch areas within Pakistan without providing the inhabitants with an opportunity for self-determination. Since 1947, this problem has led to incidents along the border, with extensive disruption of normal trade patterns. The most serious crisis lasted from September 1961 to June 1963, when diplomatic, trade, transit, and consular relations between the countries were suspended. Afghanistan’s relations with Iran have fluctuated over the years, with periodic disputes over the water rights of the Helmand River as the main issue of contention.

Following the Soviet invasion, which Iran opposed, relations deteriorated. The Iranian consulate in Herat closed, as did the Afghan consulate in Mashad. The Iranians complained of periodic border violations following the Soviet invasion. In 1985, they urged feuding Afghan Shi’a resistance groups to unite to oppose the Soviets. Iran supported the cause of the Afghan resistance and provided limited financial and military assistance to rebel leaders who pledged loyalty to the Iranian vision of Islamic revolution. Iran provides refuge to about 2 million Afghans, though it has refused to accept more in recent years and, indeed, tried to force many to repatriate. In the 19th century, Afghanistan served as a strategic buffer state between czarist Russia and the British Empire in the subcontinent. Afghanistan’s relations with Moscow became more cordial after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Soviet Union was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Afghanistan after the Third Anglo-Afghan war and signed an Afghan-Soviet nonaggression pact in 1921, which also provided for Afghan transit rights through the Soviet Union. Early Soviet assistance included financial aid, aircraft and attendant technical personnel, and telegraph operators. The Soviets began a major economic assistance program in Afghanistan in the 1950s.

Between 1954 and 1978, Afghanistan received more than $1 billion in Soviet aid, including substantial military assistance. In 1973, the two countries announced a $200-million assistance agreement on gas and oil development, trade, transport, irrigation, and factory construction. Following the 1979 invasion, the Soviets augmented their large aid commitments to shore up the Afghan economy and rebuild the Afghan military. They provided the Karmal regime an unprecedented $800 million. The Soviet Union supported the Najibullah regime even after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in February 1989. Today unresolved questions concerning Soviet MIA/POWs in Afghanistan remain an issue between Russia and Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s relations with newly independent Tajikistan have been complicated by political upheaval and civil war in Tajikistan, which spurred some 100,000 Tajiks to seek refuge in Afghanistan in late 1992 and early 1993. Tajik rebels seeking to overthrow the regime of Russian-backed former communist Imamali Rahmanov began operating from Afghan bases and recruiting Tajik refugees into their ranks. These rebels, reportedly aided by Afghans and a number of foreign Islamic extremists, conducted cross-border raids against Russian and Tajik security posts and sought to infiltrate fighters and materiel from Afghanistan into Tajikistan. Also disenchanted by the Taliban’s harsh treatment of Afghanistan’s Tajik minority, Tajikistan has facilitated assistance to the Northern Alliance. After the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1934, the U.S. policy of helping developing nations raise their standard of living was an important factor in maintaining and improving U.S.-Afghan ties. From 1950 to 1979, U.S. foreign assistance provided Afghanistan with more than $500 million in loans, grants, and surplus agricultural commodities to develop transportation facilities, increase agricultural production, expand the educational system, stimulate industry, and improve government administration. Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghans in need. U.S. efforts also included helping Afghans living inside Afghanistan. This cross-border humanitarian assistance program aimed at increasing Afghan self-sufficiency and helping Afghans resist Soviet attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated countryside. During the period of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion in military and economic assistance to Afghans and the resistance movement. During the Soviet occupation, the United Nations was highly critical of the U.S.S.R.’s interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and was instrumental in obtaining a negotiated Soviet withdrawal under the terms of the Geneva Accords.

In the aftermath of the Accords and subsequent Soviet withdrawal, the United Nations has assisted in the repatriation of refugees and has provided humanitarian aid such as health care, educational programs, and food and has supported mine-clearing operations. The UNDP and associated agencies have undertaken a limited number of development projects. However, the UN reduced its role in Afghanistan in 1992 in the wake of fierce factional strife in and around Kabul. The UN Secretary General has designated a personal representative to head the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) and the Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA), both based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Throughout the late 1990s, 2000, and 2001, the UN unsuccessfully strived to promote a peaceful settlement between the Afghan factions as well as provide humanitarian aid, this despite increasing Taliban restrictions upon UN personnel and agencies.

This war-torn country shows its true heart when times of hardship are around. Poverty is a main problem in this country as well as civil war. Afghanistan’s ethnically and linguistically mixed population reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South and Southwest Asia. It shows how and what this country’s history has been through. Afghanistan’s ferocity and unity shown in past wars is showing nowadays through the effort to help the United States in ending the Taliban regime. New government may show a new way of life that can help take this country out of civil war and poverty. Although we are at the tail end of the war to stop bin Laden and the Taliban, we can clearly see the rise of Afghanistan as a nation. With aid form the UN, US, and other nations, Afghanistan will soon be a nation that can be proud of itself and maybe help other countries in need of aid or support.