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Afghanistan

 
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Afghanistan

MOHAMMAD ZAHIR SHAH, 1933-73

Zahir Shah, Nadir Shan's son and successor, became Afghanistan's final king. For his first thirty years on the throne, he accepted the tutelage of powerful advisers in the royal family, first his uncles, later his cousin, Mohammad Daoud Khan. And only in the last decade of his sovereignty did Zahir Shah rule as well as reign unencumbered.

Zahir Shah and His Uncles, 1933-53

Three of the four Musahiban brothers survived Nadir Shah's death, and went on to exercise decisive influence over decision making during Zahir Shah's first twenty years of reign. The eldest, Muhammad Hashim, who had been prime minister under the previous king, retained that post until replaced by his youngest brother, Shah Mahmud in 1946.

Hashim put into effect the policies already orchestrated by his brothers. Internal objectives of the new Afghan government focused on strengthening the army and shoring up the economy, including transport and communications. Both goals required foreign assistance. Preferring not to involve the Soviet Union or Britain, Hashim turned to Germany. By 1935 German experts and businessmen had set up factories and hydroelectric projects at the invitation of the Afghan government. Smaller amounts of aid were also forthcoming from Japan and Italy.

Afghanistan joined the League of Nations in 1934, the same year the United States officially recognized Afghanistan. The conclusion of the Treaty of Saadabad with Iran, Iraq, and Turkey in 1937 reinforced Afghanistan's regional ties to neighboring Islamic States.

After the outbreak of World War II, the king proclaimed Afghan neutrality on August 17, 1940, but the Allies were unhappy with the presence of a large group of German nondiplomatic personnel. In October British and Soviet governments demanded that Afghanistan expel all nondiplomatic personnel from the Axis nations. Although the Afghan government considered this demand insulting and illegitimate, it appeared to heed the example of Iran; Britain and the Soviet Union occupied Iran in August 1941 after the government ignored a similar demand. Afghanistan ordered nondiplomatic personnel from all belligerents to leave, and a loya jirgah called by the king supported his policy of absolute neutrality. As the war progressed, it provided larger markets for Afghan agricultural produce (especially in India).

Shortly before the end of the war, Shah Mahmud replaced his older brother as prime minister, ushering in a period of great change in both internal and external policies. Among other things, he presided over the inauguration of the Helmand Valley Project, a cooperative irrigation venture drawing Afghanistan into a closer relationship with the United States, which financed much of the work, He also oversaw the opening of relations with the newly created state of Pakistan, which inherited the Pashtuns from the formerly British-ruled side of the Durand Line. The Pashtuns (or Pakhtuns) sought an independent or semi-independent statehood, that would include the Pashto (or Pakhtu) speakers within Pakistan. This issue would have a resounding impact on Afghan politics, as would Shah Mahmud's political liberalization of the country.

Data as of 1997

 

Afghanistan - TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1. HISTORICAL SETTING


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GENERAL FACTS & LINKS

Country name
Afghanistan
conventional long form
Islamic State of Afghanistan
conventional short form
Afghanistan
local long form
Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan
local short form
Afghanestan
former
Republic of Afghanistan

Area -
total: 647,500 sq km
land: 647,500 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Geographic Location - Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran

Map references - Asia

Capital - Kabul

Border Countries - China 76 km, Iran 936 km, Pakistan 2,430 km, Tajikistan 1,206 km, Turkmenistan 744 km, Uzbekistan 137 km

Major Cities - Kabul, Majar-e-Sharief, Jalalabad

Independence - Independence Day, 19 August (1919)

National holiday - Independence Day, 19 August (1919)

Languages Spoken - Pushtu, Dari Persian, other Turkic and minor languages

Weather Forecast -
 Farah
 Faizabad
 Herat
 Jalalabad
 Jabul Saraj
 Mazar I Sharif
 Shindand
 Shebirghan
 Zebak
 Zaranj

Airports - Kabul Airport

Ports - Kheyrabad, Shir Khan

Population - 27,755,775 (July 2002 est.)

Religion - Sunni Muslim 84%, Shi'a Muslim 15%, other 1%

Nationality - Afghan(s)

Currency - Afghani

Currency Code - AFA

Internet country code - .af

Mountains & Peaks - Shah Fuladi

Lakes - Helmand, Istada

Rivers - Amudarya, Harirud, Helmand, Kabul

Terrain - mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest

Climate - arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers

Geography - landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)

Waterways - 1,200 km note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)

Natural hazards - damaging earthquakes occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts

Natural Resources - natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones


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Information Courtesy: The Library of Congress - Country Studies


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