Scholars disagree over the division, number and definitions of
Afghanistan's regions. Louis Dupree's geographic paradigm is one
of the most respected and is based on the regional division of
human geography and ecology. He divides Afghanistan into eleven
geographic zones. The first six--the Wakhan Corridor-Pamir Knot,
Badakhshan, Central Mountains, Eastern Mountains, Northern Mountains
and Foothills, Southern Mountains and Foothills--are connected
to the Hindukush systems. The remaining five--Turkistan Plains,
Herat-Farah Lowlands, Sistan Basin-Hilmand Valley, Western Stony
Desert, and Southwestern Sandy Desert--comprise deserts and plains
"which surround the Mountains in the north, west and southwest."
Medieval geographies speak of the remarkable prosperity of the
Sistan which is now known principally for its deserts covered
with moving sand dunes rising to a height of 20 meters. Some experts
have concluded these may be the fastest moving sand dunes anywhere
in the world.
The United Nations has defined eight regions for their assistance
planning: Northeast--Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan; North--Samangan,
Balkh, Saripul, Jawzjan; West--Faryab, Badghis, Herat, Farah;
East-Central--Bamiyan, Ghor; Central--Kapisa, Parwan, Kabul, Logar,
Wardak; East--Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Nangarhar; South--Paktya,
Pakteka, Khost, Ghazni; Southwest--Zabul, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Hilmand,
Nimroz. This reflects the creation since 1978 of three new provinces--Saripul,
Khost and Nuristan--bringing the 1996 total to thirty-two.
Construction of a circular road system to link these regions
was assiduously promoted during the 1960s: with assistance from
the United States south of the Hindukush, the Soviet Union north
of the Hindukush, and West Germany in Paktya Province. These roads
connected major cities with the principal border crossings: from
Herat to Iran and Turkmenistan in the west; from Kandahar to Pakistan
in the south; from Kabul through Jalalabad to Pakistan in the
east; from Balkh to Uzbekistan in the north.
Other roads are unpaved, and the once-paved roads have been almost
totally destroyed. This is a major impediment to reconstruction
since any improvements, particularly in the agriculture sector,
are hampered by the lack of an efficient delivery infrastructure.
Rebuilding of the roads, however, is beyond the capacity of any
agency now involved in Afghanistan's rehabilitation. This is the
one sector that will require massive inputs which can only be
obtained by such organizations as the World Bank or the Asian
Bank, both of which insist on peace before becoming involved.
The plate-tectonic activity in Afghanistan has contributed to
the creation of the geologic riches of the country, but has also
produced frequent earthquakes; around fifty are recorded each
year. Although most are relatively mild, the most severe earthquake
in recent history occurred on 29 July 1985. French scientists
recorded a measurement of 7.3 on the Richter scale at its epicenter
in the Hindukush. Since then, according to the United States Geological
Survey, there have been ten earthquakes in Afghanistan which have
registered above 6.0; the most severe, both registering at 6.4,
occurred in January and July 1991.
Data as of 1997