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Afghanistan, a country in southwestern Asia that is situated on a landlocked plateau between Iran, Pakistan, China, and several countries in Central Asia. Afghanistan is a rugged place. Rocky mountains and deserts cover most of the land, with little vegetation anywhere except the mountain valleys and northern plains. The country has hot, dry summers and bitterly cold winters. Kabul is the capital and largest city.

Afghanistan has long been known as the crossroads of Asia, with ancient trade and invasion routes crossing its territory. Over the centuries many different people passed through Afghanistan, and some made it their homeland. Today this history is reflected in the country’s ethnic and linguistic diversity. The Pashtuns, who make up the largest ethnic group, were long known as Afghans, but in modern times the term Afghan denotes nationality for all citizens of the country.

Afghanistan was a monarchy from 1747 to 1973, when military officers overthrew the king and established a republic. In 1979 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) invaded Afghanistan, starting the Soviet-Afghan War. The United States supplied military aid to the guerrilla insurgents who fought the Soviet-backed Afghan government. After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the country erupted in civil war. An Islamic fundamentalist movement called the Taliban seized control of Kabul in 1996. The Taliban gave refuge to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, against the United States, U.S. military forces invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001. Afghanistan adopted a new constitution establishing a presidential form of government in 2004.


For younger readers

Behnke, Alison. Afghanistan in Pictures. Rev. ed. Lerner, 2003. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Corona, Laurel. Afghanistan. Lucent, 2002. For readers in grade 6 and up.

Greenblatt, Miriam, and Mohammad Basheer. Afghanistan. Children's Press, 2003. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Gritzner, Jeffrey. Afghanistan. Chelsea House, 2002. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Kazem, Halima. Afghanistan. Gareth Stevens, 2003. For readers in grades 4 to 8.

Otfinoski, Steven. Afghanistan. Facts on File, 2003. For readers in grade 7 and up.


Adamec, Ludwig W. Dictionary of Afghan Wars, Revolutions and Insurgencies. Scarecrow, 1997, 2001. Extensive introduction with a historical overview of the wars, followed by entries on individual wars. Includes a chronology that covers 1747 to 1996.

Adamec, Ludwig W. Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan. 2nd ed. Scarecrow, 1997. Concise and well-written, with a chronology of events.

Ansary, Tamim. West of Kabul, East of New York: An Aghan American Story. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002. Picador, 2003. After the events of September 11, Ansary, a writer raised in Afghanistan, wrote a moving account of his experiences in the Muslim world and the West.

Elliot, Jason. Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan. Picador, 2001. An award-winning account of an adventurer's experiences in war-torn Afghanistan.

Ewans, Martin. Afghanistan: A Short History of Its People and Politics. HarperCollins, 2002. Afghan history in a nutshell, with the focus on the 19th and 20th centuries.

Goodson, Larry P. Afghanistan's Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban. University of Washington Press, 2001. A scholarly but lucid analysis of the region published before the September 11 attacks.

Magnus, Ralph H., and Eden Naby. Afghanistan: Mullah, Marx, and Mujahid. Rev. ed. Westview, 2002. Introduction to Afghanistan, outlining the country's history, people, and unique geographical, social, political, cultural, religious, and economic circumstances.

Marsden, Peter. The Taliban. St. Martin's, 1998. A study of Afghanistan's Islamic revivalist movement.

Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. Yale University Press, 2001. An insightful look at the extremist Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Rubin, Barnett R. The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System. 2nd ed. Yale University Press, 2002. Detailed and comprehensive history of Afghanistan's history and turmoil from the 1978 coup onward.


Shroder, John Ford, Jr., B.S., M.S., Ph.D. Regents Professor of Geography and Geology, University of Nebraska. Editor, Himalaya to the Sea: Geology, Geomorphology, and the Quaternary and other books.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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