Which geographical and societal aspects of Afghanistan make it a difficult country to rule?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Afghanistan has been a country known to struggle with many conflicts, both external and internal. One source of external conflicts is its geography. Afghanistan is a land-locked country surrounded by the countries of China, Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Due to its location, larger powers have always found it strategically beneficial to use Afghanistan as a battleground for their own wars (Peace Direct, "Afghanistan: Conflict Profile"). For example, three Anglo-Afghan Wars have been fought in which England, the colonial power in India, fought from India to gain control over Afghanistan in opposition to Russia's control. The wars were fought between 1839 through 1842; 1878 through 1880; and again in 1919 (Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Anglo-Afghan Wars"). In the 19th century, both Russia and England wanted control over Afghanistan due to political and commercial benefits. Later in the 20th century, Afghanistan had a civil war that led a communist regime to seize power over Afghanistan and to call upon the Soviet Union for assistance.

A source of internal conflicts that have made Afghanistan difficult to rule is the multiple ethnic groups living in Afghanistan; the population consists of the Pashtuns, the largest ethnicity, the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, all of which are battling for sole recognized nationality or for the recognition of an international community (Defence and Diplomacy Journal, Abraham, "Understanding the Pashtuns and the Minor Ethnic Groups"). There is also the Taliban, officially known as the Students of Islamic Knowledge Movement, who came to power in 1995, after the Soviet Union left a gap in power after they lost the Soviet-Afghanistan war in 1989; the Taliban also lost power to the U.S. military in 2001 (Federation of American Scientists, "The Islamic Taliban Movement and the Dangers of Regional Assimilation").

mangoes123 | Student

Afghanistan's history (or at least it inhabitance) goes back nearly 52,000 years. Naturally the history is extremely diverse and complicated. There are a few key points to keep in mind when discussing Afghan culture:

  • Afghanistan is located along what was the silk road. This is important, as it means many people, from many cultures, were passing through. Some decided to stay, diversifying the population. Furthermore, the silk road connected Afghanistan to Middle Eastern culture and other parts of Asia.
  • Modern day Afghanistan, The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, was founded in 2004 after the fall of Taliban rule in 2001.
  • Afghanistan is inhabited by people of many different nationalities. Currently, Afghanistan is inhabited by the following nationalities: Baluch, Chahar Aimak, Turkmen, Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Nuristani, Arab, Kirghiz, Pashai and Persian.
  • After World War I, British cartographers divided the Ottoman Empire into countries, disregarding the ancient tribes and cultures in place. This, in turn, forced competing factions to coexist in a single political entity.
  • Afghanistan has been inhabited by many peoples, tribes, governments, and empires. There have been many, many migrations and shifts in power over thousands of years. These empires and monarchies have encompassed different pieces of modern-day Afghanistan, and never modern-day Afghanistan as a whole. 
  • One of Afghanistan's largest cash crop is opium, contributing significantly to the worldwide heroin trade. Furthermore, this trade is controlled by warlords, contributing to the lawless and violent culture.
  • Few natural resources are available in Afghanistan. It is landlocked, mountainous climate. The terrain is, essentially, inhabitable. 

The largest factor contributing to the unrest is the historical rivalries and divisions between the tribes/ethnic groups living in Afghanistan. With different cultures comes different views, opinions, and beliefs. With little resources and mountainous terrain, Afghanistan is poverty-stricken, completely divided, and inhabits competing cultures. 


Foreign Policy

A Brief History of Afghanistan

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