The location of The Kite Runner's setting--Afghanistan--was important during the time sequence of the novel and has only gained importance though the U. S.'s military involvement in the nation today. When the story began, Afghanistan was relatively independent; the Soviet deployment of troops and takeover that forced Baba and Amir to leave was of international importance at the time it occurred. Afghanistan freedom fighters managed to drive the Russians out and regain their independence, only to be taken over by the Taliban and then be subject to American invasion in the 21st century.
The location of Afghanistan is important due to its proximity to the old Soviet Union and its closeness to other terrorist havens (such as Pakistan), as well as to other hotspots (Iraq) and anti-American governments (Iran). Baba and Amir travelled from Afghanistan through Pakistan to reach the safety of the U. S., and Amir repeated this route when he returned, going from California to Pakistan and into Afghanistan and then back again.
Since Baba was a wealthy man, he travelled by automobile (he was the owner of the much-admired Mustang) before leaving the country in the recess of an oil tanker.