Afghanistan, approximately the size of Texas, is bordered on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, on the extreme northeast by China, on the east and south by Pakistan, and by Iran on the west. The country is split east to west by the Hindu Kush mountain range, rising in the east to heights of 24,000 ft (7,315 m). With the exception of the southwest, most of the country is covered by high snow-capped mountains and is traversed by deep valleys.
Darius I and Alexander the Great were the first to use Afghanistan as the gateway to India. Islamic conquerors arrived in the 7th century, and Genghis Khan and Tamerlane followed in the 13th and 14th centuries.
In the 19th century, Afghanistan became a battleground in the rivalry between imperial Britain and czarist Russia for control of Central Asia. Three Anglo-Afghan wars (1839–1842, 1878–1880, and 1919) ended inconclusively. In 1893 Britain established an unofficial border, the Durand Line, separating Afghanistan from British India, and London granted full independence in 1919. Emir Amanullah founded an Afghan monarchy in 1926.
Literacy rate: 28.1% (2000 est.)
Telephones: main lines in use: 13,500 (2012); mobile cellular: 18 million (2012). Radio broadcast stations: AM 21, FM 5, shortwave 1 (broadcasts in Pashtu, Afghan Persian (Dari), Urdu, and English) (2007). Television broadcast stations: at least 7 (1 government-run central television station in Kabul and regional stations in 6 of the 34 provinces) (2007). Internet users: 1,000,000 (2012).
Transportation: Highways: total: 42,150 km; (2012). Waterways: 1,200 km; chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to about 500 DWT. Ports and harbors: Kheyrabad, Shir Khan. Airports: 52 (2012).
International disputes: World’s largest producer of opium; poppy cultivation increased 57%, from 115,000 hectares in 2011 to 180,000 hectares in 2012. The Taliban and other antigovernment groups participate in and profit from the opiate trade, which is a key source of revenue for the Taliban inside Afghanistan; widespread corruption and instability impede counterdrug efforts; most of the heroin consumed in Europe and Eurasia is derived from Afghan opium; Afghanistan is also struggling to respond to a burgeoning domestic opiate addiction problem; vulnerable to drug money laundering through informal financial networks; regional source of hashish (2013).