Afghanistan (/æfˈɡænɪstæn/ افغانستان Afġānistān), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked and mountainous country in south-central Asia. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.

The country sits at an important geostrategic location that connects the Middle East with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, which has been home to various peoples through the ages. The land has witnessed many military conquests since antiquity. It also served as a source from which local dynasties such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Timurids, Mughals and many others have established empires of their own.

The political history of modern Afghanistan begins in the 18th century with the rise of the Pashtuns, when the Hotaki dynasty rose to power at Kandahar in 1709 followed by Ahmad Shah Durrani’s conquest in 1747. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the “Great Game” between the British and Russian empires. On August 19, 1919, following the third Anglo-Afghan war and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi, the nation regained control over its foreign policy from the British.

Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has experienced a continuous state of war, including major occupations in the forms of the 1979 Soviet invasion, a Pakistani military intervention in support of the Taliban in the late 1990s and the October 2001 US-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help maintain security and assist the Karzai administration.

The Afghanistan Economy

The authorities have taken steps to lay the foundation for economic stability and growth, despite a very difficult security situation and the challenges associated with building political and economic institutions. As a result, economic activity has been robust, with real GDP growth averaging more than 10% annually over the past five years. The government has increased revenue collection to 11% of GDP in 2010/11 from 8% in 2008/09, though current collection levels cover only about two-thirds of central government operating expenditures.

Some poverty indicators have improved over the last decade, but Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Per-capita income was $530 in 2010/11. The national poverty rate was 36% in 2007/08, as measured by the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, and the rates are higher in rural and mountainous areas that account for about 80% of the population.