Country: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Area: 250,001 sq mi (647,500 sq km) / World Rank:42
Location: Eastern and Northern Hemispheres, Southern Asia; bordering Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; China to the east; Pakistan to the east and south; and Iran to the west
Coordinates: 33°N, 65°E
Borders: 3,428 mi (5,529 km) total boundary length /
China, 47 mi (76 km); Iran, 582 mi (936 km); Pakistan, 1,511 mi (2,430 km); Tajikistan, 750 mi (1,206km); Turkmenistan, 463 mi (744 km); Uzbekistan, 85 mi (137 km)
Territorial Seas: None
Highest Point: Mt. Nowshak, 24,558 ft (7,485 m)
Lowest Point: Amu Dar''ya River, 846 ft (258 m)
Longest Distances: 770 mi (1,240 km) NE-SW / 350mi (560 km) SE-NW
Longest River: Amu Dar''ya, 1,654 mi (2,661 km)
Natural Hazards: Flooding, droughts, earthquakes
Population: 29,835,392 (July 20011 est.) / WorldRank: 39
Capital City: Kabul, east-central Afghanistan
Largest City: Kabul, 1,780,000 (2000 est.)
Afghanistan is a landlocked nation in south-central Asia. Strategically located at the crossroads of major north-south and east-west trade routes, it has attracted a succession of invaders ranging from Alexander the Great, in the fourth century B.C to the Soviet Union in the twentieth century A.D. Almost as large as the state of Texas, Afghanistan is bounded by six different countries. Afghanistan’s longest border—accounting for its entire southern boundary and most of its eastern one—is with Pakistan. The shortest one, bordering China’s Xinjiang province, is a mere 47 mi (76 km) at the end of the Vakhan corridor, a narrow sliver of land 150 mi (241 km) long that extends eastward between Tajikistan and Pakistan. At its narrowest point it is only 7 mi (11 km) wide.The Hindu Kush mountains, running northeast to southwest across the country, divide it into three major regions: 1) the Central Highlands, which form part of the Himalayan Mountains and account for roughly twothirds of the country’s area; 2) the Southwestern Plateau, which accounts for one-fourth of the land; and 3) the smaller Northern Plains area, which contains the country’s most fertile soil.
There are few lakes in Afghanistan. The major ones are Lake Puzak and Lake Saberj (Lake Helmand), situated on the southwestern border. Lake Saberj has most of its surface area in Iran. Lake Zorkul is located in the Vakhan corridor near the border with Tajikistan. Abi-Istada, situated on a plateau about 120 mi (193 km) northeast of Qandahar, is a salt lake. The Band-e Amir is a group of five small lakes in the Central Highlands that owe their unique coloration—ranging from a filmy white to a deep green—to the bedrock beneath them. Rivers Afghanistan’s drainage system is essentially land-locked. Most of the rivers and streams end in shallow
desert lakes or oases inside or outside the country’s boundaries. Nearly half of the country’s total area is drained by watercourses south of the Hindu Kush–Safid ridge line, and half of this area is drained by the Helmand and its tributaries alone. The Amu Dar''ya on the northern border, the country’s other major river, has the next-
largest drainage area.
THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN
Afghanistan is landlocked, with the closest seacoast roughly 300 mi (483 km) away in Pakistan, on the shores of the Arabian Sea.
CLIMATE AND VEGETATION
Afghanistan has a semiarid to arid climate with wide variations in temperature, both between seasons and between different times of day. Its summers are hot and dry, but its winters are bitterly cold. Recorded temperatures have ranged as high as 128°F (53°C) in the deserts, and as low as -15°F (-26°C) in the central highlands, which have a subarctic climate. Summertime temperatures in the capital city of Kabul can vary from 61°F (16°C) at sunrise to 100°F (38°C) by noon. The mean January temperature in Kabul is 32°F (0°C).
In much of the country, rainfall is sparse and irregular, averaging 10 to 12 in (25 to 30 cm) and mostly falling between October and April. However, a record 53 in (135 cm) annually has been recorded in the Hindu Kush mountains, and rainfall is generally heavier in the eastern part of the country than in the west. Indian summer
monsoons can bring heavy rains in the southeastern mountains in July and August. Otherwise, Afghan summers are generally dry, cloudless, and hot. Humid air from the Persian Gulf sometimes produces summer showers and thunderstorms in the southwest.
Afghanistan’s major mineral resource that has been exploited so far is its natural gas reserves in the Northern Plains. Large deposits of high-grade iron ore remain unmined due to difficulty of access. Other mineral resources include coal, copper, petroleum, sulfur, lead, zinc, chromite, talc, barites, salt, and precious and semi-