Geography of Afghanistan
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Geographical causes for this ethnic diversity are three-fold:
- First, the Hindu Kush mountains are the most prominent feature of the land, occupying about two thirds of Afghanistan is 251,773 square miles and rises to heights of 25,000 feet.The mountain range divides the country into a northern third, consisting mostly of the northern plains, and a southern two thirds, covered by desert and semidesert lowlands. Geographically, this ethnic diversity extends to Afghanistan's neighbors as well, with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the east and south, and Iran to the west.
- Second, the climate is dry, with annual precipitation in most areas either insufficient or too unpredictable to allow for a rain-base agriculture to develop. As a result, an irrigation dependent agriculture developed, contributing to regional concentration of farmers around major water sources.
- Third, although there are several major river systems, none of them - at least over the last three centuries - have been used for either transport or communications.And outside of a couple of major arteries that cross the country, most notably the silk route, there was no plan for national development of major transportation arteries until the late fifties and early sixties.To this day, Afghanistan has no railroad system.
Economically, this geographical isolation catalyzed the development of regionally dependent economies.With little interaction between these regional economies, strong regional identities developed; distance and lack of communication contributed to the evolution of 32 languages belonging to four distinct linguistic families.Many Afghans from one part of the country cannot converse intelligibly with Afghans from another part, and historically their loyalty had been associated firstly with their ethnic group and tribe, and only secondly with the state.
Economically, Afghanistan is a non-entity, producing little of quality or value, with the notable exception of the country's substantial exports of illicit substances. The unfortunate confluence of a longstanding drought, decades of civil unrest, and the recent U.S. attacks has resulted in an almost total stoppage of valid economic activity within the country. There are virtually no public services in place to serve the severely destitute Afghani population.The infrastructure and professional workforce needed to support health care, education, transportation, and civic life no longer exist. For those Afghani with access to a home, these structures often provide only the bare minimum of shelter, without any of the basic amenities, such as water, electricity, or plumbing, that are common even throughout other poor countries in Central Asia and the Middle East. Both infant mortality rates and life expectancy in Afghanistan rate among the worst in the world. To some degree, the sheer extent of the devastation in Afghanistan provides some explanation for the lack of clear focus in the U.S.'s actions in Afghanistan in recent months. With the attention of the public, policymakers, top leaders, and the media all concentrated in Iraq, there has been little opportunity to devise a cogent, viable long-term plan for reconstruction at this juncture. In addition, because of the total collapse of virtually every aspect of Afghani economic, political, and civic life, it has been particularly difficult for the U.S. to devise an appropriate plan of action