Afghanistan is located in the heart of Central Asia. The country
is officially named the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Pashtu:
D'Afghanistan Islami Jamhuriat; Dari: Jamhuriat-i Islami-i Afghanistan).
It has an area of some 251,825 square miles (652,225 square kilometers)
and is completely landlocked. The nearest coast lying along the
Arabian Sea is about 300 miles to the south. Its longest border,
of 1,125 miles (1,810 kilometers), is with Pakistan, to the east
and south. The 510-mile border in the west separates Afghanistan
from Iran. Afghanistan also has about 200-mile border with the part
of Jammu and Kashmir claimed by Pakistan. The combined length of
Afghanistan's northern borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and
Tajikistan is 1,050 miles. The shortest border, 50 miles, is with
the Uighur Autonomous Region of Sin Kiang of the People's Republic
of China, at the end of Wakhan Corridor, in the extreme northeast.
The capital of Afghanistan and its largest populated city is Kabul,
which is located in the east-central part of the country at an altitude
of about 5,900 feet (l800 meters). The city is connected by road
to most Afghan provinces and neighboring countries to the north,
south, east and west.
The current boundaries of Afghanistan were established in the late
19th century in the context of rivalry with Britain and Russia.
Modern Afghanistan became a pawn in struggles over political ideology
and commercial influence. In the late 20th century Afghanistan suffered
ruinous effects of prolonged civil war (the 90's), invasion by the
Soviet Union (1979), and Soviet military occupation (1979-89).
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