KABUL, capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It lies along the Kabul River at an elevation of about 5,900 feet (1,800 m) in the east-central part of the country. The nation's cultural and economic center, the city lies in a triangular valley between the two steep Asmai and Sherdawaza mountain ranges. Roads connect it to most other areas of Afghanistan, with Uzbekistan to the north, and with Pakistan to the east.

Kabul has existed for some 3,500 years. It is mentioned in the Rigveda (collection of Indian sacred hymns; c. 1500 BC), and Ptolemy, the Alexandrian astronomer, geographer, and mathematician, knew of it in the 2nd century AD. The city owes its long preeminence to its location commanding the passes from the north through the mountains of the Hindu Kush and from the south through the towns of Ghazni and Gardeyz (Gardez). It also commands the main approaches through the Khyber Pass to Pakistan and India. Kabul first became a regional seat of government in the 8th century. In the 13th century the Mongol invader Genghis Khan inflicted considerable damage on the city. Kabul was the capital (1504-26) of the Mughal Empire, under Babur, and it remained under Mughal rule until 1738, when Nader Shah of Iran took it.

Kabul has been the capital of Afghanistan since 1776; during the First Anglo-Afghan War, British garrisons were massacred there (1842). It was the centre of much military and guerrilla activity after the outbreak of civil war in 1978. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 in an effort to shore up a Marxist regime there; the invasion started when the Soviet Union began a large-scale airlift of combat troops into Kabul city. Early in 1980 a Soviet military command was established in Kabul and the airport was improved. Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, internecine fighting between the Afghan guerrillas continued intermittently in the city and surrounding areas. In 1996 the armed group Taleban captured Kabul and imposed Islamic-fundamentalist rule there. By then, however, much of the city lay in ruins, and many of its inhabitants had left.

Kabul is a blend of old and new buildings. Much of the old city has been torn down and rebuilt on modern lines. Kabul has many historical monuments, including the tombs of some of its rulers, and a number of gardens. Babur's garden, including his tomb, is near the western extremity of the old city at the base of the Sherdawaza. The Dar ol-Aman palace houses the parliament and government departments. The University of Kabul was founded in 1932. Many of these institutions, however, suffered damage during the civil war.

The city's industries include food-processing plants, rayon and wool mills, a furniture factory, a foundry, and a marble works. Kabul's population is mainly Dari- (Persian-) speaking, although there is a large proportion of Pashtuns. Pop. (1988 est.) 1,424,400; (1994 est.) 700,000.

fghanpedia Table of Content