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Asia, Afghanistan

Afghanistan, officially Islamic State of Afghanistan, republic in southwestern Asia, bounded on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan; on the east by China and the part of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir controlled by Pakistan; on the south by Pakistan; and on the west by Iran. Afghanistan lies across ancient trade and invasion routes from Central Asia into India. This position has been the greatest influence on its history because the invaders often settled there. Today the population includes many different ethnic groups. Most of the present borders of the country were drawn up in the 19th century, when Afghanistan became a buffer state, or neutral zone, between Russia and British India. Kabul is the capital and largest city.

Afghanistan was a monarchy from 1747 to 1973, when the king was overthrown by military officers and the country was proclaimed a republic. In 1979 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) invaded Afghanistan, precipitating the decade-long Afghan-Soviet War. After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the country erupted in civil war. Guerrilla groups that had fought against the Soviets continued to oppose the Soviet-installed central government; it fell in 1992 and anarchy prevailed until the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist movement, seized control of Kabul in 1996. By the late 1990s, most of the rest of the country had come under the control of the Taliban, which enforced a strict form of Islamic rule. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the Taliban was accused of harboring international terrorists. Aided by U.S. and British troops, a coalition of opposition forces known as the Northern Alliance drove the Taliban from power in late 2001.

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