The People of Afghanistan, Population and Settlement
Kabul, postwar period, Soviets, urban dwellers, Afghans
The last official census in Afghanistan was in 1979, when the population registered at 15,551,358. A 2002 population estimate was 27,755,775, but the effects of war—with its casualties and refugees—makes any estimate highly speculative.
In 2000 some 78 percent of the population lived in rural areas. Of the urban dwellers, probably about half lived in Kabul, the capital city. The nomadic population was estimated to be about 2.5 million people. During the war with the Soviets the number of Afghan refugees outside the country escalated dramatically, with as many as 2.5 million to 3 million refugees in Pakistan and another 1.5 million in Iran. About 150,000 Afghans were able to migrate permanently to other countries, including the United States, Australia, and various European countries.
Before the Afghan-Soviet War, Afghanistan had an estimated annual population growth rate of 3.5 percent. Urban areas had a growth rate of 4.8 percent, reflecting migration to places of greater employment. Afghanistan’s infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, with 145 deaths for every 1,000 live births.
With no precise data available, considerable demographic uncertainty prevails in the postwar period. Different groups are jockeying for positions of power based on purported population numbers. What seems certain, pending a reliable new census for confirmation, is that the past two decades of war deaths, emigration, and drought and starvation will have affected the population numbers, perhaps significantly.
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