|Region||Middle East & North Africa|
|Area||652,230 sq km|
|Population||30,419,928 (est 2012)|
|Languages||Afghan Persian or Dari. Pashtu. Turkic languages. 30 minor languages.|
|Religions||Sunni Muslim 80%. Shia Muslim 19%. other 1%.|
|Life expectancy||49.72 (est 2012)|
Although Afghanistan has natural resources including gas, petroleum, coal and iron ore, it remains extremely poor, reliant on foreign aid and suffers from shortages of housing, clean water, medical care and jobs.
In the 19th century the British were keen to protect their interests in India, so intervened in Afghan politics, making Afghanistan an ally and a buffer against Russia. But the relationship slowly deteriorated and in 1919 Britain and Afghanistan signed an agreement which provided for Afghan self-determination in foreign affairs.
In 1971 Afghanistan was hit by severe drought and famine. Throughout the 1970s, tensions increased within Afghan politics. In 1976 aid programmes were agreed with several countries, including Russia, but in 1977 Russia criticised Afghan politics. In 1979 there were anti-government uprisings and Russian troops assisted a coup.
Fighting against Russian troops continued in every part of Afghanistan until Russia withdrew in 1989. However, civil war continued between the Communist government and Afghan rebels. The continual fighting and political struggles paved the way for the emergence of the Taliban in 1994, who took Kabul and most of the north by 1997.
In 1998 thousands died in an earthquake in the north-east, bringing increased hardship for the already impoverished people. The US retaliation of the 2001 terror attacks brought an end to Taliban control, and Nato took control of security in 2003.
Despite a return to a semblance of normality after natural disasters and decades of war, the vulnerable continue to suffer: health care provision is minimal; one in five children die before their fifth birthday; the wave of suicide bombers results in horrific injuries; displaced people returning from neighbouring countries have nowhere to go.
BMS involvement in Afghanistan
BMS works in Afghanistan through sending personnel to a partner agency. Explicit Christian witness is not allowed in this Muslim country. However, where questions are asked, the Truth can be explained and many meaningful conversations do take place.
Many earthquakes trigger landslides, and this combination has produced high death tolls in recent years. Afghan soil is very fertile and suitable for a wide variety of crops. Natural deposits of gas, petroleum, coal, iron ore and precious metals have been found, but there is little Afghan expertise or recent foreign investment to use this potential.
In 1932 the Afghan government formally accepted Islam as the religion of the country, with Sharia law to be binding. In 1976 a new constitution was approved, together with the reaffirmation of Islamic institutions as the core of its national life.