Landlocked and mountainous, Afghanistan has suffered from such chronic instability and conflict during its modern history that its economy and infrastructure are in ruins, and many of its people are refugees.
The Taliban, who imposed strict Islamic rule following a devastating civil war, were ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001 but have recently been making a comeback.
The internationally-recognised government set up following the adoption of a new constitution in 2004 has struggled to extend its authority beyond the capital and to forge national unity.
Nato-led foreign combat troops had the main responsibility for maintaining security after 2001, and the formal end of Nato’s combat mission in December 2014 was followed by an upsurge in Taliban activity.
- Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
- Capital Kabul
- Population 31.6 million
- Area 652,864 sq km (251,827 sq miles)
- Major languages Dari, Pashto
- Major religion Islam
- Life expectancy 59 years (men), 62 years (women)
- Currency Afghani