Afghanistan, a country at a geostrategic crossroads | International

Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan (known as the Durand Line, created in the late 19th century to delimit British and Russian interests in the region) is very mountainous: there is the Hindu Kush mountain range, which runs from the center of the Afghan territory to the northwest Pakistani. The highest peak is Noshaq, at 7,492 meters above sea level.

A large number of rivers originate in these mountains and reach neighboring countries, bringing water to these nations. Most of the Afghan population lives around Kabul and the river that reaches the city. The rural population represents almost 75% of the total. The rest of the country is made up of valleys and wide deserts.

a very young population

Afghanistan has 38.9 million inhabitants (2020, World Bank). By gender, the numbers are similar: men represent 51.3% of the total and women, 48.7%. The average birth rate is five children per woman.

The average age is 19 years old and 42.5% of the population is 14 years old or less. Life expectancy is 65 years.

Ethnic Division Map

Afghanistan is a great mosaic of ethnicities. The majority is the Pashtun, to which 42% of the population belongs. The Taliban are predominantly from this ethnic group, as are political figures such as former President Ashraf Ghani, who fled to the UAE the day fundamentalists entered Kabul.

You Pashtuns they are spread over a large part of the country, mainly in the south and southeast. In addition to Afghanistan, this ethnic group also has deep roots in Pakistan, a neighboring country that was accused on several occasions of providing logistical support to the Taliban in the 1990s, as well as being one of the few who recognized the former dictatorship of the radicals (1996- 2001) as legitimate.

Ethnic violence has been present in the country for decades. The United Nations Security Council received complaints in the 1990s about war crimes committed by the Taliban against Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and other minorities.

Opium cultivation, main source of income

Afghanistan produces 70% (about 3,300 tons per year) of the world’s total opium (World Drug Report, UNODC 2016). For a large part of its rural population, opium cultivation is the only source of income.

According to the United Nations, in 2020 the Taliban obtained 393 million euros (2.43 billion reais) from the sale of opium.

Mining, an expanding industry

There are about 1,400 types of minerals in Afghanistan, including iron, copper, lithium, cobalt and rare earths. Lithium, used to make cell phone and computer batteries, is in extremely high demand. Rare earths are a group of chemical elements used in the manufacture of technological products and weapons.

An Afghan government report in 2017 estimated the country’s mineral wealth at around $3 trillion (BRL 15.75 trillion).

The mineral reserves, which have not been explored in recent years, are a great attraction for others, especially China, Russia and Pakistan, which are negotiating with Afghanistan to obtain better conditions of access to these raw materials.

poverty and employment

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world: 47% of its population live in poverty and 30% are hungry.

The unemployment rate is around 60% of the workforce. The average monthly salary is 17,600 afganis (about 1,150 reais). Women are worse off. Their participation in decision-making is limited and their access to the labor market is negligible.

the human drama

The advance and conquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban have driven the number of internally displaced people in the country soaring, as shown in the report by the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR), released on 16 August. Since the beginning of the year, 550,780 people have been forced from their homes in Afghanistan because of the advance of fundamentalists; 60% of them are girls and boys, according to the agency. Since 2012, a total of 3,795,750 people have experienced this situation.

Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in other countries numbered about 2.2 million people as of December 31, 2020, according to UNHCR. However, the vast majority are in neighboring countries, with 90% in Pakistan (1,448,100) and Iran (780,000).

Europe, therefore, is not the destination most Afghans have come to seek asylum over the years. In 2020, of the 472,000 requests received, 44,200 were from people of Afghanistan origin (10.6%) according to the European Commission.

Regarding irregular arrivals of immigrants to the borders of the European bloc: in 2020, there were 125.1 thousand crossings, of which 10,133 (8.1%) originated in the Asian country.

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