Kabul (Kābul) ( /ˈkɑːbəl/, /ˈkɑːbuːl/; Pashto: کابل Kābəl, IPA: [kɑˈbəl]; Persian: کابل Kābol, IPA: [kɒːˈbol]), also spelled Cabool, Caubul, Kabol, or Cabul, mostly in historical contexts, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. Kabul is the 5th fastest growing city in the world  and the world's 64th largest city. It is also the capital of Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan. According to latest estimates, the population of the Kabul metropolitan area is over 4 million.
The city serves as the nation's cultural and learning centre, situated 1,791 metres (5,876 ft) above sea level in a narrow valley, wedged between the Hindu Kush mountains along the Kabul River. It is linked with Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif via the circular Highway 1 that stretches across Afghanistan. It is also the start of the main road to Jalalabad and further to Peshawar. The Kabul International Airport is located about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) from the center of the city, next to the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood. Bagram Airfield is about 40 kilometres (25 mi) northeast of Kabul.
Kabul's main products include fresh and dried fruit, nuts, Afghan rugs, leather and sheep skin products, furniture, antique replicas, and domestic clothes. The wars since 1978 have limited the city's economic productivity but after the establishment of the Karzai administration in late 2001 some progress has been made.
Kabul is over 3,500 years old; many empires have long fought over the valley for its strategic location along the trade routes of South and Central Asia. Between 1504 and 1526 AD, it served as the headquarters of Babur, builder of the Mughal Empire. It remained under the Delhi Sultanate until 1738, when Nader Shah and his Afsharid forces conquered the Mughal Empire. After the death of Nader Shah Afsharid in 1747, the city fell to Ahmad Shah Durrani, who added it to his new Afghan Empire. In 1776, Timur Shah Durrani made it the capital of the modern state of Afghanistan. It was invaded several times by the British-Indian forces during the Anglo-Afghan wars in the 19th century. After the outbreak of the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, the city was air raided by the British Royal Air Force.
Since the Marxist revolution in 1978, the city has been a target of foreign-backed militant groups such as the Mujahideen, Taliban, Haqqani network, Hezbi Islami, and others. While the Afghan government tries to rebuild the war-torn city, insurgents have continued to stage attacks not only against the Afghan government and US-led NATO forces but also against foreign diplomats and Afghan civilians.
The word "Kubhā" is mentioned in Rigveda and the Avesta and appears to refer to the Kabul River. The Rigveda praises it as an ideal city, a vision of paradise set in the mountains. The area in which the Kabul valley sat was part of the Median Empire before being conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. There is a reference to a settlement called Kabura by the rulers of the Achaemenid Empire, which may be the basis for the future use of the name Kabura (Κάβουρα) by Ptolemy. It became a centre of Zoroastrianism followed by Buddhism and Hinduism later. Alexander the Great explored the Kabul valley after his conquest of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BC but no record has been made of Kabul, which may have been only a small town and not worth writing about. The region became part of the Seleucid Empire before falling to the Indian Maurya Empire.
Alexander took these away from the Aryans and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants. —Strabo, 64 BC–24 AD
The Greco-Bactrians captured Kabul from the Mauryans in the early 2nd century BC, then lost the city to their subordinates in the Indo-Greek Kingdom around the mid-2nd century BC. The Bactrians founded the town of Paropamisadae near Kabul, but it was later ceded to the Mauryans in the 1st century BC. Indo-Scythians expelled the Indo-Greeks by the mid 1st century BC, but lost the city to the Kushan Empire about 100 years later.
Some historians ascribe Kabul the Sanskrit name of Kamboja (Kamboj). It is mentioned as Kophes or Kophene in some classical writings. Hsuan Tsang refers to the name as Kaofu in the 7th century AD, which is the appellation of one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi who had migrated from across the Hindu Kush into the Kabul valley around the beginning of the Christian era. It was conquered by Kushan Emperor Kujula Kadphises in about 45 AD and remained Kushan territory until at least the 3rd century AD. The Kushan were Indo-European-speaking Tocharians from the Tarim Basin.
Around 230 AD, the Kushans were defeated by the Sassanid Empire and replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Indo-Sassanids. During the Sassanian period, the city was referred to as "Kapul" in Pahlavi scripts. In 420 AD the Indo-Sassanids were driven out of Afghanistan by the Xionite tribe known as the Kidarites, who were then replaced in the 460s by the Hephthalites. It became part of the surviving Turk Shahi Kingdom of Kapisa, also known as Kabul-Shahan. According to Táríkhu-l Hind by Al-Biruni, Kabul was governed by princes of Turkic lineage whose rule lasted for 60 generations.
Kábul was formerly governed by princes of Turk lineage. It is said that they were originally from Tibet. The first of them was named Barhtigín, * * * * and the kingdom continued with his children for sixty generations. * * * * * The last of them was a Katormán, and his minister was Kalar, a Bráhman. This minister was favoured by fortune, and he found in the earth treasures which augmented his power. Fortune at the same time turned her back upon his master. The Katormán's thoughts and actions were evil, so that many complaints reached the minister, who loaded him with chains, and imprisoned him for his correction. In the end the minister yielded to the temptation of becoming sole master, and he had wealth sufficient to remove all obstacles. So he established himself on the throne. After him reigned the Bráhman(s) Samand, then Kamlúa, then Bhím, then Jaipál, then Anandpál, then Narda-janpál, who was killed in A.H. 412. His son, Bhímpál, succeeded him, after the lapse of five years, and under him the sovereignty of Hind became extinct, and no descendant remained to light a fire on the hearth. These princes, notwithstanding the extent of their dominions, were endowed with excellent qualities, faithful to their engagements, and gracious towards their inferiors... —Abu Rayhan Biruni, 978-1048 AD
The Kabul Turks and Hindus built a huge defensive wall around the city to protect it from future invaders. This wall has survived until today and is also considered a historical site.
Islamic conquest to the Mongol invasion
The Islamic conquest reached modern-day Afghanistan in 642 AD, at a time when Kabul was independent. A number of failed expeditions were made to Islamize the region. In one of them, Abdu-r Rahmán bin Shimar invaded Kabul in the late 7th century and managed to convert 12,000 local inhabitants to Islam before abandoning the city. Muslims were a minority until Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar of Zaranj conquered Kabul in 870 and established the first Islamic dynasty in the region. It was reported in early 900 AD that the rulers of Kabul were Muslims with non-Muslims living close by.
"Kábul has a castle celebrated for its strength, accessible only by one road. In it there are Musulmáns, and it has a town, in which are infidels from Hind." —Istahkrí, 921 AD
Over the centuries to come, the city was successively controlled by the Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, and Kartids. In the 13th century the Mongol horde passed through and caused massive destruction in the area. Report of a massacre in the close by Bamiyan is recorded around this period, where the entire population of the valley was annihilated by the Mongol troops as a revenge for the death of Genghis Khan's grandson. One of Genghis Khan's grandson is thought to be named Kabul. During the Mongol invasion, many natives of Afghanistan fled to India where some established dynasties in Delhi.
Following the era of the Khilji dynasty in 1333, the famous Moroccan travelling scholar Ibn Battuta was visiting Kabul:
We travelled on to Kabul, formerly a vast town, the site of which is now occupied by a village inhabited by a tribe of Persians called Afghans. They hold mountains and defiles and possess considerable strength, and are mostly highwaymen. Their principle mountain is called Kuh Sulayman. —Ibn Battuta, 1304–1369 AD
Timurid and Mughal era
In the 14th century, Kabul rose again as a trading centre under the kingdom of Timur (Tamerlane). In 1504, the city fell to Babur from the north and made into his headquarters, which became one of the principal cities of his later Mughal Empire. In 1525, Babur described Kabulistan in his memoirs by writing that:
In the country of Kābul there are many and various tribes. Its valleys and plains are inhabited by Tūrks, Aimāks, and Arabs. In the city and the greater part of the villages, the population consists of Tājiks (called "Sarts" by Babur). Many other of the villages and districts are occupied by Pashāis, Parāchis, Tājiks, Berekis, and Afghans. In the hill-country to the west, reside the Hazāras and Nukderis. Among the Hazāra and Nukderi tribes, there are some who speak the Moghul language. In the hill-country to the north-east lies Kaferistān, such as Kattor and Gebrek. To the south is Afghanistān... There are eleven or twelve different languages spoken in Kābul: Arabic, Persian, Tūrki, Moghuli, Hindi, Afghani, Pashāi, Parāchi, Geberi, Bereki, and Lamghāni... —Baburnama, 1525
Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat, a poet from Hindustan who visited at the time wrote: "Dine and drink in Kabul: it is mountain, desert, city, river and all else." It was from here that Babur began his 1526 conquest of Hindustan, which began east of the Indus River that was ruled by the Afghan Lodi dynasty at the time. Babur wished to be buried in Kabul whenever he died, a city he had always loved, but at first he was buried in Agra, Hindustan (now India). Roughly nine years later his remains were dug back up and re-buried at the Gardens of Babur in Kabul by the order of one of Babur's wives. The inscription on his tomb contains Persian words penned which state: اگرفردوس روی زمین است همین است و همین است و همین است (If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this!)
In 1537, Humayun was elsewhere on an expedition, when Sher Khan, a governor under Babur turned against his new master and overran the state of Bengal to established the Sur Empire. whilst Humayun fled to Persia to seek the alliance of Shah Tahmasp I and recaptured Kabul from his brother Kamran Mirza with Persian military assistance and then against the Sur Dynasty and his own rebellious family members. By 1555, he had regained his throne.
Nader Shah Afshar invaded and occupied the city briefly in 1738 but was assassinated nine years later. Ahmad Shah Durrani, who commanded 4,000 Abdali Afghans under Nader Shah, asserted Pashtun rule in 1747 and further expanded his new Afghan Empire. His ascension to power marked the beginning of Afghanistan. His son Timur Shah Durrani, after inheriting power, transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776, and used Peshawar as the winter capital. Timur Shah died in 1793 and was succeeded by his son Zaman Shah Durrani. The first European to visit Kabul was the 18th century English traveller George Foster, who described it as "the best and cleanest city in Asia".
In 1826, the kingdom was claimed by Dost Mohammad Khan and taken from him by the British Indian Army in 1839, who installed the unpopular Shah Shuja. An 1841 local uprising resulted in the loss of the British mission and the subsequent death of 16,500 British-led Indian forces, which included soldiers and camp followers while retreating from Kabul to Jalalabad. In 1842 the British returned, plundering Bala Hissar in revenge before fleeing back to British India (now Pakistan). Akbar Khan took to the throne from 1842 to 1845 who was followed by Dost Mohammad Khan.
The British-led Indian forces invaded in 1878 as Kabul was under Sher Ali Khan's rule, but the British residents were again massacred. The British returned in 1879 under General Roberts, partially destroying Bala Hissar before retreating to British India. Amir Abdur Rahman Khan was left in control of the country.
In the early 20th century King Amanullah Khan rose to power. His reforms included electricity for the city and schooling for girls. He drove a Rolls-Royce, and lived in the famous Darul Aman Palace. In 1919, after the Third Anglo-Afghan War, Amanullah announced Afghanistan's independence from foreign affairs at Eidgah Mosque. In 1929 Ammanullah Khan left Kabul due to a local uprising orchestrated by Habibullah Kalakani and Ammanullah's brother, Nader Khan, took control over the nation. King Nader Khan was assassinated in 1933 and the throne was left to his 19-year-old son, Zahir Shah, who became the long lasting King of Afghanistan.
During this period between the two World Wars France and Germany worked to help develop the country in both the technical and educational spheres. Both countries maintained high schools and lycees in the capital and provided an education for the children of elite families. Kabul University opened in 1932 and soon was linked to both European and American universities, as well as universities in other Muslim countries in the field of Islamic studies. By the 1960s the majority of instructors at the university had degrees from Western universities.
When Zahir Shah took power in 1933 Kabul had the only 6 miles of rail in the country, few internal telegraph or phone lines and few roads. He turned to the Japanese, Germans and Italians for help developing a modern network of communications and roads. A radio tower built by the Germans in 1937 in Kabul allowed instant communication with outlying villages. A national bank and state cartels were organized to allow for economic modernization. Textile mills, power plants and carpet and furniture factories were also built in Kabul, providing much needed manufacturing and infrastructure.
In 1955, the Soviet Union forwarded $100 million in credit to Afghanistan, which financed public transportation, airports, a cement factory, mechanized bakery, a five-lane highway from Kabul to the Soviet border and dams.
In the 1960s, Kabul developed a cosmopolitan mood. The first Marks & Spencer store in Central Asia was built there. Kabul Zoo was inaugurated in 1967, which was maintained with the help of visiting German zoologists. Many foreigners began flocking to Kabul with the increase in global air travels around that time. The nation's tourism industry was starting to pick up rapidly for the first time. Kabul experimented with liberalization, dropping laws requiring women to wear the burka, restrictions on speech and assembly loosened which led to student politics in the capital. Socialist, Maoist and liberal factions demonstrated daily in Kabul while more traditional Islamic leaders spoke out against the failure to aid the Afghan countryside.
In 1969 a religious uprising at the Pul-e Khishti Mosque protested the Soviet Union's increasing influence over Afghan politics and religion. This protest ended in the arrest of many of its organizers, including Mawlana Faizani, a popular Islamic scholar. In the early 1970s Radio Kabul began to broadcast in other languages besides Pashtun which helped to unify those minorities that often felt marginalized, however this was put to a stop with Daoud's revolution in 1973.
In July 1973, Zahir Shah was ousted in a nonviolent coup and Kabul became the capital of a republic under Mohammed Daoud Khan, the new President. Daoud's revolution was actually supported by the communist party in the city, the PDP. The support of the PDP helped to prevent a violent clash in his coup in 1973. He named himself President of this new democracy and planned to institute reforms. Daoud was the long standing prime minister, and while he instituted a republic he had Soviet leanings in terms of political allies. He had welcomed Soviet military aid and advisors in 1956. Conversely, some of the people of Kabul who lived under King Zahir Shah describe the period before the April 1978 Saur Revolution as a sort of golden age. All the different ethnic groups or tribes of Afghanistan lived together harmoniously and thought of themselves first and foremost as Afghans. They intermarried and mixed socially.
In the later years of his leadership, Daoud began to shift favour from the Soviet Union to Islamic nations, expressing admiration for their wealth from oil and expecting economic aid from them to quickly surpass that of the Soviet Union. The slow speed of reforms however frustrated both the Western educated elite and the Russian trained army officers. Daoud forced many communists out of his government, which unified the various communist factions within the city.
Communist revolution and Soviet invasion
On April 27, 1978, in the so-called Saur revolution, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), seized power in a bloody military coup killing Daoud and his family along with many of his supporters. The new communist regime moved quickly to institute reforms. Private businesses were nationalized in the Soviet manner. Education was modified into the Soviet model, with lessons focusing on teaching Russian, Leninism-Marxism and learning of other countries belonging to the Soviet bloc. Rural guerrillas and disaffected army deserters took up arms in the name of Islam, due to the communist regime's increasing rejection of it. This rebellion would eventually lead to the invasion of Afghanistan by Russian forces.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, on December 24, 1979, the Red Army occupied the capital. They turned the city into their command centre during the 10-year conflict between the Soviet-allied government and the Mujahideen rebels. Kabul remained relatively calm during that period as fighting was mostly in the countryside and in other major cities. The American Embassy in Kabul closed on January 30, 1989.
Foreign interference and war in Kabul
After the fall of Najibullah's regime in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The Peshawar Accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period to be followed by general elections. Human Rights Watch writes:
- "The sovereignty of Afghanistan was vested formally in "The Islamic State of Afghanistan", an entity created in April 1992, after the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government. ... With the exception of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, all of the parties ... were ostensibly unified under this government in April 1992. ... Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, for its part, refused to recognize the government for most of the period discussed in this report and launched attacks against government forces and Kabul generally. ... Hekmatyar continued to refuse to join the government. Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami forces increased their rocket and shell attacks on the city. Shells and rockets fell everywhere."
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was directed, funded and supplied by the Pakistani army. Amin Saikal concludes in his book which was chosen by the Wall Street Journal as "one of the five best books on Afghanistan":
- "Pakistan was keen to gear up for a breakthrough in Central Asia. ... Islamabad could not possibly expect the new Islamic government leaders ... to subordinate their own nationalist objectives in order to help Pakistan realize its regional ambitions. ... Had it not been for the ISI's logistic support and supply of a large number of rockets, Hekmatyar's forces would not have been able to target and destroy half of Kabul."
In December, the last of the 86 city trolley buses came to a halt because of the conflict. A system of 800 public buses continued to provide transportation services to the city. By 1993 electricity and water in the city was completely out. Initially the factions in the city aligned to fight off Hekmatyar but diplomacy inside the capital quickly broke down. Saudi Arabia and Iran also armed and directed Afghan militias.
Additionally to the bombardment campaign conducted by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, tension between the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat of Abdul Ali Mazari and the Sunni Pashtun Ittihad-i Islami of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf soon escalated into a second violent conflict. The fighting between the two factions quickly took on aspects of "ethnic cleansing". According to Human Rights Watch, numerous Iranian agents were assisting Hezb-i Wahdat, as "Iran was attempting to maximize Wahdat's military power and influence in the new government". Saudi agents "were trying to strengthen the Wahhabi Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction to the same end". A publication with the George Washington University describes:
- "Outside forces saw instability in Afghanistan as an opportunity to press their own security and political agendas."
Human Rights Watch writes:
- "Rare ceasefires, usually negotiated by representatives of Ahmad Shah Massoud, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi or Burhanuddin Rabbani (the interim government), or officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), commonly collapsed within days."
In January 1994, former communist general Abdul Rashid Dostum joined an alliance with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar and Dostum in January 1994 conducted the worst mass bombardment of Kabul during that period, but were eventually repelled by Islamic State forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud. In late 1994, most of the militia factions which had been fighting in the battle for control of Kabul were defeated militarily by forces of the Islamic State's Secretary of Defense Ahmad Shah Massoud. Bombardment of the capital came to a halt. The Islamic State government took steps to restore law and order. Courts started to work again also convicting individuals inside government troops who had committed crimes. Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban, who by then had established their rule in the south of Afghanistan, to join the process. The Taliban declined.
The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by the Islamic State forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud. (see video) Amnesty International, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report:
"This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city."
The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses. Pakistan provided strong support to the Taliban. Many analysts like Amin Saikal describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests.
Taliban Emirate and the United Front
Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir interviewing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Kabul on November 8, 2001, the day he escaped the city.
On September 26, 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul. The Taliban seized Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Upon taking Kabul the Taliban tortured ex-communist President Najibullah and his brother to death and lynched their dead corpses publicly. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts especially targeting women. The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) analyze:
"To PHR’s knowledge, no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment."
The Taliban, without any real court or hearing, conducted amputations against supposed thieves. Taliban hit-squads from the infamous "Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" watched the streets conducting arbitrary brutal and public beatings of people.
Ahmad Shah Massoud withdrew his forces from Kabul to the northern regions of Afghanistan where he and his former enemy Abdul Rashid Dostum created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and those under the control of Dostum. (see video) According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. U.N. officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001. They also said, that "[t]hese have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the [Taliban] Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself." Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, about 4,000-6,000 civilians were killed in an ethnic cleansing campaign by the Taliban and many more reported tortured. The Taliban denied UN food supplies to 160,000 starving civilians, and conducted a policy of scorched earth burning vast areas of fertile land and destroying tens of thousands of homes during their rule from 1996-2001. Some parts in the Taliban also ran a network for human trafficking.
Many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud. The National Geographic concluded:
- "The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud."
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf – then as Chief of Army Staff – was responsible for sending thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and Bin Laden against the United Front. According to Pakistani Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban. From 1996 to 2001 the Al Qaeda of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri furthermore became a state within the Taliban state. Bin Laden sent Arab recruits to join the fight against the United Front. In early 2001 alone, of roughly 45,000 Pakistani, Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers fighting against the forces of Massoud only 14,000 were Afghan.
NATO presence and the Karzai administration
In October 2001, the United States armed forces and British Armed Forces provided massive air support to United Front (Northern Alliance) ground forces during Operation Enduring Freedom. The Taliban abandoned Kabul and the United Front came to take control of the city. In December 2001, Kabul became the capital of the Afghan Transitional Administration, which transformed to the present Government of Afghanistan that is led by President Hamid Karzai.
In early 2002, a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was deployed in Kabul and from there they began taking over other parts of the country. The war-torn city began to see some positive development as millions of ex-pats returned to the country. The city's population has grown from about 500,000 in 2001 to over 3 million by 2007. Many foreign embassies re-opened, including the U.S. Embassy. Afghan government institutions were also renovated. Since 2008 the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are in charge of security in the city.
U.S. Army providing security in 2011 while ANP officers conduct routine vehicle inspections at Freedom Circle in the heart of downtown Kabul.
While the city is being developed, it is the scene of occasional deadly suicide bombings and explosions carried out by the Haqqani network, Taliban's Quetta Shura, Hezb-i Islami, al-Qaeda, and other anti-government elements who are allegedly supported and guided by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy network. For example, in September 2011, heavily armed Taliban insurgents wearing suicide vests struck the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters. In the December 2011 Ashura bombing over 70 civilians were killed and over 160 injured. Many other similar attacks took place after the 2008 ISAF hand-over of security to Afghan security forces. Some of the targets were the Kabul International Airport, Serena Hotel, Kabul City Center, Inter-Continental Hotel, UN guest house, the Presidential palace, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice, Indian Embassy, Afghan National Police stations, supermarkets, residence of Burhanuddin Rabbani and other top Afghan officials.
According to Transparency International, the government of Afghanistan is the third most-corrupt in the world. The majority of the decision makers in Kabul are very poorly educated and some allege that their poor decisions contribute to these attacks. For example, when five American soldiers burned several copies of Quran at nearby Bagram Airfield in February 2012, politicians in Kabul showed their personal anger in the media. Ordinary Afghans may have taken cues from their leaders and taken more offense at the incident than they otherwise might have. As the Afghan government rushes into taking over security responsibility from NATO the security situation in the country is deteriorating. In 2012, it forced the United States to hand over control of the Parwan Detention Facility where thousands of militants are held. The United States had favored a gradual transition of the facility until 2014.
Kabul has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk) with precipitation concentrated in the winter (almost exclusively falling as snow) and spring months. Temperatures are relatively cool compared to much of Southwest Asia, mainly due to the high altitude of the city. Summer has very low humidity, providing relief from the heat. Autumn features warm afternoons and sharply cooler evenings. Winters are cold, with a January daily average of −2.3 °C (27.9 °F). Spring is the wettest time of the year, though temperatures are generally amiable. Sunny conditions dominate year-round. The annual mean temperature is 12.1 °C (53.8 °F).
|Climate data for Kabul (1956–1983)|
|Record high °C (°F)||14 |
|Average high °C (°F)||4.5 |
|Average low °C (°F)||−7.1 |
|Record low °C (°F)||−21 |
|Precipitation mm (inches)||34.3 |
|Avg. rainy days||1||3||10||11||8||1||2||1||1||2||4||2||46|
|Avg. snowy days||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.5||3.5|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||176.7||180.8||204.6||234.0||310.0||354.0||356.5||341.0||303.0||282.1||252.0||182.9||3,177.6|
|Source: HKO |
The Mayor of the city is selected by the President of Afghanistan, who engages in planning and environmental work. The police belong to the Afghan Ministry of Interior and are arranged by city districts. The Chief of Police is selected by the Minister of Interior and is responsible for law enforcement and security of the city. Muhammad Yunus Nawandish was appointed as Mayor of Kabul by the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in January, 2010, and governs a City of an estimated five million in population. Since taking office, the Mayor has initiated an aggressive program of municipal improvements in streets, parks, greenery, revenue collection, environmental control, and solid waste management.
The city of Kabul is one of the 15 districts of Kabul Province, which is further divided into 18 city districts or sectors. Each city district covers several neighbourhoods. The number of districts or sectors in Kabul increased from 11 to 18 in 2005.
Below are some of Kabul's neighbourhoods listed:
This list is incomplete and may be incorrect. You can help by expanding it.
This list might also have issues with phonetically reading from Persian to English. Please discuss this matter on the discussion page and improve
- Bibi Mahroo
- Qale Fatullah
- Wazir Akbar Khan
- Khoja Rawash
- Pule Charki
- Shash Darak
- Ahmad Shah Baba Maina (under development)
- Char Qala
- Karte Naw
- Tape Maranjan
- Rahman Baba Maina (under development)
- Jada Maiwand
- Qala Cha
- Shah Shashid
- Sher Darwāza
- Deh Mazang
- Karte Seh
- Dashte Barchi
- Deh Afghanan
- Karte Char
- Khushal Khan Maina
- Karte Aryana
- Karte Parwan
- Khair Khāna
- Kuhe Afshar
- Kulola Pushta
- Proja Taimany
- Share Naw
Unspecified If you know where it is located (north, south etc.) please fix this
- Kharabat, Kabul
- Mirwais Nika Maina (under development)
- Murad Khane
- Tania, Kabul
The population of Kabul has fluctuated since the early 1980s to the present period. It was believed to be around 500,000 in 2001 but since then many Afghan expats began returning from Pakistan and Iran where they had taken refuge from the wars. The Kabul metropolitan area has a population of over 3 million inhabitants these days. The wider Kabul province, which also includes rural areas, has a population of around 3.7 million people. The city of Kabul represents about 80 percent of the total provincial population.
The population of the city reflects the general multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual characteristics of Afghanistan. There is no official government report on the exact ethnic make-over. According to National Geographic, the population consists of 45% Tajiks, 25% Hazaras, 25% Pashtuns, 2% Uzbeks, 1% Baloch, 1% Turkmen, and 1% Hindu. Dari (Persian) and Pashto are the most widely used languages in the area, although Persian serves as the lingua franca in the city. But in the larger Kabul province overall, Pashto speakers are in majority, making up 60% of the population.
Nearly all the people of Kabul are Muslim, which includes the majority Sunnis and minority Shias. A small number of Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians are also found in the city.
Kabul International Airport, located 25 kilometres (16 mi) from the centre of Kabul, is the country's main airport. It is a hub to Ariana Afghan Airlines, the national airlines carrier of Afghanistan, as well as private airlines such as Kam Air, Pamir Airways, and Safi Airways. Regional airlines such as Turkish Airlines, Gulf Air, Indian Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Iranian Airlines, and others also make frequent stops at Kabul International Airport. A new international terminal was built by the government of Japan and began operation since 2008, which is the first of three terminals to be opened so far. The other two will open once air traffic to the city increases. Passengers coming from most foreign nations use mostly Dubai for flights to Kabul. Kabul Airport also has a military terminal and a section of airport is used by the United States armed forces and the Afghan National Air Force. NATO also uses the Kabul Airport, but most military traffic is based at Bagram Airfield, situated north of Kabul. The Afghan Border Police and the Afghan National Police are in charge of the airport security.
Kabul has no train service yet but the government plans to build rail lines to connect the city with Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad-Torkham in the east. It also plans to build a metro rail in the future.
Long distance road journeys are made by private Mercedes-Benz coach buses or various types of vans, trucks and cars. Although a nation wide bus service is available from Kabul, flying is safer, especially for foreigners. The city's public bus service (Milli Bus / "National Bus") was established in the 1960s to take commuters on daily routes to many destinations. The service currently has about 800 buses, but it is gradually expanding and upgrading the fleet. The Kabul bus system has recently discovered a new source of revenue in whole-bus advertising from MTN similar to "bus wrap" advertising on public transit in more developed nations. There is also an express bus that runs from the city centre to Kabul International Airport for Safi Airways passengers. There are also white and yellow older model Toyota Corolla taxicabs just about every where in the city.
Private vehicles are on the rise in Kabul, with Toyota, Nissan, and other dealerships in the city. People are buying new cars as the roads and highways are being improved. Most drivers in Kabul prefer owning a Toyota Corolla, one of Afghanistan's most popular cars. It has been reported that up to 90% of cars in Kabul are Corollas. With the exception of motorcycles, many vehicles in the city operate on LPG. Gas stations are mainly private-owned and the fuel comes from Pakistan, Iran and Kazakhstan. Bicycles on the road are a common sight in the city.
There are approximately 16 licensed banks in Kabul: including Da Afghanistan Bank, Afghanistan International Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Pashtany Bank, Afghan United Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Punjab National Bank, Habib Bank and others. Western Union offices are also found in many locations throughout the city.
About 4 miles (6 km) from downtown Kabul, in Bagrami, a 22-acre (9 ha) wide industrial complex has completed with modern facilities, which will allow companies to operate businesses there. The park has professional management for the daily maintenance of public roads, internal streets, common areas, parking areas, 24 hours perimeter security, access control for vehicles and persons. A number of factories operate there, including the $25 million Coca-Cola bottling plant and the Omaid Bahar juice factory.
A number of indoor shopping centers have opened in the last decade. This includes the Kabul City Center, which also serves as a 4-star holel (Safi Landmark Hotel). The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) opened a 5-star Serena Hotel in the same year, while the landmark Inter-Continental has been refurbished. The AKDN was also involved in the restoration work of the Bagh-e Babur (Babur Gardens). Another 5-star Marriott Hotel is under construction next to the U.S. Embassy.
GSM/GPRS mobile phone services in the city are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan and MTN. In November 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a $64.5 million US dollar deal with ZTE on the establishment of a countrywide fibre optical cable network to help improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services not just in Kabul but throughout the country. Internet cafes were introduced in 2002 and has been expanding throughout the country. As of 2012, 3G services are also available.
The city has many local-language radio and television stations, including in Pashto and Dari (Persian). The Afghan government has become increasingly intolerant of foreign channels and the un-Islamic culture they bring, and has threatened to ban some.
There are a number of post offices throughout the city. Package delivery services like FedEx, TNT N.V., and DHL are also available.
Public and private schools in the city have reopened since 2002 after they were shut down or destroyed during fighting in the 1980s to the late 1990s. Boys and girls are strongly encouraged to attend school under the Karzai administration but many more schools are needed not only in Kabul but throughout the country. The Afghan Ministry of Education has plans to build more schools in the coming years so that education is provided to all citizens of the country. The most well known high schools in Kabul include:
- Habibia High School, a British-Afghan school founded in 1903 by King Habibullah Khan.
- Lycée Esteqlal, a Franco-Afghan school founded in 1922.
- Amani High School, a German-Afghan school for boys founded in 1924.
- Aisha-i-Durani School, a German-Afghan school for girls.
- Rahman Baba High School, an American-Afghan school for boys.
The city's colleges and universities were renovated after 2002. Some of them have been developed recently, while others have existed since the early 1900s.
Universities in Kabul
- American University of Afghanistan
- Kabul University
- Kabul Medical University
- Polytechnical University of Kabul (Kabul Polytechnic)
- Higher Education Institute of Karwan
- Kaboora Institute of Higher Education
- Rana Institute of Higher Education
- Bakhtar Institute of Higher Education
- Kardan University
- Dawat University
- National Military Academy of Afghanistan
Places of interest
The old part of Kabul is filled with bazaars nestled along its narrow, crooked streets. Cultural sites include: the National Museum of Afghanistan, notably displaying an impressive statue of Surya excavated at Khair Khana, the ruined Darul Aman Palace, the tomb of Mughal Emperor Babur at Bagh-e Babur, and Chehlstoon Park, the Minar-i-Istiqlal (Column of Independence) built in 1919 after the Third Afghan War, the mausoleum of Timur Shah Durrani, and the imposing Id Gah Mosque (founded 1893). Bala Hissar is a fort destroyed by the British in 1879, in retaliation for the death of their envoy, now restored as a military college. The Minaret of Chakari, destroyed in 1998, had Buddhist swastika and both Mahayana and Theravada qualities.
Other places of interest include Kabul City Center, which is Kabul's first shopping mall, the shops around Flower Street and Chicken Street, Wazir Akbar Khan district, Kabul Golf Club, Kabul Zoo, Abdul Rahman Mosque, Shah-Do Shamshira and other famous mosques, the National Gallery of Afghanistan, the National Archives of Afghanistan, Afghan Royal Family Mausoleum, the OMAR Mine Museum, Bibi Mahro Hill, Kabul Cemetery, and Paghman Gardens.
Tappe-i-Maranjan is a nearby hill where Buddhist statues and Graeco-Bactrian coins from the 2nd century BC have been found. Outside the city proper is a citadel and the royal palace. Paghman and Jalalabad are interesting valleys north and east of the city.
- Kabul International Airport
- Bagram Airfield (located about 26 miles north from the city center)
- Sports complexes
- Kabul National Cricket Stadium (under construction)
- Ghazi Stadium
- Olympic Committee Gymnasium
- Bagh-e Babur (Gardens of Babur)
- Baghi Bala Park
- Zarnegar Park
- Shar-e Naw Park
- Bagh-e Zanana
- Bibi Mahro Park
- Lake Qargha
- Abdul Rahman Mosque
- Id Gah Mosque
- Abu Fazl Mosque in Murad Khane
- Pul-e Khishti Mosque
- Shah-Do Shamshira Mosque
- Mausoleum of Timur Shah Durrani
- Mausoleum of Abdur Rahman Khan
- Mausoleum of Zahir Shah and Nadir Shah
- Mausoleum of Jamal-al-Din al-Afghani
- National Museum of Afghanistan
- National Archives of Afghanistan
- National Gallery of Afghanistan
- Negaristani Milli
- Marriott (slated to be running by 2013)
- Serena Hotel (5 star)
- Safi Landmark Hotel
- Golden Star Hotel
- Heetal Plaza Hotel
- French Medical Institute for Children
- Indira Gandhi Childrens Hospital
- Jamhuriat Hospital
- Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital 
- Jinnah Hospital (under construction)
- Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital
- Malalai Maternity Hospital
- Maywand Hospital
- Afshar Hospital
In late 2007 the government announced that all the residential houses situated on mountains would be removed within a year so that trees and other plants can be grown on the hills. The plan calls for a greener city and to provide residents with a more suitable place to live, on a flat surface. Once implemented it will provide water supply and electricity to each house. All the city roads will also be paved under the plan, which is to solve transportation problems.
The Afghan capital Kabul, symbolizing the spirits of all Afghans and international cooperation, sets at the heart of this highly resourceful region, with great potential to turn into a business hub for all. After 2002, the new geo-political dynamics and its subsequent business opportunities, rapid urban population growth and emergence of high unemployment, triggered the planning of urban extension towards the immediate north of Kabul, in the form of a new city.
The $35 billion New Kabul master plan, in which the city is expected to expand north towards Bagram Airfield.
In 2006, Engineer Mohammad Yousef Pashtun the then Minister of Urban Development got the approval from President Hamid Karzai to establish an Independent Board for the Development of Kabul New City. The Board brings together key stakeholders, including relevant government agencies, as well as representation from private sector and urban specialists and economists, with cooperation from the government of Japan and French Private sector, the board prepared a master plan for the city in the context of Greater Kabul. The master plan and its implementation strategy for 2025 were endorsed by the Afghan Cabinet in early 2009. Soon, as a top priority, the initiative turned into one of the biggest commercially viable national development project of the country, expected to be led by the private sector. A number of high rise buildings are being planned and constructed across Kabul, as part of the attempt to modernize the city.
An initial concept design called the City of Light Development, envisioned by Dr. Hisham N. Ashkouri, for the development and the implementation of a privately based investment enterprise has been proposed for multi-function commercial, historic and cultural development within the limits of the Old City of Kabul, along the southern side of the Kabul River and along Jade Meywand Avenue, revitalizing some of the most commercial and historic districts in the City. Also incorporated in the design is a new complex for the National Museum of Afghanistan. A Memorandum of understanding has been signed between Dr. Ashkouri and Said Tayeb Jawad to undertake the project and to develop it for actual implementation over the next 20 years. Dr. Ashkouri has also presented the plan to President Karzai and has received a letter of support from the president and the Minister of Urban Development.
The Mayor of Kabul Muhammad Yunus Nawandish has brought many municipal reform efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s “Kabul City Initiative” project, the World Bank, Japanese Government JICA and other International Donors to build municipal capacity, improve service delivery and infrastructure, and increase municipal revenue for a cleaner and greener Kabul. The city's major Projects include a Kabul cable car, connecting the city to Shirdarwaza mountain, a tunnel though mountains close to Kabul university to reduce traffic jams, building more flyovers in the city with the city's first fly-over being built with the help of Turkey; in addition to providing more trucks and lorries for the municipality.
Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs), both national and international, are based in Kabul, conducting various activities to assist development in Afghanistan and provide humanitarian relief to the many victims which 30 years of war have produced.
Afghanistan Information Management Services (AIMS) provides software development, capacity development, information management, and project management services to the Afghan Government and other NGOs, thereby supporting their on-the-ground activities.
The We Are the Future (WAF) Center is a child care centre whose aim is to give children a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense of hope. The centre is managed under the direction of the mayor's office and the international NGO. Glocal Forum serves as the fundraiser, program planner and coordinator for the WAF centre. Launched in 2004, the program is the result of a strategic partnership between the Glocal Forum, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation and Mr. Hani Masri, with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies and major companies.
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Kazan, Russia
- Saskatoon, Canada
References and footnotes
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- "2003 National Geographic Population Map" (PDF). Thomas Gouttierre, Center For Afghanistan Studies, University of Nebraska at Omaha; Matthew S. Baker, Stratfor. National Geographic Society. November 2003. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0311/feature2/images/mp_download.2.pdf. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
- Cole, Juan (2006-05-30). "Kabul under Curfew after Anti-US, anti-Karzai Riots". San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/05/30/18259841.php. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
- "Kabul Provincial Profile", NABP (National Area-Based Development Programme), Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 
- Nakamura, David (2010-08-27). "In Afghanistan, a car for the masses". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/26/AR2010082606430_2.html?g=0.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Dodgy cars clogging Kabul's roads
- Afghanistan Industrial Parks Development Authority...Kabul (Bagrami)
- Pajhwok Afghan News – Ministry signs contract with Chinese company
- "Landmark Hotels and Suites". Lmhotelgroup.com. http://www.lmhotelgroup.com/Lmhotelgroup/safihome.asp. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- "車を高く売るためにこれだけは知ってほしいポイント！". Goldenstarkabul.com. http://www.goldenstarkabul.com. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- "Heetal Group of companies". Heetal.com. http://www.heetal.com. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
- Pajhwok Afghan News, Kabul beautification plan announced (December 17, 2007)
- "Welcome to our Official Website". DCDA. http://www.dcda.gov.af/. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- "Onyx Construction Company". Onyx.af. http://onyx.af/developmenteam.htm. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- Kabul - City of Light Project...link
- Hill, John E. (2009). Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
- Canadian Press (October 14, 2007). "Afghanistan Struggles to Preserve Rich Past Despite Ongoing War". Canadian Press. http://www.afghanemb-canada.net/en/news_bulletin/2007/october/15/index.php.
- Tang, Alisa (Associated Press) (January 21, 2008). "Kabul's Old City Getting Face Lift". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2008/01/21/kabuls_old_city_getting_face_lift/?page=1.