POPULATION30,419,928 (July 2012 est.)
GDP PER CAPITA$1,000 (2011 est.)
RELIGIONSSunni Muslim 80%, Shia Muslim 19%, other 1%
ALSO IN SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIABangladesh
AT THE CENTER
Afghan society and politics are simultaneously united by Islam – one of the few agents of social cohesion in a land split along ethnic and tribal lines – and threatened by militant Islamism. Though Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Greeks all left an imprint on Afghanistan’s early history, Islam has dominated its religious landscape since the 9th century. When the Soviets invaded in 1979 to support the country’s new communist government, Islam united the multiethnic opposition to the atheist regime. Once the insurgency succeeded in 1989, the country plunged into civil war. The radical Taliban regime gained power in 1996 but was deposed by a US-led invasion in 2001. However, its supporters remain a significant power in large parts of the country. The current Constitution of Afghanistan guarantees freedom of religion but mandates that Islam is the state religion and no law may contradict Islam. Islam remains a major political force, with numerous Islamic political parties as well as an ongoing Taliban insurgency.