Basic information about the territory
- System of governance and political tendencies in the country
- Foreign policy of the country
The system of governance and political tendencies in the country
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is a presidential system, in which the president is both head of state and government, with a bicameral parliament (Wolesi Jirga – the chamber of the people, Meshrano Jirga – the chamber of elders). Citizens are governed by laws issued by the legislature, but also by the principles of Islamic and customary law. Afghanistan suffers considerably from political-security instability, protracted ethnic-sectarian disputes and an ongoing armed conflict, waged on an ethnic-religious-political layout in most of the territory. The government controls approximately half of the territory, which, however, is inhabited by up to 85% of the population.
Governance in Afghanistan is characterized by the cartelization of power between the main ethno-political actors, concluding tacit agreements on the parcelling of politics and influence on the state apparatus. Ministers are approved by Parliament: this process is quite lengthy and already during it they exercise their offices by proxy. Dismissals of members of the government can be sudden and without prior signals, on the contrary, their stay in office depends mainly on the current quality of their relations with the presidency. The current Afghan government consists of President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Vice Presidents (1.) Amrullah Saleh and (2.) Muhammad Sarvar Daniš, National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, Director of the NDS Security Service Ahmad Zia Saraj, and up to 25 other ministers. Check equzhou to learn more about Afghanistan political system.
The law is still difficult to enforce in Afghanistan. Unofficially, but tangibly, in everyday life, three parallel legal systems apply in Afghanistan (primarily for its inhabitants): 1/ official laws, 2/ the Islamic legal system, and 3/ an unwritten system of customary law, based on centuries-old tribal customs. The level of bureaucracy of the state apparatus is high; nepotism and corruption are its inherent parts. The institutions of the state are highly dependent on the persons currently at their head, who at the same time appoint loyal (i.e. ethnically/religiously related) colleagues to the lowest levels, which foreshadows a high level of staff turnover, moreover in an environment characterized by the necessity of personal contacts or patronage of relationships official structures.
Civil society has been remarkably on the rise in recent years, due to the persistent and robust financial support of the international community, especially activists (for the rights of women and vulnerable minorities) are given space even at official events, but this phenomenon can only be a temporary consequence of the pressure and presence of the international community so far. Freedom of speech, press, and assembly are generally respected by the system, but representatives of civil society, security forces, politicians, the judiciary and the media have faced a wave of violence by terrorists systematically carrying out their targeted murders in recent months.
Foreign policy of the country
Due to the ongoing armed conflict, Afghan foreign policy is directly influenced by security issues. A central role is played by Pakistan, which has a significant influence on Afghanistan’s internal political stability and security. Since February 2018, when President Ghani proposed the start of peace talks with the Taliban, there has been an increase in the frequency of high-level political meetings between the two governments. Despite this, there is mutual distrust between the security forces of the two states. Afghanistan will continue to urge Pakistan to use its influence over the Taliban to engage them in the peace process. The Afghan government will also expect the US and its NATO allies to pressure Pakistan to support the peace process.
However, if the peace process does not bring concrete results, or if it fails completely, Afghan-Pakistani relations will probably suffer significantly as a result. On the contrary, relations with Pakistan in the trade area experienced a more positive development thanks to the agreement on the extension of the Afghanistan-Pakistan transit trade agreement, which was originally supposed to expire in mid-February 2021. The two countries thus gained time to negotiate a new agreement. However, there are still many obstacles preventing the conclusion of a full-fledged trade agreement, and therefore further delays in Afghan exports at Pakistani ports can be expected, similar to 2020. Check recipesinthebox for Afghanistan defense and foreign policy.
In addition to Pakistan, Afghanistan will seek to involve other actors in the ongoing peace process, such as India, which is its recognized political and economic partner. Afghan exports to India via the Iranian port of Chahbahar (avoiding Pakistan) began in February 2019. Additionally, in November 2019, India and Afghanistan signed an extradition treaty, further strengthening their counter-terrorism cooperation. India will continue to implement and expand financial support to Afghanistan, especially in infrastructure and energy projects.
Relations with the United States of America are currently affected mainly by the withdrawal of the remaining US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. However, the new US administration of President Biden has indicated that, despite the end of the military presence, US diplomatic, economic, development and humanitarian assistance will be maintained at the current level. A civilian NATO mission is also to be maintained in Afghanistan after 11 September 2021 to provide financial support for capacity building of the Afghan armed forces and security forces, whose training is to take place outside Afghan territory.
Estimates of the exact number of the Afghan population vary due to a lack of reliable data, but up to 40 million people live here permanently. About 71% of them live in rural areas, 24% in cities and 5% live a nomadic lifestyle. Over 3 million Afghans live permanently in Pakistan and Iran, where they fled either from threats to their lives or for economic reasons. With an annual population growth of 2.37%, the Afghan population is growing at a considerable rate. It is estimated that the Afghan population may double as early as 2050 if the current trend of high birth rates continues.
In 2020, only a quarter of the population lived in urban agglomerations, which ranks Afghanistan among the least urbanized countries worldwide. Migration to urban areas is most evident in and around Kabul, where large numbers of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran returned after 2001, as well as internally displaced people and rural-urban migrants. According to unofficial estimates, over 6 million people live in Kabul. Other large cities are located in the provinces: Kandahar (south), Herat (west), Mazar-e-Sharif, and Kunduz (north), Jalalabad (east).
The population is made up of four main ethnolinguistic groups, which are Pashtuns (48%), Tajiks (22%), Hazaras (9%) and Uzbeks (9%). In addition, the constitution recognizes the existence of ten other groups. The official languages are Dari (the Afghan version of Persian) and Pashto (the original language of the Pashtuns), so bilingualism is common among the population. Although the Pashtuns have historically had a somewhat privileged position in the affairs of Afghanistan’s administration, the Dari language is used by government officials and members of the (few but significant) intelligentsia and middle class. In addition to the main languages, others are also used locally: Uzbek, Turkmen, Baluch, and Nuri.
Almost 100% of Afghans are Muslim, most of them (90%) follow the Sunni Hanafi rite, around 7% Shia Islam, and no more than 3% are unaffiliated or do not state a religion. In addition to Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus also live in Afghan cities. A small Jewish community left Afghanistan already at the end of the 20th century, but a single synagogue has survived to this day. Afghan Christians, whose numbers are estimated to range from a few hundred to eight thousand, practice their faith in secret because they face societal pressure, which is why there are no churches in Afghanistan.