The United Nations Population Fund estimates the Afghan population is approximately 29.9 million people (though in the absence of any census population estimates are just that). The population has increased with the return of an estimated 3.6 million Afghan refugees since 2001.
The result of conquests by Turkic and Persian peoples has been a variety of different ethnic groups.
Western Afghanistan is dominated by Dari speakers, Daribeing a Persian dialect. Dari is spoken by Tajiks (who comprise roughly 25 percent of the Afghan population) and Hazaras in the center of (who comprise about 19 percent of the total population). In the North Turkic-based languages are spoken by Uzbeks (comprising roughly 6 percent of the population), and other smaller ethnic groups such as Turcomans, Kyrgyz, and others. Pashtuns in the South and East form roughly 38 percent of the country (but themselves have different groups—Durrani, Ghilzai, etc.). Afghanistan
The religion is Islam. The population is 84 percent Sunni Muslim and 15 percent
Shia Muslim (mostly Hazaras). Since the 1980s the religion has become increasingly inﬂuenced by a more puritanical form of Islam from
Saudi Arabia and taught in religious schools in . From this more extreme form of Islam arose the Taliban (or religious students). Pakistan
The country has historically been dominated by strong clans and tribes. However, continual warfare since 1979 shattered traditional tribal hierarchies and caused the educated elite to ﬂee into exile. In the place of the tribal structure rose assorted warlords and extremists dominating a brutalized and fractured society.
The Taliban attempted to create an extremist ideal of an Islamic society. Many
Afghans accepted Taliban rule as it offered an alternative to the corrupt and brutal rule of warlords and an opportunity for peace. However, the Taliban proved to be incompetent rulers, uninterested in government and instituting a ferocious form of Islamist rule. As a result, the Taliban became increasingly detested.In 2001, destruction of the country’s infrastructure and dislocation caused by 23 years of war, the actions of the Taliban regime in driving out international humanitarian assistance, and a drought resulted in a famine which required urgent international humanitarian action. Since 2001 the international community has attempted to reestablish a civil society through a UN-sanctioned political process and international development aid.
Average life expectancy is less than 45 years of age, and the mortality rate amongst infants, children, and young mothers is amongst the highest in the world. Only 29 percent of Afghans over the age of 15 are literate.
Women and girls in particular suffer from discrimination and restrictions. A women’s rights organization has estimated that forced marriages account for about 60–80 percent of all Afghan marriages, and that 57 percent of girls are married before the legal marriage age of 16.
For all the difficulties,
has made considerable gains in recent years. Afghanistan
A stable currency has been adopted, and there has been strong economic growth (though much of the economic growth has been due to the rise of the drug trade).
There has been growth of education (especially of girls); 90 percent of Afghan children have been reached by international vaccination programs, and 40 percent of Afghan children have been inoculated against major diseases. More than 3.6 million refugees have returned to
since 2001. Afghanistan