In recent days, the Taliban have taken over the country’s capital, Kabul, with little resistance from the Afghan government or civilians.
Since the takeover of Kabul, the US embassy has moved hastily to burn all personnel documents and flee the country, less than a month before the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
The airports have been packed full of civilians and foreign workers attempting to leave the country, with waves of people flooding onto the runways in desperation, in fear that the country will return to strict Islamic rule under the Taliban.
So, where is Afghanistan and what is the country’s population? This is what you need to know.
Where is Afghanistan?
Afghanistan is a central-Asian country, situated with Iran to the West and Pakistan to its East.
The country also shares a border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
It is largely covered by rolling hills, mountains and desert - the mountain peaks are covered with thick snow for most of the year but summers can be incredibly hot.
Around three quarters of Afghan civilians live in rural communities in the valleys between the mountains, where the land is fertile and water from the mountain pools to allow for crops to grow.
Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, is situated in the East, just over 264 miles from the Pakistan border.
What is the population of Afghanistan?
The population of Afghanistan is 39.8 million, and is expected to reach 40.7 million in 2022.
The increase in population is largely due to an average of 4 children per woman in the country.
Kabul has a population of 4.43 million, over 10 percent of the country’s entire population. It is the only city in the country with a population above 1 million. The city closest in size is Kandahar in the West, with only 512,000 people.
Over 15 million people are Pashtuns, speakers of the Pashto language, and live in the south around Kandahar. Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, with the current president, Ashraf Ghani, a member of a large Pashtun family.
Other ethnic groups include Tajik, Hazara, Uzbeks, Nuristanis, Aimaq, Turkmen, Baloch and a number of others which are less known.
Nearly half the population of Afghanistan is under the age of 18 years old. There is roughly an even split of males and females in the country.
What is happening in Afghanistan?
For the past two decades, the US and its allies have been operating in Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from ruling the country in 2001.
The Taliban ruled between 1996 and 2001, with strict Sharia rules which meant women and girls could not attend school or work and had to have their entire bodies covered at all times.
Rules also included harsh punishments for crimes, including stoning people who commit adultery and numerous slashings for engaging in sexual relationships outside of marriage. Men could have numerous wives, but women could only be in one relationship and did not have the right to divorce.
In 2020, the Taliban (‘student’ in Pashto) signed an agreement with the US to refrain from attacking US troops, but the US also agreed to withdraw from the country.
The Taliban agreed to stop militant groups such as Al Qaeda from taking over the areas it occupied and to allow for peace in places of Afghan army rule.
However, as the troops have slowly filtered out of the country, the Taliban have reclaimed many areas and have now taken over Kabul.
On 16 August, Taliban forces took over the presidential palace and called an end to the Afghan war as they declared themselves victorious against foreign rule.
The takeover came as president Ashraf Ghani fled the country, claiming if he had stayed there would have been a continuation of bloodshed.
The Taliban have already used military force, are patrolling the streets of Kabul with guns and civilians are concerned that women and girls will once again be oppressed by the Taliban’s exercise of strict Sharia laws.