Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Head of state and government Ashraf Ghani

The Republic of Afghanistan is a land-locked country located in Central Asia and South Asia with a population of approximately 31 million people. It is estimated that 2.7 million Afghan people still live in Pakistan and Iran after emigrating there. The main three language groups are Pashtu, Dari, Turkmen and Uzbek and the four main ethnic groups consist of Pashtuns (42%), Tajik (27%), Uzbeks (9%) and Hazaras (9%). Over 99% of the Afghan population is Muslim. There are approximately 80% Sunnis and 19% Shi’a Muslims and roughly 1% are non-denominational Muslims.*


The Afghan government consists of three branches: The executive, the legislative and the judicial. On September 29, 2014, Ashraf Ghani became the new president. Abdulllah Abdullah, the other presidential contender is now serving as Chief Executive Officer/CEO. The President put together his cabinet in January 2015 but there is resistance to some of the people selected, mainly because they have dual citizenship. With help from the United States and its allies the Taliban government was toppled in 2001. Over the next decade the Afghan troops and ISAF led many offensives against the Taliban but failed to fully defeat them.

The Afghan government was able to build some democratic structures. With help from foreign donors the economy improved. Healthcare, education, transport and agriculture improved as well. The country however still has one of the highest rates in maternal mortality as well as in infant mortality.

After a surge of up to 30,000 US soldiers in 2011 to the country for a two-year many of the US troops were pulled out at the end of 2014. In May 2011, Osama Bin Laden, the alleged master mind behind the 9/11 attacks in the United States, was killed in Pakistan by US Special Forces. Upon being elected the new president, Ashraf Ghani signed the bilateral agreement per request from President Obama. A residual force of about 9,800 people in the country remain as well as several thousands of contractors, mainly to train the Afghan army.

Human Rights: The United Nations recorded a 23 percent rise in civilian casualties during the first six months of 2013. The majority of those at the hands of insurgents. The Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW Law) was passed by presidential decree in 2009 but opponents have seized upon the opportunity of many international forces withdrawing in the past few years to undermine that law. The new president has indicated support for women’s rights. There were a string of physical assaults in 2013 against high-profile women indicating the danger to Afghan women rights defenders and women in public positions.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) documented an increase in the number of internally displaced people in the first six months of 2013 and attributed the cause mostly to armed conflict and inadequate security. Allegations of ill-treatment and torture continue to surface and the Afghan Local Police (ALP) stands accused of rape, theft and extortion. The rights to freedom of expression and association of media and political parties, hailed as one of Afghanistan’s clear human rights successes since 2001 are increasingly being challenged again.

*More information available in Amnesty International’s 2014 Human Rights Report.


Afghanistan Newsroom

July 16, 2018 • Press Release

Afghanistan: Record high civilian casualties make returns unjustifiable

The international community cannot abandon the Afghan people who have fled conflict and violence at a time when civilian casualties continue at record highs, Amnesty International said today, calling on governments to halt forced returns to Afghanistan. According to UN figures just released, 1,692 people were killed in the first six months of 2018 – …

February 28, 2018 • Press Release

Afghanistan: Civilian lives must be at the heart of the Kabul Process

The Kabul Process conference must put the protection of Afghan civilians and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the heart of its discussions this week, Amnesty International said.

October 4, 2017 • Report

Forced Back to Danger: Asylum-Seekers Returned from Europe to Afghanistan

European governments have put thousands of Afghans in harm’s way by forcibly returning them to a country where they are at serious risk of torture, kidnapping, death and other human rights abuses, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

June 2, 2017 • Press Release

Afghanistan: Security forces open fire on protesters voicing anger over Kabul blast

Responding to the Afghan security forces opening fire today on crowds protesting insecurity in the wake of the May 31 bombing in Kabul, Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, said:

May 31, 2017 • Press Release

Afghanistan: Kabul bombing is horrific act of deliberate violence

Responding to today’s bombing in Kabul that has claimed the lives of 80 people and injured at least 350, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan Researcher Horia Mosadiq said:

April 27, 2017 • Press Release

Afghanistan: Civilian casualties show how unsafe it is for refugees to be returned

Attacks on civilians in the first three months of this year and the inability of the Afghan government to ensure their adequate protection show that Afghanistan remains an unsafe country for refugees to be returned to, Amnesty International said today. “At a time when civilian casualties remain high, with women and children suffering the worst …

February 8, 2017 • Press Release

Afghanistan: Attack on ICRC is a horrific crime

The killing of six employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in northern Afghanistan is a horrific crime, Amnesty International said today. “By targeting the ICRC, who devote their lives to helping people in desperate need, the perpetrators have demonstrated a horrific contempt for human life,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South …

November 7, 2016 • Press Release

Afghanistan: UN probe into US airstrikes on Kunduz a welcome step towards accountability

In response to today’s announcement by the United Nations that it will investigate last week’s US-led airstrikes in Kunduz province, in which more than 30 civilians were killed, Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director said: “The horrific events in Kunduz last week are the latest in a growing list of incidents which have resulted …

November 4, 2016 • Press Release

Pakistan: Deportation of iconic National Geographic Afghan girl is a grave injustice

Reaction to Pakistan's decision to deport Sharbat Gula, the iconic 'Afghan girl' whose striking portrait adorned a 1985 cover of National Geographic magazine

October 6, 2016 • Press Release

Afghanistan: Civilians describe severe shortages of food and medicine in embattled Kunduz

The Afghan government and Taliban forces should urgently facilitate swift and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief into Kunduz, where thousands of civilians are trapped in increasingly dire conditions, Amnesty International said today. The organization has interviewed medical workers and civilians stuck in Kunduz amid fighting after the Taliban launched an assault on 3 October. Kunduz …