President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he is ordering 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan by next summer to counter a resurgent Taliban and plans to begin a troop withdrawal in 18 months.
The goal, he said, is to speed the battle against Taliban insurgents, secure key population centres and train Afghan security forces so they can take over and clear the way for a US exit.
The following are some key facts and figures about Afghanistan:
- Afghanistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia which shares borders with Iran, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
- Hamid Karzai has led the country since 2001, when U.S.-backed Afghan forces ended the five-year rule of the austere Islamist Taliban movement.
- Afghanistan's population is almost 30 million. Life expectancy for both men and women is about 45 years.
- Some 42 percent of Afghans are Pashtun and 27 percent are Tajik. Hazaras and Uzbeks each account for 9 percent of Afghans. * There are two national languages, Pashto and Dari. Pashto is the language of the Pashtuns and is spoken exclusively in many parts of the south and east. Dari, a Persian language, is spoken mainly in the north and centre of Afghanistan.
- Only 28 percent of Afghans are literate.
SECURITY AND VIOLENCE
- Violence has escalated as tens of thousands of additional foreign troops, mainly Americans, have been deployed in response to an escalating Taliban insurgency which has claimed record numbers of military and civilian lives so far in 2009.
- About 1,530 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the war started in November 2001.
- The United States has lost 928 troops, Britain 236 and other NATO contributors 368, according to the iCasualties website (www.icasualties.org).
- August 2009 was the deadliest month of the war for foreign troops -- at least 77 were killed -- driven by two major operations to secure parts of Helmand province and then voting in the presidential election on Aug. 20. There were hundreds of Taliban attacks across the country in the run-up to the vote. October 2009 was the worst month of the war for U.S. troops, with at least 53 killed.
- About 800 civilians were killed between January and May this year, a 24 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to U.N. figures released in June.
- There are about 110,000 foreign troops from 42 countries working under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which was established in December 2001.
- The United States has by far the most troops in Afghanistan with 68,000 in total, most arriving this year. About half work under the ISAF mandate, the rest under the Pentagon's Operation Enduring Freedom, which also has a mandate to support ISAF.
- Britain, with 9,000 troops, is the second largest ISAF contributor and will deploy another 500 troops this month, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said. Germany is next with 4,365 and France with 3,095, according to the most recent NATO figures.
- A senior U.S. defense official told Reuters the United States expects allies to contribute 5,000 to 7,000 additional troops to the Afghan mission in coming weeks on top of the 30,000 U.S. troops being deployed there.
- The head of NATO said he expects allies to provide at least 5,000 troops for Afghanistan and possibly a few thousand more.
- According to the United Nations Human Development rankings for 2009, Afghanistan is ranked 181st out of 182 countries.
- Devastated by 30 years of conflict, Afghanistan's economy is dependent on foreign aid. Some 90 percent of the Afghan government budget comes from international donors.
- In 2007, about $288 million of direct foreign investment flowed into Afghanistan, according to the World Bank.
- Some analysts say Afghanistan's economic growth has also been stunted by high levels of corruption which prevents donor aid from reaching ordinary Afghans.
- Public sector corruption in Afghanistan is seen as more rampant than any other country except Somalia, according to Transparency International.
- Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world's opium, a thick paste from poppy used to make heroin, according to the latest U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime report.
- Helmand province in southern Afghanistan produces 90 percent of Afghanistan's opium poppy crop.
- About two thirds of the opium is turned into heroin before it leaves Afghanistan and goes on to feed some 15 million addicts, mainly in Russia, Iran and Europe.
- Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is directly linked to the Taliban insurgency. Since 2005, the Taliban have made up to $160 million a year from taxing cultivation and trade of the crop in Afghanistan.
Sources: NATO, U.S. Forces, Reuters reports, U.N., World Bank, iCasualties.org; CIA World Fact Book, Transparency International.