Afghanistan Table of Contents

Scholars disagree over the division, number and definitions of Afghanistan's regions. Louis Dupree's geographic paradigm is one of the most respected and is based on the regional division of human geography and ecology. He divides Afghanistan into eleven geographic zones. The first six--the Wakhan Corridor-Pamir Knot, Badakhshan, Central Mountains, Eastern Mountains, Northern Mountains and Foothills, Southern Mountains and Foothills--are connected to the Hindukush systems. The remaining five--Turkistan Plains, Herat-Farah Lowlands, Sistan Basin-Hilmand Valley, Western Stony Desert, and Southwestern Sandy Desert--comprise deserts and plains "which surround the Mountains in the north, west and southwest." Medieval geographies speak of the remarkable prosperity of the Sistan which is now known principally for its deserts covered with moving sand dunes rising to a height of 20 meters. Some experts have concluded these may be the fastest moving sand dunes anywhere in the world.

The United Nations has defined eight regions for their assistance planning: Northeast--Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan; North--Samangan, Balkh, Saripul, Jawzjan; West--Faryab, Badghis, Herat, Farah; East-Central--Bamiyan, Ghor; Central--Kapisa, Parwan, Kabul, Logar, Wardak; East--Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Nangarhar; South--Paktya, Pakteka, Khost, Ghazni; Southwest--Zabul, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Hilmand, Nimroz. This reflects the creation since 1978 of three new provinces--Saripul, Khost and Nuristan--bringing the 1996 total to thirty-two.

Construction of a circular road system to link these regions was assiduously promoted during the 1960s: with assistance from the United States south of the Hindukush, the Soviet Union north of the Hindukush, and West Germany in Paktya Province. These roads connected major cities with the principal border crossings: from Herat to Iran and Turkmenistan in the west; from Kandahar to Pakistan in the south; from Kabul through Jalalabad to Pakistan in the east; from Balkh to Uzbekistan in the north.

Other roads are unpaved, and the once-paved roads have been almost totally destroyed. This is a major impediment to reconstruction since any improvements, particularly in the agriculture sector, are hampered by the lack of an efficient delivery infrastructure. Rebuilding of the roads, however, is beyond the capacity of any agency now involved in Afghanistan's rehabilitation. This is the one sector that will require massive inputs which can only be obtained by such organizations as the World Bank or the Asian Bank, both of which insist on peace before becoming involved.

The plate-tectonic activity in Afghanistan has contributed to the creation of the geologic riches of the country, but has also produced frequent earthquakes; around fifty are recorded each year. Although most are relatively mild, the most severe earthquake in recent history occurred on 29 July 1985. French scientists recorded a measurement of 7.3 on the Richter scale at its epicenter in the Hindukush. Since then, according to the United States Geological Survey, there have been ten earthquakes in Afghanistan which have registered above 6.0; the most severe, both registering at 6.4, occurred in January and July 1991.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress