Afghanistan has a history of power struggles, bloody coups, and instability. The country has been governed by nearly every system of government during the past century, including monarchy, republic, theocracy, and communist state. The constitution ratified by the 2003 Loya Jirga restructured the Afghan government into an Islamic republic consisting of three branches — executive, legislative, and judicial.
Afghanistan is currently led by President Hamid Karzai, who was elected in October 2004. The current parliament was elected in 2005. Among the elected officials were former mujahadeen, Taliban members, communists, reformists, and Islamic fundamentalists. Of elected delegates, 28% were women — slightly more than the 25% minimum required by the constitution — making Afghanistan, long known under the Taliban for its oppression of women, a leading country for female representation.
Afghanistan's government is currently fighting an insurgency with the assistance of the United States and NATO. Afghanistan depends upon multi-billion dollar aid infusions from the United States. Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany are also large donors.
Relations between Afghanistan and Iran are strong. The two nations share the same language and culture, and both countries are part of Greater Persia. Iran has consistently provided financial aid to Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan is not as stalwart. The two nations are often in dispute and relations have deteriorated significantly in recent years. Most of the Taliban come from Pakistan and Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding there.
Afghanistan maintains excellent relations with its northern allies, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as all four countries share a similar culture. Afghanistan also has good relations with Russia and India. President Hamid Karzai attended college in India, and the country is a leading investor in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has excellent relations with the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. However, Afghanistan has no relations with Israel and is a frequent critic of that country.
Afghanistan produces over 70% of the world's opium. Drug profits create a sustainable base for insecurity, funding everyone from warlords to drug barons to the Taliban. Afghanistan is also awash in weapons — the legacy of decades of near-constant warfare. According to Take the Guns Away, a report produced by the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium, almost two-thirds of Afghans surveyed in 2004 believe that disarmament is the single most important factor to improve security in Afghanistan.
Sources: Afghanistan Special Report (Care.org); The Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium; Wikipedia.