Kabul (Kabol), Afghanistan

Reference work entry


Located in the north-east of Afghanistan, Kabul has existed for 3,500 years and has been the national capital since 1776. Its position in a valley between the Asmai and Sherdawaza mountain ranges, and its command of passes through the Hindu Kush mountains (notably the Khyber Pass), has ensured its strategic importance throughout the ages.


Kabul’s long history has been punctuated by conflict. Used as a passageway by Alexander the Great during his Indian invasions of the fourth century BC, it had established itself as a regional seat of government by the eighth century AD. During the thirteenth century Genghis Khan wreaked devastation on the city and between 1504 and 1526 it served as capital of the Mogul Empire under Babur. It remained under Mogul influence until 1738 and Babur’s garden and tomb can still be seen to the west of the city, at the foot of Sherdawaza.

During the nineteenth century, Kabul had a prominent role in the Anglo-Afghan Wars. In 1978, civil war overtook the city and a year later the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with a massive airlift of troops. The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 was the cue for the outbreak of destructive guerrilla warfare between rival Afghan groups. The Taliban imposed its Islamic-fundamentalist rule in 1996 but by then much of the population had moved out and large swathes of the city, including the University and the Dar ol-Aman Palace which housed the parliament and government departments, had suffered serious damage.

Much of Kabul was damaged in the campaign to overthrow the Taliban which followed from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US and the Taliban’s subsequent refusal to extradite chief suspect, Osama bin Laden. On 13 Nov. 2001 Kabul fell to the Afghan Northern Alliance, with the support of British and American troops. An Interim Administration took office in Kabul on 22 Dec. 2001 to oversee Afghanistan’s transition to civilian government.

Modern City

Industries within the city include food-processing, rayon and wool milling, furniture-making, metal founding and marblework.

There is an international airport (Khwaja Rawash Airport). Bombed during the US campaign, the airport reopened in Jan. 2002. There are road connections to the ports on the Oxus and Amu Darya rivers.

With the setting up of the new government, commerce is reviving and Afghanistan’s displaced population is beginning to return to the capital.

Places of Interest

Kabul University was once one of Asia’s leading institution but it was damaged and lost many of its staff during the Taliban regime.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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