The map shows Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a mountainous landlocked country in southern Central Asia. It borders Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to the north, Iran to the west, Pakistan to the east and south. It has a small border section with China and India (disputed because it's in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) to the northeast.
With an area
of about 652,000 km², the country is somewhat larger than France
or slightly smaller than the US state of Texas
Afghanistan has a population
of 32.9 million people, the capital and by far the most populous city is Kabul
; other major cities are Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Herat.
Among the languages
of Afghanistan, Dari
(Persian or Farsi) is the most spoken (more than 70%), followed by Pashto
(50%) and Uzbek (10%).
Most of the country's population, about 70%, lives in rural areas in the fertile valleys between the mountains. The Pashtuns
are the largest ethnic group with about 40%, the Tajik
, an Iranic ethnic group, the second largest group at nearly 30%.
is a grouping within Afghanistan's southern Pashtun ethnic group. They are a movement of ultraconservative religious students
(Talib) that emerged in the mid-1990s after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. They sought to establish an Islamic state through law and order and strict enforcement of Sharia
Afghanistan is an Islamic republic where most citizens follow Islam. About 90% are Shiites and 10% Sunnis.
More about Afghanistan
Kajakan Valley in the Shinwari District, Parwan Province of Afghanistan.
Geography of Afghanistan
Photo: David Elmore - Afghanistan Matters
Mountains and deserts characterize Afghanistan's landscape. About three-quarters of the country is mountainous.
The population lives mainly in the country's many fertile river valleys. However, the long war in Afghanistan, the ongoing fighting between NATO, Afghan and Taliban forces led to increased settlement and cultivation of state-owned land in desert areas in the country's southwest. 
The backbone of the country is the Hindu Kush
mountain range, a continuation of the Himalayas
that extends to the southwest. The mountain range is one of the main watersheds of Central Asia
and the origin of all three of Afghanistan’s major river systems, the Kabul, the Hilmand-Arghandab, and the Hari (Herat) River.
A poppy field in Helmand province of Afghanistan. According to UN statistics, 66% of the country's opium poppy is grown in Helmand province alone. In 2017, Afghan farmers produced 9,000 tons of Opium. About 10 kg oven-dry Opium is needed to produce 1 kg of 100% pure Heroin base. 
Image: Marco Mancha
Several branches of the Hindu Kush Mountains fan out to the west. Most of the country's interior is dominated by these central Afghan mountains, a region known as Hazarajat
. Between the alpine highlands and the desert regions of the southwest lies the Central Afghan Mountains Xeric Woodlands
, an ecoregion that covers large portions of the eastern and southern slopes of the mountains.
In the northeastern part of Afghanistan, there is the Wakhan Corridor
, a narrow panhandle of mountainous territory in the Hindu Kush range, squeezed between Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south, that extends to the grassy valley of the Little Pamir
and all the way to the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. The entire Wakhan corridor was established as Wakhan National Park
in 2014. The corridor borders the Pamir mountains to the north and the Karakoram mountain range to the south. In the western part of the strip are some of Afghanistan's highest peaks, the Kohe Urgunt, the Kohe Shakhawr and the Noshaq Mountain
(Naw Shakh) at 7,492 m. The Noshaq, the highest mountain Afghanistan's and the second highest peak of the Hindu Kush Range, is situated on the border between Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan and Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Deserts cover the southwestern part and the alluvial plains of northern Afghanistan. The Registan Desert
, a vast area with sand ridges and dunes on a mostly waterless plateau, is situated in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces in southwestern Afghanistan. The Helmand River to the west separates the Registan from the Dasht-e Margo
, the desert of death
, a 150,000 km² large region that covers parts of the Helmand and Nimruz provinces.
In the southwestern corner of Afghanistan is the Godzareh depression
(Gowd-e Zerah), the lowest part of the endorheic Sistan Basin
, an inland drainage basin with no outlet to the sea and one of the driest regions of the world.
A northward-sloping loess plateau covers the northern part of the country and borders the outskirts of Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert. At the Amu Darya
river in the Northern Plain
, there is the lowest point of Afghanistan at 259 m.
Aerial view of the Kajaki Dam on the Helmand River in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
Image: Ben Stickney
The sources of most rivers lie in the mountains. The level of water in the rivers oscillates greatly. The highest level is in spring and early summer. During the remaining seasons, the rivers most likely change into small streams or disappear completely.
The largest river entirely in Afghanistan is the Helmand River.
The river, more than a thousand kilometers long, rises in the Hindu Kush Mountains and then flows in a southwesterly direction to empty into the Sistan Basin, a large drainless basin in southwestern Afghanistan and the far west of Iran. Several hydroelectric dams have created artificial reservoirs on some of Afghanistan's rivers, including the Kajakai Dam on the Helmand River. The main tributary of the Helmand River is the Arghandab River
, which also has a large dam north of Kandahar.
The Amu Darya
, one of the longest rivers of Central Asia, is created by the confluence of the Panj River
and the Vakhsh River.
Noshaq is the highest mountain in Afghanistan, it is the second highest peak of the Hindu Kush Range at 7,492 m (24,580 ft), situated on the border between Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan and Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Major border crossings
The Afghanistan-Pakistan border is a 2,670 km long and porous international border that runs through mountainous terrain and is largely unpatrolled. The border is known as the Durand Line
. When it was drawn by the British in the late 19th century, it cut through the traditional homeland of the Pashtuns.
Afghanistan - Pakistan border crossings:
There are six official border crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan; there are also numerous unofficial and illegal border crossings used, especially for the opium and arms trade. Main crossings are at Chaman, Ghulam Khan Kalay and Torkham (Khyber Pass). Trade terminals are in Angur Ada, Badini and Kharlachi.
Afghanistan - Iran border crossings:
Abu Nasr Farahi (Farah Province), Islam Qala (Herat Province) and Zaranj (Nimruz Province) - all Taliban controlled.
Afghanistan - Tajikistan:
Shir Khan Bandar – Panji Poyon (road), Shighnan-Khorugh (road), Ishkashim-Ishkoshim (road), Kokul – Ai Khanoum (ferry only), Tajik–Afghan Friendship Bridge (across the Panj River).
there are two official border crossings at Torghundi and Aqina (north of Andkhoy).
Afghanistan - Uzbekistan:
Afghanistan–Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge near Termiz (Uzbekistan).
Afghanistan - China:
the Wakhjir Pass, a mountain pass in the Wakhan Corridor, is the only potential link between Afghanistan and China.
Cities and Towns in Afghanistan
The map shows the location of the following Afghan cities and towns:
Anar Darreh, Andkhoy, Asadabad, Baghlan, Balkh (ancient Bactra), Bamyan, Chaghcharan, Charikar, Delaram, Dowlat Yar, Dowlatabad, Dowshi, Eshkashem, Farah (capital of Farah Province), Farkhar, Fayzabad, Gardez (capital of Paktia Province), Ghazni, Herat (the capital of Herat province, third-largest city in Afghanistan), Islam Qala, Jalalabad (capital of Nangarhar province), Jeyretan, Jorm, Kabul (national capital), Kadesh, Kajaki, Kandahar (second largest city in Afghanistan, (pop. about 500,000), capital of Kandahar Province), Karokh, Keleft, Khanabad, Khas Uruzgan, Khavak, Kholm, Khost, Kunduz (pop. about 250,000, capital of Kunduz Province), Lashkar Gah (also called Bost; capital of Helmand Province), Mahmud, Mazar-i-Sharif (fourth-largest city in Afghanistan, pop. 375,000, capital of Balkh province), Mehtarlam, Meydan Shahr, Meymaneh, Now Zad, Owbeh-Shindand, Puli Alam, Puli Khumri (capital of Baghlan Province), Qala-I-Naw, Qala-I-Panjeh, Qalat (capital of Zabul Province), Qarah Bagh, Qeysar, Raqi, Rostaq, Samangan, Sari Pul, Sharan (capital town of Paktika province, altitude 2,200 m), Sheberghan, Shindand, Shulgarah, Spin Buldak, Taluqan (or Taloqan, capital of Takhar Province), Tirin Kot (also written Tarinkot, capital of Uruzgan province), Tokzar, Towraghondi, and Zaranj (capital of Nimruz province, serves as the border crossing between Afghanistan and Iran).