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In recent years the politics of Afghanistan have been dominated by the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, by the NATO forces and the subsequent efforts to stabilise and democratise the country. The nation's new constitution has been adopted and an executive president democratically elected in 2004. The parliamentary elections took place the following year, in September 2005.

The current president Hamid Karzai was declared the first ever democratically elected head of state in Afghanistan on December 7, 2004. He was re-elected in 2009. Karzai has begun the process of rebuilding his nation. The National Assembly is Afghanistan's national legislature. It is a bicameral body, composed of the House of the People and the House of the Elders. The current legislature was elected on September 18, 2005. The members of the Supreme Court were appointed by the president to form the judiciary. Together, this new system is to provide a new set of checks and balances that was unheard of in the country. Also, the system is quite new, implementation of which began only 2004, just after decades of war between different factions and warlords. The United Nations and other governments and organizations play a vital role in rebuilding this new democracy's political environment.


Brief timeline of recent Afghan politics

Government operation in Afghanistan has in the past consisted of power struggles, bloody coups and unstable transfers of power. With the exception of a military junta, the country has been governed by every system of government over the past century, including a monarchy, republic, capitalism, theocracy, dictatorship, socialism and a pro-communist state.

1919 - Last of three Anglo-Afghan wars. King Amanullah Khan takes the throne of an independent Kingdom of Afghanistan.

1973 - Mohammed Daoud Khan, Prime Minister and a member of the royal family, seizes power while King Mohammad Zahir Shah is in Italy.

1978 – The leftist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan seizes power after an attempted purge.

1979 – President Nur Muhammad Taraki is assassinated and replaced by his Prime Minister, Hafizullah Amin. Amin is then assassinated and the Soviet Union invades. Babrak Karmal is installed as president.

1987 - Mohammad Najibullah replaces Babrak Karmal as president.

1989 – Soviet army leaves Afghanistan.

1992 – Communist regime falls to mujahideen. Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani becomes president of the new Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

1996 – Kabul falls to the Taliban.

2001 – U.S. and coalition forces invade Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai is appointed President.[1]

2003 - Loya Jirga adopts new constitution, restructuring the government as an Islamic republic.

2004 - Hamid Karzai is elected president of Afghanistan.


Inauguration of President Hamid Karzai on December 7, 2004, after winning the presidential election.

Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic consisting of three branches of power (executive, legislative, and judiciary) overseen by checks and balances. It is currently led by President Hamid Karzai, who was elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. Before the election of 2004, Karzai led the country after being chosen by delegates of the Bonn Conference in late 2001 to head an interim government after the fall of the Taliban. While supporters have praised Karzai's efforts to promote national reconciliation and a growing economy, critics charge him with failing to stem corruption and the growing drug trade, and the slow pace of reconstruction.

The current parliament was elected in 2005. Among the elected officials were former Mujahideen, Taliban members, communists, reformists, and Islamic fundamentalists. Surprisingly, 28% of the delegates elected were women, 3% more than the 25% minimum guaranteed under the constitution. Ironically, this made Afghanistan, long known under the Taliban for its oppression of women, one of the leading countries in terms of female representation.

The Supreme Court of Afghanistan is currently led by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi. Dominated by fundamentalist religious figures, it has tried to ban a candidate in the 2004 presidential election for questioning polygamy laws, and limited the rights of women, as well as overstepped its constitutional authority by issuing rulings on subjects not yet brought before the court.


The former Taliban regime

On September 27, 1996, the ruling members of the Afghan government were displaced by members of the Islamic Taliban movement. The Taliban declared themselves the legitimate government of Afghanistan; however, the UN continued to recognize the former government of Burhanuddin Rabbani.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference left the Afghan seat vacant until the question of legitimacy could be resolved through negotiations among the warring factions.

By the time of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks only Pakistan recognized the Taliban government, though Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had in the past.

The Taliban occupied 95% of the territory, called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The remaining 5% belonged to the rebel forces called the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (Northern Alliance), which the United Nations had recognized as the official government in exile.

U.S.-led Invasion

After the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden to U.S. authorities for his suspected involvement in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., a US-led international coalition was formed; after several weeks of aerial bombardment by coalition forces and military action on the ground, including Afghan opposition forces, the Taliban was officially ousted from power on November 17, 2001.

Bonn Agreement

In December 2001, a number of prominent Afghans met under UN auspices in Germany, to decide on a plan for governing the country; as a result, the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) - made up of 30 members, headed by a chairman - was inaugurated on December 22, 2001, with a six-month mandate to be followed by a two-year Transitional Authority (TA), after which elections are to be held. Some provisions in the agreement have expired, due to the creation of the constitution. Still, the agreement paved the way for the creation of a democratic Afghanistan.

A new Constitution

The structure of the Transitional Authority was announced on June 10, 2002, when the Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) convened establishing the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA), which had 18 months to hold a constitutional Loya Jirga to adopt a constitution and 24 months to hold nationwide elections. The Loya Jirga was replaced by the National Assembly.

Under the Bonn Agreement the Afghan Constitution Commission was established to consult with the public and formulate a draft constitution. The meeting of a constitutional Loya Jirga was held in December 2003, when a new constitution was adopted creating a presidential form of government with a bicameral legislature: the House of Elders (Meshrano Jirga) and the House of the people (Wolesi Jirga).

Foreign Military Presence

Troops and intelligence agencies from the United States and a number of other countries are present, some to support the government, others assigned to hunt for remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda. A United Nations military force called the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been operating in Kabul since December 2001. NATO took control of this Force on August 11, 2003. Eurocorps took over the responsibility for ISAF on August 9, 2004.

Inside the Parliament House of Afghanistan in 2006.


National elections were held on October 9, 2004. Over 10 million Afghans were registered to vote. Most of the 17 candidates opposing Karzai boycotted the election, charging fraud;[2] an independent commission found evidence of fraud, but ruled that it did not affect the outcome of the poll. Karzai won 55.4% of the vote.[3] He was inaugurated as president on December 7 of that year. It was the country's first national election since 1969, when parliamentary elections were last held.

On September 18, 2005, parliamentary elections were held; the parliament opened on the following day, December 19. On December 20 Karzai's close ally and president of the first mujahideen government, Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, was picked to head the 102-seat upper house. On December 21, Yunus Qanuni, Afghan opposition leader and Karzai's main opponent was chosen to lead the 249-seat lower house of parliament with 122 votes against 117 for his closest challenger.

Executive branch

The constitution of Afghanistan creates a strong presidency. A president is elected with two Vice-presidents. The president appoints ministers and governors.

Karzai administration

2004 cabinet

After winning the 2004 election and removing many of the former Northern Alliance warlords from his cabinet, it was thought that Karzai would pursue a more aggressively reformist path in 2005. However, Karzai has proved to be more cautious than was expected. Ever since Karzai's new administration took over in 2004, the economy of Afghanistan has been growing rapidly for the first time in many years. Government revenue is increasing every year, although it is still heavily dependent on foreign aid. During the Karzai administration, public discontent grew about corruption and the civilian casualties in the fight against the Taliban insurgency.

2009 cabinet

Two months after the 2009 election, Karzai was officially declared the winner. [4] [5] The Obama administration urged Karzai to exclude ineffective or corrupt officials from the new government, while powerful Afghans who helped deliver his re-election were demanding positions.[6] According to political analysts, the list of ministers Karzai presented to the Parliament was "not encouraging", but it reflected realpolitik. Slightly more than half were ministers who would stay in their current positions or who had served previously in Karzai’s government.[7] On January 2, 2009, the Afghan Parliament rejected 17 of President Karzai's 24 cabinet nominees, approving only seven.

Legislative branch

Fauzia Gailani, one of several female parliamentarians of Afghanistan.

The 2005 Parliamentary Election for the Wolesi Jirga or House of the People were conducted on September 18, 2005. This was the first parliamentary election in Afghanistan since 1969. 2707 candidates, including 328 women, competed for 249 seats. The election was conducted with multiple seat electoral constituencies. Each province is a constituency and has a varying number of seats, depending on population. Voters have a single non-transferable vote.

The Meshrano Jirga or House of the Elders consists of 102 members. One-third of the members were appointed by the president, while another third was elected by the provincial councils. Elections for the provincial councils were held simultaneously with those for the Wolesi Jirga. The remaining third is supposed to be elected by district councils. However, elections for the district councils have been postponed, meaning that one-third of the seats in the Meshrano Jirga will be vacant when it assembles.

Despite Taliban and other anti-government forces stating they intended to disrupt the elections, the polling day went by with minimal violence.


People wait to receive ballots from election workers, during the parliamentary election on September 18, 2005.
An Afghan woman looks over the ballot during the successful parliamentary and provincial elections held on September 18, 2005.
Men of northern part of the country preparing vote in 2004.

2004 Presidential election

The first presidential election under the new constitution was held on October 9, 2004. Interim-president Karzai had enough votes to avoid a run-off.

e • d  Summary of the 9 October 2004 Afghanistan presidential election results
Candidates (Ethnic background) - Nominating party Votes %
Hamid Karzai (Pashtun) 4,443,029 55.4%
Yunus Qanuni (Tajik) - New Afghanistan Party 1,306,503 16.3%
Mohammed Mohaqiq (Hazara) - Independent (Wahdat Islamic Unity Party) 935,325 11.7%
Abdul Rashid Dostum (Uzbek) - Independent (National Islamic Movement) 804,861 10.0%
Abdul Latif Pedram (Tajik) - National Congress Party 110,160 1.4%
Massouda Jalal (Tajik) 91,415 1.1%
Sayed Ashaq Gailani* (Pashtun) - National Solidarity Movement 80,081 1.0%
Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai (Pashtun) - Independent (Islamic Revolutionary Movement) 60,199 0.8%
Abdul Satar Sirat (Uzbek) 30,201 0.4%
Hamyon Shah Aasifi (Pashtun) - Independent (National Unity Party) 26,224 0.3%
Ghulam Farooq Nejrabi (Tajik) - Afghan Independence Party 24,232 0.3%
Sayed Abdul Hadi Dabir (Tajik) 24,057 0.3%
Abdul Hafiz Mansoor (Tajik) - Independent (Islamic Society) 19,728 0.2%
Abdul Hadi Khalilzai (Pashtun) 18,082 0.2%
Mir Mahfuz Nedahi (Pashtun) 16,054 0.2%
Mohammed Ibrahim Rashid (Pashtun) 14,242 0.2%
Wakil Mangal (Pashtun) 11,770 0.1%
Abdul Hasib Aarian* (Tajik) 8,373 0.1%
Total Valid Votes (turnout 70%) 8,024,536 100.0%
Invalid Votes 104,404
Total Votes 8,128,940

2005 Parliamentary election

Afghanistan held parliamentary elections on 18 September 2005. First results were announced on 9 October and final results on 12 November of 2005. Since all candidates were not listed by party and elected as non-partisans, a breakdown by party was not possible. Turnout was estimated at about 50 percent.

e • d  Summary of 18 September 2005 Afghanistan House of the People election results
Candidates Seats
Non-partisans 249
Total 249

2009 Presidential election

The 2009 presidential election was characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout and widespread ballot stuffing, intimidation, and other electoral fraud. [8] [9] [10]

The vote, along with elections for 420 provincial council seats, took place on August 20, 2009, but remained unresolved during a lengthy period of vote counting and fraud investigation. [11]

Two months later, under heavy U.S. and ally pressure, a second round run-off vote between incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah was announced for November 7, 2009. On November 1, however, Abdullah announced that he would no longer be participating in the run-off because his demands for changes in the electoral commission had not been met, and a "transparent election is not possible." A day later, on November 2, 2009, officials of the election commission cancelled the run-off and declared Hamid Karzai as President of Afghanistan for another 5 year term. [9] [10]

Election billboard for Hamid Karzai in the outskirt of Kandahar City.
e • d  Summary of the 20 August 2009 Afghan presidential election results
Candidate Votes %
Hamid Karzai 2,283,907 49.67
Abdullah Abdullah 1,406,242 30.59
Ramazan Bashardost 481,072 10.46
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai 135,106 2.94
Mirwais Yasini 47,511 1.03
Shahnawaz Tanai 29,648 0.64
Frozan Fana 21,512 0.47
Abdul Salam Rocketi 19,997 0.43
Habib Mangal 18,746 0.41
Motasim Billah Mazhabi 18,248 0.40
Abdul Latif Pedram 15,462 0.34
Mohammad Sarwar Ahmadzai 14,273 0.31
Sayed Jalal Karim 13,489 0.29
Shahla Atta 10,687 0.23
Mahbob-U-lah Koshani 10,255 0.22
Alhaj Abdul Ghafor Zori 9,286 0.20
Rahim Jan Shinzad 7,197 0.16
Zabih-U-llah Ghazi Noristani 6,284 0.14
Abdul Jabar Sabet 6,190 0.13
Mohammad Hashem Taufiqui 5,043 0.11
Bismillah Shir 4,550 0.10
Ghulam Faroq Nijrabi 4,528 0.10
Abdul Hasib Arian 4,472 0.10
Moin-ul-din Ulfati 3,518 0.08
Gul Ahmmad Yama 3,221 0.07
Ghulam Mohammad Rigi 3,180 0.07
Mohammad Akbar Oria 2,991 0.07
Bashir Ahmad Bizhan 2,457 0.05
Sangin Mohammad Rahmani 2,434 0.05
Hedayat Amin Arsala 2,346 0.05
Abdul Majid Samim 2,198 0.05
Zia-ul-haq Hafizi 1,679 0.04
Valid votes (turnout % and %) 4,597,727 100.00
Invalid votes 225,363 4.67
Total votes 4,823,090 100.00
Source: IEC

Political parties

Political parties in Afghanistan are in flux and many prominent players have plans to create new ones. As of the 2005 Parliamentary Election, political parties are not legally recognised and candidates must run as independents, although parties can support candidates who are members.

Main parties seem to be:

Other minor parties are:

Political pressure groups and leaders

NA; note - ministries formed under the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) include former influential Afghans, diaspora members, and former political leaders

  • Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere have organized politically
  • The Afghan-American Muslim Outreach in the United States has become a powerful religious and political organization outside Afghanistan in North America
  • Pakistan-based groups such as the Coordination Council for National Unity and Understanding in Afghanistan or CUNUA (leader Ishaq Gailani
  • Tribal leader represent traditional Pashtun leadership
  • Writers Union of Free Afghanistan or WUFA [Rasul Amin]

Judicial branch

The Constitution of Afghanistan mandates a Supreme Court. Other minor courts were created too, such as high courts, appeals courts, and other district Courts.

See also: Chief Justice of Afghanistan

International organization participation

Asian Development Bank

Afghanistan has received $892.28 million in lending since joining the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at its founding in 1966 and is ADB’s 17th largest borrower. ADB suspended its operations in Afghanistan from 1992 to 2002. Significant international engagement with Afghanistan resumed in 2001 following the ouster of the Taliban regime. In 2001 and 2002, ADB, the World Bank, and the United Nations assessed the country’s critical rehabilitation and development needs: at the 2002 Tokyo Conference, ADB pledged loan and grant assistance of some $500 million over 2.5 years, beginning with a $167.18 million Postconflict Multisector Program loan, the first loan by an international financial institution to the country in more than 23 years. In 2004, ADB pledged up to $800 million in Asian Development Fund (ADF) loans and grants for 2005–2008, while at the 2006 London Conference indicated its intention to provide up to $200 million per year in ADF funding through 2010. ADB’s support has focused on building national capacity, establishing policy and institutional frameworks, and rehabilitating infrastructure. At the request of the Afghan authorities, ADB loan and grant-financed projects and programs and related technical assistance are focused on the road [transport, energy, agriculture and natural resource management, and governance and financial sectors. Private sector support has focused on loans and investments in the telecommunications and banking sectors.

The World Bank

Afghanistan became a member of the World Bank in 1955. Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, World Bank operations were suspended, and the resident mission in Kabul was closed, although the Bank continued to provide assistance to Afghans through its office in neighboring Pakistan. The Bank resumed operations in Afghanistan in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people while assisting the government in developing the administrative systems required for longer-term nationwide development.

Prior to 1979, the World Bank had provided 21 no-interest loans, known as "credits" to Afghanistan across a wide range of areas including education, roads, and agriculture. Of the original US$230 million in credits approved under IDA, US $83 million was disbursed and US $147 million was subsequently canceled. Afghanistan had repaid US $9.2 million to IDA and was up to date on debt service payments until June 1992, when it stopped making payments.

In 2003, Afghanistan was able to clear its debt to the World Bank, in part with the help of Japan, the UK, Sweden, Norway, and Italy, who contributed to a trust fund for this purpose. Additional funds from the multi-donors, which is administered by the World Bank, helped to clear the remaining arrears, allowing Afghanistan to become eligible for loans for projects designed to help meet the country's longer-term development needs.

The ARTF has emerged as one of the main instruments for financing the country’s recurrent budget and investment support for Afghanistan. To date, more than US$1.37 billion has been contributed to the ARTF by 24 donors.

Since 2002, the Bank has financed 21 projects, committing around US$1.13 billion, of which US$696.8 million is in grants and US$436.4 in interest-free credits. Two budget support operations and an emergency public works project have been completed so far. commitments of approximately US$26 million for the fiscal year 2007 (July 2006 - June 2007) will be entirely in grants. The Bank-funded projects mostly support rural livelihoods by providing job opportunities, rebuilding infrastructure, education and basic health services.


Afghanistan is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Colombo Plan, the Economic Cooperation Organization, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Group of 77, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Criminal Court, ICRM, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the Islamic Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Finance Corporation, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC (suspended), IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO

See also


External links

  • Afghanistan Government at the Open Directory Project
  • is the official site for the President of Afghanistan's office, from which links to other parts of the government can be found.
  • Afghan News Latest news on Afghan politics, elections and entertainment. Aside from various political resources, the site also emphasizes on providing latest in Afghan music, Live Afghan TV and Radio stations.
  • Afghan claims to be "an independent and neutral entity that represents the voice of all Afghans and is not associated with any particular group or political party." It seems to emphasize chat rooms and message boards, with links to headlines and Internet radio reports.
  • Afghanistan has good links to headlines and news sources, although it's not clear who's running the site, or why: "Afghanistan does not operate in Afghanistan nor does it have any ties there. It is part of a Worldwide network of online news services established to provide visitors with updating news and information about every country and key city throughout Asia," the site says.
  • Afghanistan Online says it is "a privately owned, independent web site that provides updated news and information on Afghanistan," with a mailing address in Pleasanton, CA. Its Afghan Online Press compiles news articles from other sources.
  • Afghanistan Reconstruction, featuring documents on development and technology, is part of the Development Gateway website. The DG Foundation, which runs the site, "is a not-for-profit organization currently based in Washington DC. Its mission is to reduce poverty and support sustainable development through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT)."
  • The CIA's World Factbook entry on Afghanistan was the basis for most of earlier versions of this article.
  • Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan website appears to be run by the United Nations Development Programme (its "About Us" link doesn't work but a UNDP email address is mentioned). It includes budget documents and links to website sections for various Afghan government and UN agencies.
  • Library of Congress Selected Internet Resources on Afghanistan provides links to various sites and documents, including a country study of Afghanistan, which covers events up to 1995.
  • ReliefWeb's Afghanistan section includes news and NGO reports on the Afghan situation. "ReliefWeb is a project of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)," according to the site's homepage.
  • United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan was established in March 2003 "in an effort to integrate all UN activities in Afghanistan. There are some 16 UN agencies in the country working together with their Afghan government counterparts and with national and international NGO partners," the site indicates. The links page is extensive, mainly listing sites of other UN agencies.
  • U.S. State Department's Background Note on Afghanistan, besides the requisite statistics, includes detailed summaries of country's history, economics, government and foreign relations.
  • Afghan travel guide giving a glimpse of current life in the country.
  • A Commentary on the Consequences of the Afghan War The presidential contenders are debating U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Why isn't anyone talking about Afghanistan?.


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