For other places with the same name, see Kabul (disambiguation).
Coordinates: 34°32′N 69°10′E / 34.533°N 69.167°E / 34.533; 69.167Coordinates: 34°32′N 69°10′E / 34.533°N 69.167°E / 34.533; 69.167
Country  Afghanistan
Province Kabul
No. of districts 22
  Mayor Abdullah Habibzai
  Metropolis 275 km2 (106 sq mi)
  Metro 425 km2 (164 sq mi)
Elevation 1,791 m (5,876 ft)
Population (2015)
  Metropolis 3,678,034
  Density 13,000/km2 (35,000/sq mi)
  Demonym Kabuli
Time zone Afghanistan Standard Time (UTC+4:30)
Area code(s) (+93) 20

Kabul (/ˈkɑːbᵿl/; Pashto: کابل, Persian: کابل, pronounced [ˈkʰɒːbul]) is the capital of Afghanistan as well as its largest city, located in the eastern section of the country. According to a 2015 estimate, the population of the city was around 3,678,034[1] which includes all the major ethnic groups.[2] Rapid urbanization had made Kabul the world's 64th largest city[3] and the fifth fastest-growing city in the world.[4]

Kabul is over 3,500 years old and many empires have controlled the city which is at a strategic location along the trade routes of South and Central Asia. It has been ruled by the Achaemenids, Seleucids, Mauryans, Kushans, Kabul Shahis, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, and Ghurids.[5] Later it was controlled by the Mughal Empire until finally becoming part of the Durrani Empire with help from the Afsharid dynasty.[6]

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan the city continued to be an economic center and was relatively safe. Between 1992 and 1996, a civil war between militant groups devastated Kabul and caused the deaths of thousands of civilians, serious damage to infrastructure, and an exodus of refugees.[7] Since the Taliban's fall from power in November 2001, the Afghan government and other countries have attempted to rebuild the city, although the Taliban insurgents have slowed the re-construction efforts and staged major attacks against the government, the NATO-led forces, foreign diplomats and Afghan civilians.[8]


Kabul (/ˈkɑːbəl, ˈkɑːbl/; Pashto: کابل Kâbəl, IPA: [kɑˈbəl]; Persian: کابل Kābol, IPA: [kɒːˈbol]),[9] also spelled Cabool, Caubul, Kabol, or Cabul.



The word "Kubhā" is mentioned in the Rigveda (circa 1500-1200 BCE), one of the four canonical sacred texts (śruti) of Hinduism, and the Avesta, the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, refers to the Kabul River.[10] The Rigveda praises it as an ideal city, a vision of paradise set in the mountains.[11] The area in which the Kabul valley sits was ruled by the Medes before falling to the Achaemenids. There is a reference to a settlement called Kabura by the rulers of the Achaemenid Empire,[10] It became a center of Zoroastrianism followed by Buddhism and Hinduism. Alexander the Great explored the Kabul valley after his conquest of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BC but no record has been made of Kabul, which may have been only a small town and not worth writing about.[5] The region became part of the Seleucid Empire but was later given to the Indian Maurya Empire.

"Alexander took these away from the Aryans and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants."[5]
Strabo, 64 BC–24 AD

The Greco-Bactrians captured Kabul from the Mauryans in the early 2nd century BC, then lost the city to their subordinates in the Indo-Greek Kingdom around the mid-2nd century BC. Indo-Scythians expelled the Indo-Greeks by the mid 1st century BC, but lost the city to the Kushan Empire about 100 years later.[12]

Some historians ascribe Kabul the Sanskrit name of Kamboja (Kamboj).[13][14] It is mentioned as Kophes or Kophene in some classical writings. Hsuan Tsang refers to the name as Kaofu[15] in the 7th century AD, which is the appellation of one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi who had migrated from across the Hindu Kush into the Kabul valley around the beginning of the Christian era.[16] It was conquered by Kushan Emperor Kujula Kadphises in about 45 AD and remained Kushan territory until at least the 3rd century AD.[17][18] The Kushans were Indo-European-speaking Tocharians from the Tarim Basin.[19]

Around 230 AD, the Kushans were defeated by the Sassanid Empire and replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Indo-Sassanids. During the Sassanian period, the city was referred to as "Kapul" in Pahlavi scripts.[10] In 420 AD the Indo-Sassanids were driven out of Afghanistan by the Xionite tribe known as the Kidarites, who were then replaced in the 460s by the Hephthalites. It became part of the surviving Turk Shahi Kingdom of Kapisa, also known as Kabul-Shahan.[20] According to Táríkhu-l Hind by Al-Biruni, Kabul was governed by princes of Turkic lineage whose rule lasted for about 60 generations.

"Kábul was formerly governed by princes of Turk lineage. It is said that they were originally from Tibet. The first of them was named Barhtigín ... and the kingdom continued with his children for sixty generations. ... The last of them was a Katormán, and his minister was Kalar, a Bráhman. This minister was favored by fortune, and he found in the earth treasures which augmented his power. Fortune at the same time turned her back upon his master. The Katormán's thoughts and actions were evil, so that many complaints reached the minister, who loaded him with chains, and imprisoned him for his correction. In the end the minister yielded to the temptation of becoming sole master, and he had wealth sufficient to remove all obstacles. So he established himself on the throne. After him reigned the Bráhman(s) Samand, then Kamlúa, then Bhím, then Jaipál, then Anandpál, then Narda-janpál, who was killed in A.H. 412. His son, Bhímpál, succeeded him, after the lapse of five years, and under him the sovereignty of Hind became extinct, and no descendant remained to light a fire on the hearth. These princes, notwithstanding the extent of their dominions, were endowed with excellent qualities, faithful to their engagements, and gracious towards their inferiors..."[20]
Abu Rayhan Biruni, 978-1048 AD

The Kabul rulers built a long defensive wall around the city to protect it from enemy raids. This historical wall has survived until today. It was briefly held by Tibetan Empire between 801 and 815.

Islamization and Mongol invasion

Further information: Islamic conquest of Afghanistan
The Islamic conquest of Afghanistan began from Herat, which was one of the important cities of Khorasan, and made its way to Kabul in the late 600's.

The Islamic conquest reached modern-day Afghanistan in 642 AD, at a time when Kabul was independent.[21] A number of failed expeditions were made to Islamize the region. In one of them, Abdur Rahman bin Samana arrived to Kabul from Zaranj in the late 600's and managed to convert 12,000 local inhabitants to Islam before abandoning the city. Muslims were a minority until Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar of Zaranj conquered Kabul in 870 and established the first Islamic dynasty in the region. It was reported that the rulers of Kabul were Muslims with non-Muslims living close by.

"Kábul has a castle celebrated for its strength, accessible only by one road. In it there are Musulmáns, and it has a town, in which are infidels from Hind."[22]
Istahkrí, 921 AD

Over the following centuries, the city was successively controlled by the Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khwarazmshahs, Qarlughids, and Khiljis. In the 13th century, the Mongol horde passed through and massively destroyed the area. Report of a massacre in the close by Bamiyan is recorded around this period, where the entire population of the valley was annihilated by the Mongol troops as a revenge for the death of Genghis Khan's grandson. During the Mongol invasion, many natives of Afghanistan fled to India where some established dynasties in Delhi. It was also ruled by Chagatai Khanate and Kartids, were vassals of Ilkhanate till dissolution of latter in 1335.

Following the era of the Khilji dynasty in 1333, the famous Moroccan scholar Ibn Battuta was visiting Kabul and wrote:

"We travelled on to Kabul, formerly a vast town, the site of which is now occupied by a village inhabited by a tribe of Persians called Afghans. They hold mountains and defiles and possess considerable strength, and are mostly highwaymen. Their principal mountain is called Kuh Sulayman."[23]
Ibn Battuta, 1304–1369 AD

Timurid and Mughal era

Further information: Timurid dynasty and Mughal Empire
Humayun with his father Babur, emperors of the Mughal Empire

In the 14th century, Kabul became a major trading center under the kingdom of Timur (Tamerlane). In 1504, the city fell to Babur from the north and made into his headquarters, which became one of the principal cities of his later Mughal Empire. In 1525, Babur described Kabulistan in his memoirs by writing that:

"In the country of Kābul there are many and various tribes. In the city and the greater part of the villages, the population consists of Tājiks (called "Sarts" by Babur). Many other of the villages and districts are occupied by Pashāis, Parāchis, Tājiks, Berekis, and Afghans. In the hill-country to the west, reside the Hazāras and Nukderis. Among the Hazāra and Nukderi tribes, there are some who speak the Moghul language. In the hill-country to the north-east lies Kaferistān, such as Kattor and Gebrek. To the south is Afghanistān... There are eleven or twelve different languages spoken in Kābul: Arabic, Persian, Tūrki, Moghuli, Hindi, Afghani, Pashāi, Parāchi, Geberi, Bereki, and Lamghāni..."[24]
Baburnama, 1525

Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat, a poet from Hindustan who visited at the time wrote: "Dine and drink in Kabul: it is mountain, desert, city, river and all else." It was from here that Babur began his 1526 conquest of Hindustan, which was ruled by the Afghan Lodi dynasty and began east of the Indus River in what is present-day Pakistan. Babur loved Kabul due to the fact that he lived in it for 20 years and the people were loyal to him, including its weather that he was used to. His wish to be buried in Kabul was finally granted. The inscription on his tomb contains the famous Persian couplet, which states: اگرفردوس روی زمین است همین است و همین است و همین است (If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this!)[25]

Durrani Empire

Further information: Durrani dynasty and Barakzai dynasty
Shujah Shah Durrani, the last Durrani King, sitting at his court inside the Bala Hissar.

Nine years after Nader Shah and his forces invaded and occupied the city as part of the more easternmost parts of his Empire, he was assassinated by his own officers, causing the rapid disintegration of it. Ahmad Shah Durrani, commander of 4,000 Abdali Afghans, asserted Pashtun rule in 1747 and further expanded his new Afghan Empire. His ascension to power marked the beginning of Afghanistan. His son Timur Shah Durrani, after inheriting power, transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776,[26] and used Peshawar in what is today Pakistan as the winter capital. Timur Shah died in 1793 and was succeeded by his son Zaman Shah Durrani. Kabul's first visitor from Europe was Englishman George Forster, who described 18th-century Kabul as "the best and cleanest city in South Asia".[11]

In 1826, the kingdom was claimed by Dost Mohammad Khan but in 1839 Shujah Shah Durrani was re-installed with the help of British India during the First Anglo-Afghan War. In 1841 a local uprising resulted in the killing of the British resident and loss of mission in Kabul and the 1842 retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad. In 1842 the British returned to Kabul, plundering Bala Hissar in revenge before fleeing back to British India (now Pakistan). Akbar Khan took to the throne from 1842 to 1845 and was followed by Dost Mohammad Khan.

The British-led Indian forces invaded in 1879 when Kabul was under Sher Ali Khan's rule, as the Afghan king initially refused to accept British diplomatic mission and later the British residents were again massacred. The British partially destroyed Bala Hissar fortress before retreating to British India.

20th century Kabul

In the early 20th century King Amanullah Khan rose to power. His reforms included electricity for the city and schooling for girls. He drove a Rolls-Royce, and lived in the famous Darul Aman Palace. In 1919, after the Third Anglo-Afghan War, Amanullah announced Afghanistan's independence from foreign affairs at Eidgah Mosque. In 1929 King Ammanullah left Kabul due to a local uprising orchestrated by Habibullah Kalakani. After nine months rule, Kalakani was imprisoned and executed by King Nader Khan. Three years later, in 1933, the new king was assassinated by a Hazara student Abdul Khaliq during an award ceremony inside a school in Kabul. The throne was left to his 19-year-old son, Zahir Shah, who became the last King of Afghanistan.

Afghan men and women in the 1920s.

During the inter-war period France and Germany worked to help develop the country and maintained high schools and lycees in the capital, providing education for the children of the city's elite families.[27] Kabul University opened in 1932 and by the 1960s western educated Afghans made up the majority of teachers.[28] By the 1960s the majority of instructors at the university had degrees from Western universities.[28]

When Zahir Shah took power in 1933 Kabul had the only 10 kilometers (6 miles) of rail in the country and the country had few internal telegraphs, phone lines or roads. Zahir turned to the Japanese, Germans and Italians for help developing a modern transportation and communication network.[29] A radio tower built by the Germans in 1937 in Kabul allowing instant communication with outlying villages.[30] A national bank and state cartels were organized to allow for economic modernization.[31] Textile mills, power plants, carpet and furniture factories were also built in Kabul, providing much needed manufacturing and infrastructure.[31]

In 1955, the Soviet Union forwarded $100 million in credit to Afghanistan, which financed public transportation, airports, a cement factory, mechanized bakery, a five-lane highway from Kabul to the Soviet border and dams.[32]

Men and women entering a public transport bus in the 1950s.

In the 1960s the first Marks & Spencer store in Central Asia was built in the city. Kabul Zoo was inaugurated in 1967, which was maintained with the help of visiting German zoologists. Many foreigners began flocking to Kabul and the nation's tourism industry was starting to pick up speed. Kabul experimented with liberalization, dropping laws requiring women to wear burkas, restrictions on speech and assembly were loosened which led to student politics in the capital.[33] Socialist, Maoist and liberal factions demonstrated daily in Kabul while more traditional Islamic leaders spoke out against the failure to aid the Afghan countryside.[33]

In 1969 a religious uprising at the Pul-e Khishti Mosque protested the Soviet Union's increasing influence over Afghan politics and religion. This protest ended in the arrest of many of its organizers, including Mawlana Faizani, a popular Islamic scholar. In the early 1970s Radio Kabul began to broadcast in other languages besides Pashto which helped to unify those minorities that often felt marginalized. However, this was put to a stop after Daoud Khan's revolution in 1973.[34] In July 1973, while King Zahir Shah was visiting Europe, his cousin Daoud Khan who served as Prime Minister launched a coup d'état and took over power. This was supported by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a pro-Soviet political party. Daoud named himself President and planned to institute reforms.[35] The BBC has described the period before the April 1978 Revolution as an era when different ethnic groups of Afghanistan lived together harmoniously, intermarried and mixed socially.[11]

By 1975, the young Ahmad Shah Massoud and his followers initiated an uprising in Panjshir but were forced to flee to neighboring Pakistan where they received recruitment from Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to create unrest in Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. It is claimed that Bhutto paved the way for the April 1978 Saur Revolution in Kabul by making Daoud spread his armed forces to the countryside. "To launch this plan, Bhutto recruited and trained a group of Afghans in the Bala-Hesar of Peshawar, in Pakistan's North-west Frontier Province. Among these young men were Massoud, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and other members of Jawanan-e Musulman. Massoud's mission to Bhutto was to create unrest in northern Afghanistan. It served Massoud's interests, which were apparently opposition to the Soviets and independence for Afghanistan. Later, after Massoud and Hekmatyar had a terrible falling-out over Massoud's opposition to terrorist tactics and methods, Massoud overthrew from Jawanan-e Musulman. He joined Rabani's newly created Afghan political party, Jamiat-i-Islami, in exile in Pakistan."[36]

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

Further information: Soviet war in Afghanistan
The day after the April 1978 Saur Revolution

On April 28, 1978, President Daoud and his family along with many of his supporters were assassinated in Kabul. Pro-Soviet PDPA under Hafizullah Amin seized power and slowly began to institute reforms.[37] Private businesses were nationalized in the Soviet manner.[38] Education was modified into the Soviet model, with lessons focusing on teaching Russian, Leninism-Marxism and learning of other countries belonging to the Soviet bloc.[38] Foreign-backed rebel groups and army deserters took up arms in the name of Islam.[38]

In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs was murdered after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnappers. In neighboring Pakistan, President Zulfiqar Bhutto was executed in April 1979. In September 1979 Afghan President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated by a team of Soviet Spetsnaz inside the Tajbeg Palace in Kabul.[39] On December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Kabul was heavily occupied by Soviet Armed Forces. Following this invasion, Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq chaired a meeting in Islamabad and was told by several cabinet members to refrain from interfering in Afghanistan, owing to the vastly superior military power of the Soviet Union.[40] However, Zia-ul-Haq, fearing that the Soviets may be advancing into Pakistan, particularly Balochistan, made no secret about his intentions of aiding the mujahideen rebel groups. During this meeting, Director-General of the ISI Akhtar Abdur Rahman advocated for the idea of covert operation in Afghanistan by arming the Islamic extremists.[40] General Rahman was heard loudly saying: "Kabul must burn! Kabul must burn!",[41] and mastered the idea of proxy war in Afghanistan.[40] President Zia-ul-Haq authorised this operation under General Rahman, and it was later merged with Operation Cyclone, a programme funded by the United States.

Kabul in 1982, after the Soviet invasion

The Soviets turned the city of Kabul into their command center during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Kabul was considered moderately safe during that period, as fighting was mostly in the countryside and in other major cities. Kabul was still economically active and women made up 40% of the workforce.[42] However the city was not necessarily calm. Political crime, such as assassinations of PDPA party members and guerilla attacks on military and government targets were quite common. The Soviet Embassy, for example, was attacked 4 times with arms fire in the first five years of the war. In 1983, a report from Izvestia said that most public places such as hospitals and state banks had "people with guns in their hands", which was not the case before 1979. A Western correspondent revisiting Kabul in December 1983 after a year, said that the city was "converted into a fortress bristling with weapons", suggesting the increasing sight of guns.[43]

But the city's image wasn't negative in everybody's view. American diplomat Charles Dunbar said that the Soviet troops' presence was "surprisingly modest". He said in a July 1983 article that whilst Soviet troops are a common sight, they "do not give the impression of invaders who are enforcing their occupation at the point of a bayonet". Soviet men and women were very common in the city's shopping roads, with the large availability of Western products.[44] An December 1983 article from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, where the author stayed two weeks in the city, said that the Soviet soldiers had a friendly atmosphere in which they would greet friends and have a chat with the population.[45] Most Soviet civilians (numbering between 8,000 and 10,000) lived in the north eastern Makroyan suburb, in an apartment housing complex. It was surrounded by barbed-wire and armed tanks, for their safety. The residents were often unsafe when walking through the streets, receiving verbal abuse, rude gestures and even kidnappings from anti-PDPA/anti-Soviet Afghan civilians. Life for PDPA politicians and their families were also insecure.[46] The city's population increased from around 500,000 in 1978 to 2 million in 1988,[47] mainly due to the return of Afghan refugees from neighboring Pakistan and Iran under President Najibullah.

Civil war and Taliban regime

A section of Kabul during the civil war in 1993.

After the fall of Najibullah's[36] Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in April 1992, leaders of the different mujahideen factions were unable to form a government. Despite the 1992 Peshawar Accords, fighting started as Hekmatyar's party refused to sign the accords and started shelling the city for power. This marked the start of a dark period of the city, in which over 50,000 civilians were killed. About 80 percent of the city was devastated and destroyed by 1996.[48][49]

The city suffered heavily under a bombardment campaign between rival militias. Initially the factions in the city aligned to fight off Hekmatyar's forces, but diplomacy inside the capital quickly broke down.[50] For the following two years in particular, much of Kabul would be laid to waste, the majority of infrastructure destroyed, and a massive exodus of the population leaving to the countryside or abroad. In December 1992, the last of the 86 city trolley buses in Kabul came to a halt because of the conflict. A system of 800 public buses continued to provide transportation services to the city. By 1993 electricity and water in the city was completely out.

Additionally to the bombardment campaign conducted by Hekmatyar and Dostum, tension between the Shi'a Hazara forces of Abdul Ali Mazari and the Wahabi Ittihad-i Islami of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf soon escalated into a second violent conflict. The fighting between the two factions quickly took on aspects of "ethnic cleansing".[51] One such example was the Afshar Operation in 1993, in which many ethnic Hazara and Pashtun civilians were murdered.

In January 1994, Dostum joined an alliance with Hekmatyar and conducted bombardment of Kabul during that period, but were eventually repelled by Massoud's forces who also bombarded the city to gain control.[52] In late 1994, bombardment of the capital came to a temporary halt.[53][54][55] These forces took steps to restore law and order. Courts started to work again, convicting individuals inside government troops who had committed crimes.[56] Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban to join the process but the idea was rejected by them.[57] By 1995 the university opened its doors once again.

The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were repelled at first by Massoud's forces.[54] Amnesty International, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report that "This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city."[54]

On September 26, 1996, as the Taliban prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul and fled north.[58] The next day the Taliban seized Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed a strict form of Sharia (Islamic law), restricting women from work and education.[59] They also conducted amputations against common thieves. Their hit-squads from the infamous "Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" watched the streets conducting public beatings of people.[59]

The al-Qaeda of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri became a state within the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with bin Laden controlling Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad.[60]

During the hardline Taliban regime, Kabul became a barren ruined city, with most of the city already having been destroyed, many residents had long left, poverty levels were high, there was little to no education or public services, and its strict laws meant there were no entertainment or media. However the Taliban's rule, which would last for five years, at least made the city more calm after years of war.

21st century

An American soldier standing with children at Freedom Circle (2011)

In November 2001, the Northern Alliance captured Kabul after the Taliban had abandoned it. A month later the new government under President Hamid Karzai was established. In the meantime, a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was deployed in the city. The war-torn city began to see some positive development as many expatriate Afghans returned to the city. The city's population grew from about 500,000 in 2001 to over 3 million in 2015. Many foreign embassies re-opened. Since 2014 the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have been in charge of security in and around the city.

Kabul is periodically the scene of deadly suicide bombings carried out by the Haqqani network, the Taliban's Quetta Shura, Hezbi Islami, al-Qaeda, and other anti-government groups.[61][62][63][64] Government employees, soldiers and civilians have all been targets of attacks.[8][65][66][67][68]

Geography, climate and environment

Further information: Geography of Afghanistan

Kabul serves as the nation's cultural and learning center, situated 1,791 meters (5,876 feet) above sea level in a narrow valley, wedged between the Hindu Kush mountains along the Kabul River. It is linked with Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif via the circular Highway 1 that stretches across Afghanistan. It is also the start of the main road to Jalalabad and further to Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Kabul International Airport is located about 16 km (9.9 mi) from the center of the city, next to the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood. Bagram Airfield is about 40 km (25 mi) northeast of Kabul.[69]

Kabul has a cold semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk) with precipitation concentrated in the winter (almost exclusively falling as snow) and spring months. Temperatures are relatively cool compared to much of Southwest Asia, mainly due to the high elevation of the city. Summer has very low humidity, providing relief from the heat. Autumn features warm afternoons and sharply cooler evenings. Winters are cold, with a January daily average of −2.3 °C (27.9 °F). Spring is the wettest time of the year, though temperatures are generally amiable. Sunny conditions dominate year-round. The annual mean temperature is 12.1 °C (53.8 °F).

Climate data for Kabul (1956–1983)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 18.8
Average high °C (°F) 4.5
Daily mean °C (°F) −2.3
Average low °C (°F) −7.1
Record low °C (°F) −25.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 34.3
Average rainy days 2 3 10 11 8 1 2 1 1 2 4 3 48
Average snowy days 7 6 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 20
Average relative humidity (%) 68 70 65 61 48 36 37 38 39 42 52 63 52
Mean monthly sunshine hours 177.2 178.6 204.5 232.5 310.3 353.4 356.8 339.7 303.9 282.6 253.2 182.4 3,175.1
Source: NOAA[70]


A family park in the Bibi Mahro neighborhood

The city of Kabul is one of the 15 districts of Kabul Province, which is divided into 22 city districts. Each city district covers several neighborhoods.

Government and politics

Further information: Politics of Afghanistan

The current mayor of the city is Abdullah Habibzai who was appointed in May 2016 as the acting mayor.

Kabul's Chief of Police is Lt. Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahimi. The police are part of the Afghan National Police (ANP) under the Ministry of Interior and are arranged by city districts. The Police Chief is selected by the Interior Minister and is responsible for all law enforcement activities throughout the Kabul province.


Young Afghan men and women at a rock music festival inside the Gardens of Babur.

The population of Kabul has fluctuated since the early 1980s to the present period. According to Afghan government statistics, it was estimated at 3,678,034 in the year 2015.[1] The World Factbook estimates that Kabul's population is little over 4.6 million,[71] which possibly includes the people of the province as well. A number Afghans from other provinces stay in Kabul on a temporary basis, to spend time with relatives due to fighting in their native areas or for other reasons.

The city's population includes Tajiks-45% Hazara-38% Pashtun-23% Uzbeks and smaller numbers of Afghans belonging to other ethnic groups.[2] Dari and Pashto language are widely used in the region although Dari (Afghan Persian) serves as the lingua franca. Multilingualism is common throughout the area, particularly among the Pashtun people.

About 60% of the population follow Sunni Islam while 40% are Shiites. The remaining 1% are followers of Sikhism, Hinduism and other local religions. The city also has one Jewish resident.


Further information: Economy of Afghanistan
A commercial area in the city

Kabul's main products include fresh and dried fruit, nuts, beverages, Afghan rugs, leather and sheep skin products, furniture, antique replicas, and domestic clothes. The world bank authorized US$25 million for the Kabul Urban Reconstruction Project which closed in 2011.[72] Over the last decade, the United States has invested approximately $9.1 billion into urban infrastructure in Afghanistan.[73][74] The wars since 1978 have limited the city's economic productivity but after the establishment of the Karzai administration. Since late 2001, local economic development has included a number of indoor shopping centers.

About 6 km (4 mi) from downtown Kabul, in Bagrami, a 9-hectare (22-acre) industrial complex has completed with modern facilities, which will allow companies to operate businesses there. The park has professional management for the daily maintenance of public roads, internal streets, common areas, parking areas, 24 hours perimeter security, access control for vehicles and persons.[75] A number of factories operate there, including the $25 million Coca-Cola bottling plant and the Omaid Bahar juice factory.

According to Transparency International, the government of Afghanistan is the third most-corrupt in the world.[76] Experts believe that the poor decisions of Afghan politicians contribute to the unrest in the region. This also prevents foreign investment in Afghanistan, especially by Western countries. In 2012, there were reportedly $3.9 billion paid to public officials in bribes which contributed to these issues.[77]

Da Afghanistan Bank, the nation's central bank, is headquartered in Kabul. In addition, several commercial banks in the city.[78]

Development plans

A $1 billion USD contract was signed in 2013 to commence work on the "New Kabul City", which is a major residential scheme that would accommodate 1.5 million people.[79][80] In the meantime, many high rise buildings are being constructed in order to control the overcrowding and also to modernize the city.[81]

An initial concept design called the City of Light Development, envisioned by Dr. Hisham N. Ashkouri, for the development and the implementation of a privately based investment enterprise has been proposed for multi-function commercial, historic and cultural development within the limits of the Old City of Kabul, along the southern side of the Kabul River and along Jade Meywand Avenue,[82]


Further information: Communications in Afghanistan

As of November 2015, there are more than 24 television stations based out of Kabul.[83]

In Kabul, Minister Amir Zai Sangin of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology maintains statistics regarding telecommunications in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Afghanistan Information Management Services (AIMS) provides software development, capacity development, information management, and project management services to the Afghan Government and other NGOs, thereby supporting their on-the-ground activities.

GSM/GPRS mobile phone services in the city are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan, MTN and Salaam Network. As of 2012, all of them provide 3G services as well. In November 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a $64.5 million US dollar deal with ZTE on the establishment of a countrywide fibre optical cable network to help improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services not just in Kabul but throughout the country.[84] Internet cafes were introduced in 2002 and has been expanding throughout the country. As of 2012, 3G services are also available.

There are a number of post offices throughout the city. Package delivery services like FedEx, TNT N.V., and DHL are also available.

Health care

Further information: Health in Afghanistan

Health care in Afghanistan is relatively poor. The wealthy Afghans usually go abroad when seeking treatment. Presently, there are several hospitals in Kabul which include;


The Ministry of Education led by Ghulam Farooq Wardak is responsible for the education system in Afghanistan.[88] Public and private schools in the city have reopened since 2002 after they were shut down or destroyed during fighting in the 1980s to the late 1990s. Boys and girls are strongly encouraged to attend school under the Karzai administration but many more schools are needed not only in Kabul but throughout the country. The Afghan Ministry of Education has plans to build more schools in the coming years so that education is provided to all citizens of the country. The most well known high schools in Kabul include:


The city's colleges and universities were renovated after 2002. Some of them have been developed recently, while others have existed since the early 20th century.


Further information: Transport in Afghanistan
Hamid Karzai International Airport (Kabul International Airport)

Airports in Kabul

The Hamid Karzai International Airport (Kabul International Airport) is located 25 km (16 mi) from the center of Kabul, which always served as the country's main airport. It is a hub to Ariana Afghan Airlines, the national carrier of Afghanistan, as well as private airlines such as Afghan Jet International, East Horizon Airlines, Kam Air, Pamir Airways, and Safi Airways. Regional airlines such as Air India, SpiceJet, flydubai, Emirates, Gulf Air, Mahan Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Turkish Airlines and others also have regularly scheduled flights to the airport. A new international terminal was built by the government of Japan and began operation in 2008.


Kabul has no train service but the government plans to build rail lines to connect the city with Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad-Torkham in the east. It also plans to build a metro rail in the future.


Long distance road journeys are made by private Mercedes-Benz coach buses or various types of vans, trucks and cars. Although a nationwide bus service is available from Kabul, flying is safer, especially for foreigners. The city's public bus service (Milli Bus / "National Bus") was established in the 1960s to take commuters on daily routes to many destinations. The service currently has about 800 buses, but it is gradually expanding and upgrading the fleet. The Kabul bus system has recently discovered a new source of revenue in whole-bus advertising from MTN similar to "bus wrap" advertising on public transit in more developed nations. There is also an express bus that runs from downtown to Kabul International Airport for Safi Airways passengers.

Private vehicles are on the rise in Kabul, with several dealerships in the city. It has been reported that up to 90% of cars in Kabul are Corollas.[89][90] Gas stations are mainly private-owned. Bicycles on the road are a common sight in the city as are white and yellow older model Toyota Corolla taxicab used cars.


Looking toward Mausoleum of Mohammed Zahir Shah and Mohammed Nadir Shah on Maranjan Hill in the far distant

Each year about 200,000 tourists visit Afghanistan. In Kabul, there are 5-star hotels which include; The Serena Hotel, built by The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and The Marriott Hotel near the U.S. Embassy. The Inter-Continental is also in the process of being redeveloped. The Safi Landmark Hotel is a 4-star hotel located in the Kabul City Center.

The old part of Kabul is filled with bazaars nestled along its narrow, crooked streets. Cultural sites include: the National Museum of Afghanistan, notably displaying an impressive statue of Surya excavated at Khair Khana, the ruined Darul Aman Palace, the tomb of Mughal Emperor Babur at Bagh-e Babur, and Chehlstoon Park, the Minar-i-Istiqlal (Column of Independence) built in 1919 after the Third Afghan War, the tomb of Timur Shah Durrani, and the imposing Id Gah Mosque (founded 1893). Bala Hissar is a fort destroyed by the British in 1879, in retaliation for the death of their envoy, now restored as a military college. The Minaret of Chakari, destroyed in 1998, had Buddhist swastika and both Mahayana and Theravada qualities.

Other places of interest include Kabul City Center, which is Kabul's first shopping mall, the shops around Flower Street and Chicken Street, Wazir Akbar Khan district, Kabul Golf Club, Kabul Zoo, Abdul Rahman Mosque, Shah-Do Shamshira and other famous mosques, the National Gallery of Afghanistan, the National Archives of Afghanistan, Afghan Royal Family Mausoleum, the OMAR Mine Museum, Bibi Mahro Hill, Kabul Cemetery, and Paghman Gardens. The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) was also involved in the restoration of the Bagh-e Babur (Babur Gardens).

Tappe-i-Maranjan is a nearby hill where Buddhist statues and Graeco-Bactrian coins from the 2nd century BC have been found. Outside the city proper is a citadel and the royal palace. Paghman and Jalalabad are interesting valleys north and east of the city.

National Gallery of Afghanistan

Twin towns – sister cities

See also

References and footnotes

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Further reading

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