The Geography of Afghanistan

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Military Geography
Operation Enduring Freedom 2001

Introduction:
Afghanistan is a landlocked country that is located approximately in the center of Asia. It is located within Central Asia, and South Asia, and the Middle East. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the south and west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast. The geography of Afghanistan is considered to be extremely important strategically. Afghanistan being a crossroads between the East and the West, and has been an ancient focal point of trade and migration and with the passage of time the geostrategic location of Afghanistan has made it even more important. It has an important geostrategical location, connecting South and Central Asia and Middle East. Even though it does not have vast treasures of oil and mineral but its close proximity to middle East and Central Asian oil rich states makes it a prime state. Afghanistan has been bearing the brunt of not only the intrastate tribal and civil wars but also suffering from foreign interventions starting from 1979 Soviet invasion and recent US invasion of 2001 carried out with the aim of trampling the Taliban regime and to exterminate Osama Bin Laden and his cell based organization Al-Qaeda.

In order to analyse the military geography of Afghanistan and impact Afghanistan’s geography had on the progress of Operation Enduring Freedom, a closer analysis of Afghanistan’s climate, geography, terrain structure, environment and human interaction, topography, weather challenges, environmental discrepancies should be looked at in detail.

1) Geography:
Afghanistan is a landlocked nation in south-central Asia. Strategically located at the crossroads of major north south and east-west trade routes. Afghanistan is almost the size of Texas. Afghanistan is bordering Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the north; China to the east; On the eastern and southern border of Afghanistan lies Pakistan and Iran to the west. It has total area of 250,001 sq mi (647,500 sq km).

Mountains dominate the landscape, forming a terrigenous skeleton, traversing the center of the country, running generally in a northeast-southwest direction. More than 49 percent of the total land area lies above 2,000 meters. Although geographers differ on the division of these mountains into systems, they agree that the Hindukush system, the most important, is the westernmost extension of the Pamir Mountains, the Karakorum Mountains, and the Himalayas.[1]

Greatest part of Afghanistan is dominated by mountainous range. Mostly areas lie at the highest elevation point. The eastern mountainous peeks elevates up to 7000 meters. The Pamir mountains, which Afghans refer to as the 'Roof of the World," extend into Tajikistan, China and Kashmir. The Hindukush Mountain stretches west word to the middle near Kabul. The average altitude of Hindukush is 4500 meters. Transecting the mountains are the high passes, proves to be strategically important network for caravans, including Kotal-e-Salang having the height of 3878 meters, linking Kabul to Northern Afghanistan. A tunnel was constructed in 1964 to reduce the distance between Kabul and Northern Afghanistan. The Salang tunnel constructed with the help of Soviet assistance. This tunnel is at 3363 meters. Before the Salang road was constructed, the most famous passes in the Western historical perceptions of Afghanistan were those leading to the Indian subcontinent. They include the Khyber Pass (,1027 meters), in Pakistan, and the Kotal-e Lataband (2,499 meters) east of Kabul, which was superseded with the construction of road within the Kabul river gorge, the Tang-e-Gharu. This helped in reducing the distance between travel time between Kabul and Pakistan. These roads turned out to be very significant strategically during recent military conflicts and were used for the movement of...
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