The current ethnic framework is quite composite, hosting the Afghanistan different peoples who, having settled in often inaccessible regions, have been able to preserve peculiar somatic characters and kinds of life. The majority of the population is made up of Pashtūn, permanent farmers and nomadic and semi-nomadic herders; then come the Tajiks, mostly direct farmers, sedentary from the mountainous regions of Central and West; then the Hazāra, semi- nomads and seasonal workers of the north-eastern mountains, the poorest, representing the Mongolian part of the Afghan population, probably entered the country following the conquests of the Mongols (12th-15th century). According to necessaryhome, the Uzbeks and the Turkmen, descendants of the Turks who entered the Afghanistan in the Middle Ages, they are excellent farmers and ranchers living in the North, especially in the province of Balkh. Minor groups are those of the Kyrgyz, the Cafiri, the Baloch, the Sikhs and the Karakalpaki. Except the Hazaras who are Shiites, the rest of the population professes the Muslim religion of the Sunni rite. Official languages are Dari and Pashto, the latter more widespread; minor languages belong to other ethnic groups.
It is difficult to assess the real demographic consistency of the Afghanistan, since the Soviet invasion first, the intense guerrilla warfare then and finally the conflict that opened with the United States in October 2001 largely conditioned the demographic framework, causing, in addition to hundreds of thousands of victims, displacements of residents, both within the country and towards neighboring countries (according to UNHCR, in 2009 there were still 1.7 million Afghans in Pakistan and 935,000 in Iran). The calculation of the total population is entrusted to estimates, dating back to the last official census in 1979. The United Nations quantified the population in 2010 at 31.4 million residents, a significant increase compared to the 1979 figure (15.5 million residents). This increase is the consequence of a very high birth rate, by far one of the highest in the world (44 ‰ in 2010), although partially balanced by mortality, which is also remarkably high (16.8 ‰ in the five-year period 2005-2010). The annual growth rate was 2.8%, to which must be added conspicuous returns of emigrants (from 2002 to 2009 more than 5.6 million Afghans returned to their homeland). The infant mortality rate has progressively decreased, while still remaining high (101 ‰ in 2011, but 136 ‰ in 2000), while life expectancy at birth is 47.2 years for men and 47.5 years for women.
As regards the territorial distribution (apart from widespread nomadism), at an average density of over 48 residents per km 2Vast areas completely uninhabited or almost (central-western and south-western) contrast with others, very restricted, densely populated (hollows and valleys with good water resources and with a favorable climate). In the uncertainty of the political situation and in the lack of official and reliable statistical data, it can however be noted that, in the years preceding the intervention of the United States, the situation had slowly evolved and the urban population (30.2% of the total in the 2003), which in 1995 represented just one fifth of the total population, had subsequently grown at a rate of 748% per year, one of the highest in the world. However, this trend has undergone a turnaround, and in 2010 the urban population was 23.5% of the total. The main cities, besides the capital, are Qandahār, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad and Qonduz. From an administrative point, the country is divided into 34 provinces (see. Tab.).
The economy of the Afghanistan, already among the poorest in the world, has suffered further damage due to recent political-military events. A large part of the population lives below the poverty line and only a small part is reached by humanitarian aid. The backbone of the economy is agriculture (over 78% of the workforce), which contributes to the formation of just under 1/3 of the domestic product. The aridity of the climate, the tormented orography and the poverty of the soils restrict the cultivable areas to a few areas along the rivers, in the valleys where there are aquifers that can be exploited through underground channels and near springs (12% of the national territory): but the arable land is further reduced by the presence of numerous anti-personnel mines not yet removed. A notable contribution was derived from the large barrage and canalization works carried out on Helmand, Arghand-āb, Hari and Kabul, whose efficiency was however compromised by the destruction that took place during the Soviet occupation. Cereals, fruit, cotton and, above all, opium poppy are grown (3,600 t in 2010). This resource has been a vital source of funding for the government of the Taliban, which, while declaring its intention to prevent its production, in reality did nothing to hinder it, despite the pressing requests of the United Nations. The zootechnical patrimony remains significant, however, also decimated: about 9 million sheep in 2004 (there were 20 million in the 1970s), including millions of Karakul sheep, whose skins are widely exported; goats (7.5 million) and, at a distance, cattle (3.8 million), donkeys and camels follow.
The. has good mineral resources, in particular: coal (Karkar, Ishpusta and Dara-i-Soof), copper (Ainak), oil (Herat) and natural gas (Mazar-e Sharif); a 120 km long gas pipeline connects Mazar-e Sharif to the Uzbek border: natural gas production was estimated at 30 million m 3in 2009 (it was 3 billion m 3in 1987). Industrial activities concern the more traditional sectors: textiles, cement, ceramics and processing of agricultural products. A plant for the production of nitrogen fertilizers is active in Mazar-e Sharif; a steel mill in Jangalak. Among the handicraft activities (to which the majority of the assets of the entire sector are dedicated), typical are the manufacture of carpets, which feeds a profitable export current, chisel, goldsmithing and leather goods.
The communications network is extremely lacking: railways are almost completely lacking , even if in 2011 a 75 km long railway line was inaugurated, connecting the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif to the Uzbek city of Hairatan; there are still few asphalted roads (12,350 km out of a total of 42,150 km; just over 400,000 vehicles were circulating on them in 2004); the ancient caravans have, especially in correspondence with the passes, sensitive slopes; the rivers, irregular in their flow and tormented in their course, are rarely usable. The airlines, operated by the national airline Ariana, connect Kabul with national airports and with those of Southwest and South Asia. The profound changes that have taken place in the countries of Eastern Europe and in those that made up the Soviet Union, formerly main trading partners, have led to a radical change in the framework of international trade of the Afghanistan, in which they are entering, with a role of growing importance, some states of the European Union.