Aeolian Islands. See Lipari. Aetna. See Etna.
Afghanistan' is the country lying to the northwest of India. Its boundaries are, on the north, the Oxus or Amu Daria, from its source to Khoja Saleh, and thence (since 1885-87) a line drawn across the Turkoman desert (Russian territory) south-westward to the Murghab, passing south of Penjdeh, and touching the Hari-Rud at Zul-fikar. On the east, the frontier runs along the eastern foot of the Suliman Mountains; but here again some of the tribes are almost independent, and the Indian government controls the more important passes. On the south, a line passing north of Quetta in about the 30th parallel of N. lat., divides Afghanistan from the territory of the khan of Kelat and Beluchistan; while on the west, the meridian of 61° E. long. approximately defines the boundary with Persia. Within these limits, Afghanistan extends 400 miles from north to south, and 600 miles from east to west, and contains an area which may be roughly estimated at 240,000 sq. m., or about twice the size of Great Britain and Ireland. This includes Badakhshan and Wakhan in the north-east, and Afghan Turkestan in the north, comprising the Uzbeg States of Balkh, Kunduz, Maimana, Shi-barghan, Khulm, Akcha, and Andkhoi, owning allegiance and paying tribute to the Ameer. Afghanistan may be divided into the three great river-basins of the Oxus, the Indus, and the Hel-mand. Afghanistan is for the most part an arid, mountainous country, and cultivation is only met with in some of its valleys. The principal mountain systems are the Hindu Kush, with its westerly continuations, the Koh-i-Baba, Pagh-man, Safed-Koh, and Siah-Koh. The climate is as diversified as the physical configuration. At Ghazni (7279 feet) the winter is extremely rigorous; the climate of Seistan, in the southwest, is hot and trying; while other parts are temperate.
The population of Afghanistan is composed of a variety of nationalities, and is estimated at about 4,900,000. The Afghans proper, or Pathans, number about 3,000,000, and are divided into tribes or clans - Duranis, Ghilzais, Yusufzais, and others. The Duranis are the dominant tribe; the Ghilzais, the strongest and most warlike; the Yusufzais, the most turbulent. Of the non-Afghans, the Tajiks are the agricultural and industrious portion of the population; the Hind-kis and Jats chiefly live in the towns, and are traders; the Kizilbashes are Turko-Persians, and form the more educated and superior class; while the Hazaras, a race of Mongol origin, are nomads. The language of the Afghans - the Pakhtu or Pushtu - belongs to the Aryan family. In religion they are Sunni-Mohammedans. In character they are proud, vain, cruel, perfidious, extremely avaricious, revengeful, selfish, merciless, and idle. 'Nothing is finer than their physique, or worse than their morale.' The Afghans do not as a rule inhabit towns, except in the case of those attached to the court and heads of tribes. The townsmen are mostly Hindkis and other non-Afghan races, who practise various trades and handicrafts considered derogatory by men of rank. The principal towns are Kabul (population 140,000), the seat of government and centre of a fertile district; Ghazni, a strong fortress; Kandahar, the chief city of Southern Afghanistan, with 50,000 inhabitants; and Herat, formerly considered the key of India.
Among the natural productions of Afghanistan is the plant yielding the asafoetida. The castor-oil plant is everywhere common, and good tobacco is grown in the district of Kandahar. The cultivated area round Herat produces magnificent crops of wheat, barley, cotton, grapes, melons, and the mulberry-tree. In special localities are forests of pistachio. The general appearance of the country during winter is barren and arid in the extreme, owing to the absence of trees and woody shrubs; but in spring a mass of vegetation springs up, giving a grand colouring to the landscape. The industrial products are silk, chiefly for domestic use, and carpets, those of Herat being of admirable quality. The manufacture of postins, or sheepskins, is one of the most important occupations. Merchandise is all transported on camel or pony back. Commerce suffers much from frequent wars and bad government.
The history of Afghanistan as an independent state only dates from the middle of the 18th century. For two centuries before, Herat and Kandahar had been in the possession of Persia; while Kabul was included in the Mogul empire of Delhi. Upon the death of Nadir Shah in 1747, Ahmed Shah Durani subjugated the different provinces, and when he died in 1773, left an empire to his son, Timur Shah. For Englishmen, the chief events in the history of Afghanistan are the expedition in 1839 which established Shah Soojah on the throne; the rebellion of 1841, in which the residents Burnes and Mac-naghten were killed, and the Anglo-Indian troops perished in the retreat; the punitive expedition in 1842; the defeat of Dost Mohammed in 1849; the war with Shere Ali in 1878-79, and instalment of Yakub Khan; the rising at Kabul and murder of Cavagnari the English resident; the punitive expedition under Roberts; the establishment in 1881 by British assistance of Abdurrahman, succeeded in 1901 by his son Habib-ullah; and alarms as to Russian encroachments.