Kabul (Kāb'l, in Persian کابل) is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan with a population variously estimated at 2 to 4 million. It is an economic and cultural center strategically situated in a narrow valley along the Kabul River, high in the mountains before the Khyber Pass. Kabul is linked with the Tajikistan border via a tunnel under the Hindu Kush Mountains. Its main products include ordnance, cloth, furniture, and beet sugar , though continual warfare since 1979 has limited the economic productivity of the city. Kabul remains one of the most mined cities in the world. Kabul's population is predominantly Tajik and the city is the most important Tajik settlement in Afghanistan, while the Pashtuns are the largest ethnic minority in the city.
Public transportation in the city is currently overcrowded, with only 108 public buses for a population of 2-4 million. A US$23 million project to restore and expand the public electric buses system aims at some 50km of track and 50 vechicles. The current goal is to have buses running along one line by the end of 2004. Expertise and training will come from the Czech Republic, particularly Ostrov-Skoda . In addition, India, Iran and Japan have agreed to provide more regular buses for the city.
As of June, 2004, three banks currently operate in Kabul: the Standard Chartered Bank, Punjab National Bank and the Habib Bank of Pakistan .
The Kabul Hotel (in the center of Kabul) is being revamped by the AKDN at the cost of US$25 million. The first phase of the project is scheduled to open August, 2004. A 200-room Hyatt Regency hotel is scheduled to open by 2006. It will include conference rooms and a communications center. The landmark InterContinental Hotel is undergoing major reconstruction. Emirati Company Emaar and InterContinental Hotels have joined hands to refurbish the hotel and reopen it in 2006.
The first records of Kabul are a mention of the Kubha River around 1200BC and reference to a settlement named Kabura by the Persian Achaemenids around 300BC. Kabul was known as Chabolo in antiquity. The Bactrians founded the town of Parapamisidae near Kabul, but it was later ceded to the Mauryans in the first century. Kabul then fell under the sway of the Kushans, though they placed their summer capital at Bagram, north of Kabul. The city then came under Hindu control until its capture by the Arabs in 664. Over the next 600 years, the city was successively controlled by the Samanids of Bokhara, the Ghaznavid Empire, and the Ghorids of Bamiyan.
In the 13th century the Mongol horde passed through. In the next century, Kabul rose again as a trading center under the kingdom of Timur, who married the sister of Kabul's ruler. As Timurid power waned, the city was captured in 1504 and made into a capital by Babur and subsequent Mughal rulers. Haidar , an Indian poet that visited at the time wrote "Dine and drink in Kabul: it is mountain, desert, city, river and all else."
Nadir Shah of Persia captured it in 1738. During the mid 18th century Ahmad Shah Durrani rose to power in Afghanistan, re-asserting Afghan rule. In 1772, his son Timur Shah inherited power and made Kabul the capital, even as their empire began to crumble.
In 1826 the throne was claimed by Dost Mohammed, but it was taken by the British army in 1839 (see Afghan Wars), who installed the unpopular puppet Shah Shuja . 1841 saw a local uprising massacre both the British mission and the British army on their subsequent retreat to Jalalabad. In 1842 the British returned, plundering Bala Hissar in revenge before reterating to India. Dost Mohammed returned to the throne.
The British returned in 1878 as the city was under Sher Ali Khan's rule, but their residents were massacred again. The British army came again in 1879 under General Roberts, partially destroying Bala Hissar before retreating to India. Amir Abdur Rahman was left in control of the country.
In the early 20th century King Amanullah reigned. His reforms included electricity and schooling for girls. He drove a Rolls Royce, and lived in a palace at Darulaman in south-west Kabul. In 1919 Amanullah announced Afghanistan's independence from Id Gah Mosque , after the Third Anglo-Afghan War. In 1928, Bacha-i-Saqao , a Tajik rebel, deposed Amanullah and terrorised Kabul for nine months until Nadir Shah, Amanullah's half-brother, restored rule.
In 1932 Kabul University opened, and the 1950s saw the streets of the city paved with Russian assistance.
After 1940, the city began to grow as an industrial center.
In the 1960s, Kabul developed a cosmopolitan mood. The first Marks and Spencer store in Central Asia was built there, and Kabul Zoo was inaugurated in 1967. The Zoo was maintained with the help of visiting German Zoologists, and focused on Afghan fauna.
In 1975 an east-west electric trolley-bus system provided public transportation across the city. The system was built with assistance from Czechoslovakia.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S.S.R. occupied the city on December 23, 1979, turning it into their command center during the 10-year conflict between the Soviet-allied government and the mujahedeen rebels. The American embassy in Kabul was closed on January 30, 1989. Kabul fell into guerrilla hands after the 1992 collapse of the Mohammad Najibullah government. As these forces divided into rival warring factions, the city increasingly suffered. In December the last of the 86 trolley buses in the city came to a halt due to the conflict. At that time a system of 800 public buses continued to provided transportation to the population of about one million.
At this time, Burhannudin Rabbani's Jamiat-e Islami (Islamic Council of Afghanistan) held power but the nominal prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami began a five year shelling of the city from its south, which lasted until 1996. Kabul was factionalised, and fighting continued between Jamiat-e Islami, Dostum and the Hazara Hezb-e Wahdat . Tens of thousands of civilians were killed and more fled as refugees.
Kabul was captured by the Taliban in September, 1996, publicly lynching ex-president Najibullah, repressing the city's dangerously literate populace and effectively moving the capital to Kandahar.
The Taliban abandoned the city on November 12, 2001 due to extensive American bombing and Kabul came under the control of the Northern Alliance. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, it became the capital of the Afghan Transitional Administration.
The city is served by Kabul International Airport.
The old section of Kabul is filled with bazaars nestled along its narrow, crooked streets. Kabul has a university, established in 1931, and a number of colleges. Cultural sites include a very good museum, Babur's tomb and gardens, the mausoleum of Mohammad Nadir Shah , the Minar-i-Istiklal (column of independence) built in 1919 after the Third Afghan War, the tomb of Timur Shah, and some important mosques. Bala Hissar , a fort destroyed in retaliation for the death of their envoy by the British in 1879, was restored as a military college. Outside the city proper is a citadel and the royal palace.
Places of interest include West Kabul , the Kabul Museum, Darul Aman Palace , the Kabul Zoo , former home of the notable lion, Marjan, Babur Gardens , Bala Hisar , Shah Do Shamshera Mosque , the Afghan National Gallery , the Afghan National Archive , the Afghan Royal Family Mausoleum , the OMAR Mine Museum, Bibi Mahroo Hill , the Kabul Christian Cemetery , and Paghman Gardens.