Kabul

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Kabul

Kabul (kä´bŏŏl, kəbōōl´), city (1997 est. pop. 1,500,000), capital of Afghanistan and of Kabul prov. and its largest city and economic and cultural center, E Afghanistan, on the Kabul River. It is strategically located in a high narrow valley, wedged between mountain ranges that command the main approaches to the Khyber Pass. A tunnel under the Hindu Kush mountains links Kabul with the Tajikistan border. The city's chief products are woolen and cotton cloth, beet sugar, ordnance, and furniture, but a continuing state of war between 1979 and 1996 limited production, and the city's industry, infrastructure, and economy are still recovering.

Kabul's old section, with its narrow, crooked streets, contains extensive bazaars; the modern section has administrative and commercial buildings. An educational center, Kabul has a university (est. 1931), colleges, and a fine museum. Also in the city are Babur's tomb and gardens; the mausoleum of Nadir Shah; the Minar-i-Istiklal (column of independence), built in 1919 after the Third Afghan War; the tomb of Timur Shah (reigned 1773–93); the fort of Bala Hissar, destroyed by the British in 1879 to avenge the death of their envoy in Kabul; the Arg, a citadel built after the destruction of Bala Hissar and now used as the presidential palace; the former royal palace, now ruined; and several important mosques. Bala Hissar anchors the ancient city walls, sometimes called the Great Wall of Kabul; the walls' remnants run atop the Sher Darwaza mountain.

Kabul's history dates back more than 3,000 years, although the city has been destroyed and rebuilt on several different sites. Conquered by Arabs in the 7th cent., it was overshadowed by Ghazni and Herat until Babur made it his capital (1504–26). It remained under Mughal rule until its capture (1738) by Nadir Shah of Persia. It succeeded Kandahar as Afghanistan's capital in 1773. During the Afghan Wars a British army took (1839) Kabul. In 1842 the withdrawing British troops were ambushed and almost annihilated after the Afghans had promised them safe conduct; in retaliation another British force partly burned Kabul. The British again occupied the city in 1879, after their resident and his staff were massacred there.

On Dec. 23, 1979, Soviet armed forces landed at Kabul airport to help bolster a Communist government. Kabul became the Soviet command center, but was little damaged by the ten-year conflict. In Feb., 1989, Soviet forces withdrew from the city. In spring of 1992 the government of Mohammad Najibullah collapsed, and Kabul fell to guerrilla armies. Destruction of the city increased as the coalition of guerrilla forces broke into rival warring factions, and much of Kabul was damaged by fighting. The capital has undergone considerable reconstruction since 2002, but many building remain in ruins.

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