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Kabul (kŠbool, kbool), capital and largest city of Afghanistan with
population of over 1.5 million, is an economic and cultural center and
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.
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 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
The history of Kabul is one of continual destruction and rebuilding, for
well over three thousand years. It was taken by the Arabs in the 7th
century, and made into a capital by Babur (1504-26) and subsequent Mughal
rulers. Nadir Shah of Persia captured it in 1738, and it became
Afghanistan's capital in 1773.
It was taken by the British army in 1839 during the Afghan Wars and
partially burned by them in 1842 in revenge for the ambush of British troops
withdrawing under a flag of truce. The British again took the city in 1879
after a massacre of British officials.
The Soviets 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, and (as of 2002) is
in poor condition.
It was the site of the Islamic Council of Afghanistan until the Taliban took
control in 1996.
The Taliban abandoned the city on November 12, 2001 and it came under the
control of the Northern Alliance.