US Embassy in Kabul condemns attack on American University Afghanistan: 'The targeting of Afghan students and university staff who are working to improve the future of Afghanistan is a cruel and cowardly act.'
Editor's note: The American University of Afghanistan, under siege from militants, opened for enrollment in 2006 to both men and women. The New York Times said the university, in Kabul, quickly became a prestigious education choice for the country's elite, offering degrees taught in English. - Tom
More: Afghanistan chief executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah says 'special units of the Afghan Forces are taking all measures needed to rescue innocent lives and clear the area out of enemies' - @afgexecutive
Editor's note: We are seeing reports that many students have now escaped the attack on American University in Afghanistan, as well as some that the siege has ended. We will update as officials give more information. - Tricia
Afghanistan/æfˈɡænᵻstæn/ (Pashto/Dari: افغانستان, Afġānistān), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located within South Asia and Central Asia. It has a population of approximately 32 million, making it the 42nd most populous country in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and China in the far northeast. Its territory covers 652,000 km2 (252,000 sq mi), making it the 41st largest country in the world.
Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic Era, and the country's strategic location along the Silk Road connected it to the cultures of the Middle East and other parts of Asia. Through the ages the land has been home to various peoples and witnessed numerous military campaigns; notably by Alexander the Great, Mauryas, Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviet Russians, and in the modern-era by Western powers. The land also served as the source from which the Kushans, Hephthalites, Samanids, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khiljis, Mughals, Hotaks, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires.
The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan began with the Hotak and Durrani dynasties in the 18th century. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between British India and the Russian Empire. Following the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, King Amanullah unsuccessfully attempted to modernize the country. It remained peaceful during Zahir Shah's forty years of monarchy. A series of coups in the 1970s was followed by a series of civil wars that devastated much of Afghanistan and continues to this day.