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Central Asia Struggles

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Freedom Brings New Challenges

In 1991 the Soviet Union broke apart. As a result, the republics that it had conquered became fifteen independent states. These states include nine countries in Central Asia. One group of Central Asia States is known as the Transcaucasian Republics. The other group of states is called the Central Asian Republics.

Since independence, the countries of Central Asia have faced economic problems. These countries are some of the poorest in the world. They were helped economically by the Soviet Union. When they gained independence, they had a hard time standing on their own. In addition, economic practices during the Soviet era have created problems. For example, the Soviets made certain areas of Central Asia grow only one crop, such as cotton. Growing a single crop hurt the nations of Central Asia. They did not develop a balanced economy.

Central Asia is home to many different peoples. Some of these people have a history of hatred toward each other. When the Soviets ruled the region, they controlled these hatreds. However, after the Soviet Union broke apart, various groups began to fight. Some of these fights became regional wars.

What challenges have the countries of Central Asia faced?
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Afghanistan strives for Independence

Afghanistan had a long history of struggle. During the 1800s, both Russia and Britain wanted to control Afghanistan. Russia wanted to get to the Indian Ocean through Afghanistan. Britain wanted to protect the northern borders of its Indian Empire. Britain fought three wars with the Afghanis. Eventually, Britain left the country in 1919.

In 1919, Afghanistan became an independent nation. It set up a monarchy, or rule by a king. In 1964, the country created a constitution. This constitution set up a more democratic style of government. However, the democratic system failed to grow.

In 1973, military leaders put an end to the democratic government. Five years later, a group took control of the country. This group was supported by the Soviet Union. Many Afghanis were against this group.

The Soviet-supported government had strong enemies. Many of these enemies formed a rebel group known as the mujahideen, or holy warriors. The mujahideen fought strongly against the Sovietsupported government. The Soviet Union wanted to defeat the rebels in Afghanistan. To get this done, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The Soviets greatly outnumbered the rebels. Despite this, the rebels were tough to beat. The two groups fought for 10 years. Eventually, the Soviet troops left the country.

How has Afghanistan struggled for freedom?
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Afghan Society

After the Soviets left, various Afghan rebel troops began fighting each other for control of the country. By 1998, an Islamic group known as the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. Another rebel group, the Northern Alliance, held the northwest corner of the country.

The Taliban had an unusual understanding of the Islamic religion. Many other Muslims disagreed with this understanding. The Taliban believed that they should control nearly every part of Afghan life. Women were forbidden to go to school or hold jobs. The Taliban did not allow watching television and movies or listening to modern music. Punishment for disobeying the rules included whipping and execution.

What are some of the ways that the Taliban controlled Afghan society?
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Afghanistan and the World

The Taliban allowed terrorist groups to train in Afghanistan. They allowed terrorist leaders, such as Osama bin Laden, to stay in their country. Bin Laden led a terrorist group called al-Qaeda. Many believe this group has carried out attacks on the West. For example, Al-Qaeda is believed to have done the attacks on the World Trade Center. Those attacks happened in New York on September 11, 2001.

After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government told the Taliban to turn over bin Laden. The Taliban refused. Then the United States took military action. In October 2001, U.S. forces began bombing Taliban air defense, airfields, and command centers. Al-Qaeda training camps were also bombed. On the ground, the United States helped anti-Taliban forces, such as the Northern Alliance. By December, the United States had driven the Taliban from power.

The Afghanis then created a new government. Hamid Karzai was the leader of this government.

What was Afghanistan's role in terrorism?
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