in Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, ed, Encyclopedia of Religion and War (New York: Berkshire/Routledge, 2003), pp 1-5
Since the 1979 Soviet invasion, Afghanistan has seen successive rounds of war, with its accompanying death and destruction. However, the greatest source of trouble for the Afghan nation, its neighborhood, and the world has been the rise of Islamic extremism and its global implications, particularly after the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. Decades of warfare have resulted in abysmally low levels of human and economic development in Afghanistan, which can improve only if diverse sectors of the international community commit themselves to the country's long-term social rehabilitation and economic reconstruction. Afghanistan also needs to develop viable forms of political governance and a working security structure. Afghanistan is strategically located at the crossroads of Central Asia, and, therefore, has been the hub of foreign military invasions and great power rivalries for centuries. In the nineteenth century it occupied a central place in what was known as the Great Game, a power struggle between imperial Russia and the British Empire in which Afghanistan was a pawn. Some analysts see present-day Afghanistan as caught up in a new Great Game, as the United States, China, and Russia vie for influence in oil-rich Central Asia. Full Text