Afghanistan Conflict Case Study Geography Bee

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The geographical impact of international conflicts



The geographical impact of international conflicts
The social, economic and environmental issues associated with major international conflicts that have taken place within the last 30 years. The examination of one or more case studies within this section there are two case studies, namely: Afghanistan and Sudan.

What you need to know:

International conflicts: traditionally, the term ‘international conflict’ referred to conflicts between different nation-states and conflicts between people and organisations in different nation-states. Increasingly, however, it also applies to inter-group conflicts within one country when one group is fighting for independence or increased social, political, or economic power (e.g., Chechnya, Kosovo).


It is important to have at least one case study. You need to be able to describe the conflict (location, dates, general causes etc.) and then be able to give detailed facts and figures about the issues/impacts of that particular conflict. A second, contrasting case study would help when it comes to writing essays.

Issues/Impacts The specification is very clear that you should be able to categorise the issues/impacts of international conflict into social, economic and environmental. When answering any question, always do so with reference to these issues/impacts. There is a very clear opportunity to involve other parts of the course (synopticity).

Social: These include:
– Population: has the conflict had an effect on mortality, infant mortality, life expectancy, family structure etc.
– Health: has the conflict had an effect on morbidity, malnourishment, clean drinking water, general health, people per doctor, spending on public health initiatives etc
– Education: what effect has it had on the literacy rates, percentage school attendance etc.
– Housing/homelessness
– Crime

Economic: these include:
– The effects on the GDP
– The effects on agriculture and industry. Are there shortages of basic commodities and is there food inflation?
– Have wealth creating exports been affected?
– Have there been crippling foreign loans taken out to pay for the war?

Environmental: these include the possible effects on:
– Soils
– Natural vegetation (deforestation, defoliation etc)
– Water supplies, river flows, flood incidence
– Air quality

With reference to at least one case study, discuss the social impacts of international conflict [10 marks]

For an international conflict you have studies, examine the impacts of the conflict on the area involved. [40 marks]

Case study of International Conflict: Afghanistan


Afghanistan is a landlocked country in central Asia covering 652,000km² making it the 41st largest country in the world. In 2014 the population of Afghanistan was estimated at 31.8 million.

The current government led by President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzait took power in 2014 after Hamid Karzai two terms had ended and the collapse of the Taliban. Afghanistan is an impoverished and a least developed country, one of the world’s poorest due to decades of war and a lack of foreign investment. Afghanistan comes 169th (0.468) on the Human Development Index (HDI). It has been in the media since the 1980s with the soviet invasion lasting 11 years. Naturally it had a devastating effect on the country and when the soviets finally pulled out they left a power vacuum. With no true leadership or central government Afghanistan moved into another turbulent period; a civil war lasting 12 years before the U.S unleashed airstrikes on Afghanistan for the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11. The international war divided the country in two, the Taliban fighting against the U.S and the coalition and the Northern Alliance fighting with the coalition. The focus of this article is the causes and consequences of the conflict in Afghanistan post 9/11.

Physical features

Afghanistan, which means ‘land of the Afghan’ has international borders with: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, Pakistan and Iran. It is a mountainous country with Noshaq being the highest point at7492m. Afghanistan has a continental climate with harsh winters in the central highlands with an average January temperature below -15°C and summers in the southwest where temperatures average over 35°C in July.

Large parts of the country are dry and much of the rain water runs off into neighbouring countries – Iran and Pakistan. The Hindu Kush mountain rage in the northeast of the country is a geologically active area where earthquakes occur on a yearly basis with devastating effect.

Overall, the country has provided an environment of limited opportunities for the population living there. It is rich in certain minerals (copper, gold, coal, iron ore, and other minerals) however constant conflict has meant little extraction of these commodities has been possible. Living standards have been low for decades despite the conflicts in this region. Exports to the wider world are just about no existent except for the some agricultural products like pomegranates, nuts and their largest export opium. It is estimated that 12% of the Afghan economy is derived from the sale of opium. The World Bank said, “Afghan economic growth, largely reliant on international aid and security spending, will tumble more than 10 per cent this year (2014) as foreign troops withdraw and endemic corruption and violence sap development”. Jessica Donati Reuters

Afghanistan – International conflict / war 2001 – 2013

Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (OEF-A) took place on 7th October 2001 in response to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist attack on the U.S (09/11/2001). Prior to OEF-A the Taliban were issued with a five point ultimatum (box below) of which they, the Taliban, reject on the basis that there was no evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the terrorist attacks. Heavy bombing from U.S started and destroyed much of the Taliban’s defences over a short period. However, there was a reluctance by the U.S to follow this up with ground troops. This was partly due to the failed attempts of the Soviet forces during the 1970s and 80s. The Northern Alliance and U.S formed a coalition whereby the U.S led airstrikes were followed up by ground attack by the Northern Alliance. The massive assistance they received from U.S bombings and a huge defection from the Taliban meant that they captured Mazar-i-Sharif on 9th November. After this most of northern Afghanistan came under their control and they took Kabul on the 13th November as the Taliban surprising fled the city. This meant that the Taliban only had control of a small section of the north in a town called Kunduz. However this was captured on the 26th November – the remaining Taliban in the north fled to Pakistan. The focus of the war effort was now in the south around Kandahar where the remaining Taliban had retreated. The city fell to the coalition on 5th December with the remaining Taliban heading for the safety of the surrounding villages and the southern hills.

In two months of fighting the Taliban had lost up to 12000 of their troops and another 7000 had been taken prisoner. However, the key Taliban leaders including Mullah Omar and bin Laden were still at large. They were assumed to be hiding in the Tora Bora mountain area of eastern Afghanistan. The Battle of Tora Bora took place in December and involved the US, British and Northern Alliance forces whose aim it was to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda in this region. During this barrage bin Laden and other officials escaped and moved across the border into Pakistan’s tribal agencies area FATA. The coalition had failed to capture their number one target.

The failure to capture the most wanted man was down to the biggest error of the war – the US had no ground troops.

Coalition forces, assuming the Taliban had been defeated, began to relax their operations and focused on helping the new Afghan government. Hamid Karzai was sworn in as interim President in 2002. However, managing to evade U.S forces throughout the summer of 2002, the remnants of the Taliban gradually began to gain confidence. The reason for the slow response by the coalition to the regrouping of the Taliban was due to:

  • U.S led invasion of Iraq (Iraq War-2003)
  • The Northern Alliance warlords (who cut deals with the American’s as they pulled out and went to Iraq) did little to instil a sense of security due to their own corruption and power mongering.
  • Reconstruction projects did little to support ordinary Afghan’s throughout the country therefore Karzai’s did not win over the hearts and minds of the locals.

With the renewed vigour in Pakistan the Taliban attacked the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul in 2003 using guerrilla tactics. Due to this the Taliban gained control of much of the southern provinces. Nevertheless, Hamid Karzai won the presidential election in 2004 because the Taliban lacked the support to derail the process. Many of the local people were still hopefully in the future of Afghanistan.

The Taliban however had created greater insurgency across a larger part of Afghanistan in 2005. They had weakened the authority of the coalition-backed Karzai government by blending into the local population, using improvised explosive device (IEDs) and suicide bombers in both rural and urban areas used by the troop convoys.

With the on-going trouble in Iraq and the Taliban gaining control in Afghanistan the American’s agreed to the expansion of The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul. NATO took command of the ISAF and different NATO countries deployed troops. By 2006, 40 countries had provided 46000 soldiers – the British supplied 3500 soldiers in the Helmand province to combat the threat by the Taliban.

The American’s pumped money into Afghanistan to help the Afghan National Security forces (ANSF). The aim in 2007 was to create an Afghan army of 130000 men and a police force of 80000 men. The Taliban however continued their attacks and during the year they managed to kill more than 900 policemen. At the same time al-Qaeda started to use popular media including websites, emails, radio and DVDs for propaganda – devices they had banned in the early days. Security during this time and into 2008 was superficial and many Afghans were concerned about their future. Aid workers became vulnerable to kidnappings and murders carried out by the Taliban which created an uneasy atmosphere and work in and around Kabul ceased. To stop this resurgence by the Taliban America’s new president Barrack Obama sent in additional troops. U.S, British and Afghan forces conducted new offensives in Helmand province in 2009. The aim was to regain territory lost to the Taliban by blocking their routes from Pakistan and releasing the local population from Taliban control.

After a decade of hunting for Osama bin Laden a U.S led operation located him on 2nd May 2011 in a compound in Pakistan. He was hiding in the town of Abbotabad. It was here that they killed him and finally removed, after 10 years, al-Qaeda’s kingpin. His death was symbolic however it didn’t stop the killings that continued to occur in Afghanistan. Despite this, by 2013 security control over all areas of Afghanistan had been transferred to the ANSF and NATO started to pull out all troops. In 2014 there were only 50000 NATO troops within Afghanistan. However, when the presidential campaign started in 2014 so did a rise in attacks by the Taliban. Once the two presidential candidates (Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah) had sorted out their differences a new government of national unity had arrived with Ghani as President. However, without improvements to security the president knows he will be able to achieve very little.

Consequences of the conflict (economic, social and environmental)

The international conflict which has plagued Afghanistan for so many years has been notable for its horrendous impact. Communities have been destroyed, infrastructure ruined, social upheaval, 6 million people displaced and around 2 million deaths.

Economic Impact

The conflict has seriously reduced the economic growth of Afghanistan. As a result it has become one of the poorest countries in the world. Decades of fighting and instability put off investors. Industry in Afghanistan employs 10% of the population whereas 80% are involved in agriculture which offers poor returns due to an unreliable climate, declining economy and corrupt government. Poverty and unemployment are on the rise with one in three adults below the poverty line.

The growth of agriculture in Afghanistan has struggled with aerial bombardments during the war and fields littered with land mines; farmers have been prevented from growing crops. Equally trade has been hampered with key trade routes blocked by the Taliban and making the county unattractive to foreign direct investment (FDI). Afghanistan’s economy is still heavily dependent on international aid – Afghanistan received approximately $35 billion of international aid between 2002 and 2009. However, much of this aid has not helped ease poverty or improve the economic conditions and living standards. Progress has started but it is slow and centred around Kabul. However, corruption still hinders progress throughout Afghanistan.

Social Impacts

The Taliban’s determination to enforce Sharia law brought about major social changes that impacted on females more negatively than the male population. Girls were not allowed to attend school – education for girls was banished to the confines of the house.

Drug addiction among the Afghan population rose drastically, with over 1 million Afghans addicted, as poppy cultivation became the dominant agricultural product. All other forms of farming fell by the way side and meant the country needed to start importing crops such as wheat which Afghanistan traditionally grew in abundance.

The death toll in Afghanistan rose over this period as many civilians were killed due to subversive tactics by the Taliban. In the first couple of years of the conflict it was estimated that 3500 civilians were killed. The fatality of the Afghans was due to the fact that the Taliban had integrated themselves within normal society thus the coalition forces had no idea who was who – a Taliban soldier or a civilian. Another danger came from the land mines which kill and maim far more civilians than military personnel.

As the conflict continued so the number of refugees leaving the country rose considerably. Around 3 million Afghans fled to neighbouring countries. The conditions in the refugee camps were extremely poor and the outbreak of diseases such as cholera, dysentery and tuberculosis was rife.

Once the conflict subsided the refugees returned which resulted in rapid urbanisation in and around Kabul. Due to the influx facilities were no longer adequate and people suffered from inadequate housing, water, electricity and there was an overwhelming shortage of jobs.

The on-going conflict has led to severe malnutrition, limited health and educational services all of which were poor prior to the conflict. These factors have contributed to an increasing population due to high fertility rates and a lack of family planning.

Criminality, insecurity and the government’s inability to rule pose great challenges for the future. Large sections of the population have been traumatised by decades of fighting and the future of Afghanistan is still looks bleak.

Environmental Impacts

Environmental issues in this region predate the conflicts and political mayhem of the recent decades. Farming and grazing have been dominant practices in Afghanistan for centuries. With 80% of the workforce involved in agriculture and a growing population (1980 = 15 million 2008 = 27 million) there has been a massive reduction of the forests and wetlands. Environmental conservation and economic concerns are not at odds with each other; the population depends on farming so it is crucial that the environment is managed for the country’s economic welfare.

The on-going conflict has negatively affected the sensitive ecosystems within this region. These systems have been abused by a desperate population and neglected by a weak government. Social and government structures have been disrupted thus preventing conservation projects from being implemented.

Majority of the population depend on fuel wood and the revenue generated by exports of almonds and pistachios. Nearly 50% of these woodlands have vanished during the decades of conflict. Artillery shelling and the clearance of woodlands which could have provided hiding places for their opponents have led to the clearance of the trees.

Much of the denser forests in the east are at risk from the illegal felling by the timber Mafia. The wood is sold to Pakistan with high returns even though the sale of logs is illegal. The reason for this is due to restrictions on the forests in Pakistan therefore the timber mafia cross the border and fell the trees in Afghanistan.

Wildlife and habitat are at risk due to hunting, conflict and drought. Understandably the wildlife has come second during this time of turmoil however it will have a huge effect on the country as a whole if nothing is done or attitudes altered.

Droughts are a major concern in this region with the threat of famine and millions left destitute. The rural environments have become increasingly impoverished causing mass migration to the urban areas (rural–urban migration). Due to the drought deep wells have been drilled impacting on the ground water levels. The wetlands (in and around Sistan) were 99% depleted by 2003 a consequence of the continued drought and lack of water management. The wetlands are extremely important for many of the migrating birds and has provided irrigation for agriculture over the past 5000 years. Lack of irrigation and the worsening drought conditions have impacted on the soil in the region causing more erosion and infertile plains.


Afghanistan is a landlocked region in central Asia and its strategic geographic location has made it the most vulnerable country on the planet. The superpowers (America, Russia, China and Britain) have used Afghanistan over the last four decades to play out their political games. These political conflicts have gifted nothing to the Afghan’s, it has not dealt with their concerns rather it has provided them with unbeatable misery.

Political struggle within the country is closely related to international conflicts. The Mujahedeen have been split as to who they will support during these times of conflict and once the foreign troops pull out fighting amongst the tribes started for political dominance. This has been a recurring theme (nightmare) for decades and it’s had a detrimental effect on the economy, society and the environment. Afghanistan has a long way to go before it can heal the atrocities of the past. There is a lack of trust in the country and instability seems to be here for many years.

The two books below cost 0.90p of IBook’s. One of them will be needed so please purchase.

The extract below is from the above books:

International conflict and civil war in Afghanistan have been ongoing features of the country for more than 30 years. The Soviet invasion in 1979 inevitably triggered the Americans to respond by supporting the rebel Afghan Mujahideen groups for the next 10 years until the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The country was in ruins yet the deterioration continued through the 1990s as in-fighting between the victorious Mujahideen groups led to a bloody civil war and the emergence of the Taliban who eventually defeated all rivals to become the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s links with al-Qaeda, who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, led to the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, supported by an international coalition, and the removal of the Taliban from power. Nevertheless, the Taliban have maintained an effective insurgency movement since and the conflict within Afghanistan shows no sign of relenting.”

(Excerpt From: Lowe, Peter. “The Causes and Geographical Impacts of War in Afghanistan.” v1.1. Peter Lowe, 2014. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.)

Consequences of conflict.

Using the above book – The causes of geographical impacts of war in Afghanistan – make note under the flowing:

1 – Civil War Afghanistan 1989 to 2001 pages 8 – 11

2 International War Afghanistan 2001 -2013 pages 12 – 18

Consequences of the conflict – page 20

Geographical impacts – page 21

Economic impact – page22

Social impacts – pages 26 – 32

Environmental impacts – pages 33 – 35

Resolution of the conflict – pages 37 – 39.

Consequences of war.

Article below – environmental cost of the war in Afghanistan

Effects on the war on the Soviet economy (war between 1879 and 1989)


aqa-darfur – PowerPoint

After decades of brutal civil war that left two and a half million dead, the devastated and vastly underdeveloped southern part of Sudan secured independence in 2011. The world’s youngest nation came into existence amid great challenges.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011, but the relationship between the two countries remains tense. Sudan and South Sudan’s border conflict, which flared dramatically in the spring of 2012, has the potential of escalating further if steps are not taken toward peace and security between the two countries. Negotiations between the two countries remain the best means for settling the disputed border, related security arrangements, outstanding financial and oil-related issues, and the final status of the contested Abyei region.

Read and then answer the questions related to the two articles (below)

Case Study of International Conflict: Darfur, Sudan

Division of Sudan – the causes and impacts of independence for South Sudan

The webpage (below) provides a succinct account of the issues that Sudan and South Sudan have faced and what is still to come.

Sudan and South Sudan – Enough a project to end genocide and crimes against humanity

Conflicts in Sudan

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