Second man charged in U.S. embassy attack
Prepared to die
The Air Strikes
From the CIA
Impoverished, remote, but long a favorite of warriorsBy The Associated Press
Afghanistan has long been a second home to Osama bin-Laden, the Islamic militant whose followers were the target of U.S. air strikes Thursday.
It was a natural choice: a remote mountainous nation in the embrace of fundamentalist Islam, and a place where the Saudi-born bin Laden, armed with a hefty checkbook and an AK-47, made his name as a protector of the faith.
War has torn the central Asian nation since 1979, when Soviet troops invaded to oust one leftist leader, replace him with another and touch off popular resistance among traditionalist, anti-communist Afghans, whose forces were aided by thousands of like-minded Arabs, including bin Laden, who flocked to the battlefront.
In 1989, a beleaguered Soviet Union finally withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, and three years later the Moscow-allied government collapsed under pressure from Islamic rebel forces.
Because of ethnic and other quarrels, the victorious rebels soon fell to fighting among themselves, in a sporadic war that now appears near its end with a final triumph for the extreme fundamentalists of the Taliban movement.
Wedged between the Indian subcontinent, the Russian realm, China and Iran, the Afghan valleys have for centuries been an Asian crossroads of trade and conquest.
Afghanistan's 24 million people are among the world's poorest, millions eking out a living - when cease-fires allow - by farming and raising sheep and goats. Its paltry exports include handwoven carpets, some gems, fruits and nuts.
At the height of the war, one-third of the population had fled the country.
Afghanistan, in size slightly smaller than Texas, is believed to be the world's second-largest producer of illicit opium and is a major source of hashish.
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