Famous for its stark landscape and punishing mountain passes, Afghanistan has been a portal for traders and invaders between Asia and the Middle East for centuries, but its recent history continues to be one of turmoil. The Soviet Union occupied the country from 1979 to 1989, until U.S.-trained mujahideen forced their withdrawal. In the early 1990s, rebel factions overthrew the government and established an Islamic republic, which was, in turn, toppled in 1996 by the Taliban. When the Taliban refused to extradite al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States went to war with Afghanistan, overthrowing the Taliban. Today, the country is officially known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and is led by President Hamid Karzai. This full-color third edition packs in an extraordinary amount of information about this historical hot spot: country and regional maps, facts and history at a glance, people and culture, geography, environment, economy, government, and a look into the future.