HISTORY - The existence of Afghanistan as a political entity usually is dated from 1747, when the Persian rulers were overthrown and Ahmad Shah Durani set the foundations of an Afghan empire. After a period of tribal conflicts and, during the 19th century, incursions by Russia and Britain, Abdur Rahman Khan established a semblance of central rule.

In 1953, under the reign of King Mohammed Zahir Shah, Price Mohammed Daoud became head of government. He was dismissed 10 years later, and returned to power in a coup d'etat in 1973, that abolished the monarchy.

PEOPLE AND GEOGRAPHY - Roughly estimated at 20 million, the population is one of the poorest and most backward anywhere in the developing world. Most of the people are illiterate and either farmers or nomads. Barren and desolate, mostly mountainous or desert, parts of Afghanistan resemble the surface of the moon.

The country is located at a vital spot where the Indian Subcontinent, Central Asia and the Middle East meet. Once a center for Buddhism, it is now dominated by Islam.

ECONOMY - With an estimated per capital income of $80, the economy has suffered for years under recurring drought. The two most important exports are fresh and dried fruits and sheepskins.

GOVERNMENT - Following the abolition of the monarchy, Daoud established a 13 member cenrral committee with himself as president.