Squeezed into a narrow valley between mountains, Kabul is one of the highest capital cities in the world. The city suffered under various regimes between 1973 and 2001, and the population plummeted. Much of the city was destroyed during the Afghan civil war (1992-1996), and it was virtually a ghost town under the Taliban (1996-2001).
Since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, the city has been expanding rapidly. The population more than doubled between 2001 and 2014, making Kabul one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. A massive new modern housing development, New Kabul City, was begun on the north side in 2015.
Kabul has a cold, semi-arid climate with most of its precipitation falling as snow. The city is ethnically very diverse, with residents representing all local tribes. Roughly 75% are Sunni and 25% Shia Muslims. The economy is built on commerce, industry, administration, and tourism. Kabul is known for its gardens, bazaars, and palaces.
Over 3500 years old, Kabul has long played a central role in the region. The country was first invaded by Arab armies within 10 years (642) of the death of Muhammad, but they were turned back. Islam would only take root in the region centuries later when Sufi traders began to arrive around 1200.
After that, the city was successively controlled by various regional empires. Kabul was a major center under Emperor Timur (14th century) and later became an important city in the Delhi-based Mughal empire (1526-1857). It was briefly under British colonial rule, but gained independence in 1919. Prior to the Soviet invasion, the city was growing and modernizing.
Kabul has been the center of the new, democratically elected government in Afghanistan since 2001. Soldiers from dozens of nations have sought to stabilize the region, and Kabul is an important city in the ongoing battle against Islamist militants.
God is moving in Kabul in small ways. In one particular downtrodden minority group, perhaps a few hundred have responded to the Gospel. Among other ethnic groups in the city, there is a tiny trickle of response. Over the past decade media outreach has multiplied in the major languages. This gives unprecedented access to the Scriptures in a variety of local languages on mobile devices.
Following the removal of the Taliban, dozens of NGOs were based in Kabul. Today most of those groups have left, with a few relocating to other cities. There has been a steady decline in Christian witness in the capital. The security situation has deteriorated so much that few Westerners dare live in the city. Both criminal activity and Islamist militants make Kabul an increasingly dangerous place to live, especially for foreigners.
The level and types of persecution of believers varies considerably. It is often only those who openly flaunt their new faith who get in serious trouble from family members.