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).
After the Taliban was removed in 2001, the city expanded 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.
In 2001 Kabul became the center of a democratically elected government. Soldiers from dozens of nations have long sought to stabilize the region, and Kabul has always been a critical 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.
After the Taliban was removed in 2001, dozens of NGOs temporarily moved to Kabul. Today most of those groups have left. There has been a steady decline in Christian witness in the capital. And the security situation has steadily and significantly deteriorated. Both criminal activity and Islamist militants make Kabul an immensely dangerous place to live, especially for foreigners and believers.