Afghan Turkestan is also the name of a former province in this area, which was centred on Mazar-e Sharif and included territory in the modern provinces of Kunduz, Balkh, Jowzjan and Sar_e Pol. The whole territory, from the junction of the Kokcha river with the Amu Darya on the north_east to the province of Herat on the south-west, was some 500 miles in length, with an average width from the Russian frontier to the Hindu Kush of 114 miles (183 km). It thus comprised about 57,000 square miles (148,000 kmē) or roughly two-ninths of the former kingdom of Afghanistan.
The area is agriculturally poor except in the river valleys, being rough and mountainous towards the south, but subsiding into undulating wastes and pasture-lands towards the Turkman desert.
Ethnically and historically Afghan Turkestan is more connected with Bukhara than with Kabul, of which government it has been a dependency only since the time of Dost Mahommed. The bulk of the people of the cities are of Persian and Uzbek stock, but interspersed with them are Mongol Hazaras and Hindus with Iranian blood. About 250 BCDiodotus (Theodotus), governor of Bactria under the Seleucidae, declared his independence, and commenced the history of the Greco-Bactrian dynasties, which succumbed to Parthian and nomadic movements about 126 BC. After this came a Buddhist era which has left its traces in the gigantic sculptures at Bamian and the rock-cut topes of Haibak. The district was devastated by Genghis Khan, and has never since fully recovered its prosperity. For about a century it belonged to the Delhi empire, and then fell into Uzbeg hands. In the 18th century it formed part of the dominion of Ahmad Khan Durani, and so remained under his son Timur. But under the fratricidal wars of Timur's sons the separate khanates fell back under the independent rule of various Uzbek chiefs. At the beginning of the 19th century they belonged to Bukhara; but under the emir Dost Mahommed the Afghans recovered Balkh and Tashkurgan in 1850, Akcha and the four western khanates in 1855, and Kunduz in 1859. The sovereignty over Andkhui, Shibarghan, Saripul and Maimana was in dispute between Bukhara and Kabul until settled by the Anglo_Russian agreement of 1873 in favour of the Afghan claim. Under the strong rule of Abdur Rahman these outlying territories were closely welded to Kabul; but after the accession of Habibullah the bonds once more relaxed.
The highlands which shut off the Turkestan provinces from Southern Afghanistan have afforded the best opportunities for geological investigation, and as might be expected from their geographical position, the general result of the examination of exposed sections leads to the identification of geological affinity with Himalayan, Indian and Persian regions.
Besides their division into clans and tribes, the whole Afghan people may be divided into dwellers in tents and dwellers in houses; and this division is apparently not coincident with tribal divisions, for of several of the great clans at least a part is nomad and a part settled.
The nomadic Afghan tribes of the west are chiefly pastoral, and the wool of the southern Herat and Kandahar provinces is famous for its quality.
They are generally devoid of the turbulence of the Afghans, whom they are content to regard as masters or superiors, and lead a frugal, industrious life, without aspiring to a share in the government of the country.
Nomad Afghans exist in the Kabul basin, but their proper fields is that part of their territory which the Afghans include in Khorasan, with its wide plains.
The Afghans, inured to bloodshed from childhood, are familiar with death, and are audacious in attack, but easily discouraged by failure; excessively turbulent and unsubmissive to law or discipline; apparently frank and affable in manner, especially when they hope to gain some object, but capable of the grossest brutality when that hope ceases.
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