The northern plains and valleys are home to Tajiks and Uzbeks. Kabul, south of the Hindu Kush, is linked by narrow passes to the northern plains.
Pashtuns inhabit the desert-dominated southern plateaus. In 1989 the nine-year Soviet occupation ended, and Muslim rebels toppled the communist regime in 1992, after which rival groups vied for power.
TOKYO - Buddhist images on the walls of central Afghanistan's Bamiyan caves are the world's first oil paintings, Japanese researcher Yoko Taniguchi says.
The murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods, according to researcher Yoko Taniguchi of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation in Tokyo.
The painters first applied a white base layer of a lead compound.
Researchers hope to find even earlier examples by studying other Central Asian sites.
A mural from the Bamian cave Foladi 6 has been dated to the eighth century A. Its artists used an oil-based paint, scientists say, in an early example of mixing organic binding agents with pigments.