Pakistan opposed UN arms embargo on the Taliban
Uzbekistan home of bin Laden-friendly Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
Iran amassing troops at the border to prevent flow of Afghanistan refugees
Turkministan significant trade relationship with Taliban
Tajikstan former Soviet republic with strong military ties to Northern Alliance
United National Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, AKA the Northern Alliance (made up of 13 parties opposed to the Taliban) led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Manpower: 15,000 mostly Tajik and Uzbek troops.
Arsenal: Soviet-era tanks, fighter jets, helicopter gunships.
Main backers: Russia, Iran, Tajikstan.
Taliban (Religious Students Movement) led by Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Manpower: Between 15,000 and 21,000 troops.
Arsenal: Target of UN arms embargo since January but still boasts arms, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, surface to air missile defences.
Main backers: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (latter two have recently cut off diplomatic ties).
Number of Afghans living in refugee camps: more than 3 million
Number expected to leave Afghanistan in the event of war: another 1.5 million
Percentage of Afghan population totally or partially dependent on UN food aid: 1 in 4
Amount of food UN says it needs in the next six months to deal with the crisis: 366,000 metric tonnes
Ruled by Arabs and Persians in ancient times. Neutral in World War I. Fought three separate wars with the British, who left in 1919.
· 1933 to 73: Ruled by Mohammad Zahir Shah (currently exiled in Rome).
· 1978: Next government toppled in bloody coup.
· 1979: Invaded and occupied by the former Soviet Union.
· 1989: Soviets forced to withdraw by anti-communist mujahedin forces supplied and trained by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others. 350,000 dead, 2 million refugees. Mujahedin continue fighting among themselves.
· 1995: Taliban seize control, but civil strife continues.
Population: 26.8 million
Ethnic groups: Pashtun (38 per cent), Tajik (25 per cent), Hazara (19 per cent), minor ethnic groups (Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch and others).
Languages: Pashtu (35 per cent), Afghan Persian (Dari, 50 per cent), Turkic languages.
Religion: Sunni Muslim (84 per cent), Shi'a Muslim (15 per cent).
Terrain: Mostly rugged mountains. Plains in north and southwest.
Natural resources: Natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulphur, lead, zinc, salt, precious and semi-precious gems.
Labour force: 10 million
Composition by sector: Agriculture (53 per cent), industry (29 per cent), services (19 per cent).
Percentage of arable land: 12
Percentage of decline in agricultural production since 1998: 40
Major exports: Opium (world's largest producer, and major source of hashish), semi-precious stones.
Total annual exports: $80 million
Total debt: $5.5 billion
Hopes for peaceful settlement to the civil war were dashed last spring. Taliban escalate military action in August. UN special envoy formally suspends peace talks in October. Neighbouring countries continue to support favoured warring factions while denying reports of military involvement or transfer of weapons.The U.S. turned its "new war" against terrorism rhetoric up a notch this week. Expect flares and bombs over the troubled country any day now. For its war-weary people, another dose of hell.