Afghanistan is at the top of the agenda in Washington today, the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion. But many Americans have little understanding of the country because it is so remote and inaccessible - geographically and culturally.
ABC News takes a look at the country that is best known for its hostile environment, its defiance of foreign armies, opium production and the Taliban. The numbers that define Afghanistan present a harsh and often deadly place.
Nevertheless, some traditions reveal a culture that strives for community, fun, and a better way of life.
Last year, Afghanistan produced 6,900 tons of opium, the main ingredient in heroin. It was 90 percent of the world's supply. Source: U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime
The average yearly income for Afghans is $300 per person, the same amount of money millions of people have spent on the latest Apple iPhone 3GS-32GB. Source: U.S. Agency for International Development
The street value of the opium produced in Afghanistan is $8 billion. If every Afghan received an equal portion of this amount, the average yearly household income in Afghanistan could more than double. Source: UN Office on Drugs and Crime
Opium poppy fields cover roughly 304,000 acres – more than 20 times the size of Manhattan. Source: UN Office on Drugs and Crime
Afghanistan ranks 181 out of 182 countries for overall well-being, behind such impoverished nations as Sudan, Sierra Leone and Haiti. Only the African country of Niger is lower on the list. Source: UN Development Report
More than 30 languages are spoken in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's version of "American Idol," called "Afghan Star," is the country's most popular show. An estimated 38.7 percent of their population gathered around old TV sets with spotty reception to watch Rafi Naabzada win the grand prize of $5,000.
The national sport of Afghanistan is Buzkashi, a sport played on horseback during which a headless goat carcass is placed in the center of a circle and surrounded by two opposing teams that try to score with it. The winners get to keep – and roast – the goat.
The Harsh Numbers That Define Afghanistan
The average life expectancy for an Afghan is 44.64 years, among the lowest in the world. In the U.S., life expectancy is 78.11 years old. Source: CIA World Factbook
Only 1.7 percent of the Afghan population has access to the Internet. Source: ABC-CLIO World Geography
There are eight TV sets per 100 people in Afghanistan – compared with 2.6 TV sets per home here in the U.S. Source: ABC-CLIO World Geography
The Kabul Golf Club, located a few miles outside the capital city, is the only golf club in Afghanistan.
The unforgiving Hindu Kush mountain range makes up two-thirds of Afghanistan. Standing 24,557 feet high, Mount Noshaq is the highest peak in that range within the Afghan borders. Alaska's Mount McKinley is the highest peak in North America at 20,320 feet.
There is one shopping mall in the capital city of Kabul. If you shop there, bring cash. Few stores in Afghanistan take credit cards.
Approximately 3 million Afghans who fled since the beginning of the war still remain in the two neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran. Source: the U.N. Refugee Agency
The British Army suffered enormous losses during the two Afghan wars of the 1800's. In one 1842 battle, thousands of British troops and civilians were massacred during a long retreat from Kabul. There was a lone survivor, Dr. William Brydon, who reached Jalalabad on horseback wounded but alive.
At least 870 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan since the war began eight years ago. There have been about 10,000 Afghan civilians killed from Afghan insurgent attacks and foreign military action.
The Soviet-Afghan war lasted nine years (1979-1988), one year short of the ongoing U.S.-Afghan war.
The Soviet army lost as many as 15,000 soldiers during the Soviet-Afghan War. Many were killed in combat, but an enormous number died as a result of disease and harsh conditions they faced. Source: Encyclopedia of Conflicts Since World War II
Over 1 million Afghans were killed in the war with the Soviets. Source: Encyclopedia of Conflicts Since World War II