This Central Asian country has started to rebuild after the fall of the repressive Taliban regime in November 2001. It is redefining its politics and alliances, and re-creating its physical infrastructure and society. But it still has a long way to go. Although little girls are once again allowed to attend school, many parts of the country remain lawless and outside central government control. Taliban and al-Qaida loyalists continue to kidnap and attack Westerners, though such instances are getting rarer. For now, most visitors to the country are likely to be soldiers, journalists and aid workers, but a few hardy tourists, and even a few tour groups, have ventured into the country.

More visitors are sure to follow, because Afghanistan has always been intriguing: It has a colorful history, rugged scenery, fascinating markets and a fiercely independent people. But with only a few lulls, war has raged there since the late 1970s. Always a remote destination, Afghanistan has become a desolate land struggling to find its place in the modern world.

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