World Facts

Is Afghanistan in the Middle East?

Afghanistan is not part of the Middle East, but it is bordered by countries that are part of the Middle East. Learn more here.

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Afghanistan is a landlocked country in Central-South Asia. The country is bordered by Iran to the western side, Pakistan to the east and south, China to the northeast, and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the north. It occupies an area of about 252,000 sq miles with a huge part of its territory covered by the Hindu Kush mountain range.

Is Afghanistan Part of the Middle East?

Afghanistan is not part of the Middle East, but it is bordered by a Middle Eastern state (Iran). Geographically, Afghanistan is situated on the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. The region’s history dates back to the Mid-Paleolithic period, and its location along the Silk Road linked Afghanistan to various Middle Eastern cultures. The United States grouped Afghanistan with all the other Muslim and Arab states in the 2000s as the Greater Middle East.

The Greater Middle East

The name "Middle East" was coined by the British-India Office in the 1850s but became more common after Alfred Mahan, an American naval strategist, used it to refer to the place linking India and Arabia. Mahan described the Middle East as the region bordering the Arabian Gulf. Some of these states include Palestine, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

The Bush administration coined the term the Greater Middle East during the 2000s which included various states which are not geographically in the Middle East. The Greater Middle East stretches from Pakistan to Morocco including various Asian nations like Afghanistan. The term "The Greater Middle East" is a political term which groups all the Arab and Muslim states together irrespective of their geographical proximity.

Was Afghanistan Ever in the Middle East? 

Yes, before World War 1, Afghanistan was considered to be part of the Middle East. Before the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the region was split into three blocks: the Middle East, Far East and Near East. The term the "Middle East" referred to the Turkmenistan, Central Asia, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, and Iran while the "Near East" referred to the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans. The East Asian state like Japan, Korea, and China was known as "Far East". After the Ottoman Empire fell the use of the phrase "Near East" ceased and all the re-emerging Islamic nation were referred to as the Middle East. The phrase "The Middle East" was officially used for the first time by the government of the United States in the Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957.

John Foster described the Middle East as the region between and including Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Libya, the Arabian Peninsula, and Sudan. The state department explained that the Middle East included Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and Egypt in 1958. The description of the Middle East has evolved over the years, and currently, it includes the region previously known as the Near East.

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