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Afghanistan: At the crossroads of conflict

(CNN) -- Afghanistan's recent history has been one of intense turmoil dominated by the politics of Islam. The country's economy and infrastructure are in tatters and many of its people are refugees.

The country's strategic position at the cross roads of the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian sub-continent has made it a zone of continual dispute and often fierce fighting.

Currently the United Nations recognized head of state -- Burhanuddin Rabbani - lives in exile, having fled when the Taliban took power. Direct diplomatic ties with many countries are currently limited or non-existent.

Today, the Taliban government is only recognized by three countries worldwide and continues to face overseas sanctions by the United Nations and controversy over its tough interpretation of Islamic law.

1979 - The Soviet Union occupies Afghanistan.

1980 - Soviet troops install a puppet regime in Kabul. The U.S., Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, offer support to various Mujahedin, or Islamic anti-communist resistance groups, as they begin a guerilla war against Soviet forces.

The war becomes a steady drain on Soviet resources and saps the morale of it soldiers. Many observers say the war is unwinnable and compare the Soviet Union's experience if Afghanistan to the U.S. experience in Vietnam.

1988-89 - All Soviet troops are withdrawn.

1992 - Mujahedin resistance forces finally remove the Soviet-installed regime from power, leaving rival militias to vie for influence in its wake.

1993 - Mujahedin factions agree on the formation of a government with Burhanuddin Rabbani installed as president, but factional infighting continues.

1994 - The ethnic Pashtun-dominated Taliban faction emerges as the greatest threat to the Rabbani regime.

1996 - The Taliban seize control of Kabul and implement fundamentalist Islamic law, barring women from work and education. Islamic punishment is introduced including amputation and death by stoning.

1996 - Taliban militia offers exiled Saudi militant Osama bin Laden refuge in Afghanistan.

1998 - The U.S. launches missiles at suspected bases of Osama bin Laden, whom the US has accused of bombing two of its embassies in Africa.

November 1999 - The U.N. imposes an air embargo and freezes Taliban assets in an attempt to force the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden for trial.

2000-2001 - Record cold, drought and civil war push an estimated 200,000 Afghans into refugee camps, many of them in Pakistan.

January 2001 - The U.N. adds an arms embargo against the Taliban in January to step up pressure on the regime and creates a panel to investigate how best to monitor sanctions.

March 12, 2001 - Ignoring international pleas for their preservation Taliban authorities blow up two 2,000 year-old Buddha statues in the cliffs above the central town of Bamiyan.

May 22, 2001 - Afghan religious minorities are ordered to wear tags identifying them as non-Muslims; Hindu women are required to veil themselves like other Afghan women.

July 13, 2001 - Taliban authorities ban use of the Internet to stop access to material deemed vulgar, immoral and anti-Islamic.

July 19, 2001 - Taliban authorities place bans on the import of 30 products including playing cards, computer discs, movies, satellite TV dishes, musical instruments, cassettes and chessboards, after declaring them "against the Sharia", or Islamic law.

August 5, 2001 - The Taliban arrests international aid workers on charges of spreading Christianity, an offense punishable by death under the Taliban's interpretation of Islamic law.

August 5, 2001 - The Taliban arrests international aid workers on charges of spreading Christianity, an offense punishable by death under the Taliban's interpretation of Islamic law.

September 8, 2001 - The Taliban brought eight foreign aid workers accused of promoting Christianity to court for the first time.

September 10, 2001 - Conflicting reports circulate regarding the leader of Afghanistan's opposition to the ruling Taliban, Ahmed Shah Massoud, and whether he is still alive. Ahmed Wali Massoud said his brother is recovering from wounds suffered in an assassination attempt that left him unconscious.

September 12, 2001 - The Taliban condemned the hijacking attacks against the United States and urged the U.S. not to attack them in retaliation, saying the Afghan people are already in a great deal of misery.

September 13, 2001 - United Nations airplanes depart Kabul with international diplomats, aid workers and reporters amid growing fears the country may be involved in retribution attacks by the U.S.

September 14, 2001 -- Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance confirms that Massoud, its military commander, is dead.

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