Kandahar () or Qandahar (Pashto: کندهار Kandahār; Dari: قندهار Qandahār, known in older literature as Candahar) is the second-largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 491,500 as of 2012. Formerly called Alexandria Arachosia, the city is named after Alexander the Great, who founded it in 329 BC around an ancient Arachosian town. Kandahar is located in the south of the country at an altitude of 1,010 m above sea level. Kandahar is the capital of Kandahar Province, and also the center of the larger cultural region called Loy Kandahar. The Arghandab River runs along the west of the city. The city of Kandahar has a population of 557,118. It has 15 districts and a total land area of 27,337 hectares. The total number of dwellings in Kandahar is 61,902.
Kandahar is one of the most culturally significant cities of the Pashtuns and has been their traditional seat of power for more than 300 years. It is a major trading center for sheep, wool, cotton, silk, felt, food grains, fresh and dried fruit, and tobacco. The region produces fine fruits, especially pomegranates and grapes, and the city has plants for canning, drying, and packing fruit, and is a major source of marijuana and hashish en route to Tajikistan.
Kandahar has an international airport and extensive road links with Lashkar Gah and Herat to the west, Ghazni and Kabul to the northeast, Tarinkot to the north, and Quetta in neighboring Balochistan to the south.
The region around Kandahar is one of the oldest known human settlements. A major fortified city existed at the site of Kandahar, probably as early as c. 1000-750 BCE, and it became an important outpost of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire in the 6th century BCE. Alexander the Great had laid-out the foundation of what is now Old Kandahar in the 4th century BC and gave it the Ancient Greek name Αλεξάνδρεια Aραχωσίας (Alexandria of Arachosia). Many empires have long fought over the city due to its strategic location along the trade routes of southern, central and western Asia. In 1709, Mirwais Hotak made the region an independent kingdom and turned Kandahar into the capital of the Hotak dynasty. In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the last Afghan empire, made it the capital of modern Afghanistan.
Since the 1978 Marxist revolution, the city has been a magnet for groups such as Haqqani network, Quetta Shura, Hezbi Islami, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. From late-1996 to 2001, it served as the de facto capital of the Taliban government until the Taliban were overthrown by US-led NATO forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in late-2001 and replaced by the government of President Hamid Karzai....LESS