The country remains predominantly rural, with only 1 in 4 living in urban areas. However, a recent report by UN-Habitat, the first attempt to review the state of Afghanistan's cities, points to the transition that is taking place. Amongst the key points are:
* The impacts of returnees, internally displaced persons and rural-to-urban economic migrants in swelling the urban populations. Since 2002, some 5.8M refugees have returned, about half going to the urban areas.
* The youthful demography - 47% of the population is below the age of 15.
* Nearly a third of the urban population lives below the official poverty line.
*The female labour force participation rate in cities is only 13%, and women own or hold less than 1% of urban land. Poor urban safety, including exposure to harassment and abuse, keeps many girls out of education. Less than 1% of the police force is female.
Of course security is a major challenge, though in general the cities are seen as safer than the rural areas. In 2014 there were over 10,500 documented civilan casualties: around a quarter result in death.
The 34 municipalities have on average a staff of about 100, but only 8% of these have degree level education and it is hard to hold on to qualified staff. Corruption is endemic - Afghanistan is ranked 172 out of 175 on Transparency International's index.
The planning system is weak. Building densities are low, basic services correspondingly expensive to provide, and vacant plots make up a third of the built-up area in the regional cities. Informal development is extensive in areas prone to landslips or flooding. As the report notes, "Harnessing Afghanistan's rapid urban growth as a force for positive change requires strategic spatial planning at scale."