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Kabul Provincial Overview

Kabul Province borders Parwan and Kapisa in the north, Laghman and Nangarhar in the east, Logar in the south, and Mayden Wardak in the west. The topography of Kabul is a dominant valley in which Kabul city resides, surrounded by the Logar and Paghman Ranges in the south-east, the Qrough Range in the south-west, the Shirdarwaza Range in the north-east, the Charikar Range in the north, and the Tangi Gharrow Range in the west. Much of the land is very fertile rangeland and is largely rain fed. Their are a number of reservoirs and lakes in the region; the most significant are in Paghman and Khaki Jabbar districts.

The population of approximately 3.4 million are predominately based in rural habitats. Major ethnic groups are Hazara, Tajik, Pashtun, Kuchi, and Qizilbash. Primary occupations of the residents are business, agriculture, government service, skilled professional, and day labor. Their are over 1400 provincial aid projects with a planned cost of over US $61 million.

As the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul city is home to the central government and institutions of the nation. Hajji Din Mohammad, the former governor of Nangarhar, was appointed Governor of Kabul in June 2005. He is a Pashtun descendent of the Arsala Khel Family and studied at Kabul University for four years. View Hajji Din Mohammad’s Full Bio Mojadidi resigned his position as provincial governor of Kabul in 2011 and has since been replaced. The current governor of the province is Hamid Akram.

Human Terrain


Pashtuns are located throughout the districts of Kabul province.  They are the largest single ethnicity of Afghanistan, and in particular the largest tribe of Pashtuns, the Ghilzai, formed the backbone of the Taliban movement. Traditionally beholden to the moral code of Pashtunwali (“the way of the Pashtun”), they can easily be deeply offended by breaches of their code and carry the grudge for generations. The Pashtuns are fiercely independent and often view themselves, as the largest ethnicity in the country, as the rightful leaders of Afghanistan. That being said, they suffered much during the Soviet invasion, and must be included in any effort to secure and develop the country.

Wardak Pashtun

Some leaders of the Wardak Pashtun were notorious for their opposition to the British in 1879-1880.  The Wardak tribe is subdivided in the Mayar, Mirkehl (which may be the same as the Amir Khel), and the Nuri.1 There is some disagreement whether the Wardaks are Karlanri or Ghilzai Pashtun.  Most evidence suggests they are Karlanri.  Currently several Wardak Pashtuns hold important posts in the central government, including the Ministry of Defense (General Abdur Rahim Wardak), the Ministry of Information, Culture and Youth (Abdul Karim Khoram), and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.  It is also important to note that “several Islamic radicals emerged from Wardak who helped to promote and implement Taliban’s conservative interpretation of Islam.”2


Feud with Shinwari and Ghilzai.  History of opposing the British.  They are classified as Karlanri and Hill Tribe Pashtuns. View the Khogiani Tree


Feud with Khogiani.  History of opposing the British and the central government in Kabul.  A major thorn in the side of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan during the 1880s.  They are classified as Eastern, Sarbani Pashtuns. View the Shinwari Tree

Kafi (Safi)

Kunar Safis are the largest and most powerful of the province’s Pashtun tribes and live primarily in the Pech Valley region.  The Safis historically have been one of the most dissident tribes in Afghanistan, with a major uprising against the central government in 1945-1946.  The tribe is divided into three clans, the Gorbuz, the Massoud and the Wadir.  The three clans were divided politically during the communist era.  In large part the Wadir Safis were aligned with the communists and served in the government.  Many Safis mujahedin leaders came from the Gorbuz clan.  The Massoud clan, however, was split between both sides.3


Tajiks are located throughout most of the Kabul province.  Tajiks are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, after the Pashtuns and comprise between 25-30% of the population.  The Tajiks in Afghanistan tend to live in settled communities as opposed to a nomadic lifestyle.  They are of Iranian descent and primarily speak Dari.  The majority of Tajiks are Sunni Muslims.  Tajiks made up the majority of the Northern Alliance, both in terms of membership and leadership.  Tribal ties have largely broken down among the Tajiks; therefore, social organization is defined primarily by geography. Despite their lack of cohesiveness the Tajiks are often brought together due to the perceived common threat posed by the Pashtuns.4 View the Tajik Tree


Hazara are located in pockets throughout Kabul province.5 The Hazara, a distinct ethnic and religious group within the population of Afghanistan, have often been the target of discriminatory and violent repression.  Most likely descended from the Mongols of Genghis Khan, (there is also a strong argument that they are of Eastern Turkic origin), the Hazara are noticeably different in physical appearance when compared to the Pashtun majority.  In terms of religion, the vast majority of the Hazara are of the Shia Muslim faith, again in contrast to the Pashtuns who are Sunni Muslim.  Due to these differences, “the Hazara have experienced discrimination at the hands of the Pashtun-dominated government throughout the history of modern Afghanistan.”6 As the traditional underclass of Afghan society, Hazara were exploited and made to work as servants and laborers.  As a result there tends to be an anti-government and anti-Pashtun bias among the Hazara.  In present day Afghanistan, the Hazara are divided geographically into two main groups: the Hazarajat Hazara and those who live outside the Hazarajat.  The Hazarajat is located in the Hindu Kush Mountains in central Afghanistan and is “centered around Bamiyan province and include[s] areas of Ghowr, Uruzgan, Wardak, and Ghazni province.”7 The Hazara living outside of the Hazarajat live in and around Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Samangan province.  Due to atrocities committed against them by the Taliban, the Hazara by and large are opposed to the Taliban.  In August 1998, the Taliban massacred approximately 4,000 Hazara in Mazara-e-Sharif; this massacre was followed by another the next month when the Taliban killed another 500 Hazara in Bamiyan.  The Hezb-e Wahdat (Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan) is an umbrella political organization which commands the support of large numbers of Hazara.  The Hazara are also often at odds with the Kuchi population within the Hazarajat. View the Hazara Tree


A term which refers to the heterogeneous urban population of the city of Kabul.  In general the term is ethnic-neutral, due the multi-ethnic nature of the capital and the result of generations of intermarriages.  According to Peter R. Blood, “A typical Kabuli speaks Dari in addition to his mother tongue and, whether male or female, is urbane, favors European fashions, is secularly educated, and most probably works as a bureaucrat, shopkeep/owner or in the service sector.  Many have had professional education or experience abroad…are Western-oriented in outlook and enjoy cosmopolitan lifestyles.”  Many Kabulis left the capital during the past three decades of war.8


In Kabul province, the Kuchi are located primarily in the north-west.  Involved in a constant and centuries old range war with the Hazara, the Kuchi are Pashtun nomads. Drawn primarily from the Ghilzai tribe, the Kuchis have moved across Afghanistan and Pakistan for generations, and only since Pakistani independence were banned from Pakistani territory. Dispersed and well-traveled, they often receive news from distant relations in far-away provinces relatively quickly. The self-declared “leader” of the Kuchis is one Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai. Partially settled by the king and the following socialist governments, they were strong supporters of the Taliban, both ideologically and pragmatically, as they came into possession of many Hazara lands thanks to the repression of the Shi’ite Hazara by the Taliban. There are estimated to be around three million Kuchi in Afghanistan, with at least 60% remaining fully nomadic.9


The Qizilbash in Kabul province are located in the capital and the surrounding districts.  The Qizilbash are an Imami Shia group thought to be descended from Persian “mercenaries and administrators left behind by the Safavid Emperor Nadir Shah Afshar to govern the Afghan provinces.”10 After the demise of the Safavid Empire in Afghanistan, the Qizilbash, due to their higher levels of education and experience as administrators, remained influential in the Afghan court and government bureaucracies.  Their Shia faith combined with their disproportionate political influence often resulted in resentment by large portions of the Sunni majority within Afghanistan.11 Also, they were used by the shahs as personal bodyguards and assigned to put down uprisings among the populace, which further alienated them from the Pashtun majority.  Due to the persecution, religious and political, the Qizilbash frequently resorted to the use of taqiyya, the practice of precautionary dissimulation or the adoption of a dual religious identity.  In order to play a role in government and society, the Qizilbash, like other Imami Shia, publicly portrayed themselves as Sunnis or Pashtuns while they privately maintained their Shia faith.12 In present day Afghanistan, the Qizilbash continue to practice taqiyya making it difficult to gain accurate census data.  It appears that they largely reside in urban centers and “tend to be predominantly urban professionals—doctors, teachers, engineers, and lawyers.”13


Located in the north-west portion of Kabul province.  The first Central Asian Muslims to come under the Russian yoke, Tatars still retain their own republic within the Russian Federation. During the colonial era they were often used as spies and guides for Russian and later Soviet efforts, and heavily involved in commercial trading. In Afghanistan, many of the Tatars settled after either trying to escape the Russians, or as traders. View the Tatar Tree

Hindus and Sikhs

A small number of Hindus are located in the districts surrounding the capital.  Long a part of the commercial life of Afghanistan, Hindus and Sikhs have lived in the country for centuries as traders and money-lenders. During the time of the Taliban they were harassed and forced to wear identifying badges, and as a result many left the country. Since the beginning of OEF, however, many have returned to Afghanistan and their previous vocations.

Political Parties

Hezb-e Islami Khalis (HiK)

Originally a mujahideen group which split with Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami under the leadership of Yunus Khalis.  HiK was dominant in Nangarhar. Khalis died in 2005 or 2006, resulting in an internal power struggle for control of the party between Khalis’ son Anwarul Haq Mujahid and Hajji Din Mohammad.  It appears that Mohammad was successful in consolidating his control over much of the party.  Recent and active political players in Nangarhar have connections to HiK.  Led by Hajji Din Mohammad, former governor of Kabul (2005-2009) and current member of the Afghanistan High Peace Council.

Hezb-e Afghanistan Naween (New Aghanistan Party/Qanuni)

Led by Mohammad Yunus Qanuni.  Part of a political alliance called Jabahai Tafahim Millie or National Understanding Front.  Qanuni was the primary contender against Karzai for the presidency.  He is a Tajik who has been a mujahideen, spokesman for Ahmed Shah Masoud, and Minister of Interior and Education.  He was elected to parliament in 2005 and was chosen to lead the Wolesi Jirga.  Support for him and his party may be a political counter-weight to Karzai.


One of the most important parties of the Meshrano Jirga, Hamnazar (Alliance), It mainly consists of pro-Karzai MPs, who are Western sympathizers. The group numbers some thirty parliamentarians and is led by Amin Zai. A doctor by profession, he is closely allied with Karzai who strongly supported him for this position.14

Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HiG)

Mujahideen party active since the Soviet invasion; led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.  Actively opposed to US-led and Afghan national forces.  Politically active in Sherzad, Surk Rod and Pachir Wa districts.  Hekmatyar is a Kharoti Ghilzai and, therefore, less influential than the much more respected and powerful Khugianis, such as Hajji Din Mohammad and Anwarul Haq Mohammad.15

Ittihad-e Islami (Sayyaf)

This party is under the guidance of one Abdul Rasool Sayyaf, and has been since the anti-Soviet campaign. Despite ideological and cultural similarities with the Taliban, Sayyaf did not join them (for personal reasons) and went with the Northern Alliance. He follows strict Wahhabi interpretations of Islam, and is not known for tolerance. In the past this party has been known for its foreign supporters and followers; the former often Arab, the latter from places as diverse as the Southern Philippines, Chechnya, and Bosnia.  In February 1993 government forces and members of the Ittihad-e Islami massacred over 700 Hazara in the Afshar district of West Kabul.

In 2005, Ittihad-e Islami registered as a political party under the name “Islamic Dawah Organisation of Afghanistan”.20

Source: Naval Postgraduate School