Badghis - Program for Culture and Conflict Studies

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Badghis Province

Governor: Dr. Jamaluddin Ishaq

Population Estimate: 499,393

Area in Square Kilometers: 20,591

Capital: Qalay-i-Naw

Districts: Jawand, Murghab, Ghormach, Qadis, Muqur, Qala-i-Naw, Ab Kamari.

Ethnic Groups: 62% Tajik, 28% Pashtun, 5% Uzbek, 3% Turkmen, 2% Baluch.1

Tribal Groups: Aimak, Durrani Pashtun.

Religious Groups: 90% Sunni, 10% Shi'a.

Occupation of Population: Livestock, Agriculture, and some Handicrafts.

Crops/Livestock: Pistachio, Opium, Wheat, Barley, Maize, Melons, Sesame, Cattle, Goat, Horse, Donkey.

Literacy Rate: 9%2

Total # of Primary Schools: 158

Secondary Schools: 28

High Schools: 143

Active NGOs in the Province: UNICEF, UNHCR, UNAMA, UNOPS, UNFAO, UN-Habitat, WHO, ALISEI, OI, NPO, IMC, WV, Norway WV, RRAA, IOM, Maltesser, German Agro Action, MSF.

Roads: The province is dominated by track roads connecting most major population centers and villages. The Spanish PRT has spent the majority of its time and effort to improve the route from the capital to Herat.

Electricity: All electrical power is provided by diesel generators supplied by the PRT; The Morghab River is a potential source oof hydro-electrical power.4

Hospitals: 1 in Qalay-i-Naw.

Clinics: 15

Sources/Availibility of Drinking Water: 26% Availability of Potable Water via Piped Water, Public Tap, Standpipe, Tube Well, Borehole, Protected Spring, Well, and Rainwater.5

Rivers: Murghab and Hari-Rud

Topographical Features: The province is dominated by the Murghab River in the north and the Hari-Rud River in the south. It is bordered on the north by the Desert of the Sarakhs. Extremely mountainous and remote with poor infrastructure. Ranked as one of the most under-developed provinces.

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Badghis - Content

Badghis Provincial Overview

Badghis Province is located in the isolated hills of northwestern Afghanistan and shares its borders with Herat, Ghor, and Faryab provinces as well as Turkmenistan. The province is dominated by the Murghab River in the north and the Hari-Rud River in the south. Badghis remains extremely underdeveloped, especially outside the provincial capital of Qalay-i-Naw. The province is inhabited by Tajiks who are thought to make up 62 per cent of the population with Pashtuns making up approximately 28 percent.

Currently, the security situation has deteriorated in the northern districts of Ghormach and Murghab, both of which are heavily populated by Pashtuns and sympathetic to the local Taliban. The strategic “ring-road” highway that connects Kabul to Kandahar and Herat also has an uncompleted northern leg, a portion of which cuts through Badghis. The roadway in Badghis is currently unpaved and all efforts to begin work on it has faced delays due to security issues. Until 2008, there was no permanent Afghan Army presence in the province, and most provincial police units were based in the capital with only 40-50 security personnel stationed in each of the remote districts.

Dr. Jamaluddin Ishaq, an ethnic Tajik, but reported to be a member of a Pashtun national party. He was appointed to be the Governor of Badghis in September 2015 by President Ashraf Ghani. This is believed to be his first position in the Afghan government. Upon taking office, Ishaq laid out his top priorities: improving security, procuring electricity from Turkmenistan, and clean drinking water in the provincial capital of Qala-i-Naw.13

The Taliban's shadow governor for Badghis was killed in October 2015 during a confrontation between Afhgan security and Taliban fighters.14


Badghis Map


Human Terrain


The Tajik are the largest ethnic group in Badghis Province. They are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan after the Pashtuns and comprise between 25-30% of the Afghan population. The Tajiks in Afghanistan tend to live in settled communities as opposed to a nomadic lifestyle. Pashtuns refer to them as Farsiwan, or speakers of Farsi, the lingua franca of Afghanistan (50% of Afghanistan speaks Farsi, as opposed to only 35% for Pashtu). Between the Tajiks and Pashtuns there has been significant animosity in recent years. Forming the backbone of the Northern Alliance, they also have a base in the nation of Tajikistan. They held out fiercely against the Taliban. Most Tajik are Sunni Muslims, but a few are Shi’a. 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.6 View the Tajik Tribal Tree


Durrani Pashtuns are located primarily in Mughab and Ghormach Districts of Badghis Province. The largest single ethnicity of Afghanistan, the Pashtun, and in particular the largest tribe of Said, 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 the 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. Pashtuns in Ab-Kamari District have reported that they are under-represented politically and are often suffer extortion at the hands of individuals claiming to be government representatives.7


The Durrani constitute the dominant Pashtun tribe, and the one from which leaders of Afghanistan are traditionally drawn. Their origin is uncertain, but their likely foundation occurred in the mountains of Ghor. In 1747, under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Durrani, the Durrani confederation displaced the Ghilzai confederation from the Kandahar region into the mountainous areas along the eastern afghan border. The current Afghan regime under President Kharzai is represented disproportionately by men of Durrani lineage. View the Durrani Tribal Tree


The Hazara, a distinct ethnic and religious group within the population of Afghanistan; they 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 Shi’a 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.8 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 on Bamiyan province and include[s] areas of Ghowr, Uruzgan, Wardak, and Ghazni province.9

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. The Hazara of Badghis reside in the western reaches of the province. View the Hazara Tribal Tree


The Baluch, thought to number over a million in Afghanistan, are an Indo-Iranian ethnic group spread over Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Significant numbers also exist abroad. In Pakistan, Baluchi independence groups have fought with Islamabad over the revenues from natural resources in Baluchistan. The capital of Pakistani Baluchistan is Quetta, where many of the Taliban are thought to have fled after their fall from power, but Kalat, further south, has traditionally been the seat of the Baluch Khans. The Baluch are overwhelmingly but not entirely Sunni Muslims. Their power-structures, based on the khan, are generally perceived to be more concentrated than those of the more fractious Pashtuns. In Afghanistan they are primarily nomadic, roaming the southernmost districts of the three southernmost provinces with small numbers present in Badghis Province.


The Aimak are a Persian-speaking nomadic or semi-nomadic tribe of mixed Iranian and Mongolian descent who inhabit the north and north-west highlands of Afghanistan and the Khorasan Province of Iran.10 They are closely related to the Hazara, and to some degree the Tajiks. They live in western Hazarajat in the provinces of Ghor, Farah, Herat, Badghis, Faryab, Jowzjan and Sar-e Pol. The term Aimak derives from the Mongolian term for tribe (Aimag). They were originally known as chahar or (the four) Eimaks, because there were four principal tribes: the Taimani (the predominating element in the population of Ghor), the Ferozkhoi, the Temuri, and the Jamshidi. Estimates of the Aimak population vary between 250,000 and 2 million. They are Sunni Muslims, in contrast to the Hazara, who are Shiahs. The best estimates of the Aimak population in Afghanistan hover around 1-2 million. The tally is made difficult since, as a consequence of centuries of oppression of the Hazara people in Afghanistan, some Aimagh Hazaras are classified by the state as Tajik, or Persian instead of Aimaks.


The Chanar Aimaqs are believed to be of Turco-Mongolian origin. This assessment is based on their physical appearance and the style of dwellings they utilize which closely resemble Mongolian style yurts. The Chanar speak a Persian dialect (Dari) unlike their Turco-Mongolian kinsmen in other areas.11 The Chanar Aimak population of Badghis is dominant throughout the southern half of the province.


Primary Political Parties

Jamiat-e Islami (Islamic Society of Afghanistan)12

The Islamic Society of Afghanistan is reported to have approximately 60,000 supporters in Northern Afghanistan. The party is led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, previously president of the Islamic State. Other key figures are Abdul Hafez Mansur and Munawar Hasan. It is predominately a Tajik political party which was active in the anti-Soviet jihad and a major political player in the Northern Alliance. Today Rabbani supports Karzai. Yunus Qanuni’s Hezb-e Afghanistan Naween is a splinter group of Jamiat-e Islami. At least three of the District Governors of Badghis Province are members of Jamiat-e-Islami.

Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG)13

This mujahideen party has been active since the Soviet invasion; and is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. It is actively opposed to US-led and Afghan national forces and is politically active in neighboring Herat Province. Hekmatyar is a Kharoti Ghilzai and, therefore, less influential among other religious and ethnic groups in the provinces of northwestern Afghanistan, particularly the Shi’a. Hekmatyar issued a letter to Pajhwok Afghan News in June 2008 threatening to launch attacks in northern Afghanistan, including Badghis and Baghlan provinces.

Hizb-i Wahdat (Mohaqqeq)

The Shiite umbrella party, Hizb-I Wahdat is composed of seven of the eight Shiite parties (minus the Harakat-e Islami) that existed in Afghanistan from the time of the anti-Soviet campaigns. Now led by Wolesi Jirga member (and former planning minister) Hajji Muhammad Mohaqqeq, the party continues to represent both Shiites and Hazaras. During the period of Taliban rule, the party held fast in the Hazarajat whilst the Taliban tried through blockade to bring the Hazaras to their knees through starvation.

Islamic Council of Herat

The Islamic Council of Herat, which consists of scholars, religious figures, independent civic foundations and non-government bodies is a loose conglomeration created to voice concerns, particularly security issues, which they feel the provincial government is not adequately addressing. The commercial ties between Qalay-i-Naw and Herat may serve as a conduit for the Council's influence in Badghis as infrastructure improves linking the two provinces.


General Security Landscape

Badghis was the first northern province to be seized by the Taliban in late 2006. Even after their official takeover of the province, the largely Uzbek and Turkmen population of the province resisted the rule of the Pashtun Taliban. The province was quickly retaken by Northern Alliance forces during the opening days of OEF, which was followed by a brutal cleansing of the Pashtun minority in the province. Iran provided significant aid to Northern Alliance forces in Badghis during the campaign against the Taliban.

Various influential warlords have traded control of the province since the fall of the Taliban regime including: Abdul Malik, Rashid Dostum, Juma Khan and Ismail Khan. Independent warlords still exert considerable influence within Badghis in the by running private jails, seizing land, and controlling the opium poppy harvest. The province has been relatively peaceful since the fall of the Taliban, despite periodic conflicts between rival warlords.

The PRT in Bagdis is led by Spain and based in the capital city of Qalay-i-Naw. Since 2005, the Taliban has sought to infiltrate the isolated northwestern provinces of Badghis and Faryab, both of which have small Pashtun enclaves. Badghis province has become one of the Taliban’s gateways into the north. It is plausible that Taliban infiltration routes mirror the geographical area dominated by the Pashtun of Badghis in the northern region of the Province.

Security in the Pashtun dominated districts of Ghormach and Murghab has deteriorated significantly since 2006. Roadside bombs, ambushes and large scale raids with up to 300 Taliban fighters has become common. ISAF along with ANA units have launched a series of security operations in northern Badghis to help quell the rising tide of insurgent violence.


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References - Menu

1 Afghan Information Management Services, Badhis District Profiles, at Link.

2 Afghanistan Human Development Report 2007, United Nations Development Program, 2007, 164, at Link

3 AISA, Regional Rural Economic Regeneration Strategies Report, Badghis Provincial Profile, at Link.

4 AISA, Regional Rural Economic Regeneration Strategies Report, Badghis Provincial Profile, at Link.

5 Afghanistan Human Development Report 2007, United Nations Development Program, 2007, 166, at Link

5 2007 CIA World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, at Link.

6 Afghan Information Management Services, Badghis District Profiles, at Link.

7 US State Department Afghanistan Culture and Ethnic Studies, 2004.

8 Ibid.

9 Janata, A. "AYM?Q". Encyclopædia Iranica. Ed. Ehsan Yarshater. United States: Columbia University.

10 "Afghanistan". Encyclopedia Britannica, Ultimate Reference Suite, Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008.

11 Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Country Fact Sheet, AFGHANISTAN, at Link.

12 Chris Mason, Tora Bora Nizami Mahaz.

13 Pajhwok, at Link.

14 Bakhtar News, at Link.

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