Kandahar - Program for Culture and Conflict Studies

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Kandahar Data - Content

Kandahar Province

Governor: Humayun Azizi

Population Estimate: 1,151,000

Area in Square Kilometers: 54,022

Capital: Kandahar

Districts: Kharkrez, Ghorak, Arghandab, Maruf, Spin Boldak, Kandahar, Dand, Daman, Arghistan, Shorabak, Panjwayi, Maywand, Shah Wali Kot, Zhar, Mian Nashin, Reg.

Ethnic Groups: Pashtun, Baluch, Hazara, Tajik, Farsiwan.

Tribal Groups: Zirak Durrani (Barakzai, Popalzai, Alikozai, Achekzai, Mohamadzai), Panjpai Durrani (Noorzai, Ishaqzai, Alizai), Ghilzai (Tokhi, Hotak, Tarakai, Andar, Sulumain Khel, Kharoti).

Religious Groups: Sunni, some Shi'a, some Hindu, Some Sikh.

Occupation of Population: Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Business/Industry, Narcotics, some Trade, Smuggling.

Crops/Livestock: Pomegranates, Carrots, Alfalfa, Spinach, Cauliflower, Sheep, Cows, Goats, Illicit- Opium (teriac), Cannabis Resin (hashish; chars).1

Literacy Rate: 13%2

Total # of Educational Institutions: 204

Active NGOs in the Province: Various UN organizations, Islamic Relief Organization, International Organization for Migration, CARE, Médecins Sans Frontières, Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA), Southern and Western Afghanistan and Balochistan, Association for Coordination (SWABAC), Afghan Health and Development Services, Afghanistan Human Rights Organization, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Sanayee Development Organization, Development and Ability Organization, Afghanistan NGO Safety Office.

Transportation: Roads, large airport in Kandahar City, Horse, Camel; Primary Roads- Afghan Ring Road (from Qalat to Lashkar Gah via Kandahar City), from Kandahar to Quetta via Spin Boldak, Kandahar to Arghandab (Eidgah Road), and Kandahar to Tirin Kot.

Electricity: Kandahar’s main sources of electricity comes from 14 diesel-run generators in Brikhna Kot (nahiya 6) located to the north of the city center. They can provide six hours of electricity in a 24-hour period. A measurable percentage of Kandahar’s residents, NGOs and businesses rely on private generators. The National Solidarity Program (NSP) has provided electricity through solar panels and generators in nahiyas 2, 5, 6, and 9. Six new solar panels and two generators have been established in an area called Naw-e Hawza to the north of the city center and provided electricity to residents that did not have access to the city electricity grid.

Hospitals: 133

Clinics: 86

Pharmacies: 7304

Media: FM radio channels such as BBC, Radio Azadi, Voice of America and Radio Kandahar (government radio), Radio Kilid (from Kabul). Print media includes Sur Ghar (monthly magazine; Pashtu/English) and Tolo Afghan.

Rivers: Arghandab Rod, Tarnak, RodI Lurah, Pishin Lora, Aliaband.

Irrigation: Arghandab canal network: Pirpaimal Wiala, Noshi Jan and Robat Wiala, Loya Wiala (‘big canal’) connects the Aliband and Arghandab Rivers to the north of the city centre and reaches Qalamtar and Khoshab in Daman District.

Topographical Features: Desert in the south, hills in the north, mountainous terrian along Pak border in Spin Boldak.

Tribal Map - Thumbnail
Tribal Map Thumbnail
Kandahar - Content

Kandahar Provincial Overview

Kandahar Province is located in southern Afghanistan. Kandahar borders Pakistan in the east and south, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces in the north, and Helmand in the west. The topography is composed of deserts in the south, hills in the north, and mountainous terrain along the Pak border in Spin Boldak.

The population of over 1 million are primarily Durrani and Ghilzai Pashtun. There are also Baluch, Hazara, Tajik, and a variety of other ethnicities typically referred to as Farsiwan (those who speak Farsi / Dari). Primary occupations within Kandahar are agriculture and animal husbandry, while narcotics production remains a highly profitable but illegal profession. In 2007, there were 365 provincial aid projects conducted in the area with over $US 39 million in planned costs. A number of NGOs are active in Kandahar.

Militant activity remains a problem in Kandahar province despite increases in security over the past few years. In October 2016, Taliban fighters launched an assault on Maidan Shar and severed the highway linking Kabul and Kandahar.8

Dr. Humayun Azizi was appointed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as the Governor of Kandahar Province in April 2015. He received his education in France. Azizi has spent part of his career in the medical field, starting at the Burns unit in the Herat hospital. Since then, Dr. Azizi has worked in various governmental offices, including as the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs from 2010 till 2015. 

Azizi has had conflicting perspectives on democracy in Afghanistan. In 2009, he is quoted telling a reporter that "Now there is democracy, and this is why [Afghanistan] is difficult to control... It's bad. Democracy is not a postcard that you can send from the United States to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq."6

Taliban Shadow Governor: Haji Lala - Afghan forces claimed to have killed Haji Lala and his deputy, Ahmad Shah, along with 43 Taliban fighters in May 2016. However, the Taliban has contested this claim.7


Kandahar Map


Human Terrain


Formerly part of the Barakzai grouping, the Achekzai were separated from the rest of the tribe by Ahmad Shah Durrani for management purposes, and the Achekzai remained one of the most troublesome tribes in the province. Traditionally nomadic, they further divide themselves into two large sub-groupings, the Gujanzais and the Badinzais, and had a reputation for disunity and predation. They now primarily live in Spin Boldak District.


The Alkozai are the biggest tribe in Kandahar and currently the most vulnerable tribal group due to the recent killings of their most important leaders: Mullah Naqibullah Akhund (Mullah Naqib, an ex-jihadi commander); Mohammad Akram Khakriz Wal, The Head of Police of Kandahar province; Haji Gurrani (ex HiG commander); the brother of Haji Gul Ali (ex-jihadi commander of Mahaz); Haji Abdel Hakim Jan (ex-jihadi commander for Mahaz). Mullah Naqib was politically astute and had good relations with all influential individuals in Kandahar with the exception of Gul Agha Sherzai. In addition, he had good links to the provincial and central government as well as Rabbani (Jamiat) who he fought for during the mujahideen years. In Arghandab district, some 80% of the 130,000 residents are Alokozai. The tribe has had difficulties in recent years as mentioned above, and some Alokzai see a Barakzai-Popalzai union acting against their interests both politically and economically, especially following allegations of land-grabs in Arghandab by Ahmed Wali Karzai (Popalzai).

  • Khan Mohammad-Former chief of police in Balkh province and Mujahidin commander.
  • Azzizullah Wasifi-Former Minister during the King Zahir Shah time.
  • Kalimullah Naqibi-Chief of the Alokozai tribe (the late Mullah Naqibullah’s son).
  • Haji Habibullah Jan- Former member of Kandahar security shura. (Assassinated).
  • Mullah Abdul Fayaz- High profile religious cleric. Assassinated.
  • Abdul Hakim Jan- High profile militia commander. Assassinated.
  • Mullah Obaidullah Akhund- Former Taliban Defense Minister. Incarcerated.


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 Qalat, 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. In Kandahar they are found mostly in Shorabak and Reg districts. View the Baluch Tribal Tree


From the Zirak division of Durrani Pashtuns, the Barakzai primarily inhabit the (relatively) quiet districts of Arghistan and Maruf. They rose to prominence with Dost Mohammad Shah (the British East India Company’s adversary in the first Anglo-Afghan War) and furnished a string of kings through the current aspirant to the throne, Heir Apparent Ahmad Shah.Accordingly, they are one of the most respected tribes in the country. Currently, the Barakzai make up a key element of the political power structure in Kandahar. The former Governors Gul Agha Sherzai and Khalid Pashtun are both Barakzai as well as Noorulhaq Olumi who has a separate powerbase from Sherzai and Khalid Pashtun.

  • Former Kandahar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai
  • Noor-ul-Haq Ulomi-Current member of the parliament in Afghanistan
  • Yousuf Pashtun-Afghan Minister
  • Haji Abdullah- Very influential and powerful businessman in Kandahar City.
  • Dr. Qasam Khan- Member of the provincial council and has influence among the Barakzai in the Dand district.
  • Haji Hidayatullah- He is a very powerful businessman and is the twin brother of Haji Abdullah (listed above).

View the Barkazai Tribal Tree

Popalzai /Mohamdzai

The Popalzai resemble the Barakzai in terms of political influence in Kandahar, especially outside Kandahar-city. The Popalzai are the tribe of President Hamid Karzai, which is headed in Southern Afghanistan by his half-brother Ahmad Wali Karzai who also heads the Kandahar Provincial shura, thereby holding influence over power-holders in the district. The Popalzai are also influential in neighboring Uruzgan province in Helmand and they try to build alliances to Zabul leaders as well.
Although originally a Barakzai sub tribe, the Mohamadzai have become a tribe in its own right. The Mohammdazi allegedly originate in the Arghistan district, since the grave of Mohammad Baba is located there, but Mohamadzai can be found throughout Kandahar province. They are still close to the Barakzai tribe and have formed political alliances with the Barakzai.

  • Ahmad Wali Karzai/Chief of the provincial council in Kandahar (Popalzai)
  • Haji Amir Lalai/ Former Mujahidin Commander (Popalzai)
  • Abdul Qayyum Karzai (Popalzai) (Wolesi Jirga member)
  • Kandahar Governor (Mohammadzai)
  • Kandahar Mayor Ghulam Haider Hasimi (Mohammadzai)
  • Haji Mawladad- Key Popalzai figures that solves disputes within the city.
  • Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (Popalzai)- Deputy Commander for the Taliban movement. Incarcerated Feb. 2010.
  • Abdul Hamid- Current head of the Provincial court, Mohamadzai.


A Durrani Pashtun tribe found almost exclusively in the district of Shorawak in southern Kandahar province.  There appears to be little ethnographic literature on the Barech beyond the observations of some 19th and early 20th century British civil and military personnel (see Adamec, Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan, Vol. 5, Kandahar and South-Central Afghanistan” 1980, Akademische Druck-u.Verlaganstalt, Graz-Austria).  Despite the Barech claims of Durrani kinship (see Pashtun Genealogies attached), there is reason to believe that the Barech have a different ethnic origin, perhaps Baloch, and transferred their ethnic/tribal identity during a shift in the power balance between the Kingdom of Afghanistan and the Emirate of Qalat.


Numbering around a quarter million in Afghanistan, almost entirely in Kandahar, the Brahui are a small tribal group more usually found in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. Predominantly Sunni, Brahui are descended from Dravidian tribes that once spanned across India before the Aryan invasions of 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. The Brahui language still retains the Dravidian grammatical structure, although most vocabulary is at this point Indo-Iranian in origin. Having lived amongst the Baluch for centuries, they are in many cases indistinguishable, and even provided the Khans of Qalat. In Kandahar they primarily inhabit Shorabak District.


A very small Durrani Pashtun tribe located in Maruf district, Kandahar province.  Affiliation with larger tribe or tribal confederation unknown.


Although usually categorized and self-identified as Panjpai Durranis, many Zirak Durranis dismiss the Noorzai as Ghalji or Ghilzai, not Durrani at all.  At this point in time, it is not clear whether this is a long-standing belief or has arisen out the turmoil of the past three decades, particularly the close partnership between the Noorzai and the Taliban leadership.  Given the numbers and importance of the Noorzai in the south, this attitude may have consequences for long-term tribal politics. Some influential Noorzai tribesmen hold key positions in the Kandahar Provincial government, including Aref Noorzai and his brother Brigadier Mirwais Noorzai who formerly served as Kandahar’s Provincial Chief of Police. Esham Noorzai, who is the deputy leader of the provincial council, is also a Noorzai and is the cousin of Aref and Mirwais. Other influential Noorzai include the former commander Ustad Abdul Halim and Hajji Bashir Noorzai, a former Hezb-i-Islami (Khalis) commander and supporter of the Taliban. He was incarcerated in the United States in 2008 on drug trafficking charges.

  • Arif Khan Noorzai- Powerful tribal leader and member of the provincial council.
  • Hajji Bashir Noorzai- Cousin of Aref Noorzai and former legacy drug trafficker. (incarcerated)
  • Haji Neamatullah Khan- He is a member of both the provincial and Kandahar tribal council.
  • Hafiz Majeed- Senior Taliban field commander for southern Afghanistan. Active.
  • Mullah Mohammed Ghaus – Former high ranking Taliban official. Status unknown.
  • Mullah Abdul Samad Khaksar Akhund- Former Taliban intelligence chief from Kandahar City. Defected to the Northern Alliance and the US Coalition. Assassinated.
  • Mullah Mohammad Issa- Former Taliban minister for mines and industry. Hails from Kandahar’s Spin Boldak district.
  • Ustad Abdul Alim- Former commander from Panjwai district and now current powerbroker in Kandahar City. Notorious reputation. Linked to organized crime and possible narcotics connection.
  • Haji Isa Jan- He is a tribal leader and khan. He was the first Chief of Police of Panjwayi after the collapse of the Taliban regime.
  • Haji Qader- He is the uncle of Aref Noorzai and heads the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.


The Ghilzai have somewhat been pushed into the position of a political underdog in Southern Afghanistan, especially during the current regime. Nevertheless, at least historically, several of the Ghilzai tribes, especially the Hotak had links to rulers (Hotak dynasty (1722-1729), PDPA (Communist) government, and the Taliban). The Hotak seem to have concentrated on dominating the trade sector, which is now also being infringed upon from the Durrani tribes. Among the Ghilzai are the Tokhi who can be found scattered throughout Kandahar but are found in concentration in eastern Kandahar Province and Zabul. There is a strong support for the Taliban among the Tokhi.  In Kandahar City, a separate Ghilzai shura has been formed to promote the Ghilzai among the cities business and political entrepreneurs. The Hotak are the most prominent in Kandahar city (5%), especially among the religious figures.

  • Khatib Mohammad Hassan Akhund- A prominent religious cleric he is khatib (the main speaker during Friday prayers) of the Moyi Mobarak Jamai Mosque where hair of the prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is said to be kept.
  • Haji Kari Sahib- Member of the Kandahar ulema shura and Mullah Imam of the Moyi Mobarak Jamai Mosque.
  • Mohammad Haq Akhunzada- A Hotak elder and known for his mediation skills.
  • Mullah Mohammad Omar- Supreme Leader of  the Taliban. Hotak Gilzai from Uruzgan and later resident of Kandahar.
  • Mauluvi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil- Served as the deputy minister of foreign affairs for the Taliban regime. Incarcerated. Originally from Kandahar’s Maiwand district.


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References - Menu

1 In 2009, Pomegranates were among one of the most important crops; cultivated on an estimated third of all arable land.

2 Afghanistan Human Development Report 2007, United Nations Development Program, 2007, 164.

3 These state-run hospitals and clinics are located in Kandahar City and include: Chinese Shafakhana, Nizamai Shafakhana, Campaign Malaria and Lashmania Office, TB Treatment and Control Center, Alhadi Farhad Roghtoon, Bilal Roghtoon, Alhajir Khidmat Roghtoon, Ayoubee Roghtoon, Alsina Roghtoon, Itihad Roghtoon, Hila Roghtoon, Alhadee Roghton, and Noor Shafakhana.

4 There are over 730 pharmacies in Kandahar City alone with medicine available from China, India, Iran, and Pakistan.

5 Graeme Smith, "New Kandahar Governor Karzai's childhood friend" The Globe and Mail December 19, 2008.

6 VQR Online, at Link.

7 Long War Journal, at Link.

8 Reuters, at Link.

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