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Home >>  Culture & Conflict Studies  >>  Kandahar Province

Kandahar Province

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 Governor Wesa
Governor Tooyalai Wesa
Source: CTV
Kandahar Map

Provincial Overview (PDF) - Updated September 2010

In the News

  • No surrender, no regrets for Taliban turncoat, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 13, 2011:
    “Aziz is one of the highest-profile Taliban to ''come over'', as he puts it, joining a reintegration program designed to bring Taliban fighters back into the mainstream of Afghan society.”

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 topographyy is composed of deserts in the south, hills in the north, and mountaineous 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 refered 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.

Tooryalai Wesa, 58, was appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as the new Governor of Kandahar Province on December 18, 2008. Wesa replaced General Rahmatullah Raufi, who only served four months as Kandahar’s Governor before being removed. Tooryalai Wesa is an agricultural expert who worked at the University of British Columbia for the past 13-years. Wesa is a member of the Mohammadzai tribe and retains incredibly close ties with the Karzai family, especially with Qayum Karzai.[1] He speaks six languages and is well respected among many Kandaharis because of his tribal affiliation and background in rural development.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansoor, from Kandahar, has been the Taliban Shadow 'Governor' of Kandahar since May 2007. He is a current member of the supreme council ("Rahbari Shura") and replaced Mullah Baradar's after Baradar’s arrest in 2010.

Kandahar Tribal Map Click to view Kandahar Tribal Map
Click to view Tribal Map

Human Terrain:
Achekzai: 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.

Alokozai: 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.

Baluch: 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. Baluch Tree (PDF)

Barakzai: 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).

Barakzai Tree (PDF)

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.

Barech: 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.

Brahui: 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.

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

Noorzai: 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.

Ghilzai: 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.

1. Graeme Smith, "New Kandahar Governor Karzai's childhood friend" The Globe and Mail December 19, 2008 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20081219.AFGHAN19/TPStory/International

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