Helmand is a province located in southern Afghanistan and is comprised of 13 sub-regional districts. The town of Lashkar Gah serves as the provincial capital. The Hindu Kush mountains are located in the northern reaches of the province, while the south is largely desert. Virtually the entire population lives along the Helmand River. It is the largest province in Afghanistan but is one of the least sparsely populated with a population of approximately 1 million in an area the size of Ireland.

Helmand has a long and storied history going back to the “Helmand Culture” of the Bronze Age (specifically 3rd millennium BCE). The province has been repeatedly conquered due to its strategic location at the crossroads of South, Central, and Southwest Asia. As a result, it has been part of a variegated series of empires and cultures including the Seleucids, the Indian Mauryas, the Arab Caliphates, the Mongols, and the Timurids. In the early modern age, Helmand was frequently contested between the Persian Safavids and the Indian Mughals, resulting in its location at the  juncture between the Persianized western portion of Afghanistan and the eastern portion of the country that has traditionally looked to Central and South Asia.

Helmand officially became a part of the modern state of Afghanistan in 1747 when it submitted to the Afghani founder- Ahmad Shah Durrani. Helmand was part of the “Greater Kandahar” region until the early 20th century when it was officially made into a separate province.

Helmand has gained international notoriety in recent years because of its copious opium production and significant militant presence. The Western-backed International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has conducted military operations in the area since 2006 in an effort to combat the Taliban and eradicate opium production.



Helmand is a rural and tribal society composed primarily of Pashtuns. The Barakzai and Nurzai are the largest tribal groups; nearly 100% of the population are Sunni Muslims. The ancient Pashtun code of Pashtunwali retains significant political and cultural sway among the population.



The current governor is Mirza Khan Rahimi. Law enforcement is carried out by the Afghan Border Police (ABP) who maintain the border, with the neighboring Pakistani province of Baluchistan. This border is part of the Durand Line, dividing Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has a very high occurrence of militant activity and smuggling (much of the Afghani Taliban leadership escaped to the Baluchi capital of Quetta following the American invasion of Afghanistan). The ABP is supported by the Afghan National Army and the American-led ISAF.



Farming in the primary economic activity in Helmand. An estimated 42% of the world’s opium is produced in the province, making Helmand the opium capital of the world. In addition to opium the province produces tobacco, sugar beets, cotton, sesame, wheat, maize, nuts, onion, potatoes, peanuts, apricots, grapes, and melons.




The name Bamyan is translated as “The Place of Shining Light”. It is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is divided into six districts with town of Bamyan as the capital.

Located in the central highlands of Afghanistan, Bamyan Province is one of the most mountainous provinces with a cold climate. Historically, Bamyan was known by different names at different times – Bamika during 5th AD and Fan Yan Na in 132 AD according to a famous Chinese traveler. In ancient times, Bamyan was a key stopping point on the Silk Road.
In the north-east, Bamyan is bordered by provinces of Baghlan and Parwan; Wardak and Ghazni in the south-east; Daikundi in the south-west; Ghor in the west; Sar-e Pol in the north-west; and Samangan in the north.

Globally, Bamyan Province is known for its historical sites like the now destroyed Buddha statues surrounded by more than 3000 caves, Band-e Amir National Park, Dara-i-Ajhdar, Feroz Bahar, Astopa, Klegan, Kaferan etc.  

For long, it has been recognized as one of the safest provinces in the country. However, there were instances of insurgency reported in 2012.


As of September 2011, the total population of Bamyan Province was estimated at 368,395 – comprising of 190,310 males and 178,085 females. It has a sex ratio of 107 males for every 100 females, higher than the sex ratio reported for the whole country (at 105 males per 100 females). The large majority of the population resides in rural areas. According to Central Statistics Organization (CSO) data 2010-11 data, it was more than 97 percent.

The CSO data 2011 shows that Bamyan Province had a very young population with half of the population younger than 16.6 years.

For population aged 15 years or older, Bamyan had a literacy rate of 31.7 percent. It was 45.4 percent for males and 16.5 percent for females.

It is a multi-ethnic tribal society with overwhelming majority of Hazaras, followed by Tajiks and minority groups of Tatars and Pashtuns.

Main languages spoken in the region are Dari (spoken by 96 percent of the population) and Pashto.



Bamyan is mainly an agrarian province with more than 80 percent of the households deriving revenue from agriculture. In rural areas, only 8 percent households depend on trade and services, around 47 percent earn income through non-farm related labor and for 36 percent, major source of revenue comes from livestock. Handicrafts are also produced in most districts of Bamyan Province but particularly in Waras, Punjab and in Bamyan

With the introduction of National Horticulture and Livestock Project in Bamyan in 2013, many farmers have been encouraged to engage in horticulture. As a result of this, about 200 hectares of land was turned into orchards and vineyards with support from local farmers.

Bamyan is very popular for its potatoes and is particularly famous for a “shuttle system” of planting. Seed potatoes are first grown in winter in Jalalabad (warm area) and then transported to Bamyan for spring re-planting.

At 55.7 percent poverty rate, Bamyan is among the poorest provinces. The per capita monthly total consumption is 1,189 Afs.

Among the population aged 15 years or older, 60.5 percent of population was found to be ‘not working’, according to the Socio-Demographic and Economic Survey data from 2011. The proportion of the unemployed was highest for males having reached the university level in comparison to those with no schooling due to limited number of jobs available despite attaining higher education.


Mohammad Tahir Zahir is the current governor of Bamyan Province. He was appointed by President Ashraf Ghani in 2015. His appointment met with a lot of protests. It was alleged that Zahir was incompetent and was elected only because he campaigned for President Ashraf Ghani in the 2014 presidential elections. He succeeded Gen. Ghulam Ali Wahdat, who was appointed next to Habiba Sarabi – Afghanistan’s first female governor.

After the fall of Taliban regime in 2001, Bamyan has been among the relatively peaceful provinces of Afghanistan. However, insurgency activities continue to take place by anti-government armed militant groups. Last year in June, district governor was killed in the province in a militant ambush. Recently, an eleven member rebel group pleaded for reconciliation and peace in Bamyan Province.

An ‘Election Museum’ chronicling Afghanistan’s electoral journey has been recently inaugurated in Bamyan city.




Mukhopadhyay, D. (2014) Warlords, Strongman Governors and the state in Afghanistan. New York: Cambridge University Press

Morgan, L. (2012) The Buddhas of Bamiyan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press





Famous for its historical buildings and minarets, Herat is one of the largest provinces of Afghanistan. It sits in the western part of the country and is composed of 15 districts and over 1000 villages. It shares international borders with Iran to the west and Turkmenistan to the northwest. Within Afghanistan, on its south is Farah Province; Badghis and Ghor provinces are located to the east.

In the past, Herat has been a centre of conflict among many rulers – the Persians, the Mongols, the Arabs and Alexander the Great.

Constructed on Hari Rud River, the widely known Salma Dam (also known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam) is located at the Chishti Sharif district of Herat.


Herat has roughly 1.7 million inhabitants with a predominantly rural population (72 percent). Of the total population, 50.1 percent is male and 49.9 percent is female. There are 101 males for every 100 females as estimated by the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) in 2014. This is lower than Afghanistan’s overall sex ratio which is 105 males for every 100 females.

As per the CSO 2014 data, Herat is a fairly young province with a population of about 44.3 percent for those below 15 years of age. 

The major ethnic groups comprise of Tajiks and Pashtuns, followed by minority groups of Hazaras, Turkmens and Baluchs.

For people aged above 15 and above, the literacy rate is 42.4 percent, for those between the ages of 15-24 it is 61.2 percent, while it is 47.9 percent for 10 years old and above. Birth registration rate in Herat is 41.5 percent.

More than 90 percent of the population speaks Dari and Pashtu whereas Turkmeni and Uzbeki are spoken by the remaining population.


Herat’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture (and horticulture production) and industry. Data from 2012 indicates that 48 percent of rural households derived their income from agriculture and for the other half nonfarm-related labor was the major source of revenue. Livestock activities were carried out mainly by those situated in the mountainous terrain of northern, eastern and southern districts. Marble manufacturing and light industry are other important economic activities.

Herat is home to more than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s Saffron production. Today, it has become a significant means of income so much so that it has been successful in decreasing dependence on poppy production. This has also provided job opportunities for women who are involved in 80 percent of the tasks involving the production.

Herat is also known for producing grapes, pistachios, cashmere and wool.

Herat Province’s annual output in 2011 was estimated at $1.2 billion ($325 million in agriculture, $465 million in the service sector, and $425 million in industrial enterprises including mining) which is 7 percent of the national total.

Herat’s poverty rate had been estimated at 38.7 percent and the per capita monthly consumption was 1,547 Afs according to Afghanistan Provincial Briefs 2011.

The same data recorded the unemployment rate to be 9.9 percent.

It is expected that the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI) will be passing through Herat (among other provinces) from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India in south.


The governor of Herat is the delegated representative of central government in the province but has only limited official authority albeit this has not prevented some governors from exercising significance influence over the local administration. Since 2002, appointments of governors have included assertive local power brokers to technocrats to outsiders who strive to rise above local power politics.

At present, Mohammad Asif Rahimi is the governor of Herat Province. He replaced Asiluddin Jami who was serving as the acting provincial governor in 2015.

Herat has been facing postelection political impasse and continued insecurity. Most of government offices continue to be headed by acting officials since the unity government’s coming into power two and a half years ago. Going by the numbers, currently at least 10 departments, five district chiefs and four deputy district chiefs are working in acting capacity. Moreover, post of deputy governor has been vacant.


Mukhopadhyay, D. (2014) Warlords, Strongman Governors and the state in Afghanistan. New York: Cambridge University Press

Barfield, T. (2012) Afghanistan – A Cultural and Political History. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Lamb, C. (2002) The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage through Afghanistan. HarperCollins Publishers



Jawzjan (also spelled Jowzjan or Jozjan) is located in northern Afghanistan. It borders Turkmenistan, as well as the Afghan provinces of Faryab, Sari Ful and Balkh. Its capital is Shiberghan (also spelled Sheberghan).

The province is composed of 11 districts: Shiberghan, Khamyab, Qarqin, Aqcha, Maradyan, Fayzabad, Mingajik, Khaniqa, Khwajah Du Ko, QushTepa and Darzab.


The Central Statistics Organization (CSO) estimated that 559,691 people live in the province in 2017. Among them, 284,956 are men and 274,735 are women.

This population is mainly rural, with 437,836 people living in the countryside and 121,855 in urban areas.

The majority of people are from Turkmen and Uzbek origins, but other minorities of Tajik, Pashtun, Hazara, Arab, Sadat and Qazaq descent also live in Jawzjan.  

The literacy rate in 2011 was 16 percent.


The province is rich in natural gas. Gas wells have been constructed there and provide energy for the consumption of households and local industries.

80 percent of Jawzjan’s population works in agriculture. Farmers cultivate wheat, barley, corn and legumes, as well as may kinds of fruits.

The rest of the working population works in the artisanal handicraft production of carpets, rugs and pots, as well as in the copper and iron industries.

The latest figures for the unemployment rate date back to 2007 when it was 17 percent.


The Governor of Jawzjan is Bemrad Kuwinli. He was appointed in 2013. He is not affiliated to any political party.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State are active in Jawzjan, and have conducted attacks on civilians there.

Suggested Readings:

A guide to Government in Afghanistan (2004) Manning N., Evans A., Osmani Y., and Tully A., World Bank Publications

Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan (2011) Adamec L. W., Scarecrow Press; 4 ed




Takhar is located in the northeastern part of the country. The province borders Tajiskistan, as well as the other Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz and Baghlan. Its capital is Taluqan.

The province is composed of 17 districts: Taluqan, Hazar Samoch, Baharak, Bangi, Chal, Namak Ab, Kalafghan, Farkhar, Khwaja Ghar, Rustaq, Eshkamesh, Dasht-EQala, Warsaj, Khwaja Bahawuddin, Darqad, Chahab, and Yangi Qala.


The Central Statistics Organization (CSO) estimated that 1,017,575 people live in Takhar in 2017. Among them, 520,020 are men and 497,555 are women.

This population is mainly rural, with 881,249 people located in rural areas, while 136,326 live in urban areas.

The population is composed by a majority of Uzbeks. A minority of Tajiks, Pashtuns and Hazaras also live in the province.

The literacy rate of the population in 2015 was 33.2 percent for children above 10 years old, and 46.7 percent for people between 15 and 24 years old. The literacy rate is higher for men (56.1 percent) than women (37.6 percent).


The economy of Takhar relies mainly on the agricultural sector, which employs 45 percent of the working population. The crops cultivated there are barley, rice and corn. Farmers also produce fruits like apples, plums, cherries, pears, peaches, apricots, grapes, melons and watermelons, which they export to other Afghan provinces.

14 percent of the working population works in handicrafts production, including 75 percent of the female population in Takhar.

There are also gold and salt mines in Takhar. Their exploitation contributes to the economy of the province.

The rest of the working population is employed in the services sector.

The unemployment rate in 2015 was 56.7 percent. This rate rose to 89.8 percent for women.


Takhar and the greater northeast of Afghanistan was the stronghold of the Northern Alliance, and has been fought over by the Taliban. The Northern Alliance was composed of various ethnic and political groups that came together in 1996 to push back the Taliban that had taken over Kabul, and aligned with the US-led coalition against the Taliban after 2001. After the Taliban was ousted from power, the Northern Alliance divided itself into various political parties and military groups, which still wield influence in the province. 

The Taliban returned to the region, and have clashed with Afghan forces there.

The last Governor of the province was Yasin Zia. He was appointed in October 2016, but resigned in May 2017, and no new Governor has been appointed since. The motives for his resignation are not yet known.

Before him, Abdul Latif Ibrahimi, a former jihadi commander affiliated with the Jamaiat-i-Islami Party, was Governor from 2007 to 2009.


Suggested Readings:

A guide to Government in Afghanistan (2004) Manning N., Evans A., Osmani Y., and Tully A., World Bank Publications

Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan (2011) Adamec L. W., Scarecrow Press; 4 ed




Ghor (or Ghour) is located in the central part of Afghanistan. It is surrounded by the provinces of Herat, Badghis, Faryab, Sar-i-Pul, Bamyan, Uruzgan, Helmand and Farah. Its capital is Chighcheran.

Ghor is composed of 10 districts: Chighcheran, Duleena, Dawlatyar, Char Sada, Pasaband, Shahrak, Lal Wa Sarjangal, Taywara, Tulak and Saghar. It is a mountainous province and some of its districts and villages can be isolated for months because of heavy snowfall.


The Central Statistics Organization (CSO) estimates that 713,158 people live in Ghor in 2017. Among them, 365,826 are men, and 347,332 are women.

The population is mainly rural, with 705,719 people living in rural areas and only 7,439 in cities.

The largest ethnic groups living there are the Taimani and Firuzkohi. There are also many inhabitants of Tajik descent. 

The latest figures for the literacy rate of the province were gathered by the CSO in 2012. 26 percent of children above 10 years old were literate, and 29.1 percent of people between 15 and 24 years old were literate. In this age cohort, 42 percent of men were literate, while 15.8 percent of women were literate. The education system in the province is said to be in peril after the closure of many schools.

The Minaret of Jam (Minar-e-Jam) is a UNESCO world heritage site, and has stood in the Shahrak District since the twelfth century.


Ghor is mainly an agricultural province. 74 percent of its working population is employed in the agricultural sector. Farms mainly produce wheat, barley and maize. Farmers also cultivate potatoes, onions and walnuts.

Artisanal handicrafts are another source of income for the province. 13 percent of the working population are craft and related trade workers, including 63 percent of women. They mainly produce handmade rugs.  

14 percent of the working population is employed in the services sector.

The unemployment rate in 2012 was 52.7 percent.


The governor of Ghor is Ghulam Nasir Khaze. He is said to be close to Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from the National Coalition of Afghanistan. In December 2015, Ghulam Nasir Khaze replaced Sima Joyenda as Governor of Ghor. Joyenda was appointed in June 2015, but had to resign later that year because she faced protests and pressures from various religious and military groups.

Warlords supposedly govern most of the province. About 40 warlords are said to rule militias there. They stemmed from factions that fought against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan in the 1980s. They are supported by political parties, Jamiat-e Islami being the most influential of them. The Taliban also claim to occupy some parts of the province.

Some former Taliban groups have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, and have conducted attacks on civilians in Ghor on its behalf.


Suggested Readings:

A guide to Government in Afghanistan (2004) Manning N., Evans A., Osmani Y., and Tully A., World Bank Publications

Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan (2011) Adamec L. W., Scarecrow Press; 4 ed




Samangan Province, one of the thirty- four provinces in Afghanistan, is located in the north of the country and bordered by Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The Province is well positioned on the main trade road between Mazar-e-Sharif and Pul-e-Khumri, Salang and Kabul. However, a large part of the Province is geographically isolated. A large proportion of the region is mountainous or semi mountainous terrain (80%) while almost an eighth (12%) of the area is made up of flatland. Samangan is 959 meters above sea level, covering 13,438 km2. The area is divided into 7 districts, which are Hazrat-e-Sultan, Khuram Wa Sarbagh, Feroz Nakhcheer, Roi-Do-Ab, Dara-e-Soof-e-Payin, Dara-e-Soof-e-Bala and Aybak which serves as the province’s capital.


Due to a lack of census data, there is no exact figure on Samangan’s population. However, provincial estimates in 2004, put the total population of the region at 320, 400, with more recent estimates approximating it at 394,500. Aybak, as of data collected 2015, had the largest population in Samangan, comprising 29.4 percent of the provincial share. Dara-e-Soof-e-Payin came in second with 18.9 percent, followed by Dara-e-Soof-e-Bala with 15.8 percent. Feroz Nakhcheer was the smallest district with only 3.4 percent. 

Population density followed a similar pattern, with Aybak coming in at top (87 persons per km2 of land area), while Feroz Nakhcheer at the bottom (13 persons per km2).

The sex composition of the province is slightly skewed towards males, with the population comprising of 104 males for every 100 females. Samangan followed the national trend in terms of age structure, with a very young population - almost 44 percent of its population was aged below 15 years. According to the Samangan SDES 2015, the literacy rate in the province is 32.6% for citizens aged 10 years and older, with males (43.1%) twice as likely as females (21.5%) to be literate under the UN-mandated definition of literacy. A similar pattern existed in terms of educational attainment, with 10.2% of males having attended classes 10–12 or received vocational or higher education, while only 2.0% of all women had accessed the same.

It also ranks amongst the worst fifteen provinces in Afghanistan for under-5 mortality rates and maternal mortality ratios. Polio vaccination coverage stood at 45.8%, while only 12.2% of the population had access to a safe-water source. The average household size of was 5.9 persons per household, while 90.1 percent of households had electricity in their houses. In the district RoiDo-Ab, this proportion for electricity access was the highest among districts at 96.4 percent.

According to a survey in 2003, Dari is the predominantly spoken language, being spoken by 72.5% of the population and 69.4% of the villages. Uzbaki comes in at 2nd, being spoken by 25.2 % of the villages, and 21.2% of the villages.

As Afghanistan has never had a census of its complete population, the UNFPA only provides estimates of the ethnic groups present in Samangan, with approximations dividing the population mainly between Uzbeks (30%) and Tajiks (65%). However, the region does have pockets of other ethnic groups, including Pashtuns, Hazaras, Arabs, Tatars, and others.


The economy of Samangan is primarily premised on agriculture. According to USAID data, the majority of the residents of Samangan were engaged in animal husbandry, especially sheep and cattle. There has been increasing awareness and promotion of herd improvement through cross breeding, and animal health services are being refurbished.  A substantial proportion of the population relies on subsistence agriculture with farmers in remotes areas continuing in the tradition of keeping portions of the wool, meat and milk from livestock for personal consumption, selling the remainder in local markets. While only a small proportion of area has soil fertile enough for crop production, Samangan has vast tracts of pastureland.

According to data collected for the year 2008, farmers in the area grew 30 different crops on approximately 144,454 hectares of land (10.58 percent of total area). The most cultivated area of the region is concentrated in the northwestern and southeastern districts, close to the Samangan River. Almost 70 percent of the cultivated land is concentrated in 4 of the 7 districts of Samangan. Samangan’s total 2008 crop production totaled at 292,286 megatons, with grains coming having the largest share of production, (88.98 percent).  Fruits came in at second (10.18 percent), followed by vegetables(0.72 percent) and fodder and industrial crops (0.13 percent). The total market value of the 2008 agricultural output was estimated at $253 million.

A minority of the population is also engaged in non-farm labor, manufacturing and industry, and opium production.

Data collected in 2007 found that more the unemployment rate in Samangan stood at 18.7%, drastically high in comparison to states around the world, but below well below the national mean, which was estimated to be 25% in 2015. The child labor rate, calculated between those between 5-15 years of age stood at 10.1% according to data from 2007. More recent surveys found that the rate had dropped to 9.0%, with boys much more likely engaged in child labor (14.7%) than girls (3.2%). The budget for the year 2012 came in at 936.1 million AFS, while expenditure stood for the same year stood at 1,091,125 thousand AFS. Data from 2007 demonstrated a poverty rate of 55.1%. The monthly total consumption per capita stood at 1,188 AFS.

Political Parties

Muhammad Hashim Zareh serves the Provincial Governor of the province.   Mohammad Hashem Zareh was appointed governor in July, 2015, the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, on the back of mandate of launching development projects, and ensuring freedom of expression.

On July 17th, he was officially introduced to the local officials and citizens of the area by Mohammad Nader Yama, policy deputy of Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG).

The government bureaucracy also includes a Police Chief, a delegate of the Ministry of the Interior in Kabul, and mandated to oversee all police department activities within the province.  





Located in Northern Afghanistan, the capital of Faryab Province is Maimana. The province consists of about 948,000 individuals according to the 2012-2013 Census conducted in Afghanistan. Bordering “Sar-i-Pul province to its east and southeast, Ghor to the south, [and] Badghis to its west”, Faryab also borders the Central Asian state of Turkmenistan to its north. Overall, the province is estimated to be about 27,922 square kilometers.


Like most of northern Afghanistan, the ethnic backgrounds of the citizens of Faryab Province are Uzbek and Tajik as the majority, while Turkmen, Pashtun and Hazaras are respectively the other minor groups, reflecting the province’s close proximity to the Central Asian states of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, despite the fact that it only borders the state of Turkmenistan. Meanwhile, in terms of the gender ratio, males and females are statistically close together, although females outnumber males, 483,800 females to 464,200 males. Dari and Uzbeki are the widely spoken languages in the province.


Currently in Faryab, the literacy rate of the entire population is “roughly less than 40%”. Although there are “430 schools (346 primary, 26 middle, and 31 high) in the province” according to the Regional Rural Economic Regeneration Strategies report, the fact that there is only one higher education institute (i.e. university-like institution) in the province means that students won’t have as many opportunities in the work force in the higher pay grade.

Meanwhile, much of the province is focused on carpet weaving and agriculture, with 65% of the population focusing on carpet weaving and 70% on agriculture. Copper, gold, and iron mining is also an important industry in the province, though not as much as agriculture and carpet weaving are. This is due to the violence plaguing the country, which has set these industries back. Some of the more popular and more-produced foods of the province include fruits (apples, peaches, etc.) and vegetables such as tomatoes; figs and dates are also heavily produced as well.

Political History

Similar to most provinces of Afghanistan, Faryab province has a system of tribal elders in place to help govern the province. The current governor of the province is Abdul Haq Shefaq. He believes that Afghanistan needs to have a strong relationship with the international community in order for Afghanistan, and thus Faryab to survive and thrive. Finally, with security, as with all provinces in Afghanistan, the security and law enforcement agencies are all governed and monitored through the Afghan National Police.

Suggested Readings

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: Afghanistan National Development Strategy. Faryab Province: Provincial Development Plan.


Gompelmann, Geert. Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship between Aid and Security in Afghanistan’s Faryab Province. Tufts University: Feinstein International Center.



The capital of the province is the city of Kunduz, with the total population of the province being about one million total inhabitants. Geographically, Kunduz has always been an important province. To its north is the country of Tajikistan, giving the province a crucial access point to Central Asia. Meanwhile, Kunduz shares borders with the Afghan provinces of Baghlan, Samangan, and Takhar to the south, west, and east respectively.


As with most of Afghanistan, Kunduz Province is predominantly Muslim. Furthermore, according to the Pajhwok Afghan News, the province contains a number of ethnicities including the “Tajik, Pashtun, Uzbek, Hazara, Aymaq, Baluch, Turkman, Arab, Kuchi and Hindus.” More specifically, according to the Afghanistan Analysts Network, Kunduz consists of “34 per cent Pashtun, 27 per cent Uzbek, 20 per cent Tajik, 9.4 per cent Turkmen, 4.6 per cent Arab, 3.5 per cent Hazara plus a few very small groups including Baluch, Pashai and Nuristani.”

In regards to the population breakdown, the male and female populations are fairly evenly distributed, with males slightly outnumbering females, with males constituting 485,400 individuals and females constituting 468,400, with the total population being 953,800. Looking more in-depth at the population itself, about 19.7% of the population (16 and over) are literate and 49.7% of the children aged 6-12 are enrolled in school.


In the “Economic Assessment and Labour Market Survey of Mazar-i Sharif, Pul-i Khumri, Kandahar City and Kunduz City” as reported by the Mercy Corps, the economic situation of Kunduz Province is described in great detail. For example, the poverty rate in the province is at about 29.7%. Also, the top employment sectors in the province are agriculture, manufacturing/mining/construction, services, and public administration at 58.2%, 21.9%, 18.1%, and 1.8 % respectively.

Although some statistics are available for the province, it should be noted that not all data is available. Thus, the Mercy Corps would have to go off of interview with officials and businessmen. Through such interviews, they were able to figure out that much of the province’s trade goes toward Tajikistan, and possibly Uzbekistan as well, but the lack of actual statistics makes that hard to prove.

Political History

In February of 2016, “Asadullah Omarkhel, head of Kunduz high peace council, was appointed as governor of Kunduz province” according to The Frontier Post. Elaborating more of the Kunduz Peace Council, the council consists of twenty five members and was established in October of 2011. These members consist of “tribal elders, religious scholars and government officials” whose job is to “focus on the reintegration of armed opponents” according to the Afghan Bios Database.

It should also be noted that for a brief time in 2015, control of the city of Kunduz, the provincial capital, was lost to the Afghan Taliban. For several months, the Taliban had besieged the city, finally gaining control on September 28th of 2015, the first time the Taliban had control of a major Afghan city since the US invasion in 2001. Three days later, on October 1, the city was taken back from the Taliban, but the damage it had done to the credibility of the government had already been done, with even the temporary capture of the city being a huge symbolic victory for the Taliban.

Suggested Readings

Hall, Samuel. “Economic Assessment and Labour Market Survey of Mazar-i Sharif, Pul-i Khumri, Kandahar City and Kunduz City.” Mercy Corps. http://samuelhall.org/REPORTS/Economic%20Assessment%20and%20Labour%20Market%20Survey.pdf

Wormer, Nils. “The Networks of Kunduz: A History of Conflict and Their Actors, from 1992 to 2001.” Afghanistan Analysts Network. http://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/fachpublikationen/wrm_2012_the_networks_of_Kunduz.pdf




Kandahar Province is one of the southernmost provinces in Afghanistan. The province borders several provinces along its borders, as well as sharing its eastern border with the state of Pakistan. On its western border is Helmand Province, Uruzgan in the north, and Zabul in the northeast. The capital of the Province is Kandahar City, with a population of around 1.5 million citizens.


The most recent official statistics on the demographics of Kandahar Province that could be found were from 2005 and came from the Central Statistics Office of Kandahar with assistance from the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). In those statistics, the demographics present in Kandahar are similar to those found in the rest of Afghanistan. A large percentage of the population is comprised of people 18 and older. The largest group for the males was the 5-9 age group at 88, 788 citizens, constituting 19.08% of the male population. For the females, the 0-4 age group was the largest at 101, 853 citizens, or 22.81% of the female population.

In this census taken, although official language statistics were not taken, they were able to verify that out of the villages that they went to, Pashtu was spoken in 98% of these villages. Some of the other spoken languages include Dari, Balochi, and other unspecified languages.

What isn’t specified in detail are the ethnic groups that comprise Kandahar Province. It can be expected though that Kandahar is similar to the rest of Afghanistan in its ethnic make-up. This means that the majority ethnic group would be the Pashtuns, with the other ethnicities being Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and Turkmens, among others.

The same also goes for major religions in Afghanistan. When going off of the statistics from the CIA World Factbook for the whole of Afghanistan, the overwhelming majority is Muslim at 99.7%, with about 86% being Sunni and 13% being Shia.


The economy of Kandahar Province is based mostly off of agricultural products and industrial parks. Specifically, the farmers and landworkers grow apricots, peaches, grapes, pomegranates, and almonds, among numerous other products. They also raise livestock such as sheep, cows, and goats. In regards to the industrial parks, they tend to focus more on utensils, aluminum, oil, and soap, among other products.

Due to the conflict in Afghanistan that has been going on for the past several decades, poppy production, which is used for heroin, is common in the province. Even more common is drug trafficking. In fact, many of the tribes in Kandahar engage in some form of drug trafficking, making the province a popular transit route.

In regards to economics of the province, the average Afghan family makes around $90-$100 in US dollars, which is the equivalent of 4,500 - 5,000 Afghanis (the currency of Afghanistan).

Political Parties

Kandahar’s modern political system and history can said to have started with the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1979-1989). During the war, Kandahar City was under the control and maintenance of the Afghan government. The situation changed radically however after the Soviet withdrawal. The Taliban organization began to rise in power and by 1996, had attained almost full control of all of Afghanistan, including Kandahar Province. What is not known, however, is exactly when the Taliban took control of the province, despite the Taliban having supporters in Kandahar.

Following the US Invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 as a response to the 9/11 attacks, Kandahar adopted a tribal political system. In fact, it had had this system before the Soviet invasion, in which jirgas, or tribal village elders, would essentially rule and control law and order in their respective village and territory. However, with the Taliban’s rise to power, many of those elders were killed or captured and replaced with Taliban commanders, meaning that the province has a political system that is significantly weaker than those also in the Afghan Pashtun community.

Suggested Readings

IDS International. Kandahar Provincial Handbook: A Guide to the People and the Province. (IDS International).

Abdullah Sharif. Kandahar Provincial Handbook. (IDS International).



Balkh locates in the north of Afghanistan with Mazar-i-Sharif as its capital city. Its total area is 17,249km2. The province shares borders in the northeast with Tajikistan and in the north with Uzbekistan.

Balkh has over 4000-year long history and is regarded as the center of Buddhism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. It also was an important stop on the silk road which was through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Numerous historical sites and artifacts lies in the province. However, most of them are at the verge of collapse due to natural and human disaster. Because of war and poor economy, authorities have paid little attention to renovate them.


The population of Balkh province was reported at 1,298,300 in the year 2014. Due to historical reasons, Balkh has the reputation as home to various ethnicity including Pashton, Uzbek, Hazara, Tajik, Aimaq, Balouch, Arab, and others. The main language used here are Persian and Pashto.


Balkh is a centre of the cotton industry and carpet weaving. Its cotton production nearly takes up half of the nation’s production. Agricultural products like almonds, plums, apples, melons, peaches and mulberries are also abundant in the province.

Balkh is also a resource-rich province. Six-mines of petroleum have already been detected. In addition, other reserves of gas, salt, and others are also available in Balkh province.

Political Parties

The current governor of the province is Atta Muhammad Nur, who was in power since 2004. He is regarded as the most powerful political force in the Balkh Province and has exerted high level of control on Balkh.

But he still enjoys majority support in Balkh for securing the area’s stability and peaceful. His administration has successfully achieved poppy-free goal in Balkh Province in 2007. Previously, Balkh was one of the largest opium and poppy cultivation area.

Suggested Reading

J Lee, Jonathan L Lee: The "Ancient Supremacy": Bukhara, Afghanistan and the Battle for Balkh, 1731-1901 (Brill, 1996)



Badghis is one of the northwestern provinces with Qala-e-Naw, a small town, as its capital city. The province originally was part of Herat Province and Meymaneh Province territory. But in 1964 it was carved out of portions of the two provinces with total area of 20,591 km2. Its northern border extends to the edge of the desert of Sarakhs, Turkmenistan. It also shares border with Herat to the west, Faryab to the East, and Ghor to the south.

Badghis is irrigated by the Murghab. But it always faces water shortage and poor infrastructure and roads. Therefore, it has the least number of populations and the lowest grade of growth and development in Afghanistan.


The population of Badghis province was reported at 487,800 in the year 2014. The population of Badghis consists of 62% Tajik, 28% Pashtun, 5% Uzbek, 3% Turkmen, and 2% Baloch


Agriculture is the main source of people's income. Its agriculture is mostly rain-fed and traditional. The main agricultural products are wheat, barley, maize, peas, cumin, sesame, watermelon, melon and etc. Badghis also is the leading province in Afghanistan in pistachio production which makes millions of revenue for the government and the people associated with the occupation.

Livestock and Qaraqul types of sheep are another main source of the people. They export sheep, Qaraqul skin and wool to other provinces. Carpet weaving industry is traditional and professional industry for the hardworking residents of Badghis province. The carpets weaved in Badghis is famous in both domestic and foreign markets. However, the enterprise Shirkat Qalin Bafi Badghis (Badghis Carpet Weaving Company) only continued its activities till 1992 then forced to go to Samarqand City of Uzbekistan due to lack security and now work in the same name there.

Political Parties

The province was under control by the Taliban for many years until Northern Alliance forces retook it. But Taliban still survives in this area and conflicts with the authority frequently. Some former governors also were blamed for being in favour of Taliban.

The current Governor of the province is Jamaluddin Ishaq, appointed by central government on Oct, 2015.

Suggested Reading

Badghis Province Geography, General Books LLC