Kandahar Province

Kandahār (Pashto: کندھار; Kandahār, Dari: قندهار; Qandahār) is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, located in the southern part of the country, sharing a border with Pakistan, to the south. It is surrounded by Helmand in the west, Uruzgan in the north and Zabul Province in the east. Its capital is the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city, which is located on the Arghandab River. The greater region surrounding the province is called Loy Kandahar. The Emir of Afghanistan sends orders to Kabul from Kandahar making it the de facto capital of Afghanistan, although the main government body operates in Kabul. All meetings with the Emir take place in Kandahar, meetings excluding the Emir are in Kabul.

View of Aino Mina, which is a newly-established suburb of Kandahar City
View of Aino Mina, which is a newly-established suburb of Kandahar City
Loy kandahar
Map of Afghanistan with Kandahar highlighted
Map of Afghanistan with Kandahar highlighted
Coordinates (Capital): 31°00′N 65°30′E / 31.0°N 65.5°E / 31.0; 65.5Coordinates: 31°00′N 65°30′E / 31.0°N 65.5°E / 31.0; 65.5
Country Afghanistan
 • TypeProvince
 • GovernorMuhammad Yousuf Wafa[1]
 • Deputy GovernorMaulvi Hayatullah Mubarak[2]
 • Police ChiefHaji Mullah Abdul Ghafar Mohammadi Sahib[3]
 • Total54,844 km2 (21,175 sq mi)
 • Total1,431,876
 • Density26/km2 (68/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+4:30 (Afghanistan Time)
Area codeAF-KAN
Main languagesDari

The province contains about 18 districts, over 1,000 villages, and approximately 1,431,876 people (the 6th most populous province), which is mostly tribal and a rural society.[5] The main inhabitants of Kandahar province are the ethnic Pashtuns. They are followed by the Baloch people, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmens and Hazaras.[6]


There is speculation revolving around the origin of the name "Kandahar". It is believed to have started as one of many cities named after the Hellenistic conqueror Alexander the Great throughout his vast (mainly ex-Achaemenid) empire, its present form deriving from the Pashto rendering of Arabic Iskandariya = Ancient Alexandria (in Arachosia).[7]

A temple to the deified Alexander as well as an inscription in Greek and Aramaic by the emperor Ashoka, who lived a few decades later, have been discovered in the old citadel.[8]


Excavations of prehistoric sites by archaeologists such as Louis Dupree and others suggest that the region around Kandahar is one of the oldest human settlements known so far.

...Early peasant farming villages came into existence in Afghanistan ca. 5000 B.C., or 7000 years ago. Deh Morasi Ghundai, the first prehistoric site to be excavated in Afghanistan, lies 27 km (17 mi.) southwest of Kandahar (Dupree, 1951). Another Bronze Age village mound site with multiroomed mud-brick buildings dating from the same period sits nearby at Said Qala (J. Shaffer, 1970). Second millennium B.C. Bronze Age pottery, copper and bronze horse trappings and stone seals were found in the lowermost levels in the nearby cave called Shamshir Ghar (Dupree, 1950). In the Seistan, southwest of these Kandahar sites, two teams of American archaeologists discovered sites relating to the 2nd millennium B.C. (G. Dales, University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1969, 1971; W, Trousdale, Smithsonian Institution, 1971 – 76). Stylistically the finds from Deh Morasi and Said Qala tie in with those of pre-Indus Valley sites and with those of comparable age on the Iranian Plateau and in Central Asia, indicating cultural contacts during this very early age...[9]

— N. Dupree

The area was called Arachosia and was a frequent target for conquest because of its strategic location in Asia, which connects Southern, Central and Southwest Asia. It was part of the Medes territory before falling to the Achaemenids. In 330 BC it was invaded by Alexander the Great and became part of the Seleucid Empire following his death. Later it came under the influence of the Indian emperor Ashoka, who erected a pillar there with a bilingual inscription in Greek and Aramaic. The territory was ruled by the Zunbils before Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate arrived in the 7th century.

A miniature from Padshahnama depicting the surrender of the Shia Safavid at what is now Old Kandahar in 1638 to the Mughal army of Shah Jahan commanded by Kilij Khan

The Arabs advanced through Sistan and conquered Sindh early in the eighth century. Elsewhere however their incursions were no more than temporary, and it was not until the rise of the Saffarid dynasty in the ninth century that the frontiers of Islam effectively reached Ghazni and Kabul. Even then a Hindu dynasty the Hindushahis, held Gandhara and eastern borders. From the tenth century onwards as Persian language and culture continued to spread into Afghanistan, the focus of power shifted to Ghazni, where a Turkic dynasty, who started by ruling the town for the Samanid dynasty of Bokhara, proceeded to create an empire in their own right. The greatest of the Ghaznavids was Mahmud, who ruled between 998 and 1030. He expelled the Hindus from Ghandhara.[10]

Painting by Abdul Ghafoor Breshna depicting the 1747 coronation of Ahmad Shah Durrani, who is regarded as the founding father of Afghanistan (Father of the Nation).

Mahmud of Ghazni made the area part of the Ghaznavids in the 10th century, who were replaced by the Ghurids. After the destructions caused by Genghis Khan in the 13th century, the Timurids established rule and began rebuilding cities. From about 1383 until his death in 1407, Kandahar was governed by Pir Muhammad, a grandson of Timur. By the early 16th century, it fell to Babur briefly. From then on the province was controlled as their easternmost territories by the Shia Safavids, who regularly had wars with the Sunni Mughals -who ruled Qandahar as a short-lived subah (imperial province), bordering Kabul and Multan subahs, from the 1638 conquest till its loss in 1648 to the great Safavid rival- over the region, until the rise of Mir Wais Hotak in 1709. He rebelled against the Safavids and established the Hotaki dynasty which became a powerful Afghan empire until 1729 when Nader Shah declared war on the Ghilzai rulers. By 1738 the last Hotaki ruler Shah Hussain was defeated in what is now Old Kandahar.

The British forces during the 1880 Battle of Kandahar.

Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founding father of Afghanistan, gained control of the province in 1747 and made the city of Kandahar the capital of his new Afghan Empire. In the 1770s, the capital of the empire was transferred to Kabul. Ahmad Shah Durrani's mausoleum is located in the center of the city.

British-led Indian forces occupied the province during the First Anglo-Afghan War from 1832 to 1842. They also occupied the city during the Second Anglo-Afghan War from 1878 to 1880. It remained peaceful for about 100 years until the late 1970s.

During the Soviet occupation of 1979 to 1989, Kandahar province witnessed many fights between Soviet and local Mujahideen rebels. After the Soviet withdrawal the city fell to Gul Agha Sherzai, who became a powerful warlord and controlled the province.

At the end of 1994, the Taliban took over the area and set out to conquer the rest of Afghanistan. Since the removal of the Taliban government in late 2001, Kandahar again came under the control of Gul Agha Sherzai. He was replaced in 2003 by Yousef Pashtun followed by Asadullah Khalid and others. In the meantime, the United States established bases in the province. The various soldiers of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were also housed in the bases. The main base was at Kandahar International Airport. Their main objective is to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as well as build government institutions and assist the local population.

In spring 2010, the province as well as its capital city became a target of American operations following Operation Moshtarak in neighboring Helmand province.[11] Kandahar has been the site of much of the violence in the War on Terror in Afghanistan. That year Kandahar was known as "the most dangerous, most unmerciful area of the country."[12]

Politics and governanceEdit

Yousaf Wafa is the current governor of the province.[13] His predecessor was Rohullah Khanzada. Gul Agha Sherzai was governor of the province before and after the Taliban five-year government. In early 2003, then-President Hamid Karzai transferred Sherzai from Kandahar to Jalalabad as Governor of Nangarhar Province. Sherzai was replaced by Yousef Pashtun in Kandahar.

In 2005, when Karzai won the first Afghan Presidential Elections, he appointed Yousef Pashtun as the Minister of Urban Development. After Pashtun, Asadullah Khalid governed the province until the appointment of Rahmatullah Raufi in August 2008.[14] Raufi was replaced by Toryalai Wesa in December 2008.


According to the National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA), the total population of the province was estimated at 1,431,876.[5] Pashtuns make up the majority in province. There are also communities of Baloch people, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Hazaras and others.[6] The main language spoken throughout the province is Pashto.[4] Dari and Balochi is also understood by some, especially in the city of Kandahar where learning of Dari as a second language is promoted in public schools.[15]

A gathering of tribal leaders in Kandahar.


The main tribes in the province are as follows:[16]

District informationEdit

Districts of Kandahar.

In 1914 Kandahar was divided into the following districts:[17]

  1. Kariajat (includes the suburbs of Kandahar and the Arghandab Valley)
  2. Mahalajat (Old Kandahar and surroundings)
  3. Daman
  4. Tirin
  5. Derawat
  6. Dahla
  7. Deh-i Buchi
  8. Khakrez
  9. Kushk-i Nakhud
  10. Maiwand
  11. Nish
  12. Ghorak
  13. Kalat-i Ghilzai
  14. Arghastan
  15. Tarnak
  16. Mizan
  17. Maruf
  18. Kadanai (named after the Kadanai river that flows through it)
  19. Shorawak

Today the province is divided into the following administrative divisions:

Districts of Kandahar Province
District Capital Population[5] Area Number of villages and ethnic groups
Arghandab 70,016 578 km2 79 villages. Pashtun
Arghistan 38,928 3,908 km2 Pashtun[18]
Daman 39,193 [19]
Ghorak 10,895 1,503 km2 Pashtun[20]
Kandahar Kandahar 632,601 Pashtun, Baloch, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek.[15]
Khakrez 25,774 1,616 km2 Pashtun[21]
Maruf 37,333 3,191 km2 Pashtun[22]
Maiwand 66,297 2,858 km2 160 villages. 95% Pashtun and 5% other.[23]
Miyanishin 17,006 917 km2 Pashtun[24]
Nesh 15,146 1,302 km2 Pashtun[25]
Panjwayi 98,448 Pashtun[15]
Reg 10,097 Baloch and Pashtun
Shah Wali Kot 49,025 Pashtun
Shorabak 13,020 Pashtun and Baloch
Spin Boldak 113,727 Pashtun
Takhta-pul 14,349 Pashtun
Zhari 96,987 Pashtun
Dand 50,752 Pashtun

Transport and economyEdit

A Kam Air passenger plane at Kandahar International Airport in 2012

The Ahmad Shah Baba International Airport is located east of the city of Kandahar. It is for civilian and military use. It serves the population of southern Afghanistan by providing domestic flights to other cities and international flights to Dubai, Pakistan, Iran and other regional countries. The airport was built by the United States in the 1960s under the United States Agency for International Development program. It was later used by Soviet and Afghan forces during the 1980s and again during the 2001–2021 NATO-led war. The airport was upgraded and expanded during the last decade by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

There is currently no rail service but reports indicate that at least one will be built between the city of Kandahar and the border town of Spin Boldak in the south, which will then connect with Pakistan Railways.[26][27][28][29][30][31][32] Ground transport of goods is done by trucks and cars. A number of important roads run through the province and this helps the area's economy. The town of Spin Boldak serves as a major transporting, shipping, and receiving site. It is being developed so that trade with neighboring Pakistan increases.

Kandahar province has bus services to major towns and village headquarters. Its capital, Kandahar, used to have a city bus service that took commuters on daily routes to different destinations throughout the city. There are taxicabs that provide transportation service inside the city as well as throughout the province. Other traditional methods of ground transportation are also used. Private vehicles are on the rise in the country, with large showrooms selling new or second-hand vehicles imported from the United Arab Emirates. More people are buying new cars as the roads and highways are being improved.

Kandahar has been known for having well-irrigated gardens and orchards, and was famous for its grapes, melons, and pomegranates. The main source of trade is to Pakistan, Iran and other regional countries. Kandahar is an agricultural area and several of the districts are irrigated by the Helmand and Arghandab Valley Authority.[33] The Dahla Dam is located in the province, north of the city of Kandahar. There are approximately 700 greenhouses in the entire province but farmers want the government to build more.[34]


The Kandahar Regional Military Hospital in 2007.

There are a number of hospitals in the province, most of them in the city of Kandahar. They include Aino Mina Hospital, Al Farhad Hospital, Ayoubi Hospital, Mirwais Hospital, Mohmand Hospital,[35] Sial Curative Hospital and Sidal Hospital.


A Kandahar University student sweeping the sidewalk in June 2012.

Kandahar University is one of the largest educational institutions in the province. It has over 5,000 students, about 300 of which are female students.[36] In partnership with the Asia Foundation, Kandahar University conducted a pilot project that provided female high school graduates with a four-month refresher course to prepare for the college entrance examination. The university is one of two universities in Kandahar that serve all of southern Afghanistan. The conditions in the university are poor but improving slowly. Kandahar University is far behind many of the other universities in the country because of insecurity and shortage of funding,

There are approximately 377 public and private schools in Kandahar province. The total number of students is 362,000. Of this, 79,000 are female students. Due to insecurity and other issues, many female students drop out before obtaining a diploma.[37] Almost 150 educational institutes were closed in the past, according to the education ministry. Some of the well known public schools in Kandahar are Ahmad Shah Baba High School, Mahmud Tarzi High School, Mirwais Hotak High School, Nazo Ana High School, Shah Mahmud Hotak High School, and Zarghuna Ana High School. Private schools include Afghan Turk High Schools.

Notable people from Kandahar ProvinceEdit

Royalty and statesmen
Other politics, generals and administration
  • Abdul Bari Jahani – Poet, writer, author of the Afghan National Anthem
  • Abdul Hai Habibi- Poet, Writer, Historian, Founder and Developer of Academic Pashto era.
  • Faizullah Kakar - Afghan epidemiologist. Previous Chief of Staff to President Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan Ambassador to Qatar, the Adviser to President for Health and Education, and the Deputy Minister of Public Health for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Trofimov, Yaroslav (2021-08-13). "Taliban Seize Kandahar, Prepare to March on Afghan Capital Kabul". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  2. ^ "Respect amnesty for ex-officials: Taliban chief". December 30, 2021 – via pajhwok.com.
  3. ^ "Taliban launch operation against Da'ish in southern Afghanistan". 15 November 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Name of the Province: Kandahar". Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: President. Retrieved 2021-02-04.
  5. ^ a b c d "Estimated Population of Afghanistan 2021-22" (PDF). nsia.gov.af. National Statistic and Information Authority (NSIA). April 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Kandahar Provincial Overview". Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  7. ^ "Alexander the Great: his towns – Alexandria in Arachosia". Livius.org.
  8. ^ "Livius Picture Archive: Shahbazgarhi - Pakistan". Archived from the original on 2004-06-30.
  9. ^ Dupree, Nancy Hatch (1970). An Historical Guide to Afghanistan. Vol. First Edition. Kabul: Afghan Air Authority, Afghan Tourist Organization. p. 492. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  10. ^ Afghanistan: a new history By Martin Ewans Edition: 2, illustrated Published by Routledge, 2002 Page 15 ISBN 0-415-29826-1, ISBN 978-0-415-29826-1
  11. ^ Gall, Carlotta (2010-03-27). "Kandahar, a Battlefield Even Before U.S. Offensive". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  12. ^ Alison, Jane (2010-04-01). "Most Dangerous, Most Unmerciful". VQR Online. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  13. ^ "Senior Officials Appointed in Kandahar". TOLOnews. January 3, 2021. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  14. ^ Galloway, Gloria (23 August 2008). "Security chief concern for new Kandahar governor". The Globe and Mail.
  15. ^ a b c هنریار, ارشاد (2019-05-26). "فارسی زبان‌های قندهار؛ پیشتاز زرگری و رای‌گیری". BBC News فارسی (in Persian). Retrieved 2020-07-26.
  16. ^ "Welcome - Program for Culture and Conflict Studies - Naval Postgraduate School". www.nps.edu. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  17. ^ Adamec, Ludwig W.; Branch, India Army General Staff (1980). Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan, Vol. 5: Kandahar and South-Central Afghanistan. Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt. ISBN 978-3-201-01125-9.
  18. ^ "Arghistan District" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  19. ^ "Daman District (Updated DDP)" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  20. ^ "Ghorak District" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  21. ^ "Khakriz District" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  22. ^ "Maruf District" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  23. ^ "Maiwand District" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  24. ^ "Mianishin District" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  25. ^ "Nish District" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  26. ^ "Pakistan to launch train service with Afghanistan".
  27. ^ Shah, S. Muddasir Ali (5 December 2020). "Pakistan plans Chaman-Spin Boldak rail link".
  28. ^ "Pakistan to build railway line between Chaman and Spin Boldak | Ariana News". Ariana News. 2020-12-05. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  29. ^ "Pakistan to build railway line between Chaman and Spin Boldak".
  30. ^ "Minister announces Pak-Afghan train service". 4 December 2020.
  31. ^ "Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan ink map for rail link". www.aa.com.tr. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  32. ^ "What's Behind the Planned Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Railway?".
  33. ^ "The Helmand Valley Project in Afghanistan: A.I.D. Evaluation Special Study No. 18" (PDF). C. Clapp-Wicek & E. Baldwin, U.S. Agency for International Development. December 1983. Archived from the original on April 8, 2013.
  34. ^ "Kandahar farmers want construction of green houses resumed". Pajhwok Afghan News. June 19, 2022. Retrieved 2022-06-19.
  35. ^ "Mohmand Hospital Kandahar ,Mohmand Hospital Kandahar,Best hospital in Afghanistan,Kandahar Medical Complex ,Kandahar Hospital, Best Hospital In Kandhar". mohmandhospital.com. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  36. ^ "Kandahar University Goes Solar". November 3, 2012. Archived from the original on February 18, 2013. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  37. ^ "Number of girls graduated from Kandahar schools increases". TOLOnews. March 10, 2021. Retrieved 2021-03-10.

Further readingEdit

  • Vogelsang, W. (1985). Early historical Arachosia in South-east Afghanistan; Meeting-place between East and West.
  • Dupree, Louis. (1973) Afghanistan. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Rashid, Ahmed. (2000) Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

External linksEdit