Paktika Province

Paktika (Pashto/Dari: پکتیکا) is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the eastern part of the country. Forming part of the larger Loya Paktia region, Paktika has a population of about 789,000,[3] mostly ethnic Pashtuns. The town of Sharana serves as the provincial capital, while the most populous city is Urgun.

The Afghan national flag (2002-2021) overlooks a valley from an observation post at Paktika province in Afghanistan
The Afghan national flag (2002-2021) overlooks a valley from an observation post at Paktika province in Afghanistan
Map of Afghanistan with Paktika highlighted
Map of Afghanistan with Paktika highlighted
Coordinates (Capital): 32°30′N 68°48′E / 32.5°N 68.8°E / 32.5; 68.8Coordinates: 32°30′N 68°48′E / 32.5°N 68.8°E / 32.5; 68.8
CountryAfghanistan Afghanistan
Largest cityUrgun
 • GovernorAbdullah Mukhtar[1]
 • Deputy GovernorMuhibullah Hamas[2]
 • Total19,482 km2 (7,522 sq mi)
 • Total789,079
 • Density41/km2 (100/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+4:30 (Afghanistan Time)
ISO 3166 codeAF-PKA
Main languagesDari

In 2021, the Taliban gained control of the province during the 2021 Taliban offensive.


Paktika sits adjacent to the Durand Line border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is bordered by the Khost and Paktia provinces to the north. The western border is shared with the provinces of Ghazni and Zabul. The South Waziristan and North Waziristan agencies are to the east of Paktika, while Zhob District of the Balochistan province of Pakistan borders it the southeast. The Shinkay Hills run through the center of Paktika; Toba Kakar Range runs along the border with Pakistan.  The Southern districts are intermittently irrigated and cultivated, the center and north are used primarily for rangeland. There are natural forests in Ziruk, Nika, Gayan, and Bermal districts [1]

Paktika, like many other areas of Afghanistan, has been severely deforested. This has been a cause of devastating floods in recent years. The province is mainly hilly and interspersed with seasonal river valleys. In the north, the terrain gains elevation and becomes more rugged. In the west, the Rowd-e Lurah River originates in the mountainous Omna District and flows southwest to the Ghazni Province, forming a shallow river valley that dominates the topography in the Khairkot, Jani Khel, and Dila Districts. The terrain in Omna becomes more hilly further east in proximity to Pakistan. The sparsely populated southern districts are also hilly, with descending elevation towards the south and west.

The Gomal River, which has a varied flow depending on season, runs from its origin in the mountains of the Sar Hawza District and flows south, before turning southeast to the Pakistani border, forming the broad river valley that defines the topography of the Gomal District, before flowing east through Pakistan and eventually running to the powerful Indus River.


Paktika is the southernmost part of a historical region known as Greater Paktia (Pashto: لویه پکتیا, Loya Paktia), that was once a unified province including Paktia, Khost and parts of Ghazni and Logar. The tribes that reside in this area were mentioned by the Greek historian Herodotus, who called them the "Pactyans" as early as the 1st millennium BCE.

In the 1970s, the provincial capital of the largely undeveloped and remote province of Paktika was moved from the town of Urgun to Sharana due to its proximity with the main highway, connecting it to the larger cities and commercial centres of Kabul, Ghazni and Kandahar.

Paktika was the site of many battles during the Soviet occupation of the country and the lawless years that followed.

The Siege of Urgun took place between 1983 and 1984.

Recent historyEdit

As one of the most remote provinces in Afghanistan and an area that saw much devastation in previous years, Paktika suffers from a severe lack of critical infrastructure. Reconstruction in the province after the fall of the Taliban has been slow compared to that in nearby provinces such as Khost and Zabul. This is primarily due to the remoteness of the region and repeated attacks on aid workers and NATO forces.

In June 2004, members of the Utah and Iowa National Guard helped Army Reserve Civil Affairs Soldiers from Oregon establish a Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Sharana, the provincial capital, to lead the development effort. The first full contingent of eight Civil Affairs Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve's 450th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), based in Riverdale Park, Maryland, arrived in September 2004.

The Shkin firebase was composed of special operations forces. In an article from Time, the U.S. base was described as:

"The U.S. firebase looks like a Wild West cavalry fort, ringed with coils of razor wire. A U.S. flag ripples above the 3-ft.-thick mud walls, and in the watchtower a guard scans the expanse of forested ridges, rising to 9,000 ft., that mark the border. When there's trouble, it usually comes from that direction."[4]

While the province hasn't witnessed the outright fighting in the last few years that has affected provinces like Helmand, there is a constant low level of tribal violence, accompanied by criminal and Taliban activity. The last serious fighting in the province took place in 2004, amid reports that then-Governor Muhammad Ali Jalali was collaborating with Taliban forces, and that the Taliban had effectively annexed eastern portions of the province. Jalali and many of his allied officials, were replaced and U.S. Special Forces were dispatched to fight the Taliban while the Pakistani forces fought with the Taliban's allies in neighbouring South Waziristan.

A convoy with members of Task Force 2–28, 172nd Infantry Brigade and the Afghan National Army winds its way through a small valley on its way back to Forward Operating Base Orgun-E from Combat Outpost Zerok

On 1 November 2004, a civil affairs convoy was ambushed near Surobi, between the Shkin firebase and Orgun-E. U.S. Army Spc. James Kearney, a turret gunner, died of a head shot from a sniper, which initiated the ambush. Two vehicles were destroyed in the engagement and three other Soldiers were wounded.[5] The Provincial Reconstruction Team base was named Camp Kearney on 21 November 2004 to honor the sacrifice of Spc. James Kearney.[6]

Forward Operating Base Super FOB commander explaining the paving process for one of the streets of Camp Super FOB, which will be the largest training and operations base for the Afghan National Army when completed.

On Jun 18, 2008 in the Ziruk District Governor's compound, two members of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, HMN Mark Retmier and CM1 Ross Toles, were killed due to rocket attacks. The mess hall on Forward Operating Base Sharana was named after CM1 Toles and the hospital was named after HMN Retmier.

Kearney Base became the nucleus of what is now Forward Operating Base Sharana.

On July 4, 2009, combat outpost Zerok in East Paktika Province was attacked. The Haqqani network insurgents attacked the COP using mortars, accurate heavy machine gun fire, RPG fire, recoils rifles, and a 5000 lbs Jingle Truck VBIED that destroyed the outposts radio communication. The accurate enemy indirect fire from their mortars set the US mortar pit on fire, and killed two Able Company, 3rd Battalion 509th parachute Infantry regiment mortarmen, PFC Casillas and PFC Fairbairn. They were both returning fire on the 120mm mortar. After the VBIED went off, multiple insurgents began maneuvering towards the outpost, some getting within 100 meters of the cop. Because the enemy was advancing so close to the outpost, the request for CAS was called in, but because of the DUSTWUN (large scale search) for PFC Bergdahl, (who went AWOL after abandoning his post only 100 km away from COP Zerok), air support was delayed. After intense fighting the US Paratroopers suppressed and killed most of the enemy, eventually gunships arrived and JDAMs were dropped on enemy targets.

In 2010 the 101st Rakkasan air assault took over COP Zerok. 60 minutes produced a TV special documenting the unit's takeover of the COP, entitled COP Zerok.

In late July 2011, foreign troops and Afghan special forces killed more than 50 insurgents during an operation in eastern Paktika to clear a training camp the Haqqani network used for foreign fighters, NATO said. Disenfranchised insurgents told security forces where the camp was located, the coalition said.[7]

In November 2011, an estimated 60 to 70 Taliban insurgents were killed in an abortive attack on a joint Afghan-ISAF base in the Margha area of Barmal. No international troops were killed or injured in the incident. It is believed the insurgents crossed over from neighboring FATA and Balochistan of Pakistan. In a separate incident the governor of Sar Hawza district died in the same month after his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.[8]

Afghan Local Police and ANSF moving up a mountain pass

In the spring of 2012 the 172nd Infantry Brigade opened the first Afghan National Army/ US Joint Artillery Fire Base in the Orgun District.

In early 2013 10th Mountain Division, 2–14th Infantry, Golden Dragons, took over FOB Zerok.

Eight civilians including a pregnant woman and a baby died when Polish soldiers shelled the village of Nangar Khel, where a wedding celebration was taking place. Seven Polish soldiers have been charged with war crimes for allegedly opening fire in revenge.

U.S. Army PFC Bowe Bergdahl turned himself in to the Taliban on July 4, 2009, somewhere between OP Mest, near the town of Yahya Khel, and FOB Sharana. He was freed in a prisoner trade on May 31, 2014.[9]

Paktika was one of the provinces most affected by the 2022 Afghanistan earthquake on 22 June 2022. In Gayan District, approximately 1,800 homes, or 70 percent of the district's homes, were destroyed, and 238 people were killed, with 393 others injured.[10][11] In Barmal District, at least 500 people died, with a thousand others injured.[10] Many houses constructed primarily of mud and wood were razed to the ground.[12] Heavy rain and the earthquake contributed to landslides that destroyed entire hamlets.[13] The local clinic in Gayan, which had the capacity of only five patients, was also heavily damaged. Of the about 500 patients admitted to the clinic due to the earthquake, about 200 died.[14] Three days later, an aftershock killed five persons and wounded 11 more in Gayan District.[15][16][17]


As of May 2014, Paktika Province had regularly scheduled passenger flights to Kabul from Sharana Airstrip. The province's development is considered "backwards" compared to the rest of the country but Engineer Hafizullah, head of provincial public works department claimed in 2013 that in the past few years, 154-kilometers roads had been constructed with 70 km having been constructed in 2013 alone.[18]


As of 2021, the total population of the province is about 789,000,[3] which is a multi-ethnic tribal society. According to the Naval Postgraduate School, the ethnic groups of the province are as follows: Pashtun, Tajik, Arab, Pashai, and other various minority groups.[19] Other sources mention that ethnic Pashtuns make up around 96% of Paktika's population.[20] Around 15,000 people (1.8%) are ethnic Uzbeks; and about 5,000 people speak some other languages.[20] These are most probably Hazaras or Baloch. There is also a small Tajik community in Urgun.[21][22][23]

Local Afghan children observe U.S. Army Special Forces and Afghan National Police as they patrol the area to improve security and increase stability in the village of Rabat.
Local Afghans leaving the village of Rabat, hauling firewood in their pickup

The overwhelming majority of Paktika's population (around 99%) live in rural districts. The capital city, Sharana, has around 54,400 inhabitants. The majority of Pakikta's Districts have between 25,000 and 55,000 inhabitants. Only two districts, Nika and Turwo have less than 20,000 inhabitants, with a little more than 15,000 apiece. Two of the least mountainous districts, Urgun and neighboring Barmal have nearly 90,000 inhabitants each. There are around 115,000 households, with eight members apiece, in the Province.

Most of the Population is Sunni Muslim, and belongs to the Hanafi School.

Some tribes in Paktika may be pastoral.


In Afghanistan the Ghilji are scattered all over the country but mainly settled around the regions between Zabul and Kabul provinces. The Afghan province of Paktika is considered to be a heartland of the Ghilji tribe. Ghilji sub-tribes in Paktika include the Kharoti, especially in the Sar Hawza and Urgon districts, the Andar and the largest single Ghilji sub-tribe, the Sulaimankhel, who are the majority in northern and western areas of Paktika such as; Katawaz. After the great Ghilji rebellion in 1885–1886, led by Alam Khan Nasher, many members of the Ghilji tribe, such as; the Kharoti sub-tribe and particularly the Nasher clan were exiled from Loya Paktia (Paktia, Paktika and Khost) to Kunduz in the north by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan due to political reasons. They are predominantly a nomadic group unlike the Durranis who are usually found in permanent settlements. The Ghilji mostly work as herdsmen as well as construction workers and in other jobs that allow them to travel. Often possessing great mechanical aptitude, the Ghilji nonetheless have an extremely low literacy rate hovering below 10% in Afghanistan. The Ghilji regularly cross over between Afghanistan and Pakistan often being exempted from customs due to the acceptance of their nomadic traditions by officials from both countries. Population estimates vary, but they are most likely around 20% to 25% of the population of Afghanistan and probably number over 9 million in Afghanistan alone with 4 million or more found in The main Pashtun tribes that live in Paktika are:

The Sulaimankhel are one of the largest sub-tribes of the Ghilji Pashtuns. The Sulaimankhel tribe is mainly located in the southern and eastern portions of Afghanistan; however, they also have a strong presence in the northern and western portions of Afghanistan. The second largest Sulaimankhel population is located in Pakistan. Not only are they located in the province of Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province, but also located in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan.

The Kharoti and Sulaimankhel tribes are traditional rivals, although they co-exist together in several districts. The larger, influential and more powerful Sulaimankhel have historically had the upper hand in this rivalry. The Wazir and Kharoti are sometimes involved in a land dispute in Barmal District.


Districts of Paktika.
District Capital Population [3] Area[24] Notes
Barmal Angur Ada 78,351 Incloudes Barmal, Shkin & Margha Cities.
Dila 48,684
Gayan 48,635
Gomal Shkin 47,400
Janikhel 37,516 Created in 2004 within Khairkot District
Khairkot (Zarghun Shar or Katawaz) Khairkot 42,779 Sub-divided in 2004
Mata Khan 27,664
Nika 17,340
Omna 24,227
Sar Hawza 37,701
Surobi 39,533
Sharana Sharana 65,939
Terwa 11,463 Created in 2004 within Waza Khwa District
Urgun Urgun 92,132
Wazakhwa Wazakhwa 47,461 Sub-divided in 2004
Wor Mamay 22,157
Yahyakhel 30,291 Created in 2004 within Khairkot District
Yusufkhel 29,703 Created in 2004 within Khairkot District
Zerok Zerok 40,103

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "د نږدې شلو ولایاتو لپاره نوي والیان او امنیې قوماندانان وټاکل شول". 7 November 2021.
  2. ^ "په پکتیکا کې د پړاو پله د رغولو چارې پیل شوې – باختر خبری آژانس". 2021-09-05. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  3. ^ a b c d "Estimated Population of Afghanistan 2021–22" (PDF). National Statistic and Information Authority (NSIA). April 2021. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 29, 2021. Retrieved June 21, 2021.
  4. ^ "Battle in "the Evilest Place"". Time. 27 October 2003. Archived from the original on November 25, 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  5. ^ "NEWS ADVISORY, November 1, 2004". Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  6. ^ "DefendAmerica News – New Provincial Reconstruction Team Opens in Paktika Province". Archived from the original on 2014-01-05. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  7. ^ Michelle Nichols (July 22, 2011). "NATO kills 50 fighters, clears Afghan training camp". Reuters. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  8. ^ AFP (November 9, 2011). "Up to 70 Taliban dead as Afghan attack thwarted". AFP. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
  9. ^ NY Post, American's last P.O.W of the Afghanistan, By Michael Gartland, May 31, 2014
  10. ^ a b "Afghanistan: Earthquake - Jun 2022".
  11. ^ Marsi, Federica (22 June 2022). "Afghanistan earthquake live news: Hundreds killed in major tremor". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 22 June 2022. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  12. ^ Padshah, Safiullah; Ives, Mike (22 June 2022). "Afghanistan Live Updates: At Least 1,000 Killed in Earthquake, Official Media Says: The quake struck 28 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Khost". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 June 2022. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Thousands of Afghanistan earthquake survivors remain without food and shelter despite aid coming in". The New Arab. 25 June 2022. Archived from the original on 25 June 2022. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  14. ^ Hamedani, Ali (23 June 2022). "Afghanistan quake: Gyan clinic with five beds for 500 injured patients". BBC. Archived from the original on 23 June 2022. Retrieved 23 June 2022.
  15. ^ "Afghanistan hit with aftershock, adding to significant earthquake death toll". CBC News. Associated Press. 24 June 2022. Archived from the original on 24 June 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  16. ^ "Afghanistan Earthquake News Live Updates: A second earthquake hits eastern Afghanistan, five people killed". The Indian Express. 24 June 2022. Archived from the original on 22 June 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  17. ^ "Afghanistan: Aftershock claims five more lives in already-hit Gayan District, injures 11". Firstpost. Associated Press. 24 June 2022. Archived from the original on 24 June 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  18. ^ Paktika needs more projects to develop infrastructure: Residents, By: Ali Mohammad Nazari, Date: 2013-09-09,
  19. ^ "Paktika Province" (PDF). Program for Culture & Conflict Studies. Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved 2013-06-09.
  20. ^ a b Paktika provincial profile, June 2004, profile compiled by the National Area-Based Development Programme (NABDP) of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD)
  21. ^ The population is 88% Pashtun, with a Tajik minority living mainly in the district center and controlling a large proportion of the district's economy and service provision
  22. ^ 'Destruction is Rebuilding, or: Fare thee well, population-centric COIN,' Afghanistan Analysts Network. (2011-03-18). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  23. ^ "Afghanistan's Dirty War: Why the Most Feared Man in Bermal District Is a U.S. Ally". Time. 4 October 2011. Archived from the original on October 4, 2011.
  24. ^ Andrew Ross ( "Afghanistan Geographic & Thematic Layers". Retrieved 2011-10-23.

External linksEdit