Kandahar Province

Map of Afghanistan with Kandahar highlighted

Kandahar or Qandahar (Pashto: کندھار or قندهار) (Persian: قندهار) is one of the largest of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is located in southern Afghanistan, between Helmand, Oruzgan and Zabul provinces. Its capital is the city of Kandahar, which is located on the Arghandab River. The province has a population of nearly 913,000, with over 800,000 living in its capital city. The main inhabitants of Kandahar province are the Pashtuns. The Canadian Forces are currently fighting the Taliban in this area. In spring 2010, the province as well as its capital city that are called "the birthplace and spiritual home of the Taliban" also became a target of American operations following Operation Moshtarak in the neighbouring Helmand province.[1]



There is speculation about the origin of the name "Kandahar". It is believed that Kandahar bears Alexander's name, and derives from the Pashto rendering of Iskandariya or Alexandria.[2] 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.[3] Alternatively, it is believed that "Kandahar" may derive its name from Gandhara, an ancient kingdom along the modern Kashmir and Afghanistan border,[4] and former satrapy of the Persian Empire.[5][6] It is suggested that people of Gandhara migrated south to Arachosia and transferred the name with them.[7]


For a more comprehensive history of Kandahar Province, see Kandahar City.
For more comprehensive history of the ancient kingdom, see Gandhara

Kandahar, the city and province, dates back to the time of the Mahabharata One of the important personalities in Mahabharat, is Shakuni who hails from this so called Ghandar/Kandhar as per the Mahabharat Documentation., which dates back to 3,120BC Indo-Aryan era. The city has been a frequent target for conquest because of its strategic location in Asia, which connects Southern, Central and Southwest Asia. It was part of the Persian Achaemenid empire before the Greek invasion in 330 B.C. It came under the influence of the Indian emperor Ashoka who erected a pillar there with a bilingual inscription in Greek and Aramaic.[8]

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 Turkish 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 Muhmad who ruled between 998 and 1030. He expelled the Hindus from Ghandhara ,[9]

Under the Abbasids and later Turkic invaders, Kandahar converted to Islam. Kandahar would go on to be conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century, Turkic Ghaznavids in the 10th century, and Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of Afghanistan, gained control of the city and province in 1747 and made it the capital of his new Afghan Kingdom. In the 1770s, the capital was transferred to Kabul. Ahmad Shah Durrani's mausoleum is located somewhere in the center of the city.[8]

British-Indians 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 emerged from the area and set out to conquer the rest of the country. Since the removal of the Taliban 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 taking the post in 2005. The province is currently occupied by NATO forces.


The population of 913,000 people is primarily Pashtun, and the main Pashtun tribes are:

There are also Baloch Tribes living in southern and desert parts of Kandahar province are:

There are also some Hazaras and Tajiks.


Gul Agha Sherzai was Governor of the province before and after the Taliban regime, until early 2004, when mounting criticism of his efforts led President Hamid Karzai to remove him from the post. He was replaced by Asadullah Khalid, who governed the province until the appointment of Rahmatullah Raufi in August 2008.[10] For the last 250 years, mostly Pashtuns have been ruling Afghanistan. History shows that many Afghan rulers were from Kandahar, such as Ahmad Shah Durrani, Abdur Rahman Khan, Nadir Khan, Zahir Shah, Hamid Karzai, etc. Kandahar province is made up of 17 districts, and each district has its own Chief. The current Governor of Kandahar Province is Tooryalai Wesa, appointed in December 2008. He is an Afghan Canadian with roots in Arghandab district.


The following is a list of the districts of Kandahar Province:

District Capital Population[11] Area[12] Notes
Arghandab 51,600
Arghistan 28,900
Daman 24,800
Ghorak 8,000
Kandahar 468,200
Khakrez 19,200
Maruf 27,700
Maywand 40,700
Miyan Nasheen 12,600 Created in 2005 within Shah Wali Kot District
Naish 11,300 Transferred from Oruzgan Province in 2005
Panjwaye 82,800
Reg 1,600
Shah Wali Kot 36,400 Sub-divided in 2005
Shorabak 9,600
Spin Boldak 41,000
Zhari 49,500 Created in 2005 from parts of Maywand and Panjwaye Districts


Kandahar had well-irrigated gardens and orchards and was famous for its grapes, melons, and pomegranates, but these were made inaccessible by land mines or destroyed outright in the conflict between the Soviets and the mujahideen, Islamic guerrilla fighters during the Soviet occupation. The city is of significant strategic importance in the region due to the major airport built in the early 1970s with development funding from the United States. The main source of trade is to Pakistan, Iran, and the United States. Kandahar is an agricultural state.


Kandahar International Airport serves the population of southern Afghanistan, especially the Kandahar region, as a method of traveling to other domestic cities by air or to a number of nearby countries. The airport was built in the 1960s with US financial and technical assistance under the United States Agency for International Development program. Kandahar International Airport has been used by the NATO forces to deliver troops and humanitarian supplies since late 2001. The airport was severely damaged during the Soviet attacks on the city during 1979-89 and again during the US raids in late 2001. Repairs and upgrades also occurred during that period; the airport re-opened for civilian use in late 2006.[13]

Kandahar province has bus services to major towns or village headquarters. Its capital, Kandahar, has a public bus system that take commuters on daily routes to many destinations throughout the city. Besides the buses, there are yellow and white taxicabs that provides 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 Kandahar, 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.


Efforts to improve education in Afghanistan are severely hampered without books, which are in short supply. Lack of funding, and political will, has led to only small gains since the fall of the Taliban. Education has moved somewhat upward in the rest of the country, but southern states, like Kandahar, have seen slow to no progress because of the continued fighting and instability of the region. In 2006 alone, almost 150 educational institutes have closed in Kandahar province alone, according to the education ministry. Regionally more than 50 schools have been attacked this year. Over 60,000 students cannot attend school because of the risk of attack.[14]

Kandahar University is the largest college or university in the province. 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. Kandahar University, for example, currently has an enrollment of six women and 1,094 men.[15] All of the 24 women who sat for the exam passed and have been admitted to universities to study medicine, engineering, economics, law, and agriculture. The university is only one of two universities in Kandahar that serve all of southern Afghanistan. The conditions in the university are poor, with no water and limited power. The university is far behind the universities of the North because of the violence, the two universities in southern Afghanistan also receive very limited funding.

See also


  1. "Kandahar Becomes Battlefield Before a U.S. Offensive"
  2. Alexander the Great: his towns - Alexandria in Arachosia...Link
  3. Ashoka's Rock Edicts...Link
  4. Gandara...Link
  5. W. Vogelsang, "Gandahar", in The Circle Of Ancient Iranian Studies
  6. E. Herzfeld, "The Persian Empire: Studies on Geography and Ethnography of the Ancient Near East", ed. G. Walser, Wiesbaden 1968, pp. 279, 293-94, 336-38, 345
  7. Bosworth, C.E. (1999). . (CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0 ed.). Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. 
  8. Afghanistan: a new history By Martin Ewans Edition: 2, illustrated Published by Routledge, 2002 Page 15 ISBN 0415298261, 9780415298261
  9. Gloria Galloway, Security chief concern for new Kandahar governor, The Globe and Mail, 23 Aug 2008 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080823.wafghan0823/BNStory/Afghanistan/home
  10. Kandahar PDP Provincial profile, MRRD - National Area Base Development Programme
  11. Afghanistan Geographic & Thematic Layers
  12. Pajhwok Afghan News - AAA begins flights for Kandahar... Link
  13. The Global Exchange: Afghan Schools in Danger...Link
  14. The Asian Foundation...Link