Afghan Biographies

Helmand Tribes Composition

Name Helmand Tribes Composition
Ethnic backgr.
Date of birth
Function/Grade Helmand tribal composition
History and Biodata

Alakozai: The Alakozai (Alikozai, Alokzai) form the majority of the population in Sangin District. They belong to the Durrani confederation, and can be further divided into the Khalozai (or Khan Khel), the Yarizai, the Surkani, the Kotezai, the Dadozai, the Khanizai, the Daolatzai (which are also found in the North of Afghanistan due to forced relocations in centuries previous), the Nasozai, and the Bashozai. The Alokzai people stretch from Farah to Kandahar, constitute a majority in the Arghandab District of Kandahar

Alizai: The Alizai mainly inhabit the North of Helmand, particularly Baghran, Musa Qala, Naw Zad, and Kajaki districts. They form a major branch of the Panjpay Durrani Pashtuns with two main sub-tribes, Jalozai and Hasanzai. Clashes between the Jalozai and Hasanzai have been a major source of tension in northern Helmand province. A former powerful Governor Sher Mohammad Akhundzada is Jalozai while Abdul Wahid, a major figure in Baghran district, Helmand province is Hasanzai. The feud between Abdul Wahid and the father of Sher Mohammad dates back to the Jihad period.

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 look 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 Kalat, 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 Helmand they are prominent in the Dishu and Garmseer districts.

Barakzai: The Barakzai Zirak Durranis mainly inhabit the East of Helmand, particularly Gereshk, Lashkar Gah, and Naway-i Barakzai districts. 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. Barakzai are considered the most prominent tribal group in terms of population size, especially in Lashkar Gah. Generally speaking, the Barakzai tribe is considered to have more educated class, government positions, land ownership, tribal unity and businesses in Lashkar Gah.

Barech: The Barech Durrani Pashtuns mainly inhabit Dishu District. 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. Despite the Barech claims of Durrani kinship, 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.

Ishaqzai: Most numerous in the Northeast of Helmand, the Ishaqzai are strongest in Musa Qala, Sangin, and Nawzad. They are a subset of the Durrani confederation. There are also many in Farah and Herat provinces. They can be broken down into the Misrikhel (Khankhel), the Mandinzai, and the Hawazai. In the past, they were derogatorily referred to as “Sagzai,” or “vegetable people.” The Ishaqzai of Helmand province is the only Pashtun tribe of Helmand that have deep roots among the religious network in the region. The Ishaqzai tend to be most influential in the northern district of Sangin but have long standing fueds with the Alokozai and Noorzai tribes of Sangin and Nad Ali districts.

Kharoti: The Kharoti Powindah Ghilzais are Kuchi nomads. The Kharoti clan is the second largest Ghilzai Pashtun tribal group. Generally, they do not cooperate with anti-coalition militias or participate in their activities. Their political stance and support for the government is in part, at least, due to their rivalry with the Suleimankhel and the Waziris. Notable members of the Kharoti clan include Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Harakat, both of Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG). Overall, however, the Kharoti are not supportive of HIG. Former Paktika provincial governor, Ghulab Mangal, considered the Kharoti among the most reliable of Ghilzai tribal groups.

Kuchi: Kuchis are most often Pashtuns, but occasionally some are of non-Pashtun ethnicity, such as Baluch. To be a Kuchi is not who one is, or what one does, but what one is. More than a vocation and less than a race, the Kuchi are more appropriately thought of as a caste of nomadic herdsmen. Their four main animals are sheep, goats, camels and donkeys. They cross boundaries with ease. They have a very high illiteracy rate. Involved in a constant and centuries old range war with the Hazara, the Kuchis have moved across Afghanistan and Pakistan for generations. Dispersed and well-traveled, they often receive news from distant relations in far-away provinces relatively quickly. The self-declared “leader” of the Kuchis is one Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai. Partially settled by the king and the following socialist governments, they were strong supporters of the Taliban, both ideologically and pragmatically, as they came into possession of many Hazara lands thanks to the repression of the Shi’ite Hazara by the Taliban. There are estimated to be around three million Kuchi in Afghanistan, with at least 60% remaining fully nomadic and over 100,000 displaced in the South of Afghanistan due to drought in the past few years. The Kuchi settled south of Lashkar Gah are of the Barakzai tribe but have difficulty living in close proximity to the already settled Barakzai communities south of Lashkar Gah.

Noorzai: The Noorzai Panjpai Durrani Pashtuns primarily inhabit Garmser, Nad Ali and Washer districts, in the Northwest and Southeast of the province. The Noorzai in Lashkar Gah are primarily those who moved from the districts of Helmand to Lashkar Gah after it was turned in to provincial capital. The Noorzai of Helmand are a traditionally influential group especially in Lashkar Gah in terms of government positions, education, wealth including land, large business community and population size.

Suleimankhel: Part of the Ghilzai confederation, the Suleimankhel is one of the largest sub-tribes. The bias of some sub-tribes toward the Taliban in part may be explained by their proximity to the Pakistan border and the influx of insurgents and the radical politics. They have been allied with the Hotaki in the past, and their traditional rivals include the Karoti. Principal sub-divisions of the Suleimankhel include the Alizai, Sulemanzai, and Jalalzai. Other sub-divisions include the Alikhel, the Nizamkhel, and the Shakhel. It is interesting to note that the Alikhel sub-tribe, which primarily lives in the northwest of Paktika, has been more cooperative with the central government and coalition forces. The Nizamkhel and Shakhel also remain more supportive of the government, which may be explained in part by their rivalry with the Jalalzai.

Last Modified 2011-04-15
Established 2010-11-23