Kunar Province

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Watapur district-2012.jpg
Watapur District of Kunar Province in 2012
Kunar in Afghanistan.svg
Map of Afghanistan with Kunar highlighted
Coordinates: 35°00′N71°12′E / 35.0°N 71.2°E / 35.0; 71.2 Coordinates: 35°00′N71°12′E / 35.0°N 71.2°E / 35.0; 71.2
Country Afghanistan
Capital Asadabad
   Governor Haqmal Mamond
  Total4,339 km2 (1,675 sq mi)
 (2021) [1]
  Density120/km2 (300/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+4:30 (Afghanistan Time)
ISO 3166 code AF-KNR
Main languages Pashto

Kunar (Pashto: کونړ; Dari: کنر) is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the northeastern part of the country. Its capital is Asadabad. Its population is estimated to be 508,224. [1]


It is one of the four "N2KL" provinces (Nangarhar Province, Nuristan Province, Kunar Province and Laghman Province). N2KL is the designation used by the US and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan for the rugged and very violent region along the Durand Line border opposite Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (merged in 2018 with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Kunar is the center of the N2KL region. Kunar is the birthplace of Sayyed Jamaluddin Afghani (al-Afghani), an influential Muslim scholar and philosopher.


View of the Korangal Valley Korengal Valley-2009.jpg
View of the Korangal Valley
Nari District Nari District, Kunar, Afghanistan.jpg
Nari District

Kunar province is located in the northeast of Afghanistan. It borders with Nangarhar Province to the south, Nuristan Province to the north, Laghman Province to the west and has a border with Pakistan in the east. The province covers an area of 4339 km2. Nearly nine tenths (86%) of the province is mountainous or semi mountainous terrain while one eighth (12%) of the area is made up of relatively flat land. The primary geographic features of the province are the lower Hindu Kush mountains which are cut by the Kunar River to form the forested Kunar Valley. The river flows south and southwest from its source in the Pamir area and is part of the Indus River watershed via the Kabul River which it meets at Jalalabad. The Kunar is a primary draining conduit for the Hindu Kush basin and several tributaries, including the Pech, which form distinct and significant valleys in the area. The mountains, narrow valleys with steep walls, and rivers present formidable natural obstacles and have historically constrained all movement through the province. Even in the early 21st century, movement on foot, with pack animals, or with motorized vehicles is extremely limited and channeled due to the significant geographic restrictions.


Early history

The region has been part of many empires in the past, from the Seleucid Empire to the latest Afghan Durrani Empire. Many famous historical figures are believed to have visited the area, including Alexander the Great, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Xuanzang, Ibn Battuta, and others.[ citation needed ] Archaeologists have dated to AD 800–1000 a fortification system overlooking a Muslim cemetery at Chaga Serai (near the Pech-Kunar confluence). [2]

Babur wrote about Kunar in Baburnama . He claimed that there was a shrine in Kunar of a preacher and poet Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, who is said to have died there in 1384 AD (786 AH). He also describes agricultural products: citron, oranges, coriander, orchards, strong yellow wines, and a burial custom wherein a woman whose corpse moved was considered to have done good things in life. He mentions Chaghan-Sarai as a small town, and describes the towns folk as Muslims who mixed with the Kafirs of nearby Kafiristan and followed some of their customs. He also claims to have later captured the town, even as the Pech river Kafirs tried to help the Chaghan Sarai residents repel his attack. [3]

Walter Hamilton's writing in 1828 mentions that the padishah of Cooner was joined in alliance with the neighboring Kafirs (non Muslims) of Nuristan in battles against Muslim invaders. [4] The Kafirs were forcibly converted by Abdur Rahman Khan in the 1890s. [5]

Some British sources from the Great Game period (1800s) go into more detail about Kunar. For example, one from 1881 describes the various Kunar Chiefs and their internecine wars, the conflict with Dost Mohammad Khan, their relations with the British, etc. [6] Names vary greatly, with Kunar sometimes being called Kama, or Kashkote, and the capital being listed as "Pashoot", which is not on modern maps.

Panorama of a mountain range near Naray, Kunar province, Afghanistan Naray, Badachschan, Afghanistan.jpg
Panorama of a mountain range near Naray, Kunar province, Afghanistan

An 1891 book described the Kunar region as split between the lower river area, controlled by Afghan chiefs, and the upstream area, where the Kunar river was actually referred to as the Chitral river. The major town of Chitral (in modern Pakistan) was the base of a badshah, who ruled under the Maharajah of Kashmir [7]

20th century

According to a US Army paper, the Pashtuns of Kunar and the Kafirs of Kunar/Nuristan eventually joined together in the 20th century. Fundamentalist religion came to the region in the 1950s but the heavy unification happened during the Soviet–Afghan War (1979–88). Some of the first anti-government forces (lashkar) rose in the Kunar region. [8]

Kerala, a town near Asadabad, was the site of the 1979 Kerala massacre, where the male population of a village was allegedly murdered by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan and its Soviet advisors. [9] [10] [11]

Later, over ten-thousand Soviet and Afghan communist troops invaded the region, resulting in a massive refugee flow of the populace into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. [8] There were Spetsnaz units based in Asadabad (where the Pech meets the Kunar), in Jalalabad (where the Kunar meets the Kabul), and other towns. [12] The major mujahideen groups had representation in the area, and were successful enough to confine the Communist troops for the most part to their fortifications in the major towns of the Kunar valley. [8]

Eventually one of the Mujahideen leaders, Jamil al-Rahman, formed a movement that had a very strict interpretation of Islam, along the lines of Wahhabism and/or Salafism. He was supported by elements in Saudi Arabia, and later attracted many Saudis and Egyptians who had come to Afghanistan to fight Jihad.

When the Soviets left in 1988, the leader of the Mujahideen group Hizb-i-Islami, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, began to fight with Jamil al-Rahman over control of the area. Hekmatyar was victorious and eventually his troops sacked Asadabad. [8] By 1996 however, Mullah Omar's Taliban had invaded Kunar and driven out Hekmatyar. [8]

21st century

US soldiers near FOB (Forward Operating Base) Naray. US soldiers with cows in Kunar Province of Afghanistan.jpg
US soldiers near FOB (Forward Operating Base) Naray.

After the September 11 attacks of 2001, Afghanistan was invaded by United States and other NATO countries provided direct support to the Northern Alliance forces fighting the Taliban regime, which was quickly toppled and fled to remote areas. It was part of the War on Terror and to assist the new government that was led by Hamid Karzai.

During the 19th century British military expeditions, the 1980s Soviet occupation, and the latest conflict, Kunar has been a favoured spot of insurgent groups. Its impenetrable terrain, cave networks and border with the semi-autonomous Pakistani Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provides significant advantages for unconventional warfare and militant groups. The province is informally known as "Enemy Central" and "Indian Country" by Western armed forces serving in Afghanistan. Between January 2006 and March 2010 more than 65% of all insurgent incidents in Afghanistan occurred in Kunar province.

Like many of the mountainous eastern provinces of Afghanistan, the groups involved in armed conflict vary greatly in strength and purpose. Native Taliban forces mingle with foreign al-Qaeda fighters, while former mujahadeen militias, such as Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, continue to operate as they did in the chaotic post-Soviet years. Another strong militia in the region is the Hezbi Islami faction of the late Mulavi Younas Khalis, who had his headquarters in neighboring Nuristan Province.[ citation needed ]

A soldier observes the mountain landscape opposite of his position that surrounds the Korengal Valley Flickr - The U.S. Army - Mountain camouflage.jpg
A soldier observes the mountain landscape opposite of his position that surrounds the Korengal Valley

The province, relatively small compared to others, has among the highest concentration of both US and Afghan security forces. Special Operations Forces operate extensively throughout the area.

As of September 2015 the United States has awarded twelve Medals of Honor for actions in Afghanistan. Six of these have been awarded for actions in Kunar province, and an additional four have been awarded for neighboring Nuristan Province.

Operation Mountain Resolve in 2003 involved the 10th Mountain Division air dropping into Nuristan and traveling dozens of kilometers, including in Kunar, to fight what was termed "Anti-Coalition Militia" (ACM) activity. [8] [13]

In 2005 Operation Red Wings set out with the intent to disrupt ACM activity in the region in order to further aid the stabilization efforts of the region for the upcoming September 18, 2005 Afghan National Parliamentary Elections. [14] [15] [16] Anti-Coalition Militia activity in the region was carried out at the time most notably by a small group led by a local man named Ahmad Shah (from Nangarhar Province) who had aspirations of regional Islamic fundamentalist prominence, hence he and his small group would be one of the primary targets of the operation. A team of four Navy SEALs, tasked for surveillance and reconnaissance of a group of structures known to be used by Ahmad Shah and his men, fell into an ambush by Shah and his group just hours after inserting by fastrope from an MH-47 helicopter in the area. [15] Three of the four SEALs were killed in the ambush; a quick reaction force helicopter sent in for their aid was subsequently shot down with an RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade by one of Shah's men, 19 American Forces were killed when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down, representing the second biggest loss of American forces since their invasion of the country.[ citation needed ]

According to Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Osama bin Laden was most likely hiding in Kunar Province in the spring and summer of 2009: "According to our information Osama is in Afghanistan, probably Kunar, as most of the activities against Pakistan are being directed from Kunar." [17] Bin Laden was later found and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, contrary to what the Pakistani government had previously stated. He had been living there since 2005.

Politics and governance

Looking north from the headquarters of the 7th Kandak of the Afghan Border Police Zone 1, located in Bari Kwot, Kunar province. Looking north from the headquarters of the 7th Kandak of the Afghan Border Police Zone 1 in Kunar.jpg
Looking north from the headquarters of the 7th Kandak of the Afghan Border Police Zone 1, located in Bari Kwot, Kunar province.

The current governor of Kunar province is Wahidullah Kalimzai. His predecessor was Shuja ul-Mulk Jalala.

The city of Asadabad is the capital of Kunar. All law enforcement activities throughout the province are controlled by the Afghan National Police (ANP). Kunar's border with neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan is monitored and protected by the Afghan Border Police (ABP), which is part of the ANP. The border is called the Durand Line and is known to be one of the most dangerous in the world due to heavy militant activities and illegal smugglings. A provincial police chief is assigned to lead both the ANP and ABP. The police chief represents the Ministry of the Interior in Kabul. The ANP is backed by other Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), including the NATO-led forces.[ citation needed ]


The percentage of households with clean drinking water increased from 24% in 2005 to 55% in 2011. [18] The percentage of births attended to by a skilled birth attendant increased from 3% in 2005 to 13% in 2011. [18]


The overall literacy rate (6+ years of age) fell from 32% in 2005 to 20% in 2011. [18] The overall net enrollment rate (6–13 years of age) increased from 43% in 2005 to 44% in 2011. [18]


Ethnolinguistic groups of Afghanistan US Army ethnolinguistic map of Afghanistan -- circa 2001-09.jpg
Ethnolinguistic groups of Afghanistan
Districts of Kunar Konar districts.png
Districts of Kunar

As of 2021, the population of the province is around 508,224 people. [1] 98% are ethnic Pashtun and the remaining are Nuristani. [19]

Around 96% of the population of Kunar lives in rural districts while 4% lives in urban areas. [20]


The districts in Kunar Province as of March 2009 are: [21]

Districts of Kunar Province
DistrictCapitalPopulation [20] Area [22] Notes
Asadabad Asadabad 49,177Is the Capital of Kunar Province, which includes Asadabad and adjacent towns, immediately surrounding the confluence of the Pech and Kunar Rivers
Bar Kunar 30,716
Chapa Dara Chapa Dara 38,681
Dangam 19,509
Dara-I-Pech 69,958Commonly known as the Pech District or Manogai District
Ghaziabad Ghaziabad19,500formerly northern Bar Kunar District
Khas Kunar 39,950Khas Kunar District is the largest district in the Kunar Province.
Marawara 110,500
Narang Aw Badil 38,937
Nari 38,510
Nurgal 31,047
Sawkai 46,905
Shaigal 33,781formed from northeastern Dangam District
Sirkani 39,080
Wata Pur 32,778formed from northwestern Asadabad District

Reconstruction and international assistance

A bridge in Kunar province. Saw Bridge in Kunar.jpg
A bridge in Kunar province.

Asadabad hosts both an American Provincial Reconstruction Team at nearby Forward Operating Base Wright and a UNAMA development office. Additionally, representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), US State and Agriculture Departments advise the local government. A US Army Agribusiness Development Team (ADT) was deployed to the province in late 2009. Successive ADTs continue to serve in the province.[ citation needed ]

In media

The opening scenes of the 2008 film Iron Man take place in Kunar Province.

The 2010 documentary Restrepo was filmed in the Korengal Valley of Kunar Province.

The book Siren's Song: The Allure of War was published in 2012. It depicts the story of an American platoon at COP Honaker Miracle, Pesh valley, Kunar Province.

The movie Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg was based around "Operation Red Wings" in 2005 which was near Asadabad.

Documentary author James F. Christ has published numerous titles about the fighting in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, mainly from 2005 to 2007 with the 10th Mountain Division and Afghan National Army ETT advisors.

See also

Related Research Articles

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, often abbreviated as KP or KPK and formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province, is one of the four provinces of Pakistan. It is located in the northwestern region of the country, along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.

Kafiristan Historical region of Afghanistan

Kāfiristān, or Kāfirstān, is a historical region that covered present-day Nuristan Province in Afghanistan and its surroundings. This historic region lies on, and mainly comprises, the basins of the rivers Alingar, Pech (Kamah), Landai Sin and Kunar, and the intervening mountain ranges. It is bounded by the main range of the Hindu Kush on the north, Pakistan's Chitral District to the east, the Kunar Valley in the south and the Alishang River in the west.

Nangarhar Province Province of Afghanistan

Nangarhār also called Nangrahar or Ningrahar, is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the eastern part of the country and bordering Logar, Kabul, Laghman and Kunar provinces as well as an international border with Pakistan. It is divided into twenty-two districts and has a population of about 1,701,698, the third highest of the country's 34 provinces. The city of Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province.

Nuristan Province Province of Afghanistan

Nuristan also spelled Nurestan or Nooristan, is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the eastern part of the country. It is divided into seven districts and is Afghanistan's least populous province, with a population of about 163,814, Parun serves as the provincial capital. Nuristan is bordered on the south by Laghman and Kunar provinces, on the north by Badakhshan province, on the west by Panjshir province.

Panjshir Province Province of Afghanistan

Panjshir is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, located in the northeastern part of the country. The province is divided into seven districts and contains 512 villages. As of 2020, the population of Panjshir province was about 169,926. Bazarak serves as the provincial capital. It is estimated that more than 700,000 people from Panjshir province, live in other provinces in Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul.

Asadabad, Afghanistan Place in Kunar Province, Afghanistan

Asadabad or Asad Abad is the capital city of Kunar Province in Afghanistan. It is located in the eastern portion of the country adjacent to Pakistan. The city is located within a valley at the confluence of the Pech River and Kunar River between two mountain ridgelines running along both sides of the valley from Northeast to Southwest.

Mohammad Yunus Khalis Mujahideen commander

Mawlawi Mohammad Yunus Khalis was a mujahideen commander in Afghanistan during the Soviet–Afghan War. His party was called Hezb-i-Islami, the same as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's party. The two are commonly differentiated as Hezb-e Islami Khalis and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.

Operation Red Wings, informally referred to as the Battle of Abbas Ghar, was a combined / joint military operation during the War in Afghanistan in the Pech District of Afghanistan's Kunar Province, on the slopes of a mountain named Sawtalo Sar, approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of Kunar's provincial capital of Asadabad, in late June through mid-July 2005. Operation Red Wings was intended to disrupt local Taliban anti-coalition militia (ACM) activity, thus contributing to regional stability and thereby facilitating the Afghan Parliament elections scheduled for September 2005. At the time, Taliban anti-coalition militia activity in the region was carried out most notably by a small group, led by a local man from Nangarhar Province, Ahmad Shah, who had aspirations of regional Islamic fundamentalist prominence. He and his small group were among the primary targets of the operation.

Kunar River

The Kūnaṛ River, also known in its upper reaches as the Mastuj, Chitral, or Kama River, is about 480 kilometres (300 mi) long, located in eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. It emerges just south of the Broghil Pass, in the upper part of Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa near the Afghan border. The river system is fed by melting glaciers and snow of the Hindu Kush mountains. The Kunar River is a tributary of the Kabul River, which is in turn a tributary of the Indus River.

Pech River

The Pech River is located in eastern Afghanistan.

Goshta District District in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan

Goshta District is located in the northeast of Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan and borders Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The district's population is Pashtun and was estimated at 160,000 in 2002, of whom 30,000 were children under 12. The district is within the heartland of the Mohmand tribe of Pashtuns. The district centre is the village of Goshta, on the Kabul River.

Asadabad District

Asadabad district is one of 15 districts in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. It includes the city of Asadabad - the district center, close the Kunar River. It is situated in the central part of the province. It has 12 big and small villages, which are surrounded by mountains so there is not enough land for farming.

Afghanistan–Pakistan skirmishes

Since 1949, a series of occasional armed skirmishes and firefights have occurred along the Durand Line between the Afghan National Security Forces and the Pakistan Armed Forces. The latest hostilities, which are ongoing, began with the overthrow of the Taliban government.

Dangam District

Dangam District is situated in the eastern end of Kunar Province in Afghanistan. It borders Marawara district to the southwest, Asadabad district to the west, Bar Kunar district to the north, Nari district to the northeast and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan to the east. The district is mountainous and stunning but also poor.

Chapa Dara District District in Kunar, Afghanistan

Chapa Dara District is situated in the western part of Kunar Province, Afghanistan and borders Nuristan Province. The population is 27,500 (2006). The district consists of a mountainous terrain. The capital of the district is Chapa Dara.

Ahmad Shah was a local who commanded a group of fighters operating in eastern Afghanistan and was linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Sāfī is a major branch of the greater Ghurghakhti Pashtun tribe. The Safi tribe comprises a majority in the Pech Valley of Kunar and are present in significant numbers in Parwan Province, Kapisa Province, Kabul Province, Laghman Province, Nuristan Province and the whole of Kunar Province. A reasonable majority also resides in different urban and rural areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshehra, Swabi. A large number also settled in Rawalpindi, Tarnol, Karachi, Lahore, Multan. They are also present in large number in Mohmand, Bajaur Agency, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in Zhob District, Balochistan, Pakistan.

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Mawlawi Muhammad Hussain a.k.a. Jamil al-Rahman (1939–1991) was the leader of a Salafist state located in Afghanistan's Kunar Province.

Hafiz Saeed Khan

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