(Pashto: کُنَر) is one of the thirty-four provinces of
Afghanistan, located in the northeastern part of the
country and on the border with Pakistan. Its capital is
Ethnic Makeup and Geography
Pashtuns makes up the vast majority
of the province and maintain a very strong tribal
identity, some even going so far as to identify the
province, and the eastern edge of Afghanistan in
general, as "Pashtunistan".
Kunar is a tiny and sparsely populated province that is
heavily mountainous and forested, being embedded in the
Hindu Kush mountain range. As Kunar is populated by
mainly Pashtuns, it will be useful to know that local
people pronounce the name as Kunar or کونر.
During both the Soviet occupation,
and the more recent conflicts involving U.S., Afghan and
NATO forces, Kunar has been a favoured spot of insurgent
groups. Its impenetrable terrain, extensive cave
networks and border with the semi-autonomous Pakistani
Northwest Frontier Province provides several advantages
for militant groups. The province is informally known as
"Enemy Central" by American troops.
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 mujahadeen militias, such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezbi Islami,
continue to operate as they did in the anarchic 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 neighbouring Nurestan Province.
Compounding the problems of the province is an
extensive criminal trade in smuggled lumber and other
natural resources. This criminal activity is often
organized along tribal lines, and has led to intense
deforestation in some areas.