Posted by: Christian | July 13, 2008

Why Nuristan Matters

The short answer to this would be to just show you the Nuristan-Kunar anti-coalition infiltration corridor that crosses the Pakistani border. Via page 65 of Antonio Giustozzi’s book Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop:

Nuristan Taliban

Nuristan Taliban

Show this map to an old Soviet officer who served in the region and he will tell you that those routes look exactly like the mujahideen infiltration routes from the 1980s. But even before the Soviet invasion Nuristan was in revolt against the Communist government in May 1978.[1] Some of the Nuristani elite, since the region’s forced conversion to Islam after the invasion of the army of the Afghan Amir Abdurrahman in 1895-96,[2] were given a favored position in Afghan government, especially in the Afghan military.[3] Louis Dupree, in the 1970s, provided a version of the “ethnic pecking order in Afghanistan: Pashtun, Tajik, Nuristani, Uzbek, Turkmen, Aimaq, and then Hazara at the bottom.[4] The new Communist government purged these Nuristanis (or they fled from Kabul with their lives, if they were lucky). But given the fragmented nature of Nuristan (a region with a great deal of diversity) the initial revolt could have had more to do with local issues than with the dire situation of one of those army officers with the surname “Nuristani.”

Photo by Max Klimburg of Nuristani Village in Waigal Valley:

Waigal Nuristan

Waigal Nuristan

Religion is, to grossly understate it, a very important factor in the recent history of Nuristan. Originally home to a host of deities, the Muslim invasion marked the end of the polytheistic beliefs. The Muslim army destroyed the temples, shrines, effigies and numerous ancestor figures while mullahs were imported to “re-educate” the population. They did face difficulties in destroying the traditional belief system but eventually triumphed over the local beliefs.[5] The region, previously referred to by outsiders as Kafiristan (Land of the Infidels) was renamed Nuristan (Land of Light/Enlightenment). But this was not the final conversion, there came another wave of “conversion.” Antonio Giustozzi notes that Nuristan was “colonized” by Salafis by the 1990s.[6] Klimburg refers to this influence as Wahhabi (loosely, a Saudi brand of Salafism):

“Islam is on the rise also in Nuristan, where one finds nowadays an ever increasing number of haji, for the most part unemployed, and mullahs educated in different madrassas in Pakistan. The northern valleys even have gone through a period of ‘re-Islamisation’, as they were converted to Wahhabism. Wahhabi and other religious village schools provide some education, and several of the local mullahs now pride themselves on having completed higher religious studies in Saudi Arabia. In most parts of present-day Nuristan, music and dance, once greatly cherished and widely performed, have virtually disappeared, the victims of Sunni or Wahhabi fundamentalism.”[7]

Pre-Islamic ancestor effigies at a burial ground (source):

As far as the Taliban was concerned, it was better to strike a deal with the local power brokers in Nuristan than to invade. After the fall of the Taliban government the same pattern was repeated with no “strongman” who could prevent the continuing fragmentation in Nuristan post 2001. The weak central government, like the Taliban, instead made arrangements with various local leaders. (pg 64) But early in the post-2001 era anti-coalition foreign fighters were already active in Nuristan as well as Khost, Paktika and Kunar. Giuztozzi claims that by 2002-3 insurgents in Nuristan operated with little check on their activities.[8]

So what of the current situation in Nuristan? Nuristan is like another Afghanistan within Afghanistan. To make any generalizations about a region with such a high level of diversity, based on the available published material, is quite risky. Even Richard Strand, one of the very few authorities on Nuristan, admitted he had recently provided incorrect analysis because of a deceptive source. What seems to be clear is that the situation is “not good.”

And on the military front? Anti-coalition forces here are both from Pakistan and local. How many? Giustozzi estimated, based on press reports, UN, US military and NATO/ISAF sources, that there were about 200 fighters in Nuristan in 2006.[9] They seem to have a high level of capability, according to Abu Muqawama. The situation today? Who knows.

The situation in Nuristan, aside from the conflict, is quite dire. The region is isolated, underdeveloped, neglected and has undergone environmental devastation, as you can see from this satellite image of tree cover:

The environmental analysis can be found here.

Here’s a bibliography for Nuristan that I’m continually updating for The Afghanistan Analyst:



Cacopardo, Alberto M., and Ruth Laila Schmidt (2006) (eds.): My Heartrendingly Tragic Story. ShaikhMuhammad Abdullah Khan ‘Azar’. Oslo.

Edelberg, Lennart (1984): Nuristani Buildings, Aarhus.

Edelberg, Lennart, and Schuyler Jones. 1979. Nuristan. Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt.

Jettmar, Karl (1975): Die Religionen des Hindukusch (with contributions by Schuyler Jones and Max Klimburg). Stuttgart

Jettmar, Karl (1986): The Religions of the Hindukush. Vol. 1: The Religion of the Kafirs. London (revised translation of Jettmar 1975), pp. 155-202

Jones, Schuyler. 1966/1969. An Annotated Bibliography of Nuristan (Kafiristan) and the Kalash Kafirs of Chitral. 2 parts, Copenhagen.

Jones, Schuyler. 1974. Men of Influence in Nuristan. London and New York: Seminar Press.

Klimburg, Max 1999. The Kafirs of the Hindu Kush: Art and Society of the Waigal and Ashkun Kafirs. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Robertson, George Scott (1896): The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush. London.

Scheibe, Arnold (1937) (ed.): Deutsche im Hindukusch. Bericht der Deutschen Hindukusch-Expedition 1935 der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft. Berlin.

Snoy, Peter (1962): Die Kafiren. Formen der Wirtschaft und geistigen Kultur. Frankfurt.

Articles, reports, and book chapters

Buddruss, Georg (1960): “Zur Mythologie der Prasun-Kafiren”, in: Paideuma 7, pp. 200-209.

Buddruss, Georg (1974): “Some Reflections on a Kafir Myth”, in: Karl Jettmar and Lennart Edelberg (eds.), Cultures of the Hindukush. Selected Papers from the Hindu-Kush Cultural Conference held at Moesgård, 1970, Wiesbaden, pp. 31-6.

Buddruss, Georg. 1987 ‘Ein Ordal der Waigal-Kafiren des Hindukusch’, Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure, 41, 1987, pp. 31 – 43.

de Bures, Alain. (n.d.). ‘Historique de la succession de con its qui opposent les communaute´s de Koustoz et de Kamdesh au Nouristan-est et qui a abouti a` la destruction des quatre villages de Koustoz’, Unpublished manuscript, MADERA.

Dupree, Louis. 1978. ‘Nuristani’, in Richard V. Weeks (editor), Muslim Peoples: A World Ethnographic Survey. Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press.

Edelberg, Lennart. 1960. ‘Statues de bois rapportées du Kafiristan à Kabul après la conquête de cette province par l’Emir Abdul Rahman en 1895/96′, Arts Asiatiques 7(4), pp. 243-86.

Edelberg, L. 1965. ‘Nuristanske Sølvpokaler’, Kuml Yearbook for the Jutland(?) Archaeological Society, Aarhus 1965, pp. 153 – 201.

Katz, David J. 1984. ‘Responses to Central Authority in Nuristan: the case of the Vaygal Valley Kalasha’, in Revolutions and Rebellions in Afghanistan. M. Nazif Shahrani and Robert L. Canfield (editors). Berkeley, California: Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

Klimburg, Max. 1990. “Kulturformen bei den Kafiren des Hindukusch”, in: Mitteilungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, vol. 11, pp. 47-60.

Klimburg, Max. 2001. ‘The situation in Nuristan’, Central Asian Survey, 20(3): 383-390.

Klimburg, Max. 2001. ‘The present situation in Nuristan’, in Christine Noelle, Conrad Schetter, and Reinhard Schlagintweit (editors), Afghanistan – A Country without a State? Frankfurt am Main.

Klimburg, Max. (No date). ‘Between Myth and Reality: How Legendary Kafiristan became Nuristan,’ Fikrun wa Fann (Art and Thought) Vol. 78. Online:

Klimburg, Max. 2002. ‘The Arts and Culture of Parun, Kafiristan’s “Sacred Valley”‘, Arts Asiatiques 57: 51-68.

Klimburg, Max. 2004. ‘The Arts and Societies of the Kafirs of the Hindu Kush’, Central Asian Affairs 35.3: 365-386.

Sarianidi, V. 1999. ‘Near Eastern Aryans in Central Asia’, Journal of Indo-European Studies 27.3-4: 295-326.

Strand, R. 1974. ‘A Note on Rank, Political Leadership and Government among the Pre-Islamic Kom.’ In: K. Jettmar and L.Edelberg, eds., Cultures of the Hindukush. Wiesbaden, pp. 57 – 63.

Strand, Richard F. 1984 ‘The Evolution of Anti-Communist Resistance in Eastern Nuristan,’ in Revolutions and Rebellions in Afghanistan. M. Nazif Shahrani and Robert L. Canfield (editors), pages 77-93. Berkeley, California: Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

Strand, Richard F. 1984. ‘Nuristanis’, in Muslim Peoples. (2nd Edition), ed. Richard V. Weekes, 2: 569-574. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Strand, Richard. 2006. ‘Topics in Vâsi Ethnography by Zaman Xân’, last revised in 2006:

Strand, Richard F. 2003-07. ‘The Current Political Situation in Nuristan’, Richard Strand’s Nuristan Site. Available online at:

Dissertations and Theses

Brillet, Marie. 1998. ‘Study of the socio-political organisation and identification of village organisations in the Wama-Parun valley (Nuristan, Afghanistan)’, Unpublished MA thesis. Paris, Universite Paris I (Institut d’Etude du Developpement ) and MADERA.

Katz, David J. 1982. Kafir to Afghan: Religious Conversion, Political Incorporation, and Ethnicity in the Vaigal Valley, Nuristan. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.

Keiser, R. Lincoln. 1971. Social Structure and Social Control in Two Afghan Mountain Societies. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Rochester.

Nuristani, Ahmad Yusuf. 1992. Emergence of Ulama as Political Leaders in the Waigal Valley: The Intensification of Islamic Identity. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Arizona.

[1] Vincent Schneiter, ‘La guerre de liberation au Nuristan’, Les temps modernes, special issue July-August. 1980.

[2] Max Klimburg. (No date). ‘Between Myth and Reality: How Legendary Kafiristan became Nuristan,’ Fikrun wa Fann (Art and Thought) Vol. 78. Online:; p. 15

[3] Dorronsoro, Gilles. 2005. Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present. New York: Columbia University Press: p. 32-3.

[4] Louis Dupree. 2002 Reprint. Afghanistan. Oxford University Press: p. 161.

[5] Klimburg, p.15-16.

[6] Giustozzi, Antonio. 2008. Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan. New York: Columbia University Press, p. 64.

[7] Klimburg, p. 19.

[8] Giustozzi, pp. 35, 64.

[9] Giustozzi, p. 68


  1. I am of the opinion that Nuristan, aside from being strategically vital, is one of the most interesting places on Earth, given its history. Every single time I read something new about it, I’m stunned by how incredible it is (I just got done trying to explore what Marco Polo recounting, probably from hearsay, in “the region of Pashai,” which was south and east of “Badashan”).

    For our purposes here, it might be worthwhile to link as well to Strand’s account of Anvar Amin’s leadership of the initial 1978 revolt against the communists in Kunar and Nuristan.

  2. GOA-

    Is there any reason why the Nuristanis worked in the Afghan military? Are they more warlike than the already warlike Pashtun? Did they have any particular expertise? Do they still have that expertise? If so, what sort of threat are they?

  3. Smitteneagle,

    From what I have read, the reason that the Nuristanis were prominent in the military (I believe in the officer corps) was the practice of the central government “compelling” some of the elites in Nuristan to send their sons to Kabul to receive an education and (for some) to join the military. This would be along the lines of what many empires have done, most prominently with the Turks who went from “kidnapped” soldiers for the Arabs to military rulers. It also seems similar to the historical practice of having children of elites of recently suppressed regions having their sons taken as “quasi-hostages” to ensure “good behavior.”

    As far as them being “warlike;” no more than anybody else in the Hindu Kush in my opinion. Previously there was much stereotyping of them by outsiders, especially considering that they weren’t Muslims.

    I don’t feel that the Nuristanis are a “threat,” but the people hiking through there region from Pakistan certainly are (to the Nuristanis and to coalition forces). I would be lying if I said I knew how many locals are involved in the insurgency. I’ve never been there and I don’t have any access to that sort of info.

  4. One other thing of interest to note. Did you notice how all of the dissertations involve the Waigal Valley? Is that area simply more populated and/or friendlier to outsiders? Or is there some other reason research on the province has been so relatively limited (Obvious exceptions, such as the contested valleys in upper Kunar, of course, excepted)?

  5. I spent my last few months in Afghanistan in southern Nuristan. I had some minor dealings with the Police Chief of Waygal District. The Afghan government, accompanied by coalition forces, are making more inroads into areas that were previously ungoverned, causing problems along the infiltration routes.

    Nuristanis, like other Afghans, generally just want to be left in peace. The primary resource of Nuristan is gems, and gem trafficking is illegal per government decree. That obviously doesn’t mean that the gem trade has disappeared. It has simply gone underground. The gems, like opium, have to traverse areas outside of government control. What is not government controlled is controlled by the ACM, be it Taliban or another force.

    Many government officials also have ties to the gem trade, bringing them into contact with and the influence of Taliban elements.

    Many Nuristanis want nothing to do with the Taliban, but also cannot permit strong government control, as it will interfere with their main industry, which is illegal.

    Due to it’s remoteness, the provincial government is largely cut off from oversight and coalition mentoring. Corruption, rumors of corruption, and the lack of oversight, make it difficult to determine the true conditions of the Nuristani government. The governor himself cannot be assumed to be pro-coalition.

    As noted above, there is a significant presence of outsiders, including a significant number of Arab speakers, who move into and through the area. Nuristani males are recruited to perform missile attacks against IRoA and coalition targets, and IED’s are not uncommon, sometimes focused on softer IRoA targets. Taliban numbers are small but influential.

    While the international game is played, local politics are complex as well. One village had an armed conflict with another village resulting in the loss of three lives over pine nut harvesting.

    There are many intrigues about which I am not at liberty to write at this point involving twisted relationships between local government officials and Taliban leadership. The people of Nuristan, with no easy way to go, go where the work is and the path that appears to grant them and their families the ability to live most unmolested.

  6. The research was done in Waygal in part because that was where two bright students were from who had connected with the Danes and Germans who were doing research in the region. They subsequently studied anthropology in the U.S. and then actively assisted researchers in pursuing their own research. One of those men paid with his life for his generous efforts to assist.

    Only three dissertations are generally available: those of Yusuf Nuristani, A. R. Palwal, and David Katz. Schuyler Jones and Oxford (I believe) did not make Jone’s dissertation available. The European researchers were ethnologists and did not seriously focus on the contemporary situation to any serious extent.

    Getting permission to visit, much less conduct research in Nuristan was difficult and subject to the whims of Afghan officials. In the mid-60s it was possible for tourists to travel up the Landay Sin. There were tourist facilities at Kamu, site of the Zahir Shah’s hunting lodge. Extended fieldwork by foreigners was largely out of the question. Strand and Katz were lucky.

    Strand worked in the east. He hasn’t yet finished his dissertation. Western Nuristan was difficult to access. No researcher of any stripe has done anything on Mandol district. Klimburg is not an ethnographer, but he has worked and traveled throughout Nuristan, except in Mandol and Doab.

    As for why the Nuristanis were officers, GOA is partially correct. The Amir or king brought up boys that were called Ghulam Bacha (or slave boys) and also women for their harem. There were several prominent Mohammadzais who had Nuristani mothers.

    There was a symbiotic relation between the Nuristanis and the Mohammadzais: the Mohammadzais liked and trusted the Nuristanis because they are not Pashtuns and were not caught up in intra-Pashtun intrigues. And the Nuristanis looked to the center to protect them against their local enemies, the nearby Pashtuns who had been their traditional enemies.

    This special relationship was strengthened during the Safi Pashtun uprising of 1947. Sardar Daoud was the Minister of War. He traveled from Laghman into central Nuristan and joined up with the Nuristanis to defeat decisively the Safi in the central Pech.

    This sealed a tight relationship between Daoud and the Nuristanis. When he was President, Daoud’s Interior Minister was a Nuristani from western Nuristan.

    Also, there’s another angle: For many Afghans, the Nuristanis are still seen as still imbued with a wild streak and and readiness to brutally kill their enemy. This is rather silly, but even before the turmoil of the last 30 years, many well-educated Afghans trembled at the thought of having anything to do with the ‘wild’ Nuristanis and they felt that if they were forced to travel to Nuristan for official business, the prospects of them returning alive were nil.

    There’s nothing special about Waygal

  7. “The gems, like opium” -Old Blue…

    Unless you mean opium is precious ‘like a gem,’ then it is not in fact a gem. The region being highly mountaineous surely does have ‘ore’ deposits. But seing how the area was developed when the sub-continent crashed into Asia, such action was not likely to produce gems easily reachable and would render them deep within the mountainside.

    Albeit not impossible for the locals to get to, they are also not very easy to get to with local technology.

  8. […] years ago before the Royal Marines pulled out.  Ghosts of Alexander has a very timely post on the importance of Nuristan in the guerillas’ strategy, mirroring comments from the recently-deposed governor of Nuristan […]

  9. Harry Toor is simply wrong in stating that gems in Nuristan are not easily reachable. Any serious mineralogist or gem collector is familiar with the incredible localities in both Nuristan and in northern Pakistan. Nuristani Kunzites and Tourmalines have been known for decades.

    For anyone who wants to see a bit about Nuristan’s gems, I suggest:

    Bariand and Poullen, The Pegmatites of Laghman, Nuristan, Afghanistan, The Mineralogical Record,
    vol. 9 no. 5, pp. 301-308 1978

    (Note the date on that article.)

    Also Gary Bowersox has discussed Nuristani gems in his various articles and publications.

    In addition, there are numerous mineralogical sites on the Internet that catalog the localities and minerals associated with Nuristan.

    I suppose Harry Toor can insist that he’s right in that these precious stones can’t simply be picked off the ground but require some sweat and (non-local) tools to harvest. Perhaps so, but Nuristan’s abundant mineral resources can be readily collected using artisanal mining techniques such as simple gas-powered rock drills, compressor driven drills, and even only sledge hammers and chisels. This has been done for decades.

    Sadly, the beneficiaries of this spectacular and valuable resource are neither the government (which according to Afghan law has claim to sub-surface resources) nor the local people who work the sites.

    The main beneficiaries are traders and outsiders who have access to capital to purchase and supply the rock drills and explosives and the wherewithal to market the products. Most of these are Panjshiris, Pakistanis or Pashtuns, some of whom are linked to anti-government elements.

    (In that regard, it is thought that in Nuristan, especially Doab district where there are numerous ‘mines,’ there is collusion between the Jihadis and the mining interests to thwart the expansion of the government and Coalition presence out of fear that a legitimate administrative presence could restrict the clandestine mining and transport of these precious stones.)

    Most of Nuristan’s gems and minerals make their way to the world market through Pakistan.

    If one visits the world-famous annual gem and mineral show in Tucson he will find numerous items from Nuristan on display and for sale.

  10. – David

    No, you’re right, Nuristan is famous for it’s gems. Having never been there though, I can’t attest to their ability to be mined.

    I do wonder though, have those ‘precious’ gems on the market arrived there, in larger quantities, before or after the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. I would assume that they wanted to harness the profits yielded from the mining, at the same time if not able to harness it, destroy Nuristans ability to harvest it.

  11. Whether it’s gems or lumber, valuables from Nuristan reach markets through persons who have the means to play this intermediary role. In most cases this requires a set of skills and knowledge of the outside world and markets that few in Nuristan have.

    Few Taliban had those skills but the traders were not beyond working with and teaming with Taliban, Communists, Mujahidin, or anyone else if they could go about their business.

    There are some Nuristanis who are prominent in the gem business, but most of the biggest traders are those who already had other links into the trade. As a result there are several prominent Panjshiris and also several non-Nuristani Afghans and Pakistanis who have connections with the vibrant gem and mineral trade headquartered in Peshawar.

    Be cautious in imputing motives to the Taliban that would suggest a coherent policy on their part. The Taliban were so disorganized that it’s safe to assume that one rupee of profit from Nuristan’s mineral business never reached the Taliban government coffers, if such existed.

    They got their support from other sources. That’s not to say that individual Taliban officials in eastern Afghanistan didn’t profit from the gem business.

  12. David here is extremely knowledgeable about this area, i would not be surprised if I know who he is. Spent some time in this area myself. If it wasn’t for the war, this is an extremely beautiful part of the world absent the extreme poverty.

  13. As a Nuristani, I would like to thank Christian for his excellent job in preparing the ground for this wonderful constructive discussions and debate about my motherland. I encourage you guys to raise any questions you may have regarding Nuristan.
    I will try my level best to provide positive feedbacks and answers. As some coming from Nuristan, I will try to share my first-hand knowledge, experience and opinions.
    Someone asked the reason for why Nuristanis were more successful and recruited in the army. There were many reasons.
    First: Recruiting Nuristanis in the army did not pose any threat to the ruling Pashton authority for they did not trust Pashtuns and Tajiks since posed threat of stripping the king from his power. Second: by putting Nuristanis in the military hierarchy, the central government wanted to ensure that Nuristanis don’t initiate rebellions against the central government since government used the sons of Nuristani elites in the army as hostage and a good means to discourage any opposition from Nuristanis.
    Third: the central government wanted to preach Islam through these “Gulam Bacha” who were in the military and would eventually go to their people and enlighten them with Islam.
    Fourth: Nuristanis were physically well built and attractive who suited well to wander around the “Aarg” (presidential palace) well groomed. Personally, I know someone who was recruited, just because of his look and physical appearance, by either King Zahir Shah or Prime Minister Dawud to guard the front door of the king’s office.
    Fifth: Inherently, Nuristanis are honest and loyal. Coming from pure nature and mountainous area, they are not polluted with trick skills as opposed to other ethnic groups. So they were trust worthy to the central government. Nuristanis proved this many times, one during the mid 20th century when the Safis rebelled against King Zahir Shah. My grandfather was killed in that war when he ran out of bullets after killing several insurgents.

  14. The complexities in Nuristan and Konar are immense… I spent a considerable amount of time there and still don’t think I have a good grasp. A few misconceptions that I have seen, and please let me know if you disagree. The term Taliban is used very loosely in regards to ACM in Nuristan. This is HIG country, with historic ties to Gullbadin Hekmatyar and his militias. “Taliban” or “Al-Qaeda” are terms used by locals to typcally talk about anyone fighting US forces, probably because that is what they hear on most national news sources and they know those terms get the attention of US forces. But the Taliban as an orginization are nor strong there (would like to be) but that is the topic for another post.

    Second, I think Nuristanis are very proud people because of their recent history comencing the Jihad against the Russians, and their isolation has been a source of pride and identity. However, these people are typically very uneducated and easily influenced by money and power, which is being manipulated by ACM, who seem to have formed a lose alliance to achieve a common goal of expelling the Americans. Most ACM in Nuristan are fighting-age males payed to pull a trigger by the man with the money. Where is the money coming from…..

    The money is coming from Timber trade both legit and illegal, which has also spurred many tribal, land and water disputes that have been raging for many years and have caused feuds that pit families and villages against one-another. This is unfortunate for the US, because the Nuristanis typically have a hidden agenda that is rooted in feud. This bodes well with the fighters, who are typically old Mujahadeen commanders and their sons who want us out just like the Russians, but are being helped by more influencial types across the border who share the desire for similar ends.

    Gem trade and smuggling is not an issue because there is NO regulatory or enforcing mechanism and most of the police are corrupt, poor and easily persuaded with a vary little amount of cash.

    Nuristanis are very brutal fighters who I believe are being influenced by radical islamists more and more frequently. As many have pointed out, this is a historic and key trading route for men and material and my god, if you have ever seen these mountains and the way the men climb them, it is no wonder they are so hard to fight, let alone capture and extend the reach of the Afghan Government… Oh, and nationalism is as foreign of a concept to these people as it is to Paris Hilton.

  15. as a Nuristani i can confirm that no nuristani leader in the past have done any social or development work in Nuristan. There were many top government officials during daud era and zahir shah’s era but none of them did anything worthwile for Nuristan during that era or for the future generations. after the tragic events of the 11th september Nuristani’s were also hopefull to rebuild and reconstruct their homeland but they were unfortunatly unlucky that the United States imposed on the people of Nuristan a corrupted, multi faced person and one of the weakest ever self imposed western backed Nuristani called Dr Yusuf Nuristani representing Nuristan in the Afghan government with the blessing of the United States. end of the day 7 years have passed of the current administration in Nuristan and evrything is in failure

  16. Kantashang, Nuristan’s lack of progress is directly the result of self-interested and violent power brokers. If Nuristanis would stop killing each other over timber, water and religion, maybe they could pull themselves out of the stone age. Their isolation could be their greatest asset if it was leveraged to be peacefully sustaining. Instead, Americans are fighting and dyeing just to build clinics, roads and schools that are being destroyed by religious zealots and money hungry men with AKs, all toting a Quran to rationalize their atrocious actions.

    How can you say the US imposed a corrupt government on the people of Nuristan after 9-11 when most people in Nuristan don’t even know the concept of government (Outside a Shura) or the meaning of Afghan nationalism? The position of Provincial governor has little effect on the people of the province; Tamim Nuristani is a textbook case of your last long serving governor, who didn’t even live in Nuristan probably out of fear for his life. Most don’t even know what 9-11 was. It’s ironic that most local Nuristani’s do not know who Usama Bin Laden is, or have ever heard of New York City. I know they now have a road from Jalalabad to Kamdesh, numerous micro-hydro power plants and a radio station, at a cost I think was way too high in American lives. Maybe if Nuristanis would stop killing everyone that tries to help them, they would eventually prosper… nobody is stopping a charismatic leader from taking initiative, by all means, it would be welcomed. But the people of Nuristan are the ones who chose to provide sanctuary for HIG, AQ and LeT fighters infiltrating from Pakistan, thus ultimately choosing their fights, leaders and destiny.

  17. Dear Pat!

    Thanks for your comments and to an extend it is the truth but you are not aware of the facts as we Nuristanis are aware on the ground. people in Nuristan are not that unaware of the International and national events that they do not khnow who Bin Ladin is or where the New york city is. these are basic things that an afghan kid can explain it to you as well after afghanistan and its citizens are the victim of years of international powerstruggle for influence in Afghanistan. which has left afghanistan devastated.

    for your kind information Traditional Shura of Nuristan was abondoned and were left disorganised by the corrupted administration of Hamid Karazai. instead all the prioorities were given to the corrupted, irresponsible and illiterate person appointed as the governor from Kabul. tamim Nuristani was appointed as the governor of Nuristan by Hamid Karzai. He had the American backing as he came from the United Sates and prior to that he had lived almost of his life in the United States of America and owned a flower shop. Nuristan at the time needs a governor from Nuristan, who is well edgucated, respected, had lived in the area, speak the language, khnow about the local culture and custom and could deliver the best services to the people of Nuristan. we have hundreds of qualifying Nuristani indivdiuals in Nuristan but they are either ignored or sidelined by the government.

    people like Tamim Nuristani, Doctor Yusuf and all those assosiated with them are the product of the Americans, which can be seen crystal clear.

    yes today we have the problem of cross border terrorism in Nuristan which needs a serious and rational policy approach to tackle it. it can be done with the help of the local people in Nuristan. local problems have local soloutions and our local soloution to this problem is to let the people of Nuristan elect their own governor by ballot or by recommending instead imposing on us.

    pakistan is working for its own interests and we khnow that. we want to defend it and get rid of the terror wave approaching us.

    the situation in Nuristan deteriorated due to the lack of attention from the central government and our own corrupted leaders in Nuristan who have Iternational backings and are not telling the world the complet truth.

    we are facing injustice in Afghanistan and god willing the new generation of Nuristan will change the scenario in Nuristan and make it a heaven for tourists not for terrorists.

  18. I’m half pashtoon from Nuristan and I’m blonde haha a sign that i’m related to Alexander? Maybe…
    Yes Nuristan seems a very intresting place for me since my grand mother is from nuristan and I’m from that place in my afghan side. I’m quite intrested in my afghan side these days since I didn’t really care about it before, I like your website “Ghosts of Alexander” Nice Title :D



  19. […] Ghosts of Alexander on Nuristan here and here. Posted by Joshua Foust  Print Version Share […]

  20. I donot know much about nuristan , I would like to know what language they speak? Are they speaking farsi /dari or any other one. thanks

  21. There is a website that will give more information. Nooristan Foundation has initiated many projects to help the area. You should take a look.

  22. I know a bit about recent Nuristan history. General Issa Khan Nuristani was a respected 3 star general in the 60’s and 70’s. He was recruited from Nuristan when he was a lad to eventually lead the ground forces. It is said that he ordered the Nuristanis to fight against the Communists through a letter – one year before the Soviets invaded. He was imprisoned and executed by the Afghan communists thereafter. His son Dr Nadir atash – rumored to be the first PhD from Nuristan -has since worked on many projects to help th area since 1999. I believe he founded Nooristan Foundation. I saw on their website they are having a dinner reception at the Greek embassy to show the ties between Alexander the Great and Afghanistan. That should be interesting to see.


  24. im vaigal and my moms from bargamatal…ya i agree with you they just want to be left alone…and about war like ya i guess if u invade their place they will get mad…like my moms grandfather didnt want to become muslims so he cut of like 22 mullahs head off and escaped to chitral and my dads grandfather…back then to show who had more powerr they would go and kill muslims and he killed like 13 and you have somekind of earings i think to show it…but now people wear the shorts over the pants to show how strong they are

  25. first of all as Nuristani i am thank full from Christian for his out standing initiaion to facilitate this debate.
    I think nuristanis are the same human beings like others they need to have access to basic needs of life such is health, education,roads… the problems of nuristanis are ignorance, poority and strong pressecne of fundamentalist group in their area due to three decades of war who are just preaching hatred among the people through the religious schools whic are being supported from outside. the Afghan Gov. should come up with some alternative to eradicate these problems by bringing basic quality education for the students and stop all these illegal Mudarasah who are recuiting fighters the people of nuristan want civilization come to their area and bring development for them. Unfortunately, the central Gov. all the time has neglected the people and compromised with the indivduals and corrupt fundamentalist groups regardless of what they have done to people in the past. i remmeber in presidential election people vote for president in very remote village of Nuristan they went to the polling stations walking for two three hours in one meter snow in hope of having a strong Gov. who could defend from their rights but instead the local extremist group got more power, the people are in fetters of these millitant group and now the Gov. and international community are the viewers of the situation and the poor people of nuristans are paying the price..

  26. Dear kantashang, please do some research before acusing people being corrup.

    “they were unfortunatly unlucky that the United Sates imposed on the people of Nuristan a corrupted, multi faced person and one of the weakest ever self imposed western backed Nuristani called Dr Yusuf Nuristani representing Nuristan”

    What do you know about Dr. Nuristani? It seems like you dont know anything about him but his name. I am not related to Dr Nuristani but I know him very well. He is Educated, very humble and down to earth. If there were more people like him out there, world would be a much better place. Dr. Nuristani was born and raised in Nuristan. His brother still lives there with his family. He goes there from time to time. You should go to Nuristan and ask the people what he has done for them? I went to Nuristan about 11 years ago and was surprised to see fausets in people’s houses. I was surprised to see electricity there because growing up i was told that there is no electricty and you had to go to the river or springs to get water. People there were praising Dr. Nuristani for it. Who built the schools for girls in Nuristani? It was Dr. Nuristani. Who built the roads that take you strait to waigal? It was Dr Nuristani. Thanks to him that traveling in that region has become a lot easier than it used to be. I can go on and on about the things he has done but there is no need to because people who are well aware of that part of the world and live there know the things he has done.

    The only reason I can think of why you said what you said is you dont know much about him so please do some research before talking about people.

  27. Dears you may know Nuristan is one of the poorest and remote province of afhganista that is not becase of the people of nuristan that is becuase of the rulers of Afghanistan that they haven’t pay attention to this nation they have been marginalised for centuries Nuristanis had a strong culture and systematic life style but now we lost everything becuse of not having good leadership we don’t blame any one for thier doings but we must try to do something instead of blaming some i would like thank for all those working and thinking about nuristan

  28. David-
    I disagree. I think there is something special about Waigal. Namely, it’s relatively easy to access. The road network from Asadabad to Manugay and then up to Wanat and Waigal make the trip much easier than trying to navigate up to Paruns or some of the other towns in the province.

    A Khan-
    I’d like to talk with you away from the blog about Dr. Nuristani. Would you be okay with that?

    I love Nuristan; it is quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Great people, beautiful scenery, majestic mountains, pristine rivers, a few good fights (not with the Nuris)–and I can’t wait to get back someday.


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