Afghanistan: ethnic groups, religion, elites

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is home to different ethnic, religious, and linguistic communities. The largest ethnic groups the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks play a special role in their country. However, there are also other lesser-known, but no less important local communities.

How will a political settlement be negotiated in a country with such a diverse population, and is there a pan-Afghan political identity today?

RISS Senior expert and orientalist Marianna Bakonina answers these and other questions.


  • The situation in Afghanistan has changed significantly since the 1990s. The Taliban managed to seize control of critical border crossings in their homeland.

  • Though Sunni fundamentalism and the Pashtun ethnicity still play an important role in the Taliban’s demand for a dominant power in Afghanistan, the Taliban is likely to consider an ethnic-religious factor carefully to maintain their positions in inter-Afghan talks.

  • The agenda for intra-Afghan dialogue is to be established with the future of the state structure in Afghanistan as one the most important issues. Afghan ethnic and religious minorities want their country to stay a republic, while the Taliban favors the idea of forming an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan with the absolute power of the Emir.

  • The intra-Afghan dialogue with a respect to the rights of all ethnic and religious groups in the country can contribute to lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Taliban Marianna Bakonina Afghanistan