While English is the official language established by the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the International Security Assistance Force to be the common language for those working to assist the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IROA), it is not the common language of Afghans. Dari is the official IROA language, but Pashtu is the language of the Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. However, while many Afghans may not know, understand, or speak English, many do know English numbers.
Major Ethnic Groups
Afghanistan consists of unique and diverse tribes as shown on the following map:
Figure 5-1. Tribal regions in Afghanistan1
The map does not show the complexity of the tribal dispersion through Afghanistan. Within each of the geographic areas are enclaves of almost every tribe. Notice how much of the country is Pashtun and how that ethnicity covers western Pakistan.
Note: The boundary marking the border between Afghanistan and northwest India, which is now Pakistan, was established by the British in 1893 to ensure the Khyber Pass, the Khojak Pass, and the important cities of Peshawar and Quetta were on the India side of the border between Afghanistan and India. This border divided the Pashtun people who are Afghanistan's dominant ethnic group and the world's largest remaining tribal-based society.2
Pashtuns consider themselves true Afghans, and it is in their areas of Afghanistan that are the most unsecure areas and in which agriculture development teams (ADTs) are currently working. Having a translator who speaks Pashtu is beneficial when dealing with farmers and others in the agribusiness community. However, the majority of Afghans do understand Dari.
While Pashtu is the primary language in the ADT area of operations, ADT Soldiers unfortunately received Dari language training and not Pashtu. If possible, find a program that teaches Pashtu. Keep in mind there are some commonalities in Dari and Pashtu.
The following table shows the English to Dari and Pashtu translations of some common phrases:
Figure Table 5
Additional words that could be useful to learn in both Dari and Pashtu include the following:
1. Image taken from Web site "www.hopeforafghanistan.com".
Last Reviewed: May 18, 2012