My Cousin’s Enemy is My Friend: A Study of Pashtun “Tribes” in Afghanistan

Afghanistan Research Reachback Center White Paper, TRADOC G2 Human Terrain System, United States Army, September 2009.


Though tribe is a factor in Pashtun society, it is neither the only source of Pashtun identity nor the only foundation of Pashtun social organization. Traditions of shared kinship have formed the narrative foundations for Pashtun tribal organization, and historical forces have reinforced these structures. However, both in the past and where kin-based social structures still exist among Pashtuns, other social forms routinely arise and trump the importance of tribe and tribal organization. Rivalry between close male relatives, the formation of factions within kin groups, and the dynamics of patronage make Pashtun social structures far more complex than if they followed the classical anthropological definition of “tribe.”

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