The Demographics of Afghanistan consists of a mix of ethnic and linguistic groups. The population of Afghanistan is 28,396,000, according to the "significantly revised" October 30, 2009 CIA Factbook.  This reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South Asia and Southwest Asia. The majority of Afghanistan's population are Iranian peoples, notably the Pashtuns and the Tajiks. The Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group followed by Tajiks. The Hazaras are the third largest ethnic group, then the Uzbeks, Aimak, Turkmen, Baluch, Nuristani and other small groups. Pashto and Persian (Dari) are the two official languages of the country. Persian is spoken by at least half of the population and serves as a lingua franca for most. Pashto is spoken widely in the south, east and south west as well as in western Pakistan. Uzbek and Turkmen are spoken in the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.
The term "Afghan", though (historically) synonymous with "Pashtun", is promoted as a national identity. It is, however, hard to combine the varying groups. Often the Pashtun are referred to as Afghans while some of the other groups hold on to their ethnic names such as Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and so on. The citizens of Afghanistan are in many ways some what distinct from the notion of ethnic Afghans as a result of this understanding. In order to solve the problem, in recent years, the term "Afghanistani" (meaning of or from Afghanistan and analogous to Uzbekistani, Pakistani, or Tajikistani) has been suggested for the citizens of Afghanistan in contrast to ethnic Afghans who would be the Pashtuns. The idea is supported by some politicians in Afghanistan, such as Latif Pedram. However, in a research poll that was conducted in Afghanistan in 2009, 72% of the population put their identity as Afghan first, before ethnicity.
99% of Afghanistan's population adheres to Islam. An estimated 80% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; 19% is Shi'a. Despite attempts during the years of communist rule to secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In fact, Islam served as the principal basis for expressing opposition to communist rule and the Soviet invasion. Likewise, Islamic religious tradition and codes, together with traditional practices, provide the principal means of controlling personal conduct and settling legal disputes. Excluding urban populations in the principal cities, most Afghans are divided into tribal and other kinship-based groups, which follow traditional customs and religious practices.
The modern Afghan national identity is derived from the founding of the Durrani Empire in the mid 18th century. From 1747 until 1823, Ahmad Shah Durrani and his descendants held the monarchy in direct session. They were the first Pashtun rulers of a Sovereign state.
There requires some realization that Afghan nationalism can be synonymous with that of Pashtun nationalism and as a result cannot be conflated into an Afghan national identity as the country is a multiethnic entity. Thus, there have been a variety of groups who have lived in what is today Afghanistan, but were not ethnic Afghans such as the aforementioned Tajiks as well as Uzbeks, Hazaras, and many others who are currently divided as to what constitutes a national Afghan identity. Because Afghan history is fraught with regional cleavages any notion of an Afghan nation-state is largely absent until the 18th century and the rise of the Durrani Empire. For this reason, important figures from the past such as Avicenna and Rumi, who were of ethnic Persian (Tajik) identity, are often not identified as ethnic Afghans or even as Afghan people, at least according to academics, while they are generally included within the context of the collective history of the modern nation-state in the geographic sense.
Pashtuns (also known as Pakhtun or Pathan), or ethnic Afghans, reside mainly in eastern, southern and southwestern Afghanistan but important colonies have also settled in some northern and northwestern parts as a result of recent relocation. Smaller groups of Pashtuns are also found in Iran. There are many conflicting theories, some contemporary, some ancient, about the origins of the Pashtun people, both among historians and the Pashtun themselves. According to several scholars such as V. Minorsky, W.K. Frazier Tyler and M.C. Gillet, the word Afghan first appears in the 982 CE Hudud-al-Alam. Al-Biruni referred to Afghans as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of Ancient India and Persia, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains. According to other sources, these tribes may be the lost Jewish tribes that never returned and were converted to Islam during the Arab Empire. Thus it is believed that the Pashtuns emerged from the area around the Sulaiman Mountains, and expanded to other places. Afghan is an adaptation of the Prakrit ethnonym Avagānā, attested in the 6th century CE. The Afghan identity began to develop as Pashtun identity under the rule of Ahmad Shah Durrani who united the Pashtun (Afghan) chiefdoms in the middle of 18th century. Another boost took place under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan who with British support further centralized the government. Until the advent of the modern "Afghan" state in the 20th century, the word Afghan had been synonymous with Pashtun.
The Persian-speaking Tajiks are closely related to the Persians of Iran. Sub-groups of the Tajiks include the Farsiwan and the Qizilbash. The major difference between them is that they are generally of the Shia sect while other Tajiks are of the Sunni sect. Once, Persians ruled the regions and countries beyond the modern boundaries from first hand, but have lost power as the dominant group in the region due to other invading powers, so they were only able to rule and at the same time legitimize their rule as second- or even as immediate sub-rulers with strong influence on the foreigners - with the exception of the short 10-month rule of Habibullah Kalakani in 1929..
before Karzai's presidency in Afghanistan, Tajiks have been mainly known for being bureaucrats, educators, doctors, teachers, professors, famous and influential cultural artists and artisans and especially successful merchants and entrepreneurs. Some were also ministers.
The Hazaras are a Persian-speaking people who reside mainly in the Hazarajat region. The Hazara seem to have partial Mongolian origins with some admixture from surrounding indigenous groups. Linguistically the Hazara speak a dialect of Persian, known as Hazaragi, and sometimes their variant is interspersed with Altaic words. It is commonly believed by many Afghans that the Hazara are descendants of Genghis Khan's army, which marched into the area during the 12th century. Proponents of this view hold that many of the Mongol soldiers and their family members settled in the area and remained there after the Mongol empire dissolved in the 13th century, converting to Islam and adopting local customs. Unlike most Afghans the Hazara are Shia, which has often set them apart from their neighbors. There are sizable Hazara communities in Pakistan particularly in North-West Frontier Province and Quetta, and in Iran.
The Uzbeks are the main Turkic people of Afghanistan and are found mainly in the northern regions of the country. Most likely the Uzbeks migrated with a wave of Turkic invaders and intermingled with local Iranian tribes over time to become the ethnic group they are today. By the 1500s the Uzbeks had settled throughout Central Asia and reached Afghanistan following the conquests of Muhammad Shaybani. Most Uzbeks are Sunni Muslim and are closely related to the Turkmen who also can be found in Afghanistan. The Uzbeks of Afghanistan are usually bilingual, fluent in both Persian and Uzbek.
The Turkmen are the smaller Turkic group who can also be found in neighboring Turkmenistan and Iran particularly around Mashad. Largely Sunni Muslim, their origins are very similar to that of the Uzbeks. Unlike, the Uzbeks, however, the Turkmen are traditionally a nomadic people (though they were forced to abandon this way of life in Turkmenistan itself under Soviet rule).
The Baluch are another Iranian ethnic group that numbers around 200,000 in Afghanistan. The main Baloch areas located in Balochistan province in Pakistan and Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran. Many also live in southern Afghanistan. They are most likely an offshoot of the Kurds and reached Afghanistan sometime between 1000 and 1300 BCE. Mainly pastoral and desert dwellers, the Baluch are also Sunni Muslim.
The Nuristani are an Indo-Iranian people, representing a fourth independent branch of the Aryan peoples (Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Nuristani, and Dardic), who live in isolated regions of northeastern Afghanistan as well as across the border in the district of Chitral in Pakistan. They speak a variety of Nuristani languages. Better known historically as the Kafirs of what was once known as Kafiristan (land of pagans), they converted to Islam during the rule of Amir Abdur Rahman and their country was renamed "Nuristan", meaning "Land of Light" (as in the light of Islam). A small unconquered portion of Kafiristan inhabited by the Kalash tribe who still practice their pre-Islamic religion still exists across the border in highlands of Chitral, northwestern Pakistan. Many Nuristanis believe that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great's ancient Greeks, but there is a lack of genetic evidence for this and they are more than likely an isolated pocket of early Aryan invaders. Physically, the Nuristani are of the Mediterranean sub-stock with about one-third recessive blondism. They are largely Sunni Muslims.
The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.
28,396,000 (October 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
0–14 years: 44.5% (male 7,664,670; female 7,300,446)
15–64 years: 53% (male 9,147,846; female 8,679,800)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 394,572; female 422,603) (2009 est.)
2.629% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28
45.46 births/12,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
19.56 deaths/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
21 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 2
urbanization population: 24% of the total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 5.4% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15–64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
total: 151.95 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 3
male: 156.01 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 147.7 deaths/1,000 live births
total population: 44.64 years
country comparison to the world: 214
male: 44.47 years
female: 44.81 years (2009 est.)
6.53 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
0.01% (2001 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria
animal contact diseases: rabies
note: H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009)
According to a representative survey, named "A survey of the Afghan people - Afghanistan in 2006", a combined project of The Asia Foundation, the Indian Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and the Afghan Center for Socio-economic and Opinion Research (ACSOR), the distribution of the ethnic groups is:
According to another representative survey, named "Afghanistan: Where Things Stand", a combined effort by the American broadcasting channel ABC News, the British BBC, and the German ARD (from the years 2004 to 2009), and released on February 9th 2009, the ethnic composition of the country is (avarege numbers):
An approximate distribution of first languages based on the CIA World Factbook is as following:
The Encyclopædia Iranica gives the following list for the distribution of native languages:
According to "A survey of the Afghan people - Afghanistan in 2006", the first languages spoken are:
total: 8 years
male: 11 years
female: 4 years (2004)