Who Are The Taliban? – Explainer


The Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and imposed a strict form of Islamic law on the country. Here are some key facts about the group’s beliefs and history.  

How were the Taliban formed? 

The Taliban were one of the factions fighting in Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union. The group emerged in 1994 around the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Their founder was Mullah Mohammad Omar, a local imam in the city, who led the militants until his death in 2013. 

What is the connection with the U.S.?

The Taliban originally drew their members from former Afghan resistance fighters, called mujahedeen, who were supported by the United States in their fight against Soviet forces in the 1980s.  

How did the Taliban gain power? 

Following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of Afghanistan’s government, the country descended into civil war. The Taliban drew support with promises to restore order and justice. In 1994, they took control of the city of Kandahar with little resistance, and by 1996, they had captured the capital, Kabul.

What do the Taliban believe? 

The Taliban ruled according to a strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah law. Public executions and floggings were common, and women were mostly barred from working or studying and forced to wear an all-covering burqa in public. The Taliban banned Western books and films and destroyed cultural artifacts from other traditions, including 1,500-year-old giant statues of the Buddha in the central Bamiyan valley. 

What is their connection to al-Qaida? 

The Taliban provided sanctuary for the al-Qaida militant group, led then by Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaida set up training camps in Afghanistan, which it used to prepare for terrorist attacks around the world, including the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. 

How did they lose power? 

Less than a month after the September 11 attacks, the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan. By early December, the Taliban government had fallen, and the United States began working with Afghans to establish a democratic government. 

What came next? 

Following their defeat, Taliban leaders fled to their strongholds in the south and east of Afghanistan or across the border into Pakistan. The militant group then led an insurgency against the new U.S.-backed Afghan government, using improvised bombings and suicide attacks. 

Last year, the U.S. government negotiated a deal with the Taliban after more than two decades of military involvement in Afghanistan. The accord set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country in return for the Taliban ending attacks on Americans and entering into talks with the Afghan government. However, months of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government failed to produce any peace agreement.  

Which countries have recognized the Taliban? 

Only a handful of countries recognized the Taliban government when it ruled from 1996-2001, including Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It is not clear whether most countries will recognize a new Taliban government; however, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that Afghanistan would become a pariah state if the Taliban took power by force and committed atrocities. 


The VOA is the Voice of America

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