LEADER: Mullah Mohammed Omar
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1994
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Afghanistan
The Taliban, an Islamic and Pashtun movement within Afghanistan, consolidated as a political and military force in 1994 and ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until early 2002. Noted for its record of extreme control over women and a strict interpretation of shari'a (Islamic law), the Taliban also openly invited acknowledged terrorists such as Osama bin Laden to reside within Afghanistan. The group lost control of Afghanistan in early 2002 after U.S. military forces invaded Afghanistan in search of bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, the group that claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.
In 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan as part of a policy of shoring up socialist/communist states. Afghanistan's turmoil after a 1978 military coup was of great concern, both politically and strategically, to the USSR. In 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter offered military and economic aid to Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan, in exchange for access to Afghanistan. The United States provided support to the mujahedin (fighters), Islamic Afghans who opposed the Soviet invasion. Osama bin Laden, a Saudi with extensive financial resources, helped to funnel U.S. aid to the mujahedin via his organization, Maktab al-Khadamat (Office of Services). Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and China all provided support to the mujahedin as well.
Most of the leaders of the mujahedin were local warlords. When the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the country erupted into chaos as these warlords made power grabs for national control. Two groups emerged from the mujahedin: the Afghan Northern Alliance and the Taliban. By the early 1990s, the Taliban was emerging as the strongest group, helping economically by ending warlord extortion, and politically by providing stability within Afghanistan. In 1994, the group was asked by Pakistan to protect trade convoys, and by 1996, the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan.
The Taliban established an Islamic state, ruled by shari'a. Women lost many rights within civil society, such as the right to work, vote, or be in public without a male relative; access to education was curtailed for women as well. While international outcry against these policies was widespread, it was the Taliban's approach to terrorists that drew the most international attention.
In 1996, the Taliban invited Osama bin Laden, now the leader of the terrorist group, al-Qaeda, to reside in Afghanistan. On August 7, 1998, U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed by al-Qaeda, and the United States demanded that Afghanistan hand over Osama bin Laden for trial. When the Taliban held their own trial and declared Osama bin Laden to be "without sin," the United States bombed alleged al-Qaeda sites in Afghanistan.
After al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and southwestern Pennsylvania, the United States once again demanded that the Taliban turn over bin Laden. In October 2001, the United States
U.S. Official Praises Afghan Elections
The U.S. national security adviser on Sunday praised Afghanistan's legislative elections and said they sent neighboring countries a message that "democracy and freedom are possible today."
As officials began releasing partial preliminary results from the vote a week ago, Stephen Hadley urged winning and losing candidates to accept the outcome peacefully in a country still struggling to emerge from decades of bloodshed.
Standing beside the chairman of the U.N.-Afghan body that ran the country's first parliamentary elections since 1969, Hadley praised organizers for handling logistical and security challenges.
He called the poll "a tribute to the courage of the Afghan people" and a "remarkable success story."
When the outcome is final, "there will be a burden on the candidates—both those who won and those who lost—to accept the results peacefully and to show responsible behavior," Hadley said.
U.S. and other Western officials hope the elections will help Afghanistan move toward stability after decades of war. But there is concern that its legacy of violence could persist, deepening divisions that have worsened past conflicts.
More than 5,600 candidates contested 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of Parliament, and 420 seats in provincial councils.
There has been some concern over a rule that says a winning candidate who dies is replaced by the next-highest vote-getter.
The voting was the last formal step on a path to democracy laid out after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001, when the hardline Islamic group's leaders refused to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin laden after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Hadley was upbeat about the estimated turnout of 6.8 million, or about 55%—though it was a significant drop from the 70% for U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai's election as president last October.
Afghans "turned out in impressive numbers to vote," said Hadley, who later met with Karzai.
He said the election was "terribly important, not just for the future of Afghanistan, but also for the region as a whole. Because it says to every country in this region that democracy and freedom are possible today."
Afghanistan borders Pakistan, U.S. foe Iran and Central Asian countries with authoritarian governments—including Uzbekistan, whose leadership has been at odds with Washington after a bloody government crackdown on protesters in May.
The U.N.-Afghan electoral board began releasing partial provisional results Sunday, and chief electoral officer Peter Erben said the count was nearly finished in some of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, but only about 10% complete in others. The board hopes to issue complete provisional results by Oct. 4 and certified results by Oct. 22, after a complaint period.
Source: New York Times 2005
invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban within three months. Taliban insurgents remain in Afghanistan to this day, though Afghan voters elected Hamid Karzai to the presidency and he was sworn in on December 7, 2004.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
Driven largely by religion, the Taliban used Islamic law as a foundation for government. The Taliban gained popularity for its ability to establish control over chaotic regions of Afghanistan, for its Pashtun roots, and for weeding out corruption throughout Afghanistan.
Restrictions on the role of women, access to media, and Western ideas were part of the Taliban's philosophy. In ruling as an Islamic state, the reach of the government stretched into nearly every facet of civil society. Most Taliban members were educated in madrassas (religious schools) in Pakistan, and the combination of these members and the mujahedin from the conflict with the USSR comprised the government.
Standard tactics used to gain power included alliances with Pakistan to act as a security force for trade convoys, and paying off warlords in return for control of areas. By 2001, the Taliban controlled 90-95% of Afghanistan, although it was recognized as the legitimate government only by three nations: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
The Taliban increased its visibility and stature among Islamic extremists and terrorist groups by defying Western opinion and offering safe haven to Osama bin Laden. Since being ousted from power in early 2002, the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deaths of non-governmental organization workers, security force officers, foreign military officers, Afghan civilians, and government officials. In addition, the group's targets include transportation facilities, religious buildings, private citizens and property, and police officers. In 2004, President Hamid Karzai experienced an assassination attempt at the hands of a Taliban member; police officers shot and killed the would-be assassin.
In a November 22, 2001, interview with BBC News correspondent Marc George, Taliban fighters give their viewpoint. One states that, "If the conflict is a civil conflict in Afghanistan, I will stop fighting and go home. But if the Americans continue bombing in Afghanistan the jihad (holy war) will continue and I will have carry on." Many fighters were ordered to join the jihad by local mullahs, or religious leaders. Rather than seeing the conflict in terms of terrorism, their viewpoint is one of religion; the invasion by the United States was viewed as a clash between the "infidel" United States and the holiness of Islam.
The Taliban is still in operation in small pockets throughout Afghanistan as a loose rebel organization; new recruits feed the group. Their leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, remains in control of much of the group, and 2005 was considered the bloodiest year since 2001 in terms of the insurgency. While Afghanistan is under an elected government's control along with U.S. support, the Taliban remains a solid force among extremist Muslims who disagree with U.S. intervention.
Marsden, Peter. The Taliban: War and Religion in Afghanistan. London: Zed Books, 2002.
- Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.
- The United States, among other countries, offers support to the freedom fighters (mujahedin) to fight against the Soviets.
- The Soviet Union troops withdraw.
- The Taliban appointed by the Pakistan government to protect trade envoys.
- The Taliban gains control of Kabul. They remove the Soviet-controlled government and create an Islamic state. They offer Osama bin Laden refuge in Afghanistan as the Taliban acquires control over large sections of the country.
- The UN imposes an embargo on the Taliban for the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden. The United States wants bin Laden for his role in the 1994 World Trade Center attack and the 1998 bombings of embassies in Africa.
- Following the September 11 attacks in the United States, Afghans flee Kabul, fearing U.S. retaliation. The United States demands that the Taliban hand over bin Laden.
- The United States begins bombings and ground operations in Afghanistan in an armed conflict.
- The Taliban loses control of various cities. Hamid Karzai is chosen as the interim leader.
- The Taliban officially loses power. Top Taliban officials surrender at Kandahar, and other Taliban fighters considered prisoners of war are taken to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, under U.S. control.
- A Taliban activist attempts to assassinate Hamid Karzai.
- Taliban insurgents are suspected in a string of attacks on international aid workers.
MULLAH MOHAMMED OMAR
Known as "Commander of the Faithful," Mullah Mohammed Omar founded the Taliban and presided over its control of Afghanistan from 1996 through early 2002. The son of a poor farmer, Omar is reportedly married to one of Osama bin Laden's daughters. Although Omar is not a cleric, he is a mullah (a spiritual leader), and allegedly created the Taliban as a religious and political response to Afghanistan's chaos during Soviet rule. Omar is elusive, and few photographs of him exist; according to rumor, he lost an eye while fighting against the Soviets, and his eyelid is sown shut. He fled Afghanistan sometime in late December 2001 and remains in hiding.
BBCNews.com. "Profile: Mullah Mohammed Omar." 〈http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1550419.stm〉 (accessed October 16, 2005).
BBCNews.com. "Meeting Taleban's Foreign Fighters." 〈http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1669996.stm〉 (accessed October 16, 2005).
Time.com. "Time.com Primer: The Taliban and Afghanistan." 〈http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,175372,00.html〉 (accessed October 16, 2005).
Audio and Visual Media
National Public Radio. "Afghanistan Takes Steps to Reconcile with Taliban Fighters." 〈http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4469449〉 (accessed October 16, 2005).
The word taliban derives from the Persian plural form of the Arabic word talib, meaning "seeker" or "student." As a general term, taliban, or its Arabic equivalents tullab or talaba, alludes to students from madrasas (religious schools) dedicated to theological studies of Islam. After 1994, however, Da Afghanistan da Talibano Islami Tahrik (The Afghan Islamic Movement of Taliban), or "Taliban," was known internationally as the name chosen by a mujahidin splinter group that eventually dominated the civil war in Afghanistan.
The rise of the Taliban as a military force is debated. Their supporters maintained that the movement surfaced in Kandahar to enforce public safety and order in reaction to the looting and harassment of the local population by other mujahidin groups. Their opponents viewed the Taliban as a creation of Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) in order to gain indirect control of Afghanistan and unhindered access to Central Asia.
In any case, the Taliban, with direct Pakistani military and diplomatic support and financial backing from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), emerged as the dominant military force that gradually came to rule about 85 percent of Afghanistan by 1999 (the remainder of the country was controlled by an anti-Taliban alliance under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Mas˓ud). Comprised of former mujahidin belonging mostly to the Pashtun ethnic majority, the group first emerged in Kandahar in 1994. The original leaders and members claimed to be students from religious schools run by Pakistan's Jam˓iyat-e ˓Ulama-e Islam (JUI).
The Taliban gained international notice on 3 November 1994, when the group freed a convoy of Pakistani trucks commandeered by a local Afghan mujahidin group. Two days later, the Taliban captured Kandahar, and in September 1995, the western city of Herat. The Taliban seized the capital, Kabul, on 27 September 1996, ousting the ruling mujahidin government of President Burhan al-Din Rabbani.
Initially, the Taliban claimed that its goal was to rid the country from factionalism and the rule of warlords. However, on 3 April 1996, Mulla Muhammad ˓Omar Mujahid proclaimed himself Emir al-Mu˒minin (Commander of the Faithful), thus becoming the Emir (ruler) of Afghanistan. Taking advantage of inter-Uzbek rivalries in northern Afghanistan, in May 1997, the Taliban captured Mazar-i-Sharif, the last significant Afghan city not under its control. This victory brought the Taliban recognition from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan. Although defeated in a subsequent battle, with heavy losses to their ranks (including some 250 Pakistani casualties), the Taliban recaptured Mazar-i-Sharif and then seized the Hazarah stronghold of Bamiyan in 1998 and 1999. This consolidation of power changed the internal structure of the Taliban movement from loose pockets of fighters led by a consultative council in which Mulla ˓Omar was primus inter pares, into an theocratic regime increasingly ruled with secrecy and terror as a means of control, with no leader accessible to the people. As rulers, the Taliban sought the creation of what the movement believed to be pure Islamic rule according to the shari˓a (Islamic law).
From its appearance on the Afghan political scene until its capture of Kabul, the Taliban were viewed by some sectors of the Afghan population as a means of restoring order. This view was also shared by certain foreign powers, including the United States, which tacitly welcomed the Taliban capture of Kabul. However, while securing the territories under its control, the Taliban proved to be yet another destabilizing group of warriors whose methods included ethnically targeted mass murder of unarmed civilians (in the northern and central parts of Afghanistan) as well as the total blockade of food supplies (to the Bamiyan region). What triggered international condemnation of the Taliban, though, was their maltreatment of women, who were banned from attending schools, holding jobs, venturing outside of their homes unless accompanied by a male relative, and being treated by male physicians. The Taliban also placed restrictions on foreign female aid workers helping Afghan women.
Signs of the Taliban's eventual international isolation began to show in 1998. With pressure from women's rights groups, the absence of international investment, and the Taliban's double-dealings with rival pipeline projects, the U.S. oil company Unocal pulled out of a major business deal that would have facilitated the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan, a project planned by Unocal and a Saudi company, Delta Oil.
In August 1998, in retaliation for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa by affiliates of Usama bin Ladin and the Taliban's refusal to surrender him, the United States launched cruise missile attacks on suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan and spearheaded an international effort to isolate the Taliban through unilateral and U.N. sanctions.
In addition, the Taliban's drug production and trafficking activities brought international scorn. In 2001 the United Nations acknowledged Taliban efforts to reduce the production of narcotics, the first such recognition since their assumption of power in 1994. However, these efforts did not gain the movement much international sympathy, as its radicalization intensified. In March 2001, Mulla ˓Omar ordered the destruction of all idols in the country, including two 1,500-year-old colossal Buddha statues in Bamiyan. Two months later, in a decree that brought international outrage, the Taliban ordered all non-Muslim Afghans to wear distinctive yellow patches.
The policies of the Taliban affecting women and religious minorities, its destruction of ancient Buddha statues, and the banning of music, television, photography, and traditional Afghan games such as kite flying were carried out under an innovative form of the shari˓a, combining Pashtun tribal codes and a radical form of Islamic teaching propagated by some of the graduates of the Dar al-˓Ulum (House of Sciences) madrasa in Deoband, India, who later became members of JIU and other radical Islamic movements in Pakistan. The presence of radical Arabs encamped in Afghanistan led by Usama bin Ladin also galvanized this development. While some Taliban members genuinely believed their rule was based in Islam, others appeared to use Islam as a justification for absolute "divine" power. The policies of the Taliban have given birth to the term "Talibanization," referring to this new form of radical Islam.
The 11 September 2001 suicide bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., were immediately attributed to Usama bin Ladin. Because the group of Arab and other Muslim fighters he headed, known as al-Qa˓ida, had operated in Afghanistan with the knowledge and protection of the Taliban government, a U.S.-led war of retaliation led to the destruction of the Taliban government and the routing of al-Qa˓ida forces from Afghanistan. In early December 2001, the leaders of both the Taliban and al-Qa˓ida escaped and fled into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan or into Pakistan.
As of early Spring 2003, the Taliban had begun regrouping and instigating frequent, low-level attacks against Afghan and U.S.-led anti-terror coalition forces in the south and southeastern regions of Afghanistan, along the border with Pakistan. Many Taliban members were believed to be sheltered in the southwestern region of Pakistan and assisted by sympathetic individuals and groups there. The whereabouts of top Taliban leaders, including Mulla ˓Omar, remained unknown. However propaganda distributed by the group in Afghanistan claimed that he continued to lead the Taliban.
Marsden, Peter. The Taliban: War and Religion in Afghanistan (Politics in Contemporary Asia). London: Zed Books, 2002.
Matinuddin, Kamal. The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan 1994–1997. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Amin TarziKimberly McCloud
The Taliban is a radically militant Islamic movement that controlled some 90 percent of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. The Taliban emerged from their base in Kandahar in southwestern Afghanistan in reaction to the lawlessness caused by infighting between rival mujahideen forces in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The Taliban’s declared aims included the restoration of peace, rigid enforcement of Islamic law, disarming the population, and defending the Islamic character of Afghanistan.
In 1994 the Taliban, under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Omar, began its territorial conquest with the seizure of the Afghan border post of Spin Boldak and subsequent takeover of the city of Kandahar. The fall of Kandahar provided the Taliban with a nucleus of fighters as thousands of Afghan refugees, mostly students at madrassas (Islamic religion schools) near the Afghan-Pakistani border, joined the movement. The Taliban’s swift military successes launched a surprising advance that culminated in the capture of the Afghan capital, Kabul, in 1996.
The Taliban set out to create the world’s most pure Islamic regime by introducing a disturbing and deeply revolutionary form of Muslim culture that came at a tremendous cost to human freedom. Men were ordered to keep their beards to a specific length, and subjected to punishment for defiance. Members of minority groups wore labels to distinguish them as non-Muslims, a measure the Taliban argued was to protect them from religious police enforcing Islamic law. Frivolities such as television, the Internet, music, and photography were outlawed. Punishments including amputation of the hands of thieves and the stoning to death of women convicted of adultery, considered severe by European standards, were common under the Taliban.
It was the Taliban’s anti-woman agenda, however, that caused mounting concern around the world. Under the Taliban women were forbidden to work outside the home, were compelled to wear a head-to-toe covering known as a burka, and could not leave the home without a male guardian. Such issues, along with restrictions on women’s access to health and education, caused resentments among ordinary Afghans and drew the ire of the international community. To the Taliban, however, the restrictions served to preserve the honor and dignity of women who had previously been preyed upon.
Despite their strict beliefs and anti-drug profile, the Taliban could not resist using opium to fund its activities, underlining the movement’s poor understanding and interpretation of Islamic law. Though the Taliban leaders led an austere life in contrast to the ostentatious lifestyle of the mujahideen warlords, their economic policy was left in the hands of chance and fate, culminating in Afghanistan’s slide into economic backwardness.
Only three countries, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, established diplomatic ties with the Taliban government. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia distinguished themselves among foreign powers by the scale of their efforts and support for the regime. Although it is officially denied, there is widespread agreement that the Taliban gained crucial early support from the Pakistani army and intelligence services, especially in helping make the Taliban a highly effective military force. Pakistan, influenced by its geopolitical and economic interests, remained a strong diplomatic and economic lifeline for the regime.
In Saudi Arabia the Taliban’s push for a pristine Islamic society was in accord with the Saudi’s strict form of Wahhabi theology and law. Saudi Arabia bankrolled the madrassas in Pakistan that provided an ideological guide for the Taliban. A great deal of uncertainty remains about the extent of Saudi Arabia’s assistance to the Taliban but the consensus appears to be that their aid was largely financial.
The Taliban enjoyed a cozy relationship with Al-Qaeda and found in the group a useful ally, especially in the significant boost Al-Qaeda provided to the Taliban’s military campaigns against the Northern Alliance. Al-Qaeda enjoyed a comfortable refuge in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.
The Taliban made giant strides in uniting the country but ultimately was unable to end the civil war. The strongest opposition to the Taliban came from the Northern Alliance, who controlled the northeast region of Afghanistan. This group backed the U.S.-led coalition that ousted the Taliban from power in 2001.
SEE ALSO Al-Qaeda; Arabs; Fundamentalism, Islamic; Government; Islam, Shia and Sunni; Muslims; Radicalism; Sexism; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Marsden, Peter. 1998. The Taliban: War, Religion, and the New Order in Afghanistan. London: Zed Books.
Rubin, Michael. 2002. Who Is Responsible for the Taliban? Middle East Review of International Affairs 6 (1). http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2002/issue1/jv6n1a1.html.
Islamic fundamentalist group in Afghanistan.
The Taliban appeared in Afghanistan in late 1994. In September 1996 they took Kabul and hanged Najibullah, Afghanistan's Soviet-sponsored president. Subsequently, they banned female access to education and employment, and imposed draconian Islamic laws that called for severe punishments, including the stoning to death of proven adulterers and the amputating of thieves' hands and feet. The Taliban's Islamic fundamentalism was a kind of transnational street force that had the potential to topple established governments through agitation, or to terrorize even much larger nations. Increasingly, fear of Islamic fundamentalism replaced the old dread of communism in the United States.
The term taliban is derived from the Persian and Pashtun plural of the Arabic word talib ("seeker of knowledge"). Before 1947, Afghan religious students studied in India, and when it was partitioned, they went to Pakistan. Their favorite madrasa in India was the Dar al-Ulum (House of Sciences) of the University of Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, which was established in 1862. It was known for its anti-Western orientation and stood for the independence of a united India. The Deoband Dar al-Ulum trained young, working- and lower-middle-class Muslims, who received a traditional religious education and joined the ranks of "big" and "small" mullahs in masajid (mosques).
Intellectually, the Taliban are heirs to the traditional affinity between the Deoband Dar al-Ulum and the Afghan ulama (Islamic scholars). After 1947, ulama in Pakistan established Houses of Science (Diyar al-Ulum) in all the provinces of Pakistan. The number of graduates of different levels of education from these institutions, especially from 1982 to 1987, was impressive. The Taliban leaders were the product of these theological seminaries. Their education is frozen in time: All Sunni theological institutions' curricula are based upon the curriculum established by the eighteenth-century scholar Mullah Nizamud-Din, who flourished during the period of Aurangzeb (d. 1707). This curriculum comprises:
- Arabic grammar;
- philosophy of logic;
- dialectical theology (ilm al-kalam) ;
- Qurʾanic exegesis (tafsir) ;
- Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) ;
- roots of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) ;
- accounts of sayings and deeds by the Prophet and immediate followers (hadith) ; and
- some mathematics.
The Taliban's educational system emphasized taqlid, the following of traditional Islam, which neglected modern scientific training. They divided the world into Dar al-Islam (the Muslim states, especially Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan, which had recognized their rule) and Dar al-Harb (the non-Muslim states, which were projected as the enemies of Islam and Muslims). This bifurcation of the world into external enemies and permanent friends generated an exceptionally intolerant mind-set, which distinguished the Taliban's educational system.
The Taliban's political structure was based, according to them, on that of the four "rightly guided" caliphs (632–662) who succeeded the prophet Muhammad. The Taliban were "committed to establishing an exemplary Islamic rule" for the world, and especially for the Muslim states. Emulating the early caliphate, the Taliban created a supreme council (Majles al-Shura) of twenty individuals. Almost 1,500 Sunni ulama who represented various ethnic tribes elected young Mullah Muhammad Omar amir al-muʾminin ("commander of the faithful"). The majority of the council members were Pashtuns; fourteen of them had suffered corporeal loss while fighting against the Soviet Union (Mullah Omar, for example, lost an eye). Because of the Pashtun ethnic origin of the Taliban, their jihad became a struggle for power against the Tajiks in the Panjsher Valley and the Uzbeks in the north.
During the 1980s, Osama bin Ladin established guerrilla warfare bases in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, bin Ladin turned his attention to the United States. On 11 September 2001 his terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. In retaliation, the United States invaded Afghanistan, eliminated the Taliban's rule, and destroyed bin Ladin's terror infrastructure.
Kamal, Matinuddin. The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan, 1994–1997. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Marsden, Peter. The Taliban: War, Religion, and the New Order in Afghanistan. London: Zed Books, 1998.
Taliban or Taleban (tälēbän´, –lə–), Islamic fundamentalist militia of Afghanistan and later Pakistan, originally consisting mainly of Sunni Pashtun religious students from Afghanistan who were educated and trained in Pakistan. The Taliban emerged as a significant force in Afghanistan in 1994 when they were assigned by Pakistan to protect a convoy in Afghanistan, which marked the beginning of a long-term alliance between the group and Pakistani security forces. The Taliban subsequently won control of Kandahar, and by 1996 they had gained control over much of Afghanistan, including Kabul, either by force or through forming alliances with other mujahidin.
The Taliban established a government headed by Mullah Muhammad Omar, the group's spiritual leader (and a military leader as well). Although the civil war continued, mainly with the Northern Alliance in N Afghanistan, Taliban rule ended much of the factional fighting and corrupt rule that had afflicted Afghanistan after the collapse in 1992 of the Soviet-aligned government. The Taliban also rigidly enforced puritannical laws that were influenced by Wahhabi Islam and Afghan tribal customs, and provided a refuge for Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and similar Islamic militant groups. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that Al Qaeda launched against the United States, the United States retaliated against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, providing support for a Northern Alliance offensive against the Taliban that led to their collapse and the entry of U.S. forces into Afghanistan. By Dec., 2001, the Taliban had surrendered their last urban stronghold, Kandahar, and they and Al Qaeda retreated into the mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border or dispersed among the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.
The Taliban subsequently survived several U.S. and NATO campaigns intended to eliminate them as a significant guerrilla force. Aided by the renewed warlordism and corruption, by tribal Pashtun ties, and by a largely moribund Afghan economy, they reestablished training camps in Pakistan, mainly in North and South Waziristan and Baluchistan, and continued to draw students from religious schools there; they also were widely believed to receive support from Pakistan's security forces, despite denials by Pakistan.
By 2003 the Taliban were again mounting ongoing guerrilla attacks in Afghanistan, mainly against government supporters and forces, school teachers, and foreign troops and aid workers; they used suicide-bomber attacks. Several times the Taliban have gained control of S Afghan districts and towns in larger operations. By 2014, however, the Taliban were less successful in battle and controlled only a few districts; they had increasingly come to resemble a criminal organization in their dependence and focus on extortion, opium trafficking, illegal mining, and the like.
The Taliban's presence in Pakistan has led to the growth of a so-called Pakistani Taliban as well. Drawn mainly from Pakistan's ethnic Pashtuns and consisting of a number of loosely allied militias who also have split into factions at times, they have become an important militant force based primarily in Waziristan but with operations in other areas, seeking to establish a rigid, extremely conservative form of Islamic law and fighting at times with government troops. The Pakistani government has accused members of the Pakistani Taliban of assassinating (2007) Benazir Bhutto. In 2009 the Pakistani military conducted major offensives again the Taliban in Swat and South Waziristan. The Pakistani Taliban are believed to have been involved in plotting the 2010 attempted bombing of Times Square, New York City, and have trained foreign Islamists. A Pakistani government offense was mounted again the group in North Waziristan in 2014, leading to murderous revenge attack against a Peshawar school. Also in Pakistan are the groups known as Punjabi Taliban; these draw their membership mainly from the Sunnis of Punjab prov.
See studies by A. Rashid (rev. ed. 2010) and P. Bergen and K. Tiedemann (2013).