The Taliban Movement or just Taliban or Taleban is a Sunni Islamist fundamentalist pro-Pashtun movement which effectively ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001.

The Taliban Movement gained diplomatic recognition from only three states: the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the unrecognized government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The most influential members, including Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the movement, were simple village mullahs (junior Islamic religious scholars), most of whom had studied in madrassas in Pakistan. The Taliban movement derived mainly from Pashtun of Afghanistan and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, but also included many non-Afghan volunteers from the Arab world, as well as Eurasia, and South Asia.

The Taliban originated around 1993-1994. The group was started by Pakistani Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar and backed by US government. Babar struck a deal with exiled Afghan communist general Shahnawaz Tanai to break the deadly chaos that had engulfed Afghanistan with the complete fall of its communist government (ironically as a result of Pakistan's sponsorhip of Tanai's failed coup to gain control of the floundering communist regime.) The first recorded appearance of Taliban was as an escort to a "trade delegation" launched by Babar out of Quetta to Kabul, which was able to soundly defeat all warlord opposition it encountered in its path. The Taliban quickly swept across Afghanistan, absorbing or eliminating most rivals. The lone holdouts who refused to accept the Pakistan-sponsored Taliban were Northern resistance leader Ahmad Shah Masoud, and General Abdul Rashid Dostum from the communist regime that had collapsed due to the coup attempt. A protracted battle then ensued between Taliban and the Northern Alliance, primarily around the northern outskirts of Kabul, but also raging far and wide across the North, including Herat and Kunduz.

With its ambitious venture to break the chaotic impasse in Afghanistan and the promise of reaching the resource wealth of Central Asia beyond, Pakistan was soon able to get endorsement from the Clinton administration, Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom to aid, mobilize and expand the Taliban. A steady outflux of graduates from Pakistani madrassas (primitive religious fundamentalist schools), gave Taliban an essentially inexhaustible supply of new recruits. As the ranks of the fundamentalist cadres swelled, the original core component of Pakistan and Afghan soldiers were able to assume more specialized tactical leadership and operational roles. Pakistan however decided to build up the persona of a fundamentalist leader named Mullah Omar, in order to put a more public face on what, up until then, had been a largely faceless movement taking direction from the shadows. The inexorable mullah-ization of the Taliban became Pakistan's means of ensuring total control of the militia, with independent-thinking non-fundamentalists quickly being subordinated or marginalized. Ironically, as more and more fundamentalists swelled Taliban's ranks, the more the group with Mullah Omar at its apex began to go out of even Pakistan's ability to control.

Mullah Omar, who was proclaimed the "Amir-ul-Momineen", was proud of the fact that he had only spoken with two western journalists in his whole life period. Many people claim that Pakistan chose Mullah Omar because they knew he could easily be influenced and controlled and that his own Islamic education was very limited making him easily swayed by the state-funded mufti's of Pakistan. In the early stages around 1996-1997, General Malik (Dostom’s second general in command), overthrew Dostum and took over Mazar-e-sharif and temporarily sided with Taliban. Soon afterwards, he switched sides again only to betray the Talibs and participate in the killings of 6 to 8 thousand Talibs. The Talibs were in the territory of Abdul Malik and were easily captured by Hezbe-Wahdat. A near genocide had taken place against the Taliban in the betrayal; according to some, many Talibs were butchered alive on the grave of the Hezbe-Wahdat ex-leader Mr. Mazari. Later the Taliban captured Mazari-shariff and killed scores of people in attempting to avenge themselves. In 1997, Ahmad Shah Masood devised a guerrilla tactic in the Shamali plains to defeat the Taliban advances. Masood was very successful in propagating an ethnic war and making the ethnic Tajik’s of the north believe that the Taliban (who were Pashtoon dominated) would slaughter them if the Taliban gained control of the north. In collaboration with the locals, Masood had deployed his forces to be stationed at people’s houses and other hidden places. Upon the arrival of the Taliban, some locals, who had vowed pacts of peace with the Taliban, as well as Masood’s forces came out of hiding and in a surprise attack killed thousands of Talibs. Soon after, the Taliban put a major effort into taking control of the Shamali plains and attacking and revenging themselves on all the people of Shamali. They destroyed the farms and produce, indiscriminately killed many young men, uprooted everyone from their homes, and forced them to become refugees. Kamal Hossein, a special reporter for the UN, had written a full report on these and other war crimes that further insinuated and inflamed the issue of ethnicity.

Some have concluded that Pakistan’s government was successful in obtaining the support of the US by posing the Taliban as a temporary solution to rid the “Jihadi” groups out of the picture. The United States had come to believe that the Taliban would bring back the old monarch Zahir Shah of Afghanistan to power upon their success in gaining control of Afghanistan. Some members of the Taliban, mainly Mullah Rabbani, (not to be confused with B. Rabbani from the Northern Alliance faction) and a few others were actually active supporters of Zahir Shah and wanted to bring back the old monarch into power after they had taken control of Kabul. According to analysts, Washington was sold on the idea that the old monarch would eventually return to Afghanistan due to powerful lobbying by Unicol (American Oil Company) and Pakistan. With the funding of Saudi Arabia, the intelligence of UK and US, and the hand picked Talibs by Pakistan, a successful force emerged and gained control of an estimated 80% of Afghanistan in less than 2 years. However, soon after the conquest of Kabul, it became evident that the Taliban would under no circumstances transfer power and control to Zahir Shah. The question arises as to why foreign governments supported and aided the Taliban, as we have briefly touched upon this topic, it definitely needs further elaboration. As always it boiled down to at least two motives: financial (energy) and power (land).

The first motive to be discussed is the financial one. Billions of dollars laid at stake for foreign nations and companies. Pakistan, America, and other western nations wanted to exploit the natural resources of Central Asia. A proposed gas pipeline from Turkmenistan and Khazakistan via Afghanistan, towards South Asia (Indian Ocean) was envisioned. This project was heavily endorsed by Pakistan, Unicol, Delta (a Saudi oil company), and a number of other small investors. An investment of 3 billion dollars had been accumulated for the development of the pipeline. Thus an extremely strong financial motive existed to support a puppet government in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Rabbani (Masood) government had made a fundamental flaw while in power. They also dealt with the pipeline option, only to reject the proposal of Unicol, which many suspects was heavily endorsed by Pakistan and opted for the Argentinean oil company Bridas. Bridas was most likely the more lucrative choice for the Rabbani government but far less lucrative politically. Thus their existed a strong financial reason to support and aid a new group.

The second motive was the boundary issue resulting from the Durand Treaty between Afghanistan and the British, imposed by Great Britain in 1893. The treaty had a life span of a 100 years and expired in 1993, and the lost territory would have had to be dealt with once again, which was now part of Pakistan. In 1919, Afghanistan went to its third war with the British, to regain lost territory and gain complete sovereignty over its foreign Affair engagements. Afghanistan have been given credit for winning the war, but lost on making a beneficial treaty with the British to regain back Pashtoonistan (NWFP, current day Pakistan). Zahir Shah’s government in the past had contended for the lost territory and in 1947 had objected to the creation of Pakistan in the United Nations. Furthermore, in 1955, all diplomatic ties with Pakistan and Afghanistan had been severed and the two nations stood strongly against each other. Thus according to many supporters of Zahir Shah, Pakistan coerced Washington into believing that the Taliban were acting on their own when they refused to transfer power back to the old monarch as envisioned by Washington initially.

The Taliban made some progress in three areas: centralizing the government, national security, and a de-weaponized Afghanistan. Another issue the Taliban addressed was drug issues. Some Afghanis supported the Taliban because they brought peace and subdued the ferocious people of Afghanistan. The Taliban were unfortunately extremely callous when it came to successfully running a country. They overlooked the fact that the nation was starving and were more worried about people having beards than the fact that they were starving and dying by the thousands.

In 1996, the Taliban were in discussion with UNOCAL in the USA and with Bridas in Argentina regarding a proposal to build a gas pipeline to run from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan. In 1997, a delegation from the Taliban spent several days at the UNOCAL headquarters in Sugar Land, Texas.

In the languages spoken in Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan, Taliban means "students". It is derived from the Arabic word for seeker or student, talib. Through certain Pakistani madrasahs, the Taliban may have also been influenced by the Deobandi School of thought which emphasizes piety, austerity, and the family obligations of men. They emerged from the ethnically Pashtun areas of Afghanistan. Many of the Taliban grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan.

Once in power, the Taliban instituted a form of Shari'ah (Islamic law) which closely followed the traditionalist Wahabi school of Islam. Among the laws applied were Islamic punishments, administered by a religious police force, including amputation of one or both hands for theft and stoning for adultery.

The Taliban banned all forms of television, imagery, music and sports. In response to this ban the International Olympic Committee suspended Afghanistan from participation in the 2000 Summer Olympics. Men were required to keep their beards at a specified length: women were obliged to wear the burqa (a long cloak-like piece of clothing) when appearing in public, and failure to do so could attract a public beating.

Afghanistan had been plagued with producing drugs for a number of years, and with the war shattering other sectors of the economy, it became the number one export of the country. While opium cultivation mostly thrived during the Taliban rule, although there were attempts to ban it. No other regime in recent times has come as close as the Taliban to rid the country of this vice.

The Taliban banned opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in late 1997. But by 2000, Afghanistan's opium production still accounted for 75% of the world's supply. On July 27, 2000, the Taliban again issued a decree banning opium poppy cultivation. By February 2001, production had been reduced by 98%. Following the fall of the Taliban regime, the areas controlled by the Northern Alliance resumed opium production and by 2005 production was 87% of the world's opium supply.

The Taliban government has been severely criticised for not respecting the rights of women. Women were forced to wear Burqa of a specified length, and even minor deviations could result in punishment in public. Quite often, women were beaten with thin sticks at the ankles for wearing burqas that were "too short". Women were prohibited from leaving their homes, unless they were completely covered. No part of their faces, hair or body was to be shown out in the public.

The education of women suffered too. Girls were deprived of basic education, and higher education was next to none in the Taliban rule.

The lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghan women and children have been shattered in the human rights catastrophe that has devastated Afghanistan. Thousands have been killed in artillery attacks apparently aimed deliberately at residential areas by the various political factions who have been fighting for territory since April 1992 when the Mujahideen groups took power. Thousands of others have been wounded Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 11/03/95

Armed groups have massacred defenceless women in their homes, or have brutally beaten and raped them. Scores of young women have been abducted and then raped, taken as wives by commanders or sold into prostitution. Some have committed suicide to avoid such a fate. Scores of women have reportedly "disappeared" and several have been stoned to death. Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been displaced or are living as refugees abroad. Many are traumatized by the horrific abuses they have suffered or witnessed. Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 11/03/95

These gross human rights violations of so many unarmed civilian women have been committed with total impunity. The Constitution has been suspended. Laws have become meaningless. The judicial structures have been destroyed. The central authorities have become virtually defunct. As a result, there has been little prospect of any of the perpetrators being brought to justice Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 11/03/95

Alongside these abuses, women have been prevented from exercising several of their fundamental rights -- including the rights to association, freedom of expression and employment -- by Mujahideen groups who consider such activities to be un-Islamic for women. For instance, Mujahideen guards are reported to have stopped women from working outside their homes, or from attending health and family planning courses organized by non-governmental organizations. Educated women, particularly those working in the fields of education and welfare, have been repeatedly threatened by Mujahideen groups. Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 11/03/95

Several refugee families told Amnesty International of a woman in labour who had been taken to a hospital in Kabul by her husband one evening at about 10pm in early 1994. There was a curfew in force at the time and cars were not allowed in the streets of Kabul. Armed guards reportedly stopped the car at a checkpoint, telling the husband that they would take the woman to the hospital themselves and that he should go back home. The next day, the husband was told at the hospital that the woman had not been taken there. The husband went to the guards to ask where his wife was. They reportedly showed him the dead bodies of the woman and the newly-born baby, telling him that since they had only seen videos of women delivering babies, they wanted to see how a baby was delivered in real life. Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 11/03/95

Beating up of women for ‘disciplinary’ reasons on the slightest pretext (wearing brightly colored shoes or thin stockings, having their bare ankles show when they walk, having their voices raised when they speak, having the sound of their laughter reach the ears of men strangers, having their heels click when walking etc.) was a routine phenomenon in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Through such public beatings (which more often than not have resulted in death or disablement of the victim) the Taliban had cowed the civilian population into submission Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

In Taliban-controlled areas - about 90% of the country - women were not allowed to work; they may not leave their homes unless covered from head to toe in the burqa or chadary and accompanied by a close male relative; girls' schools have been closed. The economic consequences of the ban on women working is especially evident in the capital where female beggars can be seen everywhere. Many of them are widows, left with children to support after years of war. Some female doctors are able to practice. This is particularly important because the Taliban will not allow male doctors to treat female patients. Rape of women by armed guards belonging to the various warring factions appears to be condoned by leaders as a method of intimidating vanquished populations and of rewarding soldiers. In March 1994 a 15-year-old girl was repeatedly raped in her house in Kabul's Chel Sotoon district after armed guards entered the house and killed her father for allowing her to go to school Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 11/03/95

While in power the Taliban claimed that the education of girls in rural Afghanistan was increasing, a UNESCO report said that there was "a whopping 65% drop in their enrollment. In schools run by the Directorate of Education, only 1 per cent of the pupils are girls. The percentage of female teachers, too, has slid from 59.2 percent in 1990 to 13.5 percent in 1999."

Supporters of the Taliban suggested that the depression and the other problems plaguing Afghan women were the result of dire poverty, years of war, the bad economy, and the fact that many were left war widows, and could no longer provide food for their families without some sort of international aid.

The Taliban justified the requirement for women to wear the burqa by appeal to Islamic teachings which state that women must cover up her body in front of non-mahram men, and that both men and women should dress modestly. Many people saw the repression under the Taliban as a form of misogyny and gender apartheid.

Several Afghan refugees recalled the plight of a young woman who lived in Shahrara district of Kabul in early 1994.

"Her husband had been killed in a bomb attack. She had three children of between two and nine years old. One day she leaves her children to go and find some food. Two Mujahideen armed guards arrest her in the street and take her to their base in a house where 22 men rape her for three days. She is then allowed to go. When she reaches her home she finds her three children have died of hypothermia. Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 11/03/95

This report shows that women are the main victims of the continuing human rights crisis in Afghanistan. They are being killed and maimed in what appears to be deliberate artillery attacks on civilians. They are being targeted for assassination, abduction and rape. These abuses are being committed with total impunity by government forces and armed political groups who are prepared to terrorize the civilian population in order to secure and reinforce their power bases. Leaders of armed political groups have been able, when they wished, to release detained civilians and prevent arbitrary killings and other abuses. Yet most of the time they have chosen not to.

While frequently claiming that they wish to "restore" religious, ethnic and humane standards, those engaged in the fighting have persistently indulged in widespread human rights abuses and looting of property. Even non-violent groups such as women's organizations have been systematically targeted for attacks -- sometimes justified on religious grounds but in reality motivated by the warring factions' attempt to control and intimidate civilians Amnesty International AI Index: ASA 11/03/95

In March 2001, the Taliban ordered the demolition of two statues of Buddha carved into cliffsides at Bamiyan, one 38 metres tall and about 1800 years old, the other 53 metres tall and about 1500 years old. The act was condemned by UNESCO and many countries around the world.

The intentions of the destruction remain unclear. Mullah Omar initially supported the preservation of Afghanistan's heritage, and Japan offered to pay for the preservation of the statues. However, after a few years, a decree was issued claiming all idols must be destroyed as per Islamic law that prohibits any form of idol worship as shirk (i.e., a sin).

Locals claim that Pakistani and Saudi engineers were onsite as volunteers to help with the statues' destruction, and that Afghanistan's treasures were ferried across the border to be plundered by private collectors. The government of Pakistan (itself host to one of the richest and most antiquated collections of Buddhist art) implored the Taliban to spare the statues. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates later denounced the act as savage. The destruction of these priceless historical monuments made the Taliban look barbarous in the eyes of many in both the West and the East.

During a visit to the US in March, 2000, Syed Rahmatullah Hashemi, a senior representative (at the age of 24 however) of the Taliban designated as the roving Ambassador, projected the Taliban's action not as an act of irrationality, but as an act of rage over the refusal of the UNESCO and some Western Governments to permit the Taliban to use for drought relief the funds sanctioned by them for repairing the war-damaged statues of the Buddha.

In 1996, Saudi Citizen and former CIA agent Osama bin Laden moved to Afghanistan from Sudan. When the Taliban came to power, bin Laden was able to forge an alliance between the Taliban and his Al-Qaeda organization. It is understood that al-Qaeda-trained fighters known as the 055 Brigade in NATO built camps, and these were integrated with the Taliban army between 1997 and 2001. The Taliban and bin Laden had very close connections, which were formalized by a marriage of one of bin Laden's sons to Omar's daughter. During Osama Bin Laden's stay in Afghanistan, he had helped finance the Taliban.

After the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, Osama Bin Laden and several Al Qaeda members were indicted in U.S. criminal court. The Taliban protected Osama bin laden from extradition requests by the U.S. variably claiming that Bin Laden had "gone missing" in Afghanistan or that Washington “cannot provide any evidence or any proof” that bin Laden is involved in terrorist activities and that “Without any evidence, bin Laden is a man without sin... he is a free man”. Evidence against Bin Laden included courtroom testimony and satellite phone records but no physical 'proof' to date links Bin Laden to allegations made by US intelligence and Government channels.

The Taliban continued to harbor Bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks, protesting his innocence, yet also offering to hand him to a third nation. In 2004 Bin Laden took personal responsibility for ordering the attacks on New York and Washington in a videotape broadcast on Al Jazeera.

On September 20, 2001 after an investigation by the FBI the U.S. concluded that Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were behind the September 11, 2001 attacks. The U.S. made a five point ultimatum to the Taliban:

1. deliver to the US all of the leaders of Al Qaeda;
2. Release all imprisoned foreign nationals;
3. Close immediately every terrorist training camp;
4. Hand over every terrorist and their supporters to appropriate authorities;
5. Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps for inspection.

The Taliban rejected this ultimatum on September 21, 2001, stating there was no evidence in their possession linking Bin Laden to the September 11 attacks.

On September 22, 2001, the United Arab Emirates and later Saudi Arabia withdrew their recognition of the Taliban as the legal government of Afghanistan, leaving neighboring Pakistan as the only remaining country with diplomatic ties. On October 4, 2001, it is believed that the Taliban covertly offered to turn Bin Laden over to Pakistan for trial in an international tribunal that operated according to Islamic shar'ia law. Pakistan is believed to have rejected the offer. On October 7, 2001, before the onset of military operations, the Taliban made an open offer to try Bin Laden in Afghanistan in an Islamic court. This counter offer was immediately rejected by the U.S. as insufficient.

Shortly afterward, on October 7, 2001, the United States, aided by the United Kingdom and supported by a coalition of other countries including several from the NATO alliance, initiated military actions, code named Operation Enduring Freedom, and bombed Taliban and Al Qaeda related camps. The stated intent of military operations was to remove the Taliban from power because of the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden for his involvement in the September 11 attacks, and disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations. On October 14 the Taliban openly counteroffered to hand Bin Laden over to a third country for trial, but only if the Taliban were given evidence of Bin Laden's involvement in 9/11. The U.S. rejected this offer as an insufficient public relations ploy and continued military operations.

The ground war was mainly fought by the Northern Alliance, the remaining elements of the anti-Taliban forces which the Taliban had routed over the previous years but had never been able to entirely destroy. Mazar-i-Sharif fell to U.S.-Northern Alliance forces on November 9, leading to a cascade of provinces falling with minimal resistance, and many local forces switching loyalties from the Taliban to the Northern Alliance. On the night of November 12, the Taliban retreated south in an orderly fashion from Kabul. This was sufficiently orderly, that on November 15, they released eight Western aid workers after three months in captivity. By November 13 the Taliban had withdrawn from both Kabul and Jalalabad. Finally, in early December, the Taliban gave up their last city stronghold of Kandehar and retired to the hilly wilderness along the Afghanistan - Pakistan border, where they remain today as a guerilla warfare operation, drawing new recruits and developing plans for a restoration of power.

Most of the post-invasion Taliban fighters are new recruits, drawn again from that region's madrassahs (madrassah means "school" in Arabic). The more traditional Qur'anic schools are claimed by the U.S. to be the primary source of the new fighters.

The insurgency, in the form of a Taliban guerrilla war, continues. However, the Pashtun tribal group, with over 40 million members, has a long history of resistance to occupation forces in the region so the Taliban themselves may comprise only a part of the insurgency.

By June 2006, the unrest was sufficiently notable that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, had taken the extraordinary measure of publicly criticizing the methods of western powers who worked to place him in power: "And for two years I have systematically, consistently and on a daily basis warned the international community of what was developing in Afghanistan and of the need for a change of approach in this regard." He added, “The international community must reassess the manner in which this war against terror is conducted”

Before the summer 2006 offensive began, indications existed that NATO peacekeepers in Afghanistan had lost influence and power to other groups, including potentially the Taliban. The most notable sign was the rioting in May after a street accident in the city of Kabul.

The continued support from tribal and other groups in Pakistan, the drug trade and the small number of NATO forces, combined with the long history of resistance and isolation, lead to the observation that Taliban forces and leaders are surviving and will have some influence over the future of Afghanistan. A new introduction is suicide and terrorist methods not used in 2001. This points to an expansion of foreign Jihadist influence in the war.

Russia designated the Taliban as a terrorist organization in July 2006.

In September 2006, the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan, an association of Wazirstani cheiftains with close ties to the Taliban, were recognized by the Government of Pakistan as the de facto security force in charge of North and South Waziristan. This recognition was part of the agreement to end the Waziristan War which had extracted a heavy toll on the Pakistan Army since early 2004. Some commentators viewed Islamabad's shift from war to diplomacy as implicit recognition of the growing power of the resurgent Taliban relative to American influence, with the US distracted by the threat of looming crises in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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