What are the Taliban? The Taliban is a militant terror group that ruled Afghanistan under the command of Mullah Omar (founder and the first leader of the Taliban) from 1996 – 2001 until they were toppled by the U.S. forces. In response to the 9/11 attack, the US launched “Operation Enduring Freedom,” which was aimed at all the suspects of the attack — mainly Al Qaeda and Taliban. Due to this, the Taliban was overthrown easily. The ideology followed by the Taliban is extremist. They aim to install Islamist rule all across Afghanistan. They have almost 85,000 fighters according to recent NATO estimates.
● Taliban emerged in Pashtun areas straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan
● Captured the province of ‘Herat’
27 SEP 1996
● Taliban captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the regime of President Burhanuddin Rabbani was overthrown
● Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was established by Mullah Omar
● 90 percent of Afghanistan was captured
● They enforced their own Islamic or Sharia Law once they were in power
● Al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, carries out the largest terror attack ever conducted on US soil (9/11)
● A US-led coalition bombs Taliban and al-Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan. Targets include Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad.
(7th of October)
● Fall of Kabul; the Northern Alliance, a group of anti-Taliban rebels backed by coalition forces, enters Kabul as the Taliban fled the city. (13th of November)
● New constitution, 26th of January; the constitution paves the way for presidential elections in October 2004.
● Hamid Karzai, the leader of the Popalzai Durrani tribe, becomes the first president under the new constitution. He serves two five-year terms as president.
● UK troops deployed to Helmand, May 2006
● 17th of February 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama approves a major increase in the number of troops sent to Afghanistan.
● Osama bin Laden killed, 2nd of May 2011
● Death of Mullah Omar, 23rd of April 2013
● NATO ends combat operations, 28th of December 2014
● Taliban resurgence
● The US and the Taliban sign an “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan, in Doha, Qatar on the 29th of February. The US and Nato allies agree to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal.
2021 ● On the 16th of August, the Taliban returned to power, In just over a month, the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, taking control of towns and cities all over the country, including Kabul. Afghan security forces collapsed in the face of the Taliban advance.
What is happening in Afghanistan now?
On April 14, US President Joe Biden announced that the US forces would withdraw by September 11th, 2021. In May 2021, foreign forces started to withdraw from the country and the Taliban stepped up to defeat the Western-backed government. The Taliban captured 26 provincial capitals in just 10 days, while Kabul fell in 1 day and the Taliban were thus able to take control over Afghanistan again. On August 15th, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, who was backed by the U.S., resigned and fled to Oman.
On August 14th, Joe Biden made a statement about the Afghanistan crisis and what role the U.S. will play :
“Over the past days, I have been in close contact with my national security team to give them directions on how to protect our interests and values as we end our military mission in Afghanistan.
First, based on the recommendations, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.
Second, I have ordered our Armed Forces and our Intelligence Community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.
Third, I have directed the Secretary of State to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement.
Fourth, we have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts U.S. personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response. Fifth, I have placed Ambassador Tracey Jacobson in charge of a whole-of-government effort to process, transport, and relocate Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other Afghan allies. Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk. We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families.”
What does the Taliban’s return mean for the citizens of Afghanistan?
Questions are being asked about how the group will govern the country, and what their rule means for women, human rights, and political freedom in Afghanistan. Its leadership says it wants peace and an inclusive government that is compatible with Islamic law or the Sharia Law, but many Afghans are skeptical about this and thousands have already fled the country, fearing a return to a brutal and repressive regime.
A brief about the Sharia law:
Sharia is Islam’s legal system. It is the set of laws that govern the daily lives of Muslim people and it is based on a combination of the Quran and the teachings from the prophet Muhammad.
Taliban officials have repeatedly tried to assure Afghan citizens, particularly women, that this time the rule will be different. Earlier this week, the Taliban urged women to join its government. Some representatives have also said that women will be allowed to work and study. When they were last in power, the Taliban had made full burqa compulsory but this time they said that women will not be required to wear a full Burqa, and can opt for just the hijab (headscarf). Well, what is the actual situation on the ground? Despite their assurances, parts of the country are seeing a return to the repressive old order, women in some provinces are not allowed to leave their home without a male relative escorting them and were also denied access to universities in some places, girls have been banned from returning to schools and there have been reports of several forced marriages. Smartphones and television have been banned, young men are being forced to join their ranks. Reporters and peace activists who raised their voices against the Taliban face risk to their lives. In the current situation in Afghanistan, chaos has been created everywhere, Airports and ATMs were mobbed with thousands of people trying to escape the country. According to reports, 5 civilians have been shot at the terminal, 3 people were also seen holding on to the wheel of a US plane flying out of Kabul.
How are other countries and the UN reacting?
United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives
China: Released a statement that it is looking to deepen “ friendly and cooperative” relations with Afghanistan.
Pakistan: Imran Khan, made a statement which was “ The Afghans broke shackles of slavery”
Germany: Released a statement that U.S, troops withdrawal was the “biggest NATO Debacle”.
India: Union minister of state for External Affairs, Meenakshi Lekhi, said that India wants peace all over the world as India continues evacuation exercises to rescue Indians currently in Afghanistan.
Why was the Taliban’s renewed rule over Afghanistan inevitable?
Over the past 20 years, the U.S. has poured trillions of dollars into Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, an effort that was clearly unsuccessful. But a look at the country’s strategic geographic location and the politics of the region tells us that this outcome was inevitable. Afghanistan is strategically located between central and south Asia – a region rich in oil and natural gas. It has long faced constant meddling from the Soviet Union/Russia, the UK, the U.S., Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, and Pakistan.