Introduction to armed groups: The Talban movement

Create: 05/23/2015 - 09:32

Kabul (Pajhwok) a politico-militant movement, the Taliban have been a formidable fighting force in Afghanistan and a major threat to its government. Calling themselves the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the seminary students came to prominence in the autumn of 1994.
The Islamic political movement spread throughout Afghanistan and formed a government in September 1996, with Kandahar its capital and spiritual base. Their government that lasted until December 2001 gained diplomatic recognition from only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahid is the founder of the group and has been serving as its spiritual leader since 1994. Following their ouster from power, the Taliban have been fighting against the Afghan government, US and NATO forces. Following the American invasion, Omar left Afghanistan and went into hiding in an unknown place.
The movement was initially comprised of seminary students and teachers, mostly from the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. Later, religious groups and individuals from other countries also swelled the movement’s ranks.
Via neighbouring Pakistan, people from Somalia, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan sneaked into Afghanistan to join the Taliban. Members of different Afghan communities like Hazara, Tajik, Uzbek and others also joined the predominantly Pashtun movement.
In 1994, some 100,000 Taliban fighters crossed the border from the Chaman district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province into Afghanistan. They easily captured Kandahar before conquering Kabul in 1996.
After taking control of the capital city, the Taliban dragged the last communist president, Dr. Najibullah, and his brother out of the UN compound in Kabul and hanged them publicly in the Aryana Square.
Mullah Omar named his administration as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, announcing the enforcement of Shariah in the country. After seizing northern Balkh province in 1998, they killed 10 Iranian diplomats on spying charges.
As part of their strict interpretation of the Shariah, adult Muslim males were forced to grow beards and cut moustaches. Families were barred from taking photographs or making videos. Music and TV channels were banned and non-Muslims (Hindus and Jews) asked to carry a yellow cloth.
Theft, adultery and all crimes against religious laws were punished by public amputation or execution. Required to wear all-enveloping burqas, women are not allowed to go to schools or colleges and talk to men unless they were related or married.
However, boys were permitted to get religious and modern education, with universities and schools for boys functioning across the country. At the outset of their rule, the Taliban discouraged poppy cultivation, which flourished under the Dr. Najibullah and Mujahidin governments.
It was during Taliban’s rule that the Al-Qaeda terrorist network found a strong foothold in Afghanistan. With Al-Qaeda support, Taliban leaders set up military training centres in the country for foreign fighters.
Once they grasped the broad contours of international politics, the Taliban outlawed all kinds of drug commerce in Afghanistan. In 1999, the UN slapped economic sanctions on their government.
Two year later, the Taliban dynamited the world's two largest standing Buddhas -- carrying enormous cultural value -- in central Bamyan province at the foot of the Hindu Kush mountains. The incident triggered international criticism.
As a result of Mullah Omar’s close links with Al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Aiman Al- Zawahiri, and offering them shelter in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s relations with the world, particularly the US, deteriorated significantly.
In August 1998, the United States fired a volley of Cruise missile on Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. About 75 missiles were fired by the at the targets, including Al Farouq training camp, a base in Khost province and Al-Badr camp in Zhawar Kili al-Badr, which was directed by Osama bin Laden, and known to be a meeting place for Al-Qaeda leaders.
In the wake of Al-Qaeda’s devastating 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, killing about 3,000 people, the US asked the Taliban for turning over Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the terrorist outfit. But the Taliban spurned the demand.
Subsequently, then US president George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan. On October 7, 2001, American forces launched air raids on the country. On November 13 of the same year, US troops reached Kabul and the Taliban regime was toppled. Many Taliban leaders were either forced into fleeing to Pakistan or arrested by the US.
Apparently, the Taliban were stripped of their military prowess with the deployment of American and allied forces to Afghanistan. But in 2005, the insurgents started conducting guerrilla operations in border and mountainous rural areas. Now they are conducting spectacular attacks all across the country. 
Many American and Afghan officials claim the Taliban’s Leadership Shura and camps are located across the Durand Line in and around Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. Through the powerful Quetta Shura, the Taliban are armed and supported logistically. But the fighters insist that their leaders are living within remote parts of Afghanistan.