By Riju Chowdhury
The Taliban, whose name symbolises "students" in Pashto, first appeared in 1994 in the Kandahar region of southern Afghanistan. Following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and the consequent fall of the government, it was one of the forces fighting a civil war for control of the country. It was founded by so-called "mujahideen" fighters who, with the help of the United States, fought Soviet forces in the 1980s. The Taliban took total control of the nation in less than two years, establishing an Islamic emirate in 1996 and enforcing a rigid interpretation of Islamic law. Other mujahideen organisations withdrew to the country's north. Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban's founder and first leader, went into hiding when the Taliban was deposed. His whereabouts were so mysterious that his death, in 2013, was only confirmed by his son two years later. Following the Al-Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001, in the United States, US-backed soldiers in the north surged into Kabul in November under the cover of US airstrikes. The Taliban dispersed into the countryside, where they launched a two-decade insurgency against the Afghan government and its Western supporters.
Ideologies of Taliban
The Taliban imposed a severe interpretation of sharia law throughout their five years in office. Women were largely forbidden from working or studying, and unless accompanied by a male guardian, were restricted to their houses. Public floggings and executions were prevalent, Western films and books were outlawed, and cultural artefacts considered blasphemous by Islam were destroyed. Opponents and Western governments accuse the Taliban of intending to revert to this kind of rule in the regions it now controls, something the Taliban rejects. The Taliban stated earlier this year that they want Afghanistan to have a "true Islamic system" that respects women's and minority rights while adhering to cultural and religious norms. However, there are indications that the militia has already begun to prevent women from working in certain locations.
First Emergence of Taliban
In 1994, the Taliban emerged amid the chaos that followed the Soviet exit from Afghanistan in 1989. The organisation was founded in Kandahar Province, in the country's ethnic-Pashtun heartland in the south. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to back up the Communist regime, but it met the same fate as other large powers in the past and present who tried to impose their will on the country: it was pushed out. Islamic militants known as "mujahedeen," a patchwork of insurgent groups sponsored by a US government eager to launch a proxy war against its Cold War enemy, overcame the Soviets. The celebration over the win, however, was short-lived, as the different factions fought for power. Warlordism and a terrible civil war erupted throughout the country. With their commitment to put Islamic values first and eliminate the corruption that drove the warlords' conflict, the Taliban swiftly gained a following against this backdrop. They grabbed control of the majority of the country after months of heavy battle.
Under the Taliban Rule
The Taliban formed an Islamic Emirate in 1996, instituting a strict interpretation of the Quran and enforcing it with harsh public punishments like whippings, mutilations, and mass executions. They also rigorously limited women's roles, keeping them out of school. They also made it plain that competing religious practises would not be tolerated: in early 2001, the Taliban demolished the Great Buddhas of Bamiyan, which were hailed as wonders of the world. They were considered heretical by the Taliban, who boasted that their annihilation was sacred. The insurgents' minister of media and culture remarked, "It is easier to destroy than to build."
The US Invasion
When the Taliban were in control, they turned Afghanistan into a haven for Osama bin Laden, a former mujahedeen warrior from Saudi Arabia who founded Al Qaeda, a terrorist organisation with global ambitions. The gang dealt a world-shaking blow on Sept. 11, 2001, when they toppled the World Trade Centre towers in New York and damaged the Pentagon in Washington. Thousands of people were slaughtered. President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban surrender Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The US invaded after the Taliban refused to cooperate. The Western Allies quickly deposed the Taliban administration by launching a strong airstrike campaign and enlisting former mujahedeen factions in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. The majority of the surviving al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders escaped to Pakistan.
Condition of the women
The Taliban were formed on the belief that women should only be allowed to play the most limited roles in society. They restricted women and girls from most jobs and even going to school the last time they governed. Women who were caught outside the house with their faces exposed faced harsh punishment. Unmarried ladies and men who were spotted together were also punished. Women achieved significant gains in Afghanistan when the Taliban government was deposed by an American-led coalition. However, as the United States negotiated a troop departure agreement with the Taliban two decades later, many Afghan women were concerned that all of that ground would be lost.
The Taliban reconstituted as a guerrilla movement with the backing and protection of Pakistan's military — the same force that has received considerable financial aid from the US to help track down Al Qaeda. The United States launched a new war in Iraq, and American authorities assured the world that Afghanistan was well on its way to becoming a Western-style democracy with contemporary institutions. Many Afghans, on the other hand, began to believe that those foreign institutions were simply another means for corrupt politicians to steal money. The Taliban began to gain ground and support in the countryside, particularly in rural areas. Their numbers grew – some warriors were coerced into enlisting, while others were glad to volunteer, and almost all were paid more than local cops. And within the Afghan minority in Pakistan, the group discovered a fertile recruitment vein among families who had left earlier violence as refugees and were raised in Islamic schools. When President Barack Obama dramatically increased the US military presence in Afghanistan, to roughly 100,000 troops in 2010, the Taliban were able to withstand the storm. When the Americans began to withdraw a few years later, the insurgents gained control once more. The Taliban waged a tenacious campaign, betting that the US would lose patience and withdraw, and they were correct. After more than 2,400 American lives were lost, $2 trillion was spent, and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and security forces were slain, President Donald J. Trump made a deal with the Taliban and stated that American forces would leave Afghanistan by mid-202. Even as the Taliban began devouring entire districts, then cities, President Biden approved the strategy and presided over an uncompromising force retreat.
Recognition by foreign countries
When the Taliban regime was in control, just four countries, including Pakistan, recognised it. Instead, the vast majority of other countries, as well as the UN, recognised a group of provinces to the north of Kabul as the legitimate government-in-waiting. The Taliban has been sanctioned by the United States and the United Nations, and most countries have shown no sign of diplomatic recognition. If the Taliban gains power and commits atrocities, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned earlier this month that Afghanistan risks becoming a pariah state. Other countries, notably China, have begun to make cautious indications that they may recognise the Taliban as a genuine political force.
Taliban officials have so far avoided using provocative language, instead urging commanders to rule properly and avoid retaliation and abuse. They have promised that everyone will be protected. In some areas, Taliban rule appeared to be constrained in the early days. However, enough reports of brutality and intimidation have arisen, prompting a flood of refugees to flee to Kabul in advance of the group's march. Thousands of Afghans are attempting to exit the nation at any cost, and the capital's airport has become a sight of despair and mayhem. Residents in Kunduz, the first major provincial capital to fall to the Taliban, were sceptical of their new rulers' claims of peace.
Author: Riju Chowdhury
Course: B.A. LLB, 2nd Year
College: Amity University Kolkata