Map with several areas depicting the presence of the Taliban
Afghan Taliban

The Taliban is a Sunni Islamist nationalist and pro-Pashtun movement founded in the early 1990s that ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until October 2001. The movement’s founding nucleus—the word “Taliban” is Pashto for “students”—was composed of peasant farmers and men studying Islam in Afghan and Pakistani madrasas, or religious schools. The Taliban found a foothold and consolidated their strength in southern Afghanistan.

By 1994, the Taliban had quickly captured province after province from various armed factions fighting a civil war that ensued after the Soviet-backed Afghan government fell in 1992. By September 1996, the Taliban had captured Kabul, killed the country’s president, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s first move was to institute a strict interpretation of Qur‘anic instruction and jurisprudence. In practice, this meant often merciless policies on the treatment of women, political opponents of any  stripe, and religious minorities.

In the years leading up to the 11 September 2001 attack in the United States, the Taliban provided a safehaven for al-Qa‘ida. This gave al-Qa‘ida a base in which it could freely recruit, train, and deploy terrorists to other countries. The Taliban held sway in Afghanistan until October 2001, when they were routed from power by the US-led campaign against al-Qa‘ida.

The Afghan Taliban’s leader is Mullah Mohammad Omar, who was the president of Afghanistan during the Taliban’s rule. The US Government is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture.

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