|Disbanded||Group is active.|
|First Attack||August 1994: Taliban militia marched northward from Maiwand and captured the city of Kandahar in 1994, losing only a couple dozen men. Kandahar was converted to the capital shortly afterwards. Over the course of the next year, 12 of the 34 Afghan provinces fell under Taliban control. |
|Last Attack||July 12, 2012: July 2, 2013: A 3-person Taliban suicide assault team attacked a base in eastern Kabul, killing seven people including four Nepalese guards, two Afghan truck drivers, and an Afghan security guard .
|Updated||November 28, 2012|
The Taliban is a far-right, strict Islamic militant organization that emerged in the early- to mid-1990s under the spiritual leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar. The direct Pashto translation of "Taliban" is "students". A large majority of Taliban supporters come from Afghanistan and Pakistan, having been educated at 'madrasas,' or Muslim religious schools.
The organization began as a group of students at a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-based madrasa for Afghan refugees, who organized as a political and religious group, numbering approximately 50 people.
Under Omar, the group grew to number several hundred, though their equipment and finances were extremely minimal during this time. In 1994, more than 15,000 additional students arrived from madrasas in Pakistan, and Omar led them north to Kandahar to begin controlling the region. In an extremely successful march, the Taliban originally gained control of Kandahar City and moved north to Kabul while only losing a few dozen soldiers.
Following their initial mobilization, the Taliban received heavy support from the Pakistan Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI). The ISI utilized the Taliban largely to gain a presence in Afghanistan, and to mount an offensive against the Afghan government. Since 1994, the Taliban has received military, logistical, training, and financial support from the ISI. During resistance to the Soviets in the 1980s, mujahideen received large amounts of weapons from CIA and other U.S. military entities, and these weapons remain in the hands of Taliban militants today.
In 1996, the Taliban successfully took control of Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban's ruling entity until the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. During their governance, the Taliban was only recognized by 3 foreign governments: Pakistan, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. Today, only Pakistan remains as a supporter of the Taliban government. Under the Taliban, strict Shariah law was enforced. They were criticized around the world for their treatment of women and children, as well as their denial of food and aid to underserved citizens throughout their rule.
The Taliban draws support and resources from a number of affiliated groups and tribes around Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the resistance to coalition and anti-Taliban forces in the 1990s, it is estimated that between 20-40 percent of the Taliban's operatives were Pakistani. The Taliban is not to be confused with the Tehreek-e-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP), a separate entity made up of almost entirely Pakistan Pashtun militia. Taliban militants are frequently trained at al-Qaeda and ISI camps, and are commonly engaged in operations with groups such as the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
The Taliban employs suicide bombing, IEDs, gun assaults, grenade attacks, kidnapping and hostage taking to further their ultimate goal of expelling anti-Taliban forces from Afghanistan and establishing a strictly Shariah-governed Afghan state. The Taliban routinely carries out some of the most violent and cruel attacks in Afghanistan against coalition and NATO forces. Much of the financial support for the Taliban comes from widespread opium and heroin drug trade in Pakistan and Afghanistan, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
The leadership structure known as the Quetta Shura is composed of the leaders of the Afghan Taliban, and has been based in Quetta, Pakistan since the collapse of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 2001. Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) commanders plan lead defensive and offensive operations in Afghanstan from their Pakistani headquarters in Quetta, and have largely eluded capture until recent years. Mullah Omar, leader of the QST, still remains one of the most elusive opponents of coalition and Afghan forces in the region. As of mid-2012, there have been frequent reports of Omar's death or capture, though none have been confirmed.
Following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, several Taliban leaders were known to advocate for the reconciliation offer from NATO, denouncing the use of violence by the Taliban and putting forth efforts to bring extremist Taliban leaders to the peace process. One of these leaders, Arsala Rahmani Dualat, formerly listed on UNSC Resolution 1267 designation list and the current head of the Afghan High Peace Council, was found shot dead in his car on May 13, 2012. In 2011, Omar reportedly sent a letter to President Barack Obama amid peace talks between U.S. and Afghanistan requesting release of Taliban prisoners in an effort to attain peace in the region.
- Abdul Ghani Baradar (1994 to February 8, 2010): Baradar is the deputy of Mullah Mohammad Omar, and was the leader of the Quetta Shura militant organization from 2007-2010. He is seen as a somewhat moderate leader within the Taliban, and is credited with attempting to engage in peace talks in 2004 and 2009. He is a member of the same Pashtun tribe as Afghan President Hamid Karzai. After being see in as the "de facto" leader of the Taliban beginning in early 2009, Baradar was captured on February 8, 2010.
- Mullah Obaidullah Akhund (1996 to February 2008): Akhund served as the Defense Minister in the Taliban Government from 1996-2001. As a member of the Mujahideen Shura Council beginning in 2003, Akhund was the third highest-ranking commander in the Taliban insurgency, and was one of only two people with direct access and communication to leader Mullah Omar. He was initially captured in 2002, and released as part of an amnesty agreement shortly after.
In February 2007, Akhund was detained again. He was subsequently released in November 2007 in exchange for the release of 200 prisoners held by the Taliban in Pakistan. Following his re-arrest in 2008, he died of a heart disease in prison in Kirachi, Pakistan, in 2010. To date, Akhund is the highest-ranking Taliban member to have been arrested.
- Mullah Mohammad Omar (October 1996 to Present): In April 1996, he was dubbed "Commander of the Faithful" by his supporters after he wore a relic cloak of the Prophet Mohammad while speaking to citizens in Kandahar. From this point forward, he was officially titled as the "Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", or de-jure leader of the IEA.
Omar has been wanted by the U.S. State Department Rewards of Justice Department since 2001 for sheltering/aiding Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda operatives leading up to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Omar is known for having only one functioning eye, after his other was destroyed by shrapnel in the late 1980s in a battle during the Afghan Civil War.
- Arsala Rahmani Daulat (1998 to May 13, 2012): Elected to serve as the Deputy Minister for Higher Education in the Taliban government in 1998; subsequently was listed as one of the members of the UNSC Resolution 1267 (requesting terrorist suspects/convicted terrorists assets frozen).
Following the NATO invasion in Afghanistan, Dualat was one of the only Taliban leaders to accept the reconciliation offer from the Coalition forces. He became Deputy Leader of political affairs for Khuddamul Furqan, the first Islamic political party in Afghanistan, later serving in the Meshrano Jirga, the highest house of the Afghan National Assembly (2005-2010). President Hamid Karzai asked Dualat to serve in the Afghan High Peace Council in September 2010, which attempted to bring the Taliban into the negotiation process and convince them to abandon violence.
Just a year after his removal from the UNSC Resolution 1267 designation list, Dualat was found shot dead in his car in Kabul on May 13, 2012.
Ideology & Goals
- Islamic Fundamentalist
The Taliban's ideological foundation focuses on the strict interpretation and enforcement of Shariah law. In a 1996 interview with Ahmed Rashid, Taliban spokesman Mullah Wakil explained the intentions of the Taliban in regards to Shariah:
"The Sharia does not allow politics or political parties. That is why we give no salaries to officials or soldiers, just food, clothes, shoes, and weapons. We want to live a life like the Prophet lived 1400 years ago, and jihad is our right. We want to recreate the time of the Prophet, and we are only carrying out what the Afghan people have wanted for the past 14 years."
The decision-making processes are emulated after early tribal councils, believed to be consistent with the tribal ways of Arabs centuries before.
The ideology of the Taliban is considered a shift from traditional Islamist views held by anti-Soviet mujahideen fighters in the 1980s and early 1990s. It is seen as a combination of strict anti-modern Pashtun tribal ideology mixed with radicalized Deobandi interpretations of Islam. The latter are central to the ideologies of splinter groups, such as Jamait Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). Osama bin Laden's jihadist and pan-Islamist views also penetrated to the ideological foundations of the Taliban governance and insurgency.
While core leadership is estimated to be between 200-1,000 individuals, the estimates of active members in the Taliban range dramatically in each year. Most current estimates place active membership at more than 35,000 (2010).
- 2006: 7,000 (Al-Jazeera)
- November 7, 2006: 4,0000-5,000 (UN Security Council)
- 2008: 6,0000-10,000 (Cited research study, published by Antonio Guistozzi in 2009 book.)
- October 2009: 25,000 (Al-Jazeera, citing a report presented to President Obama on October 9, 2009.)
- March 3, 2010: 36,000+ (U.S. Major General Richard Barrons, published in The Sunday Times)
The Afghan Taliban, not to be confused with the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan) is not designated as a terrorist group by the United States Department of State or any other U.S. government entity. Additionally, the Taliban is not designated by the United Nations, European Union, or other major foreign government as a terrorist organization.
It is important to note, however, that the only nation acknowledging the Taliban as a legitimate government in the current global political arena is Pakistan.
Early in the Taliban's emergence, during their opposition to the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan, the Taliban reportedly received funding and weapons from the United States. Specifically, they received Stinger missiles in the mid-1980s, and when the United States offered a "buyback" of the weapons (up to $100,000 each), very few insurgents adhered to the request. The weapons are still in the hands of many insurgents today. Pakistan also supported the Taliban heavily during their 5-year control of Afghanistan, providing millions in aid money and ISI assistance in Taliban training camp construction and maintenance.
Much of the Taliban's finances come from drug trade.
Between 1996 and 1999, the Taliban owned 96% of the Afghan poppy fields; accordingly, creating a taxation on the poppy funded the majority of Taliban activity in the region.
More recently, an August 2007 UN report estimated that opium production had doubled in the last two years, and that Afghanistan produced more than 93 percent of the world's heroin at this time. The extremely profitable heroin trade has funded much of the Taliban's activity in the region for more than a decade. A 2008 report estimates that opium trade finances more than 40 percent
of the Taliban's activity.
The Taliban has also sent fundraisers to Arab countries in the Middle East in order to gain additional support and resources. Promotional videos of Taliban attacks, specifically suicide bombing attacks, also are utilized to gain support from insurgency sympathizers throughout the Middle East and Asia.
The Taliban is a uniquely individual entity; their main influences were the Pakistani ISI, solely for logistical and financial support. The ideological basis for the Taliban's mobilization stems from their Deobandi fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, and few outside governments and entities have influence of the Taliban's activities. Pakistan remains the strongest supporter of Taliban activity as it is widely acknowledged that the ISI has utilized the Taliban for violent attacks in Afghanistan. The organization itself, however, remains under the control of Mullah Omar and the rest of the Quetta Shura Taliban.
Mullah Omar controls military operations in southern Afghanistan, specifically in the Helmand, Zabul, and Kandahar provinces. These areas make up the significant majority of Taliban operations in Afghanistan. The executive leadership, known as the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST), is reportedly based out of Quetta, Pakistan.
Taliban Commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar controls military operations in much of northern Afghanistan, mainly in the Kunduz, Baghlan, Kunar, Kipsa, and Laghman provinces. Though not officially part of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network operates Taliban operatives in the regions around Kabul. Military operations take place in Khost, Wardak, and Logar, among other provinces. Attacks and operations across the border, in the FATA regions of Pakistan, also have heavily influence and overlap with Afghan Taliban operations.
Targets & Tactics
The central targets of Taliban violence are foreign/coalition troops, as well as Afghan government forces. Using suicide bombings, IED and rocket attacks, as well as raids and shootings, assassinations, sniping, guerrilla warfare and massacres, the Taliban continue to engage their opponents in more asymmetric ways than other militia have traditionally employed. The opponents of the Taliban have frequently been the targets of assassination plots, bombing, and gun attacks.
The Taliban are believed to have a high-profile assassination corps, specifically trained and utilized for assassinations and targeted killings of individuals. This group, called "Jihad Kandahar," is suspected to have approximately 40 militia members who are all utilized for undercover operations.
Civilian aid workers have also been the targets of Taliban attacks and suicide bombings, particularly since 2008. One of the most famous of these is the killing of Gayle Williams, a UK volunteer working for a Christian organization called "Serve Afghanistan" in the fall of 2008. It was the second Taliban attack against female foreign aid workers that month.
In the last several years, Taliban forces have shifted focus towards terrorism against the civilian population in Afghanistan. A 2011 UN report explains that Taliban forces were responsible for 76
of civilian deaths in 2009, 75
in 2010, and 80
in 2011. Snipers often fortify themselves in houses filled with women and children. Public gathering places are frequently wired with explosives or are the targets for suicide bombings, frequently carried out by women bombers. The Taliban has commonly shielded themselves behind civilians, using them to draw in NATO forces and subsequently detonating devices or carrying out rocket attacks against these forces. These attacks often kill many civilians in addition to Coalition forces. For example, since 2007, the Taliban has placed IEDs at more than 15 girls' schools. Military officials have drawn parallels between this tactic and its similar employment by Hamas in Gaza, citing its effectiveness at inducing mass casualties and coalition reluctance to engage militants who may be surrounded by civilians.
The Taliban was the official political leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from September 27, 1996 to October 2001. The Taliban government did not hold elections, nor were political parties allowed (per Sharia law).. Furthermore, any decisions that Mullah Omar disagreed with were not implemented, and it is not possible for the government to disagree. During their rule, approximately 85% of the Afghan territory was under de jure rule by Taliban governance; the remaining 15% was largely under tribal and nomadic rule.
Since the 2001 NATO invasion, more moderate Taliban political members have pushed for the organization to join in the peace process and welcome the idea of reconciliation. While Mullah Omar has consistently opposed this, and authorized the assassination of political opponents/moderates, there is clearly a larger split in the organization than there was during the early stages of the war. President Hamid Karzai has invited many former Taliban leaders, as well as former al-Qaeda members, to join in the peace process as both advocates for peace and as members of his cabinet. The most notable among these is his invitation of Jalaluddin Haqqani to be the Minister of Tribal Affairs, and the 2005 election of Arsala Rahmani Daulat into the upper house of the Afghan Meshrano Jirga following his service as the Prime Minister of Higher Education for the Taliban in 1998.
- September 8, 2006: A suicide car bomber rammed his car into a US humvee outside the US embassy in Kabul, then detonated the bomb, killing 16. Of the casualties, 2 were American soldiers. It was, at the time, the most deadly attack since the 2001 invasion began. (16 killed, 29 wounded).
- February 27, 2007: A suicide bomber (Mullah Abdul Rahim) blew himself up the front gate of Bagram Air Base while Vice President Dick Cheney was present in the compound. Cheney was the target of the attack, as stated and claimed by the Taliban. Cheney survived the attack and was unharmed. The casualties were comprised mostly of security guards and civilian auto traffic, many of whom were awaiting access at the gate when the bomber detonated his vest. (23 killed, 12+ wounded).
- July 19, 2007: Taliban insurgents take 23 South Korean civilians hostage while they traveled on a mission trip through the Ghazni Province, from Kandahar to Kabul. The hostage standoff between Taliban and S. Korean negotiators lasted more than 6 weeks, resulting in the eventual execution of two hostages before release of the remaining missionaries on August 29-30. It is also alleged that the S. Korean government issued a payment of roughly $20 million USD in the deal to the Taliban. This marks one of the most major hostage-taking actions by the Taliban in their history. (2 killed).
- May 6, 2011: In the beginning of the Taliban's announced "spring offensive," coordinated attacks in Kandahar, involving gunmen assaults and more than 7 suicide bombers, killed multiple police officers and wounded more than 40 civilians. Though casualties were not high, the attack was intended to show that the Taliban remained capable of gaining continued support and sending suicide attackers into crowded public areas.
Of the 27 insurgents involved in the attack, 13 were killed and 7 were detained. Of the 13 killed, 7 died as a result of the explosion of their suicide vests. (4 killed, 45 wounded).
- April 15, 2012: The Taliban launches a series of attacks across Afghanistan, including suicide bombings and gun attacks against the Parliament building, diplomatic quarter in Kabul, and three eastern provinces. 11 soldiers were killed, as well as 4 civilians. 36 Taliban militants were killed in the attacks and retaliation by troops in a more-than 18-hour siege. (15 killed, unknown wounded).
- June 21, 2012: Taliban gunmen open fire on civilians in a Kabul hotel in late evening. The attack lasted more than 12 hours, as the Taliban took civilians hostage before police were able to kill all 5 attackers. The Haqqani Network is suspected of planning and helping execute the attack. (18 killed, unknown wounded).
- June 11, 2013: A suicide bomber detonated a bomb outside of Kabul's Supreme Court. According to the Taliban, the attack was targeted at court employees for "legalizing the infidels."
(17 killed, 40+ wounded ).
Relationships with Other Groups
The Taliban is allied with, and has utilized fighters from, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) since the late 1990s. The IMU operates bases in Taliban-controlled Northern Afghanistan, and has extensive freedom to operate in the region in exchange for the supplying of fighters and weapons to Taliban insurgents. It was reported that more than 600 IMU militants were provided to the Taliban to aid in fighting against ethnic-Tajik leader Massoud in 2000 and 2001. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are both accused of providing financial and logistical assistance to the IMU.
The Taliban split with al-Qaeda under the leadership of Mullah Omar, as Omar sought to separate his organization from the activity of bin Laden's al-Qaeda militants. Upon doing so, Omar and other Taliban officials were offered opportunities to discuss relations between the Taliban and other foreign governments who had previously been hesitant to engage with Omar and his followers. Previously, the Taliban and al Qaeda had heavily supported each other since the mid-1990s. Arms, logistics, training, and transportation between Afghanistan and Pakistan were common threads of alliance between the two organizations. Omar had allowed for a safe haven for bin Laden and his affiliates for several years, and was unwilling to give up bin Laden to foreign authorities throughout the War in Afghanistan. Some analysts viewed this split as an indication of the deteriorating relationship between Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden during these years.
The Haqqani Network (HN) is closely tied to the Taliban as well. Though a separate entity, militants are often tied to both groups and are landed between them for numerous operations throughout Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan. Led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin, the HN remains one of the largest militant organizations, commanding more than 15,000 fighters throughout the FATA region of Pakistan and Southern Afghanistan. Many of these fighters are shared with Taliban operations, with the HN providing weapons and training to Taliban members since the mid-1990s.
The Taliban is also organizationally separate from the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) in Pakistan, and is ideologically and strategically differentiated from the Omar-led Afghan Taliban. The TTP and Taliban both share an ethnically Pashtun majority, and have similar Deobandi interpretations of Islam. The major difference between the Taliban and the TTP is that the Taliban targets coalition and Afghan targets, while the TTP attacks almost exclusively Pakistani state targets. Prior to the inception of the TTP in 2007, it is estimated that between 20-40% of Taliban forces fighting in the war in Afghanistan (since 2001) were ethnically Pakistani. Though different organizations, both historically and strategically, it is clear that there is much overlap in both the backgrounds of the militants recruited into fighting, as well as many aspects of the ideological background of both organizations.
During the Taliban's leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, only Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates recognized their government as legitimate. Though they received funding and weapons during the anti-Communist mujahideen resistance from the CIA during the 1980s, support now comes largely from the tribal regions where the Taliban operates, as well as from the Pakistani ISI.
The Taliban is made up largely of members of Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan. Accordingly, a significant portion of Taliban members follow Pashtunwali, a strict moral and cultural code of conduct for Pashtun tribesmen.
During their tenure as the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban was known for poor treatment of its citizens, particularly women. Food was often denied to the population when provided by UN or NATO aid. Women were (and still are today) punished most severely for any and all crimes. The neglect to wear a burqa can result in the penalty of being stoned to death in public, under the Taliban. As an insurgent group, particularly in later years, they have been responsible for more than 3/4 of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
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