The Taliban

DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackAugust 1994: Taliban militia marched northward from Maiwand and captured the city of Kandahar in 1994, losing only a couple dozen men.[1] 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. [2]
Last AttackJuly 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 [3].
UpdatedJuly 20, 2014


  1. 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.[4]
  2. 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.[5]
  3. 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.[6]
  4. 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.[7]

Ideology & Goals

Size Estimates

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).[8]


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.

Geographical Locations

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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16]

Civilian aid workers have also been the targets of Taliban attacks and suicide bombings, particularly since 2008.[17] 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 percent  of civilian deaths in 2009, 75 percent  in 2010, and 80 percent  in 2011.[18] 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.[19] 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.

Political Activities

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).[20]. 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.[21]

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.[22]

Major Attacks

  1. 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).[23]
  2. 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).[24]
  3. 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).[25]
  4. 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).[26]
  5. 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).[27]
  6. 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).[28]
  7. 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 ).[29]


  1. ^ Rashid, Ahmed (2000), Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, New Haven: Yale University Press. p 27-29.
  2. ^ Rashid, Ahmed (2000), Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 29.
  3. ^ Roggio, Bill. "Taliban launch suicide assault outside base in Kabul." The Long War Journal. 2 July 2013. Web. Accessed 2 July 2013. <>
  4. ^ Moreau, Ron "America's New Nightmare". Newsweek. July 25, 2009. Updated February 8, 2010. Accessed July 23, 2012.
  5. ^ "'Taliban Leader Held' in Pakistan." BBC News. March 2, 2007. Accessed July 23, 2012.
  6. ^ "Profile: Mullah Mohammad Omar." British Broadcasting Corporation. Last updated May 24, 2011. <>. Accessed July 13, 2012.
  7. ^ BBC News. "Afghan peace negotiator Arsala Rahmani shot dead." BBC. May 13, 2012. . Accessed July 16, 2012.
  8. ^ Hamilton, Fiona; Coates, Sam; Savage, Michael "Major General Richard Barrons puts Taleban fighter numbers at 36000". March 3, 2010. The Sunday Times.
  9. ^ "US: Taliban has grown fourfold." Al-Jazeera. October 9, 2009. <>. Accessed July 13, 2012.
  10. ^ UN Security Council. “Sixth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team appointed pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1526 (2004) and 1617 (2005) concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities”, Novembe
  11. ^ Giustozzi, Antonio. "Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan (2002-2007)." Columbia University Press; 2009. p. 34-37.
  12. ^ "US: Taliban has grown fourfold." Al-Jazeera. October 9, 2009. . Accessed July 13, 2012.
  13. ^ Hamilton, Fiona; Coates, Sam; Savage, Michael "MajorGeneral Richard Barrons puts Taleban fighter numbers at 36000". March 3, 2010. The Sunday Times.
  14. ^ "Mapping the Taliban: Behind Taliban Lines." Frontline. PBS. Published <>. Accessed July 13, 2012.
  15. ^ Pape, Robert Anthony; James K. Feldman. Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It. University of Chicago Press. 2010 pp. 142.
  16. ^ OARDEC. "Summary of Administrative Review Board Proceedings for ISN 850." Published 2007. U.S. Department of Defense. p. 295-308. <> Accessed July 16, 2012.
  17. ^ BBC News. "UK charity worker killed in Kabul." October 20, 2008. <> Accessed July 16, 2012.
  18. ^ "Citing rising death toll, UN urges better protection of Afghan civilians." UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. March 9, 2011. <> Accessed July 16, 2012.
  19. ^ Arnoldy, Ben. "In Afghanistan, Taliban kills more civilians than U.S." Christian Science Monitor. July 31, 2009. <> Accessed July 16, 2012.
  20. ^ Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 43 (Interview with Mullah Wakil, 1996).
  21. ^ Griffiths, John C. "Afghanistan: A History of Conflict." London: Carlton Books. 2001. p. 227.
  22. ^ BBC News. "Afghan peace negotiator Arsala Rahmani shot dead." BBC. May 13, 2012. <>. Accessed July 16, 2012.
  23. ^ "Suicide bomber kills 16 in Afghanistan." USA Today. September 8, 2006. Accessed July 16, 2012.
  24. ^ Wafa, Abdul Wahleed. "Cheney Unhurt After Bombing in Afghanistan." The New York Times. February 27, 2007. Accessed July 16, 2012.
  25. ^ Sang-Hun, Choe. "Freed by Taliban, 19 South Korean Hostages Will Face Relief and Anger Back Home." The New York Times. September 2, 2007. . Accessed July 16, 2012.
  26. ^ Shah, Taimoor and Alissy J. Rubin. "In Afghanista, Taliban Attack Paralyzes Kandahar." New York Times. May 18, 2011. Accessed July 16, 2012.
  27. ^ Rubin, Alissa J., Graham Bowley and Sangar Rahimi. "Taliban Launch Coordinated Attacks Across Afghanistan." New York Times. April 15, 2012. Accessed July 16,
  28. ^ "Taliban militants kill 18 people during Kabul hotel attack." Associated Press. 21 June 2012. Web. Accessed 2 July 2013. < Accessed July 26, 2012>
  29. ^ Cahall, Bailey. "17 Afghan Civilians Killed in Taliban Attack on Supreme Court." Foreign Policy. 12 June 2013. Web. Accessed 2 July 2013. <>

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