Who is the Taliban?

Who is the Taliban?

With all that is happening in Afghanistan (check out our posts here and here for background), we thought it would be a good idea to explain who the Taliban actually is.  


The Taliban (“students” in English) is an Islamist militant group in Afghanistan. The group has origins dating back to the 1970s in northern Pakistan, but properly emerged in the early 1990s after it consolidated power and began seizing territory in a civil war. The group then took power and began governing in Afghanistan in 1996. Under the Taliban’s rule, women were oppressed under the strict regulations of Sharia Law, there were public displays of punishment, and ancient sites were destroyed.

Only four countries recognised the Taliban as a legitimate government when it was last in power, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkmenistan.

U.S. invades  

After 9/11, the U.S. accused the Taliban of hiding and protecting al-Quaeda, who claimed responsibility for the attack. In October 2001, the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan and the Taliban was defeated and forced to flee Kabul on December 6, 2001. For 20 years after, the Taliban was in a guerilla war against the U.S., its allies, and the newly-built Afghan army. In the years after the invasion, the Taliban began regrouping and eventually launched an insurgency after the beginnings of the U.S. withdrawal in May 2021.  

The Taliban’s leader has been Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada since 2016. 


On February 29, 2020, the U.S. and the Taliban signed an historic deal that promised all foreign forces would leave Afghanistan by May 2021. Despite the peace talks, the Taliban continued to launch attacks and targeted assassinations.


In May this year, the U.S. announced the withdrawal of all U.S. troops, with President Joe Biden labelling the 20-year conflict “the forever war”. It was hoped the Afghan government and security forces would defend themselves, and that peace talks initiated with the Taliban would find a long-term resolution. However, once the U.S. and other Western nations withdrew their forces, the Taliban was able to seize cities and face limited resistance.

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