The fall of the Communist regime in 1992 has
been followed by continued warfare in Afghanistan, in
other forms and with other participants. The Islamic
fundamentalist Taliban regime, which took power in 1996,
became not only a threat to its own people, but to the
entire world. The US and its allies' attempts to rebuild
the country after overthrowing the Taliban in 2001 have
only partially succeeded.
The mujahedin groups (mujahedin = "those fighting")
who had joined forces to overthrow the Soviet-backed
communist regime in Kabul were only able to hold
together as long as they had a common enemy in the form
of the Soviet Union and as long as they were under
pressure from Pakistan and the US to cooperate (see
Older history). Then they turned their weapons toward
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Afghanistan. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Following the takeover of the mujahedin groups in
1992, the settlements quickly broke down on how
management would switch between the organizations.
Alliances within the alliance also shifted. Almost
immediately, internal fighting erupted, which destroyed
parts of Kabul. The city was divided between the
movements and similarly in practice the whole country
fell apart in a series of small empires, ruled by local
The absence of a functioning central government led
to chaos and enormous war fatigue among the population.
This in turn created a ground for the so-called Taliban
movement, which was formed in the summer of 1994 in
southern Afghanistan. While in the central and northern
provinces there were relatively quiet areas, ruled by
ethnic militias, the Pashtun South was dominated by a
multitude of local militias and criminal leagues. Travel
was dangerous. Murders, robberies, kidnappings and rapes
The Taliban is the Pashtun plural form of the Arabic
word talib, which means roughly "the one who seeks
religious teachings," that is, Koran students. The core
of the movement consisted of a small group of
conservative religious men who recruited soldiers among
refugees in Quran schools in Pakistan, and who were
strongly supported by the Pakistani military security
service ISI and traders. It was in Pakistan's interest
to stabilize southern Afghanistan to facilitate trade
with the newly independent Central Asian states.
The Taliban were greatly helped by the religious
party Jamiat-e Ulema-i Islam (JUI) taking place in the
Pakistani government in 1993. For many years JUI had run
Koran schools in the border areas for young Afghans.
These schools taught a radical, literal interpretation
of Islam. Through the pressure of JUI, Pakistani support
for Afghanistan was largely ruled over to the Taliban.
The Taliban quickly gained broad popular support as
they disarmed militias and executed fearful bandit
chiefs and warlords. They moved from province to
province and in just a few months settled in the
southern part of the country. For most civilians, a time
of relative calm and security followed.
In September 1995, for the first time, the Taliban
gained a foothold outside the Pashtun-dominated area
when they conquered the city of Herat and neighboring
provinces in the west. A year later, they entered Kabul
after a rapid advance from the east. The old government
fled north and the Taliban began to transform
Afghanistan into the world's most pure Islamic state.
Former Communist leader Najibullah was arrested and
Taliban regime and al-Qaeda
The Taliban's power holdings became a tragedy for the
country. The new leaders were not interested in running
a modern state. Their ideal was the true, pure Islamic
society, which they assumed must have looked like during
Prophet Muhammad's time. Therefore, they banned
"Islamic" phenomena such as TV and music, kite flying
and shorts covered football players. Girls were forced
to leave school after elementary school and women were
not allowed to go out without the company of a male
relative, and then only if they wore a full veil.
While the Taliban initially received a cautious
positive response from many directions, they gradually
became more isolated. The United States first considered
them a stabilizing factor in Central Asia that could
benefit US economic interests (see Foreign Policy and
Defense). Among other things, their reactionary women's
policy soon caused them to lose US support, but above
all, it was the Taliban's increasingly close ties with
foreign terrorists that drove them into isolation.
During the war against the Soviet Union, young
Islamic activists from many countries had been attracted
to Afghanistan to fight the "wicked" communists. Among
them was Saudi billionaire Usama bin Laden, who was
suspected of being behind attacks on US embassies in
Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. There was no known
link between the Taliban and bin Laden's terror network
al-Qaeda (the base) from the beginning, but The
Taliban's isolation from the outside world, which did
not want to recognize their government and give them
Afghanistan's place in the UN, made them increasingly
dependent on bin Laden's financial support. There were
elements of both traditional Pashtunian hospitality and
being open despite the Taliban's refusal to extradite
bin Laden. This led to the introduction of financial
sanctions against them first by the United States and
then by the United Nations.
Taliban violence is overthrown
At the same time, Afghanistan suffered from its worst
drought in decades. Hundreds of thousands of people were
barred and driven to camps outside the cities. The
Taliban regime showed almost nonchalant handfall before
suffering and lost almost all support. By this time,
people were also distracted by coercion and freedom.
The terrorist attack on the United States on
September 11, 2001 became a watershed in Afghanistan's
history. On October 7, US flights began to bomb
Afghanistan to crush al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime.
In early November, the United States gave full
support to the Northern Alliance - basically the same
militias for ethnic minorities that held power until
1996 - and attacked the front lines of the Taliban,
prompting the Taliban violence to quickly collapse. In
connection with the regime's fall, massacres of captured
Taliban and foreign volunteers were massacred in the
country's northern parts.
In the political vacuum that arose, the outside world
was in a hurry to try to create a new regime. The
Pashtun clan leader Hamid Karzai was appointed
provisional leader at a UN-led conference in Germany in
December 2001. The meeting included Afghans from various
political and ethnic groups.
Isaf is established and expanded
The United States continued its hunt for al-Qaeda. A
number of NATO countries participated with smaller
unions on the US side. At the same time, with the UN's
approval, an international peacekeeping force called the
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of about
4,500 men was set up with the task of protecting the
Provisional Government and maintaining the order in
Kabul. In August 2003, NATO assumed responsibility for
Isaf and the force began to step up. At the end of the
year, operations were extended for the first time
outside Kabul. From the spring of 2004, Sweden
contributed around 50 soldiers in Mazar-i-Sharif. In the
following years, the Swedish force became tenfold and
was given responsibility for security in four northern
At a traditional council meeting, Loya Jirga,
Hamid Karzai was appointed provisional president in June
2002. He formed a government in which he tried to
balance the peoples' groups against each other, but
contradictions from the war years caused continued wear
and tear both within the government and between the
central government and strong provincial leaders.
Several murders - including the vice president - shook
the regime, whose confidence in the population was also
undermined by the brisk progress of American soldiers
and sometimes indiscriminate bombings that demanded many
civilian lives. Public confidence in the United States
diminished even more after data on prisoners being
beaten to death on US military bases.
In several provinces power struggles broke out
between rival warlords. President Karzai was criticized
for not doing away with local leaders who sabotaged the
A new loyal jirga approved a new constitution with
strong presidential power in January 2004 and in October
the country's first presidential election could be held.
Hamid Karzai prevailed by more than 55 percent of the
Taliban forces are being strengthened
Parliamentary elections and elections to the 34
provincial assemblies could only be carried out in
September 2005 and preceded by increased violence.
Following Karzai's decision, no political parties were
allowed to vote on the ballot papers; only individual
individuals were allowed to run. The election gave the
House of Commons, wolesi jirga, a majority that
supported the president.
Although Afghanistan had a democratically elected
leadership for the first time in 2006, the violence
increased. Towards the end of the year the situation was
worrying. The Taliban forces appeared more
well-organized and capable of fighting than before.
In October 2006, Isaf took command of all military
operations in the country and most of the US soldiers
were placed under NATO command. In February 2007, an
American general was placed at the head of Isaf, which
in practice became part of the US warfare.
One consequence of the severely deteriorating
situation was that the work to combat drug production
was made more difficult. Opium accounts for much of the
financing of not only the Taliban's operations, but also
of local militias and purely criminal leagues.
Karzai is increasingly contentious
During the 2008 election campaign, US President
Barack Obama had promised to invest more in Afghanistan.
In addition to a troop reinforcement, he promised
economic development, diplomacy to Pakistan and better
coordination with the US international partners in
The next presidential election in 2009 became chaotic
and marked by obvious cheating, largely intended to
benefit Karzai. The UN-supported Electoral Commission,
with partly foreign staff, rejected so many votes that
the president's figures had to be adjusted down. Karzai
then fell below 50 percent and reluctantly agreed to a
decisive election round against former Foreign Minister
Abdullah Abdullah. While the preparations were underway,
Abdullah announced that he had no confidence in the
election system and therefore did not stand. The dropout
made Karzai victorious, but with much reduced authority.
From 2009, even leading Americans began publicly
voicing skepticism about the possibility of winning the
war. Despite the presence of 145,000 foreign soldiers in
2010, terrorist acts increased and the Taliban gained
ground. NATO's strategy seemed to have failed, and the
Afghan security forces did not keep up.
At a donor conference in Kabul in July 2009,
participants from some 70 countries still supported
President Karzai's ambition that the Afghan security
forces should take over responsibility for the country
Talk to the Taliban
A months-long delayed parliamentary elections were
held in September 2010 under strong threat from the
Taliban. About 40 percent of voters still ventured to
the polling stations. About 5,000 protests against
cheating were filed and almost one quarter of the votes
were rejected during the process. The Pashtuns were
severely underrepresented, as the electoral fraud was
the worst in their provinces and the Taliban's threat to
the electorate had the greatest effect on the Pashtuns.
In September 2010, Karzai appointed a "peace council"
that would try to initiate talks with the Taliban. Among
the members were several former warlords. In October,
the president said that there had been some unofficial
contact with the Taliban for some time, and the Isaf
leadership confirmed that NATO helped the Taliban leader
get to Kabul. However, the Taliban maintained their
public position that no negotiations were possible until
the foreign troops left the country.
In 2011, the Afghan army began to take over
responsibility for parts of the country from the NATO
In June of that year, the US government confirmed
that it had initiated "preliminary talks" with the
Taliban in order to reach a negotiated solution to the
conflict ahead of the planned troop retreat in 2014. At
the same time, the UN Security Council tried to
encourage the Taliban to join a reconciliation process
equating them with al-Qaeda in the context of sanctions.
In July, the Security Council Sanctions Committee
removed 14 Taliban leaders from the list of people who
were banned from traveling abroad and whose foreign
assets were blocked.
In June, President Obama also announced that 10,000
American soldiers would leave Afghanistan in 2011 and a
further 23,000 by the summer of 2012. The remaining
approximately 65,000 would then be allowed to travel
home incrementally until 2014. Spokesmen, among others,
cited that 20 Qaeda's 30 top leaders had been killed in
the past year. However, senior military officials feared
that the president's decision was based more on
political considerations than on the realities of the
Promises of long-term support
In 2011, several other countries also began planning
a step-by-step retreat from Afghanistan.
The President of the Peace Council, former President
Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed on September 20, 2011 by
a suicide bomber. The deed was seen by many inside and
outside Afghanistan as a severe blow to the
opportunities for peace. Although it was not clear that
it was the Taliban who were behind the murder, it
prompted members of the Northern Alliance to immediately
declare that the Taliban could not be trusted.
Exactly ten years after the Bonn conference that
outlined how Afghanistan would be governed after the
fall of the Taliban, around 100 countries and
international organizations gathered in December in the
former West German capital to pledge further assistance.
Afghanistan received guarantees for continued
international support for ten years after the foreign
forces' retreat in 2014, ten years known as "a decade of
transformation" during which the country would
"consolidate its sovereignty". Afghan leaders had
estimated that the country would need at least $ 10
billion a year from 2015, including to afford planned
defense forces of 352,000 soldiers. The support of the
outside world provided that the authorities could
protect the civilian population, that law and order and
security would prevail and that corruption would be
fought with a completely different determination than
hitherto. President Karzai promised that this would
Thousands of civilian victims
These commitments were formalized in a Strategic
Partnership Agreement signed by Afghanistan and US
presidents when Obama made a lightning visit to Kabul in
May 2012. The agreement guaranteed that the Western
world would not turn its back on Afghanistan after 2014.
But at the same time, it marked a readiness to continue
fighting Taliban and al Qaeda, through continued support
for the Afghan domestic forces, kept it open for talks
with the Taliban on a political settlement.
The promise to continue assisting Afghanistan after
2014 was reaffirmed once again at a NATO meeting in May
2012. It was also stated that Afghan forces would take
over command of the country around the turn of the year
2013, later until spring 2013. Civilian Afghan society
was promised $ 16 billion until through 2015.
A UN survey showed that in 2012, the number of
civilians killed in the war decreased by 12 percent from
the previous year, to 2 754. According to the report,
more than 80 percent of civilians killed fell victim to
militant groups' violence. The decrease in the civilian
casualties was explained with a slightly lower intensity
in the war, slightly fewer suicide attacks and fewer
airstrikes. But in 2013, the number of civilian victims
increased again to almost 3,000 killed. A new tendency
was, according to the UN compilation, that more and more
civilian victims were persons caught in a crossfire
between government forces and Taliban.
Karzai wins the first presidential election
Provisional President Hamid Karzai wins the country's first presidential
election. He gets just over 55 percent of the vote already in the first round.
Swedish soldiers to the north
A Swedish Isaf force of just under 50 is stationed in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Afghanistan is promised $ 8.2 billion in international reconstruction aid
over three years.
A new loyal jirga adopts a new constitution with strong presidential power
after several weeks of negotiations.