Afghanistan under the Taliban

In 1994 the radical Islamic Pashtun Taliban (“religion students”), supported mainly by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, intervened as a new military and political force in the Afghan civil war. The expansion of the Taliban also accommodated the strategic interests of various oil companies (e.g. the American Union Oil Company of California [Unocal], the Argentine Bridas Corporation), which were competing for the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan.

The Taliban, who were mainly recruited from Koran students (Afghan refugees) in the Pakistani border area, initially seized Kandahars in the south of the country and by spring 1995 were able to bring about a third of Afghan territory under their control. Their first attempt to conquer the capital Kabul failed; however, they succeeded in occupying Herats in September of the same year. In September 1996, the Taliban took Kabul in a second attempt. Here they murdered Nadjibullah, although he was on UN premises.

The other warring factions, who had fought relentlessly so far, joined the United Islamic Front to Save Afghanistan (known as the Northern Alliance) under the military command of Masoud and the political leadership of Rabbani together. In May 1997, the Taliban moved into Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan for the first time, but were driven out again with heavy losses. It was not until August 1998 that the Taliban were able to conquer the city and all of northern and central Afghanistan. This resulted in a massacre of the Shiite Hazara population of Mazar-e Sharif. The killing of Iranian diplomats while taking Mazar-e Sharif also sparked tensions between the Taliban and Iran, which at times led to a massing of Iranian troops on the Afghan-Iranian border. From 1998 the Taliban controlled around 90% of Afghan territory; only the northeast (Badakhshan; Pandschir) was held by the Northern Alliance. Peace negotiations between the UN and the Taliban, brokered by the UN, were unsuccessful.

In October 1997 the Taliban declared Afghanistan an »Islamic Emirate«. Their leader, Mullah M. Omar, assumed the title of “Amir al-Muminin” (leader of all believers). The Taliban established a repressive religious dictatorship (including persecution of the Shiites, obstruction of the work of the UN and aid organizations). Women in particular experienced disenfranchisement and were excluded from any education, gainful employment or professional activity under threat of draconian punishment (obligation to wear the full-body veil, the burqa).

According to LOCALTIMEZONE.ORG, the Taliban regime remained internationally isolated; only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognized it. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan rose to become the world’s largest producer of heroin and developed into a hub for international smuggling, which included drugs, weapons and oil as well as drugs. In July 2000, the Taliban issued a ban on opium poppy cultivation.

Because of the bloody attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), for which the US government blamed the Saudi Arabian extremist Bin Laden, who lives in Afghanistan, the Taliban fell into the sights of the USA 1998 Islamist training camps in eastern Afghanistan attacked with rockets. Since the winter of 2000/01, the conflict between the Taliban and the international community has come to a head. In January 2001, at the request of the United States, the UN imposed tightened sanctions against Afghanistan. Despite fierce international protests, the Taliban destroyed the famous Buddhist statues of Bamian in March 2001 for religious reasons.

September 11th and the fall of the Taliban

On September 9, 2001, Massoud, the military leader of the Northern Alliance, was assassinated. Two days later, on September 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and on the Pentagon took place in the USA. The US demand for bin Laden to be extradited, whom the American government blamed for the attacks, rejected the Taliban. By the beginning of October 2001, the US had drawn a military ring around Afghanistan and won the support of Pakistan and the neighboring CIS republics as part of a broad anti-terror alliance. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, and in November 2001 Pakistan did likewise.

On October 7, 2001, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, massive American and British air strikes began against centers of the Taliban regime and bases of the al-Qaeda terrorist network led by bin Laden in Afghanistan. On October 8, 2001, the Northern Alliance launched an offensive against the Taliban; With massive military support from the US, it was able to capture most of Afghanistan by early December 2001. Massacres also occurred in connection with the fighting. From January 2002, the United States transferred hundreds of prisoners (Taliban and al-Qaida members) to the American military base at Guantánamo Bay on Cuba (Guantánamo), which had been converted into a maximum security prison.

The Taliban withdrew to the Pakistani-Afghan border area, where they were reorganized and, since 2003, have destabilized the security situation in southern and south-eastern Afghanistan with targeted attacks on foreign civilian and military targets and brought the country’s reconstruction to a standstill. They were also joined by armed forces from the Hekmatyar- led Hizb-e Islami (Party of Islam). For its part, the United States launched one military action after another in December 2001 with targeted air strikes on the Tora Bora mountain fortress near Jalalabad to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Afghanistan under the Taliban