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What you need to know about the Taliban

What you need to know about the Taliban

The word Taliban means "students" in the Pashto language and the movement emerged in 1994 around Kandahar in the south of Afghanistan. The group was one of the militant factions, fighting to take over the country after the Soviet forces withdrew from the country in the eighties. 

The Taliban succeeded in gaining control over most of the country and declared Afghanistan as an Islamic emirate in 1996 under a strict Sharia law. 

Women were barred from working or studying, and were confined to their homes unless accompanied by a male guardian.

Public executions and floggings were the order of the day. Western books and films were banned.

The Taliban was ousted from power after US-led forces entered Afghanistan to avenge the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the United States by al Qaeda whose leaders enjoyed the hospitality and support of the Taliban regime. This enabled the rival groups of the Taliban to come to power.

The Taliban then retreated into the remote mountainous areas of the country and continued to wage a 20-year guerrilla war against the Afghan government supported by the US-led NATO forces.

The Taliban's founder and original leader was Mullah Mohammad Omar, who went into hiding after the Taliban was defeated. He died in 2013 but his aides kept his death a secret till 2015 during which time his son Mullah Yaqub was allowed to consolidate his position to become a key Taliban leader.

Fears ahead

Opponents and Western countries accuse the Taliban of wanting to return to their medieval style of governance. The Taliban, on its part, claims it wants to set up a "genuine Islamic system" for Afghanistan that would make provisions for women's and minority rights, in line with cultural traditions and religious rules.

However, on the ground it is already quite evident that the group has stopped women from working in areas under their control and are preventing girls from going to school. 

While Pakistan has been actively backing the Taliban, China has also hosted the Taliban leadership and signalled its support for them.