The Taliban – Former Militant Leaders of Afghanistan
The Taliban are a violent Islamic group that controlled most of Afghanistan during the 1990s. They turned Afghanistan into an Islamic state and held power until 2001 when an American-led force made them give up.
The Taliban emerged in southern Afghanistan during the early 1990s. At first the group consisted of Afghan and Pakistani students, refugees who fled from Pakistan and soldiers who fought against the Soviet Union during the 1980s.
After the Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan in 1989 civil order in the country broke down. Nobody was in control. There was crime and killing on the streets. The population of Afghanistan was terrorized by warlords who controlled different parts of the country.
The Taliban took advantage of this chaotic situation and started taking control of the southern part of Afghanistan. During the early 1990s their influence and power spread to the north of the country. In 1996 they took control of the capital Kabul and government troops had to pull back to the northern part of the country. Only three countries recognized the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Taliban brought strict Islamic law to Afghanistan. At first, they were welcomed by the population who wanted peace in a country that had been at war for a long time. The Sharia, or Islamic law, was at the centre of the Taliban world. All men had to wear beards, women were not allowed to work outside the house. They had their fingernails chopped off if they were caught wearing nail polish. All women had to wear veils and burkas to cover their bodies. Those who did not were beaten. The Taliban enforced these laws to protect their women from western influence. Girls were not allowed to go to school. Entertainment, like television or music was not allowed. The Taliban earned money by smuggling drugs and growing and selling opium.
Taliban policeman beating a woman
As time went on, the Taliban allowed Islamic terrorists to set up training camps in Afghanistan. The most famous, Osama bin Laden, was responsible for the bomb attacks in the 1990s and organized the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon from his headquarters in the Afghan mountains.
When the United States had proof that bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks they tried to persuade the Taliban to extradite bin Laden. On October 7, 2001 American and British forces attacked Taliban terrorist camps in Afghanistan. With the help of anti-Taliban groups in the north of the country they lost most of their power and territory. In December 2001, an anti-Taliban government took power in Kabul and the Taliban era ended. But even after that Afghanistan became an unstable country. Taliban soldiers roamed fiercely across the southern and eastern parts of the country. Some of them fled to Pakistan where they still are supported.
During the last few years the Taliban guerrillas have reorganized themselves and gained power and money again. Because of this American President Barack Obama has increased the number of soldiers in Afghanistan.
After the war against the west Taliban soldiers returned to their homes and camps, some important leaders were killed. Americans continued their search for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and Pakistan but without success. In May 2011, almost ten years after 9/11 bin Laden was finally found and killed in a private house in Pakistan.
American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks
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- beard = hair that grows around a man’s chin and cheeks
- burka = long piece of clothing worn by Muslim women; it covers the face and body
- chop off = cut off
- civil order = the controlled situation in a country; when everybody follows and obeys the rules
- continue = to go on with something
- emerge = come up, appear
- enforce = put into effect
- entertainment = films, television, plays that are intended to interest people or make them laugh
- era = time
- extradite = to send someone back to the country in which they committed a crime
- fierce = violent , brutal
- flee – fled = to leave a place quickly in order to escape form danger
- force = army
- guerrilla = member of a small group of soldiers
- headquarters = control centre
- influence = power
- Islamic state = type of government that rules its people according to the rules of Islamic religion
- nail polish = color that you paint on your finger nails to make them look nice
- official = the only, formal
- population = the people who live in a country
- proof = facts, information that shows something is true
- recognize = to officially accept a country
- refugee = someone who has to leave their country because of a war or other reasons
- responsible = blame
- roam = travel around without a clear direction
- soldier = person who fights for a country with weapons
- Soviet Union = Communist country that existed in Europe and Asia between 1917 and 1991
- spread = extend, move to
- strict = to obey all the rules
- success = when you manage to achieve or do what you wanted to
- support = help
- take advantage = to use a situation to get want you want
- territory = land
- unstable = things change and become worse
- violent = brutal, aggressive
- warlord = leader of a military group that fights against the government or other groups
- withdraw = pull back