The Taliban: Definition and History

Instructor: Monica Gragg

Monica has taught college-level courses in Tourism, HR and Adult Education. She has a Master's in Education and is three years into a PhD.

This lesson highlights the formation of the Taliban and the significant historical events that led to its creation. We will look at the history of Afghanistan and what happened when the Taliban was in power. We will also discuss current Taliban activities.

What Led to the Formation of the Taliban?

Afghanistan's present is very similar to its past. Since 500 B.C. other countries and cultural groups have invaded and operated Afghanistan for various reasons. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1995-96, but the formation of the Taliban is deeply rooted in the British invasions - yes, there were multiple!

You see, the British were competing with other European countries and the Soviet Union (now Russia) to colonize Asian countries. This is known as The Great Game. The British attacked Afghanistan because they were afraid their competitor, the Soviet Union, would take it over. Why was Afghanistan so important to the Brits? Well, at the time, India and Pakistan were one nation and it bordered Afghanistan. Having the Soviet Union next door was too close for comfort. So they tried to take over Afghanistan in three separate wars. The Afghans won the last war and claimed their independence in 1921.

Map of Afghanistan
map of Afghanistan

The Taliban would not rule for another 75 years, but between 1921 and 1995-96, there were significant transformations in Afghanistan that the Taliban would historically alter during just six years in power.

Major Changes from 1921 to 1995-96

Socio-economic reform - Afghanistan had several leaders that all pushed socio-economic reform. After all the takeovers, Afghanistan was ready to join the developed world.

Women - The developed world meant giving rights to women. Now women can attend university and work outside the home.

Pakistan - The British left India, and India and Pakistan became two separate countries. This separation will become very beneficial for the Taliban.

International Relations - Years later, the Soviet Union almost had their wish come true. Afghanistan was back and forth with the Soviet Union, until the Soviets grew tired and decided to invade. The invasion didn't last long because other nations like the US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia did not agree. So they supported the anti-communist, Muslim Afghan fighters (mujahideen) to fight off the Soviets, who eventually backed off.

Osama bin Laden & al-Qaeda - In 1988 Osama bin Laden and others form al-Qaeda, to fight their holy war against countries that disagree with nations being governed by Islam. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, will become close allies over the years.

What Did the Taliban Accomplish During its Six Year Rule?

Fast forward to 1995-6. Afghanistan is exhausted after several wars, leadership changes and the country's resources are depleting. A group of Southern Afghan men that fought against the Soviet Union decide to form the Taliban. The Taliban is formed as an Islamic militia to promote peace. They unofficially rename Afghanistan 'The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan'.

Socio-economic reform - A drought nearly starves the nation and over a million Afghans seek refuge in Pakistan. The Taliban implements new laws that ban items that are against Islamic law. This includes the Internet, playing cards, movies, TV, and musical instruments, among other things.

Women - Women's rights are reversed. Also, they must wear a veil and cannot be in public alone.

Pakistan - Pakistan becomes a strong ally for the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

International Relations - The Taliban blow up 2,000 year old Buddhist statues, against international protests.

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