The Taliban is an insurgent group that was created in the aftermath of the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and the Afghan Civil War.
After the Soviets left Afghanistan, the central government fell and the various mujahideen forces began to battle each other for control of the country.
It was during this period when the Taliban made its debut, when a group of Pashtun-Afghan students who had taken refugee in Pakistan decided that they were going to end the fighting and establish order.
Lead by the mysterious Mullah Omar, who was supported by the Pakistani military and intelligence services, the Taliban quickly took control over most of the country.
From 1996 to 2001 the Taliban ruled over much of Afghanistan with brutality.
They mixed an extremely strict interpretation of Islamic law (shariah) with Pashtun tribal codes (pashtunwali) to form the basis of their rule. During this time they also provided a safe haven for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
Following the attacks on 9/11, the United States and the Northern Alliance (the opposition force in Afghanistan) quickly defeated the Taliban and removed them from power.
After a few years, the Taliban regained its strength and in 2006 significantly escalated their insurgency against the Afghan government and NATO forces.
They have been fighting both Afghanistan and NATO forces since then.
The current goals of the Taliban is to remove the foreign forces in Afghanistan and overthrown the central Afghan government.
Their membership is predominately Pashtuns.
They receive significant assistance from portions of the Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
They are closely aligned with many other insurgent and terrorist organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, such as the Haqqani Network.
The leadership of the Taliban is based in Pakistan, but nearly all of its attacks are in Afghanistan.
What do they believe in?
The Taliban believe in Sharia Law – a strict interpretation of Islamic law that they wish to impose on the nation.
As well as making strict rules for women when the regime was last in power from 1996 to 2001, the militant group banned television, music and cinema, and destroyed non-Islamic relics – such as in 2001, the famous Bamiyan Buddha statues in central Afghanistan.
Non-Islamic holidays were also banned.
When the group last ruled Afghanistan, women lived under a highly constricted regime. They could not work, girls were not allowed to attend school and women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to venture out of their homes.
As well as this, women were not allowed to wear high heels because men were not meant to hear women’s footsteps. Windows were covered to stop women from being seen from the outside and they were discouraged from speaking loudly in case they were heard.
Women were not allowed to appear on TV or have photos of them published and those who broke the rules sometimes suffered humiliation and public beatings by the Taliban’s religious police under the group’s strict interpretation of Islamic law. Reports also emerged at the time about forced marriages and sexual violence.
Women were not allowed to work and girls were not allowed to pursue education.