Tracing origins of Afghanistan war

A member of Taliban stands outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16, 2021.[Reuters]

The Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan just weeks before the US was to remove all its troops from the country

The US-led battle has persisted for nearly two decades, making it America’s longest-running war. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening

Who are the Taliban?

The Taliban, a Pashto word meaning ‘student’, emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan. This followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan after a nine-year war between the Mujahideen rebels of Afghanistan and the Soviets. During this war, the Mujahideen received foreign support, largely from Israel, China, the US and Pakistan. The conflict killed an estimated one million civilians and more than 150,000 troops and militants.

When did they first take over in Afghanistan?

After the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, a civil war raged in the country that eventually saw the Taliban, one of several factions of the Mujahideen, take over leadership in 1996. They held onto power until they were overthrown by US-led forces in 2001.

What were their aims?

In a New York Times article titled ‘What we, the Taliban, want’, the deputy leader of the Taliban, Sirajuddin Haqqani, said:

 “... I am confident that, liberated from foreign domination and interference, we together will find a way to build an Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam – from the right to education to the right to work – are protected, and where merit is the basis for equal opportunity ….

“We have already suffered enough from foreign interventions. We will take all measures in partnership with other Afghans to make sure the new Afghanistan is a bastion of stability and that nobody feels threatened on our soil.”

However, despite their claims of perpetuating women’s rights and increasing opportunities, the female population of Afghanistan fears that now that the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan, their rights will actually be stifled as the Taliban have proved to hold rather misogynistic views over the years.

What sparked the Taliban War?

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, which left nearly 3,000 people dead and more than 6,000 injured, President George W Bush vowed to “win the war against terrorism”. He eventually called on the Taliban to “deliver to the United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in your land” or face the consequences of inaction.

What have the repercussions of Taliban rule been on Afghan society?

Taliban rule in Afghanistan over the past two decades has raised questions around freedom of expression and social restrictions. The Taliban forbid watching TV in some districts and some officials have imposed restrictions on smartphones or banned them completely.

‘Morality’ officials enforce these social controls, patrolling communities to monitor adherence to prescribed restrictions around dressing, public behaviour, beard length and men’s attendance at Friday prayers. Violating the rules can result in warnings or public punishment.

What has led to the Taliban taking over Afghanistan?

In recent months, the Taliban have launched an offensive in the country. In April, US President Joe Biden announced that all US troops would exit Afghanistan by September 11 – 20 years since the bombing of the World Trade Centre.

The Afghan government effectively collapsed on Sunday when President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and Taliban fighters entered the capital, Kabul. They have seized more than a dozen provincial capitals in just one week and now effectively control Afghanistan.

However, millions of Afghanis are worried about their future and the potential for chaos or reprisal if the Taliban accuse them of working with the US or the government. As a result, thousands have thronged airports seeking a way out of the country.

Compiled by Veronica Wanja