Afghanistan's Taliban

What does Taliban mean?

Literally, the word Taliban means "student".

Where did these "Taliban" students come from?

Afghanistan was in chaos following the withdrawal of Soviet Union troops. Feuding groups which had joined together to oppose the Soviet forces, disentegrated into their various factions, carving up cities and parts of the country under various warlords. These warlords brutally robbed and killed civilians which did not belong to their particular tribe or ethnic group. Cities were decimated through bombs and missiles by the different groups. Hundreds of thousands of Afghanistans fled into refugee camps on the Pakistani border.

Within these Afghan refugee camps, schools teaching radical Islamic beliefs sprung up. As these students were indoctrinated, Omar Mohammad (Mullah), arose as their main religious leader. Mohammad Omar organized his following to begin opposing the corrupt warlords, to open the roads they had closed off, and to rescue Afghan women from soldiers.

In 1994, a 30-truck convoy from Pakistan was hijacked by an Afghan warlord. Islamic students, who called themselves the "Taliban" rescued the convoy, killing the hijacker and hanging his body for everyone to see.

Impressed by their success, Pakiston began to support the rise of these Islamic Taliban students, who came out of the Afghan refugee camps. Pakistan would assisting them in developing militia training schools which would adhere to some of the most strict interpretation of Islamic beliefs.

How does Osama bin Laden come into the equation?

Osama bin Laden helped fund Afghanistan's fight against the Soviet Union. After the war bin Laden and his cohorts were not welcome in his home country of Saudi Arabia. It was feared that these seasoned soldiers could represent a threat to the Saudi government. According to PBS bin Laden formed an international terrorist group known as "Al Qaeda" in 1989. Al Qaeda formed ties to other terrorist organizations, including "the al Jihad group based in Egypt, the Islamic Group, formerly led by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, and other jihad groups in other countries." They also created alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with the government of Iran, along with the Iranian terrorist group Hezballah. This group would work together "against their perceived enemies in the West, particularly the United States."

When bin Laden was exiled from Sudan in May 1996, the Taliban invited him to come to Afghanistan. With the Taliban providing safe haven for him, Osama bin Laden brought new energy to the Taliban rule by combining his money, terrorist skills, Al Qaeda organization, and his contacts with the Taliban's radical Islamic government. With the support of bin Laden and Pakistan, the Taliban were able to capture Kabul and Jalalabad, and thus to declare themselves the government of Afghanistan.

Who recognizes the Taliban government?

Only three world powers recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Emirates. Although officially the Taliban government was hindered in their financial dealings with the west, through their Pakistani, Saudi Arabian, and other Islamic connections, they built a broad, worldwide-financial network.

Do the Afghanistan people support the Taliban?

Afghanistan support for the Taliban government is a complex issue. The Afghan people had been assaulted by war for over two decades with the infrastructure of their country decimated. Between the bombings, the rape of their women, and the torture and slaughter of their citizens, the Afghanistan people were ready for some kind of relief. With their emphasis on law and order, the Taliban appeared to be a government which would put an end to the infighting of the various factions, and bring an end to the oppression on the general population. At present, the Taliban controls approximately 90 percent of Afghanistan.

What are the living conditions in Afghanistan?

The Washington Post described Afghanistan conditions:

There are few places on Earth where people have lived in greater misery for more years than Afghanistan, a rugged swath of landlocked deserts and mountains just smaller than the state of Texas where about 25 million people struggle to survive. One of every four children die before the age of 5; life expectancy is about 43 years; infant and maternal death rates are the second highest in the world; only 12 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water; and barely 30 percent of the men and 15 percent of the women can read or write.

Because of the threat of war after the September 11, 2001 attack on America, multitudes of people are fleeing across the Afghanistan borders into refugee camps. However, refugee status is not new to the Afghanistan people. On February 6, 2001, Radio Free Europe described the situation:

The Geneva-based United Nations World Food Program, or WFP, estimates that a half million people left their homes after a severe drought hit Afghanistan last year. The drought affected half of the country's 20 million people, many of whom were already suffering from chronic poverty and a six-year-old civil war... An estimated 80,000 displaced persons have found shelter in relief camps throughout Afghanistan. In addition, about 150,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Pakistan in the past five months, joining the one million Afghans who arrived during the past 20 years of fighting in their country. Pakistan late last year tried to close the border to new refugees, but in January alone more than 70,000 people arrived at the makeshift Jalozai camp in the North West Frontier Province.

Has the Taliban ended oppression of the Afghanistan population?

Unfortunately, the Taliban has followed in their predecessors footsteps by brutalizing the population in order to establish what they see as necessary controls to maintain their form of government. They burn houses, destroy crops, and slaughter civilians. They have imposed on the Afghanistan people the most strict form of Islam seen anywhere in the world. Click here to go to "Life Under the Taliban".

Because of the brutality of the Taliban toward their own citizens, Afghan support of their government is disintegrating and Afghan men are resisting being recruited into the Taliban regime.. In a recent report, Toronto's Globe and Mail stated that "Most reports from Afghanistan, including those from relatives in Canada, indicate that the Taliban have little public support."

If Afghan's are not as willing to support the Taliban, how do they remain in power?

Converts from religious schools throughout Pakistan, along with recruits from throughout the Arabic world, provide new rank and file to the Taliban and bin Laden forces. Presently, the Taliban provides training camps for "would-be terrorists" from throughout the world, but especially from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Why do the Taliban recruits follow these terrorist leaders?

For many of the Taliban recruits, they know little else of the world other than the rigid Islamic schooling they have received in their training schools. Even their spiritual leader Mullah Omar had had little education and knows very little about life beyond war. The connection developed with Osama bin Laden has continued to focus the Taliban on hate, anger, and the continuation of the war within Afghanistan, while taking their "war" to the world outside.



Resources

Afgha: Site of the Afghan Resistance
The Children of War
The Globe and Mail: Taliban
MSNBC
PBS: Al Qaeda
Radio Free Europe
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
The U.S. State Department: Women and Girls in Afghanistan
Washington Post: The Taliban's Deadly Rise to Power


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