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Old Sunday, February 10, 2008
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Default The Taliban

The Taliban

The Taliban ( also Taleban) are a Sunni Islamist movement that ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when their leaders were removed from power by a cooperative military effort between the Northern Alliance, United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Committed fundamentalist insurgents, often described as "Taliban" in the media, originating in the Frontier Tribal Areas of Pakistan, are currently engaged in a protracted guerrilla war against the current government of Afghanistan, allied NATO forces participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

The Taliban movement was headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar. Beneath Mullah Omar were "a mixture of former small-unit military commanders and Madrasah teachers" and then a rank and file most of whom had studied in Islamic religious schools in Pakistan. The overwhelming majority of Taliban movement were ethnic Pashtuns from southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, along with a smaller number of volunteers from elsewhere, for example Europe or China. The Taliban received valuable training, supplies and arms from the Pakistani government, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and many recruits from Madrasahs for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, primarily ones established by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam JUI.

Although in control of Afghanistan's capital (Kabul) and much or most of the country for five years, the Taliban regime, or "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," gained diplomatic recognition from only three states: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Human rights abuses denied it United Nations recognition and most world's states, including Iran, India, Turkey, Russia, USA and most Central Asian republics opposed the Taliban and aided its rival (Afghan Northern Alliance).

While in power, the Taliban implemented the "strictest interpretation of Sharia law ever seen in the Muslim world," and became notorious internationally for their alleged treatment of women. Women were forced to wear the burqa in public. They were allowed neither to work nor to be educated after the age of eight, and until then were permitted only to study the Qur'an. Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught. They were not allowed to be treated by male doctors unless accompanied by a female chaperon, which led to illnesses remaining untreated. They faced public flogging in the street, and both men and women faced public execution for violations of the Taliban's laws.

Etymology
The word Taliban is from the Pashto meaning "religious students", loaned from Arabic, ālib, the Arabic plural being ullāb.
Since becoming a loanword in English, Taliban besides a plural noun referring to the group is also used as a singular noun referring to an individual. For example, John Walker Lindh has been referred to as "an American Taliban" rather than the more correct "an American Talib".

Origin
The Taliban initially had enormous goodwill from Afghans weary of the corruption, brutality and incessant fighting of Mujahideen warlords. Two contrasting narratives of the beginnings of the Taliban are that the rape and murder of boys and girls from a family traveling to Kandahar or a similar outrage by Mujahideen bandits sparked Mullah Omar and his students to vow to rid Afghanistan of these criminals. The other is that the Pakistan-based truck shipping mafia known as the "Afghanistan Transit Trade" and their allies in the Pakistan government, trained, armed and financed the Taliban to clear the southern road across Afghanistan to the Central Asian Republics of extortionate bandit gangs.

Though there is no evidence that the CIA directly supported the Taliban or Al Qaeda, some basis for military support of the Taliban was provided when, in the early 1980s, the CIA and the ISI (Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence Agency) provided arms to Afghans resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the ISI assisted the process of gathering radical Muslims from around the world to fight against the Soviets. Osama Bin Laden was one of the key players in organizing training camps for the foreign Muslim volunteers. The U.S. poured funds and arms into Afghanistan and "by 1987, 65,000 tons of U.S.-made weapons and ammunition a year were entering the war".

The Taliban were based in the Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan regions, and were overwhelmingly ethnic Pashtuns and predominantly Durrani Pashtuns. They received training and arms from Pakistan, the U.S. as well as other Middle Eastern countries who had been recruited by the U.S. to thwart the Soviet invasion of this region.

The first major military activity of the Taliban was in October-November 1994 when they marched from Maiwand in southern Afghanistan to capture Kandahar City and the surrounding provinces, losing only a few dozen men. Starting with the capture of a border crossing and a huge ammunition dump from warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a few weeks later they freed "a convoy trying to open a trade route from Pakistan to Central Asia" from another group of warlords attempting to extort money. In the next three months this hitherto "unknown force" took control of twelve of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, with Mujahideen warlords often surrendering to them without a fight and the "heavily armed population" giving up their weapons. By September 1996 they captured Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

Taliban ideology and its application
The Taliban's extremely strict and "anti-modern" ideology has been described as an "innovative form of sharia combining Pashtun tribal codes", or Pashtunwali, with radical Deobandi interpretations of Islam favored by members of the Pakistani fundamentalist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) organization and its splinter groups. Also contributing to the admixture was the Wahhabism of their Saudi financial benefactors, and the jihadism and pan-Islamism of sometime comrade-in-arms Osama bin Laden. Their ideology was a departure from the Islamism of the anti-Soviet mujahideen rulers they replaced who tended to be mystical Sufis, traditionalists, or radical Islamicists inspired by the Ikhwan.

Sharia law was interpreted to ban a wide variety of activities hitherto lawful in Afghanistan, see below. Critics complained that most Afghans were non-Pashtuns who followed a different, less strict and less intrusive interpretation of Islam. Despite their similarity to the Wahhabis, the Taliban did not eschew all traditional popular practices. They did not destroy the graves of pirs (holy men) and emphasized dreams as a means of revelation.

Taliban relationship with ethnicity was mixed. Following Deobandi and Islamist anti-nationalist belief, they opposed "tribal and feudal structures," and eliminated from "leadership roles" traditional tribal or feudal leaders. On the other hand, since they were very reluctant to share power and their ranks were overwhelmingly Pashtuns, their rule meant ethnic Pashtuns controlled multi-ethnic Afghanistan, where Pashtuns made up only 42% of the population. At the national level, "all senior Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara bureaucrats" were replaced "with Pashtuns, whether qualified or not. As a result of this loss of expertise, the ministries by and large ceased to function." In local units of government like city councils of Kabul or Herat, Taliban loyalists, not locals, dominated, even when the Pashto-speaking Taliban could not communicate with the local Persian-speaking Afghans (roughly half of the population of Afghanistan spoke Dari or other non-Pashtun tongues.) Critics complained this "lack of local representation in urban administration made the Taliban appear as an occupying force."

Like Wahhabi and other Deobandis, the Taliban strongly opposed the Shia branch of Islam. The Taliban declared the Hazara ethnic group, which totaled almost 10% of Afghanistan's population, "not Muslims."

Along with being very strict, the Taliban were adverse to debate on doctrine with other Muslims. "The Taliban did not allow even Muslim reporters to question [their] edicts or to discuss interpretations of the Qur'an."

As they established their power the Taliban created a new form of Islamic radicalism that spread beyond the borders of Afghanistan, mostly to Pakistan. By 1998-1999 Taliban-style groups in the Pashtun belt, and to an extent in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, "were banning TV and videos .... and forcing people, particularly women to adapt to the Taliban dress code and way of life."

Governance
The Taliban did not hold elections, as their spokesman explained:

The Sharia does not allow politics or political parties. That is why we give no salaries to officials or soldiers, just food, clothes, shoes and weapons. We want to live a life like the Prophet lived 1400 years ago and jihad is our right. We want to recreate the time of the Prophet and we are only carrying out what the Afghan people have wanted for the past 14 years.

Instead of an election, their leader's legitimacy came from "Bay'ah" or oath of allegiance in imitation of the Prophet and early Muslims. On 4 April 1996, Mullah Omar had the "the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed", taken from its shrine "for the first time in 60 years." Wrapping himself in the relic, he appeared on the roof of a building in the centre of Kandahar while hundreds of Pashtun mullahs below shouted `Amir al-Mu'minin`! (Commander of the Faithful), in a defacto pledge of support.

Also in keeping with the governance of early Muslims was a lack of state institutions or "a methodology for command and control," standard today internationally even among non-Westernized states. The Taliban didn't issue "press releases, policy statements or hold regular press conferences," and of course the outside world and most Afghans didn't even know what they looked like since photography was banned. Their regular army resembled "a lashkar or traditional tribal militia force" with only 25,000 to 30,000 men, these being added to as the need arose. Cabinet ministers and deputies were mullahs with a "madrassa education." Several of them, such as the Minister of Health and Governor of the State bank, were primarily military commanders who left their administrative posts to fight when needed. If and when military reverses trapped them behind lines or led to their death, this created "even greater chaos" in the national administration. In the Ministry of Finance there was no budget or "qualified economist or banker." Cash to finance Taliban war effort was collected and dispersed by Mullah Omar without book-keeping.

Consistency
The Taliban ideology was not static. Before its capture of Kabul members of the Taliban talked about stepping aside once a government of `good Muslims` took power and law and order were restored. The decision making process of the Taliban in Kandahar was modeled on the Pashtun tribal council (jirga), together with what was believed to be the early Islamic model. Discussion was followed by a building of a consensus by the believers.

However, as the Taliban's power grew, decisions were made by Mullah Omar without consulting the jirga, and without Omar's visiting other parts of the country. He visited the capital, Kabul, only twice while in power.

Decisions are based on the advice of the Amir-ul Momineen. For us consultation is not necessary. We believe that this is in line with the Sharia. We abide by the Amir's view even if he alone takes this view. There will not be a head of state. Instead there will be an Amir al-Mu'minin. Mullah Omar will be the highest authority and the government will not be able to implement any decision to which he does not agree. General elections are incompatible with Sharia and therefore we reject them.

In 1999, Omar issued a decree stating the Buddha statues at Bamyan would be protected because Afghanistan had no Buddhists, implying idolatry would not be a problem. But in March 2001 they were destroyed after the previous decision was reversed with a decree stating "all the statues around Afghanistan must be destroyed."

Criticism of Ideology
The Taliban were criticized not only for their strictness but also for innovation (BidĎah). Some Muslims complained many Taliban prohibitions such as the ban on clapping during sports events, kite flying, beard trimming, or sports for women, had no validity in the Qur'an or sharia; that the Taliban called their 20% tax on truckloads of opium "zakat," when zakat is limited to 2.5% of the zakat-payers' disposable income.

The bestowing of the title of Amir al-Mu'minin on Muhammad Omar was criticized on the grounds that he lacked scholarly learning, tribal pedigree, or connections to the Prophet's family. Sanction for the title required the support of all of the country's ulema, whereas only some 1200 Pashtun Taliban-supporting Mullahs had declared Omar the Amir. "No Afghan had adopted the title since 1834, when King Dost Mohammed Khan assumed the title before he declared jihad against the Sikh kingdom in Peshawar. But Dost Mohammed was fighting foreigners, while Omar had declared jihad against other Afghans."


Explanation of ideology
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) was important to the Taliban because the "vast majority" of its rank and file and most of the leadership, (though not Mullah Omar), were Koranic students who had studied at madrassas set up for Afghan refugees, usually by the JUI. The leader of JUI, Maulana Fazl ur-Rahman, was a political ally of Benazir Bhutto. After Bhutto became prime minister, Rehman "had access to the government, the army and the ISI" whom he influenced to help the Taliban.

Journalist Ahmed Rashid suggests that the devastation and hardship of the war against the Soviet Union and the civil war that followed, was another factor influencing the ideology of the Taliban.[41] The young rank and file Taliban were Koranic students in Afghan refugee camps whose teachers were often "barely literate," let alone scholars learned in the finer points of Islamic law and history. The refugee students brought up in a totally male society, not only had no education in mathematics, science, history or geography, they had no traditional skills of farming, herding or handicraft-making, nor even knowledge of their tribal and clan lineages.

In such an environment peace meant unemployment, and domination of women was an affirmation of manhood. Rigid fundamentalism was a matter of political survival, not just principle, Taliban leaders "repeatedly told" Rashid "that if they gave women greater freedom or a chance to go to school, they would lose the support of their rank and file."

Life under the Taliban regime
Sharia law was interpreted to ban a wide variety of activities hitherto lawful in Afghanistan: employment and education for women, movies, television, videos, music, dancing, hanging pictures in homes, clapping during sports events. One Taliban list of prohibitions included:

pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, and equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computer, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards."

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
religious policeMen were required to have a beard extending farther than a fist clamped at the base of the chin. On the other hand, they had to wear their head hair short. Men were also required to wear a head covering.

Possession was forbidden of depictions of living things, including photographs of them, stuffed animals, and dolls.

Rules which according to some Muslims had no validity in the Qur'an or sharia included a ban on clapping during sports events, kite flying, beard trimming, and sports for women.

These rules were issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice (PVSV) and enforced by its "religious police", a concept thought to be borrowed from the Wahhabis. In newly conquered towns hundreds of religious police beat offenders -- typically men who shaved and women who were not wearing their burqa properly -- with long sticks.

Theft was punished by the amputation of a hand, rape and murder by public execution. Married adulterers were stoned to death. In Kabul, punishments were carried out in front of crowds in the city's former soccer stadium.

Treatment of women
Women in particular were targets of the Taliban's notorious restrictions, prohibited from working; from wearing clothing regarded as "stimulating and attractive," including the "Iranian chador," viewed as insufficiently complete in its covering); from taking a taxi without a "close male relative"; washing clothes in streams; or having their measurements taken by tailors.

Employment for women was restricted to the medical sector, since male medical personnel were not allowed to examine women. One result of the banning of employment of women by the Taliban was the closing down in places like Kabul of primary schools not only for girls but for boys, because almost all the teachers there were women.

Women were also not permitted to attend co-educational schools; in practice, this prevented the vast majority of young women and girls in Afghanistan from receiving even a primary education.

Women were made to wear the burqa, a traditional dress covering the entire body except for a small screen to see out of. Taliban restrictions became more severe after they took control of the capital. In February 1998, religious police forced all women off the streets of Kabul and issued new regulations ordering "householders to blacken their windows, so women would not be visible from the outside."[48] Home schools for girls, which had been allowed to continue, were forbidden.[49] In June 1998, the Taliban stopped all women from attending general hospitals,[50] leaving the use of one all-women hospital in Kabul. There were many reports of Muslim women being beaten by the Taliban for violating the Sharia.

Ban on culture
Movie theaters were closed and music banned. Hundreds of cultural artifacts that were deemed polytheistic were also destroyed including major museum and countless private art collections.

A sample Taliban edict issued after their capture of Kabul is one decreed in December 1996 by the "General Presidency of Amr Bil Maruf and Nahi Anil Munkar" (or Religious Police) banning a variety of things and activities: music, shaving of beards, keeping of pigeons, flying kites, displaying of pictures or portraits, western hairstyles, music and dancing at weddings, gambling, "sorcery," and not praying at prayer times. In February 2001, Taliban used sledgehammers to destroy representational works of art at the National Museum of Afghanistan.

Non-Western festivities were not exempt from bannings. The Taliban banned the traditional Afghan New Year's celebration of Nowruz as anti-Islamic, and "for a time they also banned Ashura, the Shia Islamic month of mourning and even restricted any show of festivity at Eid." The Afghan people were not allowed to have any cultural celebrations if the women were there. If there were only men at the celebration it would be allowed to go forth, so long as it did not go over the curfew time of 90 pm.

Taliban official Mullah Mohammed Hassan explained that "of course we realize that people need some entertainment but they can go to the parks and see the flowers, and from this they will learn about Islam." The Education Minister Mullahs Abdul Hanifi told questioners that the Taliban "oppose music because it creates a strain in the mind and hampers study of Islam."

Ethnic massacres and persecution
The worst attack on civilians came in summer of 1998 when the Taliban swept north from Herat to the predominantly Hazara and Uzbek city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in the north. Entering at 10 am on 8 August 1998, for the next two days the Taliban drove their pickup trucks "up and down the narrow streets of Mazar-i-Sharif shooting to the left and right and killing everything that moved -- shop owners, cart pullers, women and children shoppers and even goats and donkeys." More than 8000 noncombatants were reported killed in Mazar-i-Sharif and later in Bamiyan.[54] Contrary to the injunctions of Islam, which demands immediate burial, the Taliban forbade anyone to bury the corpses for the first six days while they rotted in the summer heat and were eaten by dogs. In addition to this indiscriminate slaughter, the Taliban sought out and massacred members of the Hazara, a mostly Shia ethnic group, while in control of Mazar.

While the slaughter can be attributed to several factors -- ethnic difference, suspicions of Hazaras loyalty to their co-religionists in Iran, fury at the loss of life suffered in an earlier unsuccessful Taliban takeover of Mazar -- takfir by the puritanical Sunni Taliban toward the Shia Hazaras was instrumental. It was expressed by Mullah Niazi, the commander of the attack and governor of Mazar after the attack, in his declaration from Mazar's central mosque:

"Last year you rebelled against us and killed us. From all your homes you shot at us. Now we are here to deal with you. The Hazaras are not Muslims and now have to kill Hazaras. You either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan. Wherever you go we will catch you. If you go up we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below, we will pull you up by your hair."

Hazara also suffered from a siege by the Taliban of their Hazarajat homeland in central Afghanistan and the refusal of the Taliban to allow the UN to supply food to Hazara to the provinces of Bamiyan, Ghor, Wardak and Ghazni. A month after the Mazar slaughter, Taliban broke through Hazar lines and took over Hazarajat. The killing of civilians was much less common there than in Mazar, but occurred nevertheless.

During the years that followed, rapes and massacres of Hazara by Taliban forces were documented by groups such as Human Rights Watch.

Economy
Peace did bring economic development to Afghanistan. The so-called "transportation mafia" operating out of Pakistan "cut down millions of acres of timber in Afghanistan for the Pakistani market, denuding the countryside as there was no reforestation. They stripped down rusting factories, ... even electricity and telephone poles for their steel and sold the scrap to steel mills in Lahore.".

Conscription
According to the testimony of Guantanamo captives, before their Combatant Status Review Tribunals, the Taliban, in addition to conscripting men to serve as soldiers, also conscripted literate and numerate men to staff its civil service. Ironically, given the derivation of their name for themselves, some of the Taliban leaders were illiterate.

War with the Northern Alliance
Taliban in Herat, July 2001.Taliban's strict policies and condescending behavior toward their local allied troops caused an uprising in which thousands of the Taliban's best troops were killed.

In 1997, Ahmad Shah Massoud and his right hand man Kanwarpreet Randhawa devised a plan to utilize guerrilla tactics in the Shamali plains to defeat the Taliban advances. In collaboration with the locals, Masoud had deployed his forces to be stationed at civilian dwellings and other hidden places. Upon the arrival of the Taliban, some locals, who had vowed pacts of peace with the Taliban, as well as Masoud's forces came out of hiding and in a surprise attack captured the north of Kabul. Soon after, the Taliban put a major effort into taking control of the Shamali plains, indiscriminately killing young men, uprooting and expelling the population. Kamal Hossein, a special reporter for the UN, had written a full report on these and other war crimes that further insinuated and inflamed the issue of ethnicity.

In August 8, 1998 the Taliban again took Mazari Sharif this time avenging their earlier defeat and creating more international controversy with mass killings of thousands of civilians and several Iranian diplomats. This offensive left the Northern Alliance in control of only a small part of Afghanistan (10-15%) in the north. The Taliban retained control of most of the country until the 2001 9/11 attack by Osama Bin Laden. On September 9, 2001, a suicide bomber, posing as an interviewer and widely thought to be connected to Al-Qaeda, assassinated the Northern Alliance mujahideen military leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. Despite his removal, the Taliban were driven from most of Afghanistan by American bombing and Northern Alliance ground troops a couple of months later in the 2001 War.

International relations
During its time in power, the Taliban regime, or "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," gained diplomatic recognition from only three states: the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia all of whom also provided aid. Most states in the world, including Russia, Iran, India, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and later the USA, opposed the Taliban and aided their enemy the Northern Alliance.

Officially Pakistan denied it was supporting the Taliban, but its support was substantial -- one year's aid (1997/1998) was an estimated US$30 million in wheat, diesel, petroleum and kerosene fuel, and other supplies. The Taliban's influence in its neighbour Pakistan was deep. Its "unprecedented access" among Pakistan's lobbies and interest groups enabled it "to play off one lobby against another and extend their influence in Pakistan even further. At times they would defy" even the powerful ISI.

Foreign powers, including the United States, were at first supportive of the Taliban in hopes it would serve as a force to restore order in Afghanistan after years of division into corrupt, lawless warlord fiefdoms. The U.S. government, for example, made no comment when the Taliban captured Herat in 1995 and expelled thousands of girls from schools. These hopes faded as it began to be engaged in warlord practices of rocketing unarmed civilians, targeting ethnic groups (primarily Hazaras) and restricting the rights of women. In late 1997, American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright began to distance the U.S. from the Taliban and the next year the American-based Unocal oil company withdrew from a major deal with the Taliban regime concerning an oil pipeline.

In early August of 1998 the Taliban's difficulties in relations with foreign groups became much more serious. After attacking the city of Mazar, Taliban forces killed several thousand civilians and 10 Iranian diplomats and intelligence officers in the Iranian consulate. Alleged radio intercepts indicate Mullah Omar personally approved the killings. The Iranian government was incensed and a "full-blown regional crisis" ensued with Iran mobilizing 200,000 regular troops, though war was averted.

A day before the capture of Mazar, affiliates of Taliban guest Osama bin Laden bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa killing 224 and wounding 4500 mostly African victims. The United States responded by launching cruise missiles attacks on suspected terrorists camps in Afghanistan killing over 20 though failing to kill bin Laden or even many al-Qaeda. Mullah Omar condemned the missile attack and American President Bill Clinton. Saudi Arabia expelled the Taliban envoy in Saudi Arabia in protest over the Taliban's refusal to turn over bin Laden and after Mullah Omar allegedly insulted the Saudi royal family. In mid-October the UN Security Council voted unanimously to ban commercial aircraft flights to and from Afghanistan and freeze its bank accounts world wide.

The regime's isolation grew in March 2001 with the destruction of Afghanistan's most significant archeological treasures, the 1500-year-old giant Buddha statues, (the two largest were 55 and 37 meters high) in Bamiyan. That month the Taliban also issued a decree ordering non-Muslims to wear distinctive yellow patches. In September the isolation climaxed with the 9/11 bombing of the United States and the 2001 war that drove the Taliban from power.

Relations with the United Nations and aid agencies
A major issue during the Taliban's reign was its relations with the United Nations (UN) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Twenty years of continuous warfare, first with the Soviets and then between mujahideen, had devastated Afghanistan's infrastructure and economy. There was no running water, little electricity, few telephones, motorable roads or regular energy supplies. Basic necessities like water, food and housing and others were in desperately short supply. In addition, the clan and family structure that provided Afghans with a social/economic safety net was also badly damaged.[ Afghanistan's infant mortality was the highest in the world. A full quarter of all children died before they reached their 5th birthday, a rate several times higher than most other developing countries.

Consequently international charitable and/or development organisations (NGOs) were extremely important to the supply of food, employment, reconstruction, and other services in Afghanistan. With one million plus deaths during the years of war, the number of families headed by widows had reached 98,000 by 1998. Thus Taliban restrictions on women were sometime a matter not only of human rights, but of life and death. In Kabul, where vast portions of the city had been devastated from rocket attacks, more than half of its 1.2 million people benefited in some way from NGO charity, even for water to drink. The civil war and its refugee-creation processes continued during the entire time the Taliban were in power. During that time, more than three-quarters of a million civilians were displaced by new Taliban offensives in the north around Mazar, on the Herat front, and in the fertile Shomali valley around Kabul. The offensives used "scorched-earth" tactics to prevent civilians from supplying the enemy with aid.

Despite the receipt of UN and NGO aid, the Taliban's attitude toward the UN and NGOs was often one of suspicion, not gratitude or even tolerance. The UN operates on the basis of international law, not Islamic Sharia, and the UN did not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Additionally, most of the foreign donors and aid workers, who had tried to persuade the Taliban to change its strict policies and allow women more freedom, were non-Muslims.

As the Taliban's Attorney General Maulvi Jalil-ullah Maulvizada expressed it:

Let us state what sort of education the UN wants. This is a big infidel policy which gives such obscene freedom to women which would lead to adultery and herald the destruction of Islam. In any Islamic country where adultery becomes common, that country is destroyed and enters the domination of the infidels because their men become like women and women cannot defend themselves. Anyone who talks to us should do so within Islam's framework. The Holy Koran cannot adjust itself to other people's requirements, people should adjust themselves to the requirements of the Holy Koran.

Frustrations of aid agencies were numerous. Taliban decision-makers, particularly Mullah Omar, seldom if ever talked directly to non-Muslim foreigners, so aid providers had to deal with intermediaries whose approvals and agreements were often reversed by Taliban higher-ups. In September 1997, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, Emma Bonino, and 19 Western journalists and aid workers were arrested and held for three hours by the Taliban religious police in Kabul when photographs were taken of women patients. Around the same time the heads of three UN agencies in Kandahar were expelled from the country after protesting that a female lawyer for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was forced to talk to Taliban officials from behind a curtain so her face would not be visible.

When the UN increased the number of Muslim women staff to satisfy Taliban demands for Muslim staff, the Taliban then insisted "all female Muslim UN staff traveling to Afghanistan to be chaperoned by a mahram or a blood relative." In July 20, 1998, the Taliban closed "down all NGO offices by force" after those organization refused to move to a bombed out former Polytechnic College as ordered. One month later the UN offices were also shut down.

As food prices rose and conditions deteriorated, the Taliban Planning Minister Qari Din Mohammed explained the Taliban's indifference to the loss of humanitarian aid:

We Muslims believe God the Almighty will feed everybody one way or another. If the foreign NGOs leave then it is their decision. We have not expelled them.


Relationship with Osama bin Laden
In 1996, Osama bin Laden moved to Afghanistan from Sudan. He came without any invitation from the Taliban, and sometimes irritated Mullah Omar with his declaration of war and fatwa to murder citizens of third-party countries, and follow-up interviews,[83] but relations between the two groups became closer over time, and eventually bonded to the point where Mullah Omar rebuffed its patron Saudi Arabia, insulting Saudi minister Prince Turki and refusing to turn over bin Laden to the Saudis as Omar had reportedly promised to earlier.

Bin Laden was able to forge an alliance between the Taliban and his Al-Qaeda organization. It is understood that al-Qaeda-trained fighters known as the 055 Brigade were integrated with the Taliban army between 1997 and 2001. Several hundred Arab Afghan fighters sent by bin Laden assisted the Taliban in the slaughter at Mazar-e-Sharif. Taliban-al-Qaeda connections, were also strengthened by the reported marriage of one of bin Laden's sons to Omar's daughter. During Osama bin Laden's stay in Afghanistan, he may have helped finance the Taliban. Perhaps the biggest favor al-Qaeda did for the Taliban was the assassination by suicide bombing of the Taliban's most effective military opponent mujahideen commander and Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud shortly before September 9th, 2001. This came at a time when Taliban human rights violations and extremism seemed likely to created international support for Massoud's group as the legitimate representatives of Afghanistan. The killing, reportedly handled by Ayman Zawahiri and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad wing of al-Qaeda, left the Northern Alliance leaderless, and removed "the last obstacle to the Talibanís total control of the country ..."

After the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, Osama bin Laden and several al Qaeda members were indicted in U.S. criminal court. The Taliban protected Osama bin Laden from extradition requests by the U.S., variously claiming that bin Laden had "gone missing" in Afghanistan, or that Washington "cannot provide any evidence or any proof" that bin Laden is involved in terrorist activities and that "without any evidence, bin Laden is a man without sin... he is a free man." Evidence against bin Laden included courtroom testimony and satellite phone records. Bin Laden in turn, praised the Taliban as the "only Islamic government" in existence, and lauded Mullah Omar for his destruction of idols like the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

Taliban in Pakistan
Closely tied with JUI party in Pakistan, the Taliban received manpower from Madrasahs in Pakistanís border region. After a request for help from Mullah Omar in 1997, Maulana Samiul Haq shut down his 2500+ student madrassa and "sent his entire student" body hundreds of miles away to fight alongside the Taliban. The next year, the same religious leader helped persuade 12 madrassas in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to shut down for one month and send 8000 students to provide reinforcements for the Taliban army in Afghanistan.

The Taliban returned the favor, helping spread its ideology to parts of Pakistan. By 1998 some groups "along the Pashtun belt" were banning TV and videos, imposing Sharia punishments "such as stoning and amputation in defiance of the legal system, killing Pakistani Shia and forcing people, particularly women to adapt to the Taliban dress code and way of life." In December 1998 the Tehrik-i-Tuleba or Movement of Taliban in the Orakzai Agency ignored Pakistanís legal process and publicly executed a murderer in front of 2000 spectators Taliban-style. They also promised to implement Taliban-style justice and ban TV, music and videos. In Quetta, Pashtun pro-Taliban groups "burned down cinema houses, shot video shop owners, smashed satellite dishes and drove women off the streets". In Kashmir Afghan Arabs from Afghanistan attempted to impose a "Wahhabi style dress code" banning jeans and jackets. "On 15 February 1999, they shot and wounded three Kashmiri cable television operators for relaying Western satellite broadcasts."

As of early 2007, Taliban influence in Pakistan continues in conjunction with the Taliban insurgency. Citing a suicide bombing of a restaurant in Peshwar in retaliation for the arrest of a relative of Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, the Associated Press states "... in Pakistan's frontier regions, ... scores of people have been executed over the past two or three years apparently for being too aligned with the Pakistani government or America -- allies in the U.S.-led war on terrorism."

Buddhas of Bamiyan
The Taliban's destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan in March 21, 2001In March 2001, the Taliban ordered the demolition of two statues of Buddhas carved into cliffsides at Bamiyan, one 38 metres (125 ft) tall and built in AD 507, the other 53 metres (174 ft) tall and built in AD 554. The act was condemned by UNESCO and many countries around the world.

The intentions of the destruction remain unclear. Mullah Omar initially supported the preservation of Afghanistan's heritage, and Japan linked financial aid to the preservation of the statues.[102] However, after a few years, a decree was issued claiming all representations of humans and idols, including those in museums, must be destroyed in accordance with Islamic law which prohibits any form of idol worship.

The government of Pakistan (itself host to one of the richest and most ancient collections of Buddhist art) implored the Taliban to spare the statues. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates later denounced the act as savage.

Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, a senior representative of the Taliban designated as the roving Ambassador visited the US in March, 2001. He represented the Taliban's action not as an act of irrationality, but as an act of rage over UNESCO and some western governments denying the Taliban use of the funds intended for the repairs of the war-damaged statues of the Buddha. He contended that the Taliban intended to use the money for drought relief.

Opium
Opium poppies have traditionally been grown in Afghanistan, and, with the war shattering other sectors of the economy, it became the number one export of the country.

The Taliban have provided an Islamic sanction for farmers ... to grow even more opium, even though the Koran forbids Muslims from producing or imbibing intoxicants. Abdul Rashid, the head of the Taliban's anti-drugs control force in Kandahar, spelled out the nature of his unique job. He is authorized to impose a strict ban on the growing of hashish, `because it is consumed by Afghans and Muslims.` But, Rashid told me without a hint of sarcasm, `Opium is permissible because it is consumed by kafirs in the West and not by Muslims or Afghans.`

But in 2000 the Taliban banned opium production, a first in Afghan history. In 2000, Afghanistan's opium production still accounted for 75% of the world's supply. On July 27, 2000, the Taliban again issued a decree banning opium poppy cultivation. According to opioids.com, by February 2001, production had been reduced from 12,600 acres (51 km≤) to only 17 acres. When the Taliban entered north Waziristan in 2003 they immediately banned poppy cultivation and punished those who sold it.

Another source claims opium production was cut back by the Taliban not to prevent its use but to shore up its price, and thus increase the income of poppy farmers and revenue of Afghan tax collectors.

However, with the 2001 US/Northern Alliance expulsion of the Taliban, opium cultivation has increased in the southern provinces liberated from the Taliban control, and by 2005 production was 87% of the world's opium supply,[107] rising to 90% in 2006.

U.S.-led invasion and displacement of the Taliban
Taliban press conference in Pakistan after the September 11th attacks, declaring they will not extradite Osama bin Laden without evidence. After the September 11 attacks and the PENTTBOM investigation, the USA delivered this ultimatum to the Taliban:

Deliver to the US all of the leaders of Al Qaeda;
Release all imprisoned foreign nationals;
Close immediately every terrorist training camp;
Hand over every terrorist and their supporters to appropriate authorities;
Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps for inspection.
On September 21, 2001, the Taliban responded that if the United States could bring evidence that bin Laden was guilty they would hand him over, stating there was no evidence in their possession linking him to the September 11 attacks.

On September 22, 2001, the United Arab Emirates and later Saudi Arabia withdrew their recognition of the Taliban as the legal government of Afghanistan, leaving neighboring Pakistan as the only remaining country with diplomatic ties. On October 4, 2001, it is believed that the Taliban covertly offered to turn bin Laden over to Pakistan for trial in an international tribunal that operated according to Islamic Sharia law. Pakistan, recently recast as an ally of the west, is believed to have rejected the offer (even though they still recognized the Taliban).

On October 7, 2001, before the onset of military operations, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan offered to "detain bin Laden and try him under Islamic law" if the United States made a formal request and presented the Taliban with evidence. This counter offer was immediately rejected by the U.S. as insufficient.

Bin Laden for his part, maintained America's attack on the Taliban after 9/11 was motivated only by its hatred for Islam.

American attack
Shortly afterward, on October 7, 2001, the United States, aided by the United Kingdom, Canada, and supported by a coalition of other countries including several from the NATO alliance, initiated military actions in Afghanistan, code named Operation Enduring Freedom, and bombed Taliban and Al Qaeda related camps. The stated intent of military operations was to remove the Taliban from power because of the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden for his involvement in the September 11 attacks, and disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations. On October 14 the Taliban offered to discuss handing over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country if the US halted bombing, but only if the Taliban were given evidence of Bin Ladens involvement in 9/11. The U.S. rejected this offer as an insufficient public relations ploy and continued military operations.

The ground war was mainly fought by the Northern Alliance, the remaining elements of the anti-Taliban forces which the Taliban had routed over the previous years but had never been able to entirely destroy. Mazari Sharif fell to U.S.-Northern Alliance forces on November 9, leading to a cascade of provinces falling with minimal resistance, and many local forces switching loyalties from the Taliban to the Northern Alliance. On the night of November 12, the Taliban retreated south in an orderly fashion from Kabul. This retreat was so orderly, that on November 15, they released eight Western aid workers after three months in captivity. By November 13 the Taliban had withdrawn from both Kabul and Jalalabad. Finally, in early December, the Taliban gave up their last city stronghold of Kandahar and retired to the hilly wilderness along the Afghanistan - Pakistan border, where they remain today as a guerrilla warfare operation, drawing new recruits and developing plans for a restoration of power.

Resurgence of Taliban
Mullah Dadullah Akhund, the military commander of the Taliban until May 2007.As of 2007, the insurgency, in the form of a Taliban guerrilla war, continues. However, the Pashtun tribal group, with over 40 million members, has a long history of resistance to occupation forces in the region so the Taliban themselves may comprise only a part of the insurgency. Most of the post-invasion Taliban fighters are new recruits, drawn again from that region's madrassas. The more traditional village schools are the primary source of the new fighters.

Before the summer 2006 offensive began, indications existed that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan had lost influence and power to other groups, including potentially the Taliban. The most notable sign was the rioting in May after a street accident in the city of Kabul. The continued support from tribal and other groups in Pakistan, the drug trade and the small number of NATO forces, combined with the long history of resistance and isolation, led to the observation that Taliban forces and leaders are surviving and will have some influence over the future of Afghanistan. A new introduction is suicide attacks and terrorist methods not used in 2001. Observers have suggested that poppy eradication policies, which destroy the livelihoods of rural Afghans, and civilian deaths caused by the bombing campaigns of international troops, are linked to the resurgence of the Taliban. These observers maintain that counter-insurgency policy should focus on the battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and on the reconstruction of the Afghan economy, which could profit from the licensing of poppies to make medicine rather than their eradication.

In September 2006, the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan, an association of Waziristani chieftains with close ties to the Taliban, were recognized by the Government of Pakistan as the de facto security force in charge of North and South Waziristan. This recognition was part of the agreement to end the Waziristan War which had extracted a heavy toll on the Pakistan Army since early 2004. Some commentators viewed Islamabad's shift from war to diplomacy as implicit recognition of the growing power of the resurgent Taliban relative to American influence, with the US distracted by the threat of looming crises in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran.

Other commentators view the Islamabad's shift from war to diplomacy as a means to appease growing discontent in Pakistan. Because of its leadership structure, the assassination of Mullah Dadullah in May 2007 will not significantly affect the Taliban, but it may set-back the incipient relations with Pakistan.


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