Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Taliban: Kill All Foreigners

Throughout much of the past week our service members have been combating riots in Afghanistan due to burning of Qur’ans that prisoners were writing contraband in. Regardless of anyone’s position on this topic, the situation remains dangerous. The conflict was accelerated when the Taliban urged Afghans to kill foreigners over the Qur’an burnings (CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL ARTICLE).

Though many of you know about the Taliban, we thought we would post some information on the origins of the group as well as information on what they are about.

The Taliban, Pashto for “Students,” also spelled Taleban, is an ultraconservative political and religious faction that emerged in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet troops. After assuming power, the Taliban instituted a strict, fundamentalist version of Sharia law (Islamic religious law), which restricted almost all personal freedoms for women and led to the destruction of much of the country's cultural heritage. In 1996, the Taliban began receiving financial and military support from the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, and would eventually provide its founder, Osama bin Laden, with the base of operations from which he launched the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. In late 2001, the Taliban was overthrown by coalition forces during Operation Enduring Freedom, but would regroup in neighboring Pakistan. They continue to lead an insurgency campaign against the Afghan government and U.S. forces.

The faction took its name from its membership, which consisted largely of students trained in madrasahs (Islamic religious schools) that were established for Afghan refugees in the 1980s in northern Pakistan. The Taliban emerged as a force for social order in 1994 in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar and quickly subdued the local warlords who controlled the south of the country. By late 1996, popular support for the Taliban among Afghanistan’s southern Pashtun ethnic group, as well as assistance from conservative Islamic elements abroad, had enabled the faction to seize the capital, Kabul, and gain effective control of the country. Resistance to the Taliban continued, however, particularly among non-Pashtun ethnic groups—namely, the Tajik, the Uzbek, and the Ḥazāra—in the north, west, and central parts of the country, who saw the power of the predominantly Pashtun Taliban as a continuation of the traditional Pashtun hegemony of the country. By 2001 the Taliban controlled all but a small section of northern Afghanistan.

World opinion, however, largely disapproved of the Taliban’s social policies—including the near-total exclusion of women from public life (including employment and education), the systematic destruction of non-Islamic artistic relics (as occurred in the town of Bamiyan), and the implementation of harsh criminal punishments—and only a few countries recognized the regime. More significant was the fact that the Taliban allowed Afghanistan to be a haven for Islamic militants from throughout the world, including an exiled Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden, who, as leader of al-Qaeda, stood accused of organizing numerous terrorist attacks against American interests. The Taliban’s refusal to extradite bin Laden to the United States following the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, prompted a military confrontation with the United States and allied powers. The Taliban was subsequently driven from power.

Taliban insurgency against U.S. and NATO forces continued in the years following the Taliban’s ouster. The Taliban funded its efforts in large part through a thriving opium trade, which reached record levels several years after the fall of the Taliban. Although expelled from Kandahar by the invasion, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar reportedly continued to direct the insurgency from an unknown location; he was thought by some to be in Pakistan, although the Taliban denied this.

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