The Taliban is a militant Islamic theocratic political movement based in Afghanistan. At times it has been a revolutionary terrorist organization or the chief political force in Afghanistan.
The Taliban follow a fundamentalist and philosophically anti-imperialist stream of Sunni Islam called Deobandi. The aim of the Taliban is to impose, by means of force if need be, a political regime in which the tenets of Deobandi Islam and sharia (Islamic law) govern life in their territory. The theocratic totalitarian political prescriptions of the Taliban have been widely criticized by human rights groups and Western governments for its position on human rights, women's rights and minority religious rights.
The Taliban has been accused of recruiting child soldiers, targeting civilians with violence, taking hostages and torturing them, and committing ethnic cleansing. In the civilian sphere, it has been accused of suppression of freedom of expression, especially that of journalists, and the banning of most recreational activity and modern education. Under Taliban rule, women are not allowed the right of free association, and must be accompanied by male relatives outside the home. Religious groups such as Christians and Hindus are oppressed under the Taliban, their institutions and artifacts being destroyed. Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan are also persecuted, despite being 10% of Afghanistan's population. Violations of Taliban law results in extreme punishment, including flogging, stoning, amputation, and death.
The origin of the Taliban lies in the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Several resistance factions arose to combat the Russian forces, including Sunni Mujahideen. Ultimately, the political and financial strain of the unending guerilla war in Afghanistan required a Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Once the Soviet forces left Afghanistan, the Taliban fought with competing warlords and political movements. In 1994 the Taliban achieved dominance over much of the country. Afghanistan became a haven for Islamic terrorists seeking to continue Jihad against the non-Islamic world.
In 2020, then president Donald Trump sought to withdraw from Afghanistan, meeting with the Taliban in Doha to develop a deal and terms for the US leaving. In 2021 President Joe Biden continued the withdrawal process, and expressed confidence that the Western-backed Afghanistan government would be able to successfully combat the Taliban's aspirations of conquest. However, as US forces began the withdrawal process in May, the Taliban launched a military campaign to retake the country. US estimates put Taliban forces at 75,000 combatants, while the Afghan government possessed around 300,000 combatants. Within 3 months, the Taliban took most of Afghanistan and the Western-backed resistance crumbled.
A crisis in Afghanistan developed as coalition countries attempted to evacuate their citizens from the country after it had already fallen to the Taliban. Interpreters, political leaders, and other Western-affiliated Afghans sought international aid in fleeing from the Taliban. Afghan president Ghani fled the country himself in early August 2021, taking refuge in the UAE. The Biden administration suffered a political and media backlash for the failed withdrawal, damaging the administration's approval ratings.
The Taliban reestablished its political order in Afghanistan, with some local militia resistance. The Taliban claimed to Western audiences that they were a reformed order, and would allow for more rights for women, respect for journalists, and other human rights.