The Taliban

The Taliban

The Taliban

The Taliban were born in the fires of the struggle against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. A village clergyman in Kandahar, Mullah Mohammad Omar emerged as a leader in 1994, he had lost an eye fighting the Soviet forces in the 1980s and was a charismatic and authoritarian leader. The Taliban and their supporters were disillusioned with the feuding Mujahideen warlords who after driving out the Soviet invaders had then fallen into conflicts among each other. The Taliban promised to bring peace and enforce Sharia (Islamic law). They proved popular, many Afghanis were fed up of constant fighting and the Taliban started to stamp out corruption and reduce banditry so that trade started to begin again.

The word Taliban is the plural form of the Arabic word Talib or student. Despite its usage in English the term Taliban is not a singular noun, the name originates from the fact that so many of the membership were students of religious seminaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are a Sunni Muslim group. There is some evidence that the US thought the Taliban would bring security to Afghanistan and that would allow US firms to build gas pipelines across the country, some in the US mistakenly believed the Taliban would bring back Afghanistan’s old monarchy.

They expanded quickly from their stronghold in the South West, in 1995 they captured Herat province which borders Iran, within a year they had captured the Afghani capital of Kabul over throwing the regime of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. In 1998 within four years of their emergence they controlled 90% of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s involvement in the Taliban’s rise to power is a source of some debate.

Once in power the Taliban became an authoritarian regime with very hard line views. Islamic punishments including execution and loss of hands for crime were introduced; Television, cinema and music were banned as a corrupting influence. Women above the age of 10 were forbidden to work or be educated; dress codes with men being required to grow a beard and women to wear the full Burqa were introduced and enforced by the religious police. Such policies brought them into conflict with the international community concerned over the rights of women and general abuse of human rights. The Taliban did bring the end to the infighting and unlike many before them made great progress at eradicating the growing of opium poppies. At first the Taliban laws banned the growing of the drug were not widely enforced but by 2001 they had reduced the growing of poppy drastically. Sadly for the rest of the world when the coalition disposed the regime poppy production returned to previous levels with Afghanistan supplying approx 87% of the world’s opium.

This alone would not have brought Western intervention but the Taliban became linked with Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. In allying themselves with the West’s enemies they were to bring about their downfall. In August 1998 Al-Qaeda bombed US embassies in Africa killing over 200 people, the US demanded that the Taliban expel Bin Laden and when they refused the US launched a missile strike at Bin Laden’s camp in the south of Afghanistan. Under US pressure the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the Taliban in 1999 and increased them in 2001. This did little except force the Taliban into a more extreme and isolated position. An example of this was the destruction of two statues of Buddha which had been carved into the hillside at Bamiyan. Each statue was thought to be over 1500 years old and despite Mullah Omar initially supporting the preservation of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage he ordered their destruction in line with the view that Islamic law prohibits any form of idol worship. Japan had offered to pay for the statue's preservation and there are rumours that Pakistani and Saudi Arabian engineers took part in the destruction, with Afghanistan museum treasures being shipped across to Pakistan to be sold off to private collectors. The governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE described the act of destruction as “savage”

Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda were rumoured to have trained a unit of fighters know as 055 Brigade which became part of the Taliban’s Army in 1997. Sharing very similar religious beliefs and political views Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were natural allies; in fact one of Bin Laden’s sons married one of Mullah Omar’s daughters further cementing the alliance.

In the aftermath of September 11th the US once again demanded that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden. They refused although they did offer to try Bin Laden in an Islamic court and on 7th October 2001 a US led Coalition invaded and by December with the aid of anti Taliban Afghani forces had toppled the Taliban from power. The US forces failed to capture Bin Laden, Mullah Omar or many of the Taliban leadership. This has left Coalition forces fighting against Taliban insurgents much like the Russians fought against the Mujahideen 20 years before.

During 2005/ 2006 the Taliban started to remerge. With NATO forces coming under increasing attack as well as aid workers and those involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan risking kidnap or death. In the South and East of Afghanistan the security is threatened by the resurgent Taliban insurgents. Evidence pointed to is that the Taliban have gone to the aid of Pakistani convoys under attack by mujahideen groups, many of the Taliban were educated in Pakistani religious schools (madrassas), and Pakistan was one of the three countries which recognised the regime and were the last to break off relations with them possibly due to US pressure following the September 11th attacks. Ethnically the Taliban’s supporters are mainly Pashtuns, which is the majority group in Afghanistan and who dominate the North West Frontier near Pakistan. The Taliban have considerable support from Pashtuns in Pakistan and rumours persist of their leaders gaining refuge in this wilderness. There are an estimated 40 million ethnic Pashtuns and with the US distracted with the war in Iraq, and the UK forces over stretched, it is clear the problem of the Taliban has far from gone away.



Taliban blow apart 2,000 years of Buddhist history

Deep in the heart of Afghanistan's once serene Bamiyan valley, the sound of gunfire and mortar explosions could be heard yesterday.

Bearded men dressed in baggy salwar kameezes loaded and reloaded their rocket launchers under a clear azure sky. The Taliban fighters were busy - busy destroying two giant Buddhas carved into the hillside nearly 2,000 years ago, busy erasing all traces of a rich pre-Islamic past.

Though no one knows for certain, it seems likely that the massive Buddhas, previously Afghanistan's most famous tourist attraction, have been pulverised. Taliban and opposition sources yesterday confirmed that troops spent all day demolishing them.

"They have started attacking the Buddhas with guns and tank shells, with whatever arms they are carrying," a militia source said last night. "People are firing at them out of their own sentiments."

Western diplomats had hoped that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's spiritual leader, might reconsider the edict he issued on Monday ordering the destruction of all of Afghanistan's statues, which he considers idolatrous.

A tidal wave of international condemnation from the US, Germany, Russia, India, the European Union and even Pakistan, the Taliban's closest ally, made no difference. It appears that local commanders have already launched a ferocious attack, before the statues could be formally blown up.

"We have also heard reports that they are attacking them with rockets and tank shells," opposition spokesman Mohammad Bahram said last night, speaking from the western mountains of Bamiyan, which are controlled by anti-Taliban groups.

The isolated valley, deep in the Hindu Kush mountains, was the scene of heavy fighting last month, when it fell briefly to opposition forces. The Taliban retook it in massive numbers. Much of the hardware they used in that offensive litters the mountainside and is now being deployed against a sandstone enemy unable to fight back.

The valley, visited by Buddhist pilgrims for hundreds of years, was closed to foreigners last month and local Afghans have also been kept out.

In all of Afghanistan's cities, Mullah Omar's edict was being implemented yesterday, some sources suggested. Two days ago the information minister, Qudratullah Jamal, confirmed that the historic statues in Kabul's bombed out museum and in the provinces of Ghazni, Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar were also being destroyed.

Western cultural experts fear that as many as 6,000 Buddhist antiquities - some lying in the basement of the Taliban's information ministry - may already have been destroyed.

Unesco's director-general, Koichiro Matsuura, said: "Words fail me to describe adequately my feelings of consternation and powerlessness as I see the reports of the irreversible damage that is being done to Afghanistan's exceptional cultural heritage."

The destruction, which has only added to the war-shattered pariah state's misery, is being seen by most observers as a defiant response to the fresh wave of UN sanctions imposed on Afghanistan last month.

The country is already in the grip of the worst drought in 30 years, with 12m people affected, 3m of whom are on the brink of starvation. Some half a million Afghans have fled their homes this year, many in a massive exodus to neighbouring Pakistan.

In the capital, Kabul, yesterday, a woman, two-month old baby and four-year-old boy were trampled in a stampede for charity food coupons.


Timeline: The Taliban - 2001

By Laura Hayes and Borgna Brunner

January

The UN adds an arms embargo against the Taliban.

March 12

Ignoring an international outcry, the Taliban blow up two 2,000-year-old Buddhist statues in the cliffs above Bamian.

Religious minorities are ordered to wear tags identifying them as non-Muslims Hindu women are required to veil themselves like other Afghan women.

Taliban bans the use of the Internet, playing cards, computer discs, movies, satellite TV, musical instruments, and chessboards, after declaring them against Islamic law.

August

Eight Christian foreign-aid workers are arrested for proselytizing. Two are American citizens.

Sept. 9

Northern Alliance Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud is wounded in a suicide bombing, allegedly by al-Qaeda operatives. Massoud dies from his wounds several days later.

Sept. 11

Mid-Sept.

Fearing U.S. reprisals, Afghans begin fleeing Kabul. Within a week more than 4,000 people a day try to cross into Pakistan.

U.S. demands that the Taliban hand over bin Laden and al-Qaeda members.

The Taliban offers to turn over bin Laden if presented with evidence of his guilt. They also suggest that they will allow him to be tried by Muslim clerics.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE cut off diplomatic ties. Pakistan pulls diplomats from Afghanistan but maintains ties.

U.N. and Red Cross aid efforts are halted.

Sept. 16

Pakistan's president, General Musharraf, pledges support for U.S. efforts to arrest bin Laden and appeals to his nation for support. Taliban supporters mount demonstrations.

Sept. 24

The Taliban calls for a jihad against America if U.S. forces enter Afghanistan.

Oct. 7

The U.S. begings bombing strategic Taliban sites in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden issues a statement calling on all Muslims to wage a holy war against America.

More pro-Taliban, anti-U.S. demonstrations erupt in Pakistan.

Oct. 19

U.S. begins ground assaults against the Taliban. More than 100 commandos parachute into an airfield near Kandahar while a small number of special operations forces raid a compound used by the Taliban to gather intelligence. Two Americans die when a support helicopter crashes.

Other special forces units are rumored to be aiding the Northern Alliance and hunting bin Laden.

Oct. 26

The Taliban executes former mujahideen leader Abdul Haq, his nephew, and anti-Taliban commander, Haji Dawran. The three had been on a mission to convince several Taliban leaders to defect when they were captured, then tried for treason and espionage.


Taliban

The Taliban is a religious and political group that came to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. Taliban means “students” in Pashto (an official language of Afghanistan). When the group formed, most of its members were former students of Islamic religious schools. The Taliban is known for enforcing strict Islamic law and for its support of terrorism.

Background

From 1978 to 1992, Muslim Afghans fought a civil war against the communist Afghan government. The communist regime collapsed in 1992, and several groups then fought for power in the country. The Taliban was one of those groups. In 1994 the Taliban took over the southern province of Kandahar. By late 1996 the Taliban had seized the capital, Kabul. By 2001 the Taliban controlled all but a small section of northern Afghanistan.

Opposition to the Taliban

Most world governments did not recognize the Taliban as the ruling regime of Afghanistan. They largely disapproved of the Taliban’s interpretation of Shariʿah, or Islamic law. These laws did not allow girls and women to go to school or work, and the punishments for crimes were very severe.

The Taliban also allowed Afghanistan to be a safe place for Islamic terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. When the Taliban refused to send bin Laden to the United States following the September 11 attacks, the United States and their allies attacked Afghanistan. The Taliban was driven from power in December 2001.

The Taliban continued to fight for control in Afghanistan. The group operated out of areas in Pakistan.


THE QUESTION OF GREATER PUSHTUNISTAN

The root of the Pushtunistan problem begins in 1893. It was in that year that Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, foreign secretary of India, demarcated what became known as the Durand line, setting the boundary between British India and Afghanistan, and in the process dividing the Pushtun tribes into two countries.

The status quo continued until 1947, when the British granted both India and Pakistan their independence. Afghanistan (and many Pushtuns in Pakistan) argued that if Pakistan could be independent from India, then the Pushtun areas of Pakistan should likewise have the option for independence as an entity to be called "Pushtunistan," or "land of the Pushtun."(9) Once independent of Pakistan, Pushtunistan would presumably choose to unite with the Pushtun-dominated Afghanistan, to form a "Greater Pushtunistan" (and also bolster the proportion of Pushtuns within Afghanistan).

The Pushtunistan issue continued to simmer into the 1950s, with Afghanistan-based Pushtuns crossing the Durand Line in 1950 and 1951 in order to raise Pushtunistan flags. Daoud, prime minister from 1953 to 1963, supported the Pushtun claims. The issue soon became caught up in Cold War rivalry. As Pakistan ensconced itself more firmly in the American camp, the Soviet Union increasingly supported Afghanistan's Pushtunistan agitations.(10)

In 1955, Pakistan reordered its administrative structure to merge all provinces in West Pakistan into a single unit. While this helped rectify, at least in theory, the power discrepancy between West and East Pakistan (the latter of which became Bangladesh in 1971), Daoud interpreted the move as an attempt to absorb and marginalize the Pushtuns of the Northwest Frontier Province. In March 1955, mobs attacked Pakistan's embassy in Kabul, and ransacked the Pakistani consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar. Pakistani mobs retaliated by sacking the Afghan consulate in Peshawar. Afghanistan mobilized its reserves for war. Kabul and Islamabad agreed to submit their complaints to an arbitration commission consisting of representatives from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey. Arbitration failed, but the process provided time for tempers to cool.(11)

Twice, in 1960 and in 1961, Daoud sent Afghan troops into Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province. In September 1961, Kabul and Islamabad severed diplomatic relations and Pakistan attempted to seal its border with Afghanistan. The Soviet Union was more than happy to provide an outlet, though, for Afghanistan's agricultural exports, which the Soviets airlifted out from the Kabul airport. Between October and November 1961, 13 Soviet aircraft departed Kabul daily, transporting more than 100 tons of Afghan grapes.(12) The New Republic commented, "The Soviet Government does not intend to miss any opportunity to increase its leverage." Indeed, not only did the Soviet Union "save" the Afghan harvest, but Pakistan's blockade also effectively ended the U.S. aid program in Afghanistan.(13)

Pakistan, meanwhile, looked with growing suspicion on the apparent development of a Moscow-New Delhi-Kabul alliance.(14) For the next two years, Afghanistan and Pakistan traded vitriolic radio and press propaganda as Afghan-supported insurgents fought Pakistani units inside the Northwest Frontier Province. On March 9, 1963, Daoud stepped down. Two months later, with the mediation of the Shah of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan reestablished diplomatic relations.

Nevertheless, the Pushtunistan issue did not disappear. In 1964, Zahir Shah called a loya jirga -- a general assembly of tribal leaders and other notables -- during which several delegates spoke out on the issue. Subsequent Afghan prime ministers continued to pay lip service to the issue, keeping the irritant in Afghan-Pakistani relations alive.

Even if Kabul's support for Pushtun nationalist aspirations did not pose a serious challenge to the integrity of Pakistan, the impact on Pakistan-Afghanistan relations was lasting. As Barnett Rubin commented in his 1992 study, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, "The resentments and fears that the Pashtunistan issue aroused in the predominantly Punjabi rulers of Pakistan, especially the military, continue to affect Pakistani perceptions of interests in Afghanistan."(15)


Contents

Origins of Afghanistan's civil war Edit

Afghanistan's political order began to break down with the overthrow of King Zahir Shah by his distant cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan in a bloodless 1973 Afghan coup d'état. Daoud Khan had served as prime minister since 1953 and promoted economic modernization, emancipation of women, and Pashtun nationalism. This was threatening to neighboring Pakistan, faced with its own restive Pashtun population. In the mid-1970s, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began to encourage Afghan Islamist leaders such as Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to fight against the regime. In 1978, Daoud Khan was killed in a coup by Afghan's Communist Party, his former partner in government, known as the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). [104] The PDPA pushed for a socialist transformation by abolishing arranged marriages, promoting mass literacy and reforming land ownership. This undermined the traditional tribal order and provoked opposition across rural areas. The PDPA's crackdown was met with open rebellion, including Ismail Khan's Herat Uprising. The PDPA was beset by internal leadership differences and was weakened by an internal coup on 11 September 1979 when Hafizullah Amin ousted Nur Muhammad Taraki. The Soviet Union, sensing PDPA weakness, intervened militarily three months later, to depose Amin and install another PDA faction led by Babrak Karmal.

The entry of Soviet forces in Afghanistan in December 1979 prompted its Cold War rivals, the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China to support rebels fighting against the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In contrast to the secular and socialist government, which controlled the cities, religiously motivated mujahideen held sway in much of the countryside. Besides Rabbani, Hekmatyar, and Khan, other mujahideen commanders included Jalaluddin Haqqani. The CIA worked closely with Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence to funnel foreign support for the mujahideen. The war also attracted Arab volunteers, known as "Afghan Arabs", including Osama bin Laden.

After the withdrawal of the Soviet military from Afghanistan in May 1989, the PDPA regime under Najibullah held on until 1992, when the dissolution of the Soviet Union deprived the regime of aid, and the defection of Uzbek general Abdul Rashid Dostum cleared the approach to Kabul. With the political stage cleared of socialists, the warlords, some of them Islamist, vied for power.

Warlord rule (1992–1996) Edit

In 1992, Rabbani officially became president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, but had to battle other warlords for control of Kabul. In late 1994, Rabbani's defense minister, Ahmad Shah Massoud, defeated Hekmatyar in Kabul and ended the ongoing bombardment of the capital. [105] [106] [107] Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation. Other warlords, including Ismail Khan in the west and Dostum in the north, maintained their fiefdoms.

In 1994, Mohammed Omar, a mujahideen member who taught at a Pakistani madrassa, returned to Kandahar and formed the Taliban movement. His followers were religious students, known as the Talib, and they sought to end warlordism through strict adherence to Islamic law. By November 1994, the Taliban had captured all of Kandahar Province. They declined the government's offer to join in a coalition government and marched on Kabul in 1995. [108]

Taliban Emirate vs Northern Alliance Edit

The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of costly defeats. [109] Pakistan provided strong support to the Taliban. [110] [111] Analysts such as Amin Saikal described the group as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests, which the Taliban denied. [110] The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995, but were driven back by Massoud. [106] [112]

On 27 September 1996, the Taliban, with military support by Pakistan and financial support from Saudi Arabia, seized Kabul and founded the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. [113] They imposed their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam in areas under their control, issuing edicts forbidding women to work outside the home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. [114] According to the Pakistani expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban. [115] [116]

Massoud and Dostum, former arch-enemies, created a United Front against the Taliban, commonly known as the Northern Alliance. [117] In addition to Massoud's Tajik force and Dostum's Uzbeks, the United Front included Hazara factions and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq and Haji Abdul Qadir. Abdul Haq also gathered a limited number of defecting Pashtun Taliban. [118] Both agreed to work together with the exiled Afghan king Zahir Shah. [116] International officials who met with representatives of the new alliance, which the journalist Steve Coll referred to as the "grand Pashtun-Tajik alliance", said, "It's crazy that you have this today … Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara … They were all ready to buy in to the process … to work under the king's banner for an ethnically balanced Afghanistan." [119] [120] The Northern Alliance received varying degrees of support from Russia, Iran, Tajikistan and India. The Taliban captured Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998 and drove Dostum into exile.

The conflict was brutal. According to the United Nations (UN), the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001. The Taliban especially targeted the Shia Hazaras. [121] [122] In retaliation for the execution of 3,000 Taliban prisoners by Uzbek general Abdul Malik Pahlawan in 1997, the Taliban executed about 4,000 civilians after taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998. [123] [124]

Bin Laden's 055 Brigade was responsible for mass killings of Afghan civilians. [125] The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses in many villages describing "Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people". [121] [122]

By 2001, the Taliban controlled as much as 90% of Afghanistan, with the Northern Alliance confined to the country's northeast corner. Fighting alongside Taliban forces were some 28,000–30,000 Pakistanis (usually also Pashtun) and 2,000–3,000 Al-Qaeda militants. [108] [125] [126] [127] Many of the Pakistanis were recruited from madrassas. [125] A 1998 document by the U.S. State Department confirmed that "20–40 percent of [regular] Taliban soldiers are Pakistani." The document said that many of the parents of those Pakistani nationals "know nothing regarding their child's military involvement with the Taliban until their bodies are brought back to Pakistan". According to the U.S. State Department report and reports by Human Rights Watch, other Pakistani nationals fighting in Afghanistan were regular soldiers, especially from the Frontier Corps, but also from the Pakistani Army providing direct combat support. [111] [128]

Al-Qaeda Edit

In August 1996, Bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan and arrived in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He had founded Al-Qaeda in the late 1980s to support the Mujahideen's war against the Soviets but became disillusioned by infighting among warlords. He grew close to Mullah Omar and moved Al-Qaeda's operations to eastern Afghanistan. [ citation needed ]

The 9/11 Commission in the U.S. found that under the Taliban, al-Qaeda was able to use Afghanistan as a place to train and indoctrinate fighters, import weapons, coordinate with other jihadists, and plot terrorist actions. [129] While al-Qaeda maintained its own camps in Afghanistan, it also supported training camps of other organizations. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 men passed through these facilities before 9/11, most of whom were sent to fight for the Taliban against the United Front. A smaller number were inducted into al-Qaeda. [130]

After the August 1998 United States embassy bombings were linked to bin Laden, President Bill Clinton ordered missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan. U.S. officials pressed the Taliban to surrender bin Laden. In 1999, the international community imposed sanctions on the Taliban, calling for bin Laden to be surrendered. The Taliban repeatedly rebuffed these demands.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Special Activities Division paramilitary teams were active in Afghanistan in the 1990s in clandestine operations to locate and kill or capture Osama bin Laden. These teams planned several operations but did not receive the order to proceed from President Clinton. Their efforts built relationships with Afghan leaders that proved essential in the 2001 invasion. [131]

Change in U.S. policy toward Afghanistan Edit

During the Clinton administration, the U.S. tended to favor Pakistan and until 1998–1999 had no clear policy toward Afghanistan. In 1997, for example, the U.S. State Department's Robin Raphel told Massoud to surrender to the Taliban. Massoud responded that, as long as he controlled an area the size of his hat, he would continue to defend it from the Taliban. [108] Around the same time, top foreign policy officials in the Clinton administration flew to northern Afghanistan to try to persuade the United Front not to take advantage of a chance to make crucial gains against the Taliban. They insisted it was the time for a cease-fire and an arms embargo. At the time, Pakistan began a "Berlin-like airlift to resupply and re-equip the Taliban", financed with Saudi money. [132]

U.S. policy toward Afghanistan changed after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Subsequently, Osama bin Laden was indicted for his involvement in the embassy bombings. In 1999 both the U.S. and the United Nations enacted sanctions against the Taliban via United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267, which demanded the Taliban surrender Osama bin Laden for trial in the U.S. and close all terrorist bases in Afghanistan. [133] The only collaboration between Massoud and the U.S. at the time was an effort with the CIA to trace bin Laden following the 1998 bombings. [134] The U.S. and the European Union provided no support to Massoud for the fight against the Taliban.

By 2001 the change of policy sought by CIA officers who knew Massoud was underway. [135] CIA lawyers, working with officers in the Near East Division and Counter-terrorist Center, began to draft a formal finding for President George W. Bush's signature, authorizing a covert action program in Afghanistan. It would be the first in a decade to seek to influence the course of the Afghan war in favor of Massoud. [113] Richard A. Clarke, chair of the Counter-Terrorism Security Group under the Clinton administration, and later an official in the Bush administration, allegedly presented a plan to incoming Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in January 2001.

A change in U.S. policy was effected in August 2001. [113] The Bush administration agreed on a plan to start supporting Massoud. A meeting of top national security officials agreed that the Taliban would be presented with an ultimatum to hand over bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives. If the Taliban refused, the U.S. would provide covert military aid to anti-Taliban groups. If both those options failed, "the deputies agreed that the United States would seek to overthrow the Taliban regime through more direct action." [136]

Northern Alliance on the eve of 9/11 Edit

Ahmad Shah Massoud was the only leader of the United Front in Afghanistan. In the areas under his control, Massoud set up democratic institutions and signed the Women's Rights Declaration. [137] As a consequence, many civilians had fled to areas under his control. [138] [139] In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban. [140]

In late 2000, Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tajik nationalist and leader of the Northern Alliance, invited several other prominent Afghan tribal leaders to a jirga in northern Afghanistan "to settle political turmoil in Afghanistan". [141] Among those in attendance were Pashtun nationalists, Abdul Haq and Hamid Karzai. [142] [143]

In early 2001, Massoud and several other Afghan leaders addressed the European Parliament in Brussels, asking the international community to provide humanitarian help. The Afghan envoy asserted that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan and Osama bin Laden, the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for another year. Massoud warned that his intelligence had gathered information about an imminent, large-scale attack on U.S. soil. [144]

On 9 September 2001, two French-speaking Algerians posing as journalists killed Massoud in a suicide attack in Takhar Province of Afghanistan. The two perpetrators were later alleged to be members of al-Qaeda. They were interviewing Massoud before detonating a bomb hidden in their video camera. [145] [146] Both of the alleged al-Qaeda men were subsequently killed by Massoud's guards.

Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline Edit

In the 1990s, Russia controlled all export pipelines from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and reportedly refused to allow the use of its pipelines for Kazakh and Turkmeni natural gas. Therefore, international oil companies operating in that region started looking for routes that avoided both Iran and Russia. The 1998 United States embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, interrupted that process.

Planning resumed in 2002. [147] Construction began in Turkmenistan in 2015 and Afghanistan in February 2018. [148] [149]

September 11 attacks Edit

On the morning of September 11, 2001, a total of 19 Arab men—15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia—carried out four coordinated attacks in the United States. Four commercial passenger jet airliners were hijacked. [150] [151] The hijackers – members of al-Qaeda's Hamburg cell [152] – intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and more than 2,000 people in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours from damage related to the crashes, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, in rural Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C., to target the White House, or the U.S. Capitol. No one aboard the flights survived. According to the New York State Health Department, the death toll among responders including firefighters and police was 836 as of June 2009. [153] Total deaths were 2,996, including the 19 hijackers. [153]

U.S. ultimatum to the Taliban Edit

The Taliban publicly condemned the September 11 attacks. [154] U.S. President George W. Bush issued an ultimatum to the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden, "close immediately every terrorist training camp, hand over every terrorist and their supporters, and give the United States full access to terrorist training camps for inspection." [154] Osama bin Laden was protected by the traditional Pashtun laws of hospitality. [155] [156] [157] [158]

After the U.S. invasion, the Taliban repeatedly requested due diligence investigation and willingness to hand over Osama to a third country for due prosecutions. The United States refused and continued bombardments of Kabul airport and other cities. [159] [160] Haji Abdul Kabir, the third most powerful figure in the ruling Taliban regime, told reporters: "If the Taliban is given evidence that Osama bin Laden is involved, we would be ready to hand him over to a third country." [160] At a 15 October 2001 meeting in Islamabad, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the foreign minister of Afghanistan, offered to remove Osama bin Laden to the custody of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to be tried for the 9/11 terror attacks. The OIC is a large organization of 57 member states. Muttawakil by this point had dropped the condition that the U.S. furnish evidence of Osama bin Laden's involvement in the 9/11 attacks as a precondition for the transfer of Osama bin Laden by Afghanistan to the OIC for trial. [161]

2001–2017 Edit

Year(s) Main event(s)
2001 United States invasion of Afghanistan
2002 Post-Anaconda operations
2003–2005 Taliban resurgence, war with Afghan forces
2006 War between NATO forces and Taliban
2007 US build-up, ISAF war against Taliban
2008 Reassessment and renewed commitment and Taliban attacks on supply lines
2008–2009 US action into Pakistan
2009 US reinforcements, Taliban progress
2010 American–British offensive and Afghan peace initiative
2011 US and NATO drawdown
2012 Strategic agreement
2013 Withdrawal
2014 2014: Withdrawal continues and the insurgency increases
2015 Taliban resurgence
2015–2016 Taliban negotiations and Taliban infighting
2015–2018 Taliban offensive in Helmand Province
2016 Peace deal with Hezb-i Islami, Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan (2011–2016)
2017 Events and Donald Trump's Afghan policy

2018 Edit

In January 2018, the BBC reported that the Taliban are openly active in 70% of the country (being in full control of 14 districts and have an active and open physical presence in a further 263) and that Islamic State is more active in the country than ever before. Following attacks by the Taliban and Islamic State that killed scores of civilians, President Trump and Afghan officials decided to rule out any talks with the Taliban. [162]

On 15 February 2018, The New York Times reported the rise of Afghan civilians being intentionally targeted by the Taliban, based on an annual United Nations report released a week earlier. This report offered a detailed assessment of the 16-year Afghan war, showing the rise of complex bombing attacks deliberately targeting civilians in 2017, having 10,453 Afghan civilians wounded or killed. [163] As the US and Afghan government are publishing fewer statistics, the U.N. report is one of the most reliable indicators about the war's impact by 2018. The report emphasizes the rise of "complex attacks", a type of suicide assault that is becoming more deadly, described by the New York Times as the hallmark of the war in 2018. These attacks are referred to as the Taliban's ferocious response to US President Trump's new strategy of war (an increased pace of aerial bombardments targeting Taliban and Islamic State Militants), giving the message that the Taliban can strike at will, even in the capital city, Kabul. The U.N. report included a statement showing the Taliban's position, the Taliban blamed the U.S and its allies for fighting the war in Afghanistan, and it denied targeting civilians. The New York Times quoted Atiqullah Amarkhel, a retired general and military analyst based in Kabul, saying that the UN report proved the failure of peace talks, as the Taliban and the US government are both determined for victory rather than negotiating a settlement. He said "More airstrikes mean more suicide attacks," proving the intensification of the war by 2018. [164]

In July the Taliban carried out the Darzab offensive and captured Darzab District following the surrender of ISIL-K to the Afghan Government.

In August 2018, the Taliban launched a series of offensives, the largest being the Ghazni offensive. During the Ghazni offensive, the Taliban seized Ghazni, Afghanistan's sixth-largest city for several days but eventually retreated. The Taliban were successful in killing hundreds of Afghan soldiers and police and captured several government bases and districts.

Following the offensives Erik Prince, the private military contractor and former head of Blackwater, advocated additional privatization of the war. [165] [166] However, the then-US Defense Secretary James Mattis rebuked the idea, saying, “When Americans put their nation's credibility on the line, privatizing it is probably not a wise idea.” [167]

In September 2018, the United Nations raised concerns over the increasing number of civilian casualties due to air strikes in Afghanistan. The US air force dropped around 3,000 bombs in the first six months of the year, to force Taliban militants for peace talks. In a statement issued by the UNAMA, it reminded all the parties involved in the conflict "to uphold their obligations to protect civilians from harm.” [168]

On 17 October 2018, days before parliamentary election, Abdul Jabar Qahraman, an election candidate was killed in an attack by the Taliban. The Taliban issued a statement, warning teachers and students to not participate in the upcoming elections or use schools as polling centers. [169]

On 17 December 2018, US diplomats held talks with the Taliban, at the United Arab Emirates on possibly ending the war. The Taliban gave conditions of a pullout date for US-led troops before any talks with the Kabul government and has demanded that Washington not oppose the establishment of an Islamist government. However, the US officials have insisted on keeping some troops and at least a couple of bases in the country. The meeting was described by US officials as “part of efforts by the United States and other international partners to promote an intra-Afghan dialogue aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan.” [170]

2019 Edit

On 25 January 2019, Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani said that more than 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed since he became president in 2014. He also said that there had been fewer than 72 international casualties during the same period. [171] A January 2019 report by the US government estimated that 53.8% of Afghanistan's districts were controlled or influenced by the government, with 33.9% contested and 12.3% under insurgent control or influence. [172]

On 4 February 2019, the Taliban attacked a checkpoint in northern Baghlan province. 21 people, including 11 policemen were killed. The same day, another attack took place in northern Samangan province that killed 10 people. [173]

On 25 February 2019, peace talks began between the Taliban and the United States in Qatar, with the Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Barada notably present. US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reported that this round of negotiations was "more productive than they have been in the past" and that a draft version of a peace agreement had been agreed upon. The deal involved the withdrawal of US and international troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban not allowing other jihadist groups to operate within the country. The Taliban also reported that progress was being made in the negotiations. [174]

On 1 March 2019, the Taliban led an assault against Shorab military base, in Helmand, killing 23 security forces and wounding 20. [175]

On 30 April 2019, Afghan government forces undertook clearing operations directed against both ISIS-K and the Taliban in eastern Nangarhar Province, after the two groups fought for over a week over a group of villages in an area of illegal talc mining. The National Directorate of Security claimed 22 ISIS-K fighters were killed and two weapons caches destroyed, while the Taliban claimed US-backed Afghan forces killed seven civilians a provincial official said over 9,000 families had been displaced by the fighting. [176]

On 28 July 2019, President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate Amrullah Saleh’s office was attacked by a suicide bomber and a few militants. At least 20 people were killed and 50 injured, with Saleh also amongst the injured ones. During the six-hour-long operation, more than 150 civilians were rescued and three militants were killed. [177]

By August, the Taliban controlled more territory than at any point since 2001. [178] The Washington Post reported that the US was close to reaching a peace deal with the Taliban and was preparing to withdraw 5,000 troops from Afghanistan. [179] The same month, however, it was later confirmed that some Taliban leaders, including Taliban emir Hibatullah Akhunzada's brother Hafiz Ahmadullah and some other relatives, [180] were killed in a bomb blast at the Khair Ul Madarais mosque, which was located in the Quetta suburb of Kuchlak and had long served as the main meeting place of members of the Taliban. [181] [180] In September, the US canceled the negotiations. [93]

On 3 September 2019, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in Afghanistan's capital, targeting the Green Village Compound in Kabul. According to the reports, nearly 16 civilians died, while 119 were reported to be injured. [182]

On 15 September 2019, 38 Taliban fighters, including two senior commanders, were killed in a joint US-Afghan military operation. [183]

On 17 September 2019, a suicide bomber attacked the campaign rally of President Ashraf Ghani, killing 26 people and wounding 42. Less than an hour later, the Taliban carried out another suicide bomb attack near the US Embassy and the Afghan Defense Ministry, killing 22 people and wounded around 38. [184]

On 27 October 2019, 80 Taliban fighters were killed as a result of joint Afghan-US military operations in Kandahar and Faryab. [185]

2020 Edit

Peace negotiations had resumed in December 2019. [186] This round of talks resulted in a seven-day partial ceasefire which began on 22 February 2020. [187] On 29 February, the United States and the Taliban signed a conditional peace deal in Doha, Qatar [95] that called for a prisoner exchange within ten days and was supposed to lead to U.S. troops withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months. [96] [188] However, the Afghan government was not a party to the deal, and in a press conference the next day, President Ghani criticized the deal for being "signed behind closed doors." He said the Afghan government had "made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners" and that such an action "is not the United States' authority, but it is the authority of the government of Afghanistan.” [189] [190] [191] [192] Ghani also stated that any prisoner exchange "cannot be a prerequisite for talks" but rather must be negotiated within the talks. [193]

The Taliban resumed offensive operations against the Afghan army and police on 3 March, conducting attacks in Kunduz and Helmand provinces. [194] On 4 March, the United States retaliated by launching an air strike against Taliban fighters in Helmand. [195]

On 6 March, ISIS-K killed 32 people in a mass shooting in Kabul. [196] Between 3 and 27 March, the Taliban claimed 405 attacks against Afghan security forces. [197]

On 20 April 2020, Taliban in another attack killed at least 23 Afghan troops and nine civilians. [198]

In April 2020, The New York Times documented Afghan war casualties from 27 March until 23 April and informed that at least 262 pro-government forces, alongside 50 civilians have been killed in almost a month's time. Additionally, hundreds of civilians and Afghan forces also got injured. [199]

On 2 May 2020, Afghan authorities released at least 100 Taliban members from prison in Kabul. This came in response to the peace deal with the US, which the Taliban argues assured them their 5,000 inmates being released. However, the Afghan government, which denied release and any authority by the US over decision, has now agreed to free 1,500 members of the militia organization. [ citation needed ]

On 12 May, A maternity hospital in Kabul was attacked by gunmen, leading to the death of two newborn babies and their mothers, alongside 24 other people. The attackers posed as police officers while wearing police uniforms, which made it possible for them to enter the hospital and opened fire at the people inside. [200] [201]

On 19 May 2020, Afghan forces bombed a clinic in the Northern province of Kunduz. The bombing is the result of Afghan force's decision to go on an offensive, a decision made by President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan. [202]

On 28 May, the first attack was carried out since the three-day ceasefire for Eid al-Fitr holiday ended at a checkpoint in Parwan province of Kabul, which led to the death of at least 14 members of the Afghan security forces. [203] The Taliban was blamed for the attack, based on the statement issued by the spokeswoman to the provincial governor. She added that members of the Taliban were also killed during the attack, although the Taliban is yet to claim responsibility for the attack. [204] [205] According to the District police chief Hussain Shah, the checkpoint was set ablaze by Taliban fighters, killing five security forces in the process, with two others killed by gunshots. [206]

On 29 May, following the attack that claimed the lives of 14 members of the Afghan forces, the government called on the Taliban to prolong the ceasefire deal. [207] A Taliban delegation reportedly arrived in Kabul to negotiate on a prisoner swap by both parties. [208]

According to a report published by the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) on 21 June 2020, fifteen attacks have been carried out on healthcare in Afghanistan, in the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the fifteen attacks, twelve were targeted while the rest were incidental. [209]

In July 2020, the U.S. Military reported that despite the lack of progress in the peace process, the Afghan government was still able to maintain control of Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, most district centers and most major ground lines of communications. [210] There was also a reduction in violence. [210] Also in July, President Ghani reported that since 29 February 2020, 3,560 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed, and 6,781 wounded. [211] On 30 July, a suicide car bomber killed 17 people in Puli Alam, Logar Province. [212]

In August 2020, ISIS-K conducted an attack on a prison in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, killing 29, injuring at least 50, and freeing approximately 300 prisoners. [213]

In August 2020, U.S. intelligence officials assessed that Iran offered bounties to the Taliban-linked Haqqani network to kill foreign servicemembers, including Americans, in Afghanistan. [214] [215] U.S. intelligence determined that Iran paid bounties to Taliban insurgents for the 2019 attack on Bagram airport. [216] According to CNN, Donald Trump's administration has "never mentioned Iran's connection to the bombing, an omission current and former officials said was connected to the broader prioritization of the peace agreement and withdrawal from Afghanistan [ disambiguation needed ] ." [214]

On 14 August 2020, Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan politician and human rights activist, was shot in the arm in an attempted assassination near Kabul. Koofi had been a vocal Taliban critic, and was also a part of the 21-member team responsible for representing the Afghan government in peace talks with the Taliban. [217]

On 12 October 2020, Taliban forces launched a major offensive in Helmand Province, with the UN reporting 35,000 forced to flee their homes. During this fighting on the 14 October, two Afghan Army helicopters evacuating the wounded collided with each other killing all passengers and crew in both aircraft. The Taliban halted the offensive due to US airstrikes. [218]

On 21 October 2020, Taliban militants ambushed Afghanistan security forces in the province of Takhar killing at least 34. [219]

In late October 2020, about 25 Afghan and Australian human rights organizations wrote a letter to the Australian government demanding the release of an inquiry by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, into the war crimes committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. [220]

In November 2020, the White House told the Pentagon to begin planning to bring the troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq down to 2,500 each by 15 January, just days before President Donald Trump would leave office. This came one week after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper for pushing back on Trump's efforts to accelerate the Afghanistan drawdown against the advice of military commanders, including the U.S. and coalition commander Austin S. Miller, setting off a purge of top Pentagon officials. [221] [222]

In December 2020, the Afghan government abandoned 193 checkpoints in Kandahar Province. [223]

2021 Edit

In January 2021, the U.S. reached its target troop level of 2,500 personnel in Afghanistan. This was the lowest force level since 2001. [224]

On February 15, 2021, IS-KP operatives exchanged fire with fighters of an elite unit of the Afghan government in Jalalabad. About 20 fighters of the elite unit were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire, which lasted about six hours. [225]

In March 2021, President Ashraf Ghani confirmed that his government was prepared to take forward peaceful talks with the Taliban. Addressing the lawmakers, he said to hold discussions around new elections and forming a government through a democratic process. [226] During the same month, Germany has decided to send more troops into the country, boosting their forces to 1,300. [227]

In early March, Almar District fell to Taliban forces, [228] and government forces withdrew from a base in Bala Murghab District, Badghis Province. [229] The Ministry of Interior announced that they had withdrawn from 40% of their police checkpoints, and the Taliban established checkpoints on the Kunduz–Takhar and Pul-i-Khumri–Mazar-i-Sharif highways. [229]

On March 22, Charkh District in Logar Province fell to Taliban forces after several ANDSF and policemen were killed by the attacking Taliban militants. The remaining ANDSF forces apparently fled their positions. [230] [231]

On March 29, the New Zealand Defence Force withdrew their forces from Afghanistan, ending New Zealand's involvement in the war. [232]

On April 13, US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of all remaining troops in Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. [233] [234] On the same day, Turkish authorities said that Turkey would host a summit from April 24 to May 4 in an effort to end the war in Afghanistan. [235] The summit was later postponed until after Ramadan. [236]

On April 14, Taliban forces attacked an Afghan military base in Zabul, killing at least 10 Afghan soldiers, including a commander. [237]

On April 15, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the remaining 80 troops deployed to Afghanistan would leave by September, 2021 in line with the US withdrawal. [238]

On April 21, Germany's defense ministry announced that it will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by early July. [239]

A UN report dated May 20, 2021, stated that "the Taliban now contest or control an estimated 50 to 70 per cent of Afghan territory outside of urban centres, while also exerting direct control over 57 per cent of district administrative centres." [240]

Between June 4 and June 5, 2021, Du Ab District fell to the Taliban forces after 20 days of fighting. This marked the 7th district to fall to the Taliban since May 1, 2021. [241]

According to the New York Times, between 1 June and June 11, 327 Afghan security forces and 82 civilians were killed. Also, at least 11 districts had fallen to the Taliban in the same period of time. [242]

Civilian casualties Edit

According to the Watson Institute for International Studies Costs of War Project, roughly 32,000 civilians had been killed as a result of the war up to the middle of 2016. [243] A report titled Body Count put together by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) concluded that 106,000–170,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting in Afghanistan at the hands of all parties to the conflict. [244]

A U.N. report over the year 2009 stated that, of the 1,500 civilians having died from January until the end of August 2009, 70% were blamed on "anti-government elements". [245]

The US website of The Weekly Standard stated in 2010, referring to a UN Report, that 76% of civilian deaths in Afghanistan over the past year had been "caused by the Taliban". [246] That is a misquotation of the UNAMA Report, which does not attribute numbers of deaths directly to the Taliban, but to "anti-government elements" (AGE) and to "pro-government forces" (PGF). Over the period January until June 2010, indeed the report published in August 2010 stated that, of all 3,268 civilian casualties (dead or wounded), 2,477 casualties (76%) were caused by AGE, 386 caused by PGF (11%). [247]

Over the whole of 2010, with a total of 2,777 civilians killed, the UN reported 2,080 civilian deaths caused by "anti-government elements" (75%), "pro-government forces" caused 440 deaths, and 257 deaths "could not be attributed to any party". [248] [249]

In July 2011, a UN report said "1,462 non-combatants died" in the first six months of 2011 (insurgents 80%). [250] In 2011 a record 3,021 civilians were killed, the fifth successive annual rise. [251] According to a UN report, in 2013 there were 2,959 civilian deaths with 74% being blamed on anti-government forces, 8% on Afghan security forces, 3% on ISAF forces, 10% to ground engagements between anti-Government forces and pro-Government forces and 5% of the deaths were unattributed. [252] 60% of Afghans have direct personal experience and most others report suffering a range of hardships. 96% have been affected either personally or from the wider consequences. [253]

In 2015, according to the United Nations (UN) annual report there were 3,545 civilian deaths and 7,457 people wounded. [254] The anti-government elements were responsible for 62% of the civilians killed or wounded. The pro-government forces caused 17% of civilian deaths and injuries – including United States and NATO troops, which were responsible for about 2% of the casualties. [255]

In 2016, a total of 3,498 civilians deaths and 7,920 injuries were recorded by the United Nations. The UN attributed 61% of casualties to anti-government forces. [256] Afghan security forces caused about 20% of the overall casualties, while pro-government militias and Resolute Support Mission caused 2% each. Air strikes by US and NATO warplanes resulted in at least 127 civilian deaths and 108 injuries. While, the Afghan air force accounted for at least 85 deaths and 167 injuries. The UN was not able to attribute responsibility for the remaining 38 deaths and 65 injuries resulting from air strikes. [257]

During the parliamentary elections on 20 October 2018, several explosions targeting the polling stations took place. At least 36 people were killed and 130 were injured. Previously, ten election candidates were killed during the campaigning by the Taliban and the Islamic State group. [258]

On 28 December 2018 a report issued by UNICEF revealed that during the first nine months of 2018, five thousand children were killed or injured in Afghanistan. [259] Manuel Fontaine UNICEF Director of Emergency Programs said the world has forgotten children living in conflict zones. [260]

According to the Human Rights Watch, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded during 2018, out of which one third were children. Reportedly, countless deadly attacks were carried out in urban areas by insurgents. Airstrikes and night raids by the US and Afghan forces also caused heavy civilian casualties. [261]

Healthcare Edit

According to Nicholas Kristoff, improved healthcare resulting from the war has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. [262]

A September 2019 Taliban attack destroyed most buildings of the main hospital in southern Afghanistan and killed almost 40 people, due to which the country is now reportedly struggling to efficiently fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. [263]

Since 2001, life expectancy has increased from 56 to 64 years and the maternal mortality rate has reduced by half. 89% of residents living in cities have access to clean water, up from 16% in 2001. The rate of child marriage has been reduced by 17%. [264]

Refugees Edit

Since 2001, more than 5.7 million former refugees have returned to Afghanistan, [265] [266] [267] but 2.5 million others remained refugees in 2019. [268] In January 2013 the UN estimated that 547,550 were internally displaced persons, a 25% increase over the 447,547 IDPs estimated for January 2012 [267] [268] [269]

Interpreters Edit

Afghans who interpreted for the British army have been tortured and killed in Afghanistan, including their families. As of May 2018 the UK government has not resettled any interpreter or family member in the UK. [270]

Drug trade Edit

From 1996 to 1999, the Taliban controlled 96% of Afghanistan's poppy fields and made opium its largest source of revenue. Taxes on opium exports became one of the mainstays of Taliban income. According to Rashid, "drug money funded the weapons, ammunition and fuel for the war." In The New York Times, the Finance Minister of the United Front, Wahidullah Sabawoon, declared the Taliban had no annual budget but that they "appeared to spend US$300 million a year, nearly all of it on war". He added that the Taliban had come to increasingly rely on three sources of money: "poppy, the Pakistanis and bin Laden". [271]

By 2000 Afghanistan accounted for an estimated 75% of the world's opium supply and in 2000 produced an estimated 3276 tonnes from 82,171 hectares (203,050 acres). [272] Omar then banned opium cultivation and production dropped to an estimated 74 metric tonnes from 1,685 hectares (4,160 acres). [273] Some observers say the ban – which came in a bid for international recognition at the United Nations – was issued only to raise opium prices and increase profit from the sale of large existing stockpiles. 1999 had yielded a record crop and had been followed by a lower but still large 2000 harvest. The trafficking of accumulated stocks continued in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, the UN mentioned the "existence of significant stocks of opiates accumulated during previous years of bumper harvests". In September 2001 – before 11 September attacks against the US – the Taliban allegedly authorized Afghan peasants to sow opium again. [271]

Soon after the invasion opium production increased markedly. [274] By 2005, Afghanistan was producing 90% of the world's opium, most of which was processed into heroin and sold in Europe and Russia. [275] In 2009, the BBC reported that "UN findings say an opium market worth $65bn (£39bn) funds global terrorism, caters to 15 million addicts, and kills 100,000 people every year". [276]

United States officials have stated that winning the War on drugs in Afghanistan is integral for winning the War on Terror in Afghanistan, asking for international assistance in drug eradication efforts. [277]

Public education Edit

As of 2017, the Afghan government has cooperated with Taliban forces to provide education services: in Khogyani District, the government is given "nominal control" by local Taliban fighters in return for paying the wages of teachers whom the Taliban appoint in local schools. [278]

All Afghan children are legally required to complete class nine. In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported that the Afghan government was unable to provide a system to ensure all children received this level of education and, in practice, many children missed out. [279] In 2018, UNICEF reported that 3.7 million children between the ages of seven and 17, or 44 percent, were not attending school. [280]

Girls' education Edit

As of 2013, 8.2 million Afghans attended school, including 3.2 million girls, up from 1.2 million in 2001, including fewer than 50,000 girls. [281] [282] The literacy rate has risen from 8% to 43% since 2001. [283]

While the Taliban typically opposed girls' education, in 2017 in Khogyani District it has allowed girls to receive education in order to improve its standing among local residents. [278]

In 2018, UNICEF reported that sixty percent of girls did not attend school. In some provinces such as Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Paktika, Zabul and Uruzgan, 85 percent of girls were not going to school. [280]

War crimes (a serious violation of the laws and customs of war giving rise to individual criminal responsibility) [284] have been committed by both sides including civilian massacres, bombings of civilian targets, terrorism, use of torture and the murder of prisoners of war. Additional common crimes include theft, arson, and destruction of property not warranted by military necessity.

Taliban Edit

On 7 August 2010, Taliban gunmen killed medical aid workers in Afghanistan. After returning from an on foot trip to provide medical aid and care, the group of six Americans, a Briton, a German and four Afghans was accosted and shot by gunmen in a nearby forest in the Hindu Kush mountains. [285] This attack was the largest massacre on aid workers in Afghanistan and the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. [285] The Taliban claimed the Christian aid group which had been active in Afghanistan was responsible for spying, and that they were not providing any actual aid. This attack on aid workers constitutes one of the many war crimes committed by the Taliban. [285]

In 2011, The New York Times reported that the Taliban was responsible for 3 ⁄ 4 of all civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan. [286] [287] In 2013 the UN stated that the Taliban had been placing bombs along transit routes. [288]

In 2015, Amnesty International reported that the Taliban committed mass murder and gang rape of Afghan civilians in Kunduz. [289] Taliban fighters killed and raped female relatives of police commanders and soldiers as well as midwives. [289] One female human rights activist described the situation in the following manner: [289]

"When the Taliban asserted their control over Kunduz, they claimed to be bringing law and order and Shari'a to the city. But everything they've done has violated both. I don't know who can rescue us from this situation."

On 25 July 2019, there were three explosions in the capital of Kabul that killed at least fifteen people, leaving dozens wounded. [290] The attack was targeting a bus carrying government officials from the ministry of mines and petroleum. [290] The attacks left five women and children dead. Minutes later, a suicide bomber blew himself up nearby and this resulted in another seven dead. [290] A spokesman for the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks. [290]

Northern Alliance Edit

In December 2001, the Dasht-i-Leili massacre took place, where between 250 and 3,000 Taliban fighters who had surrendered, were shot and/or suffocated to death in metal truck containers during transportation by Northern Alliance forces. Reports place US ground troops at the scene. [291] [292] [293] The Irish documentary Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death investigated these allegations and claimed that mass graves of thousands of victims were found by UN investigators [294] and that the US blocked investigations into the incident. [295]

NATO and allies Edit

On 21 June 2003, David Passaro, a CIA contractor and former United States Army Ranger, killed Abdul Wali, a prisoner at a US base 16 km (10 mi) south of Asadabad, in Kunar Province. Passaro was found guilty of one count of felony assault with a dangerous weapon and three counts of misdemeanor assault. On 10 August 2009, he was sentenced to 8 years and 4 months in prison. [296] [297]

In 2002, two unarmed civilian Afghan prisoners were tortured and later killed by US armed forces personnel at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (also Bagram Collection Point or B.C.P.) in Bagram, Afghanistan. [298] The prisoners, Habibullah and Dilawar, were chained to the ceiling and beaten, which caused their deaths. [299] Military coroners ruled that both the prisoners' deaths were homicides. [300] Autopsies revealed severe trauma to both prisoners' legs, describing the trauma as comparable to being run over by a bus. Fifteen soldiers were charged.

During the summer of 2010, ISAF charged five United States Army soldiers with the murder of three Afghan civilians in Kandahar province and collecting their body parts as trophies in what came to be known as the Maywand District murders. In addition, seven soldiers were charged with crimes such as hashish use, impeding an investigation and attacking the whistleblower, Specialist Justin Stoner. [301] [302] [303] Eleven of the twelve soldiers were convicted on various counts. [304]

A British Royal Marine Sergeant, identified as Sergeant Alexander Blackman from Taunton, Somerset, [305] was convicted at court martial in Wiltshire of the murder of an unarmed, reportedly wounded, Afghan fighter in Helmand Province in September 2011. [306] In 2013, he received a life sentence from the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, and was dismissed with disgrace from the Royal Marines. In 2017, after appeal to the Court Martial Appeal Court (CMAC), his conviction was lessened to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and the sentence was reduced to seven years effectively releasing Blackman due to time served. [307]

On 11 March 2012, the Kandahar massacre occurred when sixteen civilians were killed and six wounded in the Panjwayi District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. [308] [309] Nine of the victims were children, [309] and eleven of the dead were from the same family. [310] United States Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was taken into custody and charged with sixteen counts of premeditated murder. Bales pleaded guilty to sixteen counts of premeditated murder as part of a plea deal to avoid a death sentence, and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without parole and dishonorably discharged from the United States Army. [311]

On 3 October 2015, the USAF attacked a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz. 42 people were killed and over 30 were injured in the airstrike. [312] Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that it may have been a war crime. [313] Under the Law of Armed Conflict, medical facilities lose their protections if they are used for hostile actions. [ relevant? ] A 700-page investigation was published [ by whom? ] and it was determined to not be in violation with the Law of Armed Conflict. [314] [ non-primary source needed ] Eleven days after the attack, a US tank made its way into the hospital compound. Doctors Without Borders officials said: "Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear for the MSF team." [315] An investigation was approved by General John F Campbell on 21 November 2015. The team had full access to classified information, and the investigation includes more than 3,000 pages of documentary evidence, much of it classified. The Commander of USFOR-A (United States Forces - Afghanistan) concluded that certain personnel failed to comply with the rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict. However, the investigation did not conclude that these failures amounted to a war crime. The label "war crimes" is typically reserved for intentional acts—intentionally targeting civilians or intentionally targeting protected objects (like hospitals). [ according to whom? ] Under the law of armed conflict, persons participating in hostilities must assess the military necessity of an action based on the information readily available to them at the time they cannot be judged based on information that subsequently comes to light. [316] [ non-primary source needed ] The investigation found that the incident resulted from a mixture of human errors and equipment failures, and that none of the personnel knew they were striking a medical facility, [314]

In November 2014, Amnesty International accused the Pentagon of covering up evidence related to war crimes, torture and unlawful killings in Afghanistan. [317]

In September 2018, the United States threatened to arrest and impose sanctions on International Criminal Court judges and other officials if they tried to charge any US soldier who served in Afghanistan with war crimes. [318] The US further claimed that they would not cooperate in any way with the International Criminal Court in the Hague if it carries out a prospective investigation into allegations of war crimes by US military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan. [319] On 12 April 2019 a panel of ICC judges decided that they would not open an investigation in Afghanistan. The Court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda provided a report that established "a reasonable basis" that crimes had been committed, but they decided against continuing because the US and other parties would not cooperate. [320] [321]

Australian whistleblower David McBride leaked classified documents to ABC journalists in 2017, who went on to produce a series called The Afghan Files. [322] The documents covered a wide range of topics, however most notably it detailed multiple cases of unlawful killings of unarmed civilians. [323] In response to the leak, the Australian Federal Police raided the ABC's offices in June 2019. [324]

In March 2020, senior judges at the international criminal court called for the investigation into war crimes by the US, Afghan and Taliban troops in Afghanistan. The ruling overturned the previous rejection of probe into US’ role in committing war crimes. [325]

The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force publibly released a redacted version of the Afghanistan Inquiry, otherwise known as the Brereton Report, [326] in November 2020, detailing misconduct by Australian troops in Afghanistan, predominantly the SAS. [327] It found evidence of 39 unlawful killings by Australian forces, including murdering non-combatants and the execution of prisoners, resulting in the disbandment of an SAS squadron and a police investigation. [328]

The cost of the war reportedly was a major factor as US officials considered drawing down troops in 2011. [329] The estimate for the cost of deploying one US soldier in Afghanistan is over US$1 million a year. [330]

In March 2019, the United States Department of Defense estimated fiscal obligations of $737,592,000,000 have incurred expended during FY2001 to FY2018 in Afghanistan, at a cost of $3,714 per taxpayer. [331] However Brown University research came up with a higher figure of $975 billion for FY2001 to FY2019. [332]

For FY2019, the United States Department of Defense requested

$46,300,000,000 for Operation FREEDOM'S SENTINEL (US codename for War in Afghanistan) and Related Missions [333]

According to "Investment in Blood", a book by Frank Ledwidge, summations for the UK contribution to the war in Afghanistan came to £37bn ($56.46 billion). [334]

Criticism of costs Edit

In 2011, the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting reported to Congress that, during the previous decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States had lost between $31 and $60 billion to waste and fraud and that this amount may continue to increase. [335]

In the summer of 2013, preparing for withdrawal the following year, the US military destroyed over 77,000 metric tons of equipment and vehicles worth over $7 billion that could not be shipped back to the United States. Some was sold to Afghans as scrap metal. [336] In 2013, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a US government oversight body, criticized the misuse or waste of hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid, including the $772 million purchase of aircraft for the Afghan military especially since "the Afghans lack the capacity to operate and maintain them." [337]

The "Lessons Learned," a confidential report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), estimates that 40% of U.S. aid to Afghanistan since 2001 ended up in the pockets of corrupt officials, warlords, criminals and insurgents. [338] Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, told the investigators in a 2016 interview, "You just cannot put those amounts of money into a very fragile state and society, and not have it fuel corruption." [339]

In a 2008 interview, the then-head US Central Command General David H. Petraeus, insisted that the Taliban were gaining strength. He cited a recent increase in attacks in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan. Petraeus insisted that the problems in Afghanistan were more complicated than the ones he had faced in Iraq during his tour and required removing widespread sanctuaries and strongholds. [340]

Observers have argued that the mission in Afghanistan is hampered by a lack of agreement on objectives, a lack of resources, lack of coordination, too much focus on the central government at the expense of local and provincial governments, and too much focus on the country instead of the region. [341]

In 2009, Afghanistan moved three places in Transparency International's annual index of corruption, becoming the world's second most-corrupt country just ahead of Somalia. [342] In the same month, Malalai Joya, a former member of the Afghan Parliament and the author of "Raising My Voice", expressed opposition to an expansion of the US military presence and her concerns about the future. "Eight years ago, the US and NATO—under the banner of women's rights, human rights, and democracy—occupied my country and pushed us from the frying pan into the fire. Eight years is enough to know better about the corrupt, mafia system of President Hamid Karzai. My people are crushed between two powerful enemies. From the sky, occupation forces bomb and kill civilians … and on the ground, the Taliban and warlords continue their crimes. It is better that they leave my country my people are that fed up. Occupation will never bring liberation, and it is impossible to bring democracy by war." [343]

Pakistan plays a central role in the conflict. A 2010 report published by the London School of Economics says that Pakistan's ISI has an "official policy" of support to the Taliban. [344] "Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of astonishing magnitude," the report states. [344] Amrullah Saleh, former director of Afghanistan's intelligence service, stated, "We talk about all these proxies [Taliban, Haqqanis] but not the master of proxies, which is the Pakistan army. The question is what does Pakistan's army want to achieve …? They want to gain influence in the region" [345] About the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan he stated: "[T]hey fight for the US national interest but … without them we will face massacre and disaster and God knows what type of a future Afghanistan will have." [345] [346]

The New York Times reports that the US created a 'void' that allowed other countries to step in. For example, Iran is making efforts to expand influence into Afghanistan and fill the vacuum. In the past two decades, the US took out two of Iran's regional enemies: Saddam Hussein through the Iraq War as well as the Taliban. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are other 'dominant players'. Once enemies, Iran and the Taliban have strengthened ties, with Russian assistance as well, to 'bleed' the American force. Lately, the Taliban has been 'diversifying' its sources by calling for economic support from Dubai, UAE and Bahrain. Pakistan has also given economic support and encouraged increased Iran-Taliban ties. [347]

Iran and Russia, emboldened by their alliance in the Syrian Civil War, have also initiated a 'proxy war' in Afghanistan against the US. [347]

The article says that Afghans yearn for the days when they were at the center of the thriving Silk Road connecting China to Europe. Iran plans to build roads from Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf so that Afghanistan would not be landlocked anymore. Herat is sometimes referred to as 'Little Iran' and during the Soviet–Afghan War many Afghans fled to Iran for refuge. [347]

China has also been quietly expanding its influence. Since 2010 China has signed mining contracts with Kabul [348] and is even building a military base in Badakshan to counter regional terrorism (from the ETIM). [349] China has donated billions of dollars in aid over the years to Afghanistan, which plays a strategic role in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Diplomat says that China has the potential to play an important role in bringing peace and stability to the region. [349]

According to senior administration officials, Donald Trump said during a meeting at the White House in July 2017 that the US was losing the war and had considered firing the US generals in charge. [348] An article in NBC said that what set Trump apart during that meeting relative to his predecessors was his open questioning of the quality of the advice that he was receiving. [348]

In December 2019 The Washington Post published 2,000 pages of government documents, mostly transcripts of interviews with more than 400 key figures involved in prosecuting the Afghanistan war. According to the Post and the Guardian, the documents (dubbed the Afghanistan Papers) showed that US officials consistently and deliberately misled the American public about the unwinnable nature of the conflict, [350] and some commentators and foreign policy experts subsequently drew comparisons to the release of the Pentagon Papers. [350] The Post obtained the documents from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, via FISA requests, after a three-year legal battle. [351] [350]

Afghan National Army Edit

US policy called for boosting the Afghan National Army to 134,000 soldiers by October 2010. By May 2010 the Afghan Army had accomplished this interim goal and was on track to reach its ultimate number of 171,000 by 2011. [352] This increase in Afghan troops allowed the US to begin withdrawing its forces in July 2011. [353] [354]

In 2010, the Afghan National Army had limited fighting capacity. [355] Even the best Afghan units lacked training, discipline and adequate reinforcements. In one new unit in Baghlan Province, soldiers had been found cowering in ditches rather than fighting. [356] Some were suspected of collaborating with the Taliban. [355] "They don't have the basics, so they lay down," said Capt. Michael Bell, who was one of a team of US and Hungarian mentors tasked with training Afghan soldiers. "I ran around for an hour trying to get them to shoot, getting fired on. I couldn't get them to shoot their weapons." [355] In addition, 9 out of 10 soldiers in the Afghan National Army were illiterate. [357]

The Afghan Army was plagued by inefficiency and endemic corruption. [358] US training efforts were drastically slowed by the problems. [359] US trainers reported missing vehicles, weapons and other military equipment, and outright theft of fuel. [355] Death threats were leveled against US officers who tried to stop Afghan soldiers from stealing. Afghan soldiers often snipped the command wires of IEDs instead of marking them and waiting for US forces to come to detonate them. This allowed insurgents to return and reconnect them. [355] US trainers frequently removed the cell phones of Afghan soldiers hours before a mission for fear that the operation would be compromised. [360] American trainers often spent large amounts of time verifying that Afghan rosters were accurate—that they are not padded with "ghosts" being "paid" by Afghan commanders who stole the wages. [361]

Desertion was a significant problem. One in every four combat soldiers quit the Afghan Army during the 12-month period ending in September 2009, according to data from the US Defense Department and the Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan. [362]

In early 2015, Philip Munch of the Afghanistan Analysts' Network wrote that '..the available evidence suggests that many senior ANSF members, in particular, use their positions to enrich themselves. Within the ANSF there are also strong external loyalties to factions who themselves compete for influence and access to resources. All this means that the ANSF may not work as they officially should. Rather it appears that the political economy of the ANSF prevents them from working like modern organisations – the very prerequisite' of the Resolute Support Mission. [363] Formal and informal income, Munch said, which can be generated through state positions, is rent-seeking – income without a corresponding investment of labour or capital. 'Reportedly, ANA appointees also often maintain clients, so that patron-client networks, structured into competing factions, can be traced within the ANA down to the lowest levels. . There is evidence that Afghan officers and officials, especially in the higher echelons, appropriate large parts of the vast resource flows which are directed by international donors into the ANA. [364]

Most Afghan fighters being trained by the U.S. habitually use opium, and it is a constant struggle to field them in a sober state. [365] Rape in U.S.-run military facilities by other Afghan soldiers also plagues Afghan recruits and undermines combat readiness. [366] A report by a U.S. inspector general revealed 5,753 cases of "gross human rights abuses by Afghan forces," including "routine enslavement and rape of underage boys by Afghan commanders." [367]

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has reported that roughly half of Afghan soldiers brought to the United States for training go absent without leave which may inhibit the operational readiness of their units back in Afghanistan, negatively impact the morale of other trainees and home units and pose security risks to the United States. [368]

Afghan National Police Edit

The Afghan National Police provides support to the Afghan army. Police officers in Afghanistan are also largely illiterate. Approximately 17% of them tested positive for illegal drugs in 2010. They were widely accused of demanding bribes. [369] Attempts to build a credible Afghan police force were faltering badly, according to NATO officials. [370] A quarter of the officers quit every year, making the Afghan government's goals of substantially building up the police force even harder to achieve. [370]

The armed opposition or anti-government elements – some Western news media tend to address them all simply as "Taliban" [371] – have from 2008 into 2009 shifted their tactics from frontal attacks on pro-government forces to guerrilla type activities, including suicide, car and road side bombs (IEDs), and targeted assassinations, said a UNAMA report in July 2009. [372] Mr. Maley, an Afghanistan expert at the Australian National University, stated in 2009 that IEDs had become Taliban's weapon of choice. [371]

In 2008–2009, according to the Christian Science Monitor, 16 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were planted in girls' schools in Afghanistan, but there is no certainty who did it. [371]

ISAF conception of Taliban strategy Edit

In 2009, Colonel Richard Kemp, formerly Commander of British forces in Afghanistan and current intelligence coordinator for the British government – thus part of the anti-Taliban coalition (ISAF), made these comments about the Taliban tactics and strategy as he perceived them:

Like Hamas in Gaza, the Taliban in southern Afghanistan are masters at shielding themselves behind the civilian population and then melting in among them for protection. Women and children are trained and equipped to fight, collect intelligence, and ferry arms and ammunition between battles. Female suicide bombers are increasingly common. The use of women to shield gunmen as they engage NATO forces is now so normal it is deemed barely worthy of comment. Schools and houses are routinely booby-trapped. Snipers shelter in houses deliberately filled with women and children. [373] [374]

Beginning in 2011, insurgent forces in Afghanistan began using a tactic of insider attacks on ISAF and Afghan military forces. In the attacks, Taliban personnel or sympathizers belonging to, or pretending to belong to, the Afghan military or police forces attack ISAF personnel, often within the security of ISAF military bases and Afghan government facilities. In 2011, for example, 21 insider attacks killed 35 coalition personnel. Forty-six insider attacks killed 63 and wounded 85 coalition troops, mostly American, in the first 11 months of 2012. [375] The attacks continued but began diminishing towards the planned 31 December 2014 ending of combat operations in Afghanistan by ISAF. However, on 5 August 2014, a gunman in an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a number of international military personnel, killing a US general and wounding about 15 officers and soldiers, including a German brigadier general and 8 US troops, at a training base west of Kabul. [376]

Domestic reactions Edit

In November 2001, the CNN reported widespread relief amongst Kabul's residents after the Taliban fled the city, with young men shaving off their beards and women taking off their burqas. [377] Later that month the BBC's longtime Kabul correspondent Kate Clark reported that "almost all women in Kabul are still choosing to veil" but that many felt hopeful that the ousting of the Taliban would improve their safety and access to food. [378]

A 2006 WPO opinion poll found that the majority of Afghans endorsed America's military presence, with 83% of Afghans stating that they had a favorable view of the US military forces in their country. Only 17% gave an unfavorable view. [379] The majority of Afghans, among all ethnic groups including Pashtuns, stated that the overthrowing of the Taliban was a good thing. 82% of Afghans as a whole and 71% of those living in the war zone held this anti-Taliban view. [380] The Afghan population gave the USA one of its most favorable ratings in the world. A solid majority (81%) of Afghans stated that they held a favorable view of the USA. [381] However, the majority of Afghans (especially those in the war zone) held negative views on Pakistan and most Afghans also stated that they believe that the Pakistani government was allowing the Taliban to operate from its soil. [382]

Polls of Afghans displayed strong opposition to the Taliban and significant support of the US military presence. However, the idea of permanent US military bases was not popular in 2005. [383]

According to a May 2009 BBC poll, 69% of Afghans surveyed thought it was at least mostly good that the US military came in to remove the Taliban—a decrease from 87% of Afghans surveyed in 2005. 24% thought it was mostly or very bad—up from 9% in 2005. The poll indicated that 63% of Afghans were at least somewhat supportive of a US military presence in the country—down from 78% in 2005. Just 18% supported increasing the US military's presence, while 44% favored reducing it. 90% of Afghans surveyed opposed the Taliban, including 70% who were strongly opposed. By an 82%–4% margin, people said they preferred the current government to Taliban rule. [384]

In a June 2009 Gallup survey, about half of Afghan respondents felt that additional US forces would help stabilize the security situation in the southern provinces. But opinions varied widely residents in the troubled South were mostly mixed or uncertain, while those in the West largely disagreed that more US troops would help the situation. [385]

In December 2009, many Afghan tribal heads and local leaders from the south and east called for US troop withdrawals. "I don't think we will be able to solve our problems with military force," said Muhammad Qasim, a Kandahar tribal elder. "We can solve them by providing jobs and development and by using local leaders to negotiate with the Taliban." [386] "If new troops come and are stationed in civilian areas, when they draw Taliban attacks civilians will end up being killed," said Gulbadshah Majidi, a lawmaker and close associate of Mr. Karzai. "This will only increase the distance between Afghans and their government." [387]

In late January 2010, Afghan protesters took to the streets for three straight days and blocked traffic on a highway that links Kabul and Kandahar. The Afghans were demonstrating in response to the deaths of four men in a NATO-Afghan raid in the village of Ghazni. Ghazni residents insisted that the dead were civilians. [388]

A 2015 survey by Langer Research Associates found that 77% of Afghans support the presence of US forces 67% also support the presence of NATO forces. Despite the problems in the country, 80% of Afghans still held the view that it was a good thing for the United States to overthrow the Taliban in 2001. More Afghans blame the Taliban or al-Qaeda for the country's violence (53%) than those who blame the USA (12%). [389] [390]

International reactions Edit

A 47-nation global survey of public opinion conducted in June 2007 by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found considerable opposition to the NATO military operations in Afghanistan. Only Israel and Kenya citizens were in favor of the war. [391] On the other hand, in 41 of the 47 countries pluralities wanted NATO troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. The authors of the survey mentioned a "global unease with major world powers" and in America that "Afghan War not worth it". [391] In 32 out of 47 countries majorities wanted NATO troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Majorities in 7 out of 12 NATO member countries wanted troops withdrawn as soon as possible. [391] [392] [393]

In 2008 there was a strong opposition to war in Afghanistan in 21 of 24 countries surveyed. Only in the US and Great Britain did half the people support the war, with a larger percentage (60%) in Australia. [394] Since then, public opinion in Australia and Britain has shifted, and the majority of Australians and British now also want their troops to be brought home from Afghanistan. Authors of articles on the issue mentioned that "Australians lose faith in Afghan War effort" and "cruel human toll of fight to win Afghan peace". [395] [396] [397] [398] Of the seven NATO countries in the survey, not one showed a majority in favor of keeping NATO troops in Afghanistan – one, the US, came close to a majority (50%). Of the other six NATO countries, five had majorities of their population wanting NATO troops removed from Afghanistan as soon as possible. [394]

The 2009 global survey reported that majorities or pluralities in 18 out of 25 countries wanted NATO to remove their troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. [399] : 22 Despite American calls for NATO allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, there was majority or plurality opposition to such action in every one of the NATO countries surveyed. [399] : 39

Public opinion in 2001 Edit

When the invasion began in October 2001, polls indicated that about 88% of Americans and about 65% of Britons backed military action. [400]

A large-scale 37-nation poll of world opinion carried out by Gallup International in late September 2001 found that large majorities in most countries favored a legal response, in the form of extradition and trial, over a military response to 9/11: only three countries out of the 37 surveyed—the US, Israel and India—did majorities favor military action. In the other 34 countries surveyed, the poll found many clear majorities that favored extradition and trial instead of military action: in the United Kingdom (75%), France (67%), Switzerland (87%), Czech Republic (64%), Lithuania (83%), Panama (80%) and Mexico (94%). [401] [402]

An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted between November and December 2001 showed that majorities in Canada (66%), France (60%), Germany (60%), Italy (58%), and the UK (65%) approved of US airstrikes while majorities in Argentina (77%), China (52%), South Korea (50%), Spain (52%), and Turkey (70%) opposed them. [403]

Development of public opinion Edit

In a 47-nation June 2007 survey of global public opinion, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found international opposition to the war. Out of the 47 countries surveyed, 4 had a majority that favored keeping foreign troops: the US (50%), Israel (59%), Ghana (50%), and Kenya (60%). In 41, pluralities wanted NATO troops out as soon as possible. [391] In 32 out of 47, clear majorities wanted war over as soon as possible. Majorities in 7 out of 12 NATO member countries said troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible. [391] [404]

A 24-nation Pew Global Attitudes survey in June 2008 similarly found that majorities or pluralities in 21 of 24 countries want the US and NATO to remove their troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Only in three out of the 24 countries—the US (50%), Australia (60%), and Britain (48%)—did public opinion lean more toward keeping troops there until the situation has stabilized. [405] [406]

Following that June 2008 global survey, however, public opinion in Australia and Britain diverged from that in the US. A majority of Australians and Britons now want their troops home. A September 2008 poll found that 56% of Australians opposed continuation of their country's military involvement. [396] [408] [409] A November 2008 poll found that 68% of Britons wanted their troops withdrawn within the next 12 months. [395] [410] [411]

In the US, a September 2008 Pew survey found that 61% of Americans wanted US troops to stay until the situation has stabilized, while 33% wanted them removed as soon as possible. [412] Public opinion was divided over Afghan troop requests: a majority of Americans continued to see a rationale for the use of military force in Afghanistan. [413] A slight plurality of Americans favored troop increases, with 42%–47% favoring some troop increases, 39%–44% wanting reduction, and 7–9% wanting no changes. Just 29% of Democrats favored troop increases while 57% wanted to begin reducing troops. Only 36% of Americans approved of Obama's handling of Afghanistan, including 19% of Republicans, 31% of independents, and 54% of Democrats. [414]

In a December 2009 Pew Research Center poll, only 32% of Americans favored increasing US troops in Afghanistan, while 40% favored decreasing them. Almost half of Americans, 49%, believed that the US should "mind its own business" internationally and let other countries get along the best they can. That figure was an increase from 30% who said that in December 2002. [415]

An April 2011 Pew Research Center poll showed little change in American views, with about 50% saying that the effort was going very well or fairly well and only 44% supporting NATO troop presence in Afghanistan. [416]

Protests, demonstrations and rallies Edit

The war has been the subject of large protests around the world starting with the large-scale demonstrations in the days leading up to the invasion and every year since. Many protesters consider the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan to be unjustified aggression. [417] [418] The deaths of Afghan civilians caused directly and indirectly by the US and NATO bombing campaigns is a major underlying focus of the protests. [419] In January 2009, Brave New Foundation launched Rethink Afghanistan, a national campaign for non-violent solutions in Afghanistan built around a documentary film by director and political activist Robert Greenwald. [420] Dozens of organizations planned (and eventually held) a national march for peace in Washington, D.C. on 20 March 2010. [421] [422]

Multiple accounts document human rights violations in Afghanistan. [423]

Taliban Edit

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIGRC) called the Taliban's terrorism against the Afghan civilian population a war crime. [78] According to Amnesty International, the Taliban commit war crimes by targeting civilians, including killing teachers, abducting aid workers and burning school buildings. Amnesty International said that up to 756 civilians were killed in 2006 by bombs, mostly on roads or carried by suicide attackers belonging to the Taliban. [424]

NATO has alleged that the Taliban have used civilians as human shields. As an example, NATO pointed to the victims of NATO air strikes in Farah province in May 2009, during which the Afghan government claims up to 150 civilians were killed. NATO stated it had evidence the Taliban forced civilians into buildings likely to be targeted by NATO aircraft involved in the battle. A spokesman for the ISAF commander said: "This was a deliberate plan by the Taliban to create a civilian casualty crisis. These were not human shields these were human sacrifices. We have intelligence that points to this." [425] According to the US State Department, the Taliban committed human rights violations against women in Afghanistan. [426]

In the third week of July 2020, 40 Taliban militants attacked the village of Geriveh, (Ghor Province), where they beat up and killed the parents of a 15-year-old girl, Qamar Gul, because her father complained about Taliban on demand for tax payments. The 15-year-old Qamar Gul grabbed her father's rifle (AK-47) and opened fire on the Taliban insurgents, killing 2 of them and injuring one. According to the local report, Gul and her little brother continued to fight the other insurgents before they were driven out by the other villagers, who also took up weapons. The Afghanistan government praised the Gul's bravery. [427]

White phosphorus use Edit

White phosphorus has been condemned by human rights organizations as cruel and inhumane because it causes severe burns. White phosphorus burns on the bodies of civilians wounded in clashes near Bagram were confirmed. The US claims at least 44 instances in which militants have used white phosphorus in weapons or attacks. [428] In May 2009, the US confirmed that Western military forces in Afghanistan use white phosphorus to illuminate targets or as an incendiary to destroy bunkers and enemy equipment. [429] [430] US forces used white phosphorus to screen a retreat in the Battle of Ganjgal when regular smoke munitions were not available. [431]

Human rights abuses against Afghan refugees Edit

Human rights abuses against Afghan refugees and asylum seekers have been documented. This includes mistreatment of refugees who lived in Iran, Pakistan, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, US, Europe, and other NATO members countries.

Afghan refugees in Iran, for example, were not allowed attend public schools, [432] [433] "faced with restrictions on property ownership, freedom of movement, and access to government services. bullying, and physical abuse accompany many Afghan children throughout their adolescence. whether playing at recess or standing in line for bread at the naanvai, they hear jeers like 'Go back to your country,' and 'Dirty Afghan' daily", [434] denied participation in any form of elections, and legally restricted to take a handful of minimum paid jobs, and frequent target of scapegoating. As the price of citizenship for their family members, Afghan children as young as 14 were recruited to fight in Iraq and Syria for a six-month tour. [435]

Afghan refugees were regularly denied visa to travel between countries to visit their family members, faced long delays (usually a few years) [436] in processing of their visa applications to visit family members for purposes such as weddings, gravely ill family member, burial ceremonies, and university graduation ceremonies potentially violating rights including free movement, right to family life and the right to an effective remedy. [437] [438] [439] Racism, low wage jobs including below minimum wage jobs, lower than inflation rate salary increases, were commonly practiced in Europe and the Americas. Many Afghan refugees were not permitted to visit their family members for a decade or two. Studies have shown abnormally high mental health issues and suicide rates among Afghan refugees and their children living in the west. [440] [441] [442] [443] [444] [445]


Afghan peace envoy fears pullout will embolden Taliban

The Afghan government’s chief peace envoy has expressed fears that the Taliban will have no interest in a political settlement with the U.S.-supported administration in Kabul after the scheduled departure of American and NATO forces

ANTALYA, Turkey -- The Afghan government’s chief peace envoy expressed fears on Friday that the Taliban will have no interest in a political settlement with the U.S.-supported administration in Kabul after the scheduled departure of American and NATO forces.

Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, said there were signs that the Taliban were seeking military advances ahead of the Sept. 11 troop withdrawal. He warned however that, if so, the extremist Islamic movement was making a “big miscalculation.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Abdullah also said Afghanistan’s neighbors must refrain from interfering and instead seek cooperation with Kabul for the country's long-term stability.

”(Withdrawal) will have an impact on the negotiation with the Taliban,” Abdullah said. “(They) may find themselves further emboldened and they may think — some of them at least — that with the withdrawal, they can take advantage of the situation militarily.”

He added however that “it will be a big miscalculation . should they think that they can win militarily. There are no winners through the continuation of the war.”

Abdullah said there are signs that the Taliban are trying to take over provincial districts in a bid to take “advantage of that situation.”

“But it’s something that defies the lessons of history,” he said. “Should this be the case, it will mean that (the) Taliban are opting for a military solution, which is not a solution to begin with, and it will not happen the way that they envisaged.”

By Sept. 11 at the latest, around 2,300-3,500 remaining U.S. troops and roughly 7,000 allied NATO forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan, ending nearly 20 years of military engagement. There are concerns that the Afghan government and its security forces may be ill-prepared for the withdrawal and that the country may descend into chaos.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until ousted by a U.S.-led coalition after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America. In recent weeks Taliban fighters have overrun several districts in south and northern Afghanistan, convincing government security forces to surrender and seizing their weapons and military vehicles. The heaviest fighting has been in the northern Faryab province and in southern Helmand.

Asked about possible interference from neighbors after U.S. and NATO troops have left, Abdullah said regional countries have declared that they have an interest in a stable Afghanistan and that they should “put those words into deeds.”

“There were some countries which had concerns about the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan, including the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said. “Now, NATO troops are not going to be there.”

He was speaking on the sidelines of an international forum in Antalya, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, where he held separate meetings with the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran, Qatar and Pakistan.

"I don’t think that that they would like to see instability in Afghanistan or (a) return to the old days because we have too much (of a) common interest in the neighborhood as a whole,” Abdullah said.

In a further warning to neighbors, Abdullah said millions of refugees had returned to Afghanistan as the country stabilized and added: “Should the situation reverse, the consequences of this will also be reversed.”

The peace negotiator said talks between the government and the Taliban, that were scheduled to take place in Turkey before the September troop withdrawal, were not “completely off the table.”

“Turkey’s position is that when both sides . are ready for serious negotiations, we are ready to host it,” he said, adding that the Taliban had at times “put conditions” to participate in the talks or engaged in delaying tactics.


Timeline: The Taliban - 2006-Present

September

The Taliban fight back with renewed strength. Suicide bombings and roadside attacks become more frequent and more deadly nearly 100 are reported to have died from such violence in August and September.

Pakistan is repeatedly blamed for supporting and allowing the infiltration of bombers and insurgents. Pakistani leadership denies supporting the Taliban, but admits that bombers are being trained in border regions.

October and November

NATO air attacks are blamed for the deaths of dozens of civilians. Tony Blair cautions that the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda could take decades.

Meanwhile, the opium harvest in Afghanistan reaches the highest levels ever recorded, the United Nations reports, as cultivation rises 59% during 2006. Most experts agree that the drug trade is a major source of funding for the Taliban (although there are conflicting opinions about whether or not Al Qaeda is similarly situated). Afghanistan currently produces 92% of the world's opium.

January

Mullah Dadullah, a top Taliban commander, vows in a telephone conversation that his forces will not let up. Days later, in an email exchange between journalists and Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban chief makes a similar promise, saying he will never negotiate with the U.S.-backed Karzai government, and that violence will continue until foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan..

February

General Dan K McNeil takes over command of the 35,000 member NATO forces in Afghanistan. McNeil served as commander of the U.S-led coalition there from 2002 to 2003.

During Vice President Cheney's visit, a suicide bomber attacks near the U.S. air base, killing 23 people.

Authorities in Pakistan arrest Mullah Obaidullah, a member of the Taliban's inner circle. Despite the high-profile nature of the arrest, Pakistan continues to be criticized for failing to confront the Taliban.

March and April

Italy agrees to exchange an Italian journalist for 5 Taliban prisoners, provoking strong criticism from the U.S. and other nations. Nearly a month later a second hostage captured at the same time as the freed Italian is killed soon after Karzai announces an end to such prisoner exchanges. The body of the second hostage is dropped off at a hospital.

A note of hope is sounded when health officials report that infant mortality dropped by 18 percent in Afghanistan, a fact that is heralded as a sign of recovery and progress.

Afghan officials report that a U.S. airstrike that killed 130 Taliban also left 21 civilians dead. A few days later, when the estimate grows to 42 civilians, angry protestors sack and burn buildings and Karzai warns that the Afghan people will not tolerate a foreign military presence much longer.

A key Taliban operational commander with ties to Al Qaeda, Mullah Dadullah, is killed by Afghan, American, and NATO forces. Following his death, the victim's brother, Haji Mansour Dadullah, also a Taliban leader, claims to receive a letter of condolence from Osama bin Laden, urging him to follow in his brother's footsteps.

A Taliban spokesman offers to trade 5 hostages, all Afghan health ministry officials held since March, for Mullah Dadullah's remains, which have already been buried in an undisclosed location. When the remains are not turned over, one of the hostages is beheaded. The other four hostages are released when the remains are delivered.

75 Allied troops are reported to have been killed in the first five months of 2007, including 38 Americans.

The Taliban kills one of a group of 23 South Korean hostages after their demands for a prisoner exchange are not met with a positive response by the Afghan government. Both hostages were members of a Protestant church group who were on a relief mission when they were abducted from a public bus on the highway from Kabul to Kandahar. The Taliban threatens to kill more hostages if the government is not more cooperative.

In response to concern about mounting civilian casualties in Afghanistan, NATO announces plans to use more restrained tactics in fighting the Taliban. More than 330 civilians have been killed this year, according to Afghan officials and Western aid workers.

August

Two women from the group of South Korean hostages held since July 19 by the Taliban are released unharmed to Red Cross workers after days of negotiations. Nineteen hostages from the group remain held.

October

Eighty Taliban members die during a six-hour battle with U.S.-led coalition force outside a town in southern Afghanistan. Most of the deaths are a result of four bombs dropped in Taliban trenches.

November

Sixty Taliban militants fire on a town from a mountain overlook in the Day Kundi province pushing out the police and cutting off the main road. One militant dies and one policeman is wounded in fighting. Bakwal and Gulistan districts in Farrah province have also been overrun by the militants.

February

About 80 people are killed and nearly 100 injured when a suicide bomber attacks at a crowded dogfight near Kandahar. A local police chief, Abdul Hakim Jan, is among the dead. It is the worst suicide attack since 2001. The Taliban denies responsibility for the attack, but Afghan officials express skepticism about the claim.

April

Three people are killed and about a dozen are wounded when suspected Taliban militants attack President Hamid Karzai, who was taking part in a parade to celebrate Afghan national day.

A local Taliban group claims responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 11 people and injured 22 more outside a military base in Marden, Pakistan.

U.S. soldiers launch an air strike aimed at Taliban militants who had crossed the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan and fired on American-led troops. Eleven members of a Pakistani paramilitary force die, angering Pakistani officials and increasing tension between the U.S. and Pakistan.

Fighters attack guards outside a prison in Kandahar and then launch a rocket-propelled grenade at a fuel tanker parked outside the prison. The blast kills several guards and opens a hole in the prison wall. About 1,200 inmates escape, including 350 members of the Taliban.

According to the Pentagon and icasualties.org, June 2008 has been the deadliest month for U.S. and coalition troops since the American-led invasion began in 2001. Forty-six troops are killed even though the number of coalition troops reaches a high point.

More than 40 people are killed and about 130 wounded in a suicide bombing outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Two Indian diplomats died in the blast. It is the deadliest suicide bombing since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001.

Nine U.S. soldiers and at least 15 NATO troops die when Taliban militants boldly attack an American base in Kunar Province, which borders Pakistan. It's the most deadly against U.S. troops in three years.

August

As many as 15 suicide bombers backed by about 30 militants attack a U.S. military base, Camp Salerno, in Bamiyan. Fighting between U.S. troops and members of the Taliban rages overnight. No U.S. troops are killed. In another brazen attack, 10 French paratroopers are killed and more than 20 are wounded in an ambush by about 100 militants about 30 miles east of Kabul.

More than 60 people are killed in a twin suicide bombing at the Pakistan' Ordnance Factories, a complex of 16 buildings in the town of Wah that employs 20,000. The Taliban says the attack is in retaliation for the military's recent campaign against militants in the region of Bajaur.

As many as 90 Afghan civilians, 60 of them children, die in an attack in the western village of Azizabad. It is one of the deadliest airstrikes since the war began in 2001, and the deadliest on civilians. The U.S. military refutes the figures, however, which were confirmed by the UN, claiming that the airstrike, in response to an attack by militants, killed five civilians and as many as 25 members of the Taliban.

October

Taliban insurgents engage in grisly attack, pulling as many as 30 men from a bus traveling in Kandahar to behead them. A Taliban spokesman says the passengers were members of the Afghan National Army. The Afghan government denies the claim, saying the men were civilians traveling to Iran to seek work.

January

At least 46 Pakistani soldiers and militants at a paramilitary base are killed when hundreds of Taliban militants crossed the border of Pakistan.

February

A suicide-bomber in Tirin Kot, in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, blows himself up in a police station, killing more than 20 policemen. A Taliban spokesman claims responsibility on behalf of the group.

Taliban insurgents attack several government buildings in Kabul, Afghanistan, including the Justice Ministry, killing 19 people and injuring 57 more.

August

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, is killed by a C.I.A. drone strike in South Waziristan, a remote region of the country. He was blamed for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the terrorist attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, and dozens of other suicide bombings.

The Taliban is blamed for the violence that led up to August's presidential election in Afghanistan. It also attempted to boycott the election and threatened to cut off the fingers of people who voted.

September

The U.S.-supported Pakistan Army is linked to the deaths of hundreds of people in the Swat Valley, an area recently taken over from Taliban militants, now under control of the army. The Pakistan Army denies involvement, claiming that the killings are civilian attacks.

October

The Taliban, retaliating against the Pakistan army in late October, launches a series of terrorist attacks that kills at least 300 people in Peshawar, Islamabad, and Lahore. The attacks coincide with a visit to Pakistan by U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

February

Three American soldiers, along with four Pakistanis, are killed in a suicide bombing attack in Pakistan. Members of the Taliban claim responsibility for the blast.

April

Militants launch an assault on the U.S. Consulate in Pakistan. Six Pakistanis are killed and 20 are wounded no Americans are harmed. Azam Tariq, a spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban, claims responsibility for the attack, saying they were acting in retaliation to American missile strikes.

April

About 500 members of the Taliban break out of the Sarposa Prison in Kandahar. They escaped through a 1/2-mile wide tunnel that had been dug over the course of five months. Some 1,200 prisoners escaped from the same prison in 2008.

August

The Taliban shot down a transport helicopter, killing 30 American troops, seven Afghans, and a translator. It was the highest death toll in a single day for U.S. troops. Twenty-two elite Navy SEALs were killed, some members of the unit that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

October

Taliban members shoot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck. She was targeted for promoting Western ideas, including the education of women. The shooting occurred while Yousafzai was on her way home on a school bus filled with children. Two other girls are wounded.

December

As the U.S. was preparing to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the Pentagon released a report that said, "The Taliban-led insurgency remains adaptive and determined, and retains the capability to emplace substantial numbers of I.E.D.s and to conduct isolated high-profile attacks."

The Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar, and its representatives held a press conference with an international media contingent. The U.S. said it would begin long-delayed peace talks with the group. Afghanistan was expected to do the same, but instead said it would not engage in any dialogue with the Taliban, saying such discussions lent the militants credibility.

November

The U.S. achieved an important victory over the Taliban with the assassination of Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan. He died in a CIA drone strike in Danday Darpa Khel, a militant stronghold in North Waziristan. While the Pakistani government expressed outrage that the U.S. overstepped its boundaries, many citizens indicated they were relieved about the death of a man whose group has destabilized and terrorized the country.

May 31

After several years of negotiations, the U.S. and Taliban completed a prisoner swap. The Taliban surrendered Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held prisoner for five years, and the U.S. released five top members of the Taliban leadership from the Guantnamo Bay prison. The detainees were handed over to Qatar officials and must remain in that country for one year. Afghan president Hamid Karzai was not made aware of the deal until after the prisoners were released.

The Pakistani Taliban launched a brazen overnight attack at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in the country. Ten militants infiltrated the airport and engaged in a gun battle with airport security and police. Thirty-six people were killed, including all ten gunmen.

December

The Taliban attacked the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan. At least 145 people are killed in the siege, including more than 100 children. It is the most brazen and deadly attack by the Taliban in years. A Taliban spokesman said the attack was in retaliation for the military's offensive against militant hideouts in North Waziristan.

January

The Taliban attacked the European Union Police Mission Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. A suicide car bomb was set off killing 1 person and injuring 5.

February

The United States and Afghan armed forces worked together on a raid that led to the arrest of 6 Taliban insurgents. They are believed to be connected to the Peshawar School Massacre which took place in 2014.

China announces that they want to help out with the peace talk that have been so far unsuccessful. They fear the stability of the Afghanistan government is linked to their own stability.

The Taliban attacked the Nation Assembly in Kabul on the same day that lawmakers were going to review a new defense minister. A car bomb exploded killing a mother and child, and wounding 28 others. The Taliban then tried to gain access to the building with RPGs and assault rifles but were killed by Afghan forces.

July 29

Afghanistan's intelligence agency announced that it believed that Mullah Muhammad Omar, the founder and reclusive leader of the Taliban, died in 2013 in Pakistan. Rumors of his death have been frequent, and he has not been seen for several years. The Taliban confirmed Omar's death a day later and on July 31 announced that Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour had taken over as the group's supreme leader. The U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan attempt peace talks but the new leader refuses cooperation. More deadly attacks follow.

August

August 7, 2015, saw a series of Taliban attacks. First, a truck carrying explosive was detonated at the edge of an army base 15 people were killed. Then a gunman attacked a NATO base, Camp Integrity, which holds U.S. special forces 11 people were killed. Later that day at the Kabul police academy a suicide bomber blew himself up this attack killed 20 people.

On August 10, five people were killed in an attack at the international airport in Kabul. A suicide bomber blew himself up near a checkpoint entrance to the airport. 16 were injured.

September?October

The province of Kunduz was the focus of back and forth battling. In late September, the Taliban took control of the city of Kunduz. According to witnesses the Taliban blocked the airport and also burned down the National Directorate of Security. On Oct. 14, 2015, the city was recaptured by Afghan and U.S. forces.

December

U.S. and Afghan forces worked together to free 40 prisoners from a Taliban jail in Helmand. Many of the prisoners freed were Afghan police, army, and border control personnel.

January

Afghan counter-terrorism group freed 59 citizen from a Taliban prison in Helmand.

February

A Taliban suicide bomber detonated a bomb on Feb. 2 in front the Afghan National Civil Order Police in Kabul. The attack killed 20 people and injured 29.

On Feb. 27, two separate suicide attacks took place in Kabul and Asadabad, Afghanistan. In total 25 people were killed. The Taliban claims responsibility.

March

The Taliban do not attend scheduled peace negotiations with Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and the United States, saying: "Unless the occupation of Afghanistan is ended, black lists eliminated and innocent prisoners freed, such futile, misleading negotiations will not bear any results."

April

The Taliban announce the launch of their spring offensive, Operation Omari, named after the late Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, and aimed at driving Afghanistan's government from power.

In one of the bloodiest attacks on Afghanistan's capital Kabul since 2011, a suicide bomb mission kicks off the Operation Omari spring offensive on April 19, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. At 9 am local time a truck filled with explosives crashed into the headquarter gates to an elite military unit in central Kabul. Many Afghan VIPS and government officials were inside the building, but most of the victims were civilians out on the busy street.

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan states that there will be no more attempts at peace talks with the Taliban. He calls on Pakistan to help fight against the terrorist groups that have been shown leniency in Pakistan.

A series of bus and car abductions are carried out on the highways throughout Afghanistan. In one case on May 31, 169 people were taken from buses and cars on the Kunduz-Takhar highway. Nine were shot and killed, 20 taken hostage and 140 were rescued by Afghan troops. Six more were killed trying to escape.

Another Taliban abduction took place on the Kunduz-Takhar highway on June 8 when 40 passengers were taken from a bus. Seven were able to escape. Along with this incident, 12 members of the Afghan security forces were killed by the Taliban after being captured in the province of Ghazni.


Timeline: Taliban in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been unstable for decades with rival armed groups vying for control. In the late 1970s, the Soviet Union deployed tens of thousands of troops in support of pro-Communist governments, but the conflict left 15,000 Soviet soldiers dead forcing the Moscow to withdraw.

In the 1980s, Muslim Afghan fighters (mujahideen) stepped up their campaign for the control of the country but were unable to unite the country.

By the mid-1990s, Afghanistan became divided into spheres of control. These divisions set the stage for the rise of the Taliban who seized control of Afghanistan in 1996.

Below are key events and developments dating back to the late 1970s, when the Soviet invasion began.

1979: The then Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.

1980: Soviet troops set up a puppet regime in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia offer support to anti-communist Muslim Afghan fighters (mujahideen) who opposed the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

1988–1989: The Soviet Union withdraws after 15,000 Soviet soldiers die in the conflict.

1992: Mujahideen forces, led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, remove the Soviet-backed government of Mohammad Najibullah, sparking rivalry among militias vying for influence.

1993: Different factions agree on the formation of a government with Burhanuddin Rabbani as president but infighting continues and lawlessness becomes rampant.

1994: The battles reduce much of Kabul to rubble. Mullah Mohammed Omar, a Muslim cleric, sets up Taliban movement of Islamic students who take up arms, capture Kandahar and advance on Kabul.

1996: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s leader who fought with mujahideen groups against the Soviet occupation, returns to Afghanistan. The Taliban takes Kabul and hangs former President Mohammad Najibullah.

September 1997: The Taliban fails to capture and hold the city of Mazar-i-Sharif (held sacred by Shia as the site of Ali’s grave). Pakistani religious schools send reinforcements to the Taliban.

August 1998 : The US launches missiles at suspected bin Laden bases in retaliation for the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

March 1999: A UN-brokered peace agreement is reached between the Taliban and their main remaining enemy, the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shah Massoud. But fighting breaks out few months later.

October 1999: The Taliban take Mazar-i-Sharif. There are unconfirmed reports of mass arrests and executions (numbering in the thousands) of Shia, especially of the Hazara ethnic group.

November 1999: The UN imposes an air embargo and freezes Taliban assets in an attempt to force them to hand over bin Laden for trial.

Ancient Buddhist statues were blown
up by the Taliban in 2001 [GALLO/GETTY]

January 2001 : The UN also imposes an arms embargo against the Taliban.

March 12, 2001: Ignoring an international outcry, the Taliban blows up two 2,000-year-old Buddhist statues in the cliffs above Bamiyan.

May 2001: Religious minorities are ordered to wear tags identifying them as non-Muslims Hindu women are required to veil themselves like other Afghan women.

July 2001: Taliban bans the use of the internet, playing cards, computer disks, movies, satellite TV, musical instruments and chessboards, after declaring they were against Islamic law.

August 2001: Eight Christian foreign aid workers are arrested for preaching. Two are American citizens.

September 9, 2001: Northern Alliance Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud is wounded in a suicide attack, allegedly by al-Qaeda operatives. Massoud dies from his wounds several days later.

September 11, 2001: Attacks on the World Trade Centre’s twin towers and the Pentagon in the US. Washington blames bin Laden and al-Qaeda for the attacks.

September 16, 2001: General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, pledges support for US efforts to arrest bin Laden and appeals to his nation for support. Taliban supporters mount demonstrations.

September 20, 2001 – George Bush, the then US president, calls on the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and all other al-Qaeda leaders, close its terrorist training camps, or face the consequences.

September 21, 2001 – Abdul Salaam Zaeef, the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, says that bin Laden would not be given up without evidence linking him to the 9/11 attacks.

September 22, 2001 – Fighting begins between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban.

September 24, 2001: The Taliban calls for a jihad against the US if its forces enter Afghanistan.

October 6, 2001 – Bush warns the Taliban that “time was running out” unless they gave up “terrorist” suspects.

October 7, 2001: US and British forces begin intense bombing of the Taliban’s air defence installations and airport-based command centres.

October 19, 2001 – Mullah Mohammad Omar’s headquarters near Kandahar are attacked in the first acknowledged action by US ground forces.

November 13, 2001 – Taliban forces abandon the capital Kabul and Northern Alliance forces take control of the city.

December 5, 2001: Hamid Karzai, an Afghan tribal leader, is chosen to head an interim government by delegates in Bonn, Germany.

January 2002: The Taliban officially capitulates. Pakistani intelligence officials detain Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan. Zaeef is taken into US custody.

May 2003: Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, claims that most of Afghanistan is now secure and that US-led forces had moved from major combat operations to stabilisation and reconstruction projects. But pro-Taliban fighters continue to stage almost daily attacks on government buildings, US bases and aid workers.

January 2004: Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, or decision-making assembly, adopts a new constitution. The constitution grants equality for men and women and defines the country as an “Islamic Republic”.

President Karzai was elected in 2004 [EPA]

November 2004 : Hamid Karzai is elected president of Afghanistan.

2005: The Taliban begins to regroup in larger numbers and continue to attack US troops, making it the deadliest year for US troops since the war began in 2001.

May-June 2006: After a spate of Taliban suicide bombings and other attacks, Operation Mount Thrust is launched, deploying more than 10,000 Afghan and coalition forces in the south.

August 2006: Nato troops take over military operations in southern Afghanistan from the US-led coalition. In September, it launches the largest attack in its 57-year history.

September 2006: The Taliban fights back with renewed strength. Suicide bombings and roadside attacks become more frequent and more deadly nearly 100 are reported to have died from such violence in August and September.

July 2007: The Taliban kills one of a group of 23 South Korean hostages after their demands for a prisoner exchange are not met with a positive response by the Afghan government.

February 2008: About 80 people are killed and nearly 100 injured when a suicide bomber attacks a crowd watching dogfight near Kandahar. It is the worst suicide attack since 2001. The Taliban denies responsibility for the attack, but Afghan officials express scepticism about the claim.

August 2008: As many as 15 suicide bombers backed by about 30 Taliban fighters attack a US military base, Camp Salerno, in Bamiyan. Fighting between US troops and members of the Taliban rages overnight. In another daring attack, 10 French paratroopers are killed and more than 20 are wounded in an ambush by about 100 fighters about 30 miles east of Kabul.

December 2009: Afghanistan and Pakistan decide to form joint strategy to combat Taliban fighters in their border regions.

February 2009: Barack Obama, the US president, announces his plans to send another 17,000 US troops to Afghanistan. Karzai says Afghanistan is turning a new page in relations with United States.

March 2009: Obama declares he is open to the idea of reaching out to moderate elements of the Taliban.

July 2009: About 4,000 US marines and 650 Afghan army forces launch major offensive on Taliban strongholds in southern Helmand province ahead of August presidential elections.


Who are the Taliban?

Getty Images

The Taliban is an extreme Islamic group, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

They say they are followers of Islam, but many people do not agree with this, as their beliefs are much more extreme than those of the majority of Muslims.

They are fighting because they want their leaders to be in charge of Afghanistan again.

The Taliban want to turn the country into what they believe would be the world's purest Islamic country.

When the Taliban leaders were in control, they banned many things, including education for girls, make-up, kite-flying and films.

But some Afghans still took part in these things in secret, risking extreme punishment if they were found out.

The Taliban's strict laws and extreme punishments made them unpopular with other countries.

While they were in control, they allowed a terrorist organisation called al-Qaeda to have training camps there.

The group was overthrown in November 2001 by British and US forces, alongside Afghan fighters from a group called the Northern Alliance.


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