An Emirati man walks across the dunes in the Rimah desert, west of Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates.
|English: United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center complex in New York City during the September 11 attacks (Photo credit:|
|Taliban in Herat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The sovereignty of Afghanistan was vested formally in the Islamic State of Afghanistan, an entity created in April 1992, after the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government. … With the exception of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar‘s Hezb-e Islami, all of the parties… were ostensibly unified under this government in April 1992. … Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami, for its part, refused to recognize the government for most of the period discussed in this report and launched attacks against government forces and Kabul generally. … Shells and rockets fell everywhere.
Pakistan was keen to gear up for a breakthrough in Central Asia. … Islamabad could not possibly expect the new Islamic government leaders… to subordinate their own nationalist objectives in order to help Pakistan realize its regional ambitions. … Had it not been for the ISI’s logistic support and supply of a large number of rockets, Hekmatyar’s forces would not have been able to target and destroy half of Kabul.
[O]utside forces saw instability in Afghanistan as an opportunity to press their own security and political agendas.
Of all the foreign powers involved in efforts to sustain and manipulate the ongoing fighting [in Afghanistan], Pakistan is distinguished both by the sweep of its objectives and the scale of its efforts, which include soliciting funding for the Taliban, bankrolling Taliban operations, providing diplomatic support as the Taliban’s virtual emissaries abroad, arranging training for Taliban fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve in Taliban armies, planning and directing offensives, providing and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and … directly providing combat support.
It is our conviction and we believe that both men and women are created by the Almighty. Both have equal rights. Women can pursue an education, women can pursue a career, and women can play a role in society – just like men.—Ahmad Shah Massoud, 2001
Massoud is adamant that in Afghanistan women have suffered oppression for generations. He says that ‘the cultural environment of the country suffocates women. But the Taliban exacerbate this with oppression.’ His most ambitious project is to shatter this cultural prejudice and so give more space, freedom and equality to women – they would have the same rights as men.—Pepe Escobar, Massoud: From Warrior to Statesmann 1996, bin Laden moved to Afghanistan from Sudan. He came without invitation, and sometimes irritated Mullah Omar with his declaration of war and fatwas against citizens of third-party countries, but relations between the two groups improved over time, to the point that Mullah Omar rebuffed his group’s patron Saudi Arabia, insulting Saudi minister Prince Turki while reneging on an earlier promise to turn bin Laden over to the Saudis.Bin Laden was able to forge an alliance between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The Al Qaeda-trained 055 Brigade integrated with the Taliban army between 1997 and 2001. Several hundred Arab Afghan fighters sent by bin Laden assisted the Taliban in the Mazar-e-Sharif slaughter. The so-called Brigade 055 was also responsible for massacres against civilians in other parts of Afghanistan. From 1996 to 2001 the organization of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri had become a virtual state within the Taliban state.Taliban-Al-Qaeda connections were also strengthened by the reported marriage of one of bin Laden’s sons to Omar’s daughter. While in Afghanistan, bin Laden may have helped finance the Taliban.After the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, bin Laden and several Al-Qaeda members were indicted in U.S. criminal court. The Taliban rejected extradition requests by the U.S., variously claiming that bin Laden had “gone missing”, or that Washington “cannot provide any evidence or any proof” that bin Laden is involved in terrorist activities and that “without any evidence, bin Laden is a man without sin… he is a free man.”Evidence against bin Laden included courtroom testimony and satellite phone records. Bin Laden in turn, praised the Taliban as the “only Islamic government” in existence, and lauded Mullah Omar for his destruction of idols such as the Buddhas of Bamyan.At the end of 2008, the Taliban was in talks to sever all ties with Al-Qaeda.In 2011, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation claimed that the two groups did not get along at times before the September 11 attacks, and they have continued to fight since on account of their differences.
IranIran has historically been an enemy of the Taliban. In early August 1998, after attacking the city of Mazar, Taliban forces killed several thousand civilians and 10 Iranian diplomats and intelligence officers in the Iranian consulate. Alleged radio intercepts indicate Mullah Omar personally approved the killings. In the following crisis between Iran and the Taliban, the Iranian government amassed up to 200,000 regular troops on the Afghan-Iranian border. War was eventually averted.Many U.S. senior military officials such as Robert Gates, Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus and others believe that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps nowadays is involved in helping the Taliban to a certain extent. Reports in which NATO states accused Iran of supplying and training some Taliban insurgents started coming forward since 2004/2005.“We did interdict a shipment, without question the Revolutionary Guard‘s core Quds Force, through a known Taliban facilitator. Three of the individuals were killed… 48 122 millimetre rockets were intercepted with their various components… Iranians certainly view as making life more difficult for us if Afghanistan is unstable. We don’t have that kind of relationship with the Iranians. That’s why I am particularly troubled by the interception of weapons coming from Iran. But we know that it’s more than weapons; it’s money; it’s also according to some reports, training at Iranian camps as well.”
United StatesThe United States supported the Taliban through its allies in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia between 1994 and 1996 because Washington viewed the Taliban as anti-Iranian, anti-Shia and pro-Western. Washington furthermore hoped that the Taliban would support development planned by the U.S.-based oil company Unocal. For example, it made no comment when the Taliban captured Herat in 1995, and expelled thousands of girls from schools; the Taliban began killing unarmed civilians, targeting ethnic groups (primarily Hazaras), and restricting the rights of women. In late 1997, American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright began to distance the U.S. from the Taliban. The next year, the American-based oil company Unocal withdrew from negotiations on pipeline construction from Central Asia.One day before the capture of Mazar, bin Laden affiliates bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa, killing 224 and wounding 4,500, mostly Africans. The U.S. responded by launching cruise missiles on suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan, killing over 20 though failing to kill bin Laden or even many Al-Qaeda. Mullah Omar condemned the missile attack and American President Bill Clinton. Saudi Arabia expelled the Taliban envoy in protest over the refusal to turn over bin Laden, and after Mullah Omar allegedly insulted the Saudi royal family. In mid-October the U.N.Security Council voted unanimously to ban commercial aircraft flights to and from Afghanistan, and freeze its bank accounts worldwide.Adjusting its counterinsurgency strategy, in October 2009, the U.S announced plans to pay Taliban fighters to switch sides.On November 26, 2009, in an interview with CNN‘s Christiane Amanpour, President Hamid Karzai said there is an “urgent need” for negotiations with the Taliban, and made it clear that the Obama administration had opposed such talks. There was no formal American response.In early December 2009, the Taliban offered to give the U.S. “legal guarantees” that they would not allow Afghanistan to be used for attacks on other countries. There was no formal American response.On December 6, U.S officials indicated that they have not ruled out talks with the Taliban. Several days later it was reported that Gates saw potential for reconciliation with the Taliban, but not with Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, he said that reconciliation would politically end the insurgency and the war. But he said reconciliation must be on the Afghan government’s terms, and that the Taliban must be subject to the sovereignty of the government.In 2010, General McChrystal said his troop surge could lead to a negotiated peace with the Taliban.Allegations of connection to CIA There have been many claims that the CIA directly supported the Taliban or al-Qaeda. In the early 1980s, the CIA and the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency) provided arms and money, and the ISI helped gather radical Muslims from around the world to fight against the Soviet invaders. Osama Bin Laden was one of the key players in organizing training camps for the foreign Muslim volunteers. “By 1987, 65,000 tons of U.S.-made weapons and ammunition a year were entering the war.”
United KingdomAfter 9/11, the United Kingdom froze the Taliban’s assets in the U.K., nearly $200 million by early October 2001. The U.K. also supported the U.S. decision to remove the Taliban, both politically and militarily.The UN agreed that NATO would act on its behalf, focusing on counter-terrorist operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban had been “defeated”. The United Kingdom took operational responsibility for Helmand Province, a major poppy-growing province in southern Afghanistan, deploying troops there in the summer of 2006, and encountered resistance by re-formed Taliban forces allegedly entering Afghanistan from Pakistan. The Taliban turned towards the use of improvised explosive devices.In 2008, the U.K. announced plans to pay Taliban fighters to switch sides or lay down arms; later, in 2009 the United Kingdom government backed talks with the Taliban.
IndiaIndia is one of the Taliban’s most outspoken critics. India was concerned about growing Islamic militancy in its neighborhood, and refused to recognize the Taliban regime. Ahmad Shah Massoud also had close ties to India.In December 1999, Indian Airlines Flight 814 en route from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked and taken to Kandahar. The Taliban moved its militias near the hijacked aircraft, supposedly to prevent Indian special forces from storming the aircraft, and stalled the negotiations between India and the hijackers for days. The New York Times later reported that there were credible links between the hijackers and the Taliban. As a part of the deal to free the plane, India released three militants. The Taliban gave a safe passage to the hijackers and the released militants.Following the hijacking, India drastically increased its efforts to help Massoud, providing an arms depot in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. India also provided a wide range of high-altitude warfare equipment, helicopter technicians, medical services, and tactical advice. According to one report, Indian military support to anti-Taliban forces totaled US$70 million, including five Mil Mi-17helicopters, and US$8 million worth of high-altitude equipment in 2001. India extensively supported the new administration in Afghanistan, leading several reconstruction projects and by 2001 had emerged as the country’s largest regional donor.In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in India, there have been growing concerns about fundamentalist organisations such as the Taliban seeking to expand their activities into India. During the2011 ICC Cricket World Cup which was co-hosted in India, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Interpol chief Ronald Noble revealed that a terrorist bid to disrupt the tournament had been foiled; following a conference with Noble, Malik said that the Taliban had begun to base their activities in India with reports from neighboring countries exposing their activities in the country and a Sri Lankan terrorist planning to target cricketers was arrested in Colombo. Kashmir-based militant groups thought to have ties with the Taliban have historically been involved in theJammu and Kashmir insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir. In 2009, the Times of India called for India to reassess its Taliban threat.
United Nations and NGOsA major issue during the Taliban’s reign was its relations with the United Nations (UN) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Twenty years of continuous warfare had devastated Afghanistan’s infrastructure and economy. There was no running water, little electricity, few telephones, functioning roads or regular energy supplies. Basic necessities like water, food, housing and others were in desperately short supply. In addition, the clan and family structure that provided Afghans with a social/economic safety net was also badly damaged. Afghanistan’s infant mortality was the highest in the world. A full quarter of all children died before they reached their fifth birthday, a rate several times higher than most other developing countries.International charitable and/or development organisations (NGOs) were extremely important to the supply of food, employment, reconstruction, and other services. With one million plus deaths during the years of war, the number of families headed by widows had reached 98,000 by 1998. Thus Taliban restrictions on women were sometime a matter not only of human rights, but of life and death. In Kabul, where vast portions of the city had been devastated from rocket attacks, more than half of its 1.2 million people benefited in some way from NGO activities, even for water to drink. The civil war and its never-ending refugee stream continued throughout the Taliban’s reign. The Mazar, Herat, and Shomali valley offensives displaced more than three-quarters of a million civilians, using “scorched earth” tactics to prevent them from supplying the enemy with aid.Despite the aid, the Taliban’s attitude toward the UN and NGOs was often one of suspicion, in place of gratitude or even tolerance. The UN operates on the basis of international law, not Sharia, and the UN did not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Additionally, most foreign donors and aid workers, were non-Muslims. As the Taliban’s Attorney General Maulvi Jalil-ullah Maulvizada put it:Let us state what sort of education the UN wants. This is a big infidel policy which gives such obscene freedom to women which would lead to adultery and herald the destruction of Islam. In any Islamic country where adultery becomes common, that country is destroyed and enters the domination of the infidels because their men become like women and women cannot defend themselves. Anyone who talks to us should do so within Islam’s framework. The Holy Koran cannot adjust itself to other people’s requirements, people should adjust themselves to the requirements of the Holy Koran.Taliban decision-makers, particularly Mullah Omar, seldom if ever talked directly to non-Muslim foreigners, so aid providers had to deal with intermediaries whose approvals and agreements were often reversed. Around September 1997 the heads of three UN agencies in Kandahar were expelled from the country after protesting when a female attorney for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was forced to talk from behind a curtain so her face would not be visible.When the UN increased the number of Muslim women staff to satisfy Taliban demands, the Taliban then required all female Muslim UN staff traveling to Afghanistan to be chaperoned by amahram or a blood relative. In July 1998, the Taliban closed “all NGO offices” by force after those organizations refused to move to a bombed-out former Polytechnic College as ordered.One month later the UN offices were also shut down. As food prices rose and conditions deteriorated, Planning Minister Qari Din Mohammed explained the Taliban’s indifference to the loss of humanitarian aid:We Muslims believe God the Almighty will feed everybody one way or another. If the foreign NGOs leave then it is their decision. We have not expelled them.In 2009 a top U.N official called for talks with Taliban leaders. In 2010 the U.N lifted sanctions on the Taliban, and requested that Taliban leaders and others be removed from terrorism watch lists. In 2010 the U.S. and Europe announced support for President Karzai’s latest attempt to negotiate peace with the Taliban.