Let’s talk about the Taliban. They have been fighting the government and its allies in Afghanistan for 20 years. They look stronger than ever today. And now Americans are going home. Biden wants his troops to withdraw by 9/11. This could further strengthen the Taliban. So who is the Taliban? Why do they have so much power? And why are people afraid of back in Afghanistan? To understand the Taliban, you need to know what happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Afghan guerrillas, known as the Mujahideen, fought for the Soviet occupation for nine years.
They even took money and guns from the CIA. In 1989, the Soviet Union disintegrated and the following years were quite chaotic. In 1992, there was a full-scale civil war in which tribal leaders competed for power. Two years later, a militia named Taliban began to pay attention. Many of its members studied in conservative religious schools in Afghanistan and abroad in Pakistan, and some also fought as mujahedin. And he had his own plans for the land. In 1996, the Taliban took control of the capital. They declared Afghanistan an Islamic emirate and began to set their own strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Then on September 11 arrived. The United States persecuted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban. The Taliban said they needed evidence behind the attack. And when they refused to return it, the Americans attacked immediately. A few months later, the Taliban collapsed and a new interim government was formed in Afghanistan. Three years later, a new constitution was passed and Hamid Karzai was elected president. Meanwhile, the Taliban has been regrouped. They wanted the aliens to leave and return. Years of devastating conflict followed and continues.
More than 40,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. At least 64,000 Afghan soldiers and police and more than 3,500 international soldiers have died. The United States alone has spent nearly a trillion dollars on military and reconstruction projects. And after all, Afghanistan is very unstable, and the Taliban is still a force to be prepared for. Today, the Taliban has about 85,000 full-time fighters and training camps across the country. And the area they controlled grew. The Taliban now control a fifth of Afghanistan.
In addition to this, half of all areas are considered controversial, which means that the Taliban has a strong presence in most of these places. And they control parts of major highways. They are also well organized.
The Taliban leader is Haybatullah Akhundzade. He serves as chairman of the board, overseeing a dozen committees dealing with issues such as finance, health, and education. Below them are local officials in charge of everyday services. So in a way, the Taliban have set up a parallel state. They even run their own courts which can be pretty popular among Afghans. All that control has also made them rich.
According to Taliban members and a UN committee, they make close to $1.5 billion a year. They’ve always made a lot of money from growing opium poppies and the drug trade. But they’ve found even more ways to generate income. Last year they made millions from mining and trading minerals and even producing methamphetamine. They also have their own tax-collection system and receive funding from abroad — although suspected sources, like Pakistan and Iran, deny it. Over the years the international community has tried to get the Taliban and the Afghan government talking — or at least to talk about talking.
There was even a meeting in the Maldives at one point. And during a brief Eid ceasefire in 2018 Taliban and Afghan soldiers were seen mingling in Kabul — even praying together. But overall peace negotiations haven’t achieved much. The question now is what will happen when the roughly 10,000 US and NATO soldiers leave? Will the Afghan government be able to survive? And what will the Taliban do? Well, the prospects for peace and stability aren’t looking great.
Even while peace talks have been going on almost 1,800 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured in the first three months of this year. That’s almost 30% more than last year. There’s also been a wave of assassinations that people blame on the Taliban. Afghans are already asking themselves what life might be like if the Taliban take over again. Will they rip up the constitution which protects basic human rights. In a New York Times op-ed the Taliban tried to clear things up saying they want to “build an Islamic system … where the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work — are protected.”
And right now there are some places under Taliban control where girls are in school. But not everywhere. So how much support is there for the Taliban? Well, according to a major public opinion study done in 2019, 85% of people said they had no sympathy for them. People may not like them, but the Taliban know what they want and have long been involved.
So far, their strategy seems to have been working for a long time. Al Jazeera is certainly following the situation in Afghanistan and the talks taking place here in Doha, including websites and breaking news, and YouTube, which is the industry’s fastest correspondence.