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What Are The Origins Of The Taliban And How Did The US Forge A Feeble Peace In Afghanistan?

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On the 15th of August, as India celebrated the 75th year of its independence, a country was captured by an extremist group while its leader left his people to their poor fate. After seeing 40 years of loot, destruction, and civil war, the misery of the people of Afghanistan has not ended.

A group that was once labeled as terrorists, were given a free pass by the powerful nations of the world to wreak havoc on the most vulnerable people of the country.

But, how did the Afghan people ended up being here after the supposed war on terror was over and the victory was claimed years ago? And, why have the poor people of Afghanistan been suffering for decades?

When the president of USA, Joe Biden, announced that the US will be withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, the concerns were evolving over what will happen in the aftermath of its departure.

Even though the US-led invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001, many analysts suspect the militant group is now in a position to take control of Afghanistan.

But what is the Taliban and where did it come from? Understanding the group’s origins requires us to look back at more than 40 years of Afghan history.

Representational image.

In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan while the US supplied and armed Afghan mujahideen (warriors or militants). Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan and Iran.

Soon, the CIA (central intelligence agency) created its covert operation to finance and arm militants, in what is considered to be an anti-communist war.

Many Muslims from around the world also volunteered to fight against the Soviets. One of them was Osama bin Laden.

The US administration used mujahideen leaders to weaken the Soviet Union. Photo credit: Gulf News.

In 1983, president Ronald Regan met with the mujahideen leaders at the White House. The US considered them allies in the fight against communism and the Soviet Union.

Red terror was propagated in the US through pop culture. The movie Rambo III is a good example of the same.

This was even reflected in popular culture at the time. In Rambo III, actor and superstar, Sylvester Stallone fought alongside Afghan villagers against the Soviets. The film ended with a tribute to the gallant people of Afghanistan.

In 1986, the superior firepower the US provided to the mujahideen began to take its toll on the Soviet forces. After nearly 10 years of occupation, the Soviet finally agreed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

Mohammed Najibullah, the former president of Aghanistan.

After the withdrawal, Soviet-backed president Mohammed Najibullah resigned, and was put under house arrest at a UN (united nations) compound. The mujahideen forces signed the Peshawar Accord, creating the new Islamic state of Afghanistan in 1984.

Two years later, the Taliban emerged in south Kandahar. They assumed control of the province and imposed a particularly harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

Their group was founded by mulla (cleric) Mohammed Omar and his students, whose mission was to establish Islamic rule now that communism had fallen.

The Taliban also felt like they wanted to clear the country of territorial warlords and corruption in a matter of months. More than 15,000 students from religious schools in Pakistan, most of them Afghan refugees had joined the Taliban.

In 1996, the cooperation between mujahideen leaders had failed and resulted in four years of fighting between sections. Kabul was left in ruins and nearly 50,000 people were killed.

In September of that year, the Taliban reached Kabul after taking most of the country with little resistance. They executed former president Najibullah and his brother. The Taliban imposed its version of Islamic law which included preventing girls from going to school and denying women the right to work.

Legal punishment and execution took place in public. Only a few countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE recognized their regime. In September 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, the US issued an ultimatum to mulla Omar.

They suspected one of the alleged organizers of the attack, Osama bin laden was under Taliban protection and they demanded that he be surrendered to the US. Mulla Omar refused. About 20 years after it started supporting the political factions that gave rise to the Taliban, the US entered Afghanistan.

Within months, the Taliban had retreated to the Kandahar province, as the US-led coalition reached Kabul with its allies i.e., the northern alliance.

As per an agreement, the US handed control to the northern alliance and other mujahideen groups that had ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s. Hamid Karzai was chosen as Afghanistan’s transitional president two days after the agreement.

Mulla Omar left Kandahar which signaled the official end of the Taliban regime.

US President George W Bush declared the mission as having been accomplished. The Pentagon formally announced that major combat operations in Afghanistan were over. Karzai was elected as president for the first of two consecutive terms, via a nationwide general election.

By 2006, the US was stuck in the middle of another costly invasion: Iraq. The Taliban seized the opportunity to present a resurgence. The US and NATO (north Atlantic treaty organization) troops officially ended their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.

President Barack Obama continued to authorize the US forces to carry out operations against the Taliban over the next few years. The Taliban escalated attacks on the Afghan and US forces they captured.

Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in Qatar, but failed. Russia attempted to hold a peace conference between the two parties, which also failed. In April 2021, the president of USA, Joe Biden, announced that his troops would be withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Since the announcement, violence escalated in Kabul. There would be attacks, sometimes, and the victims are mostly journalists and high-profile women.

Now, the Taliban has captured Afghanistan and their government has the people in ruins. Their future looks more uncertain than ever.

But young people across the globe need to speak about this invasion and cannot allow this kind of tragedy to take place in the 21st century.

Featured image, taken from Wikimedia Commons, is for representational purposes only.
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Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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