“ The Taliban was part of our past and your past. The ISI and CIA created it together. It was a monster created by all of us, but we forgot to make a cure of it… They’re kind of a cancer created by Pakistan and America, and the world.”
Asif Ali Zardari on Taliban
By 1994, after having overthrown the Soviets, Afghanistan had disintegrated into a patchwork of competing groups and shifting alliances. The predominantly ethnic Tajik government of President Rabbani held Kabul and the northeast of the country, while the Northern provinces remained under the control of Abdul Rashid Dostum and other warlords. Ismail Khan controlled the Western provinces around Herat, and the area to the South and East of Kabul were in the hands of warlords such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Eastern border with Pakistan was held by a council of mujahideen, and the South was split between scores of ex-mujahideen and bandits, who used their control of the roads to extort money from the cross-border trade with Pakistan.
In late 1994, a new movement emerged in the South, seizing control first of Kandahar and then of the surrounding provinces. Its leaders took the name of their group Taliban, from the plural of talib, an Arabic word denoting an Islamic student.
Origins of the Taliban
The most widely circulated theory is that the leadership of the Taliban emerged from amongst the disgruntled young Afghan refugees studying in the religious schools around Quetta and Peshawar.
Soon after the Soviets sent their troops into Afghanistan in support of the communist regime in Kabul, General Mohammad Ziaul Haq, the then President of Pakistan, established a chain of ‘ Deeni Madaris’ (an offshoot of the old madrassa educational system) along the Afghan-Pakistan border. He did so in order to create a belt of religiously-oriented students who would assist the Afghan mujahideen to evict the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The students in these Deeni Madaris were a mixture of Afghans and Pakistanis, with around 80 percent of them being Afghans. The teaching staff were both Pakistanis and Afghans. After the fall of Dr Najibullah,religious schools began functioning in Afghanistan as well, especially in the eastern provinces and in Herat.
The madaris not only imparted religious education of sorts but more than that, they organised the students into militant groups who would be prepared to use force to subdue their rivals. The ones that produced the fighters were sent to Afghanistan to evict the communists and later to fight against those who they believed were not introducing an Islamic regime in their country.That is why they reportedly developed a dislike for the existing Afghan groupings, which they blamed for brining about much of the death and destruction in their homeland.The Taliban argued that they were creating a stable Islamic state that the leaders of the jihad against the Soviets could not create.
Rise of the Taliban Movement
Immediate Causes. The pitiable condition in which the Afghans found themselves during this period (1992-1994) could be attributable to the existing mujahideen factions. In Sep 1994, Mullah Mohammad Omar, a jihad veteran from Maiwand district, of just West of Khandahar, decided to work towards bringing about peace by evicting the pro-communists and introducing Islamic values in Afghanistan.
Omar visited various mosques in his village to gather support for his mission, and formed a group of Talibs along with weapons and vehicles, which was provided to him by a mujahid commander of Hizb-e-Islami. With this the Taliban movement had begun. The formal name given to the newly created political faction was Tehreek-i-Islami-i-Taliban Afghanistan. Later, permission was also given for the commanders of The National Islamic Front of Afghanistan (NIFA) in Khandahar to join this new band of black-turbaned Islamic warriors by their chief, in the hope that Taliban would bring about peace in Afghanistan. The strength of the Taliban soon swelled.The ages of their members varied from 15 to 50. The young students who formed the group initially were soon joined by experienced fighters who had been active against the Soviets during the Afghan jihad. They too joined in assisting the ‘ war effort’.
A central shura was established in Khandahar, with Mullah Omar designated as the head. The war effort and all policies were being directed from his headquarters in Kandahar, which virtually became the capital of the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan.The Taliban leadership, headed by Mullah Omar, emerged as a force that would cure the country of factionalism, corruption, and violence that had prevailed ever since the Soviet withdrawal.
While there is no single cause that brought the Taliban Islamic Movement of Afghanistan into prominence, several factors have been cited: –
Pashtun identity; many of the warlords were from northern ethnic groups.
The combination of their visible, although not fully understood, piety, coupled with resentment against warlords perceived as Islamic.
Financing, both having sources of it, and being able to bribe difficult opponents.
Support from Pakistan, especially Inter-Services Intelligence.
Due to frustration and war-weariness among the population in the south, the Taliban was initially well received. Its forces advanced rapidly through Southern and Eastern Afghanistan, capturing nine out of thirty provinces by February 1995. The movement received strong backing from Pakistan’s ISI, which assisted in the recruitment of members and provided weapons, training, and technical assistance. In 1996, the Taliban captured Kabul and, despite temporary setbacks, conquered the northern cities of Mazar, Kunduz, and Taloqan in 1998.
By 2001, the Taliban controlled virtually all of Afghanistan. The only exception was a small sliver of land North East of Kabul in the Panshjir Valley to which Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance forces had retreated. The Taliban instituted a repressive version of shari’a law, banning music, banned women from working or going to school, and prohibited freedom of the press. Afghanistan also became a breeding ground for jihadists and terrorists intent on attacking the United States and other nations.
The withdrawal of the Soviets in 1989 put an abrupt end to the American aid being provided to the mujahideens. Subsequently, during the period from 1993 to 1996, which were crucial in forming up the Taliban, both the political and military leadership of Pakistan identified in Taliban, a proxy army they could exploit to meet their objectives. In 1994, the government of Pakistan under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto, sought the assistance of the Taliban in ensuring safe passage of their convoys through Afghanistan; a task which the Taliban executed successfully by overpowering the local warlords in the region. Their quest to conquer grew roots and they did continue to capture and rule most of Afghanistan (nearly 90%), till 9/11 reversed their fortunes.