The Taliban (/ˈtælɪbæn, ˈtɑːlɪbɑːn/; Pashto: طالبان, romanized: ṭālibān, lit.'students' or 'seekers')[66][67] which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA),[68] is a Deobandi Islamist religious and political movement and military organization in Afghanistan. Currently one of two entities claiming to be the legitimate government of Afghanistan, alongside the internationally recognized Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Taliban maintain de facto control over the country. The Taliban's ideology has been described as combining an "innovative" form of Sharia Islamic law based on Deobandi fundamentalism[69] and militant Islamism, combined[69] with Pashtun social and cultural norms known as Pashtunwali,[1][2][70][71] as most Taliban are Pashtun tribesmen. The group is internally funded by its activities in the illegal drug trade by producing and trafficking narcotics such as heroin,[72][73] extortion, and kidnap and ransom.[74][75] They also seized control of mining operations in the mid 2010s which were illegal under the previous government.[76]

طالبان (ṭālibān)
Dates of operation
Allegiance Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Group(s)Primarily Pashtuns;[1][2] minority Tajiks, Turkmens, and Uzbeks[3][4]
HeadquartersKandahar, Afghanistan (1994–2001)
Active regions
  Under control of the Taliban
  Under control of Panjshir resistance
SizeCore strength -
  • 45,000 (2001 est.)[18]
  • 11,000 (2008 est.)[19]
  • 36,000 (2010 est.)[20]
  • 60,000 (2014 est.)[21]
  • 60,000[22] (2017 est. excluding 90,000 local militia and 50,000 support elements)
  • 75,000 (2021 est.)[23][24][25]
AlliesState allies
Non-state allies
OpponentsState and intergovernmental opponents
Non-state opponents
Battles and wars

From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban held power over roughly three-quarters of Afghanistan, and enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law.[77] The Taliban emerged in 1994 as one of the prominent factions in the Afghan Civil War[78] and largely consisted of students (talib) from the Pashtun areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan who had been educated in traditional Islamic schools, and fought during the Soviet–Afghan War.[79][12][13][80] Under the leadership of Mohammed Omar, the movement spread throughout most of Afghanistan, shifting power away from the Mujahideen warlords. The totalitarian[10][81] Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was established in 1996 and the Afghan capital was transferred to Kandahar. It held control of most of the country until being overthrown after the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in December 2001 following the September 11 attacks. During the group's previous rule parts of the northeast were held by the Northern Alliance, which largely maintained international recognition as a continuation of the interim Islamic State of Afghanistan.[82] At its peak, formal diplomatic recognition of the Taliban's government was acknowledged by three nations: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The group later regrouped as an insurgency movement to fight the American-backed Karzai administration and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the War in Afghanistan. Following the Fall of Kabul on 15 August 2021, the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.

The Taliban have been condemned internationally for the harsh enforcement of their interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, which has resulted in the brutal treatment of many Afghans.[83][84] During their rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban and their allies committed massacres against Afghan civilians, denied UN food supplies to 160,000 starving civilians, and conducted a policy of scorched earth, burning vast areas of fertile land and destroying tens of thousands of homes.[85][86][87][88][89][90] While the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, they banned activities and media including paintings,[91] photography,[92] and movies that depicted people or other living things.[93] They also prohibited music using instruments, with the exception of the daf, a type of frame drum.[94] The Taliban prevented girls and young women from attending school,[95] banned women from working jobs outside of healthcare (male doctors were prohibited from treating women),[96] and required that women be accompanied by a male relative and wear a burqa at all times when in public.[97] If women broke certain rules, they were publicly whipped or executed.[98] Religious and ethnic minorities were heavily discriminated against during Taliban rule and they have engaged in cultural genocide, destroying numerous monuments including the famous 1500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan.[99][100][101][102] According to the United Nations, the Taliban and their allies were responsible for 76% of Afghan civilian casualties in 2010, and 80% in 2011 and 2012.[103][104][105][106][107][108]

The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and military are widely alleged by the international community and the Afghan government to have provided support to the Taliban during their founding and time in power, and of continuing to support the Taliban during the insurgency. Pakistan states that it dropped all support for the group after the 11 September attacks.[109][110][111][112][113][114] In 2001, reportedly 2,500 Arabs under command of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden fought for the Taliban.[115]