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Who are the Taliban? What do they Believe?

By: Kurtis Adigba
 minute read

A little background

Who are the Taliban exactly? Why are they seizing power in Afghanistan? Before we get into the details, let's take a look at a little background

Afghanistan is a mountainous landlocked country at the crossroads of central and South Asia.

It is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, and China to the northeast.

Kabul doubles as the capital and the largest city with an estimated population of over 4.6 million people.

Afghanistan has a population of 31, 390,200, according to 2020 estimates.

Ethnic groups are

  • Pashtun 42%,
  • Tajik 27%,
  • Hazara 9%,
  • Uzbek 9%,
  • Aimaq 4%,
  • Turkmen 3%,
  • Baloch 2%, and
  • others 4%.

The official religion is Islam with 99.7% as Muslims, 0.3%  others.

Afghanistan has over 1,400 mineral fields, containing

  • barite,
  • chromite,
  • coal,
  • copper,
  • gold,
  • iron ore,
  • lead,
  • natural gas,
  • petroleum,
  • precious and semi-precious stones,
  • salt,
  • sulfur,
  • talc,
  • zinc,
  • among many other minerals.

Gemstones include high-quality emerald, lapis, red garnet and ruby.

Her mineral resources are valued at over $1T (One Trillion Dollars).

By all standards and metrics, Afghanistan is a rich country, except that she is not.

She is a poor country due to wars, misgovernance, corruption, and extremism.

She has fought so many wars against the British, Russia, and the United States. She has been described as the graveyard of empires.

Who are the Taliban

The word Taliban means “student” in the Pashto language.

It’s of Arabic origin (tālib or طالب in Arabic), pronounced (taalib).

The Taliban is a fundamentalist religious group that was started in the mid-1990s by Pakistani religious school students, and they held power in most of Afghanistan during the late 1990s.

In November 1994; the Taliban made up of mainly Pashtun nationalists, marched from Maiwand in southern Afghanistan to capture Kandahar city and the surrounding provinces.

The bait and rise to power

The Taliban initially enjoyed enormous goodwill from Afghans weary of corruption, brutality, rape, and the incessant fighting of Mujahideen warlords, holding the country by the jugular.

Mujahideen warlords — guerilla fighters in Islamic countries — are one of the guerrilla groups going in Afghanistan during the Afghan War (1978 - 92). They fought against the invasive Soviet forces and eventually broke down the Afghan communist government.

The Taliban led by the reclusive Mullah Omar vowed to rid Afghanistan of all crimes and criminals, restore peace, security and impose their own stern version of Sharia law once in power — which was a success — and they were received and perceived as saviours by the people.

Under the Taliban regime, Sharia law was interpreted to ban a wide range of activities hitherto lawful in the country: employment, education and sports for women, movies, television, videos, music, dancing, hanging pictures in homes, clapping during sports events, kite flying, beard trimming (men must grow beards) and girls age 10 and above mustn’t go to school.

They also introduced punishments such as public executions of convicted murderers and adulterers. Anyone who also was convicted of theft will be amputated.

These rules were issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice (PVSV) and enforced by its Religious Police like the Hisbah in the Kano State of Nigeria.

In September 1995, the Taliban militia captured the province of Herat and in 1996, (while one of the founding fathers of the Afghan mujahideen that resisted the Soviet occupation was still in power) the President of the country was overthrown and the capital city of Afghanistan, Kabul, was also captured and imposed a strict Islamic code on the country.

It declared Afghanistan as an Islamic Emirate.

Literally setting up an Islamic government.

Taliban Leadership Structure

Who are the Taliban and their Leadership Structure

Taliban cultural abuses

One of the major destructions made by the Taliban group was the destruction of the two famous giant Buddhas statues in Bamiyan (a province in central Afghanistan) in March of 2001 under the instruction of then Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. He issued a decree to get rid of all non-Islamic statues and sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

The Buddhas wasn't the only thing the Taliban destroyed, the museum and any art with a representation of a living form.

Currently, Aghanistan poetry, film, music, art, artifacts, antiquities, statues, museums and more — which represents Afghanistan's cultural heritage — are under threat of the Taliban milita.

The Lady Taliban

At the time, Robin Raphel, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, called for strong engagement with the Taliban and described their taking of Kabul in September 1996 as a “positive step”.

Her consistent support for the Taliban from its earliest days earned her the sobriquet “Lady Taliban” in the Indian press.

So the United States of America, knew about the Taliban and its beliefs and practices, and tacitly engaged with them, and even “encouraged” them until 2001.

What happened?

Things changed and America changed with it.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men (all Muslim), hijacked 4 aeroplanes in a coordinated terrorist attack against the United States.

The men were members of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, a Wahhabi Islamist group led by Osama Bin Ladin.

They plunged the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, Manhattan, NY, the Pentagon, U.S Capitol/White House (aborted midway by passengers and crashed before reaching the Capitol and WH).

The attacks killed 2,996 persons in addition to the 19 hijackers mostly from Saudi Arabia 14, UAE 2, Egypt and Lebanon 1 each, and caused damages amounting to over a Trillion dollars. 

The United State of America, then led by President George Walker Bush, believed that Osama Bin Ladin and his Al-Qaeda, coordinated and orchestrated the attacks on America and vowed to bring them to justice.

On a visit to the site of the destroyed World Trade Center, President said in response to a bystander’s comment that they weren’t hearing him” The rest of the world hears you… he said, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon”.

The president was in a war mood.

The country was, too.

Who wouldn’t? Considering the enormous loss of lives and damages, and the humiliation of the world’s greatest and only superpower?

But the president was willing to do a deal with the Taliban and avoid war if only they arrest and surrender Osama Bin Ladin, the alleged mastermind to the USA.

Osama Bin Ladin was at the time living in Afghanistan as a financier of the regime. He fought alongside other Mujahideen to defend the country against the Russian invasion between 1979 and 1989.

At the time, it was speculated that Osama Bin Ladin and others had the backing of the USA.

Russia lost and left Afghanistan humiliated. 

Mullah Umar, the leader of the Taliban who was also related by marriage to Osama Bin Ladin, refused to hand over OBL to the USA.

The invasion 

The USA left with no options, invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in search of Osama Bin Ladin- arrest or kill him, and destroy his terrorist network in the country.

The president promised to smoke out Bin Ladin and destroy Al-Qaeda.


The United States Government did not go into Afghanistan because they didn’t like the Taliban or the way they were governing the country.


They went there in pursuit of their Strategic National Interests.

Afghanistan quickly careened into disaster without a central government following the overthrow of the Taliban.

The United States that had hoped for a quick operation and exit, found herself trapped in the country.

She assumed the difficult task of leading and rebuilding the country while looking for Osama Bin Ladin and seeking to destroy his terrorist organization.

America paid a huge price in both human lives, materials and money.

She lost approximately 2,500 servicemen and spent over $2T dollars in 20 years maintaining her forces, rebuilding the country, and equipping the Afghan forces for the eventual takeover of their country according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project.

In addition, the $2.313 trillion does not include other future expenses the United Stated is obligated to spend. For instance, lifetime care for American veterans of this war and interest payments on money borrowed to fund the war.

In 2011, the United States military in a swift operation located and killed Osama Bin Ladin at Abbottabad, Pakistan, ending the over 15 years of search for him.

The Clinton Administration had made several attempts to target and kill Bin Laden before the invasion of Afghanistan by President Bush.

The killing of Osama Bin Ladin was the supreme accomplishment of the National Strategic Interests of the United States.

Recall that Al-Qaeda had been weakened with the capture of key operatives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al Shibh, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh Said Masri and others. Ayman Al Zawahiri, the Egyptian born deputy to Osama Bin Ladin was in hiding and reduced to making periodic videos and releases.

So America has accomplished her goals — Strategic National Interests and needed to get out. 

President Obama promised to end the war and return troops home, but was forced into a surge of force because of the worsening security situation. 

President Trump had campaigned on ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He promised to bring the troops home.

Trump’s attempt to scale down on troops in Afghanistan and end the war was resisted by his Generals he loved to call ”Globalist”.

But he pushed on and continued to negotiate with the Taliban.

On Feb. 29, 2020, the U.S and the Taliban signed an agreement that sets the terms for a U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 1, 2020.

The withdrawal of U.S troops is contingent on the Taliban's action against al-Qaeda and other terrorists who could threaten us. 

The pact includes the release of 5,000 Taliban fighters who have been held prisoners by the Afghanistan government, which is not a party to the agreement.

On March 1, 2020, Ashraf Ghani, the deposed President of Afghanistan, objected to the provision in the agreement that required his country to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, saying “freeing Taliban prisoners is not under the authority of America but the authority of Afghan”. 

On March 4, 2020, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley in a carefully timed rebuttal told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Taliban pledged in a classified document not to attack “U.S. troops and caution forces or launch high profile attacks”.  

Despite this assurance, the Taliban attacked Afghan forces protected by the U.S in Helmand province and the U.S. responded with airstrikes.

On March 10, 2020, the Afghan President under intense pressure from President Trump and his Government ordered the release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners at the rate of 100 per day.

This continued until 5000 prisoners were released.

Meanwhile, President Trump began to draw down on troops from 15,500 to 2,500.

This was the situation President Biden inherited. 

Biden had promised

To bring the remaining troops home during the campaign and was eager like Trump to end the war.

He wanted to focus on America’s infrastructure.

Biden evacuated the remaining troops in the hope that the Afghan forces will withstand the Taliban and that the Taliban will keep to the pact signed with the U.S not to attack Afghan forces or the government.

The rest is history. 

The U.S couldn’t have stayed in Afghanistan forever.

It is impossible.

Afghans will have the kind of government they deserve.

America was in no winning position and could not win the war even if she was engaged for another 40 years.

America did not go to Afghanistan for nation-building as stated by Biden. Only Afghans can build their country.

Ask yourself this question: if America was not attacked in 2011, would she have gone to Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power?

Alexander the Great was right when he said: “may God keep you away from the venom of the cobra, the teeth of the tiger, and the revenge of the Afghans”.

The Taliban are Afghans and they are back for an act of revenge.

Can they prove Alexander the Great wrong?

We are watching!


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