Who are the Taliban and how did they take control of Afghanistan so swiftly?

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A U.S. Chinook chopper flies implicit the U.S. Embassy successful Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Helicopters are landing astatine the U.S. Embassy successful Kabul arsenic diplomatic vehicles permission the compound amid the Taliban precocious connected the Afghan capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Just past week, US quality analysts had predicted it would apt instrumentality respective much weeks earlier Afghanistan’s civilian authorities successful Kabul fell to Taliban fighters. In reality, it lone took a fewer abbreviated days.

On Sunday, Taliban militants retook Afghanistan’s capital, astir 2 decades aft they were driven from Kabul by US troops.

Although Afghan information forces were good funded and good equipped, they enactment up small absorption arsenic Taliban militants seized overmuch of the state pursuing the withdrawal of US troops opening successful aboriginal July.

On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, abandoning the statesmanlike palace to Taliban fighters.

Already, US officials person admitted that they miscalculated the velocity astatine which the Taliban were capable to beforehand crossed the country, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying of Afghanistan’s nationalist information forces: “The information of the substance is we’ve seen that that unit has been incapable to support the state … and that has happened much rapidly than we anticipated.”

The Taliban’s swift occurrence has prompted questions implicit however the insurgent radical was capable to summation power truthful soon aft the US withdrawal from Afghanistan — and, aft astir 20 years of struggle successful the US’ longest moving war, what the Taliban want.

Who are the Taliban?

Formed successful 1994, the Taliban were made up of erstwhile Afghan absorption fighters, known collectively arsenic mujahedeen, who fought the invading Soviet forces successful the 1980s. They aimed to enforce their mentation of Islamic instrumentality connected the state — and region immoderate overseas influence.

After the Taliban captured Kabul successful 1996, the Sunni Islamist enactment enactment successful spot strict rules. Women had to deterioration head-to-toe coverings, weren’t allowed to survey oregon enactment and were forbidden from traveling alone. TV, euphony and non-Islamic holidays were besides banned.

That changed aft September 11, 2001, erstwhile 19 men hijacked 4 commercialized planes successful the US, crashing 2 into the World Trade Center towers, 1 into the Pentagon, and another, destined for Washington, into a tract successful Pennsylvania. More than 2,700 people were killed successful the attacks.

The onslaught was orchestrated by al Qaeda person Osama bin Laden, who operated from wrong of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Less than a period aft the attack, US and allied forces invaded Afghanistan, aiming to halt the Taliban from providing a safe-haven to al Qaeda — and to halt al Qaeda from utilizing Afghanistan arsenic a basal of operations for violent activities.

In the 2 decades since they were ousted from power, the Taliban person been waging an insurgency against the allied forces and the US-backed Afghan government.

Who are the leaders?

The Taliban are led by Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, a elder spiritual cleric from the Taliban’s founding generation.

He was named arsenic the Taliban’s person successful 2016 aft the group’s erstwhile person Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed successful a US airstrike successful Pakistan.

At the time, Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network said the caller Taliban person mightiness beryllium capable to “integrate the younger and much militant generation.”

Another cardinal subordinate is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban co-founder, who was released successful 2013 aft being captured successful 2010 successful Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. Baradar heads the group’s governmental committee, and recently met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

What did the Taliban hold to with Trump?

In 2017, the Taliban issued an unfastened letter to the recently elected US President Donald Trump, calling connected him to retreat US forces from Afghanistan.

After years of negotiations, the Taliban and the Trump medication yet signed a bid woody successful 2020. The US agreed to retreat troops and merchandise immoderate 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban agreed to instrumentality steps to forestall immoderate radical oregon individual, including al Qaeda, from utilizing Afghanistan to endanger the information of the US oregon its allies.

But that didn’t bring astir peace.

Violence successful Afghanistan grew to its highest levels successful 2 decades. The Taliban accrued their power of wider swaths of the state — and by June of this year, contested oregon controlled an estimated 50% to 70% of Afghan territory extracurricular of municipality centers, according to a United Nations Security Council report.

The study warned that an emboldened Taliban posed a terrible and expanding menace to the authorities of Afghanistan. The study argued that the Taliban enactment had nary involvement successful the bid process and appeared to beryllium focused connected strengthening its subject presumption to springiness it leverage successful negotiations — or, if necessary, successful utilizing equipped force.

“The Taliban’s messaging remains uncompromising, and it shows nary motion of reducing the level of unit successful Afghanistan to facilitate bid negotiations with the Government of Afghanistan and different Afghan stakeholders,” the study said.

What bash the Taliban want?

The Taliban person tried to contiguous themselves arsenic antithetic from the past — they person claimed to beryllium committed to the bid process, an inclusive government, and consenting to support immoderate rights for women.

Taliban spokesperson Sohail Shaheen said women would inactive beryllium allowed to proceed their acquisition from superior to higher acquisition — a interruption from the rules during the Taliban’s past regularisation betwixt 1996 and 2001. Shaheen besides said diplomats, journalists and non-profits could proceed operating successful the country.

“That is our commitment, to supply a unafraid situation and they tin transportation retired their activities for the radical of Afghanistan,” helium said.

But galore observers interest that a instrumentality to Taliban regularisation is simply a instrumentality to the Afghanistan of 2 decades ago, erstwhile women’s rights were severely restricted. Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, said successful a tweet that hundreds of thousands were being forced to fly amid reports of superior quality rights violations.

“International humanitarian instrumentality and quality rights, particularly the hard-won gains of women and girls, indispensable beryllium preserved,” helium said.

Amin Saikal, the writer of “Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival,” said the Taliban did not privation Afghanistan to go a pariah state, and wanted to proceed receiving planetary aid. But, Saikal said: “As acold arsenic their ideological committedness is concerned, they person not truly changed.”

Why were the Taliban truthful beardown against the Afghan forces?

Over the past 2 decades, the US spent much than a trillion dollars successful Afghanistan. It trained Afghan soldiers and constabulary and provided them with modern equipment.

As of February, the Afghan forces numbered 308,000 personnel, according to a United Nations Security Council report released successful June — good supra the estimated fig of equipped Taliban fighters, which ranged from 58,000 to 100,000.

Ultimately, though, the Afghan forces proved to beryllium nary lucifer for the Taliban.

Carter Malkasian, a erstwhile elder advisor to the president of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is besides the writer of “The American War successful Afghanistan: A History,” said the Afghan forces sometimes lacked coordination and suffered from mediocre morale. The much defeats they had, the worse their morale became, and the much emboldened the Taliban were.

“Afghan forces, for a agelong play of time, person had problems with morale and besides their willingness to combat the Taliban,” helium said. “The Taliban tin overgarment themselves arsenic those who are resisting and warring occupation, which is thing that is benignant of adjacent and beloved to what it means to beryllium Afghan. Whereas that’s a overmuch harder happening for the authorities to claim, oregon the subject forces warring for the government.”

Taliban spokesperson Shaheen said they weren’t amazed by their palmy subject offensive.

“Because we person roots among the people, due to the fact that it was a fashionable uprising of the people, due to the fact that we knew that we had been saying this for the past 20 years,” helium said. “But nary 1 believed us. And present erstwhile they saw, and they were taken by astonishment due to the fact that earlier that they didn’t believe.”

Could the US person known that the Taliban would return?

Just past month, elder officials successful the Biden medication believed it could instrumentality months earlier the civilian authorities successful Kabul fell.

Now lawmakers are pressing the Biden medication for answers and demanding information connected however US quality could person truthful severely misjudged the concern connected the ground.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the apical Republican connected the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has called the concern an “unmitigated catastrophe of epic proportions,” portion Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “everyone saw this coming” but the President, who “publicly and confidently dismissed these threats conscionable a fewer weeks ago.”

American officials person expressed dismay astatine the present fallen US-backed Afghan government’s inability to support cardinal cities and regions from the Taliban, contempt laying retired a strategy for doing truthful during his communications with Biden and different elder US leaders.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the “lack of absorption that the Taliban faced from Afghan forces has been highly disconcerting.”

“They had each the advantages, they had 20 years of grooming by our conjugation forces, a modern aerial force, bully instrumentality and weapons,” helium said, according to sources connected the telephone wherever helium made the comments. “But you can’t bargain volition and you can’t acquisition leadership. And that’s truly what was missing successful this situation.”

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