Terrorism Profiles

Taliban

Alternative Names:

Afghan Taliban, Tahreek-i-Islami-i-Taliban Afghanistan, Movement of Islamic Students, The Taleban, the Islamic Movement of the Taliban (De Talebano Islami Ghurdzang or Tehrik) and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (De Afghanistan Islami Emarat)

Location:

Afghanistan, Pakistan

Leadership:

The top leadership structure in the Taliban is the Rahbari Shura (leadership council), better known as the Quetta Shura after the Pakistani city where it is currently based. Beneath the Rahbari Shura are the regional military shuras for four major geographical areas of operations in Afghanistan (Gerdi Jangal, Peshawar, Miramshah, and Quetta).

The Taliban’s current leader is Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, an ethnic Pashtun and veteran of the Soviet War in Afghanistan, having succeeded Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid, who died in 2013. Mohammad Omar was wanted by the United States for sheltering Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida militants responsible for perpetrating terrorist attacks against the US on September 11, 2001. Prior to 2001, the Taliban provided safe haven for al-Qaida operatives to recruit, train, and deploy terrorists abroad.

Membership:

The Taliban consists of thousands of volunteer and conscript fighters based in Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. While the Taliban’s core leadership is estimated at 1000 individuals, active members are thought to number more than 30,000. During the mid-1990s the Taliban also collaborated with al-Qaida forces to plan and carry out attacks.

Funding Sources:

The Taliban operate a human trafficking network, abducting women and selling them into sex slavery in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group also operates a highly lucrative trade in opium and other narcotics.

The Taliban are thought to have also received financial support through Osama bin Laden, given deepening ties between the Taliban and al-Qaida around the mid-1990s.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the Taliban received significant financial aid, material support, and tactical training from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Origins:

The Taliban was founded in the early 1990s by mujahideen fighters who resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with the support of the CIA and the ISI. Many of the organization’s founding leaders were also Islamic scholars from Afghan and Pakistani madrasas (Islamic schools).

The Taliban established their stronghold in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. By the mid-1990s, the Taliban had consolidated control over several other southern provinces within which they instituted a strict interpretation of Sharia law.

The Taliban formally ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. During their rule, the Taliban imposed Deobandi norms while waging jihad on the country’s periphery, neglecting to maintain basic state functions.

In 2001, the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime for providing refuge to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. The Taliban subsequently reconstituted in Pakistan under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Omar. From Pakistan, the Taliban led an insurgency to undermine the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai. The Taliban remain active under the leadership of Mullah Mansoor.

Major Attacks:

Since the US-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban have carried out thousands of attacks against Afghan government officials, Afghan and NATO security forces, and civilians across Afghanistan. The Taliban are also notorious for attacking specific civilian soft targets, including non-Muslim places of worship and girl’s schools.

August 1998: After capturing the city of Mazar, Taliban forces killed several thousand civilians and 10 Iranian diplomats and intelligence officers at the Iranian consulate.

January 2014: The Taliban staged a suicide and small arms attack on the Taverna restaurant in Kabul, killing 21 people, including three Americans.

March 2014: The Taliban carried out an attack against a USAID guesthouse near a Christian charity and daycare.

March 2014: The Taliban attacked the Afghan Election Commission headquarters with rockets and automatic small arms fire.

March 2014: The Taliban attacked the Serena Hotel, killing nine civilians.

Ideological Roots:

The Taliban is a Sunni Islamist nationalist and Pro-Pashtun movement that subscribes to a tribal and feudal ideology, combining elements of Sharia law and Pashtunwali tribal codes. The Taliban also derives its ideology from the Deobandi school of thought and the extremist jihadism of Osama bin Laden. The imposition of the Taliban’s radical ideology on Afghan society forbade various foods, most forms of art, and female sport and participation in social life.

Objectives:

The Taliban’s main objective is the removal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan, and the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan through the overthrow of the current government.

Tactics:

Improvise explosive devices, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED), suicide bombings, firearm attacks, low-intensity bomb attacks, rocket and mortar attacks, massacres, kidnapping, extortion, assassination, drug trafficking, arms trafficking.

Updated on January 19, 2016. 

References


  1. “Currently Listed Entities: Taliban.” Public Safety Canada. Last modified November, 2014. Accessed January 15, 2016. http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx#2044
  2. “The Taliban.” Council on Foreign Relations. Last modified August, 2015. Accessed January 15, 2016. http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/taliban/p35985?cid=marketing_use-taliban_infoguide-012115#!/
  3. “Mapping Militant Organizations: The Taliban.” Stanford University. Last modified July, 2014. Accessed January 15, 2016. https://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/367
  4. “Afghan Taliban.” National Counterterrorism Centre. Last modified 2015. Accessed January 15, 2016. http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/afghan_taliban.html
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