Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Understanding the Taliban menace

The recent Afghan elections were held under the shadow terror assaults from one of the world's most dreaded outfits, Taliban. They were hell bent to stop their nation's tentative attempt to uphold democracy. The outfit's grip has extended far beyond its land of birth. Though major western powers have deployed their best minds and resources, they have not been able to contain let alone overpower the top echelons of Taliban.

Who are these people who have the only super power in the world a bloody nose and have pushed their own nation in the vortex of violence? Why do they take refuge in religion to kill innocent men and women?

Who are Taliban?

'Taliban' is plural of Talib, a Pashto word meaning "student". It is a group of students that believes in a fundamentalist narrative of their religious teaching. They wrested control of Afghanistan's government in 1996 and were driven out of power in 2001 by the US led coalition army. Despite its ouster, it continues to wield considerable clout in Afghanistan's rural regions especially the Pakhtun dominated south and east provinces including Kandahar.

Known for ultra-orthodox views and rigid interpretations of Islamic law, the Taliban bars women from going to schools or from doing jobs. Public executions of homosexuals and petty offenders too are not very uncommon.

The Taliban was initially a group of mujahideens who fought against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. The battleground proved a steppingstone for those who later rose in the ranks of Taliban. One such leader was Mullah Omar, the Commander-in Chief, of the anti-Soviet army.

After successfully defeating the Soviet army, Omar formed the Taliban, comprising of a group of Islamic students, to bring order to the lawless, post-war Afghan society. Initially, they gained wide support of the Afghans who had grown weary of the constant fighting between the warlords.

With the help of government defections, the Taliban emerged as a force in Afghan politics in 1994 in the midst of a civil war between forces in northern and southern Afghanistan. They captured the southern city of Kandahar without force and over the next two years, steadily expanded their influence over the rest of the country. In 1996, they captured Kabul, the Afghan capital, and took control of the national government.

Currently, the Taliban strength is estimated at around 45,000. In addition to this, the Taliban has been reportedly recruiting a lot of children and elderly men in order to fight its opponents, particularly the Northern Alliance.

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