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MHS Library | Current Events

Afghanistan - a brief history

  • Afghanistan is completely landlocked—the nearest coast lies along the Arabian Sea, about 300 miles (480 km) to the south. It is bounded to the east and south by Pakistan (including those areas of Kashmir administered by Pakistan but claimed by India), to the west by Iran, and to the north by the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. It also has a short border with China in the extreme northeast. Its overall area is roughly twice that of Norway.

  • Afghanistan was occupied by the Soviets in the 1970s and 80s
  • The Taliban -meaning 'students' in the Pashto language - emerged from northern Pakistan in the early 1990s, and officially came to power in 1996
  • It is thought that the movement was funded by hardline Sunni muslims from Audi Arabia
  • by 1998, the Taliban were in control of more than 90% of Afghanistan
  • While the Taliban were originally welcomed by most people in Afghanistan, they soon began to introduce strict laws and harsh punishments. For example, men had to grow a beard and women were required to wear the all-covering burka. Public executions and stonings were introduced.
  • Following 9/11, the US-led military campaign caused a collapse of the Taliban regime in December 2001
  • A US- Taliban peace deal was signed in February 2020
  • The Taliban shifted its attacks from military outposts to targeted assassinations of Afghan civilians - mostly people like journalists, peace activists, women in political positions. 
  • Despite this, US President Joe Biden announced in April this year that all American forces would leave the country by 11 September - two decades to the day since the attack on the US.

Women in Afghanistan

Global Conflict Tracker

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The Taliban


  • The Islamic fundamentalist group ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until the American - led invasion in 2001. Since then, it has waged an insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.
  • Experts say the Taliban is stronger now than at any point since 2001. It launched an offensive amid the U.S. troop withdrawal and, by July 2021, controlled over half of Afghanistan’s districts. 
  • The Taliban started its first direct peace negotiations with the Afghan government in 2020 after signing an agreement with the United States. Little progress has been made.

Who are the Taliban leaders?

Graphic showing the Taliban leadership structure