Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

د افغانستان اسلامي امارت (Pashto)
Də Afġānistān Islāmī Imārat
Anthem: دا د باتورانو کور
Dā də bātorāno kor
Location of Afghanistan
StatusUnrecognized state
and largest city
Official languagesPashto
Ethnic groups
GovernmentUnitary Deobandi-Islamic theocratic emirate
• Emir[a]
Hibatullah Akhundzada
• 1st Vice Emir
Abdul Ghani Baradar
• 2nd Vice Emir
Mohammad Yaqoob
LegislatureNone (as of 2021)
15 August 2021
• Islamic Emirate restored[6][7][8][9][10][11]
19 August 2021
• Total
652,864 km2 (252,072 sq mi) (40th)
• Water (%)
• 2020 estimate
39,907,500 (44th)
• Density
48.08/km2 (124.5/sq mi) (174th)
CurrencyAfghani (افغانی) (AFN)
Time zoneUTC+4:30
Solar Calendar
Driving sideright
Calling code+93
ISO 3166 codeAF
Internet افغانستان.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan[b][12] is an unrecognized Islamic emirate that was first established in September 1996 by the Taliban, a Deobandi Islamist organization that began its governance of Afghanistan after the 1996 fall of Kabul. The group stayed in power until 2001, when it was toppled by a United States-led military coalition that invaded the country after the September 11 attacks, sparking the 20-year War in Afghanistan. The Taliban returned to power after the August 2021 fall of Kabul and has since had de facto control over most of the country.[13]

The 1996–2001 Taliban-led government existed as a partially recognized state, being recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.[14] It operated as a theocracy ruled by a Deobandi interpretation of Islamic religious law (Sharia) in accordance with the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the religious edicts of the group's founding leader, Mohammed Omar. Opposition to liberal democracy, secularism, and the Western world—particularly to the United States and Israel—was strongly promoted.[15][16][17] Several cultural and recreational activities were banned as haram. Women and girls were forbidden to attend schools and universities and largely banned from working; they were also required to observe the practice of purdah and to be accompanied by mahram male relatives at all times if outside of their households. If women broke certain rules, they would be punished through whippings or execution. The five obligatory Islamic daily prayers (salah) were made compulsory and enforced by law for all Muslims, and those who did not abide were arrested. Christians, Shia Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus and other non-Sunni Muslim minorities faced widespread religious discrimination and cultural genocide as well as other forms of persecution during this period. The Taliban also destroyed numerous monuments and historical artifacts, such as the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan.[18]

The 2001 United States-led invasion of Afghanistan occurred after the Taliban refused to comply with the Bush administration's ultimatum that demanded the group extradite al-Qaeda leader and September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.[19] The end of the Battle of Tora Bora on 17 December 2001 marked the effective overthrow of the Islamic Emirate by the Northern Alliance, which had been greatly bolstered by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that was established after the American invasion two months prior; this led to the Taliban's withdrawal from much of the country and the eventual formation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Despite operating as an insurgency, the Taliban continued to refer to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in all of its official communications from its overthrow in December 2001 until its return to power in August 2021.[20]

During the 2021 scheduled withdrawal of American and NATO troops, the Taliban launched a military offensive in May 2021, and rapidly took control of Afghanistan in three and a half months; the Afghan Armed Forces quickly disintegrated in the wake of the Taliban advance, and the Islamic Republic collapsed entirely on 15 August 2021, when Taliban forces entered and seized the capital and largest city of Kabul. Members of the Afghan government surrendered and most of the Afghan leadership fled the country. The rapid collapse of the government in the face of Taliban forces was widely interpreted to be indicative of broader trends globally; including the rising influence and power of Islamism in Muslim regions, the growing draw of illiberal models of governance, and perceived American decline.[21][22][23] Many people became trapped in the wake of the rapid and unexpected collapse of the Afghan government, triggering a massive evacuation crisis, with tens of thousands of American citizens and other allies left stranded inside Taliban-controlled regions.[24][25][26][27][28]

Although no government has recognized the re-established Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as of 18 August 2021, the governments of China, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States of America[29] have stated that they may recognize the Taliban government if it respects basic human rights.[21]


Early history and ethnic conflict

The Taliban and its rule arose from the chaos after the Soviet–Afghan War. It began as an Islamic and Pashtun politico-religious movement composed of madrasa students in southern Afghanistan. Overwhelmingly ethnic Pashtuns, the Taliban blended Pashtunwali tribal code with elements of Salafist teaching to form an anti-Western and anti-modern Islamist ideology with which it ruled.[30] It began to receive support from neighbouring Pakistan as well as from Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. A small Taliban militia first emerged near Kandahar in the spring and summer of 1994, committing vigilante acts against minor warlords, with a fund of 250,000 USD from local businessmen.[31] They soon began to receive backing from local Durrani Pashtun leaders.[32]

The first major military activity of the Taliban was in October–November 1994 when they marched from Maiwand in southern Afghanistan to capture Kandahar City and the surrounding provinces, losing only a few dozen men.[33] Starting with the capture of a border crossing and a huge ammunition dump from warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a few weeks later they freed "a convoy trying to open a trade route from Pakistan to Central Asia" from another group of warlords attempting to extort money.[34] In the next three months this hitherto "unknown force" took control of twelve of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, with Mujahideen warlords often surrendering to them without a fight and the "heavily armed population" giving up their weapons.[35] The Taliban initially enjoyed enormous good will from Afghans weary of the corruption, brutality, and the incessant fighting of Mujahideen warlords. However, reactions and resistance would vary and increase among non-Pashtun people.[36]

The Taliban considered many of Afghanistan's other ethnic communities as foreign. Pashtun people are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and comprised the vast majority of the Taliban movement. As the Taliban expanded from their southern and south-eastern strongholds, they encountered more resistance; their brand of Deobandi Islam, incorporated with the Pashtun tribal code of Pashtunwali, was viewed as foreign by the other ethnic groups of Afghanistan.[37][38][39] The Battles of Mazar-i-Sharif illustrated this ethnic tension.[40][41]

Establishment and governance (1996–2001)

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

د افغانستان اسلامي امارت
Da Afġānistān Islāmī Amārāt
Motto: lā ʾilāha ʾillà l-Lāh, Muḥammadun rasūlu l-Lāh
لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله (Arabic)
"There is no god but Allah (God). Muhammad is the messenger of God."
Location of Afghanistan
StatusPartially recognized state[c]
Largest cityKabul
Official languages
Sunni Islam
GovernmentUnitary Islamic one-party totalitarian theocracy administered by shura councils[47]
Amir al-Mu'minin[48][49][50]
Head of the Supreme Council[51][52][53]
• 1996–2001
Mohammed Omar
Prime Minister
Deputy Head of the Supreme Council
• 1996–2001
Mohammad Rabbani
• 2001
Abdul Kabir (acting)
LegislatureIslamic Council (proposed)[54]
Historical eraAfghan Civil War / War on Terror
• Mohammad Omar proclaimed Commander of the Faithful
3 April 1996
27 September[55] 1996
• Name changed to "Emirate"
29 October 1997
7 October 2001
13 November 2001
17 December 2001
2000587,578 km2 (226,865 sq mi)
• 2001
Calling code+93
ISO 3166 codeAF
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Islamic State of Afghanistan
Islamic State of Afghanistan
A German map showing the political status of Afghanistan in the fall of 1996, just after the Taliban conquered Kabul
Political status of Afghanistan in October 2001, just before the U.S invasion

Spreading from Kandahar, the Taliban eventually captured Kabul in 1996. By the end of 2000, the Taliban controlled 90% of the country, aside from the opposition (Northern Alliance) strongholds found primarily in the northeast corner of Badakhshan Province. Areas under the Taliban's direct control were mainly Afghanistan's major cities and highways. Tribal khans and warlords had de facto direct control over various small towns, villages, and rural areas.[56] The Taliban sought to establish law and order and to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, along with the religious edicts of Mullah Mohammed Omar, upon the entire country of Afghanistan.[17]

During the five-year history of the Islamic Emirate, the Taliban regime interpreted the Sharia in accordance with the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the religious edicts of Mullah Omar.[17] The Taliban forbade pork and alcohol, many types of consumer technology such as music,[17] television,[17] and film,[17] as well as most forms of art such as paintings or photography,[17] male and female participation in sport,[17] including football and chess;[17] recreational activities such as kite-flying and keeping pigeons or other pets were also forbidden, and the birds were killed according to the Taliban's ruling.[17] Movie theaters were closed and repurposed as mosques.[17] Celebration of the Western and Iranian New Year was forbidden.[17] Taking photographs and displaying pictures or portraits was forbidden, as it was considered by the Taliban as a form of idolatry.[17] Women were banned from working,[17] girls were forbidden to attend schools or universities,[17] were requested to observe purdah and to be accompanied outside their households by male relatives; those who violated these restrictions were punished.[17] Men were forbidden to shave their beards and required to let them grow and keep them long according to the Taliban's liking, and to wear turbans outside their households.[17][57] Communists were systematically executed. Prayer was made compulsory and those who did not respect the religious obligation after the azaan were arrested.[17] Gambling was banned,[17] and thieves were punished by amputating their hands or feet.[17] In 2000, the Taliban leader Mullah Omar officially banned opium cultivation and drug trafficking in Afghanistan;[17][58][59] the Taliban succeeded in nearly eradicating the majority of the opium production (99%) by 2001.[58][59][60] Under the Taliban governance of Afghanistan, both drug users and dealers were severely prosecuted.[17] The Afghan custom of bacha bazi, a form of pederastic sexual slavery and pedophilia traditionally practiced in various provinces of Afghanistan, was also forbidden under the six-year reign of the Taliban regime.[61]

Cabinet ministers and deputies were mullahs with a "madrasah education". Several of them, such as the Minister of Health and Governor of the State bank, were primarily military commanders who were ready to leave their administrative posts to fight when needed. Military reverses that trapped them behind lines or led to their deaths increased the chaos in the national administration.[62] At the national level, "all senior Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara bureaucrats" were replaced "with Pashtuns, whether qualified or not". Consequently, the ministries "by and large ceased to function".[63]

Rashid described the Taliban government as "a secret society run by Kandaharis ... mysterious, secretive, and dictatorial".[64] They did not hold elections, as their spokesman explained:

The Sharia does not allow politics or political parties. That is why we give no salaries to officials or soldiers, just food, clothes, shoes, and weapons. We want to live a life like the Prophet lived 1400 years ago, and jihad is our right. We want to recreate the time of the Prophet, and we are only carrying out what the Afghan people have wanted for the past 14 years.[65]

They modeled their decision-making process on the Pashtun tribal council (jirga), together with what they believed to be the early Islamic model. Discussion was followed by a building of a consensus by the "believers".[66] Before capturing Kabul, there was talk of stepping aside once a government of "good Muslims" took power, and law and order were restored.

As the Taliban's power grew, decisions were made by Mullah Omar without consulting the jirga and without consulting other parts of the country. One such instance is the rejection of Loya Jirga decision about expulsion of Osama Bin Laden. Mullah Omar visited the capital, Kabul, only twice while in power. Instead of an election, their leader's legitimacy came from an oath of allegiance ("Bay'ah"), in imitation of the Prophet and the first four Caliphs. On 4 April 1996, Mullah Omar had "the Cloak of Muhammad" taken from its shrine, Kirka Sharif, for the first time in 60 years. Wrapping himself in the relic, he appeared on the roof of a building in the center of Kandahar while hundreds of Pashtun mullahs below shouted "Amir al-Mu'minin!" (Commander of the Faithful), in a pledge of support. Taliban spokesman Mullah Wakil explained:

Decisions are based on the advice of the Amir-ul Momineen. For us consultation is not necessary. We believe that this is in line with the Sharia. We abide by the Amir's view even if he alone takes this view. There will not be a head of state. Instead there will be an Amir al-Mu'minin. Mullah Omar will be the highest authority, and the government will not be able to implement any decision to which he does not agree. General elections are incompatible with Sharia and therefore we reject them.[67]

The Taliban were very reluctant to share power, and since their ranks were overwhelmingly Pashtun they ruled as overlords over the 60% of Afghans from other ethnic groups. In local government, such as Kabul city council[64] or Herat,[68] Taliban loyalists, not locals, dominated, even when the Pashto-speaking Taliban could not communicate with the roughly half of the population who spoke Dari or other non-Pashtun tongues.[68] Critics complained that this "lack of local representation in urban administration made the Taliban appear as an occupying force".[63]

Insurgency (2001–2021)

The rule of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan came to an end in 2001 following the United States invasion. In May and June 2003, senior Taliban officials proclaimed the Taliban regrouped and ready for guerrilla war to expel US forces from Afghanistan.[69][70] In late 2004, the then hidden Taliban leader Mohammed Omar announced an insurgency against "America and its puppets" (i.e. transitional Afghan government forces) to "regain the sovereignty of our country".[71]

The continued support from tribal and other groups in Pakistan, the drug trade, and the small number of NATO forces, combined with the long history of resistance and isolation, indicated that Taliban forces and leaders were surviving. Suicide attacks and other terrorist methods not used in 2001 became more common. Observers suggested that poppy eradication, which hurt the livelihoods of those Afghans who had resorted to their production, and civilian deaths caused by airstrikes, abetted the resurgence. These observers maintained that policy should focus on "hearts and minds" and on economic reconstruction, which could profit from switching from interdicting to diverting poppy production—to make medicine.[72][73]

US representative Zalmay Khalilzad (left) and Taliban representative Abdul Ghani Baradar (right) sign the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar on 29 February 2020

On 8 February 2009, US commander of operations in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal and other officials said that the Taliban leadership was in Quetta, Pakistan. By 2009, a strong insurgency had coalesced, known as Operation Al Faath, the Arabic word for "victory" taken from the Koran,[74][75][76] in the form of a guerrilla war. The Pashtun tribal group, with over 40 million members (including Afghans and Pakistanis) had a long history of resistance to occupation forces, so the Taliban may have comprised only a part of the insurgency. Most post-invasion Taliban fighters were new recruits, mostly drawn from local madrasas.

In July 2016, the US Time magazine estimated 20% of Afghanistan to be under Taliban control, with southernmost Helmand Province as their stronghold,[77] while US and international Resolute Support coalition commander General Nicholson in December 2016 likewise stated that 10% was in Taliban hands while another 26% of Afghanistan was contested between the Afghan government and various insurgency groups.[78]

On 29 May 2020, it was reported that Mullah Omar's son Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob was now acting as leader of the Taliban after numerous Quetta Shura members were infected with COVID-19.[79] It was previously confirmed on 7 May 2020 that Yaqoob had become head of the Taliban military commission, making him the insurgents' military chief.[80] Among those infected in the Quetta Shura, which continued to hold in-person meetings, were Hibatullah Akhundzada and Sirajuddin Haqqani, then commanders of the Taliban and Haqqani network respectively.[79] After recovering, Hibatullah Akhundzada reassumed his role as the Supreme Leader of the Taliban.

Return to power (2021–present)

The Taliban began an offensive to regain control of the country in May 2021.[81] The offensive was concurrent with the withdrawal of American troops from the country, which was scheduled to be complete by September 11, 2021 (the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks).[82] During June and July, the Taliban steadily made gains in the countryside and isolated urban centers.[83] The Taliban began capturing urban centers (provincial capitals) on 6 August. It captured the capital city of Kabul on 15 August, meeting only limited resistance. In the afternoon, it was reported that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country for either Tajikistan or Uzbekistan; Vice President Amrullah Saleh and the Chairman of the House of the People Mir Rahman Rahmani were reported to have fled to Tajikistan and Pakistan respectively. Following Ghani's departure, the remaining loyalist forces abandoned their posts and the Afghan Armed Forces de facto ceased to exist. In the evening of 15 August, the Taliban occupied the Arg, lowered the Afghan republican flag and raised their own flag over the palace. The following day the Taliban proclaimed the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.[84]

As Kabul fell, American President Joe Biden criticized the military and government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, particularly President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and attacked them for tolerating corruption, their lack of willingness to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban, and their lack of overall support from the population, saying that it was not the place of the United States to ceaselessly promote liberal democracy in the country.[85][86]

On the second day of the Taliban's rule in Kabul, the front of Hamid Karzai International Airport was crowded with people trying to travel abroad, but were stopped by Taliban militants.

On 17 August, Amrullah Saleh — citing provisions of the Constitution of Afghanistan — declared himself President of Afghanistan from a base of operations in the Panjshir Valley, which had yet to be taken by Taliban forces, and vowed to continue military operations from there. His claim to the presidency was endorsed by Ahmad Massoud and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Minister of Defence Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.[87] It was rumoured that Abdul Ghani Baradar, who returned to Afghanistan on the afternoon of 17 August after spending more than 20 years in exile, would be declared the President of Afghanistan.[88][89] Hibatullah Akhundzada has been the Supreme Leader of the Taliban since 2016.

The rapid collapse of the government and the state of the American withdrawal in the face of Taliban forces was widely interpreted to be indicative of broader trends globally, including the rising influence and power of Islamism in Muslim regions, the growing draw of illiberal models of governance, and ongoing American decline.[21][26][24]

US citizens and Western allies became trapped in the wake of the rapid Taliban advance. This triggered a massive evacuation crisis, with tens of thousands of American civilians and other Western allies left inside Taliban-controlled lines.[25][26][27][28] As of 17 August 2021, an estimated 10,000–15,000 Americans — not including allies — have still not left Afghanistan.[26] The same day, American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced that the United States had successfully negotiated with the Taliban to keep the Hamid Karzai International Airport open until 31 August 2021, although giving no comment to "hypotheticals" surrounding Americans who could possibly be left behind.[90][91] That same day, Taliban officials were reportedly beating, whipping, and firing gunshots at people attempting to reach the airport.[92][93] The majority of the over 300,000 Afghan civilians who worked with the US are at risk of Taliban retaliation.[94] On 19 August Haji Mullah Achakzai, the former chief of police in Badghis Province, was executed by Taliban operatives despite the Taliban claiming there would be no repercussions for ex-Afghan police and army personnel.[95] They also executed Omar Khorasan, an arrested chief of ISIL, confirming that the Taliban is still persecuting other rival Islamist groups in Afghanistan.[96] On 30 August, it was reported that a folk singer was executed by Taliban militants in the village of Andarab, following the outlawing of music in Afghanistan.[97]

Reports emerged on 25 August that a 12-member council will be formed to govern Afghanistan. Reportedly 7 members were already agreed upon: Abdul Ghani Baradar, Mohammad Yaqoob, Khalil-ur-Rehman Haqqani, Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai, Hanif Atmar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.[98]



The goal of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan during the period 1996 to 2001 was to return the order of Abdur Rahman (the Iron Emir) by the re-establishment of a state with Pashtun dominance within the northern areas.[99] The Taliban sought to establish an Islamic government through law and order alongside a strict interpretation of Islamic law, in accordance with the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the religious guidance of Mullah Omar, upon the entire land of Afghanistan.[100] By 1998, the Taliban controlled 90% of Afghanistan under their interpretation of Sharia.[101]

The Taliban modelled their decision-making process on the Pashtun tribal council (jirga), together with what they believed to be the early Islamic model. Discussion was followed by a building of a consensus by the "believers". As the group's power grew, decisions were made by Mullah Omar without consulting the jirga and without consulting other parts of the country. He visited the capital, Kabul, only twice while in power. Instead of an election, their leader's legitimacy came from an oath of allegiance ("Bay'ah"), in imitation of the Prophet and the first four Caliphs. On 4 April 1996, Mullah Omar had "the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed" taken from its shrine for the first time in 60 years. Wrapping himself in the relic, he appeared on the roof of a building in the center of Kandahar while hundreds of Pashtun mullahs below shouted "Amir al-Mu'minin!" (Commander of the Faithful), in a pledge of support.


On 17 August 2021, the leader of the Taliban-affiliated Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin party, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, met with both Hamid Karzai, the former President of Afghanistan, and Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and former Chief Executive, in Doha, Qatar, with the aim of forming a government (though it is unclear whether either Karzai or Abdullah will be directly involved in any such government).[102][103] President Ashraf Ghani, having fled the country during the Taliban advance to either Tajikistan or Uzbekistan, emerged in the United Arab Emirates and said that he supported such negotiations and was in talks to return to Afghanistan.[104][105]

As of August 2021, the Islamic Emirate is undergoing a transitional political period with an unofficial Coordination Council led by senior statesmen in the process of coordinating the transfer of the state institutions of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Taliban. Taliban forces, meanwhile, exercise effective police authority in the country.[106] The Kabul meetings on government formation are men-only meetings according to Fawzia Koofi, former member of the Afghan National Assembly, who stated that a men-only government would be "not be complete".[107] Many figures within the Taliban generally agree that continuation of the Constitution of Afghanistan may, potentially, be workable as the basis for the new state as their objections to the former government were religious, and not political, in nature.[108] On August 20, Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kabul from Kandahar to begin formal negotiations with the Coordination Council on the composition and structure of the new government, which is expected to be announced on or after 31 August, once foreign troops complete their full withdrawal.[citation needed]

Draft constitution

Proposed structure of the Islamic Emirate government under the unratified constitution of 1998

Prior to the United States invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban officials were in the process of drafting a national constitution for the state.[109][110] Under its provisions, the head of state would hold the title of Leader of the Faithful.[110] He would be selected by an Islamic Council which he, in turn, would appoint and in which legislative authority would be vested.[110] The government was to be administered by a council of ministers reporting to the Islamic Council with the head of the council of ministers serving as chief of government.[110] A Supreme Court, appointed by the Leader of the Faithful, would sit as court of final appeal, however, judicial review would be the responsibility of the Islamic Council.[111] The draft constitution enshrined the rights of freedom of expression and a fair trial within the limits of the precepts of Sharia.[110] This constitution was never ratified.[110]

Iran as a model for the Taliban's new state

Some observers have suggested that the Islamic Republic of Iran may serve as a constitutional model for the new state, introducing a republican system of governance with a "circumscribed democracy and limited pluralism" that is guided by a "theocratic layer".[112][113] Haroun Rahimi, however, notes that local conditions within Iran are fundamentally different from those in Afghanistan, and democratic aspects of Iranian governance are guarded by "a group of influential religious scholars ... [who] have always aligned themselves with democratic forces", which does not exist in Afghanistan.[113]

Human rights in the Emirate

Role of women in the Emirate

During the Taliban's initial period of rule, brutal repression of women was widespread in the Emirate.[114][115][116][117][118][119][120][121] Abuses were myriad and violently enforced by the religious police.[122] For example, the Taliban issued edicts forbidding women from being educated, forcing girls to leave schools and colleges.[123][124] Women leaving their houses were required to be accompanied by a male relative and were obligated to wear the burqa, a traditional dress covering the entire body except for a small slit out of which to see.[123][124] Those accused of disobeying were publicly beaten. In one instance, a young woman named Sohaila was charged with adultery after walking with a man who was not a relative; she was publicly flogged in Ghazi Stadium, receiving 100 lashes.[125] Female employment was restricted to the medical sector, where male medical personnel were prohibited from treating women and girls.[123] This extensive ban on the employment of women further resulted in the widespread closure of primary schools, as almost all teachers prior to the Taliban's rise had been women, further restricting access to education not only to girls but also to boys. Restrictions became especially severe after the Taliban took control of the capital. In February 1998, for instance, religious police forced all women off the streets of Kabul and issued new regulations ordering people to blacken their windows so that women would not be visible from outside.[126]

In 2021, Suhail Shaheen (official spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) publicly affirmed that women in the Emirate have the right to work and be educated up to the university level.[127] Shaheen stated that thousands of schools continue to operate after the initial takeover, and he affirmed the Emirate's commitment to women's rights in regard to education, work, and freedom of speech within the bounds of Islamic rules. Shaheen expressed that all people should be equal, and there should not be discrimination within the country. Unlike the period of previous Taliban rule, women will be expected to wear the hijab but not the burqa, he said, as the hijab is required under Islamic rules.[128][129]

Stance on bacha bazi

Since the establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, bacha bazi, a form of child sexual abuse between older men and young adolescent "dancing boys", has carried the death penalty[130] within the country. The practice remained illegal during the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's rule, but the laws were seldom enforced against powerful offenders and police had reportedly been complicit in related crimes.[131][132] As of the 2020s, despite international concern and its illegality, the practice continued.[133][134]

The leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have always publicly condemned the practice, and have stated that with their return to rule in the country, executions of those engaging in the practice should be expected.[135]

Ban on entertainment and recreational activities

During the Taliban rule of 1996–2001, they banned many recreational activities and games, such as football, kite flying, and chess. General entertainment such as televisions, cinemas, music, VCRs and satellite dishes were also banned.[136] It has been reported that when children were caught kiting, a highly popular activity among Afghan children, they were beaten.[137] Also included in the list of banned items were "musical instruments and accessories" and all visual representation of living creatures.[138] Keeping pigeons or other pets were also forbidden, and the birds were killed according to the Taliban's ruling.

Relationship with national cricket teams

In August 2021, concerns and doubts were raised over the participation of Afghanistan national cricket team in future international matches ever since Afghanistan was brought under the control of the Taliban.[139][140] The Taliban had previously banned participation in sporting competitions during their rule from 1996 to 2001. Concerns were raised over the safety of Afghan national cricketers and their families who were still in Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021.[141] Uncertainties also developed regarding the future of cricket in Afghanistan and reports emerged that Taliban would be expected to dismantle the Afghanistan women's national cricket team due to the Taliban's previous opposition towards women's rights during the 1996 - 2001 regime. The chief executive of the national board stated that female cricketers have kept their salaries and are currently on the payroll. Although some have speculated about future policy, the Islamic Emirate has made no move to disband the women's team at this time.[142][143]

However, the Taliban revealed that it would not disrupt the men's cricket team's participation in international matches and allowed Afghanistan to play their first ever bilateral series against Pakistan in Sri Lanka which scheduled to start in September 2021.[144][145] Taliban also ordered the Afghanistan Cricket Board to carry on the activities as usual although the Taliban fighters arrived to the ACB headquarters with guns, claiming to be providing security.[146][147]

Despite the political turmoil, Afghanistan cricket team's media manager Hikmat Hassan confirmed that Afghanistan would participate in the 2021 ICC Men's T20 World Cup.[148]

International relations


Regarding its relations with the rest of the world, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan held a policy of isolationism: "The Taliban believe in non-interference in the affairs of other countries and similarly desire no outside interference in their country's internal affairs".[17] Despite these isolationist policies, the Taliban entered in a deal for oil, electricity, and gas with Turkmenistan as part of the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline.[149]

While initially maintaining a friendly relationship, relations between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and Iran deteriorated in 1998 after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif and executed Iranian diplomats. Following this incident, Iran threatened to invade Afghanistan by massing up military forces near the Afghan border but intervention by the United Nations Security Council and the United States prevented the war.

Turkmenistan adopted a position of "positive neutrality" and limited cooperation with the Taliban.[150][151]

China first initiated contact with the Taliban in 1998.[152] In November 2000, China's then ambassador to Pakistan, Lu Shulin, became the first senior representative of a non-Muslim country to meet with Mullah Omar.[153][154][155][156]

Diplomatic recognition

Between 1996 and 2001, only three widely recognized countries; Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) declared the Islamic Emirate to be the rightful government of Afghanistan.[157] The Islamic Emirate would also receive recognition from the partially recognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria;[44] though Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov would later describe the Islamic Emirate as an "illegitimate" government.[43] The Taliban government additionally received support from Turkmenistan, though the country did not provide the Emirate with formal recognition.[158][149]

The Taliban government was not recognized by the United Nations, which instead continued to recognize the Islamic State of Afghanistan as being the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Following the declaration of a "War on Terror" by the United States after the September 11 attacks by al-Qaeda in 2001, international opposition to the Taliban regime running the Islamic Emirate drastically increased, and the only remaining diplomatic recognition by Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates was rescinded under growing pressure.


On 15 October 1999, the UN Security Council established a sanctions regime to cover individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and/or the Taliban.[159] Since the US Invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the sanctions were applied to individuals and organizations in all parts of the world; also targeting former members of the Taliban government.

On 27 January 2010, a United Nations sanctions committee removed five former senior Taliban officials from this list, in a move favoured by Afghan president Karzai. The decision means the five will no longer be subject to an international travel ban, assets freeze and arms embargo. The five men, all high-ranking members of the Taliban government:

  • Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, former foreign minister.
  • Fazal Mohammad, former deputy minister of commerce.
  • Shams-us-Safa Aminzai, former Taliban foreign affairs press officer.
  • Mohammad Musa Hottak, former deputy minister of planning.
  • Abdul Hakim Munib, former deputy minister of frontier affairs.

All had been added to the list in January or February 2001.[160][161]

Bamiyan Buddhas controversy

Destruction of Buddhas, 21 March 2001

In 1999, the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar issued a decree protecting the Buddha statues at Bamiyan, two 6th-century monumental statues of standing buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan.

But in March 2001, the statues were destroyed by the Taliban following a decree issued by Mullah Omar. Mullah Omar explained why he ordered the statues to be destroyed in an interview:

I did not want to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha. In fact, some foreigners came to me and said they would like to conduct the repair work of the Bamiyan Buddha that had been slightly damaged due to rains. This shocked me. I thought, these callous people have no regard for thousands of living human beings – the Afghans who are dying of hunger, but they are so concerned about non-living objects like the Buddha. This was extremely deplorable. That is why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddha's destruction.[162]

Then Taliban ambassador-at-large Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi also said that the destruction of the statues was carried out by the Head Council of Scholars after a Swedish monuments expert proposed to restore the statues' heads. Hashimi is reported as saying: "When the Afghan head council asked them to provide the money to feed the children instead of fixing the statues, they refused and said, 'No, the money is just for the statues, not for the children'. Herein, they made the decision to destroy the statues".[163]

This prompted an international outcry from nations such as Japan, India, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Nepal, Iran, Qatar, and Russia. Even Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both of which were among only three nations to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, voiced their opposition. The Arab branch of UNESCO, a cultural and educational agency of the United Nations, labelled the destruction as "savage".[164][165]


In 2013, the Taliban opened an office in Qatar[166] with the goal of beginning talks between themselves, the United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.[167] There was a conflict after the office raised the white flag of the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying that the office could be closed if there was not a "move forward" in peace negotiations.[168][169] A peace agreement was however signed on 29 February 2020.[170]


In an interview with Al Jazeera shortly after the fall of Kabul, a Taliban spokesman said that the Taliban desires peaceful relations with the international community, and does not want to live in isolation. It was also said that the Taliban desires to open channels of communication with foreign nations. The spokesman also said that the Taliban will respect the rights of women and minorities within Sharia law. Finally, he said that the Taliban will adopt a policy of non-interference in the affairs of other nations, similar to the policy it adopted when it ruled between 1996 and 2001.[171]

In August 2021, representatives from twelve countries including the United States, China, India as well as the bodies of the European Union and the United Nations met in Qatar to discuss the situation with the Taliban offensive and their impending takeover of its government: all nations and bodies present agreed not to diplomatically recognize any Afghan government which took control through military force.[172]

On 23 August 2021, CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, who returned to Afghanistan from exile in Qatar, to discuss the August 31 deadline for a US military withdrawal from Afghanistan..[173][174]

On 28 August 2021, it was reported that the Taliban and Turkey had reached a draft agreement allowing Turkey to operate Kabul Airport after the departure of U.S. forces, for a transitional period.[175][176]

Joint Statement on Afghanistan Evacuation Travel Assurances

On 29 August 2021, 98 countries jointly declared that the Tabilan guarantee safe passage to their countries, whether they are Afghan nationals or foreigners.

International reactions to the 2021 re-establishment

As of 29 August 2021, no country has formally recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the legitimate successor to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

National governments
  • According to the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, AK Abdul Momen, "If a Taliban government is formed, which has been done, our door will be open to them if it is a government of the people" and "No matter which new government is formed, we will accept if it is of the people". Bangladesh and Afghanistan have good diplomatic relations, the Foreign Minister spoke of Bangladesh as a "potential development partner and a friend of Afghanistan".[177]
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that Canada will not recognize the Islamic Emirate as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and that the Taliban would remain a banned organisation in Canada.[178]
  • A spokesperson for the foreign ministry of the People's Republic of China stated that China "respects the wishes and choices of the Afghan people" and hopes for "friendship and cooperation" with the new authorities.[179][180] China also hopes to seek assurances from the Taliban that they will not support the UN-sanctioned Turkistan Islamic Party or allow them to operate from Afghani territory.[179]
  • President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran has said the US "military failure" in Afghanistan offers an opportunity to establish lasting peace in the country. Iranian state TV quoted him as saying that "America's military defeat and its withdrawal must become an opportunity to restore life, security and durable peace in Afghanistan".[181][182]
  • Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in a denunciation of English-language education in Pakistan, stated that Afghans have "broken the shackles of slavery".[183] Foreign Minister Fawad Chaudhry stated that Pakistan would not recognise a Taliban-led government without consultations with regional and international partners, adding that he was pleased that the transfer of power took place without bloodshed.[184][185] The Pakistani Representative to the United Nations referred to the government led by Ashraf Ghani as "a now defunct regime" and criticized both the participation of the Afghan representative appointed by Ghani as well as being blocked from addressing the India-presided UN Security Council at a meeting of the security council.[186] The Pakistani government claimed that Mir Rahman Rahmani, the Speaker of the Loya Jirga (note: until the Fall of Kabul) met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and agreed to engage with the Taliban to form an inclusive government.[186]
  • Russia has not recognized the Islamic Emirate as the lawful authority of Afghanistan.[187] Ambassador to Afghanistan, Dmitry Zhirnov, is due to meet a Taliban representative on Tuesday to discuss security for the embassy in Kabul, which will remain open. Moscow has said it hopes to develop ties with the Taliban, although it also says it is in no rush to recognize them as the country's rulers.[181] On August 16, 2021, Zhirnov praised the group and stated that "the situation is peaceful and good and everything has calmed down in the city. The situation in Kabul now under the Taliban is better than it was under Ashraf Ghani."[21] The Taliban remain a banned organisation in Russia.[188]
  • A statement issued from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that "the kingdom stands with the choices that the Afghan people make without interference".[189][190]
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged other countries not to recognize the Islamic Emirate as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.[191]
  • The United States has not yet recognized the Islamic Emirate, however Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview that the United States may recognize the Taliban if they uphold basic human rights.[192] The US State Department later declined to say if the United States still recognized Ashraf Ghani as the President of Afghanistan.[citation needed]
International organizations
  • United Nations The United Nations has called for "the establishment, through inclusive negotiations, of a government that is united, inclusive and representative with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women".[193] Ghulam M. Isaczai, the Afghan representative to the United Nations, who was appointed by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, continued to represent the country at a meeting of the Security Council held on 16 August 2021.[194]
  • European Union The European Union's HR/VP Josep Borrell stated that the EU "will have to get in touch with the authorities in Kabul, whatever they are. The Taliban have won the war, so we will have to talk with them" but that the EU had no plans to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.[195]



The Afghan Army was disbanded after the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996 and the Islamic Defence Force of Afghanistan was created in its place. The Taliban maintained 400 Soviet-built T-54/T-55 and T-62 tanks and more than 200 armoured personnel carriers.[196] The Taliban began training its own army and commanders; some were even trained by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.[197] They continued to support the Taliban, as Pakistani allies, in their push to conquer Afghanistan in the 1990s.[198] The Islamic Army used child soldiers, many of them under 14 years old.[199] It had active personnel of 400,000 along with 50,000 reserve personnel.[citation needed]

The air force under the Taliban maintained 5 MIG-21 MFs and 10 Sukhoi-22 fighter bombers.[200] They held six Mil-Mi 8 helicopters, five Mi-35s, five L-39Cs, six An-12s, among others. Their civil air service contained Boeing 727A/Bs, a Tu-154, five An-24s, and a DHC-6. All of these aircraft were destroyed by US forces during the war in Afghanistan in 2001. Most of the MIG-21 fleets met their end in an Afghan junkyard.[201]


According to the testimony of Guantanamo captives before their Combatant Status Review Tribunals, the Taliban, in addition to conscripting men to serve as soldiers, also conscripted men to staff its civil service – both done at gunpoint.[202][203][204]

According to a report from Oxford University the Taliban made widespread use of the conscription of children in 1997, 1998 and 1999.[205]


Taliban militants in Kabul, 17 August 2021

Following the fall of Kabul, the Afghan Armed Forces of the previous administration de facto ceased to exist.[206] The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan possesses a small air force comprised from assets captured from the Afghan Air Force, reportedly including 24 helicopters and 2 aircraft, though it is unclear how many of these are operational. Its inventory includes US-made Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and at least one Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano.[207][208] The Taliban also maintain their own elite military units, the Badri 313 Battalion and the Red Group.



Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation, 1994–2007 (hectares). Before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, opium production was almost entirely eradicated (99%) by the Taliban.[58][59]

The Kabul money markets responded positively during the first weeks of the Taliban occupation. But the Afghani soon fell in value.[209] They imposed a 50% tax on any company operating in the country, and those who failed to pay were attacked.[210] They also imposed a 6% import tax on anything brought into the country,[211] and by 1998 had control of the major airports and border crossings which allowed them to establish a monopoly on all trade.[212] By 2001 the per capita income of the 25 million population was under $200,[213] and the country was close to total economic collapse.[119] As of 2007 the economy had begun to recover, with estimated foreign reserves of three billion dollars and a 13% increase in economic growth.[214]

Under the Transit treaty between Afghanistan and Pakistan a massive network for smuggling developed. It had an estimated turnover of 2.5 billion dollars with the Taliban receiving between $100 and $130 million per year.[215] These operations along with the trade from the Golden Crescent financed the war in Afghanistan and also had the side effect of destroying start up industries in Pakistan.[216] Ahmed Rashid also explained that the Afghan Transit Trade agreed on by Pakistan was "the largest official source of revenue for the Taliban."[217]

Between 1996 and 1999 Mullah Omar reversed his opinions on the drug trade, apparently as it only harmed kafirs. The Taliban controlled 96% of Afghanistan's poppy fields and made opium its largest source of taxation.[217] Taxes on opium exports became one of the mainstays of Taliban income and their war economy.[217] According to Rashid, "drug money funded the weapons, ammunition and fuel for the war."[217] In The New York Times, the Finance Minister of the United Front, Wahidullah Sabawoon, declared the Taliban had no annual budget but that they "appeared to spend US$300 million a year, nearly all of it on war." He added that the Taliban had come to increasingly rely on three sources of money: "poppy, the Pakistanis and bin Laden."[217]

In an economic sense it seems however he had little choice, as due to the war of attrition continued with the Northern Alliance the income from continued opium production was all that prevented the country from starvation.[218] By 2000 Afghanistan accounted for an estimated 75% of the world's supply and in 2000 grew an estimated 3276 tonnes of opium from poppy cultivation on 82,171 hectares.[219] At this juncture Omar passed a decree banning the cultivation of opium, and production dropped to an estimated 74 metric tonnes from poppy cultivation on 1,685 hectares.[220] Many observers say the ban – which came in a bid for international recognition at the United Nations – was only issued in order to raise opium prices and increase profit from the sale of large existing stockpiles.[217] The year 1999 had yielded a record crop and had been followed by a lower but still large 2000 harvest.[217] The trafficking of accumulated stocks by the Taliban continued in 2000 and 2001.[217] In 2002, the UN mentioned the "existence of significant stocks of opiates accumulated during previous years of bumper harvests."[217] In September 2001 – before 11 September attacks against the United States – the Taliban allegedly authorized Afghan peasants to sow opium again.[217]

There was also an environmental toll to the country, heavy deforestation from the illegal trade in timber with hundreds of acres of pine and cedar forests in Kunar Province and Paktya being cleared.[221][222] Throughout the country millions of acres were denuded to supply timber to the Pakistani markets, with no attempt made at reforestation,[223] which has led to significant environmental damage.[224] By 2001, when the Afghan Interim Administration took power the country's infrastructure was in ruins, Telecommunications had failed, the road network was destroyed and Ministry of Finance buildings were in such a state of disrepair some were on the verge of collapse.[225] On 6 July 1999 president Bill Clinton signed into effect executive order 13129. This order implemented a complete ban on any trade between the US and the Taliban regime and on 10 August they froze £5,000,000 in Ariana assets.[226] On 19 December 2000 UN resolution 1333 was passed. It called for all assets to be frozen and for all states to close any offices belonging to the Taliban. This included the offices of Ariana Afghan Airlines.[227] In 1999 the UN had passed resolution 1267 which had banned all international flights by Ariana apart from pre approved humanitarian missions.[228]


As the Emirate has only existed in its second iteration for a very short time, little is known about its current economic situation. However, the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has led to economic ramifications in neighboring Pakistan, one of the factors leading to an 8% drop in Pakistani bond prices since the start of 2021;[229] it is expected that the reestablishment will lead to a withdrawal of foreign investment in the nation, and the region in general.[230]

See also


  1. ^ The official title is Amir al-Mu'minin (in English: Commander of the Faithful). The position is often referred to in English as simply "Emir".
  2. ^ Pashto: د افغانستان اسلامي امارت‎, romanized: Də Afġānistān Islāmī Imārat
  3. ^ Recognized by Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia,[42] and the partially recognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.[43][44]


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External links

Preceded by
Islamic State of Afghanistan
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Afghan Interim Administration
Preceded by
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Succeeded by
current de facto government

Coordinates: 33°56′N 66°11′E / 33.933°N 66.183°E / 33.933; 66.183


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