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Timeline: The Taliban

Key dates in the history of the Taliban and Contemporary Afghanistan

1979-2000 2001 2002-2006 2006-present
2006

September

The Taliban fight back with renewed strength. Suicide bombings and roadside attacks become more frequent and more deadly; nearly 100 are reported to have died from such violence in August and September.

Pakistan is repeatedly blamed for supporting and allowing the infiltration of bombers and insurgents. Pakistani leadership denies supporting the Taliban, but admits that bombers are being trained in border regions.

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October and November

NATO air attacks are blamed for the deaths of dozens of civilians. Tony Blair cautions that the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda could take decades.

Meanwhile, the opium harvest in Afghanistan reaches the highest levels ever recorded, the United Nations reports, as cultivation rises 59% during 2006. Most experts agree that the drug trade is a major source of funding for the Taliban (although there are conflicting opinions about whether or not Al Qaeda is similarly situated). Afghanistan currently produces 92% of the world’s opium.

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2007

January

Mullah Dadullah, a top Taliban commander, vows in a telephone conversation that his forces will not let up. Days later, in an email exchange between journalists and Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban chief makes a similar promise, saying he will never negotiate with the U.S.-backed Karzai government, and that violence will continue until foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan..

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February

General Dan K McNeil takes over command of the 35,000 member NATO forces in Afghanistan. McNeil served as commander of the U.S-led coalition there from 2002 to 2003.

During Vice President Cheney’s visit, a suicide bomber attacks near the U.S. air base, killing 23 people.

Authorities in Pakistan arrest Mullah Obaidullah, a member of the Taliban’s inner circle. Despite the high-profile nature of the arrest, Pakistan continues to be criticized for failing to confront the Taliban.

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March and April

Italy agrees to exchange an Italian journalist for 5 Taliban prisoners, provoking strong criticism from the U.S. and other nations. Nearly a month later a second hostage captured at the same time as the freed Italian is killed soon after Karzai announces an end to such prisoner exchanges. The body of the second hostage is dropped off at a hospital.

A note of hope is sounded when health officials report that infant mortality dropped by 18 percent in Afghanistan, a fact that is heralded as a sign of recovery and progress.

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May

Afghan officials report that a U.S. airstrike that killed 130 Taliban also left 21 civilians dead. A few days later, when the estimate grows to 42 civilians, angry protestors sack and burn buildings and Karzai warns that the Afghan people will not tolerate a foreign military presence much longer.

A key Taliban operational commander with ties to Al Qaeda, Mullah Dadullah, is killed by Afghan, American, and NATO forces. Following his death, the victim’s brother, Haji Mansour Dadullah, also a Taliban leader, claims to receive a letter of condolence from Osama bin Laden, urging him to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

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June

A Taliban spokesman offers to trade 5 hostages, all Afghan health ministry officials held since March, for Mullah Dadullah’s remains, which have already been buried in an undisclosed location. When the remains are not turned over, one of the hostages is beheaded. The other four hostages are released when the remains are delivered.

75 Allied troops are reported to have been killed in the first five months of 2007, including 38 Americans.

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July

The Taliban kills one of a group of 23 South Korean hostages after their demands for a prisoner exchange are not met with a positive response by the Afghan government. Both hostages were members of a Protestant church group who were on a relief mission when they were abducted from a public bus on the highway from Kabul to Kandahar. The Taliban threatens to kill more hostages if the government is not more cooperative.

In response to concern about mounting civilian casualties in Afghanistan, NATO announces plans to use more restrained tactics in fighting the Taliban. More than 330 civilians have been killed this year, according to Afghan officials and Western aid workers.

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August

Two women from the group of South Korean hostages held since July 19 by the Taliban are released unharmed to Red Cross workers after days of negotiations. Nineteen hostages from the group remain held.

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October

Eighty Taliban members die during a six-hour battle with U.S.-led coalition force outside a town in southern Afghanistan. Most of the deaths are a result of four bombs dropped in Taliban trenches.

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November

Sixty Taliban militants fire on a town from a mountain overlook in the Day Kundi province pushing out the police and cutting off the main road. One militant dies and one policeman is wounded in fighting. Bakwal and Gulistan districts in Farrah province have also been overrun by the militants.

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2008

February

About 80 people are killed and nearly 100 injured when a suicide bomber attacks at a crowded dogfight near Kandahar. A local police chief, Abdul Hakim Jan, is among the dead. It is the worst suicide attack since 2001. The Taliban denies responsibility for the attack, but Afghan officials express skepticism about the claim.

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April

Three people are killed and about a dozen are wounded when suspected Taliban militants attack President Hamid Karzai, who was taking part in a parade to celebrate Afghan national day.

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May

A local Taliban group claims responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 11 people and injured 22 more outside a military base in Marden, Pakistan.

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June

U.S. soldiers launch an air strike aimed at Taliban militants who had crossed the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan and fired on American-led troops. Eleven members of a Pakistani paramilitary force die, angering Pakistani officials and increasing tension between the U.S. and Pakistan.

Fighters attack guards outside a prison in Kandahar and then launch a rocket-propelled grenade at a fuel tanker parked outside the prison. The blast kills several guards and opens a hole in the prison wall. About 1,200 inmates escape, including 350 members of the Taliban.

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July

According to the Pentagon and icasualties.org, June 2008 has been the deadliest month for U.S. and coalition troops since the American-led invasion began in 2001. Forty-six troops are killed even though the number of coalition troops reaches a high point.

More than 40 people are killed and about 130 wounded in a suicide bombing outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Two Indian diplomats died in the blast. It is the deadliest suicide bombing since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001.

Nine U.S. soldiers and at least 15 NATO troops die when Taliban militants boldly attack an American base in Kunar Province, which borders Pakistan. It's the most deadly against U.S. troops in three years.

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August

As many as 15 suicide bombers backed by about 30 militants attack a U.S. military base, Camp Salerno, in Bamiyan. Fighting between U.S. troops and members of the Taliban rages overnight. No U.S. troops are killed. In another brazen attack, 10 French paratroopers are killed and more than 20 are wounded in an ambush by about 100 militants about 30 miles east of Kabul.

More than 60 people are killed in a twin suicide bombing at the Pakistan' Ordnance Factories, a complex of 16 buildings in the town of Wah that employs 20,000. The Taliban says the attack is in retaliation for the military's recent campaign against militants in the region of Bajaur.

As many as 90 Afghan civilians, 60 of them children, die in an attack in the western village of Azizabad. It is one of the deadliest airstrikes since the war began in 2001, and the deadliest on civilians. The U.S. military refutes the figures, however, which were confirmed by the UN, claiming that the airstrike, in response to an attack by militants, killed five civilians and as many as 25 members of the Taliban.

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October

Taliban insurgents engage in grisly attack, pulling as many as 30 men from a bus traveling in Kandahar to behead them. A Taliban spokesman says the passengers were members of the Afghan National Army. The Afghan government denies the claim, saying the men were civilians traveling to Iran to seek work.

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2009

January

At least 46 Pakistani soldiers and militants at a paramilitary base are killed when hundreds of Taliban militants crossed the border of Pakistan.

February

A suicide-bomber in Tirin Kot, in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, blows himself up in a police station, killing more than 20 policemen. A Taliban spokesman claims responsibility on behalf of the group.

Taliban insurgents attack several government buildings in Kabul, Afghanistan, including the Justice Ministry, killing 19 people and injuring 57 more.

August

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, is killed by a C.I.A. drone strike in South Waziristan, a remote region of the country. He was blamed for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the terrorist attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, and dozens of other suicide bombings.

The Taliban is blamed for the violence that led up to August's presidential election in Afghanistan. It also attempted to boycott the election and threatened to cut off the fingers of people who voted.

September

The U.S.-supported Pakistan Army is linked to the deaths of hundreds of people in the Swat Valley, an area recently taken over from Taliban militants, now under control of the army. The Pakistan Army denies involvement, claiming that the killings are civilian attacks.

October

The Taliban, retaliating against the Pakistan army in late October, launches a series of terrorist attacks that kills at least 300 people in Peshawar, Islamabad, and Lahore. The attacks coincide with a visit to Pakistan by U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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2010

February

Three American soldiers, along with four Pakistanis, are killed in a suicide bombing attack in Pakistan. Members of the Taliban claim responsibility for the blast.

April

Militants launch an assault on the U.S. Consulate in Pakistan. Six Pakistanis are killed and 20 are wounded; no Americans are harmed. Azam Tariq, a spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban, claims responsibility for the attack, saying they were acting in retaliation to American missile strikes.

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2011

April

About 500 members of the Taliban break out of the Sarposa Prison in Kandahar. They escaped through a 1/2-mile wide tunnel that had been dug over the course of five months. Some 1,200 prisoners escaped from the same prison in 2008.

August

The Taliban shot down a transport helicopter, killing 30 American troops, seven Afghans, and a translator. It was the highest death toll in a single day for U.S. troops. Twenty-two elite Navy SEALs were killed, some members of the unit that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

2012

October

Taliban members shoot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck. She was targeted for promoting Western ideas, including the education of women. The shooting occurred while Yousafzai was on her way home on a school bus filled with children. Two other girls are wounded.

December

As the U.S. was preparing to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the Pentagon released a report that said, "The Taliban-led insurgency remains adaptive and determined, and retains the capability to emplace substantial numbers of I.E.D.s and to conduct isolated high-profile attacks."

2013

June

The Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar, and its representatives held a press conference with an international media contingent. The U.S. said it would begin long-delayed peace talks with the group. Afghanistan was expected to do the same, but instead said it would not engage in any dialogue with the Taliban, saying such discussions lent the militants credibility.

November

The U.S. achieved an important victory over the Taliban with the assassination of Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan. He died in a CIA drone strike in Danday Darpa Khel, a militant stronghold in North Waziristan. While the Pakistani government expressed outrage that the U.S. overstepped its boundaries, many citizens indicated they were relieved about the death of a man whose group has destabilized and terrorized the country.

by Beth Rowen

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