Timeline: The Taliban

Key dates in the history of the Taliban and Contemporary Afghanistan

by Laura Hayes and Borgna Brunner
1979-2000 2001 2002-2006 2006-present

Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.


Soviet troops install a puppet regime in Kabul. The U.S., Pakistan, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia offer support to mujahideen "freedom fighters" as they begin a guerrilla war against the Soviets.


Soviet troops withdraw.


Mujahideen forces, led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, remove the Soviet-backed government of Mohammad Najibullah. Rival militias vie for influence.


The factions agree on the formation of a government with Burhanuddin Rabbani as president, but infighting continues. Lawlessness is rampant.




Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef seated in front of Taliban militia members. Source: AP Photos

The Taliban ("religious students") are appointed by Pakistan to protect a trade convoy and quickly emerge as one of the strongest factions.



The Taliban, under the leadership of Mullah Muhammad Omar, seize control of Kabul and implement a strict interpretation of Islamic law. They exile President Rabbani and execute Najibullah.

The Taliban offer Osama bin Laden refuge.



The Taliban fail to capture and hold the city of Mazar-i-Sharif (held sacred by Shiites as the site of Ali's grave). Pakistani religious schools send reinforcements to the Taliban.


Aug. 20

The U.S. launches missiles at suspected bin Laden bases in retaliation for the bombing of embassies in Africa.

Sept. 13

The Taliban take over the city of Bamian.



A UN-brokered peace agreement is reached between the Taliban and their main remaining foe, the Northern Alliance under Ahmed Shah Massoud. Fighting breaks out again in July.


The Taliban take Mazar-i-Sharif. There are unconfirmed reports of mass arrests and executions (numbering in the thousands) of Shiites, especially of the Hazara ethnic group.


The U.N. imposes an air embargo and freezes Taliban assets in an attempt to force them to hand over bin Laden for trial.


Record cold, drought, and civil war push an estimated 200,000 more Afghans into refugee camps.

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