Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

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Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

د افغانستان اسلامي امارات
Da Afghanistan Islami Amarat
Anthem: None (music was outlawed)
Afghanistan politisch 2000.png
German map showing the political situation of Afghanistan in the spring of 2000
Common languages
Sunni Islam
Government Unitary Islamic theocracy under a totalitarian dictatorship
Amir al-Mu'minin (Leader of the Faithful) [3] [4] [5]
Head of the Supreme Council [6] [7] [8]
Mohammed Omar
Prime Minister  
Mohammad Rabbani
Abdul Kabir (acting)
Legislature Jirga
Historical era Afghan Civil War / War on Terror
27 September [9] 1996
17 December 2001
2000587,578 km2 (226,865 sq mi)
Currency Afghani
Calling code +93
ISO 3166 code AF
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Afghanistan (1992-1996; 2001).svg Islamic State of Afghanistan
Islamic State of Afghanistan Flag of Afghanistan (2001-2002).svg
Part of a series on the
History of Afghanistan
Shuja Shah Durrani of Afghanistan in 1839.jpg
Associated Historical Regions

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [10] (Pashto : د افغانستان اسلامي امارات, Da Afghanistan Islami Amarat) was a totalitarian [11] [12] [13] Islamic state established in September 1996 when the Taliban began their rule of Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul. At its peak, the Taliban established control over approximately 90% of the country, whereas remaining parts of the country in the northeast were held by the Northern Alliance, who maintained broad international recognition as a continuation of the Islamic State of Afghanistan. [14] After 9/11, international opposition to the regime drastically increased, with diplomatic recognition from the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan being rescinded. The Islamic Emirate ceased to exist on December 17, 2001, after being overthrown by the Northern Alliance, which had been bolstered by a US-led invasion of the country.

Totalitarianism political system in which the state holds total authority

Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Political power in totalitarian states has often been held by rule by one leader which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media. Totalitarian regimes are often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance and widespread use of state terrorism. Historian Robert Conquest describes a "totalitarian" state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.

Islamic state type of government in which the primary basis for government is sharia (Islamic law)

An Islamic state is a type of government primarily based on the application of shari'a, dispensation of justice, maintenance of law and order. From the early years of Islam, numerous governments have been founded as "Islamic".

Taliban Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan

The Taliban or Taleban, who refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organization in Afghanistan currently waging war within that country. Since 2016, the Taliban's leader is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. The leadership is based in Quetta, Pakistan.



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 Sunni Islamic teaching to form an anti-Western and anti-modern Islamic ideology with which it ruled. [15] It began to receive support from neighboring Pakistan as well as from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

This is a timeline of the background of the Taliban's rise to power.

Soviet–Afghan War War between the Soviet Union and Afghan insurgents, 1979-89


Madrasa school or college, often providing an Islamic education

Madrasa is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, secular or religious, whether for elementary instruction or higher learning. The word is variously transliterated madrasah, medresa, madrassa, madraza, medrese, etc. In the West, the word usually refers to a specific type of religious school or college for the study of the Islamic religion, though this may not be the only subject studied.

Ethnic conflict

The Taliban considered many of Afghanistan's other ethnic communities as foreign. Pashtun people are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and compromised 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. [16] [17] [18] [19] The Battles of Mazar-i-Sharif illustrated this ethnic tension. [20] [21]

Pashtuns ethnic group belonging to Afghanistan and Pakistan

The Pashtuns, historically known as ethnic Afghans and Pathans, are an Iranian ethnic group who mainly live in Pakistan and Afghanistan in South-Central Asia. They speak the Pashto language and adhere to Pashtunwali, which is a traditional set of ethics guiding individual and communal conduct. The ethnogenesis of the Pashtun ethnic group is unclear but historians have come across references to various ancient peoples called Pakthas (Pactyans) between the 2nd and the 1st millennium BC, who may be their early ancestors. Their history is mostly spread amongst the present-day countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, centred on their traditional seat of power in that region.

Deobandi revivalist movement within Sunni Islam

Deobandi is a revivalist movement within Sunni Islam. It is centered in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, has spread to the United Kingdom, and has a presence in South Africa. The name derives from Deoband, India, where the school Darul Uloom Deoband is situated. The movement was inspired by scholar Shah Waliullah Dehlawi (1703–1762), and it was founded in 1867 in the wake of the First War of Indian Independence in northern India a decade earlier.

Pashtunwali or Pakhtunwali is a non-written ethical code and traditional lifestyle which the indigenous Pashtun people follow. It is a system of law and governance that is preserved and still in use today, mostly in the rural tribal areas. Its meaning may also be interpreted as "the way of the Pashtuns" or "the code of life". Pashtunwali is widely practiced among Pashtuns, especially among the non-urbanized Pashtuns in the countryside. In addition to being practiced by members of the Pashtun diaspora, it has been adopted by some non-Pashtun Afghans and Pakistanis that live in the Pashtun regions or close to the Pashtuns, who have gradually become Pashtunized over time. During the Pashtun-dominated Taliban regime, a combination of Pashtunwali and Sharia law was practiced throughout the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in conjunction with the Taliban's extreme interpretation of Deobandi Islam.


A German map showing the political status of Afghanistan in the fall of 1996, just after the Taliban conquered Kabul Afghanistan politisch 1996.png
A German map showing the political status of Afghanistan in the fall of 1996, just after the Taliban conquered Kabul

Spreading from Kandahar, the Taliban eventually ruled Kabul in 1996. By the end of 2000, the Taliban were able to rule 90% of the country, aside from the opposition (Northern Alliance) strongholds primarily found 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. [22] The Taliban sought to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law upon the entire country of Afghanistan.

Kandahar City in Afghanistan

Kandahār or Qandahār is the second-largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 557,118. Kandahar is located in the south of the country on the Arghandab River, at an elevation of 1,010 m (3,310 ft). It is the capital of Kandahar Province, and also the center of the larger cultural region called Loy Kandahar. In 1709, Mirwais Hotak made the region an independent kingdom and turned Kandahar into the capital of the Hotak dynasty. In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the Durrani dynasty, made Kandahar the capital of the Afghan Empire.

Kabul Metropolis and municipality in Afghanistan

Kabul is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan, located in the eastern section of the country. It is also a municipality, forming part of the greater Kabul Province. According to estimates in 2015, the population of Kabul is 4.635 million, which includes all the major ethnic groups of Afghanistan. Rapid urbanization had made Kabul the world's 75th largest city.

Northern Alliance military front

The Afghan Northern Alliance, officially known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, was a united military front that came to formation in late 1996 after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) took over Kabul. The United Front was assembled by key leaders of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, particularly president Burhanuddin Rabbani and former Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud. Initially it included mostly Tajiks but by 2000, leaders of other ethnic groups had joined the Northern Alliance. This included Abdul Rashid Dostum, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Qadir, Asif Mohseni and others.

During the five-year history of the Islamic Emirate, women were banned from working, and girls were forbidden to attend schools or universities and were requested to observe purdah and to abstain from obscenities. Those who resisted were punished. Communists were systematically executed and thieves were punished by amputating one of their hands or feet. Meanwhile, the Taliban succeeded in nearly eradicating the majority of the opium production by 2001. [23]

An emirate is a political territory that is ruled by a dynastic Arabic or Islamic monarch-styled emir. The term may also refer to a kingdom.

Purdah a religious and social practice of female seclusion prevalent among some Muslim and Hindu communities in South Asia

Pardah or purdah is a religious and social practice of female seclusion prevalent among some Muslim and Hindu communities in South Asia. It takes two forms: physical segregation of the sexes and the requirement that women cover their bodies so as to cover their skin and conceal their form. A woman who practices purdah can be referred to as pardanashin or purdahnishan. The term purdah is sometimes applied to similar practices in other parts of the world.

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. [24] 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." [25]

Cabinet (government) group of high ranking officials, usually representing the executive branch of government

A Cabinet is a body of high-ranking state officials, typically consisting of the top leaders of the executive branch. Members of a cabinet are usually called Cabinet ministers or secretaries. The function of a Cabinet varies: in some countries it is a collegiate decision-making body with collective responsibility, while in others it may function either as a purely advisory body or an assisting institution to a decision making head of state or head of government. Cabinets are typically the body responsible for the day-to-day management of the government and response to sudden events, whereas the legislative and judicial branches work in a measured pace, in sessions according to lengthy procedures.

The Uzbeks are a Turkic ethnic group; the largest Turkic ethnic group in Central Asia. They comprise the majority population of Uzbekistan but are also found as a minority group in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Russia and China. Uzbek diaspora communities also exist in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

Rashid described the Taliban government as "a secret society run by Kandaharis ... mysterious, secretive, and dictatorial." [26] 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. [27]

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". [28] 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. 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. 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. [29]

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 [26] or Herat, [30] 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. [30] Critics complained that this "lack of local representation in urban administration made the Taliban appear as an occupying force." [25]

International relations

Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recognized the Taliban government. [31] The state was not recognised by the UN, which instead recognized the Islamic State of Afghanistan as being the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

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.

One reason for lack of international recognition was the Taliban's disregard for human rights and the rule of law as demonstrated by their actions on taking power. One of the first acts of the Taliban upon seizing power was the execution of the former Communist President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Najibullah. Before the Taliban had even taken control of Afghanistan's capital they sent out a squad to arrest Najibullah. As Najibullah was staying in the United Nations compound in Kabul, this was a violation of international law. As a further example, the Taliban regime was also heavily criticized for the murder of Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan [32]

In 1998, the Taliban supported the Islamic militants operating in Chechnya, Xinjiang and Jammu and Kashmir, thus antagonizing Russia, China and India simultaneously. Furthermore, the group has also recognized the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as a country and established diplomatic relations until 2001.

In 2013, the Taliban opened an office in Qatar [33] with the goal of beginning talks between themselves, the United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. [34] There was a conflict after the office raised the white flag of the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying that the office could be closed if there was not a "move forward" in peace negotiations. [35] [36]

Bamyan Buddhas

Destruction of Buddhas 21 March 2001 Destruction of Buddhas March 21 2001.jpg
Destruction of Buddhas 21 March 2001

In 1999, Mullah Omar issued a decree protecting the Buddha statues at Bamyan, 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. He did this because Afghanistan had no Buddhists, so idolatry would not be a problem.

But in March 2001, the statues were destroyed by the Taliban of Mullah Omar following a decree issued by him. The Taliban supreme leader 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. [37]

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" [38]

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". [39] [40]


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. [41] Since the U.S. 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:

All had been added to the list in January or February 2001. [42] [43]

Military under the Taliban

Taliban fighters patrolling the streets of Herat, 15 July 2001 Taliban-herat-2001 retouched.jpg
Taliban fighters patrolling the streets of Herat, 15 July 2001

The Taliban maintained a military during their period of control. The Taliban army possessed over 400 T-54/55 and T-62 tanks and more than 200 armoured personnel carriers. [44] The Afghan Air Force under the Taliban maintained five supersonic MIG-21MFs and 10 Sukhoi-22 fighter-bombers. [45] In 1995, during the 1995 Airstan incident, a Taliban fighter plane captured a Russian transport. They also held six Mil Mi-8 helicopters, five Mi-35s, five L-39Cs, six An-12s, 25 An-26s, a dozen An-24/32s, an IL-18, and a Yakovlev. [46] Their civil air service contained two Boeing 727A/Bs, a Tu-154, five An-24s, and a DHC-6. [46]


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. [47]


Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation, 1994-2016 (hectares). After the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, opium production was down 96%. Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation 1994-2007b.PNG
Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation, 1994–2016 (hectares). After the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, opium production was down 96%.

The Kabul money markets responded positively during the first weeks of the Taliban occupation. But the Afghani soon fell in value. [49] They imposed a 50% tax on any company operating in the country, and those who failed to pay were attacked. [50] They also imposed a 6% import tax on anything brought into the country, [51] and by 1998 had control of the major airports and border crossings which allowed them to establish a monopoly on all trade. [52] By 2001 the per capita income of the 25 million population was under $200, [53] and the country was close to total economic collapse. [54] As of 2007 the economy had begun to recover, with estimated foreign reserves of three billion dollars and a 13% increase in economic growth. [55]

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. [56] 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. [57] Ahmed Rashid also explained that the Afghan Transit Trade agreed on by Pakistan was "the largest official source of revenue for the Taliban." [58]

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. [58] Taxes on opium exports became one of the mainstays of Taliban income and their war economy. [58] According to Rashid, "drug money funded the weapons, ammunition and fuel for the war." [58] 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." [58]

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. [59] 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. [60] 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. [61] 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. [58] The year 1999 had yielded a record crop and had been followed by a lower but still large 2000 harvest. [58] The trafficking of accumulated stocks by the Taliban continued in 2000 and 2001. [58] In 2002, the UN mentioned the "existence of significant stocks of opiates accumulated during previous years of bumper harvests." [58] In September 2001 – before 11 September attacks against the United States – the Taliban allegedly authorized Afghan peasants to sow opium again. [58]

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. [62] [63] Throughout the country millions of acres were denuded to supply timber to the Pakistani markets, with no attempt made at reforestation, [64] which has led to significant environmental damage. [65] 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. [66] On 6 July 1999 president Bill Clinton signed into effect executive order 13129. This order implemented a complete ban on any trade between America and the Taliban regime and on 10 August they froze £5,000,000 in Ariana assets. [67] 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. [68] In 1999 the UN had passed resolution 1267 which had banned all international flights by Ariana apart from pre approved humanitarian missions. [69]

See also

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Preceded by
Islamic State of Afghanistan
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
1996 2001
Succeeded by
Afghan Interim Administration

Coordinates: 33°56′N66°11′E / 33.933°N 66.183°E / 33.933; 66.183