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History of Afghanistan since 1992

 This article is part of the 
History of Afghanistan series.
 Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan
 Islamic conquest of Afghanistan
 Durrani Empire
 European influence in Afghanistan
 Reforms of Amanullah Khan and civil war
 Reigns of Nadir Shah and Zahir Shah
 Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan
 Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
 History of Afghanistan since 1992

Table of contents
1 The Islamic State of Afghanistan
2 Rise of the Taliban
3 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan
4 Rebuilding Afghanistan

The Islamic State of Afghanistan

After the Soviets withdrew completely from Afghanistan in February 1989, fighting between the communist backed government and mujahideen continued. With material help from the Soviets, Mohammad Najibullah's government survived, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was overthrown on April 18, 1992 the forces of Ahmed Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum captured Kabul.

Seeking to resolve these differences, the leaders of the Peshawar-based mujahideen groups established an interim Islamic Jihad Council in mid-April to assume power in Kabul. Moderate leader Prof. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was to chair the council for 2 months, after which a 10-member leadership council composed of mujahideen leaders and presided over by the head of the Jamiat-i-Islami, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, was to be set up for 4 months. During this 6-month period, a Loya Jirga, or grand council of Afghan elders and notables, would convene and designate an interim administration which would hold power up to a year, pending elections.

But in May 1992, Rabbani prematurely formed the leadership council, undermining Mojaddedi's fragile authority. On June 28, 1992, Mojaddedi surrendered power to the Leadership Council, which then elected Rabbani as President. Nonetheless, heavy fighting broke out in August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions, particularly those who supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami. After Rabbani extended his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the capital flared up in January and February 1993. The Islamabad Accord, signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar as Prime Minister, failed to have a lasting effect. A follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad Accord, called for the militias to be disarmed but was never fully implemented. Through 1993, Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces, allied with the Shi'a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed intermittently with Rabbani and Masood's Jamiat forces. Cooperating with Jamiat were militants of Sayyaf's Ittehad-i-Islami and, periodically, troops loyal to ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam. On January 1, 1994, Dostam switched sides, precipitating largescale fighting in Kabul and in northern provinces, which caused thousands of civilian casualties in Kabul and elsewhere and created a new wave of displaced persons and refugees. The country sank even further into anarchy, forces loyal to Rabbani and Masood, both ethnic Tajiks, controlled Kabul and much of the northeast, while local warlords exerted power over the rest of the country.

Rise of the Taliban

In reaction to the anarchy and warlordism prevalent in the country, and the lack of Pashtun representation in the Kabul government, a movement arose called the Taliban. Many Taliban had been educated in madrassas in Pakistan and were largely from rural Pashtun backgrounds. This group dedicated itself to removing the warlords, providing order, and imposing Islam on the country. It received considerable support from Pakistan. In 1994 it developed enough strength to capture the city of Kandahar from a local warlord and proceeded to expand its control throughout Afghanistan, occupying Herat in September 1995, then Kabul in September 1996, and declaring the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (although there was no Emir). By the end of 1998, the Taliban occupied about 90% of the country, limiting the opposition largely to a small largely Tajik corner in the northeast and the Panjshir valley. Efforts by the UN, prominent Afghans living outside the country, and other interested countries to bring about a peaceful solution to the continuing conflict came to naught, largely because of intransigence on the part of the Taliban.

The Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam--based in part upon rural Pashtun tradition--upon the entire country and committed massive human rights violations, particularly directed against women and girls, in the process. Women were restricted from working outside the home, pursuing an education, were not to leave their homes without an accompanying male relative, and forced to wear a traditional body-covering garment called the burka. The Taliban committed serious atrocities against minority populations, particularly the Shi'a Hazara ethnic group, and killed noncombatants in several well-documented instances. In 2001, as part of a drive against relics of Afghanistan's pre-Islamic past, the Taliban destroyed two large statues of the Buddha outside of the city of Bamiyan and announced destruction of all pre-Islamic statues in Afghanistan, including the remaining holdings of the Kabul Museum.

In addition to the continuing civil strife, the country suffered from widespread poverty, drought, a devastated infrastructure, and ubiquitous use of landmines. These conditions led to about three to four million Afghans suffering from starvation. In 1998 thousands of people were killed by earthquakes.

U.S. invasion of Afghanistan

From the mid-1990s the Taliban provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national who had fought with them against the Soviets, and provided a base for his and other terrorist organizations. The UN Security Council repeatedly sanctioned the Taliban for these activities. Bin Laden provided both financial and political support to the Taliban. Bin Laden and his al Qaeda group were charged with the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, and in August 1998 the United States launched a cruise missile attack against bin Laden's terrorist camp in Afghanistan. Bin Laden and al Qaeda are believed to be responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, among other crimes.

By September 2001 the remaining opposition to the Taliban had been confined to the Panjshir valley and a small region in the northeast. The opposition by this time had formed the Northern Alliance but controlled less than 5% of the country. Nevertheless, they held onto Afghanistan's diplomatic representation in the UN as only three countries in the world continued to recognize the Taliban government. On September 9, agents working on behalf of the Taliban and believed to be associated with bin Laden's al Qaeda group assassinated Northern Alliance Defense Minister and chief military commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, a hero of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets and the Taliban's principal military opponent. Following the Taliban's repeated refusal to expel bin Laden and his group and end its support for international terrorism, the U.S. and its partners launched an invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.

A period of bombing followed, which for about a month appeared to be having little effect. The US required the assistance of countries around Afghanistan to provide a route for the attack, but criticism increased as various mosques, aid agencies, hospitals, and other civilian buildings were damaged by US bombs. However, the Northern Alliance, fighting against a Taliban weakened by US bombing and massive defections, captured Mazar-e Sharif on November 9. It rapidly gained control of most of northern Afghanistan and took control of Kabul on November 13 after the Taliban unexpectedly fled the city. The Taliban were restricted to a smaller and smaller region, with Kunduz, the last Taliban-held city in the north, captured on November 26.

The war continued in the south of the country, where the Taliban retreated to Kandahar. After Kandahar fell in December, remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda contined to mount resistance.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

Sponsored by the UN, Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban met in Bonn, Germany in early December and agreed on a political process to restore stability and governance to Afghanistan. In the first step, an Afghan Interim Authority was formed and was installed in Kabul on December 22, 2001. A "Loya Jirga" (Grand Council) was convened in June of 2002 by former King Zahir Shah, who returned from exile after 29 years. The Loya Jirga elected Hamid Karzai as president for the two year transitional period.

In March 2002, a series of earthquakes struck Afghanistan, with a loss of thousands of homes and over 1800 lives. Over 4000 more people were injured. The earthquakes occurred at Samangan Province (March 3) and Baghlan Province (March 25). The latter was the worse of the two, and incurred most of the casualties. International authorites assisted the Afghan government in dealing with the situation.

Current problems that exist for the administration include controlling bands of bandits roaming Afghanistan's rural sector, removing the debris (and in particular, unmapped buried land mines) from decades of civil war from the countryside, and rebuilding the Afghan economy. Political violence also remains a problem. Hamid Kazai was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt in September 5, 2002. Numerous bombs have exploded in Kabul, targeting international peacekeepers.