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Afghanistan: Flashpoints

Major events in Afghanistan in the last three decades that have led up to the current crisis

Illustration by Nilanjan Das

Mid-1990s: The Taliban emerges from seminaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan (the name derives from the Arabic word ‘talib’, meaning ‘student’) and overruns parts of Afghanistan. By 1996, it overthrows the Burhanuddin Rabbani regime and replaces it with one run by Taliban founder Mullah Omar. Strict interpretation of Sharia law imposed

1999: The UN Security Council creates the Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee, identifying the two as terrorist entities operating together, and imposing sanctions on them

2001: The 9/11 attack on the US leaves 3,000 dead. Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is traced to Afghanistan. After the Taliban government refuses to hand him over, US forces invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban regime in December. The UN forms an interim Afghan government

2004: An assembly of Afghan delegates adopts a constitution for Afghanistan. Elections are held in October; Hamid Karzai becomes the first elected president. Taliban factions regroup under Mullah Omar and launch attacks against occupying US forces and the new Afghan government

2011: Osama bin Laden is killed by US forces in Pakistan. US President Barack Obama announces a troop drawdown. An international conference is held in Bonn, Germany, to create a roadmap for Afghan forces to take over from international forces

2014-2016: Ashraf Ghani elected as Afghan president in a disputed verdict; he signs a power-sharing agreement with his main rival Abdullah Abdullah. The death of Taliban chief Mullah Omar is made public in 2015. The following year, a US drone attack kills his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour

2019-2020: US President Trump authorises negotiations with the Taliban. A deal is signed with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar—troop drawdowns and a complete US withdrawal by 2021 in exchange for the Taliban committing to participate in an intra-Afghan dialogue and halting terrorist activities

2021: US President Joe Biden announces all US troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by end-August. On August 15, the Taliban retakes Kabul

Back to cover story: How India should deal with the Taliban

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