The roots of the Taliban movement started in 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The Soviets were there to prop up a communist Afghan government that was supported by a minority of mostly urban residents. But the vast majority of Afghans lived in rural areas, where authority came from tribal and ethnic groups, and life revolved around conservative practices of Islam.
Rural Afghans formed militias called mujahideen and drove out the Soviets. But then they fell into a civil war with each other. Out of that chaos emerged a group of Islamic teachers and students called the Taliban. They swept through the country, destroying mujahideen groups and imposing strict order. In 1996, the Taliban took the capital city of Kabul, and they ruled Afghanistan until 2001, when the US invaded.
The old cycle of invasion and rebellion had begun again. While urban areas were reformed, rural areas suffered, allowing the Taliban to resurge. And in 2021, the Taliban took back Kabul and the country.
Watch this episode of Vox Atlas to find out who the Taliban are, what they want, and how they took over Afghanistan, again.
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