The Taliban has proved to be resilient and the US is considering negotiating with them [EPA]
Afghanistan has been unstable for decades with rival armed groups vying for control. In the late 1970s, the Soviet Union deployed tens of thousands of troops in support of pro-Communist governments, but the conflict left 15,000 Soviet soldiers dead forcing the Moscow to withdraw.
In the 1980s, Muslim Afghan fighters (mujahideen) stepped up their campaign for the control of the country but were unable to unite the country.
By the mid-1990s, Afghanistan became divided into spheres of control. These divisions set the stage for the rise of the Taliban who seized control of Afghanistan in 1996.
Below are key events and developments dating back to the late 1970s, when the Soviet invasion began.
1979: The then Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.
1980: Soviet troops set up a puppet regime in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia offer support to anti-communist Muslim Afghan fighters (mujahideen) who opposed the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
1988–1989: The Soviet Union withdraws after 15,000 Soviet soldiers die in the conflict.
1992: Mujahideen forces, led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, remove the Soviet-backed government of Mohammad Najibullah, sparking rivalry among militias vying for influence.
1993: Different factions agree on the formation of a government with Burhanuddin Rabbani as president but infighting continues and lawlessness becomes rampant.
1994: The battles reduce much of Kabul to rubble. Mullah Mohammed Omar, a Muslim cleric, sets up Taliban movement of Islamic students who take up arms, capture Kandahar and advance on Kabul.
1996: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda's leader who fought with mujahideen groups against the Soviet occupation, returns to Afghanistan. The Taliban takes Kabul and hangs former President Mohammad Najibullah.
September 1997: The Taliban fails to capture and hold the city of Mazar-i-Sharif (held sacred by Shia as the site of Ali's grave). Pakistani religious schools send reinforcements to the Taliban.
August 1998: The US launches missiles at suspected bin Laden bases in retaliation for the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
March 1999: A UN-brokered peace agreement is reached between the Taliban and their main remaining enemy, the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shah Massoud. But fighting breaks out few months later.
October 1999: The Taliban take Mazar-i-Sharif. There are unconfirmed reports of mass arrests and executions (numbering in the thousands) of Shia, especially of the Hazara ethnic group.
November 1999: The UN imposes an air embargo and freezes Taliban assets in an attempt to force them to hand over bin Laden for trial.
January 2001: The UN also imposes an arms embargo against the Taliban.
|Ancient Buddhist statues were blown
up by the Taliban in 2001 [GALLO/GETTY]
March 12, 2001: Ignoring an international outcry, the Taliban blows up two 2,000-year-old Buddhist statues in the cliffs above Bamiyan.
May 2001: Religious minorities are ordered to wear tags identifying them as non-Muslims; Hindu women are required to veil themselves like other Afghan women.
July 2001: Taliban bans the use of the internet, playing cards, computer disks, movies, satellite TV, musical instruments and chessboards, after declaring they were against Islamic law.
August 2001: Eight Christian foreign aid workers are arrested for preaching. Two are American citizens.
September 9, 2001: Northern Alliance Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud is wounded in a suicide attack, allegedly by al-Qaeda operatives. Massoud dies from his wounds several days later.
September 11, 2001: Attacks on the World Trade Centre's twin towers and the Pentagon in the US. Washington blames bin Laden and al-Qaeda for the attacks.
September 16, 2001: General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, pledges support for US efforts to arrest bin Laden and appeals to his nation for support. Taliban supporters mount demonstrations.
September 20, 2001 - George Bush, the then US president, calls on the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and all other al-Qaeda leaders, close its terrorist training camps, or face the consequences.
September 21, 2001 - Abdul Salaam Zaeef, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, says that bin Laden would not be given up without evidence linking him to the 9/11 attacks.
September 22, 2001 - Fighting begins between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban.
September 24, 2001: The Taliban calls for a jihad against the US if its forces enter Afghanistan.
October 6, 2001 - Bush warns the Taliban that "time was running out" unless they gave up "terrorist" suspects.
October 7, 2001: US and British forces begin intense bombing of the Taliban's air defence installations and airport-based command centres.
October 19, 2001 - Mullah Mohammad Omar's headquarters near Kandahar are attacked in the first acknowledged action by US ground forces.
November 13, 2001 - Taliban forces abandon the capital Kabul and Northern Alliance forces take control of the city.
December 5, 2001: Hamid Karzai, an Afghan tribal leader, is chosen to head an interim government by delegates in Bonn, Germany.
January 2002: The Taliban officially capitulates. Pakistani intelligence officials detain Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan. Zaeef is taken into US custody.
May 2003: Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, claims that most of Afghanistan is now secure and that US-led forces had moved from major combat operations to stabilisation and reconstruction projects. But pro-Taliban fighters continue to stage almost daily attacks on government buildings, US bases and aid workers.
January 2004: Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, or decision-making assembly, adopts a new constitution. The constitution grants equality for men and women and defines the country as an "Islamic Republic".
November 2004: Hamid Karzai is elected president of Afghanistan.
|President Karzai was elected in 2004 [EPA]
2005: The Taliban begins to regroup in larger numbers and continue to attack US troops, making it the deadliest year for US troops since the war began in 2001.
May-June 2006: After a spate of Taliban suicide bombings and other attacks, Operation Mount Thrust is launched, deploying more than 10,000 Afghan and coalition forces in the south.
August 2006: Nato troops take over military operations in southern Afghanistan from the US-led coalition. In September, it launches the largest attack in its 57-year history.
September 2006: The Taliban fights back with renewed strength. Suicide bombings and roadside attacks become more frequent and more deadly; nearly 100 are reported to have died from such violence in August and September.
July 2007: The Taliban kills one of a group of 23 South Korean hostages after their demands for a prisoner exchange are not met with a positive response by the Afghan government.
February 2008: About 80 people are killed and nearly 100 injured when a suicide bomber attacks a crowd watching dogfight near Kandahar. It is the worst suicide attack since 2001. The Taliban denies responsibility for the attack, but Afghan officials express scepticism about the claim.
August 2008: As many as 15 suicide bombers backed by about 30 Taliban fighters attack a US military base, Camp Salerno, in Bamiyan. Fighting between US troops and members of the Taliban rages overnight. In another daring attack, 10 French paratroopers are killed and more than 20 are wounded in an ambush by about 100 fighters about 30 miles east of Kabul.
December 2009: Afghanistan and Pakistan decide to form joint strategy to combat Taliban fighters in their border regions.
February 2009: Barack Obama, the US president, announces his plans to send another 17,000 US troops to Afghanistan. Karzai says Afghanistan is turning a new page in relations with United States.
March 2009: Obama declares he is open to the idea of reaching out to moderate elements of the Taliban.
July 2009: About 4,000 US marines and 650 Afghan army forces launch major offensive on Taliban strongholds in southern Helmand province ahead of August presidential elections.
The Taliban vows to resist and fight the foreign forces.