AfghanistanText by James Oakes, St Helena Secondary College
Key question: What has been the nature of global conflict in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan, 2001
Afghanistan had been the first target of the US, in the War on Terror after the September 11th 2001 attacks. The Taliban in Afghanistan had harboured the al Qaeda camps and Osama Bin Laden. Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001, initially led by 12,500 US and British forces. A second group called the International Security Assistance Force of 5000 troops from 31 countries later joined by a much wider coalition that included the support of Pakistan. Sustained bombing was followed up with a ground invasion. The North fell quickly, with The Taliban weakened by bombing and defections to the Northern Alliance, fled to the hills. With the Northern Alliance and the bases in the former USSR, the US, Great Britain, Australia, and others quickly took the north and Kabul but the war continued in the south around Kandahar and then into the mountains near the Pakistani border, the famous Tora Bora Mountains where the US thought they may have killed Osama Bin Laden. It was in these mountains that the nature of the war changed from an all out assault on a failing nation state to the pursuit of remnant of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. .

In December 2001, the Afghan Interim Authority was formed and installed in Kabul by the US and the Grand Council Loya Jirga, under the chairmanship of the former King Zahir Shah selected Hamid Karzai as Interim President.

An International Security Assistance Force of 5000 troops had been organised to assist the US and the UK in Afghanistan particularly to protect the interim government and major cities and by August 2002 NATO had taken over from the ISAF. With UNO authorisation they were made responsible for peacekeeping throughout the country.

In June 2004 a new constitution was drafted, with Presidential elections in October and general elections planned for early 2005. In 2006 Coalition forces are still in Afghanistan with a resurgent Taliban still causing problems in outlying areas, particularly the South.

In a seemingly peaceful Presidential election despite initial conflict about permanent marker texta pens and the voting process, Karzai won over 55% of the vote in the vote and won a five year term. Karzai, a Pashtun, in a bid to heal ethnic division, has a deputy president from the Hazara minority and a cabinet composed of representatives of those minorities. The election gave Karzai a clear mandate with other opponents failing to muster anything more than local support. The transitional leader for over three years has clearly been endorsed by Afghanis but also does not control it.. Karzai will have to, at some stage soon, confront those warlords who will seek to terrorise the voters.

Gerry Engwerda and James Oakes, International Studies 2005, Victorian Association of Social Studies Teachers (VASST) inc, Melbourne, 2004, p 77

At the end of 2006 conflict continues. The peace has proven harder to win than the war. Safety cannot be guaranteed outside major towns and cities limiting the work of reconstruction and aid organisations. This conflict has been different to Cold War Conflicts in that the Cold War was usually fought amongst client states of the USSR, China or the US. This does not apply here – the conflict is largely internalised. Afghanistan is beset by divisions, warlordism, the opium and heroin trade, poverty and illiteracy.

Interestingly the Opium trade was largely brought under control during the reign of the Taliban however given that the average farmer makes 10 time more out of an Opium Crop as opposed to wheat, it is no surprise that farmers have reverted to their old ways.

The extremist Islamic tyranny of the Taliban has been lifted, but an all to familiar array of problems faces the new government, who are still totally reliant on foreign aid and a large number of foreign troops to try and establish the new regime. This post cold conflict is not yet resolved.

The promised billions for rebuilding have not materialised, and the US, distracted by Iraq, seemed, like the rest of the world, once again to have forgotten them, just as everyone did after the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989.


The terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon, Washington DC on September 11, 2001 triggered an American led war against terrorism. Within a month American and allied troops invaded Afghanistan and, with the Afghani opposition forces, unseated the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist group which had ruled much of Afghanistan since 1996. The Taliban had refused demands to hand over Osama Bin Laden, leader of al'Qaeda acknowledged as the mastermind behind the terror attack. He had been based in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban since 1996.

As the Taliban forces were driven from the towns and cities of Afghanistan, journalists reported men joyously cutting off their beards, families digging up their hidden VCRs and playing their copies of Titanic, children flying kites and women, heavily veiled, emerging from behind locked doors to walk unaccompanied on the streets. All of these everyday activities had been banned under the harsh sharia law imposed by the Taliban. Soon the football stadium in Kabul, once used by the Taliban for public executions would once again see teams playing soccer. Reporters and politicians talked of freeing Afghanis from oppression and bringing normality back to the region. Countries around the world pledged dollars to help rebuild Afghanistan.

After almost twenty years of war the country's infrastructure was in ruins, many of its cities reduced to rubble, there was little industry and much of its population lived in poverty. Only thirty-seven per cent of the population was literate, in rural areas the female rate as low as four per cent. Ten per cent of the population had been killed and thirty-five per cent were refugees. Ten million land mines were still active, killing and disabling thousands of people every year. Afghanistan had the world's highest infant mortality rate (163 deaths per 1000 births), a quarter of its children died before their fifth birthday and 1700 women in 100 000 died in childbirth. Life expectancy for men and women was 43-4 years. This was a society where a UNICEF report found two thirds of all children had seen someone killed by a rocket attack or seen dead bodies and body parts in the streets.

Sarah Mirams, Twentieth Century History, Thomson Social Science Press, Melbourne 2004

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The Land and its People

Modern Afghanistan is a vast country of 245 000 square miles; its terrain encompasses mountain ranges, deserts and fertile valleys. The country is divided north and south by the massive mountain range called the Hindu Kush. Only between 10-12% of the land can be cultivated and many farms are perched on steep unfriendly hillsides. Until the late twentieth century nomadic herders led their flocks of fat-tailed sheep across the mountains and steppes to fertile pasture to make their livelihood. Travel through this landscape is difficult and hazardous but many civilisations have crisscrossed this landlocked country. It is rich in archaeological and historic sites, many which predate Christianity.

The Afghani people are drawn from a range of different ethnic groups. Pashtuns dominate south of the Hindu Kush, to the north live the Persian and Turkic ethnic groups, in the Kush itself Persian speaking Hazaras and Tajiks live. Islam is the dominant religion, the majority Pashtun population Sunni and the Hazaras Shiite. (See chapter four for a definition of the two branches of Islam.) The major ethnic groups speak different languages including Persian, Turkic or Pashto, a Pashtun dialect. This mixture of ethnic groupings have made nation building a difficult task. Loyalties during time of war and struggle have often laid with the ethnic and tribal groups rather than the nation.


Taliban - literally the students of Islam, name adopted by fundamentalist students led by Mullah Omah. The singular is talib.

Northern Alliance - main military opposition to the Taliban, an anti-Taliban alliance of Mujaheddin groups led by Ahmed Massoud who was assassinated by al'Qaeda two days before the Twin Towers attack. Supported by Russia and Iran.

Sharia - Islamic Law.

Ramadan - the month of fasting in the Islamic calendar.

Mullah - traditional leader of prayer at a local mosque.

Burqa - all enveloping head-to-toe covering worn by Afghan women in some parts of the country, made compulsory under the Taliban. See chapter five for discussion of veiling under Islam p.109.

Fatwa - legal ruling issued by the ulama.

Jihad - effort or struggle to become a good Muslim. Also a holy war to defend or spread Islam.

Madrassa - Islamic schools which teach religious subjects.

Mehrem, a male blood relative who should accompany a woman during travel according to strict Islamic law.

Mujaheddin - holy warriors fighting a jihad. Name given to the Afghani tribal warlords resisting Soviet occupation.

Munkrat - religious police.

Politics and history

The modern history of Afghanistan has been largely shaped by its position in central Asia, a landlocked country whose borders straddle India, Russia and Iran. In the nineteenth century the imperial rivals Britain and Russia vied for influence over the country. Britain never defeated the Afghanis militarily; instead they used money to make it a client state, supporting leaders who would support Britain by offering money and weapons. In 1919 the country became formally independent and subsequent monarchs initiated programs of modernisation, creating an urban elite and building roads and schools, making the wearing of the veil optional, giving women the vote and holding parliamentary elections. Despite moves to emulate some features of a modern secular state Afghanistan was still at heart, a tribal multi-ethnic state where two kings were assassinated and tribal revolts still erupted from time to time. Beyond the major cities like Herat, Kandihah and the capital Kabul, life remained largely as it had for centuries, untouched by modern trends.

King Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin Sardar Mohammed Daud in 1973. He declared Afghanistan a republic, made himself president and he turned to the USSR for financial aid to modernise the country. He was overthrown in 1978 during a bloody communist coup led by army officers trained in the Soviet Union. Factionalism within the communist ranks, rural revolts against their rule and rising Islamic and tribal unrest against an imposed secular ideology saw the destabilisation of the region. In December 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and installed Babrak Karmel as President. The Soviet Union was concerned that any unrest in Afghanistan could spill over to their majority Muslim, Central Asian republics Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The Mujaheddin

Afghanistan became another Cold War battleground. America condemned the Soviet invasion, boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest and began funding resistance to communist rule. They saw growing Soviet influence in the region as threatening their access to oil supplies in the Arabian Gulf. The Mujaheddin, a small Islamic group which had objected on religious and cultural grounds to Daud's reforms in the 1970s, received huge amounts of aid in its campaign to unseat the Soviets, much of it in the form of advanced lethal weapons. The US committed $5 billion a year between 1989 and 1992 to help fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, their ally Saudi Arabia matched that figure, and support from other countries bought the figure up to 45 billion. Most of this money was filtered through America's ally Pakistan. It was here too that the CIA funded training camps where the Mujaheddin were taught to use modern weaponry, including Stinger missiles that could shoot down helicopters. In the western press the Mujaheddin were portrayed as fierce, united freedom fighters, and allies of the free world.

The Mujaheddin were not a united army, but rather a loose alliance of ethnic and regional groups united only in their determination to rid the country of the invaders. The movement also attracted Muslim radicals (approximately 35 000) from all around the world who were fighting to save Afghanistan and Islam from the secularism of communism. Among their number was a young Saudi engineering student called Osama Bin Laden who, with equipment donated by his father, a wealthy construction magnate, helped build a CIA funded tunnel complex on the border with Pakistan.

The Mujaheddin waged a guerrilla war against the Red Army using similar tactics to that employed against the Americans in Vietnam by the Viet Cong. Guerrilla bands would surprise and attack convoys of trucks, tanks and soldiers, and then disappear into the rocky mountainous ranges or the desert. The Mujaheddin were like `fish in water' in the countryside. The Soviets destroyed orchards and farms where the guerrillas could shelter, razed villages and conducted a scorched earth policy resulting in five million refugees. Both sides committed appalling atrocities and laid millions of landmines, which since 1979 have killed 400 000 civilians and injured the same number. The 100 000 Russians based in the country only felt safe in their fortified bases, or in the cities, but even there, guns could be smuggled in, often by women under the enveloping folds of the burqa.

For ten years the Soviets battled against the unrelenting resistance which continued to be supported by western powers. By 1989, 15 000 Russians had been killed and 35 000 wounded and the war became increasingly unpopular. Gorbachev, faced with a growing political and economic crisis at home, withdrew Soviet troops in 1989. America also walked away, now focussing on the end of communism in Europe.

The superpowers left behind countryside devastated by war and riddled with ten million landmines, a population of refugees and an economy in ruins. There was no government or established political system. There was no attempt by the west to help rebuild the country where America's last Cold War battle had taken place. Their legacy was also a population of warlords and leaders who were well trained in the use of modern weaponry and who had developed networks of support across the Muslim world between different factions. The country was awash with weapons and ammunition. Some groups who had been encouraged by the CIA to come to Afghanistan and fight the Soviets were the most radical and committed Islamic extremists; they, the CIA believed, would be the most dogged and determined fighters against the secular Soviet Union.

The Coming of the Taliban

Communist President Najibulah was overthrown in 1992 and the Mujaheddin captured Kabul. Inter-ethnic rivalry between the different Mujaheddin factions soon emerged and a civil war erupted between different warlords and ethnic groups for political control of the country. Pashtun fought Tajiks, Hazara groups fought Durranis and supporters of the Soviets were executed. Kabul, which had been largely untouched during the fighting against the Soviet Union now became a battle ground between the Tajik and Uzbek forces, and the Pashtun faction, the ethnic group which had traditionally controlled the capital.

In the city of Kandahar tensions also developed between two strands of the Mujaheddin, the traditionalists, who supported the tribal structures and the historical ideals of Islam and the Islamicists who wanted to abolish tribal loyalties and bring about an Islamic revolution in Afghanistan. Afghanistan sank into a series of clashes between warring factions who plundered the population, taking farms and homes, selling off whatever they could find to raise cash including telegraph poles, road building equipment and factories. Girls and boys were kidnapped and used as sex slaves, shopkeepers found their stalls looted and refugees started fleeing into Pakistan.

With no united leadership and the economy in tatters some former Mujaheddin based in the refugee camps in Pakistan or studying in the madrassa schools looked on in despair at the criminality and factionalism that were renting Afghanistan apart. In 1994 such a group came together and drew up an agenda for Afghanistan's future. Their aims were to bring peace to Afghanistan, disarm the population, impose sharia law and defend the Islamic character of Afghanistan. They called themselves the Taliban which means Islamic student, one who seeks knowledge. They emulated the perfect Muslim society created by Mohammed 1400 years ago.

The style of Koranic learning undertaken by the Taliban was very orthodox, one that preached purification from all foreign influences and a very fundamental reading of the Koran. Their leader was Mullah Mohammedan Omar from Kandahar, a village mullah with no connections to the Prophet's family, or connections with tribal leaders or scholarly learning. He was noted for his piety and devotion to Islam and had fought against the Najibullah regime. Throughout the Taliban reign he remained a mysterious figure, photographed only once by foreign journalists and rarely interviewed by the media.

“We are dealing here with a failed state, which looks like an infected wound. We don't even know where to start cleaning it.” UN mediator Lakhdai Brahimi, 1995.

Legends and myths about the rise of the Taliban abound in Afghanistan. The one given the most credence by Ahmed Rashid, a respected journalist who has followed the progress of the Taliban since its creation, was reported to have occurred in Kandahar 1994. A warlord had kidnapped two teenage girls, shaved their heads and repeatedly raped them. Omar and thirty Talibs attacked the commander's base, freed the girls and hung the commander from a tank turret.

As the months went on the Taliban were called upon to protect people from violent and greedy warlords, becoming a 'Robin Hood' figure with the local population. By November they had grown into a fighting force and took over Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported the new movement with money and fresh recruits. Pakistan was keen to reopen both legitimate trade routes to Afghanistan, and the extremely lucrative movement of opium, which was now grown in the fields and farms destroyed by the Soviets.

In September 1995 the Taliban took over the city of Herat, and a year later Kabul, after relentless rocket attacks. Some initially welcomed the Taliban since they promised stability and peace after years of internal warfare and lawlessness. Some of the major powers also saw the end of the civil war in Afghanistan as an opportunity to open up the region economically. Two oil companies, American Unicor and Argentina's Bridas, sought seeking negotiations with the Taliban in 1996 to build an oil pipeline from the world's last unexploited oil fields of central Asia in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan through southern Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea. The battles between countries and companies to secure the oil in Central Asia has become known as the New Great Game, a reference to the old rivalry between Russia and England over control of Afghanistan during the nineteenth century.

The Taliban were not entirely triumphant. To the north of Kabul the Taliban continued to fight against the Northern Alliance led by the charismatic military leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. This was a brutal and vicious war where civilians were massacred, homes destroyed, numerous atrocities committed by both sides causing the roads north to be choked with refugees. One of the most notorious forms of
execution to come out of this war was `container death'. Prisoners of war were locked in transport containers and left to die of starvation, suffocation and heat exhaustion.
Ethnic cleansing was also carried out by both sides as the war became more ethnically divided between the majority Sunni Pashtun Taliban from the south and the Shiia Hazaras and Uzbeks from the north.

The Northern Alliance were supported with arms and ammunition by the Iranians and the Russians. The Iranians, though also a fundamentalist Islamic Republic, albeit a milder version, were Shi'ite and saw the majority Sunni Taliban who were persecuting the Shiite Hezara as a threat to their own security. The massacre of Iranian diplomats and between 5-6000 civilians in the majority Shi'ia city of Herat in 1998 saw Iran threaten to invade Afghanistan. The Russians were afraid the Taliban could advance into Central Asia with its majority Muslim population threatening regional security as well as creating a refugee crisis on their border.

The Taliban was supported by Sunni nationalists in Pakistan where the madrassa schools provided young men to fight in the jihad.

Taliban Decrees, Kabul 1996

“Women you should not go out of the residence ... Husband, father, brother have the responsibility for providing the family with the necessary life requirements (food, clothes etc.) In case women are required to go outside ... they should cover themselves up in accordance with Islamic Sharia regulations. Otherwise the women will be threatened, investigated and severely punished as well as the family by the forces of the religious police... To prevent music and dancing at wedding parties. In this case of violation the head of family will be arrested and punished.”

“To prevent the British and American hairstyle. People with long hair will be sent to the religious police department to shave their hair: To prevent kite flying. The kite shops in the city should be abolished. To prevent idolatry. In vehicles, shops, hotel rooms and other places pictures should be abolished.”

“To prevent music ...ln shops, hotels, vehicles and rickshaws music and cassettes are forbidden.”

“To prevent sewing ladies cloth and taking female body measurements by tailor. If women or fashion magazines are found in the shop the tailor should be imprisoned.”

Taliban decrees relating to women and cultural issues, Kabul 1996.

Taliban edicts

Once installed in power the Taliban instituted the modern world's most extreme interpretation of sharia law. Men were ordered to grow long beards, television sets and VCRs were broken, cassette tapes strung up from street lights and a myriad of sporting and leisure activities, such as, kite flying, chess and football were banned. Worship at the mosque was strictly monitored. Dancing, music, videos and film were forbidden. Any images such as pictures or photographs were to be destroyed.

Toyota pick up trucks drove through the streets with the armed religious police ready to whip, beat and arrest any Afghani who breached any of the myriad of edicts coming from the newly instituted Ministry for the Repression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue. Women and girls aged above twelve were now required to wear the burqa, a head to feet covering which had only a small panel of lacework for the women to see through. This was the traditional dress worn in Pashtun villages but rarely in a multi-ethnic urban centre like Kabul, where working educated women usually wore western dress.

Men were also subject to a strict dress code, having to wear the traditional shalwars or loose pants above the ankle and a long cotton shirt with a striped waistcoat. Turbans and the long blanket wrapped around the body in winter were also compulsory. Beards had to be long enough to be held in clenched fists and pointed. Long hair on men was forbidden, police would stand on street corners with scissors cutting hair. Men were expected to pray five times a day when the Taliban demanded it. There were reports of doctors being forced to abandon patients mid operation in order to pray.

Thousands of men disappeared under the Taliban regime, arbitrarily arrested on the streets and held in jails. Often their suspected political views or non-Pashtun background were cause for arrest. In jail men were subject to mass rape, beatings, torture and amputations. To escape from being forced to fight with the Taliban thousands fled the country.

The Taliban edicts regarding women and girls were described as being a form of gender apartheid. Females were made to disappear from public life. Girls' schools were closed. Women were forbidden from working outside the home and could not leave their homes without a male relative. The Taliban claimed such restrictions were traditional in Afghani society, but women up to that point had played an active role in public life, especially since many men had been fighting wars for the previous twenty years. Women in 1996 made up forty per cent of doctors, seventy per cent of teachers and fifty per cent of the public service. Forty per cent of women in Kabul worked when the Taliban took over.

There were also many rules to make women even more invisible and anonymous. They were not allowed to wear makeup under their burqa, beauty salons and bathhouses (the only places you could get hot water) were closed to women, white shoes, socks or stockings were forbidden as white was the colour of the Taliban and walking had to be silent - no high heels. Houses where women lived had to have their street windows painted black so people could not look in. Men and women were not allowed to laugh in the street.

Women's depression and mental health suffered under these strictures, described by many as being `buried alive'. 'Latifa', the pseudonym of a middle class Afghani girl who recounted her story of life under the Taliban in the memoir My Forbidden Face describes finding herself drifting into depression after being confined to her home, too scared to walk the streets. From her window she witnessed men and women being beaten and a neighbour's son being killed. The rate of suicide by women grew under the Taliban.

Life for the women and girls, especially working class women and those from the poor sectors of society had been hard over the years of the civil war. Many women were widowed or had lost family members on whose wages they depended to survive. In Kabul 25 000 families were headed by war widows and 7000 by disabled men. Life for many, as evident in the appalling health statistics, was already precarious and many families by 1996 were dependent on aid organisations like the UN funded bread kitchens for their survival. The years of war and bombardments had also taken a toll on the psychological resilience of families and children.

The rule that women could not leave their homes unless wearing a burqa and usually accompanied by a male family member made everyday survival even more difficult for many. Burqas were expensive (costing three months wages), without one a woman couldn't go on the street and even beg. They were requested from western aid workers and neighbours would borrow each other's in turn. A 1996 report from the Physicians for Human Rights found six percent of women surveyed didn't seek medical attention because they didn't own a burqa.

Travelling alone women were subject to arrest and beatings. Radio Sharia reported on the rounding up of 225 women off the streets in one raid, with one having the tip of her finger cut off for wearing nail polish. Women were often forced by necessity to go onto the streets without a mehrem to work illegally, beg, shop or seek medical aid. Amnesty International reported in 1996 that a woman called Turpekah in the city of Farah was machine gunned by the Taliban when trying to get her child, sick with acute diarrhoea, to a hospital. Her crime? Being out of her home without a male relative. Such stories were common. For widows without a son or brother, life on the streets was dangerous and desperate.

Source 10.5 Kabul 1998
PHR's researcher when visiting Kabul in 1998, saw a city of beggars -
women who had once been teachers and nurses now moving in the streets like ghosts in their enveloping burqas, selling every possession and begging to feed their children. It is difficult to find another or would be government in the world that has deliberately created poverty by arbitrarily depriving their population under its control of jobs, schooling, mobility, and health care. Such restrictions are literally life threatening to women and children.
Physicians for Human Rights

1999 Report: The Taliban's War on Women - A Health and Human Rights Crisis in Afghanistan.
httn:// 13th June 2004

Access to healthcare by women and girls was cut to a bare minimum under the Taliban. Male doctors were not allowed to examine female patients and female staff were banned from working in hospitals in 1996. Only twenty-five per cent of beds were reserved for women and conditions in all hospitals were appalling with few X-Ray.) machines, electricity, oxygen, medicine or clean water. Patients could often not afford the medicines needed for their treatment. If a male doctor or dentist was caught examining a woman unveiled, both he and his patient could be punished. Hospitals were subject to raids by the Taliban where staff were beaten up and arrested. There was some relaxation of these rules after 1998 when some women could return to work in hospitals. This came about after international pressure and from the Taliban itself, who could not get medical treatment for their female relatives.

Life for the women and girls, especially working class women and those from the poor sectors of society had been hard over the years of the civil war. Many women were widowed or had lost family members on whose wages they depended to survive. In Kabul 25 000 families were headed by war widows and 7000 by disabled men. Life for many, as evident in the appalling health statistics, was already precarious and many families by 1996 were dependent on aid organisations like the UN funded bread kitchens for their survival. The years of war and bombardments had also taken a toll on the psychological resilience of families and children.

The rule that women could not leave their homes unless wearing a burqa and usually accompanied by a male family member made everyday survival even more difficult for many. Burqas were expensive (costing three months wages), without one a woman couldn't go on the street and even beg. They were requested from western aid workers and neighbours would borrow each other's in turn. A 1996 report from the Physicians for Human Rights found six percent of women surveyed didn't seek medical attention because they didn't own a burqa.

Travelling alone women were subject to arrest and beatings. Radio Sharia reported on the rounding up of 225 women off the streets in one raid, with one having the tip of her fingers cut off.


Under the sharia laws thieves had their hands amputated, unrelated men and women accused of having a relationship were flogged, married women were stoned to death for trying to escape the country with men they were not related to and suspected homosexuals were crushed by collapsing walls driven into by trucks. There was no rule of law, court system or right of appeal under the Taliban. Confessions were often extracted under torture.

The United Nations refurbished the football stadium in Kabul in 1997 after the Taliban said they would lift the restrictions on playing sport. The only `entertainment' the stadium would offer though was the Friday public executions, amputations and beatings. Underneath the stadium lay the rooms used for extracting `confessions' under torture. Crowds were forced to witness such spectacles under the gaze of the Taliban. One woman named Zameena accused of murdering her husband was shot in front of her seven children even though the husband's family tried to stop the execution. The secret recording of the execution revealed the `audience' wailing and crying.

Opium and the Taliban

After years of war the economy was in ruins in Afghanistan. The educated, middle class elite had fled, as had most skilled tradespeople, technicians, and business owners. There were no tourists to bring in foreign currency and, as the government was not recognised by the United Nations, the Taliban could not raise loans from the World Bank. The Taliban inherited economic ruin, but did little to improve life for the civilians, instead relying on Allah and NGOs to feed its people. Like the Mujaheddin before them the Taliban came to rely more on drug money to finance their wars.

Drug use was prohibited under the Taliban laws, the growing and use of hashish was forbidden and those caught using were jailed and beaten to heip them overcome their addiction. There were no such edicts passed to stop the production of opium, in fact the Taliban openly expanded their fields, encouraging farmers to expand their holdings. Opium produced was taxed and new supply and transport routes to Pakistan and central Asia were opened up. This was a very lucrative form of revenue raising. The opium brought in was worth US$1.35 billion in 1995, that figure had doubled by 1998. The government fed and armed the Taliban army.

This industry has caused major drug problems within the region with only 42% being exported outside of Central and South Asia. Iran alone has an estimated population of heroin users of 1.2 million and it was estimated Pakistan's would climb to 3 million by 1999. With drugs came crime, poverty, corruption and unemployment. It also provided funds for different ethnic and religious groups to arm and train themselves. At times the Taliban agreed to halt opium production on the condition that the US recognised it as a legitimate government and funded programs to replace the opium crops with substitute crops. No agreement was ever reached.

Survival and Resistance

Resistance to the edicts of the Taliban involved a certain amount of risk but nevertheless people did try to maintain vestiges of their former life. There were secret beauty salons and shops where you could buy forbidden goods smuggled in from Pakistan. Weddings were celebrated in the traditional manner with music, but always with lookouts at the ready. Schools teaching secular subjects for boys and girls were run in secret, forbidden books were swapped and hidden and the latest movies from Bollywood and Hollywood were smuggled in from Pakistan.

Towards 2001

By 1999 the situation for those still living in Afghanistan was dire. There was no running water, little electricity, telephones or energy supplies. Food was in short supply and in 1998-1999 the country suffered its worst drought in seventy years and its coldest winter where people died of exposure in Kabul and malnutrition was evident in the streets. UNESCO reported education in Afghanistan had completely collapsed. NGOs had begun to withdraw from the country for security reasons.

The initial American interest in courting the Taliban to help secure oil and gas supplies form central Asia had cooled when the true nature of the regime emerged. The powerful feminist lobby in America and human rights groups publicised the plight of the Afghani women under the Taliban and condemned any American companies cooperating with the regime.

It was the Taliban's support of Osama Bin Laden though which was to set the seal on the relationship between the two countries. Osama Bin Laden had lived in Afghanistan since 1996. He had been exiled from Saudi Arabia after criticising the Saudi royal family for allowing the deployment of American troops on Islamic soil during the 1990 Gulf War, and then forced out of the Sudan.

In Afghanistan he set up terrorist training camps to spread jihad into the Arab world and provided financial support to the Taliban and thousands of mainly Arab fighters for the offensives against the Northern Alliance. Bin Laden issued a fatwa against America in 1998, its ruling being for every good Muslim to kill Americans be they civilian or military. A series of terrorist attacks linked to al'Qaeda including the bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya led to increased tension. The Taliban refused demands to hand Bin Laden over and America launched rocket attacks on his secret training camps. Economic sanctions by the US were imposed against the Taliban in June 1999, and Osama Bin Laden was placed on the FBI's most wanted list. His American assets were frozen and there were attempts by the CIA to kidnap him.

The world was further horrified by the Taliban's world view when, on the orders of Mullah Omar, the giant thousand years old statues of the Buddha that stand in the Hazaradjat region were destroyed on 10 March 2001. These were archaeological wonders admired around the world. Their crime was to pre-date Islam. Part of the Taliban's cultural policy was to destroy cultural artefacts regarded as idolatrous and anti-Islamic. This act was compared to blowing up the pyramids in Egypt.

Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader on the Northern Alliance, whose troops were advancing towards Kabul was assassinated on 9 September 2001 by al'Qaeda suicide bombers. Two days later the passenger planes flew into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. An American bombing campaign was launched in October against Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. By December the Taliban had abandoned the cities and a new interim government, made up of the United Front tribal leaders, and an international peacekeeping force was established in Kabul.


Key knowledge
This knowledge includes
· the causes and nature of armed conflicts in the post Cold War period, including global terrorism;
· the definition of terrorism and terrorist and state and non state terror;
· views of the causes and effects of international terrorism and terrorists;
· the extent of and limitations on the power of the United States as a superpower in relation to other
sources of power;
· the success or failure of state/s or group/s involved in a specific conflict in the post cold war period, including global terrorism.
Key skills
These skills include the ability to
· analyse key points of conflict in the post Cold War world;
· use and explain key concepts in understanding international relations such as `terror', `terrorism', `international law', `superpower', 'neo-imperialism';
· evaluate the extent of success for the State/s or group/s involved in a specific post cold war conflict;
· synthesise evidence to draw conclusions about the nature of conflict in the post Cold War world.

(International Politic, VCE Study Design 2005-1008, VCAA, 2005)

Tasks this week relate to global conflicts.