• Polymath Weekly

The Taliban invaded Afghanistan. Now what?

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Taliban (the militant Islamist group) has taken control of Afghanistan after the departure of the US, allied forces, and even the Afghan president himself, from the country.

Heavily armed Taliban fighters with the militant group's flag [Image credit: EPA]

Who is the Taliban?


The Taliban is a large Sunni Islamic fundamentalist militant group currently operating in Afghanistan. However, this is not the first time the Taliban has invaded the country: in 1996, the group had established a government called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The severe reign under the strict form of Sharia law lasted until September of 2001 when the Taliban was driven out by the US forces which invaded the country after the 9/11 attack.


What is Sharia law?


Sharia law, or Islamic law, is Islam's legal system. It is derived from the Quran (Islam's holy book) and acts as a code for living that all Muslims should follow. Some practices include prayers, fasting and donations to the poor. Sharia also encompasses aspects of the private and public life of Muslims.


What is life going to be like under the Taliban's interpretation of Sharia law?


The Taliban's interpretation of Sharia is characterized by radical policies regarding women's rights and the punishment of criminals. During the previous Taliban reign, a woman being put to death if she removed her burqa (head-covering clothing worn by Muslim women) in public was a common form of punishment for not obeying the Islamic law.


During its first news conference after taking control of Afghanistan on August 15th, the Taliban claimed that it had abandoned the radical practices of its past. In contrast, last month, reports surfaced that to find wives for themselves, fighters had ordered local religious leaders (imams) and tribal elders to prepare lists of all unmarried or widowed women aged 15 to 45 (some sources claim that this will apply to girls as young as 12).


Furthermore, Afghan women now fear that the new government would not allow them to get an education or work.


How is the world reacting?


US president Joe Biden has made a statement about the withdrawal of American military troops from the country earlier this year. The decision has been getting a lot of backlash from the media since it is one of the factors that enabled the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan in the first place. Here is an extract of Mr Biden's speech defending his actions:


"I stand squarely by my decision. [...] the development of the past week reinforced that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan was the right decision. American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves."

Leaders of countries such as Britain, Germany, Canada, Pakistan and Australia, along with the United States, plan to evacuate their ambassadors and diplomats and urge their citizens to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.










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