The Taliban, alternative spelling Taleban, is an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan. It spread throughout Afghanistan and formed a government, ruling as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from September 1996 until December 2001, with Kandahar as the capital. However, it gained diplomatic recognition from only three states: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Mohammed Omar is the founder and has been serving as the spiritual leader of the Taliban since its foundation in 1994.
While in power, it enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, an interpretation of which leading Muslims have been highly critical. The Taliban were condemned internationally for their brutal treatment of women. The majority of the Taliban are made up of Afghan Pashtun tribesmen. The Taliban's leaders were influenced by Deobandi fundamentalism, and many also strictly follow the social and cultural norm called Pashtunwali.
From 1995 to 2001, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and military are widely alleged by the international community to have provided support to the Taliban. Their connections are possibly through Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, a terrorist group founded by Sami ul Haq. Pakistan is accused by many international officials of continuing to support the Taliban; Pakistan states that it dropped all support for the group after 9/11. Al-Qaeda also supported the Taliban with regiments of imported fighters from Arab countries and Central Asia. Saudi Arabia provided financial support. The Taliban and their allies committed massacres against Afghan civilians, denied UN food supplies to 160,000 starving civilians and conducted a policy of scorched earth, burning vast areas of fertile land and destroying tens of thousands of homes during their rule from 1996 to 2001. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee to United Front-controlled territory, Pakistan, and Iran.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Taliban were overthrown by the American-led invasion of Afghanistan. Later it regrouped as an insurgency movement to fight the American-backed Karzai administration and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Taliban have been accused of using terrorism as a specific tactic to further their ideological and political goals. According to the United Nations, the Taliban and their allies were responsible for 75% of Afghan civilian casualties in 2010, 80% in 2011, and 80% in 2012.