Taliban’s Resurgence: From Defeat to Dominance in Afghanistan


Afghanistan has experienced significant changes in the past two decades, especially in its conflict with the United States. On August 15, 2021, the world witnessed a pivotal moment when the Taliban captured Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, just three months after the withdrawal of US troops.

This marked the second time the Taliban rose to power in Afghanistan. However, it is essential to delve into the history and factors that have contributed to the Taliban’s resurgence. In this article, we will explore the journey of the Taliban from its inception to its recent dominance, understanding the geographical, geopolitical, and social dynamics that have shaped its trajectory.

Past and Present of the Taliban

Taliban's Resurgence: From Defeat to Dominance in Afghanistan

The Emergence of the Taliban

The Taliban emerged in 1994 in the Afghan capital, composed primarily of students from Islamic schools in refugee camps, predominantly Pashtuns. Their rise was influenced by the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the subsequent ten-year war between the two countries. Afghanistan’s unique geographical location, situated at the crossroads of major civilizations and acting as a buffer zone between major powers, has historically made it a coveted territory for strategic advantage.

The Influence of Geopolitical Factors

Throughout history, Afghanistan has been a battleground for major powers seeking to advance their agendas. From the Arab and Persian invasions that brought Islam to Afghanistan to the hegemony struggles between Tsarist Russia and the United Kingdom, the country has faced continuous challenges to its sovereignty.

The Soviet-Afghan War and US Involvement

The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 prompted the United States to support anti-Soviet armed forces in the region. The US, through Pakistan, established Afghan refugee camps, providing military training, resources, and weapons to these groups. The anti-Soviet forces, including the Taliban, effectively used Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain to resist the Soviet invasion.

The Taliban’s First Rise to Power

By 1996, the Taliban had gained significant momentum and captured Kabul, marking their first takeover of the Afghan government. Their rapid expansion was supported by Pakistan and the recruitment of devout religious students from refugee camps, fueling their growth and popularity.

Suppression and US Intervention

The Taliban’s strict implementation of religious dogma, particularly concerning women’s rights and cultural artifacts, decreased support and diplomatic isolation. After sheltering Osama bin Laden, the Taliban faced US intervention following the 9/11 attacks. The United States launched a military offensive, leading to the Taliban’s ousting from power.

Taliban’s Resurgence

Resilience and Guerrilla Warfare

After their defeat by the US military, the Taliban regrouped and reorganized in the mountains, accumulating strength while maintaining their traditional religious influence. Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain was ideal for guerrilla warfare, allowing the Taliban to remain elusive and continue attacks despite US military efforts.

US Limitations and Terrain Constraints

The United States faced challenges in combating the Taliban due to Afghanistan’s rugged mountains, which hindered the use of tanks and aircraft. The Taliban exploited these constraints, making it difficult for the US to eliminate them completely.

The Cost of War and International Withdrawal

The prolonged conflict in Afghanistan imposed significant financial and human costs on the US. As international support waned, the US decided to withdraw its troops in 2021, leading to a swift resurgence of the Taliban.

Taliban’s Present and Future

An Afghan mujaheddin aiming at Soviet aircraft with Stinger. Circa 1980s.
Image Source:
Rare Historical Photos

A Changed Approach

The recent Taliban takeover has come with promises of more moderate policies, including allowing women to work and receive education. The Taliban has sought to establish a secular Islamic state, attempting to shed its previous extreme image.

Uncertain Future

While the Taliban’s immediate control over Afghanistan has raised concerns, there is hope that they will work toward stability and peace. The international community’s role in supporting Afghanistan’s transition will be critical in determining the country’s future.


The Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan is the result of a complex interplay of historical, geopolitical, and social factors. Their ability to survive and thrive in the face of adversity is a testament to their resilience and strategic approach to guerrilla warfare. The international community’s involvement and support will play a crucial role in shaping Afghanistan’s future and ensuring lasting peace and stability.


1. What is the history of the Taliban?

The Taliban emerged in 1994 and gained momentum in the wake of the Soviet-Afghan War. Composed mainly of Pashtun students from Islamic schools in refugee camps, the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, but they were later ousted by the US military in 2001.

2. How did the Taliban regroup after their defeat?

After their defeat, the Taliban hid in the mountains, regrouping and rebuilding their forces. They maintained their religious influence and recruited new members, making use of Afghanistan’s rugged terrain to continue their attacks.

3. Why did the US withdraw its troops from Afghanistan?

The prolonged war in Afghanistan imposed significant financial and human costs on the US. International support also waned, leading to the decision to withdraw troops and hand over control to the Afghan government.

4. What are the Taliban’s plans for the future?

The Taliban has promised a more moderate approach, including allowing women to work and receive education. They aim to establish a secular Islamic state and reform some of their previously extreme policies.

5. What is the international community’s role in Afghanistan’s future?

The international community’s support and involvement will be crucial in shaping Afghanistan’s future and ensuring lasting peace and stability in the region.