The Taliban is a fundamentalist Muslim movement with a militia that operates primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban's aim is to impose their hardline interpretation of sharia law on Afghanistan while ridding the country of foreign influence.
First led by Mohammed Omar, the Taliban formed in 1994 following the chaos that ensued from in-fighting among mujahideen resistance fighters after the Soviet Union withdrew occupying forces from Afghanistan in 1989. By 1996, the Taliban had captured the capital city Kabul. They spent the following few years imposing oppressive laws on Afghan people, particularly women, who were banned from school and work, forbidden to travel alone, and made to wear head-to-toe coverings such as burqas in public.
In 1997 Omar allowed Osama bin Laden to move the terrorist group Al-Qaeda's base to Kandahar. After the 9/11 terror attack on New York City, US troops invaded Afghanistan to stop the Taliban harboring Al-Qaeda.
Though the Taliban lost its stronghold on Kandahar in December of 2001, the Taliban has since regained its power to the point where it controls more territory than at any other point in history. Peace talks between the US and the Taliban have stopped and started in recent years. US troops remain in Afghanistan to this day.
The Taliban's extreme interpretation of sharia law—which involves public stoning for adultery—has been criticized for ignoring sharia law's aims to preserve life, property, intellect, progeny, and religion. Through its strict adherence to its interpretation, the Taliban has been criticized for contributing the misapprehension that the religion of Islam is incompatible with human rights.
In Pashto, an Iranian language that is spoken in northern areas of Pakistan and is the official language of Afghanistan, Taliban is the plural form of Talib, which means student.