The Taliban derive mainly from the Pashtun tribal group in the North West Frontier Province of Afghanistan. They came to prominence in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and seized the capital Kabul in 1996. By the end of 2000, the Taliban had captured 95% of the country.
The Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law and were later implicated as supporters of terrorism, most notably by harbouring Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
Following the 11 September 2001 attacks, the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom, a military campaign to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist network operating in Afghanistan and overthrow the host Taliban government.
In December 2001, major leaders from the Afghan opposition groups met in Bonn, Germany, and agreed on a plan for the formulation of a new democratic government that resulted in the inauguration of Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun from the southern city of Kandahar, as chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority.
Hamid Karzai became president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in 2004, following the rst democratic election in Afghanistan's history.
As it struggles against poverty, land mines, poor infrastructure and the trade in opium (see Eyewitness), the country continues to wrestle with the Taliban insurgency. This year has seen an increase of 300% in insurgent attacks. New funding has been released by western governments - the US is providing £4bn - and more troops are being sent to counter the activity.
The future of the country is now in the hands of a coalition force.
By all accounts it will take generations to liberate Afghanistan.