"The United States and its allies are helping Afghanistan emerging from more than 22 years of warfare, although substantial risk to Afghan stability remains. Before the U.S. military campaign against the orthodox Islamist Taliban movement began on October 7, 2001, Afghanistan had been mired in conflict since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan during 1996 until its collapse at the hands of the U.S. and Afghan opposition military campaign in November - December 2001. During its rule, the Taliban was opposed primarily by the Northern Alliance, a coalition of minority ethnic groups. During 1998 until its rule ended, the Taliban had come under increasing international pressure to cease hosting of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and members of his Al Qaeda organization, the prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The defeat of the Taliban has enabled the United States and its coalition partners to send forces throughout Afghanistan to search for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters and leaders that remain at large, including bin Laden himself. Afghan citizens are enjoying new personal freedoms that were forbidden under the Taliban, refugees are returning at a rapid rate, and women are returning to schools and their jobs and participating in politics."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30588