Photos from 25 years ago show what Afghanistan looked like the last time the Taliban took over

Three Taliban fighters stand in front of a tank.
Three Taliban militiamen dance alongside one of their tanks at a position some 15 kms north of Kabul Saturday November 9, 1996 on their way to the front line.
  • The Taliban took over Afghanistan Sunday after US forces withdrew and the Afghani government folded.
  • Photos from more than two decades ago show what life was like under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.
  • WARNING: Some photos contain graphic content.
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Photos from Afghanistan's capitol city Kabul on Sunday illustrated chaos and disbelief amid the Taliban's swift takeover of the war-wrought country following the withdrawl of US forces and the collapse of the US-backed Afghani government.

But the striking scenes of men with machine guns and fleeing crowds are hardly unprecedented.

As Afghans wait to see what life will be like under the new regime, the country's past offers alarming indications of what the future may hold.

WARNING: Some photos contain graphic content.

Following a civil war in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, the Taliban emerged as an organized group of former rebels.
Three Taliban fighters stand in front of a tank.
Three Taliban militiamen dance alongside one of their tanks at a position some 15 kms north of Kabul Saturday November 9, 1996 on their way to the front line.

The group had played a role in ousting the Soviets a decade earlier. 

And by 1994, the Taliban had captured several provinces in the south from armed groups involved in the civil war that followed the collapse of the Soviet-backed Afghan government in 1992.

 

 

By September 1996, the Taliban had captured Kabul and killed the country's president.
Taliban fighters sit on a tank.
Taliban fighters sit on a tank as they cross the frontline near the village of Amirabad, northern Afghanistan.

The group established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — a name leaders of today's Taliban said the country would revert to following Sunday's takeover.

Fighters tortured and killed the former president, Mohammad Najibullah, before hanging his body from a traffic post in the streets. 

 

The Taliban promised a government guided by a strict adherence to sharia law.
A Taliban fighter holds a RPG7 on his shoulder.
A Taliban fighter walking with a Russian made RPG7 on the frontline area in Gorband valley, 150 KMS northwest of Kabul on Saturday, May 3, 1997.

The Taliban employed "morality police" from an agency called the Promotion of Virtue and Elimination of Vice.

Afghan people, in particular, women and religious minorities, faced unforgiving policies and practices under Taliban rule. 

 

Women were forced to wear burqas, covering the entirety of their face and body, while men had to grow beards.
Two women wear burkas.
Two women clad in burkas walk on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Taliban closed schools for girls, and unaccompanied women risked being beaten in public. 

 

The government held public executions under a strict, new legal process that included victim retribution.
A man lies dead after being sentenced to death by a Taliban court.
Ghulam Mahmad, 30, convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a Taliban court, lies dead after being shot by a Taliban gunman in a Kabul school playing field Wednesday, Dec. 18, 1996.
Life under the Taliban led to a surge of refugees and displaced Afghans.
A Taliban fighter loads an artillery cannon.
Taliban fighters loading their 82mm artillery cannon in the frontline village of Gorband valley 150 kilometers northwest of Kabul on Saturday, May 3,1997.
In the years leading up to the September 11 attacks, the Taliban offered al Qaeda refuge in the country.
Osama bin Laden stands at a news conference.
In this 1998 file photo made available on March 19, 2004, Osama bin Laden is seen at a news conference in Khost, Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden gave media interviews from his compound in Afghanistan starting in 1998, and helped rebuild Taliban leader Mohammad Omar's new palace after a bomb blast destroyed it. 

Following 9/11, the Taliban was ousted from the Afghan government.
A group of US Marines walk with full battle gear.
In this Dec. 31, 2001, file photo, US Marines with full battle gear prepare to leave the US military compound at Kandahar airport for a mission to an undisclosed location.

The group persisted in the country, reforming as a shadow insurgency dedicated to opposing the US-backed government in Kabul. 

 

Now, the group is back in power, and Afghan people who remain are haunted by memories of an old Taliban regime as a new one takes control.
Taliban fighters sit in the Afghan presidential palace.
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.
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