The Taliban (Pashto: طالبان ṭālibān, meaning "students"), also Taleban, is a Sunni Islamist political movement that governed Afghanistan from 1996 until they were overthrown in late 2001 during Operation Enduring Freedom. It has regrouped since 2004 and revived as a strong insurgency movement governing at the local level and fighting a guerrilla war against the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The movement is made up of members belonging to different ethnic Pashtun tribes, along with a number of volunteers from nearby Islamic countries such as Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Arabs, Punjabis and others. They operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, mostly around the Durand Line regions. U.S. officials say their headquarters is in or around Quetta, Pakistan, and that Pakistan and Iran are supporting them, although both nations deny it.
The Taliban movement is headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar, who is still in hiding. Mullah Omar's original commanders were "a mixture of former small-unit military commanders and madrasah teachers," and the rank-and-file made up mostly of Afghan refugees who had studied at Islamic religious schools in Pakistan. The Taliban received valuable training, supplies and arms from the Pakistani government, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and many recruits from madrasahs for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, primarily ones established by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI).
Although in control of Afghanistan's capital (Kabul) and much or most of the country for five years, the Taliban regime, which called itself the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", gained diplomatic recognition from only three states: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. It has gained some amount of political control and acceptance in Pakistan's border region, but recently lost one of its key leaders, Baitullah Mehsud, in a CIA missile strike. However Pakistan has launched offensive to force out the Taliban.
The Taliban implemented one of the "strictest interpretation[s] of Sharia law ever seen in the Muslim world", yet still occasionally updates its code of conduct. In mid-2009, it established an ombudsman office in northern Kandahar, which has been described as a "direct challenge" to the ISAF.