The word Taliban is from the Farsi/Pashto Talib, meaning student (the root is a borrowing from Arabic). The Taliban got their start in the early 1990s as a loose confederation of radical Afghan student groups, both within Afghanistan in in exile in Pakistan, that shared a version of conservative Sunni Islam. They emerged in 1994 as an organized and powerful politico-military force and by 1996 had become the dominant faction in the country, capturing the capital, Kabul. They were overthrown in 2001 by a US military intervention and have since then engaged in warfare against the US-supported Afghan government.
The term began appearing in English-language newspapers in early 1995. From Asiaweek of 6 January 1995:
A powerful new armed faction, known as the Taliban or “religious students,” mysteriously emerged in October and has already transformed the balance of power in southern Afghanistan.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, New Edition)
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton