Here's a look at what you need to know about the Taliban, a Sunni Islamist organization operating primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Facts: Reclusive leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has led the Taliban since the early 1990s.
Taliban, in Pashto, is the plural of Talib, which means student.
Most members are Pashtun, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.
The exact number of Taliban forces is unknown.
The group's aim is to impose its interpretation of Islamic law on Afghanistan and remove foreign influence from the country.
Timeline: 1979-1989 - The Soviet Union invades and occupies Afghanistan. Afghan resistance fighters, known collectively as mujahedeen, fight back.
1989-1993 - After the Soviet Union withdraws, fighting among the mujahedeen leads to chaos.
1994 - The Taliban are formed, comprised mostly of students and led by mujahedeen veteran Mullah Omar.
November 1994 - The Taliban seize the city of Kandahar.
September 1996 - The capital, Kabul, falls to the Taliban.
1997 - The Taliban issue an edict renaming Afghanistan the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The country is only officially recognized by three countries: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
1996-2001 - The group imposes strict Islamic laws on the Afghan people. Women must wear head-to-toe coverings, are not allowed to attend school or work outside the home and are forbidden to travel alone. Television, music and non-Islamic holidays are also banned.
1997 - Mullah Omar forges a relationship with Osama bin Laden, who then moves his base of operations to Kandahar.
August 1998 - The Taliban capture Mazar-e-Sharif, gaining control of about 90% of Afghanistan.
March 2001 - The Taliban destroy two 1,500 year old Buddha figures in the town of Bamiyan, saying they are idols that violate Islam.
October-November 2001 - After massive U.S. bombardment as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Taliban lose Afghanistan to U.S. and Northern Alliance forces.
December 2006 - Senior Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani is killed in an airstrike by the U.S.
February 2007 - Mullah Manan, a senior Taliban commander, is killed in an air strike in southern Afghanistan.
May 2007 - Mullah Dadullah Lang, a senior Taliban leader, is killed in a U.S.-led coalition operation supported by NATO.
August 2007 - During a visit to Afghanistan, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies his country is providing the Taliban weapons.
December 11, 2007 - Afghan troops backed by NATO recapture the provincial town of Musa Qala from Taliban control.
February 2008 - Taliban operative Mullah Bakht Mohammed is captured by Pakistani forces.
October 21, 2008 - Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal confirms that Saudi Arabia hosted talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban in September. It is reported that no agreements were made.
April 25, 2011 - Hundreds of prisoners escape from a prison in Kandahar, by crawling through a tunnel. The Taliban takes responsibility for the escape and claims that 541 prisoners escaped, while ISAF says the number is 470.