Who are the Taliban leaders who regain power in Afghanistan

Taliban leaders who regain power in Afghanistan

The insurgent group has had a renewal of its leadership since they stopped ruling in 2001 and the casualties in recent years due to the United States attacks.

The inner workings and leadership of the Taliban movement, which appears to be on the verge of seizing power in Afghanistan after capturing most of the country in just a few days, are shrouded in mystery, as when he ruled the Asian country between 1996 and 2001.

Here is a brief presentation of the main leaders of this radical Islamist group.

Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Supreme LeaderHaibatullah Akhundzada (via Reuters)

Haibatullah Akhundzada (via Reuters)

Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada was appointed head of the Taliban in May 2016 during a rapid transition of power, days after the death of his predecessor, Mansour, killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan.

Before his appointment, little was known of Akhundzada, until then more focused on judicial and religious issues than on the military wing. Although he enjoyed great influence within the insurgency, where he led the judicial system, some analysts believed that his role at the head of the movement would be more symbolic than operational.

The son of a theologian, originally from Kandahar, the heart of the Pashtun country in southern Afghanistan and the cradle of the Taliban, Akhundzada quickly obtained a pledge of allegiance from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda. The Egyptian called him “emir of the believers”, a name that allowed him to strengthen his credibility in the jihadist world.

Akhundzada had a delicate mission to unify the Taliban, fractured by a violent struggle for power after Mansour’s death and the revelation that they had concealed for years the death of the movement’s founder, Mullah Omar. The insurgent managed to keep the group together and continued to be quite discreet, limiting himself to broadcasting annual messages on Islamic holidays.

Mullah Baradar, Co-Founder

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban negotiating leader (Reuters)Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban negotiating leader (Reuters)

Abdul Ghani Baradar, born in Uruzgan province (south) and educated in Kandahar, is the co-founder of the Taliban along with Mullah Omar, who died in 2013, but whose death was hidden for two years.

Like many Afghans, his life was shaped by the Soviet invasion in 1979, which made him a Mujahideen, a fundamentalist Islamic fighter, and is believed to have fought alongside Mullah Omar.

In 2001, after the US intervention and the fall of the Taliban regime, he was said to be part of a small group of insurgents willing to agree to a deal recognizing the Kabul administration. But this initiative was unsuccessful.

Abdul Ghani Baradar was the military commander of the Taliban when he was arrested in 2010 in Karachi, Pakistan. He was released in 2018 especially under pressure from Washington. Listened to and respected by the different Taliban factions, he was appointed head of its political office, located in Qatar.

From the gulf country, he led negotiations with the Americans, which led to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani network

The son of a celebrated anti-Soviet jihad commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin is both the number two of the Taliban and the head of the Haqqani network.

This network, founded by his father, is classified as a terrorist by Washington, which has always considered it the most dangerous fighting faction before US and NATO troops in the last two decades in Afghanistan.

FBI Haqqani Search SheetFBI Haqqani Search Sheet

He is also accused of having assassinated some senior Afghan officials and holding Westerners hostage for ransom or holding them as prisoners such as the US military Bowe Bergdahl, released in 2014 in exchange for five Afghan detainees from Guantanamo prison.

Known for their independence, fighting skills and fruitful affairs, the Haqqani are believed to be in charge of Taliban operations in the mountainous areas of eastern Afghanistan and would have a great influence on the movement’s decisions.

Mullah Yaqoub, the heir

Son of Mullah Omar, Yaqoub is the head of the powerful military commission of the Taliban, which decides the strategic directions in the war against the Afghan Executive.

His ancestry and his ties to his father, whom he adores as head of the Taliban, made him a unifying figure within a broad and diverse movement.

Speculation about its exact role in the insurgency is persistent. Some analysts believe that his appointment to the head of this commission in 2020 was only symbolic.