Who are the Taliban leaders now controlling Afghanistan?

In the 1980s, the United States supported a coalition of so-called “mujahideen” militants in their fight against the Soviet occupation.

When the Soviet forces withdrew, the country was thrown into a bloody civil war.

In 1994, the Taliban emerged among the formally US-backed “mujahideen” fighters and continued to control most of the country in 1996.

They quickly imposed strict Islamic laws on the people of Afghanistan.

A colored main image of Mohammed Omar.
Mullah Omar in a color photo taken in 1978.(AFP)

The group’s founder and original leader was Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States overthrew the Taliban.

Mohammad Omar went into hiding and his whereabouts were so secret that his death in 2013 was only confirmed two years later by his son.

But now the Taliban say their leaders will no longer live in secret. Here are some of the key figures in the movement.

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Haibatullah Akhundzada

A main image of Haibatullah Akhundzada.
Haibatullah Akhundzada.(Twitter)

Known as the “Leader of the Believers”, Islamic Law scholar Haibatullah Akhundzada is the supreme leader of the Taliban, who has the final authority over the group’s political, religious and military affairs.

Akhundzada took over when his predecessor, Akhtar Mansour, was killed in a US drone strike near the Afghan-Pakistani border in 2016.

For 15 years, until his sudden disappearance in May 2016, Akhundzada taught and preached in a mosque in Kuchlak, a city in southwestern Pakistan, staff and students have told Reuters.

He is believed to be about 60 years old.

The Taliban’s supreme leader has three deputies: Mawlavi Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar; Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the powerful militant Haqqani network; and Abdul Ghani Baradar, who heads the Taliban’s political office in Doha and is one of the group’s founding members.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar wearing Afghan attire.
Abdul Ghani Baradar. (AP: Alexander Zemlianichenko, file image)

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is reported to have been one of Mullah Omar’s most trusted commanders, was captured in 2010 by security forces in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and released in 2018, after which he moved to Qatar.

He now heads the group’s political office and was part of the negotiating team it had in Doha to try to push through a political agreement.

The process failed to make significant progress and became redundant as US forces withdrew.

He returned to Afghanistan on Tuesday for the first time in more than 10 years, arriving in the southern city of Kandahar from Qatar along with several other members of the Taliban’s top leadership.

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He was expected in Kabul sometime this week, after being greeted warmly in Kandahar.

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob

The son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, oversees the group’s military operations.

He was proposed as the overall leader of the movement during various succession battles, but he put Akhundzada forward in 2016 because he felt he lacked battlefield experience and was too young, according to a Taliban commander at the meeting where Mansour’s successor was elected.

Yaqoob is believed to be in the early 30s.

Sirajuddin Haqqani

An FBI wanted poster.
The wanted poster issued by the FBI for Sirajuddin Haqqani.(FBI)

The son of prominent mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin Haqqani, heads the Haqqani Network, a loosely organized group that oversees the Taliban’s financial and military assets across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The Haqqanis are believed by some experts to have carried out suicide bombings in Afghanistan and have been accused of several high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, including a raid on Kabul’s top hotel, an assassination attempt on then-President Hamid Karzai and a suicide attack on the Indian. embassy.

Haqqani is believed to be in the late 40s or early 50s.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai

Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai
Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai.(Reuters: Evgenia Novozhenina)

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, a former Deputy Prime Minister of the Taliban before his removal, has lived in Doha for almost a decade and became head of the group’s political office there in 2015.

He has participated in negotiations with the Afghan government and has represented the Taliban on diplomatic trips to several countries.

Abdul Hakim Haqqani

Abdul Hakim Haqqani smiles and shakes hands surrounded by other men.
Abdul Hakim Haqqani.(Reuters: Ibraheem al Omari)

Abdul Hakim Haqqani was the leader of the Taliban’s negotiating team in Qatar.

The Taliban’s former shadow judge is at the forefront of its powerful council of religious scholars and is widely believed to be one that Akhundzada trusts the most.

During the talks, a Taliban official told Reuters: “[His] Presence basically means that our top leader himself will take part in the peace talks. “

Suhail Shaheen

Afghan Taliban spokesman for international media Suhail Shaheen speaks at a press conference in Moscow earlier this year.
Suhail Shaheen.(Reuters: Alexander Zemlianichenko / Pool)

Suhail Shaheen is a spokesman for the Doha Taliban and was a member of the negotiating committee.

He edited the English-language, state-owned Kabul Times under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan before being appointed to the Afghan embassy in Pakistan as deputy ambassador.

He has been prominent in the media since Kabul’s fall on Monday.

Zabihullah Mujahid

  Zabihullah Mujahid speaks at a press conference.
Zabihullah Mujahid.(Reuters)

Another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, is the official voice of the group on the ground in Afghanistan and has provided most of the military updates.

He has been a spokesman for the group since 2007, but only revealed himself to the public this week.

Prior to that, he only communicated with journalists via phone, email, social media and website.

Some speculated that several people appeared in the role of spokesman of the same name.

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Stan Grant’s analysis of Afghanistan’s new interim government

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