Wednesday 9/29/21
AFGHANISTAN

Who are the most important men in the Taliban?

List of the key players in the movement
Taliban fighters at the government headquarters in Kabul. Image: YouTube/screenshot.
Taliban fighters at the government headquarters in Kabul. Image: YouTube/screenshot.

After the withdrawal of Western troops, the Taliban have taken power in Afghanistan after a lightning offensive. Who are the key players in the movement?

HIBATULLAH AKHUNDZADA:

After predecessor Mullah Mansour was killed in an attack by the United States in 2016, Akhundzada became responsible for the final decisions on political, religious and military matters.

The religious scholar is a hardliner who belongs to the movement's founding generation.

The 60-year-old is described as having earlier held senior positions in the Taliban legal system as well as having been Mansour's deputy.

SIRAJUDDIN HAQQANI:

The influential head of the Afghan guerrilla insurgent group Haqqani network is one of Akhundzada's deputies.

The network, which Washington classifies as a terrorist organization for, among other things, attacks on US citizens and links to Al-Qaeda, is blamed for some of the most gruesome attacks in Afghanistan.

Haqqani, who is in his mid-40s, is wanted by the US with a seven-figure bounty on his head.

MULLAH YAQOOB:

The eldest son of Taliban co-founder and ex-supreme leader Mullah Omar, who died in 2013, is another deputy.

With his prominent family connection, Yaqoob provides a sense of continuity to the Taliban's earlier days. He is said to be in his mid-30s and controls the militias.

MULLAH ABDUL GHANI BARADAR:

The co-founder and deputy leader of the Taliban was arrested in Pakistan in 2010 and released in 2018 under pressure from the US.

As head of the Taliban's political office in Qatar, he was always present in recent peace negotiations in Doha. In February 2020, he signed the agreement with the US on behalf of the militant organization to end the US-led military mission in Afghanistan.

Baradar, who according to Interpol was born in 1968, spoke with then-US president Donald Trump and met with former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo several times.

SCHER MOHAMMED ABBAS STANEKSAI:

As chief negotiator, he led the Taliban delegation in negotiations with the US and the Afghan government.

The nearly 60-year-old is easily recognizable by his distinctive 70s-style glasses. He was deputy foreign minister and health minister in the Taliban government that ousted by the US in 2001.

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