ROGUE'S Gallery: Full list of brutal Taliban leaders running rampant in Afghanistan
The Taliban swept into Afghanistan’s capital on Sunday, August 22, after the government collapsed and the embattled president, Ashraf Ghani joined an exodus of his fellow citizens. Now newsreaders want to know more about the Taliban leaders who are emerging now from obscurity after a 20-year battle and have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging US drones.
Many founders of the original Taliban are still in power today as the militants take control of Afghanistan, while others are the sons of founders who have since died or were killed. After the deaths of former chief Mullah Mohammed Omar and his successor Akhtar Mohammad Mansour in less than 12 months, the leadership is held by Haibatullah Akhundzada. Dubbed 'Leader of the Faithful', the Taliban's Supreme Commander has the final word on its political, religious and military policy.
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1. Hibatullah Akhundzada
In May 2016, Hibatullah Akhundzada became the supreme commander of the Taliban. In the 1980s, he engaged in the Islamist fight against the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan, but his prominence is more that of a religious leader than a military commander. Akhundzada served as head of the Sharia Courts in the 1990s. After first seizing power in the 1990s, the Taliban started punishing people according to their strict interpretation of Islamic law: they publicly killed murderers and adulterers and amputated thieves' limbs. Under the leadership of Mohammed Omar (who allegedly died in 2013), the Taliban banned television, music, movies, make-up, and disallowed girls aged 10 and over from attending school. Reports reveal that Akhundzada is believed to be in his 60s and has lived mostly in Afghanistan and allegedly has close ties with the so-called "Quetta Shura" - the Afghan Taliban leaders said to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta. As the group's supreme commander, Akhundzada is in charge of political, military and religious affairs.
2. Abdul Ghani Baradar
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is one of the four founders of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1994. He became a lynchpin of the insurgency after the Taliban were plunged by the US-led invasion in 2001. In February 2010, he got arrested in a joint US-Pakistani operation in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi. He was jailed for eight years, until he was released as part of a plan to promote the peace process and since then he has been the head of the Taliban's political office in Qatar since January 2019. In 2020, he became the first Taliban leader to interact directly with a US president after having a telephonic conversation with Donald Trump. Today, Abdul Ghani Baradar is the main political leader of the Taliban. "We have achieved a victory that was not expected... now it is about how we serve and protect our people," Baradar said in a statement recorded in Doha, the Qatari capital, where he had been part of the Taliban negotiating team in peace talks.
3. Mohammad Yaqoob
Mohammad Yaqoob is the son of the founder of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar. He is believed to be in his early 30s and is currently the leader of the group's military operations. In 2016, when Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour died, some militants wanted to select Yaqoob as the group's new supreme commander, but others felt that he was young and inexperienced. According to the local press, Yaqoob stays in Afghanistan.
4. Sirajuddin Haqqani
Sirajuddin Haqqani is another of the group's top deputy leaders. After the death of his father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, he became the new leader of the Haqqani network, which has been credited with some of the most violent attacks that have occurred in Afghanistan against Afghan forces and their Western allies in recent years. The Haqqani network is currently one of the region's most powerful and feared militant groups. Some say it is even more influential than the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.
5. Abdul Hakeem
In September 2020, the Taliban appointed Abdul Hakeem as the new head of the Taliban's negotiating unit in Doha. He is believed to be in his 60s and he previously ran a madrassa - an Islamic religious school - in Quetta, Pakistan, from where he also managed the judiciary of the Taliban. Many older Taliban leaders allegedly took refuge in Quetta, from where they led the group. But Islamabad has denied the existence of the "Quetta Shura".