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Four of the Guantanamo Five and a terrorist with a $25m FBI bounty: Meet the new, ‘moderate’ Taliban

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Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban and leader of the Provisional Government

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, was released from prison in Pakistan three years ago at the request of the US government.

Just nine months ago, he posed for photos with Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sign a peace accord in Doha, which is in tatters today.

Last month his forces took Kabul and he is now being tipped to become Afghanistan’s next leader in a turn of fortune that humiliates Washington.

While Haibatullah Akhundzada is the overall leader of the Taliban, Baradar is the head of the political bureau and one of the most recognizable faces of the leaders who have been involved in peace talks in Qatar.

In September 2020, Baradar was pictured with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “urging the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and achieve a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,” the US said in a statement. declaration.

The 53-year-old was deputy leader under ex-chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose support for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11.

Baradar is said to have flown immediately from Doha to Kabul on Sunday evening when the militants stormed the presidential palace.

Born in Uruzgan Province in 1968, Baradar grew up in Kandahar, the hometown of the Taliban movement.

He fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s until they were ousted in 1989.

After that, Afghanistan was gripped by a bloody civil war between rival warlords and Baradar founded an Islamic school in Kandahar with his former commander Mohammed Omar.

The two mullahs helped establish the Taliban movement, an ideology that embraced hard-line orthodoxy and sought to establish an Islamic emirate.

Fueled by fanaticism, hatred of greedy warlords and with financial backing from Pakistani secret services, the Taliban seized power in 1996 after conquering the provincial capitals before marching on Kabul, just as they have done in recent months.

Baradar had a number of different roles during the Taliban’s five-year rule and was the Deputy Defense Minister when the US invaded in 2001.

He went into hiding but remained active in the leadership of the Taliban in exile.

In 2010, the CIA tracked him down to the Pakistani city of Karachi and in February of that year, Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) arrested him.

But in 2018, he was released at the request of the Trump administration as part of their ongoing negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, on the understanding that he could help bring peace.

In February 2020, Baradar signed the Doha Agreement in which the US pledged to leave Afghanistan on the basis that the Taliban would enter into a power-sharing arrangement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul.

He was pictured in September with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “urging the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and achieve a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,” the statement said. US in a statement.

Pompeo “welcomed Afghan leadership and efforts to end 40 years of war and ensure Afghanistan poses no threat to the United States or its allies.”

The Doha deal was heralded as a momentous declaration of peace, but it has been proven to be nothing but a ploy by the Taliban.

The jihadists waited for thousands of US troops to leave before launching a major offensive to retake the country, undoing two decades of work by the US-led coalition.

Haibatullah Akhundzada, the future Emir of Afghanistan and the Islamist figurehead of the Taliban

Haibatullah Akhundzada, the ‘leader of the faithful’, is the Taliban’s supreme commander who has the final say over his political, religious and military policies.

Achundzada is expected to take the title of Emir of Afghanistan.

Believed to be about 60 years old, he is not known for his military strategy, but is revered as an Islamic scholar and rules the Taliban with that right.

He took over in 2016 when the group’s former leader, Akhtar Mansour, was killed in a US drone strike on the Pakistani border.

After he was named leader, Akhundzada received a pledge of loyalty from Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who bestowed praise on the religious scholar, calling him “the emir of the faithful.”

This helped to seal his jihadist credentials with the group’s longtime allies.

Akhundzada became head of the Taliban's council of religious scholars after the US invasion and is believed to be the author of many of his fatwas (Islamic legal rulings)

Akhundzada became head of the Taliban’s council of religious scholars after the US invasion and is believed to be the author of many of his fatwas (Islamic legal rulings)

Akhundzada was faced with the formidable challenge of uniting a militant movement that briefly disintegrated during a bitter power struggle following the assassination of his predecessor, and the revelation that the leadership had concealed the death of Taliban founder Mullah Omar for years.

The leader’s public profile has largely been limited to posting annual messages during Islamic holidays.

Akhundzada was born around 1959 to a religious scholar in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province.

His family had to flee their home during the Soviet invasion and he joined the resistance as a young man.

He was one of the Taliban’s first new recruits in the 1990s and immediately impressed his superiors with his knowledge of Islamic law.

When the Taliban took over the western province of Farah, he was put in charge of crime fighting in the area.

As the Taliban seized more of the land, Akhunzad became chief of the military court and deputy chief of the Supreme Court.

After the US invasion in 2001, he became head of the Taliban’s council of religious scholars and is believed to be the author of many of his fatwas (Islamic legal rulings), including public executions of murderers and adulterers and the severing of thieves.

Before he was named the new leader, he had preached and taught for about 15 years at a mosque in Kuchlak, a city in southwestern Pakistan, sources told Reuters.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of the famous commander of the anti-Soviet jihad

Sirajuddin also serves as the deputy leader of the Taliban movement and also heads the powerful Haqqani network.

The Haqqani Network is a US-designated terror group that has long been considered one of the most dangerous factions to have fought in Afghanistan and under NATO leadership in Afghanistan for the past two decades.

The group is notorious for using suicide bombers and is said to have orchestrated some of the most high-profile attacks in Kabul over the years.

An FBI wanted poster for Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of the famous anti-Soviet jihad commander

An FBI wanted poster for Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of the famous anti-Soviet jihad commander

The network has also been accused of killing top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Western citizens for ransom, including US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in 2014.

Known for their independence, shrewdness and shrewd business dealings, the Haqqanis are believed to oversee operations in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan while holding considerable sway over the Taliban leadership council.

Mullah Yaqoob, son of the Taliban founder

The son of the founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar.

Mullah Yaqoob heads the group’s powerful military commission, which oversees an extensive network of field commanders charged with conducting the insurgents’ strategic operations in the war.

His lineage and ties to his father – who enjoyed cult status as the leader of the Taliban – serves as a powerful symbol and makes him a unifying figure across a vast movement.

However, much speculation remains about Yaqoob’s exact role within the movement, with some analysts arguing that his appointment to the role in 2020 was purely cosmetic.

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