LEADERS – The Taliban are about to return to power in Afghanistan and surround Kabul on August 15. In just a few days, the figures of this fundamentalist Islamist movement which emerged in 1994 and which now controls most of the country.
Thibault Nadal with AFP –
The Taliban seized Jalalabad in the northwest on Sunday morning. The fighters then began to advance into Kabul, while they were ordered to stay at the gates of the city. Islamist insurgents now control almost all of Afghan territory and it is only a matter of hours before the country’s capital falls at their feet. The Afghan authorities ensure that they are negotiating the surrender of the city so that the transition with the new masters of Afghanistan is carried out peacefully.
The Taliban movement founded in 1994 by Mullah Omar has since been structured around several leaders. Today, there are four of them sharing power.
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Afghanistan in the grip of the Taliban
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader
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 strike from a US drone in Pakistan. If he enjoyed great influence within the insurgency, of which he led the judicial system, some analysts believe that his role at the head of the movement would be more symbolic than operational.
Originally from Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, Akhundzada quickly obtained a pledge of loyalty from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda. The Egyptian called it d‘”emir of the believers”, a name that allowed it to establish its credibility in the jihadist universe.
Akhundzada had the delicate mission of unifying the Taliban, fractured by a violent struggle for power after Mansour’s death. Since then, he has been content to remain discreet, limiting himself to broadcasting rare annual messages during Islamic holidays.
Baradar, the co-founder of the movement
Abdul Ghani Baradar also grew up in Kandahar. He is the co-founder of the Taliban movement with Mohammad Omar, who died in 2013. He was the military leader 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 various Taliban factions, he was then appointed head of their political office, located in Qatar. From there, he led the negotiations with the Americans leading to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, then to peace talks with the Afghan government, which came to nothing.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani network
Son of a famous anti-Soviet jihad commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin is both number two in the Taliban and the leader of the powerful network bearing his last name.
The Haqqani network, founded by his father, is described as terrorist by Washington, which has always considered it one of the most dangerous factions fighting American and NATO troops in the past two decades in Afghanistan. Several of the most violent attacks in Afghanistan in recent years have been attributed to the Haqqani network.
Known for their independence, their fighting skills and their juicy affairs, the Haqqani are said to be in charge of Taliban operations in the mountainous areas of eastern Afghanistan and have a strong influence on the movement’s decisions.
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Yaqoub, the heir
Son of Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban from 1994 to 2013, Yaqoub is the head of the powerful military commission of the Taliban, which decides on strategic orientations in the war against the Afghan government.
His ancestry and ties to his father, who was worshiped as leader of the Taliban, make him a unifying figure in a large and diverse movement.
Speculation about his exact role in the movement is persistent, however. Some analysts believe that his appointment as head of this commission in 2020 was only symbolic.
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