A senior Taliban spokesman announced Wednesday that their leaders will show themselves to the world, a radical departure from the bleak world they had previously inhabited.
For the first time on Tuesday, the world saw a leader who had only spoken to the Western media by phone, although his name was well known.
“Slowly, gradually, the world will see all of our leaders, there will be no shadow of secrecy,” the senior Taliban official told Reuters on Wednesday.
It comes amid claims by Taliban spokesmen, all men, that there will be no retaliation, that women’s rights will be respected (under Islamic law), that terrorists will not be able to operate from Afghan soil, and that the law will be upheld and the order.
But who is in the inner circle of the new Taliban leadership?
Sheikh Hibatullah Akhundzada
The group’s supreme commander, Appointed Emir and Commander of the Faithful, has yet to be seen in public since the Taliban took power in Kabul.
A former member of the mujahideen who resisted the Soviet invasion, Akhundzada became one of the first members of the Taliban in 1994 and held various positions during his time in power, especially in guiding his religious leadership and promoting “virtue. “.
After the US invasion in 2001, he became the Chief Justice of the organization’s Sharia courts and an advisor to Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban.
It is reported that he remained in Afghanistan during the period out of the group’s power and settled many disputes in the group with fatwas, until, after the assassination of the group’s second leader, Mullah Mansour, by an American drone strike in 2016, he was appointed Leader. but it may also have been active in Pakistan.
One of the last times he was heard from was in May, on Eid al Fitr, when he spoke through a Taliban spokesperson, according to Pakistan’s Tribune newspaper, to urge Afghans to unite for the “redevelopment of our homeland. “and promised an” Afghan-inclusive Islamic system “, without risk of violation of rights.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar
Baradar has been a key figure in the negotiations that led to the agreement with the Trump administration that prompted the US withdrawal, paving the way for the Taliban to advance.
Seen meeting with officials in Doha, China and Moscow, the loyal and apparent political leader’s deputy Taliban commander was only able to do so because he was released from prison in Pakistan in 2018, shortly after Trump’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, visit Islamabad. been in jail since 2010.
His role as a negotiator is expected to continue as the Taliban say they seek an “inclusive and Islamic” government, but many remain skeptical, considering their past.
Baradar, one of the co-founders of the movement, is the only surviving Taliban leader who has been personally appointed as a deputy by Mullah Omar, giving him near-legendary status among the faithful.
On Tuesday, he landed in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, ending 20 years of exile, having previously fled to neighboring Pakistan after the US-led invasion in 2001.
During the group’s rule from 1996-2001, he did not have an official role in government, but fought alongside Omar as he led the Taliban to take power in 1996 and during the insurgency in later years.
The main spokesman for the Taliban after the fall of Kabul, who organized a press conference from the presidential palace after the inauguration, is the public face of the group trying to present a moderate image.
Many journalists who had contacted him by phone or other means over the years were surprised to finally see the man they had been dealing with.
For years, he had been a shadowy figure issuing statements on behalf of the militants, but vowed that the insurgents were not seeking revenge and that “all are forgiven.”
Shaheen is another spokesperson trying to convey the more “inclusive” approach the group is taking.
Speaking to Sky News, she said that “thousands” of schools were still operating, that the militants were “committed to women’s rights, education, work and freedom of expression, in light of our Islamic rules.”
Former English-language state-owned Kabul Times editor during Taliban rule after 1996, before being appointed Emirate’s Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan, Shaheen was included among the group’s delegates to peace conferences in Moscow. .
Anas is another member of the negotiating team in Doha who has been active since the fall of Kabul, meeting with former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a top official in the ousted government, with the aim of negotiating eventual negotiations with Mullah Baradar.
His brother is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, an insurgent subgroup of the Taliban that used guerrilla warfare to fight US-led NATO forces.
The leader of the Haqqani network, who replaced his father Jalaluddin Haqqani when he died sometime between 2016 and 2018.
As the proclaimed deputy leader of the Taliban, he had previously overseen armed combat against US and coalition forces, reportedly from a base within North Waziristan in Pakistan.
He is wanted by the FBI in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, which killed six people, including an American citizen, and the planning of an assassination attempt on then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008.
He wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in 2020, describing what the Taliban were looking for in their negotiations with the Trump administration, saying it offered an “inclusive political system that reflects the voice of all Afghans,” but in March this year. he was heard in a broadcast speech praising the performance of his followers on the battlefield, which he said would “crush the arrogance of the world’s rebellious emperors.”
So far, it has yet to be seen.
Concerns have been raised about the possibility that Khairkhwa could play a major role in an upcoming Taliban-led administration, as the former Guantanamo detainee has been charged with drug trafficking and being a close associate of members of Al Qaeda, under Osama bin Laden, something. he denies.
The former Taliban governor of Herat was released from the US detention camp in Cuba, along with four other senior members of the Taliban, in late May 2014, as part of a prisoner swap involving US kidnapped Bowe Bergdahl.
Khairkhwa is another member of the negotiating team in Doha and, according to the New York Post, played a key role in pushing the Taliban’s strategy during exile.
Perhaps the most infamous figure of the group of five freed from Guantanamo in 2014 is Mohammad Fazl, a front-line commander who was a former Taliban deputy defense minister.
Human Rights Watch said he should have been prosecuted for his role in the massacre of more than 170 civilians in Afghanistan in January 2001, as well as other serious crimes.
They also allege that he was in overall operational command during a Taliban offensive to recapture the city of Khwagaghar, in northeastern Afghanistan, also in January 2001, where more than 30 civilians were summarily executed, and was in charge when troops set fire to villages in the Shomali Valley north of Kabul. in 1999, summarily executing civilians in their wake.
Abdul Haq Wasiq
Wasiq, another member of the five Taliban released in 2014, was accused of being the group’s deputy intelligence minister and of having close ties to al Qaeda.
Mullah Norullah Nori
The fourth member of the five Taliban was accused of being a bodyguard who, for a time, was acting governor of Mazar-e Sharif and fought against US-led forces in Kunduz.
Mohammed Nabi Omari |
The fifth member of the five Taliban was also accused of having ties to Al Qaeda.