TOPLINE Taliban co-founder and political chief Abdul Ghani Baradar is set to lead the new government in Afghanistan, reports said on Friday, formalizing the Taliban’s grip on Kabul just days after the U.S. military and its allies withdrew all their soldiers and officials from the country.
Baradar will be aided by two other senior leaders: Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai and Mohammad Yaqoob, son of deceased Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, Reuters reported, citing a Taliban official.
The Taliban’s supreme religious leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, will not be part of the political leadership but will remain in charge of religious matters.
The leadership announcement comes at a time when new Afghan leadership faces crises on multiple fronts, including a devastated economy and growing rebellion in the country’s northern Panjshir Valley.
Peace talks between the Taliban and a militia group led by Ahmad Massoud—the son of former anti-Taliban Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud—have reportedly broken down, with both sides preparing for a possible conflict.
The Taliban government will also have to tackle an Afghan economy that is on the verge of collapse as all foreign aid has dried up and the country’s $9.4 billion in cash reserves have been frozen.
Baradar, who co-founded the Taliban in the 1990s, held several senior government positions when the militant group was previously in power between 1996 and 2001. After the Taliban government was dismantled by the 2001 U.S. invasion, Baradar helped lead the insurgent group’s fighters. He was eventually captured in Pakistan, near the city of Karachi, in 2010 in a mission that is believed to have been jointly planned by Pakistani and U.S. operatives. But he was released from prison in 2018 by Pakistani officials after the Trump administration reportedly lobbied for his release as it began peace talks with the Taliban. Since his release, Baradar has helped lead the Taliban’s negotiations with the U.S.
The Taliban’s former supreme leader and co-founder, Mohammed Omar, coined the nom de guerre “Baradar” for his colleague – which means “brother”. Baradar had worked closely with Omar in a group of Mujahideens who fought against the Soviet presence in the country in the 1980s.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Taliban has indicated it will try to seek international recognition of its government’s legitimacy as this would be crucial for opening the door to international aid. Access to foreign aid and the country’s foreign cash reserves will be critical for the Taliban as Afghanistan teeters on the brink of economic collapse. Both the United States and its European allies have urged the Taliban to form an inclusive government that represents women and the country’s various religious and ethnic minorities.
Mullah Baradar: Afghanistan’s President-in-Waiting? (The Diplomat)
By Siladitya Ray, Forbes Staff