Top Taliban leaders who hold key to Afghan future

As the Taliban gears up to take control of Afghanistan, here’s a look at who controls what in the group:

Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada

Akhundzada has headed the Taliban since the death of the second Taliban leader, Mullah Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2016. His public profile largely limited to the release of annual messages during Islamic holidays.

Mullah Baradar

He heads the political commission of the Taliban. He had been released from a Pakistani jail after eight years of imprisonment, ahead of the US-Taliban talks. He had then proceeded to operate from Doha, the capital of Qatar, from where he had led the Taliban’s negotiation with the US.

Muhammad Yaqoob

He is the son of Mullah Omar and is widely considered as the future supreme leader of the Taliban. In 2016, he had been offered the responsibility of heading the outfit, which he declined. He is the commander of the military operations of the Taliban. He is also in charge of ideological and religious affairs.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai

He is the Taliban’s head of political office in Doha, and tipped to be the foreign minister of Afghanistan. Stanikzai passed out from the Indian Military Academy in India and moved to join the Afghan Army where he served for over a decade, fighting the Afghan Soviet war. He joined the Taliban in 1996 after the Soviets retreated. The 58-year-old Pashtun can speak five languages and has served as Taliban’s Political Office chief from 2015-2019.

Sirajuddin Haqqani

He heads the Haqqani Network, a terror group proscribed by various international agencies and known as the sword arm of the Taliban. In August 2015, Sirajuddin was named as a deputy to newly-appointed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour – cementing the alliance between the Haqqanis and the Taliban.

Mullah Abdul Hakeem Ishaqzai

He is a hardline cleric who ran an Islamic seminary in the Ishaqabad area of Quetta, which had earlier been functioning as the Taliban headquarters. He was part of the 21-member Taliban team that set the terms of the peace talks.

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