The Taliban, an Islamic extremist group, is moving ever closer to taking control of Afghanistan by force.
Since the United States began withdrawing its troops after more than 20 years of war, the rebels have launched a military offensive to regain command of the country, which they led between 1996 and 2001.
The group consisted of members of Islamic guerrillas who, with the support of the United States, fought in the 1980s against the Soviet Union, which occupied the country. The actual constitution of the Taliban took place in 1994, as one of the factions that fought the country’s civil war.
In 1996, after winning the war, they took control of most of the country and imposed Sharia, Islamic law, in which they were accused of disrespecting human rights and oppressing religious minorities.
In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, Afghanistan was invaded by the United States, which ousted the Taliban from power. The group’s founder and original leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar went into hiding at the time and has never been found. His death in 2013 was not confirmed until two years later by his son.
Understand who the main Taliban figures are today.
Known as the “leader of the faithful,” the Islamic jurist is the supreme leader of the Taliban and has the final say in the group’s political, religious and military affairs.
Akhundzada took command when his predecessor, Akhtar Mansour, was killed in an American drone attack on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2016. For 15 years, until his sudden disappearance in May 2016, Akhundzada taught and preached in a mosque in Kuchlak, a town in southwest Pakistan, students told Reuters.
He is believed to be in his early sixties today and his whereabouts are unknown.
Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob
Son of the founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, Yaqoob oversees the group’s military operations and, according to the press, lives in Afghanistan.
He was made the Taliban’s chief general in several succession episodes, but in 2016 recommended Akhundzada’s name after saying he had no battlefield experience and was too young, according to one. Taliban commander who was at the meeting where Mansour’s successor was chosen.
Yaqoob is estimated to be around 30 years old.
Son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a famous Islamic guerrilla, Sirajuddin heads the Haqqani Network, a group that oversees the financial and military assets of the Taliban on the Pakistani border.
Experts say it was the haqqanis who introduced the concept of suicide bombings in Afghanistan. The group has been blamed for a series of serious attacks in the country, including the attempted assassination of then-President Hamid Karzai, an invasion of Kabul’s most famous hotel and a suicide bombing on the embassy from India.
Sirajuddin is in his 50s and his whereabouts are also unknown.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar
One of the founders of the Taliban, Baradar now heads the group’s political bureau and is part of the negotiating team discussing a ceasefire with the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar.
Baradar, said to have been one of the military commanders most loyal to founder Mullah Omar, was captured in 2010 by security forces in southern Pakistan, in the city of Karachi, and released in 2018.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai
A former deputy minister under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Stanekzai lived in Doha for nearly a decade and became the group’s political bureau chief in the Qatari capital in 2015.
He participates in negotiations with the Afghan government and works as a sort of Taliban diplomat when traveling to other countries.
Abdul Hakim Haqqani
Responsible for the group negotiation team. He is a former president of the highest court of the Taliban, heads an influential council of scholars of Islam. He is considered the main man of trust of the Taliban leader Akhundzada.