After nearly 20 years, the Taliban have staged a comeback. Here is a rundown of the group's leadership.

The Taliban have been fighting the western-backed government and foreign forces in the country since they were removed from power by US-led forces
The Taliban have been fighting the western-backed government and foreign forces in the country since they were removed from power by US-led forces (Saeed Ali Achakzai / Reuters)

The Taliban, formed in 1994, were made up of former Afghan resistance fighters, known as mujahedeen, who fought the invading Soviet forces in the 1980s.

The armed group took control of Afghanistan in 1996 and remained in power until 2001, when the US-led forces invaded the country following the September 11 terror attacks.

They have since been fighting the western-backed government and foreign forces in the country since they were removed from power in Afghanistan by US-led forces.

During their rule, the Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law, carrying out public executions and stoning women accused of adultery.

Women could not work, had to cover their face and be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to go out.

Girls were not allowed to attend school and university. TV, music and sports of all kind were also banned. 

And there's no reason to believe the Taliban has changed since the 1990s says Micheal Kugelman, Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the US-based Wilson Center. 

"The Taliban has certainly sought to rehabilitate itself through public messaging that emphasises its commitment to peace," says Kugelman, "but the Taliban remains a violent extremist group."

Kugelman adds that until the group renounces violence and respects human and women's rights "there's no reason to think otherwise."

But it's the Taliban's savvy, and experience, that has allowed them to waltz back into power. 

"The Taliban’s strategy was to exploit the deep weaknesses of the Afghan state, and especially a dysfunctional government and a beleaguered military. It was able to wear Afghan troops down, knowing they were already suffering major morale problems because of a government that never had a clear counterinsurgency strategy and failed to provide direction and support."

Now, after nearly 20 years, the Taliban are once again sitting in Kabul with a slightly altered top tier leadership. Here is a rundown of who runs the show today.

Haibatullah Akhundzada

Akhundzada, known as the supreme leader of the group, was appointed as the head of the Taliban soon after a US drone strike killed his predecessor, Mullah Mansour Akhtar, in 2016.

Originally from Kandahar province, Akhundzada has fought against the Russians during the 1980s and then joined the Taliban movement in 1994 under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Omar.

He was appointed as the head of the military court in Kandahar soon after.

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri named him "the emir of the faithful".

He is believed to be in his 60s and his whereabouts are unknown.

Mullah Baradar

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, heads the political office of the group in Doha, Qatar. 

Born in 1968 in the Uruzgan province and raised in Kandahar, Baradar is believed to have fought along side his brother-in-law Mullah Omar against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Mullah Baradar Akhund oversaw signing of the US-Taliban agreement that led to the foreign forces complete withdrawal from the country
Mullah Baradar Akhund oversaw signing of the US-Taliban agreement that led to the foreign forces complete withdrawal from the country (Reuters)

After the Russians were driven out, Baradar and Omar, co-founded the Taliban in 1994 and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in a couple of years.

He was arrested by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in a joint US-Pakistan operation in 2010, but after Donald Trump took over as US president, Baradar was released in 2018.

He oversaw the signing of the US-Taliban agreement that led to the foreign forces complete withdrawal from the country.

Mullah Yaqoob

The son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, Yaqoob heads the group's military unit, overseeing military operations.

In 2015, Yaqoob was promoted to the Taliban's leadership council soon after the announcement of the death of his father, Omar. 

He was also appointed as head of the Taliban's military commission for 15 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

Soon after Mullah Akhundzada was appointed as the new leader after Mullah Mansoor's death, Yaqoob was named as the deputy leader of the group.

He is believed to be widely respected among the armed group and its followers.

Sirajuddin Haqqani

Sirajuddin leads the Haqqani Network, a group that oversees the Taliban’s financial and military assets across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The son of prominent mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin is also the deputy leader of the Taliban movement.

FILE: Jalaluddin Haqqani (R), the Taliban's Minister for Tribal Affairs, points to a map of Afghanistan during a visit to Islamabad, Pakistan
FILE: Jalaluddin Haqqani (R), the Taliban's Minister for Tribal Affairs, points to a map of Afghanistan during a visit to Islamabad, Pakistan (Reuters)

The Haqqani Network is a US-designated terror group that is viewed as one of the most dangerous factions fighting against the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The group is believed to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan and have carried out several high-profile attacks in the country, including an assassination attempt on then-President Hamid Karzai.

Source: TRT World