In a series of dramatic events over the last few days, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, the Taliban have captured the capital Kabul and officially won the battle for control over the country.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder and political chief of the terrorist group headed by Haibatullah Akhundzada, is expected to be the president of what they will soon declare as the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’.
Akhundzada, the Supreme Leader, is widely believed to have been selected to serve more as a spiritual figurehead than a military commander.
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Fall of Kabul
President Ashraf Ghani fled the country Sunday. In a statement soon after, he said the Taliban had won after the militants entered the city and took over the presidential palace. There were reports of long traffic jams after people rushed to the Kabul airport in a bid to get out of the country.
The exodus is believed to be driven by fear of the Taliban’s imposition of hardline Islam, similar to their rule between 1996 and 2001. President Ghani, in a Facebook post, said that he left the country to prevent “a flood of bloodshed”.
“The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen, they are now facing a new historical test. Either they will preserve the name and honour of Afghanistan or they will give priority to other places and networks," he said in the post.
Who is Abdul Ghani Baradar?
As history repeats itself, Baradar’s story is one that encapsulates Afghanistan’s long and bloody history of conquests and wars.
Baradar was born in 1968, in a village called Weetmak in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan. In his youth, he actively fought against Soviet occupation during the 1980s in the Soviet-Afghan war.
When the Russians were driven out in 1992, and the country was embroiled in a civil war between rival warlords, Baradar set up a madrassa in Kandahar along with his fellow commander and brother-in-law, Mohammed Omar. The duo founded the Taliban with a mission of religious purification and to establish their own emirate.
Similar to the events of recent weeks, the Taliban made a series of staggering conquests in a short span of time before gaining absolute power in 1996. During that era, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) of Pakistan helped the Taliban gain power in the country.
Baradar, who was Mullah Omar’s deputy at the time, was hailed as the architect of these victories.
During their rule from 1996-2001, Baradar is reported to have held a wide range of positions, including the governor of Herat and Nimruz provinces. He was the Deputy Minister of Defence when the US and its Afghan allies defeated the Taliban in 2001.
The last two decades
After the defeat of the Taliban, Baradar was the de facto leader of the Quetta Shura, which was the Taliban’s leadership in exile, mainly in Pakistan. A renowned military leader and a skilful political operator, he resisted ISI’s control while being open to political contacts in Kabul.
But Barack Obama did not see it that way and was fearful of his military expertise and capabilities. The CIA tracked Baradar to Karachi in 2010 and persuaded the ISI to arrest him.
Return to Power
But under former President Donald Trump, the US’ attitude changed and Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad asked for his release in 2018. This was done to seek Baradar’s support in negotiating a power-sharing agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Numerous talks and meetings with the US in Qatar led to the signing of the Doha Agreement in February 2020. Under the agreement, the US vowed not to fight against the Taliban. The agreement also stipulated that the Taliban would participate in a power-sharing deal with the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani.
But the Taliban are set to regain the reins of Afghanistan, led by Baradar.
First Published: IST