Abdul Ghani Baradar: The Face Of Taliban Victory

Kabul- The Taliban has taken over Kabul in one of the swiftest blitzes in the history of military offensives.

The insurgents entered the capital unopposed on Sunday as the government forces collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, bringing the Taliban back to power two decades after they were toppled by a US-led invasion in December 2001.

As uncertainty looms over the future of leadership in Afghanistan, multiple reports and speculations suggest that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder and political bureau chief of Taliban, is most likely to be the supreme head of the country.

After being freed from a Pakistani jail in 2018 upon the request of the United States, he re-emerged as an undisputed leader of Taliban.

Although Haibatullah Akhundzada is currently the supreme leader of Taliban, Mullah Baradar is its political chief and its most public face.

Like most Afghans currently in their 50s, Mullah Baradar’s childhood was affected and altered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s.

Baradar was born in Uruzgan province in 1968. However, he was raised and spent most of his childhood in Kandahar, the birthplace of Taliban. He fought in the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s.

Right after the Russians were driven out in 1992, Afghanistan was plunged into civil war between rival warlords who had once stood up together to fight the occupying force. During the Afghan Civil War, Baradar set up a madrasa in Kandahar with his former commander and reputed brother-in-law, Mohammad Omar, the one-eyed cleric also known as Mullah Omar.

Together, the two mullahs founded the Taliban, a movement spearheaded by young Islamic scholars dedicated to the religious purification of the country and the creation of an emirate.

Fuelled by religious fervour and by taking the opportunities offered by the widespread violence among the warlords, the Taliban rose to power in 1996 following a series of stunning conquests of multiple provincial capitals similar to the recent blitz the movement has conducted in recent weeks. Mullah Baradar, the deputy of Mullah Omar who was also believed to be a highly effective strategist, was a key architect of those conquests.

Later on, Baradar went on to play a succession of military and administrative roles in the five-year Taliban regime. He was the deputy minister of defence by the time the Taliban was ousted by the US and its Afghan allies.

Following the Taliban's collapse in 2001, Baradar is believed to have been among a small group of insurgents who approached interim leader Hamid Karzai with a letter outlining a potential deal that would have seen the militants recognize the new administration.

During Taliban's 20-years in exile, Baradar earned the reputation in the west of being one of the most sophisticated military and political leaders of Taliban.

Being fearful of his military expertise, the Obama administration tracked him down in Karachi in 2010 and persuaded Pakistan’s ISI into arresting him.

According to a former US official, Baradar’s arrest was predominantly instigated by the fear of his military expertise rather than his ambition towards peace.

“The fact is, the Pakistanis held on to him all those years in large part because the United States asked them to,” the official told Guardian newspaper.

However, in 2018, the Trump administration requested Pakistani authorities to release him so he could lead negotiations in Qatar based on the belief that he would settle for a power-sharing arrangement. He was relocated to Doha and later signed the Doha agreement with the US, a development the Trump administration hailed as a breakthrough towards peace in the war-ravaged country.

The agreement between the Taliban and the United States was not to fight each other and seek for political settlement between the Taliban and Afghan government. However, the talks show little progress as Taliban started their onslaught earlier this year after the United States failed to keep its promise of withdrawing all of its troops by May 1.

The major offensive by the Taliban insurgents led Mullah Baradar, one of the architects of peace settlement closer to power making him the undisputed victor of this 20-years-war.

 

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